What comes first? Regeneration or Conversion? Do you have to repent and believe in order to be born again? Or do you have to be born again in order to repent and believe?
Regeneration is a moral change, a transformation of man’s moral character. But Calvinism says that man is totally unable to choose God and turn away from sin and therefore man’s nature must be regenerated by sovereign grace before man can choose to repent and believe (be converted). In Calvinism, regeneration gives man the ability to turn to God. The regeneration of man’s nature, they say, must come before conversion and precede any faith.
But what does the Bible say?
The Bible actually says the opposite. The Bible says that a sinner must choose to repent and believe in order to be born again.
Jhn 1:12 – But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God
Notice that before God gives them the power to become the sons of God, they must first receive Him. The Greek word is λαμβάνω and it means to choose, to receive. In other words, it is those who first choose Jesus who are then born again child of God.
We see this in the example of the prodigal son.
In Luke 15:24 the prodigal son went from being “dead” to “alive again” (born again) because he said “I will arise and go to my father” (Luke 15:18). A decision of his will came before being born again (alive again).
No man is born again who hasn’t first repented of his sins. No man is considered regenerated by the Spirit of God who hasn’t been lead to repentance, forsaking all his wickedness. A person must make a decision to repent of their sinning before they are a new creature in Christ.
It is that decision which makes the difference between being a child of God and being a child of the devil.
There can be no regeneration by the Spirit of God without man’s cooperation because there can be no regeneration by the Spirit if man is resisting the Spirit and grieving the Spirit that is striving with him.
Regeneration by the Spirit – the circumcision of the heart – can be resisted by men:
Act 7:51 – Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always RESIST the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye.
This is the biblical doctrine of Resistible Regeneration!
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