The moment of “decision” – Did you accept Christ before or after you were regenerated (born again)?

Two core Christian doctrines are based on two consecutive verses in John 1:

“As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons/children of God, even to them that believe on his name: 13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13).

The first doctrine is that those who believe in Jesus Christ are born (regenerated) into the family of God. The second is that the children of God are not a genetic/ethnic group (not born of blood) nor do they come because they decide to (“nor of the will of man” reinforces “nor of the will of he flesh”) but solely because God decrees it.

“How can this be?” most (including the majority of Christians) would balk at verse 13 “How” though, does balking change “what” the Bible says, namely, your will has absolutely nothing to do with your regeneration. This does not mean that those whom God regenerates are robots. It means that if they accept, come to, believe in Christ, it is because God gave them the desire – freeing them from the bondage of their corrupt will – to come to Christ. The gift of this desire is wrapped up in “drawing.” I explain shortly.

Here is John 1:13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” Consider what verse 13 means in terms of the common understanding of “free” will. In the decisions we make, we follow our heart, we are dragged – and sometimes drugged – along by our desire. The heart (desire), therefore inwardly (pre)determines the decisions we make. Now, in Romans 3 we read that no one desires to believe in God, specifically the Christian God:

Romans 3:10-12
“… There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.”

For this reason, Jesus says, ” (John 6:4 4) No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him.”

If you’re a good Arminian (a synergist), you will say, “yes I know you cannot come to Jesus unless Jesus draws you, but after Jesus has given you that prevenient (coming before) push (grace), the rest is up to you.” I ask, where does it say in the Bible that the rest (making the final decision to be saved) is up to you? Nowhere. Indeed, as we see in John 1:13, coming to (believing in) Jesus has got stones to do with your meaty will. Suppose God gave you permission to drop John 1:13 from the inspired text, you still have to deal with other texts in scripture that say the same thing; for example, Romans 9:15-16, “And he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. 16 So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.”

We return to John 6:44 – “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him.” You will probably say there’s nothing in the previous verse that says we can’t choose to withdraw after being drawn. True; I didn’t, however, give the whole of John 6:44. The rest of it says, “and I will raise him up at the last day.” So if Jesus draws you, you will certainly come, as well as never leave, and it is only such people who are raised up on the last day. Now, if Jesus raises up on the last day all those he draws, then they will certainly always (want) to have faith in Him, and always (want to) remain steadfast. Jesus guarantees that they will remain steadfast, because he says that he will definitely (in the English of yesteryear, “he shall”) give them eternal life. John 6:44 reinforces what Jesus said to his stubborn Jewish audience in John 6:33-37 (focus on verse 37):

“He said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world. 34 Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread. 35 And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. 36 But I said unto you, That ye also have seen me, and believe not. 37 All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.”

In verses 36 and 37, Jesus is telling his hearers that the reason why they do not (want to) come to Him is because they were not given to Him by the Father (in eternity past). Only those the Father gives to the son are given the ability to come. When and where is this ability given. In your coffin. All will become clear very shortly.

We put John 1:18, John 37 and 44, and Romans 9:13-14 together to get: the Father draws those whom He has given to the Son. Those given are those on whom the Father has mercy. If given, then drawn. Those who are drawn are those whom God has enabled to come (to believe). This enabling – I need to bring Ephesians 2 into the picture -requires no less than a resurrection (a “quickening” King James Version) from the dead:

Ephesians 2:1-6

“1 And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; 2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: 3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.
4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, 5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) 6 And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”

“Dead,” doesn’t mean really dead, silly,” you, being a clever Arminian, might say; “Dead to the world” does not mean you’re really dead,” you protest. I reply, if, in your degenerate/radically corrupt state of your human condition you do not want to come to Christ unless he changes your heart (as John 1:13 and Romans 9:16 make very clear), then you are, if not really dead, at least dead to any desire to come to Christ, you might as well be as dead as some churches. And that is what Ephesians 2’s graphic coffin imagery is saying.

Dead, dead, see I am dead, and there is a flower sticking out of my belly button. My blood is ice cold. Now, look, there is Christ standing over my coffin. He raises the lid. ‘Come! get up!’ I tremble inwardly. I’m stiff, and rather iffy; can’t lift a finger. Slowly I tilt my head upwards, Christ is pouring his life into me; he is regenerating me. Now he holds out a hand and gives me something – too wonderful for words; yet that’s what they are – words. I believe. I accept. I come. Why? Simply and only because God’s mercy wanted it so. That’s what the verses mentioned in Ephesians 2 and Romans 9 are about. (Dead, dead, see I am dead: How to soup up a sermon on monergistic regeneration.

Roman Catholics and all other Arminians, please listen to the great Bernard of Clairvaux, who says, in the spirit of Augustine of Hippo:

“… we have received from God in the state of nature
the power to will, in the same way as we have received the
power to fear and the power to love, so that thus we might
be simply created beings ; but to will what is good, even
as to fear and to love God, we receive by the visitation of
grace, so that thus we may become (not simply creatures
but) God’s creatures.

In a certain manner then, created as our own possession
for freedom of will, (it is) by means of goodness of will we are
Made God’s possession. Moreover it is He that made the
will free. Who also maketh it good ; and to this end
doth He make it good that we may be a kind of
firstfruits of His creatures.”

The treatise of St. Bernard, abbot of Clairvaux, concerning grace and free will, addressed to William, abbot of St. Thiery; (1920), p. 30.

“it is He that made the will free.” Free to love the good, which is God in Christ.

John Calvin and Martin Luther loved Bernard for he understood and explained so clearly that only Christ can set us free from the bondage of our corrupt will. Once this fact is understood, it should not be difficult to see that regeneration (God making us free) must precede faith in Christ.