The Primacy of Regeneration to Conversion
In the matter of the application of the benefits of Christ’s meritorious death on the cross, we again find conflict between Calvinism and Arminianism. It is important, to emphasize these two systems of theology are diametrically opposed to one another. Appearances of agreement can usually be ascribed to the common use of biblical and theological terms. Upon further investigation, we find the terms in common but not the defined meaning of those terms. For instance, “grace” does not mean the same thing, nor does faith, election, redemption, or regeneration.
The essential question, in the matter of the conversion of sinners, is, “What is the cause/source of the beginning of conversion?” Who initiates conversion, God or man? The answer to these questions will reveal who is independent of God and who is dependent on God. It is either the grace of God or the free will of man that initiates conversion.
Arminianism follows Pelagianism, in the key doctrines pertaining to the salvation of man. The essence of this system is man-centered theology. Man is the key to understanding salvation because each person is the determiner of conversion or non-conversion.
Instead of making a clear statement, Arminians will confuse the issue, by claiming that conversion is a joint project between God and man, in the same way Roman Catholics present Mary, as co-redemptrix and mediatrix. In the Arminian view, every person undertakes conversion as God’s partner.
If we pause and consider the issue of who comes first, in this co-venture, the Arminian will have to concede that they believe man permits God to help, in the work of conversion. Arminians speak of grace with profusion, but the truth is that God’s grace is at the whim of man’s free will. The true power in conversion belongs to man, the determiner of his own eternal destination. Thus, conversion, in the Arminian system, is a work of man.
Man repents of his sins by his own free will, and man believes by his own free will. Then, and only then, can God baptize the prime chooser and begin His work of dependent regeneration. God waits for man to give permission, and then, God is obligated to save, whoever wills to believe in Jesus.
God, of course, is sending preachers, so a gentle advising grace can woo sinners to love God, in return for His universal love for all creatures. The preacher tells the sinner that Christ died for everyone, everywhere, and now, salvation belongs to every man. The one work of man is obedience of faith, the decision to let Jesus be one’s Savior.
In contrast, with the man-centered Arminian system, is the God-centered Reformed position that sees the entirety of salvation being a work of God. In His sovereignty, God the Father chooses who will be saved (Rom 11:5; Eph 1:4–5; Rev 13:8; 17:8); Jesus Christ redeems the elect who will be saved (Rom 5:8; 1 Cor 1:30; 6:20; 7:23); the Holy Spirit applies the benefits of Christ’s meritorious work on the cross, to those He actually saves (1 Pet 1:2). Thus, Salvation is a work of our Triune God, who deserves 100% of the credit for actually saving God’s elect, redeemed, regenerated people.
Stated clearly, and without any confusion, “God saves us (Titus 3:5).” It is a work of His grace (Eph 2:8), which is seen in His sending Spirit-filled preachers (Rom 15:19; 1 Cor 2:4), to herald the Good News of all that God has done to save His church, the Israel of God (Rom 10:17; 1 Cor 1:23; 2:2; Gal 6:16). He brings forth His people by the Word of truth (Jn 6:63), which causes them to have faith (Phil 1:29), through hearing the voice of Christ (Jn 10:3–4), calling them to come to Him (Mt 11:28).
It is God having mercy upon His beloved, not the will of man that initiates conversion (Jn 1:12–13; Rom 9:16). Paul asked the Corinthians, “What do you have that you did not receive from God (1 Cor 4:7)?” For it is God, who wills and works for His good pleasure (Is 26:12; Phil 2:13). God’s people are made willing to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, on the day of His power (Ps 110:3). He causes them to be born again, by His Spirit (Jn 3:1–8; 1 Pet 1:3).
Regeneration causes conversion. The monergism (“one” “work”) of salvation — by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, according to the Scriptures alone, for the glory of God alone — is the biblical truth, and it honors God. The beneficiary of salvation is him, who does not work, but who believes (Rom 4:5)…by the grace of God (Eph 2:8–9).
Regeneration, the work of the indwelling Spirit (Jn 14:17; Rom 8:9, 11; 1 Cor 3:16; Gal 4:6; 2 Tim 1:14; Jas 4:5), is the cause/source of conversion (repentance/faith). Both repentance and faith are granted to the regenerated soul, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, within him or her (Acts 5:31; 11:18; Phil 1:29; Jude 3). He made us alive in Christ (Eph 2:5; Col 2:13), and it is the fruit of the Spirit, by which a man’s faithfulness manifests (Gal 5:22).
In conclusion, we have considered two systems that include the conversion of sinners. One has sinful man as the initiator and determiner of conversion. The other has God the Spirit, as the omnipotent Agent accomplishing God’s will, in the salvation of His people.
We have seen how God takes up residence in the heart of His elect, redeemed people and begins the work of converting us. He grants grace for us to repent and to believe in Jesus (Acts 5:31; Phil 1:29). This is not of ourselves (Jn 1:13; Eph 2:8); it is a gift of God (Acts 2:38; 10:45), so that no man may boast that he initiated or facilitated his own conversion (1 Cor 1:29, 31). It is all of God because salvation belongs to the Lord (Ps 3:8; Jon 2:9; Rev 19:1).
Spokane Valley, Washington
June 21, 2022