Four Faithful Facts
Concerning Regeneration and Gospel Proclamation
(1) The True Gospel always accompanies true salvation (i.e. regeneration and conversion).
(2) Salvation only and always occurs in the light of true Gospel revelation (either previously or contemporaneously received).
(3) Where there is no revelation of the Gospel, there is no true salvation (no true regeneration, conversion, faith, repentance, etc.).
(4) No one is currently saved who is ignorant of, or in opposition to, the true Gospel (thus, there are no ‘truly saved’ unbelievers, no ‘truly saved Arminians,’ etc. — those who are still in this state evidence their unregeneracy).
There is no regeneration apart from the hearing of the Gospel (at some prior or contemporaneous point) whether through pulpit preaching, a faithful (“layman”) witness, a faithful recording or tract, or some other means whereby Gospel truth is proclaimed to an elect sinner. The word of God is abundantly clear on this and there is truly no doubt about it from a biblical perspective. There is simply no salvation apart from hearing, reading, observing (as with the thief on the cross), or receiving a direct revelation of the Gospel of Christ (as with Saul turned Paul; a means which was still possible before the Bible was finalized in Revelation 22).
Proof-text One: We read in Romans 1:15-17 that, as much as was in Him (by divine grace), the Apostle Paul was ready to preach the Gospel to others. He stated “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is THE POWER OF GOD UNTO SALVATION to every one that BELIEVETH [or, literally in our day, to ‘everyone believing’]; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.”
The Gospel of Christ is the power of God unto salvation to every one that is continually, habitually believing. Said another way, it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that repeatedly, continuously, through the course of their life believes the Gospel. All who are in a continuous (God-maintained) state of faith in Christ Jesus, from regeneration to final glory, are in view.
The word believeth (which is the equivalent of believing) is a present tense participle, which means it must match the tense of the main verb; this participle must be occurring at the same time as (i.e. contemporaneously with) the main verb because such participles have as their time dependency the time of the primary verb. And what is the main verb? It is “IT IS” as in “for IT IS the power of God unto salvation…” This “IT IS” is in the present indicative form which means that the Gospel is the power of God in a contemporaneous sense (contemporaneous to hearing, or at least recalling in the mind, the preaching) and not in the sense of something past or future. Therefore, since the believing is contemporaneous with “it is the power of God unto salvation,” we see that the Apostle Paul is ready to proclaim the Gospel always because he knows that it is (right now, contemporaneous with his preaching of it) the power of God to those who contemporaneously (at the same time) believe it by God-given life and faith. Because the preaching of the Gospel, in its being the power of God unto salvation, is contemporaneous with those believing it, Paul wants to preach it as often as possible — and such should be our attitude; we should all desire to be faithful witnesses as God gives the opportunity. Now if the above proof-text seems a bit confusing, don’t worry… it gets both easier and clearer as the same message pattern is repeated again and again.
Proof-text Two: In Romans 10:9 we read “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. 10 For with the heart man BELIEVETH UNTO righteousness; and with the mouth CONFESSION IS MADE UNTO salvation.“
First, the believeth and the confession are both in the passive tense — this is what God must do in us and not what we actively do of our own strength [He must work faith and godly confession in us]. In addition, these two words are also in the present-indicative form which, again, represents “contemporaneous action, as opposed to action in the past or future.” One believes the Gospel contemporaneously unto righteousness and one’s confession (homologeō — oneness with the Logos) is contemporaneous with salvation. This is clear as we go on to read verse 13 “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved;” all who call upon the Lord (aorist subjunctive) shall be saved (future subjunctive). All who call upon the Lord (all who, for their own benefit, themselves call upon the Lord) shall be (passively, by the working of God alone) saved. That “shall be” indicates “the contemplated or certain occurrence of an event which has not yet occurred.” God shall save all who call upon Him… and yet the passage goes on in verses 14 to 15 to ask “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!“
God is clearly teaching that He saves no one without (1) first sending a witness/preacher/related-declarer of Gospel truth; (2) giving the physical hearer/reader spiritual ears to hear that Truth (through regeneration by the Holy Spirit); (3) giving that person contemporaneous faith to believe the Gospel that they are hearing; and (4) causing them to call upon the Lord for salvation (with that salvation most assuredly coming when they call upon Him — but not as a condition — always in light of what God, Himself, is working in them). You see, that salvation is a constant, continuous, salvation (from regeneration to final glory) but the sealing of it (the stamp of spiritual authenticity concerning it) comes when they believe . This is clearly set forth in Ephesians 1:12-13 “That we should be to the praise of His glory, who first trusted in Christ. In whom ye also trusted, AFTER THAT YE HEARD THE WORD OF TRUTH, THE GOSPEL of your salvation: in whom also AFTER THAT YE BELIEVED, YE WERE SEALED with that holy Spirit of promise.” No aspect of human effort plays a role here — this is simply bowing to the wording and timing (or order) that God reveals.
Clearly regeneration is incorporated into salvation but biblically-speaking, it is regeneration immediately accompanied by God-wrought, Gospel faith and repentance (causing us to turn to, and call upon, the Lord) that God deems salvation. Thus, salvation is not just regeneration; it is regeneration, accompanied by ears to hear, accompanied by divinely given faith, accompanied by divinely given repentance, accompanied by a God-wrought calling upon the Lord, trusting in Him, which is capped, finalized, contemporaneously, with the sealing of the Holy Spirit. This salvation, in turn, plays out for the rest of our sojourn here as we walk by faith in, and by, the Holy Spirit.
Proof-text Three: Consider 1 Corinthians 1:17-18 “For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, LEST THE CROSS OF CHRIST should be made of none effect. For THE PREACHING OF THE CROSS is to them that perish foolishness; but UNTO US WHICH ARE SAVED IT IS THE POWER OF GOD.“
The Apostle Paul is declaring that the Lord Jesus never sent him to continue on in John’s (water) baptism but to preach the Gospel (which is used of God unto true, spiritual baptism). The Holy Spirit, through Paul, affirms that the preaching of the cross IS the power of God unto us who ARE SAVED. Note, however, that the term “are saved” is based upon a Greek present-passive-participle; the present participle is dependent upon (time-wise) the main verb. What is the main verb? Again, it is “esti” which is “IT IS.” Therefore, the are saved verb is contemporaneous with the IT IS verb — so the preaching of the cross (“preaching” here, being a noun and not a verb; it is the word Logos), when this preaching is declared before elect men and women, IT IS the power of God to those who contemporaneously believe it. The cross is preached to them, at some point during the preaching God quickens them, God causes them to hear with spiritual ears, and gives them God-wrought faith and repentance unto their sealing by the Holy Ghost.
This is reaffirmed in verse 21 (1 Corinthians 1:21) wherein we read “For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God BY THE FOOLISHNESS OF PREACHING TO SAVE THEM THAT BELIEVE.” The “believe” in “them that believe” is once again a present-participle form; which means that the time dependency of “believe” is on the main verb “to save.” So whenever it is God’s timing “to save” them, that is precisely when they believe, and God makes clear that He is yoking His timing to save elect sinners with “the foolishness of preaching.” Once again, a faithful witness brings the truth (via some means or another), God quickens the hearer, gives them ears to hear, gives them faith and repentance, and then seals them by the Holy Spirit unto their (holistic) salvation.
Proof-text Four: Consider Hebrews 4:1-2 “Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left [us] of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. For UNTO US WAS THE GOSPEL PREACHED, as well as unto them: BUT THE WORD PREACHED DID NOT PROFIT THEM, not being mixed with faith in them that heard [it].” — The Gospel is preached unto men, some profit and some do not… but why? It is because some of those who physically hear the Gospel are never contemporaneously quickened, given the resulting ears to hear, and given the God-wrought faith and repentance to believe upon, trust in, and call upon the Lord; whereas, with others (the elect), at His appointed time for each of them, God indeed does quicken them, gives them ears to hear, and causes them to believe the truth, to repent, to call upon Him, as He seals them with the Holy Spirit unto their salvation.
Proof-text Five: We read in James 1:16-18 “Do not err, my beloved brethren. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. 18 Of His own will BEGAT HE US WITH THE WORD OF TRUTH, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.” Here we see that the believer is BEGOTTEN/QUICKENED/ REGENERATED (along or contemporaneously) with the word of truth. The word of truth is the Gospel proclamation (and/or the word of God as a whole) as made clear in the following passages — all using the same two underlying Greek words (for Word of Truth):
2 Corinthians 6:7 “By THE WORD OF TRUTH, by the power of God, by the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left…”
Ephesians 1:13 “In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard THE WORD OF TRUTH, THE GOSPEL of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise…”
2 Timothy 2:15 “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing THE WORD OF TRUTH.”
So we see in James 1:16-18 that the Christian is spiritually begotten, brought forth, along with the preaching of the word, the Gospel. This is affirmed by 1 Peter 1:23-25 “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, BY THE WORD [LOGOS] OF GOD, which liveth and abideth for ever. For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: But the WORD [rhēma, UTTERANCE, SPOKEN WORD, SPEECH, DISCOURSE] of the Lord endureth for ever. And THIS IS THE WORD [rhēma,] which by the gospel is preached unto you [or, ‘this is the word which is the good news, or glad tidings, being brought/announced to you).“
Proof-text Six: Finally, consider 2 Timothy 1:8-11 “Be not thou therefore ashamed of THE TESTIMONY OF OUR LORD, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of THE GOSPEL according to the power of God; 9 who hath saved us, and called [us] with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, 10 But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and HATH BROUGHT LIFE AND IMMORTALITY TO LIGHT THROUGH THE GOSPEL. Whereunto I am appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles.“
Many people interpret “HATH BROUGHT LIFE AND IMMORTALITY TO LIGHT THROUGH THE GOSPEL” differently; but however we interpret it, it must be in light of all of the above. In subjecting this one passage to the multitude and not the multitude to this one passage, we see that bringing life and immortality to light through the Gospel points directly to an individual’s salvation (the same process of hearing the Gospel physically, being quickened by God, being given ears to hear that Gospel, being given faith and repentance, etc.). We see this clearly in Hebrews 10:32 “But call to remembrance the former days, in which, AFTER YE WERE ILLUMINATED [i.e. “after you were brought to light, saved, given salvific knowledge — the words for both phrases being the same in the Greek], ye endured a great fight of afflictions…” — Here we see that being illuminated relates to being saved and having the True Light in them. This same word at issue is found in Ephesians 1:17-18 “That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: THE EYES OF YOUR UNDERSTANDING BEING ENLIGHTENED; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints…” — again, this passage is clearly describing a quickened and spiritually enlightened state. So we can safely state that God quickens through the Holy Spirit but immediately therewith enlightens with His word. This is the biblical pattern repeatedly set forth. It explains all of the instances of salvation in the New Testament (albeit with some variance as with the thief on the cross [Luke 23:32-46] and Saul/Paul [Acts 26:12-18] which pertained to direct Gospel observances, or revelation, in addition to possibly, or even likely, having heard aspects of the Gospel proclaimed by men; these exceptions no longer exist in our day per Revelation 22:18-19). Nonetheless, no matter how it is spun, no one is ever quickened of God and left ignorant of the true Gospel for weeks, months, years, decades, or to the grave as some Primitive Baptists, and others, would have us believe. True salvation is always accompanied by God-wrought faith in Christ and submission to His true Gospel. This is how God is glorified; the Lord is honoured in the highest by the salvation of lost sinners based solely upon Christ and His finished work. These saved ones go forth testifying of what Christ alone did for them and not what Christ did for them in light of what they supposedly accepted, decided, or let Him do. Yet, God is also glorified, further glorified in a real sense, by the obedience God works out in and through the believer. We are saved for a purpose. We are saved to honour, obey, submit to, and thus glorify God. Our chief desire should be to please Him and we please Him through our (God-wrought) faith in Him, love for Him, and our obedience to Him.
To God be the glory, in Christ Jesus, amen.