Justification before god (not by faith)

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Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
I am dealing with some sovereign grace baptists who referred me to the following link:

Justification Before God (Not by Faith)

and this:

Regeneration And Conversion


They seem to radically separate regeneration and conversation. Here's some representative quotes:




One of the greatest blunders, on the subject of the new birth, is to make it dependent on man’s faith. Opposers of Biblical regeneration advocate that the new birth must, in some way, be the response of one who hears the gospel. Such verses as James 1:18 and I Peter 1:23 are used to prove their theory; but the exegesis of the two texts demands no such conclusion. James 1:18 does not refer to begetting or conception, but bringing forth or giving birth. Immediate regeneration does not deny that the new birth, in which the new life becomes manifest, is secured by response to the gospel; but distinction must be made between conception and birth. They are not the same, There are two prepositions in I Peter 1:23 that must be distinguished before the verse can be understood. The first is “of [ek—from out of—the source] incorruptible seed.” This is not the instrument, but the source of regeneration. “By [dia—through—the instrument] the word of God” is the second; this shows that God’s word is the instrument of conversion, not regeneration.

God’s act of giving life to those who are spiritually dead is distinct from the gospel, just as the faculty of sight is different from light. Quickening is an immediate and creative act: “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1). No instrumental means are used with God’s creative act. The word does not produce life, but it is effective in those who possess life. Life is responsive to living things. Nicodemus was told that he had to be born again before he could see. Once the faculty of sight is given, the recipient is guided by the word to repentance and faith.



and here:


Here is a book by W.E Best that gives a pretty good explaination of what I believe about justification. What I was seeing in scripture about justification as it relates to faith and the finished work of Christ alone as our salvation I was not seeing in the writings of puritans, presbyterians, and protestants. However, I came across this booklet and said, finally someone else was seeing what I saw. I then began to find more preachers who held this view as I began to preach in conferences and attend them.


And here:

Jesus say to Nicodemous "The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit." If you claim that faith is the instrumental means of regeneration and union with Christ, then what of this statement "so is every one that is born of the Spirit" If infants and mentally disabled, who many say will be saved, do not ever exercise faith in Christ than how are they born of the Spirit like everyone else and saved. Is there a special redemption and salvation for them? If we are born in iniquity, estranged from the womb, shapen in iniquity, then every person is accountable. Unless you believe in the heresy of "no original sin". Or if you believe in human innocence. Are we sinners because we sin or do we sin because we are sinners. So infants and mentally disabled who are saved must be saved in the same way, because God does not save any other way, as everyone born of the Spirit. So I continue to disagree with you about Gospel and Faith Regeneration. Regeneration is monergistic and without means or instrumentality. Conversion, however, is and is also mostly passive on our part as the only reason we "work out our salvation with fear and trembling" is because it is "God who works in us both to will and to do his good pleasure". The Spirit works in us and through us to secure our obedience to Christ. We act but only by the enabling of the Spirit. That is why Ezekiel 36:27 says "And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do [them]."



In response I wrote:


Immediate regeneration:

Closely related to the denial of “duty-faith”, many Calvinistic Baptists have fallen into the severe error of “immediate regeneration” whereby God saves man without any means, to include the instrumentality of the Word of God and the instrumentality of faith.


The instrumentality of the Word of God:

The truth is that God ordains that the Elect ordinarily should be saved through faith, upon the hearing of the Gospel. Infants and the mentally infirm constitute extraordinary cases, yet ordinarily the witness of Scripture states the following:

• “Ye are already clean because of [or through] the word I have spoken to you.” (John 15:3).
• “Of His own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first-fruits of His creatures.”(James 1:18).
• "...knowing, beloved brethren, your election by God. For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance." (1 Thess 1:4, 5).
• “

Many who deny the instrumentality of the Word are often admirers of John Gill, and yet not even Gill supports their claims of “immediate regeneration.” Gill affirms, on page 534 of his Body of Divinity, the instrumentality of the Word:

"Though after all it seems plain, that the ministry of the word is the vehicle in which the Spirit of God conveys himself and his grace into the hearts of men; which is done when the word comes not in word only, but in power, and in the Holy Ghost; and works effectually, and is the power of God unto salvation; then faith comes by hearing, and ministers are instruments by whom, at least, men are encouraged to believe: 'received ye the Spirit', says the apostle, 'by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith': Ga 3:2 that is, by the preaching of the law, or by the preaching of the gospel? by the latter, no doubt."


The instrumentality of Faith

Again, Chapter 14, “Of Saving Faith”, in both the Westminster and the 1689 Confessions of Faith, summarizes well the role of faith as an instrument through which God saves the Elect:"The grace of faith, whereby the elect are enabled to believe to the saving of their souls, is the work of the Spirit of Christ in their hearts, and is ordinarily wrought by the ministry of the Word..."

The Belgic Confession (Article 2) explains further:

“Therefore we justly say with Paul, that we are justified by faith alone, or by faith without works. However, to speak more clearly, we do not mean that faith itself justifies us, for it is only an instrument with which we embrace Christ our Righteousness. But Jesus Christ, imputing to us all His merits, and so many holy works which He hath done for us and in our stead, is our Righteousness. And faith is an instrument that keeps us in communion with Him in all His benefits…”

Below is an explanation concerning the instrumentality of faith that I sent to one man who vigorously denied this truth, calling it a “works-righteousness.” Examine my explanation yourself to see if it accords with Scripture:

“The Elect are justified by or through faith (Rom. 1:17; 3:25, 28, 30; 5:1; Eph. 2:8; Gal. 2:16; 3:11, 24; Phil 3:9).

Faith is not the reason or ultimate grounds for the Elect’s justification. We are not saved because of our faith or on the grounds of our faith, as if we can produce a certain sufficient measure of this substance from within ourselves which God would then honor and allow us into heaven. This would be to make faith into a meritorious act and our work of producing enough faith of sufficient quality to be a work of righteousness able to commend us before God. This would be yet another form of works-righteousness. This may be part of your zeal in denying “duty-faith” – your legitimate desire to guard against any form of “works-righteousness.”

However, though we are not saved because of our faith, faith is the instrument through which God’s Elect are united to Christ. The expressions are thus—dia pisteos, ek pisteos, and pistei, which can all be translated as “by means of” or “through” faith.

Faith is the instrument which lays hold of Jesus. God, through free grace, enables a person to believe. It is a gift of grace, yet God does not believe for the man; the man must believe. Therefore, being an instrument and channel, faith does not come at some later time after a person is united to Christ, but a person is united to Christ by faith itself. Therefore, though it is proper to speak of a logical priority of regeneration over faith/conversion, God monergistically taking initiative to move the man, let us not mistake a logical priority with a chronological one; there is no perceptible chronological gap in time, nor are there any who are regenerate but who are yet to exercise saving faith. Everywhere we see faith we will see the new birth, and where we see the new birth we will see faith.

Again, Ek pisteos (“by”, “from”, or “out of” faith) describes faith as that which logically precedes a person’s justification. Faith is the gift of God which is given to us so that we may cling to Christ, though it is never the efficient or ultimate cause of justification, the dative use of the noun pistis being used in an instrumental sense (see also Rom. 3:28).”


Likewise, not only faith but repentance as well, is an essential grace-gift that the Elect must possess for salvation. Though faith and repentance are not produced within ourselves by our own merits, we still must possess these gifts of grace, wrought by the work of Christ for His Elect on the Cross, for us to see heaven. The Westminster Confession of Faith guards us from error in regard to the necessity of repentance:
"Although repentance be not to be rested in as any satisfaction for sin, or any cause of the pardon thereof, which is the act of God's free grace in Christ; yet is it of such necessity to all sinners, that none may expect pardon without it.” (The Westminster Confession of Faith, 15:1-3).

Thus, we see that an “instrument” is not the effective cause of a thing, and that God unites us to Christ by the instrumentality of faith upon the hearing of the Word. To believe these things is not “works-righteousness” but are truths defended both biblically and historically.


Did I answer okay?

---------- Post added at 08:32 AM ---------- Previous post was at 08:07 AM ----------

This appears to be a variety of Primitive Baptist / Hardshell error.

Although,

A.W. Pink does say this:

QUICKENING IS THE INITIAL OPERATION OF THE SPIRIT

In earlier years we did not ourselves perceive the distinction which is pointed by John 6:63 and 1 Peter 1:23: the former referring unto the initial act of the Spirit in “quickening” the spiritually-dead soul, the latter having in view the consequent “birth” of the same. While it is freely allowed that the origin of the “new creature” is shrouded in impenetrable mystery, yet of this we may be certain, that life precedes birth. There is a strict analogy between the natural birth and the spiritual: necessarily so, for God is the Author of them both, and He ordained that the former should adumbrate the latter. Birth is neither the cause nor the beginning of life itself: rather is it the manifestation of a life already existent: there had been a Divine “quickening” before the child could issue from the womb. In like manner, the Holy Spirit “quickens” the soul, or imparts spiritual life to it, before its possessor is “brought forth” (as James 1:18 is rightly rendered in the R.V.) and “born again” by the Word of God (1 Peter 1:23).

James 1:18, 1 Peter 1:23, and parallel passages, refer not to the original communication of spiritual life to the soul, but rather to our being enabled to act from that life and induced to love and obey God by means of the Word of Truth—which presupposes a principle of grace already planted in the heart. In His work of illumination, conviction, conversion, and sanctification, the Spirit uses the Word as the means thereto, but in His initial work of “quickening” He employs no means, operating immediately or directly upon the soul. First there is a “new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 2:10), and then the “new creature” is stirred into exercise. Faith and all other graces are wrought in us by the Spirit through the instrumentality of the Word, but not so with the principle of life and grace from which these graces proceed.

QUICKENING IMPARTS LIFE

In His work of “quickening,” by which we mean the impartation of spiritual life to the soul, the Spirit acts immediately from within, and not by applying something from without. Quickening is a direct operation of the Spirit without the use of any instrument: the Word is used by Him afterwards to call into exercise the life then communicated.

“Regeneration is a direct operation of the Holy Spirit upon the human spirit. It is the action of Spirit upon spirit, of a Divine Person upon a human person, whereby spiritual life is imparted. Nothing, therefore, of the nature of means or instruments can come between the Holy Spirit and the soul that is made alive. God did not employ an instrument or means when He infused physical life into the body of Adam. There were only two factors: the dust of the ground and the creative power of God which vivified that dust. The Divine omnipotence and dead matter were brought into direct contact, with nothing interposing. The dust was not a means or instrument by which God originated life. So in regeneration there are only two factors: the human soul destitute of spiritual life, and the Holy Spirit who quickens it.

“The Word and Truth of God, the most important of all the means of grace, is not a means of regeneration, as distinct from conviction, conversion and sanctification. This is evident when we remember that it is the office of a means or instrument to excite or stimulate an already existing principle of life. Physical food is a means of physical growth, but it supposes physical vitality. If the body is dead, bread cannot be a means or instrument. Intellectual truth is a means of intellectual growth, but it supposes intellectual vitality. If the mind be idiotic, secular knowledge cannot be a means or instrument. Spiritual truth is a means of spiritual growth, in case there be spiritual vitality. But if the mind be dead to righteousness, spiritual truth cannot be a means or instrument.

“The unenlightened understanding is unable to apprehend, and the unregenerate will is unable to believe. Vital force is lacking in these two principal factors. What is needed at this point is life and force itself. Consequently, the Author of spiritual life Himself must operate directly, without the use of means or instruments; and outright give spiritual life and power from the dead: that is, ex nihilo. The new life is not imparted because man perceives the truth, but he perceives the truth because the new life is imparted. A man is not regenerated because he has first believed in Christ, but he believes in Christ because he has been regenerated”.

Does this Pink quote contradict the Belgic Confession below?

The Belgic Confession says this:



“Therefore we justly say with Paul, that we are justified by faith alone, or by faith without works. However, to speak more clearly, we do not mean that faith itself justifies us, for it is only an instrument with which we embrace Christ our Righteousness. But Jesus Christ, imputing to us all His merits, and so many holy works which He hath done for us and in our stead, is our Righteousness. And faith is an instrument that keeps us in communion with Him in all His benefits…”


So, everytime I stress that we are justified by faith, these primitive baptists go back to being regenerated without any means at all, including the Word of God or faith and stress that they believe in "Gospel regeneration" and are "anti-means."

---------- Post added at 08:34 AM ---------- Previous post was at 08:32 AM ----------




So, everytime I stress that we are justified by faith, these primitive baptists go back to being regenerated without any means at all, including the Word of God or faith and stress that they believe in "Gospel regeneration" and are "anti-means."
 
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Jack K

Puritan Board Doctor
Without trying to delve too deeply into it, there were two things I noticed in your response that I think were very good of you to say:

1. You wisely acknowledged that they were right in insisting that salvation is of God and his grace brings us to faith and repentance. They got the main thing right, and that's important to say. They're zealous about being opposed to works-righteousness, and you needed to state that you agree.

2. Your point about the logical priority vs. the chronological one is the key point. It's easy to get so wrapped up in the ordo salutis that we start to think God might take a break part way through the process. Clearly, that's wrong. Although we recognise the different elements, there is also a sense in which our salvation is one, single work of God which he completes. The hearing of the word is a normal means in this work as a whole.

Even if their assertion is true (and I'm not convinced it is), it would be like me saying part of my car works just fine without gasoline. That may be technically true. But to get the car running requires many elements (including gasoline) that work together and are, in the driver's mind, most helpfully thought of as a single act. You start the car. You better have put in some gasoline.

I'm not suggesting that's a perfect analogy. Nor that the finer points of the workings of salvation are not worthy of study. But if mechanics are getting all excited about boasting that the car's starter works just fine without gasoline, something is amiss.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
I would probably be accused of a tendentious reading, and maybe justly. But I would blame this error on the leaving out of the covenant-principle.

As I interpret this whole thing, what I see missing (as a WCF Presbyterian) is the "sphere" of the Spirit's ordinary work. Perhaps, a covenant-minded Baptist can also see his way through the thicket that this particular group is raising, but my answer to their misplaced emphasis is that the mysterious operations of the Spirit, in combination with his Word, has an ordinary-means context that is the church. And the church is the "territory" in which the kingdom and covenant are administered.

When they speak of the Spirit's mysterious work, and divorce it from the means of grace (Word and sacrament), this makes little sense to me as I read Scripture. I am not responsible for seeing how and where the Spirit blows/works (Jn.3:8; Mk.4:26-29). I am responsible for believing he is active and at work where he promised to be, and in conjunction with the tools he has promised to use. It is by being brought into contact with the ordinary means that we should expect faith to be germinated in a soul--faith that no one can be saved without.

What I think I'm reading in this group is something like: the Spirit simply blows over the elect in any context without regard to its devotional setting. I mean, according to this view, it almost seems as though we might as well expect the Spirit to hit a man with regeneration when he's engaged at a brothel, as when he's under the preaching of the Word. No, not "conviction" from a delayed reaction to the Word, or from some inherent relation to the Law. No, but his number was up, and he just happened to be in the middle of something--and then (I don't know, 20 years later?) he's "converted" somehow.

If I've read accurately, I think this is bizarre. I'm fairly certain that this leads to preaching that is almost devoid of evangelistic thrust. I preach the gospel every Sunday to a congregation that I'm hopefully and fairly sure are primarily true believers already. I teach them the truth (I'm not just preaching for conversions), I preach the whole counsel of God, all the while calling for them ALL to have faith in the God of their salvation; pointing them away from themselves and to Christ alone who can and will save them, if they persevere in faith, hope, and love.

But if you are preaching to and for those who are so sure they are in the kingdom; who know the gate was closed, locked, and barred behind them; do they even need the gospel anymore? They surely don't need faith in Christ preached--they already believe, so now they just need info on doctrine and rules for living. If someone seems confused, or unsatisfied--well that's only natural; they are unregenerated, and they can't understand the things of God.

Here's a proposed conversation: "Why don't you just go meet with the pastor, and he can see about getting you in the door. If you still don't understand spiritual truth in the gospel, either you are damned or you've just got to keep gestating. But in any case, we can't tell whether the Spirit has done his thing or not. But once you've understood the first thing, then you will eventually understand the rest."

That scenario seems more likely to kill a soul than to save it. But, isn't that what is being proposed, when "means" are rejected? When the gospel is not envisioned as the heartbeat of the kingdom and covenant community?

The Reformers used to speak of "regeneration" as a synonym for "sanctification." This tended to emphasize the "whole-cloth" ministry of salvation. Eventually, we came to speak of "regeneration" almost exclusively as the inception of the new life/new birth. And that's OK, as long as we don't forget that there is an ongoing work of vitalization that is constant.
:2cents:
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
Bruce, I wuld like to hear more about the Reformers' use of regeneration as encompassing the whole salvation complex.


I am dealing with Primitive or Hardshell baptists that deny duty-faith and deny the use of means (even the Word of God and the instrumentality of Faith) in salvation.

Or they say, "yes these things come at conversion but not regeneration. There are no means used in regeneration because we are spiritually dead" and then proceed to widen the gap between the two as if they were two totally separate events.

Thus, they charge me with teaching that faith is the source and cause of our regeneration rather than the instrumental means or the appropriating organ by which we are united to Christ. They thus deny the WCF and the LBC because these confession speak of the ordinary use of means (though God may work above these means).
 

dudley

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
The only comment I wish to add here is that there is one thing we need to keep very clear about faith: it is not something worthy of merit that earns us justification. It is connects us with Christ's righteousness, but does not earn us Christ's righteousness. Faith is an act, but it is not a work. In other words, God doesn't give justification because of any value in your faith--because your faith is a such a great thing that it deserves reward--but because it is how you are united to Christ“.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
Bruce, I wuld like to hear more about the Reformers' use of regeneration as encompassing the whole salvation complex.


I am dealing with Primitive or Hardshell baptists that deny duty-faith and deny the use of means (even the Word of God and the instrumentality of Faith) in salvation.

Or they say, "yes these things come at conversion but not regeneration. There are no means used in regeneration because we are spiritually dead" and then proceed to widen the gap between the two as if they were two totally separate events.

Thus, they charge me with teaching that faith is the source and cause of our regeneration rather than the instrumental means or the appropriating organ by which we are united to Christ. They thus deny the WCF and the LBC because these confession speak of the ordinary use of means (though God may work above these means).
Perg,
I think you can find Calvin using "regeneration" language in the Institutes, but perhaps someone else can help out with references just now.

I realize where these folks are coming from, and I really don't have good categories for dealing with their positions. I believe that God regenerates (and does everything else he wills) not by "means" as though any such means were productive, but they are channels of his work. He is the efficiency of all, the issue being: where has he promised to be at work? So yes, he can do what he wants, where he wants, how he wants--but we aren't dealing with a God who acts completely invisibly.

That's the issue the atheist has: he doesn't believe God's Word, so he says, "I can't tell the difference between an 'accident' and an 'act of God.'" Well, if we were without a revelation, and promises, we wouldn't be able to tell the difference between God parting the Red Sea, and just a really weird, inexplicable, and fortuitous natural event. When we look at Moses and his rod, we see the means/channels of God's saving purpose, and the Word of God explains what we see. But Moses' doesn't part the sea, nor does the rod. And yet, the sea is not parted without Moses or his rod.

Look, as a Presbyterian, I think God may well regenerate various children as early as the womb, their birth, their baptism (!), or sometime in very young childhood. But I also believe what we see there is a "gospel," "Kingdom," and "covenantal" context to their lives, their baptism, their parental and pastoral care. So that, ordinary means for me is a huge contextual thing. And therefore, I see this hard-shell problem from an entirely different angle.

Seems to me they are trying to reconcile God's independency and sovereignty in regeneration, with the apparent utility of preaching for conversion. I think their understanding of MEANS is essentially different. They do not see means as "channels" of God's independent work, but perhaps as things working "by themselves" to bring about the effect. Thus, the preaching is a human act, that brings about a conversion experience. God simply ordained those facts to come about in that fashion. He already did "his" work beforehand in regeneration.

A person with my theological bent is tempted to think this could be a natural outcome of the outworking of a synthesis of belief in "divine sovereignty" and complete rejection (more than most Baptists, perhaps) of covenant-expression in this-world's terms (a separation typical of Baptist ecclesiology). If you consider the "memorialist"-/-"witnessing" nature to understanding the Baptist ordinances (sacraments), in that system they are primarily "human statements," correct? The means-of-grace view turns that view around, so that the sacraments are primarily "divine statements," which are only the participant's statements when he agrees with God as to the objective gospel-meaning of them.

Faith is then that receptive faculty in us whereby God touches us by his blessed self in grace. Saving faith has different ways of expressing itself, but it is the response of a child of God. Regeneration brings faith to life. Regeneration instantly produces some form of faith (the means by which new life floods us).

Perg, I think that because you have a reformed Confession, have a reformed soteriology, and have a kind of covenant-theology, that your theology is much broader-based than theirs, and much more consistent with the biblical witness.
 
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