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.

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

  1. “But to as many as did receive Him, to those who put their trust in His person and power, He gave the right to become children of God, not because of bloodline, physical impulse or human intention, but becaue of God. ‘The Word became a human being and lived with us, and we saw his Sh’khinah (Divine presence, the manifest glory of God present with men), the Sh’khinah of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth.” (Yochanan) John 1:12-14

    What this means is that He gave us the right, not because we inherited it through our bloodline, or because we desired it…He gave us the right because He is God and chose to give us the right. I am reading this from the original Greek, before it was translated by King James or anyone else. You are misreading this. It is not saying that God chose the ones that would accept Him or not; it says that He chose to give us the gift of salvation as a whole..not individual people…He chose to send Jesus to us to die and give us Salvation. The fact that salvation is available to us to begin with was not because we asked/willed for it, and not because we did something to earn it…but because God elected to send Jesus to us in order that we could be saved. Re read this verse with what I am saying and you will find you are misunderstanding what it means here.

    Just because God already knows in advance what we will do does not mean that God pre selected people. This would contradict other things in His Word and who He is. Lucifer forces, God gives free will to choose, though, as I mentioned, He already knows. No different than if a prophet receives a message from God. He knows what will happen, and he will go and give warning; but he cannot force the people to do anything. He only gives the message in hopes of redirecting that person’s decision and the rest is up to that person. We see this over and over in the Old Testament with Elijah and Elisha, and Moses. They received words from God, delivered the message, and until they heeded the warning, God just kept moving things to get their attention. This is what he does with us. He does not force, but He will redirect things in our lives to get us to listen. The devil will move in our lives as well, and at times, God allows this if he sees the outcome will benefit our soul. However, nowhere in this verse does it imply that God has already preselected anyone. He preselected Israel, and then the make available the gift of salvation..but He did not pre select the individual people. At first it was only available to the Jew, then to the Greek.

    In simpler form, He gave the right to become children of God because He is God. This verse clearly states that we were NOT GIVEN THE RIGHT based on our bloodline, our desire, or anything else, but just because He chose to give it to us. Remember, the ESV and many other more modern translations are man’s translation of what something means in the original Hebrew/Greek. One really needs to go back to the original context to find the exact real meaning. We were pre ordained as a whole–people in general–an entire nation, or group, to be ‘given’ this free gift…it says nothing about that God chose us or handpicked us as individuals for individual salvation..He chose to offer this gift to us because He is God..not for any other reason. We did not earn it, He gave because He wanted to, not because we wanted it…gave to everyone. You’re reading into this that we didn’t desire salvation as individuals, but he pre selected, and that is just not what this passage here is saying. We did not get this gift because we asked or desired, but we were given the option of salvation, to take it or receive it, because God gave. What we do with that option is then up to us. God will move in our lives to speak to us, and He’ll allow Satan from time to time to interact in our lives, as I said, to get our attention and bring us to repentance. The ultimate outcome is up to as us individuals.

    • It is not that the others’ are wrong, it’s that it sounds different in the original than it does in those versions. I believe my explanation of the passage in question makes a lot more sense than to assume God has pre-ordained one majority of us to hell, and one majority to heaven. What would be the point in that? What is the purpose? I don’t get out of that passage what you do. I get out of it that He gave us the right to become saved, not because of anything we’ve done, or do, and not because we earned it, but because He chose to give us this right.

        • “But to as many as did receive Him, to those who put their trust in His person and power, He gave the right to become children of God, not because of bloodline, physical impulse or human intention, but becaue of God.

            • Because, for some reason, when I read it without really studying it in the other versions, I can see where you would take it that way…slightly. But when I read it in the Messianic Jewish translation, it seems even less that way to me. Whether your belief is right or wrong, it’s not going to make a difference as far as where you’re going to go. I just wish you knew that God did give us our own choice. The way you believe means He forced His will upon us…because to choose before we were ever born which way we would go for us would be, in a sense just like Satan, forcing us. I don’t believe God and the enemy are at all alike. God gives, and the enemy steals and forces.

              • In john 1:13, your Messianic translation translates the Greek thelamai (will) as “intention.” Thelemai does not merely “intend” to do something (if certain conditions are right, in your case, if someone wills to accept God’s “intention” to save) but it means to unilaterally decide to do something. Thelemai is littered throughout the NT with this unilateral divine determination.

                As I pointed out in more than a dozen posts and in several verses in this post, God does not force someone who is dead to be born again, which is a logical impossibility. All who come to Christ do so because they will to do so. The issue is that God makes them free to do so.

                I think that you would have no problem with this if only God would be fair do this for everybody. But as you know, the Bible is clear, many will not be chosen. More important, though, who are you or me to talk back to God, as we read in Romans 9?

                • Only by their choice, not because God is selecting. It is only because those who do not seek God will be left out of His kingdom. God does, however, know who it is going to be; however, every human soul has it sewn into Him that there is a God; but it is ultimately up to them to try and seek to find it. God’s ultimate power and strength can’t be measured by a choice. When God says many will not be chosen, that is an overall picture of the world we live in; sometimes you cannot take the Bible so literal in your beliefs that it dictates who and what will go and who will not. Again, that term is an overall generalization. No different than Jesus saying “Eat my body,” or, “drink my blood.” He wasn’t telling us to literally eat Him or drink Him….nor is He saying here that He literally hand selects. His Word also says that God shows no partiality. To do as you’re saying, for God to do this, rather, it would make Him a liar when He already states He shows no partiality. And as we both know, the Word of God does not lie.

                  • No partiality means no respect of persons as to race, class, etc.

                    In the context of the relevant verse, the issue is whether you are a Jew or a Greek or a circus freak, God doesn’t care about that.

                    Romans 2:9-11
                    anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; 10 But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile: 11 For there is no respect of persons with God.

                    As for literal and figurative meaning, in the “eat my flesh…” episode, Jesus makes it very clear that he does not mean it literally.

                    John 6:57-64
                    the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me. 58 This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever. 59 These things said he in the synagogue, as he taught in Capernaum. 60 Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it? 61 When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you? 62 What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before? 63 It is the spirit that quickeneth; THE FLESH PROFITETH NOTHING: THE WORDS I SPEAK TO UNTO YOU ARE SPIRIT and they are life. 64 But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him.”

                    In V. 60 many of his disciples said that v. 58 was a hard saying. But that was not the (main) reason why they left. Here is the reason:

                    John 6:65-66
                    65 Jesus said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father.
                    66 From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.

                    V. 65 is clear. The reason why these disciples left was because they were not given to Jesus by the father. It has nothing to do with God seeing down the corridors of time who would make a decision to come. That is what you believe it should be. Otherwise God would not be fair. But, as we saw earlier, who are you to tell God what is fair? (Romans 9).

                    The bottom line is, “I will have mercy on whom I want to have mercy.”

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