Regeneration, Faith and Drawing

Regeneration, Faith and Drawing

Question

It is my understanding that our faith in Christ is what saves us (John 3:16; Eph. 2:8). If regeneration (being born again) precedes faith, doesn't that mean that when we first become born again we are still unsaved until we have "saving faith"?

Jesus said that Nicodemus needed to be born again (John 3:7) even though Nicodemus was drawn to Christ because of his miraculous works (John 3:2; 10:37-38). Does God draw/drag (John 6:44) us before regeneration? If not, what state was Nicodemus in when he came to Jesus by night? What does this say about people today who straddle the fence for days, months or years at a time before finally becoming or not becoming Christians?

Answer

When we say that regeneration precedes faith, we are speaking of "logical precedence" rather than "temporal precedence." That is, logically speaking, an unregenerate heart cannot have faith (Rom. 8:5-9). Therefore, if anyone is to have faith, he must first be regenerated. But this does not mean that a person may be regenerated and not yet have faith. On the contrary, faith and regeneration are simultaneous.

The drawing that Jesus mentions in John 6:44 should not be confused with the interest Nicodemus had in Jesus as a result of Jesus' miracles. In John 6:44, Jesus was teaching that fallen human beings are incapable of turning to Jesus for salvation. His point was that until God does something miraculous in and to a person, that person cannot come to faith. This powerful drawing is an expression of faith in response to what we call "irresistible grace." It takes place simultaneously with and as a logical consequence of regeneration. Those who are regenerated have new natures that love God, and their immediate response is to cling to Christ in faith.

Note that in John 6:63-65 Jesus explained that the drawing of John 6:44 had not happened to some of those who were with him, even though they were clearly around him because they were interested in him just as Nicodemus was. Nicodemus' himself appears to have been unsaved when he came to Jesus in John 3: in John 3:12, Jesus indicated that Nicodemus did not believe Jesus' teachings; and in John 3:7 he said that Nicodemus had to be born again.

People who straddle the fence in modern times are simply unsaved. They seem to recognize something about their condition and its possible solution, but they have not been regenerated so as to respond positively to the gospel.

Answer by Ra McLaughlin

Ra McLaughlin is Vice President of Finance and Administration at Third Millennium Ministries.