Sent: Thursday, April 15, 2004 8:13 PM
Subject: FIRST JOHN 5:1 & THE NEW BIRTH [04/15/04]

It is argued by James White in his books that I John 5:1 teaches that there is "pre-faith" New Birth, or Regeneration, to the effect that the new birth precedes believing. On the other side are Dave Hunt and Norman Geisler with the idea that faith precedes the new birth.

Both these views, we believe, are in conflict with our orthodox Confessions of Faith and of course with what we understand is taught in Scripture.

First John 5:1 reads:

"Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him."

The most evident truth of this verse is that faith and the New Birth are CO-EXISTENT, where there is one there is the other. They are somewhat like life itself: were there is life, there is breath; and where there is breath, there is life.

Since the person who believes in Christ is born of God, or has been born of God, then conversely the person who does not believe is not and has not been born of God.

The believer is born of God.
The unbeliever is not born of God.

There is no "middle ground," no "in-between" state, no "half-dead, half-alive" condition, so far as this passage is concerned. Believing is simply presented here as the "living proof" or evidence that one is, or has been, born of God. Conversely, no faith in Christ equals no new birth. It is just as simple as that.

The verse does not deal at all with an alleged "sequence" or "order" of actions, as is advocated by James White and some others. That is not even the obvious intention of the writer, John, for he is not trying to convince his readers about what some zealous analysts call the "ordo salutis." John, of all the New Testament writers, emphasizes the important necessity of faith in regard to salvation (John 20:31), that one who believes has life and the one who does not believe does not have life.

John does not deal in this verse (5:1) with the matter of the "means," or "how" this faith comes about, or is experienced. From other passages, however, we know that "faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God" (Romans 10:17). Faith presupposes an object of faith, and that is presented thru the Word of God.

We also know that faith not only comes by hearing the Word of God, but that Word is made effectual by the accompanying "power" of the Holy Spirit (1 Thessalonians 1:5). This is why and how faith is created, by the Word and the Spirit, and when faith is born in a person then that person has experienced the New Birth, or regeneration. Until that faith in Christ is existent, the New Birth has not taken place.

Faith is not some type of "gift" that has not object, or that comes via an alleged "direct operation" of the Spirit apart from the accompaniment of the means necessary to create faith.

Whatever preliminary, preparatory, or prevenient work the Holy Spirit may do does not constitute the New Birth. John does not say, "Whoever is convicted is born of God," or "whosoever has been enlightened has been born of God," or "whosoever is concerned is born of God," or "whosoever is sensible of his sins is born of God" -- no, he simply says "whosoever believes is born of God."

James White tries to justify his faulty interpretation by comparing 1 John 5:1 to 1 John 2:29 where John says that "every one that doeth righteousness is born of him."

But James fails to note the fact that the very first act of righteousness that a person does is to believe in Christ. "And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ" (1 John 3:22). This is what Paul told the jailer to do in Acts 16:31. This is the work of God, that you believe on Him whom He hath sent (John
6:29). The very first commandment is summed up as love for God, and faith incorporates that love, for "faith worketh by love" (Galatians 5:6). Love is shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5), and love has as its object the Lord Jesus, and the one who loves is born of God (1 John 4:7).

How could one be "born again" before he has love for and faith in Christ created in him by the power of the Word of God and Holy Spirit?

The idea that James White tries to prove is that in the New Birth there is an order whereby one who HAS NOT YET BELIEVED "has been born of God," and then after being supposedly born of God he is thereby given "ability" to perform the act of faith in Christ. He claims that "birth precedes . . . faith" (The Potter's Freedom, page 288). What kind of "new birth" is it that lacks love for Christ and faith in Christ?

We are nowhere taught in Scripture that such a birth devoid of love and faith precedes faith. Actually, may we not say that faith itself has a "birth," being born by the Word and power of the Holy Spirit? -- Bob L. Ross

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