Posted by: William | February 10, 2008

Rebirth Comes First

Well, I’m not certain that I’m quite ready to tackle this topic in the form of a post yet and I’m almost certain I’ll ruffle some feathers, however, as I was reading and thinking today this pervaded as what I should write about. So, here I go, hopefully it will at least generate some good thought.

There was a time not altogether too long ago that I described a person’s salvation as coming to them fully as a gift from God, however, one that the recipient must reach out and receive in order to be effective. I believe that my imagery was one of a man falling off a cliff from which Jesus reaches out to grab him. If he will only reach back he’ll be saved. If he refuses, he’ll fall to his death.

At this time however, I’m persuaded that my view back then was neither biblical, nor honoring to God’s work in our salvation. I erred in two ways—I think. First of all, I combined spiritual rebirth and salvation into one synonymous act and second, I placed some level of responsibility for that act on man. While rebirth and salvation may take place at the same time, they’re not the same thing. Then, I implied that while Jesus reaches out to save the falling man, the man must reach back; if that is the case, then the man is still a link in the chain—the weak link in the chain. Get a good look at Romans 3; we don’t have any reason to believe we’d ever reach back.

A good friend at the time argued with me that the analogy is misplaced. While I painted a picture of a man falling to his death, the reality is that man is already fallen to his death. “You were dead in your trespasses and sins…” (Ephesians 2:1). How is man supposed to reach back? He’s dead. If man is already dead, he couldn’t be a link in the chain and if he were, he’d definitely fail. If salvation and spiritual rebirth (also called being ‘born again’ or ‘regeneration’) are the same thing, and both require faith, then no one would ever be reborn and no one would ever be saved. A dead man can’t have faith. Only a few verses later in Ephesians 2:4-5, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ…” We see here that dead men were brought back to life not because of anything they chose to do. Did you choose to be born? So neither did you choose to be reborn. So, spiritual rebirth always comes before faith; never the other way around; it can’t.

Following our spiritual rebirth, as men with actual life inside of them, we now have the capacity to have faith which Jesus will author in us (Hebrews 12:2) and so all of the work of our salvation is God’s. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith.” (Ephesians 2:8)

Why is this information useful? Well, I think as with most sobering scriptural truths, it’s a great call to humility. For me, it is also a great comfort. I’ve never been able to do anything right, thank God he’s done what he’s done.

Jesus, I pray for humility to search your Word and find truth there. Jesus, I pray for humility and understanding. Jesus, I pray that you would produce spiritual life that leads to salvation in many, especially those in close proximity to me. Jesus, I pray that if it’s your will, you would use us, in your church, as a specific means through which to proclaim to those yet unsaved your great news.



  1. It seems like you are progressing nicely down the rabbit hole of reformed theology. You will next need to distinguish between who gets saved and who doesn’t (or who gets regenerated and who doesn’t). Careful – you don’t want to end up being a universalist… so how does God choose?

    The short answer to all this is that it’s a mystery that we’ll never fully understand this side of life. Trying to find just the right analogy based on just the right understanding of Scripture is daunting at best.

    I’d suggest studying the words of Jesus – he certainly had quite a few analogies, or parables, to illustrate his point. Start there – if you have ears to hear.


  2. The short answer to who gets regenerated is whoever God chooses. Why he chooses them is certainly a mystery, although surly based on no merit of ours.

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