Questions about Regeneration and Faith

There are a few questions I would like to ask my Arminian [or if they prefer, synergist] friends. They grow out of my understanding of Romans 8:1 and following and rests on my understanding of Romans 8:8. My understanding of that passage (8:1-8) is that it is talking about the New Covenant experience of the true child of God. He is one who does not live his life habitually according to the flesh, i.e, the life that characterized the old creation in Adam, into which he was born and in which he lived, but one who lives his life habitually according to the Spirit. The passage is not talking about an option a believer has as to whether he/she will walk according to the flesh or the Spirit. Instead, it draws a distinction between those who are “in Christ” and those who are not. Those who are not in Christ mind the things of the flesh and those who are in Christ mind the things of the Spirit.

Even if a person should take the position that Paul is describing two “natures” in the believer, he will have the same problem. In chapter seven he had written “in me, that is in my flesh dwells no good thing.” That would assume that nothing pleasing to God could proceed from “the flesh.” It would appear that whatever view we would take of this verse, we would have to conclude that “flesh” is a negative quality and describes a state in which a person cannot please God. This is precisely what Paul unequivocally states in verse eight, “So then, those who are in the flesh, cannot please God.”

These are my questions for you:

1. Would you agree that a person prior to regeneration is “in the flesh?”
2. Would you agree that regeneration [new birth, creation, spiritual circumcision, spiritual resurrection etc.] is necessary for a person to no longer be “in the flesh?”
3. Would you agree that a person who is “in the Spirit” is a person in whom the Spirit of Christ dwells (v. 9).
4. Would you agree that no person is in-dwelt by the Spirit who is not born of God?
5. Would you agree that a person who is not in-dwelt by the Spirit is “in the flesh?’
6. Would you agree that to have faith in God’s promises is pleasing to God?

I would assume that you have answered all those questions affirmatively. Based on those answers, can you explain two things to me?

1. How can a person who is “in the flesh” i.e., unregenerate, please God by trusting him and his promises if those who are in the flesh cannot please God? Or do you believe that “hostility toward God” and faith in God are compatible?
2. If you believe those who are “in the flesh” are able to obey one commandment of God, why do you believe regeneration is necessary at all? If a person is able to obey one commandment, namely, God’s command to repent and believe the gospel, why can he not, in an unregenerate state, obey every command of God ?



18 Responses to “Questions about Regeneration and Faith”

  1. October 8, 2015 at 11:38 pm

    But Randy – the preacher at the church I belong to says YHWH gives to every human the grace to ask Jesus into his heart!

  2. October 9, 2015 at 12:40 am

    The funny thing is, they never can seem to find the Scripture that teaches that idea. If they all have the grace to believe, why did Paul write that those who are perishing regard the gospel as foolishness and Stephen said they ALWAYS resist the Holy Spirit. Doesn’t sound as if they have much grace does it?

    • October 9, 2015 at 12:44 am

      I’ve asked him a couple of times to explain that to me from Scripture. No response. I will press him again for an answer this Sunday. I’ve told him that, in accordance with his wishes, I would no longer try to show him Truth. So I will simply ask him questions that, may the Lord wish, might help him see the folly of the traditions he’s been taught.

      He claims our position denies God’s grace. Go figure.

      • October 9, 2015 at 12:48 am

        To those who lack the will to know the truth, nothing is so mysterious as the obvious.

      • October 9, 2015 at 12:51 am

        Amen! Funny thing is, he has stood before the people God has gathered and told us about several topics that he is passionate about that he doesn’t know why he believes ‘X’, he just does.

        After the Finney style “revival” he said that God had told him Calvinism was wretched and he repented from being friendly towards us.

        And this is the only church we’ve found around here where there is ANY interest in the Word of God.


      • October 9, 2015 at 12:55 am

        The sad fact is that there is a spiritual famine in so many parts of the US. This is what happens when people are more interested in size than in truth.

  3. October 9, 2015 at 1:00 am

    To his credit, about 5 years ago he repented of being seeker sensitive, began preaching from the Bible, and half the members left. It is sad he has recently gone from being willing to discuss issues to declaring war on those he does not agree with.

    • October 9, 2015 at 1:11 am

      I am convinced the problem lies in presuppositions. If a person is wedded to certain cherished presuppositions [usually presuppostions driven by emotion] God loves every sinner equally and in the same way has a warm fuzzy appeal even though it is impossible to demonstrate from Scripture. As long as folks are focused on those presuppositions, they simply can’t see anything else.

      • October 9, 2015 at 1:15 am

        I am convinced of the same thing. I ran into the same type of “hard headedness” when trying to explain the conflicts in the “Christian Sabbath.” May the Lord never allow me to stop renewing my mind and move from Semper Reformanda to Semper Torpor.

  4. October 9, 2015 at 10:20 am

    Excellent! I often just ask questions and then turn to scripture, especially with Rom 8:7-8.

  5. 12 George M. Ella
    October 11, 2015 at 8:14 am

    Dear Randy,

    I added this comment to your blog as soon as I received your mail but it seems to have got lost.

    Thank you Randy for your interesting and most penetrating questions. Allow me to attempt a quickie.
    An Arminian is anything but a synergist as he fails to see the synergism of the Gospel and takes away important features of it rather than understands its integrity and synthesis.

    Paul in the wider passage you quote is not speaking of being in the flesh as a pre-conversion experience only as he is speaking of his own state in Adam. He knew and taught that the flesh was with him until the resurrection. Thus sadly we Christians sin as we are in Adam until we die and thus suffer the wages of our sin in death but experience the salvation of the New Creature in a resurrected life of glorification.
    Thus, to question 1 ‘Would you agree that a person prior to regeneration is “in the flesh?”’, I would answer ‘Yes’. To 2, I would answer that being in Adam brings physical death to all flesh but being in Christ life eternal. One cannot chop a Christian in two, he is fallen flesh in which there is no good thing. He is also saved and forgiven by Christ and has His righteousness imputed to him in spite of his flesh. The Lord teaches us to pray as redeemed souls that the sins of our flesh be forgiven. The words ‘as in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive’ apply also to Christians. Concerning 3 and 4, I quite agree. Concerning 5, I agree but worded in this minimalized way may lead to the misunderstanding that a Christian cannot speak of his not pleasing God in the flesh. Certainly (6) our expression of Christ’s faith in us is pleasing to God.
    So I would say that questions one to six cannot be all answered in the affirmative until our resurrection and glorification. Of course hostility towards God and faith are not compatible but we have only hostility in the flesh and not even faith of ourselves but we are saved by grace and not by anything of our own nature. As our Reformers taught us, even our expressions of faith are riffled with selfish sin. Naturally I do not believe that those in the flesh can obey one commandment of God of themselves. Grace saves us, not our works.
    You and I know that in our flesh there is no good thing as we have sinned against each other and thus against God but we know that we are brethren in Christ through His grace, not through our sinful nature.
    May the Lord bless you and your readers in delving into apparent mysteries revealed and solved by Christ.

    • October 11, 2015 at 1:25 pm


      Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I am searching for a term they are willing to accept. Many do not like to be called Arminians since they believe OSAS. I think an accurate term would be “OSAS Arminians.”

      I seems #2 and #5 are the only statement with which you would disagree. I would not disagree that the new man in Christ continues to have “flesh” dwelling in him. There is no question that the believer is still able to displease God. That is not the issue. My question was whether those who are in Adam, which in my view is what it means to be “in the flesh,” are not able to please God. Paul then states that “those in whom the Spirit of Christ dwells are no longer “in the flesh.”

      As I stated, even those who hold your view cannot rightly reason that it is possible for those who are “in the flesh” to do anything that pleases God, including faith.

      • 14 George M. Ella
        October 15, 2015 at 2:58 pm

        Dear Randy,

        My point was that all are in Adam but not all are in Christ. Fallen Adam depicts the flesh. Thus Paul says, as a Christian (he did not know it as a non-Christian) ‘For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing.’ Furthermore, Paul says as a born-again man, ‘So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin’. This is why we, as the Lord’s people, pray that God will forgive us our trespasses. This is why we know that when we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins’. So we can say that though we are in Adam, in the flesh, until we die, there is no condemnation to them which are in Christ. It is thus not a question of being ‘either or’, but of being ‘both’, until death releases us from our Adamic nature. The Holy Spirit puts it like this: ‘And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.’ ‘For what the law could not do, in that it was weak in the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh.’ This is why Christians groan waiting for the redemption of their body at the resurrection. This is why the Spirit groans with us when making intercession for us, knowing our temporary state.

        God bless dear friend in searching the Scriptures in which we find true Life and urging others to do so.


      • October 15, 2015 at 7:26 pm

        Dear Brother Ella,

        I appreciate your contribution once again. Though your comments are a bit off topic in regard to the point I was making in the post, they are worth considering and responding to nonetheless.

        Your view of Romans 7-8 is different from the view I take, but I acknowledge that your view is more in line with classic Reformed thought. One problem I have with your contention that believers continue to be in the flesh is that it is in direct contradiction to plain statements the apostle has made. In chapter seven he wrote “but when you were [past tense] in the flesh” and here he states the matter even more plainly–“You are not in the flesh but in the Spirit if the Spirit of God dwells in you.” (Rom. 8:9). There is a great difference between the flesh remaining us and us remaining in the flesh. I believe “flesh”describes that realm into which we were born in Adam and that is characterized by frailty and inability. All that we were in Adam, “The old man” has been crucified with Christ so that the body of sin might be rendered inoperative, so that we should no longer serve sin. As believers we continue to have the remnants of the flesh remaining in us and waring against the Spirit. It is not that we are now a new man and an old man but a new man who is not yet made perfect in holiness. It is our duty to put on the new man and put off the old man. I understand that to mean that there were certain patterns of behavior that we developed as unconverted people in Adam that we must replace with new patterns of behavior that are in accord with biblical commands, e.g., Paul wrote in this context in Eph. that we are to put off lying (lit. Having put off–Aorist middle Participle–(perhaps if we understand it as a causal participle– because you have put off) (old man) and speak the truth with our neighbor (Eph 4:25). You have been accustomed to acting in a certain way but now you need to act in accordance with what Christ has taught you (see Eph.4:20). You were accostomed to steal, now you need to labor. . .

        Just as all the effects of Adamic sin have not been eradicated from the cosmos or from our physical bodies as they will be when Christ appears in glory, so it is true that not all the effects of the Adamic transgression have been removed from our inner man as they will be when we are glorified together. Nevertheless, I do not believe on can read Romans 6-8 and conclude that a believer is helplessly led captive by the flesh as he/she was prior to conversion.

        I hope this helps to clarify my position on this issue. Again, thanks for dropping by and commenting.



      • October 15, 2015 at 7:28 pm

        Excellent summary, Randy. I violently agree with your view of new man/old man.

  6. 17 George M. Ella
    October 16, 2015 at 9:51 am

    Dear Randy,

    Thank you for your clarification on this important matter. I do not quite take the stand which you apply to me. Indeed, we are obviously saying much the same thing but articulating it differently. I can thus quite agree with your conclusion ‘As believers we continue to have the remnants of the flesh remaining in us and warring against the Spirit.’ This is exactly what I am saying.

    I cannot follow you so closely in what you define as ‘patterns of behaviour’ which seems a euphemism for the fact that we still sin in the flesh, though saved from its consequences eternally. That sin endures until we are made free from our body at death which we inherited federally from the First Adam and is also the wages of our own sin. Then we shall dwell fully in the gift of eternal life in the Second Adam without our First Adamic hindrance.

    I certainly agree with you that the believer is never led ‘helplessly captive by the flesh’ and away from Christ as He is our great Succour and Saviour and will never leave us nor forsake us. The New Birth is not reversible.

    God bless,


  7. October 16, 2015 at 12:37 pm

    Dear George,

    It was not my intention to apply to you a view you do not hold. Thank you for the clarification. It will always be my intention to clarify differences between brothers rather than exacerbate them by misrepresentation. It is my view that many of the “differences” [clearly not all the differences] that separate believers could be elimated through careful definition and thoughtful interaction. I think we can all confess that there are questions that remain in our minds after we have done the best we can to faithfully exegete the relevant texts on a given issue. One of the aspects I appreciate most about those with whom I most stridently disagree is the erruption of thought they produce in my mind. Thanks for your comments on this important issue.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: