The Role of the Holy Spirit in Salvation

subscribeOne reformed scholar has explained the role of the Holy Spirit in this way:

Theologian Herman Bavinck wrote an important volume called An Introduction to the Science of Missions. Drawing from the word translated “convict,” he coined the word elenctics. His argument, written in the context of the mid-20th century, was that missions’ strategies and methods of his era had fallen short of the Great Commission mandate. He wrote:

“When we speak of elenctics we do well to understand it in the sense that it has in John 16:8. The Holy Spirit will convince the world of sin. The Holy Spirit is actually the only conceivable subject of this verb, for the conviction of sin exceeds all human ability. Only the Holy Spirit can do this, even though he can and will use us as instruments in his hand.”

The Holy Spirit, using the biblical message of the Cross, “awakens in man that deeply hidden awareness of guilt. He convinces man of sin, even where previously no consciousness of sin was apparently present. The Holy Spirit uses the word of the preacher and touches the heart of the hearer, making it accessible to the word.”

When the Holy Spirit convinces people of their sin, of Jesus’ righteousness, and of certain judgment, He awakens the human heart to hear and see truth in a new way. Upon seeing and perceiving (cf. Isaiah 6:10; Matthew 13:15), the human heart cries out for God. [LINK]

I would like to draw our attention to a few important points that may be easily overlooked if one is not aware of what to look for:

  1. He wrote, “Only the Holy Spirit can do this, even though he can and will use us as instruments in his hand.”

This brings up the issue of “means,” something Calvinistic scholars are careful to affirm. But, what are the human means actually accomplishing within the Calvinistic framework? Does the use of a miracle, the proclamation of truth, or the persuasive use of argumentation in an apologetic discourse actually accomplish anything that is not inevitability accomplished by the work of “effectual/irresistible grace” (otherwise known as “regeneration”)?

I have yet to find a Calvinist who is able to show me one thing that the human means actually accomplish that is not sufficiently taken care of by the effectual work of regeneration. In Romans 10:14 when Paul asks the rhetorical question, “How shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard,” the clearly implied answer is that hearing is sufficient for believing. But, according to Calvinism, it is not.  If Calvinism were true Paul would have certainly asked, “How shall they believe what they hear unless God regenerates them?”

2.  He teaches, “The Holy Spirit, using the biblical message of the Cross, ‘awakens in man that deeply hidden awareness of guilt. He convinces man of sin, even where previously no consciousness of sin was apparently present.'”

Keep in mind, for the Calvinist this is only being done for a select few, “the elect of God.” God is not awakening every man and making him aware of his guilt and making him conscious of his sin. For the Calvinist, God is only doing this for His chosen ones, though there is nothing preventing Him from doing this for others as well.  So, while these words may sound appealing one must look closer to see the difficulty of the meaning that hides just below the surface.

God, for some unknown reason, chooses not to ‘awaken’ everyone yet speaks to everyone as if they might respond and then condemns those who refuse to accept a truth they were born unable to understand and accept. According to Calvinism, God is holding everyone equally accountable (punishable) for their rejection of the truth, but He is only sufficiently revealing truth to His elect.


3. He continues, “The Holy Spirit uses the word of the preacher and touches the heart of the hearer, making it accessible to the word.”

Notice what is being said here. He is subtly making the argument that the heart of the hearer does not have access to the clearly revealed truth of the word apart from the Holy Spirit ‘touching’ him. Allow me to reword this statement just slightly to make it biblically accurate, “The Holy Spirit uses the word of the preacher to touch the heart of the hearer, making the heart accessible to the truth the word clearly reveals.” 

Now, that change may seem inconsequential but it is not.  It speaks to an important doctrinal issue: the sufficiency of scripture, God’s Holy Word. You see, the Reformed author was subtly teaching that the word proclaimed by the preacher remains insufficient unless and until the Holy Spirit “touches the heart” and makes those words “accessible.” This assumes that mankind is born unable to understand and accept clearly revealed truth, a concept no where taught in scripture.  It also assumes the proclaimed truth of God’s word is not sufficient to accomplish the purpose for which is was sent (John 12:31).

Objectively consider this perspective for a moment.  According to the Calvinist, [and some classical Arminians who have bought into this way of thinking] all of humanity is born unable to believe the clearly revealed truth of scripture, but they are able to believe the lies of the Koran or other false world religions.  Yet, God holds us responsible for believing lies of false religions and rejecting the truths of scripture.

Now, to be fair, the classical Arminian at least goes on to say that God graciously re-enables every man’s otherwise disable will by means of “prevenient grace,” but this is a completely unnecessary concession. The gospel is a sufficiently gracious work of the Holy Spirit, there is no reason to invent another one. Plus, there is nothing in scripture which remotely suggests that God has confined all of humanity over to a condition of total inability due to the fall of Adam.  What is there to “re-enable” if the ability to respond to God’s powerful truth was never lost?

(This goes back to our discussion over the sufficiency of the gospel HERE)

The natural man is held responsible to the very words of Christ because the natural man is able to respond to the very words of Christ.  As Jesus explains,

“If anyone hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge that person. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day. For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken. I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say” (John 12:47-50).

And in John 6:63, Jesus says,

“It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.”

The author of Hebrews puts it this way,

“For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.  And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account (Heb. 4:12-13).

Are we to take from these verses that the words of God are only powerful, life-giving and sufficient to enable the lost to respond if and when the Holy Spirit “touches the heart” and effectually regenerates the soul?  Where does the bible teach this kind of inward mystical working of the Holy Spirit? (More on this subject HERE)

4. He ends by saying, “When the Holy Spirit convinces people of their sin, of Jesus’ righteousness, and of certain judgment, He awakens the human heart to hear and see truth in a new way. Upon seeing and perceiving (cf. Isaiah 6:10; Matthew 13:15), the human heart cries out for God.”

This is the Calvinistic doctrine of “Irresistible Grace” in a nutshell (the “I” in the popular acronym TULIP).  Calvinists teach that God effectually awakens or “regenerates” the heart of His elect so that they will certainly see the truth and accept the truth of scripture. But consider the reverse side of this coin.  Those who remain in unbelief do so because God refuses to “awaken their human heart to hear and see truth” and then sends them to eternal punishment for rejecting spiritual truth they were born morally unable to see or hear.

This is blatantly unbiblical.  The scripture clearly teaches that mankind is born responsible (able to respond) to the clear revelation of God (see Romans 1). Mankind is not born hardened, calloused and unable to respond to clearly revealed truth.  They may grow calloused if they continually trade God’s truth in for lies (Acts 28:27; Romans 1:25).  They may be “given over” to the lusts of their flesh and their stubborn pride if they refuse to love the truth so as to be saved (2 Thess. 2:10; Romans 1:24).  But they are not born completely blinded and incapable of moral choices in response to God’s clearly revealed truth.

The Holy Spirit works through human means, which indicates that the means actually accomplish the work of the Holy Spirit.  Conviction is brought by the Holy Spirit inspired truth being proclaimed.  He makes his appeal, “Be reconciled to God,” THROUGH US:

Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. (2 Cor. 5:20)

Therefore, anything and everything the proclamation of the gospel accomplishes should be credited to the Holy Spirit. When you preach and someone gives their life to following Christ, the glory goes to the Holy Spirit because He is making His appeal through you. You are merely the tool in the carpenter’s hand. It is not this idea that the Holy Spirit is working independently from His appointed means to make those means sufficiently effective (i.e. the Holy Spirit regenerates the heart so that the preaching is effectual).  No, the Holy Spirit is accomplishing His work THROUGH His appointed means. The Holy Spirit calls people to repentance and faith through the proclamation of the gospel therefore that calling is sufficient to enable whosoever hears it to respond to its appeal.

For more on this topic listen to the Podcast: The Holy Spirit’s Work in Salvation

52 thoughts on “The Role of the Holy Spirit in Salvation

  1. Thank you Leighton again for dealing with another important issue, that is, the harmful teaching of Calvinism’s irresistible grace that they say is only for the elect!

    As you already know, I think that it is far more important to show that God IS providing an opportunity to accept or reject saving grace to each and every human soul, even though we may disagree on HOW He does it. But let me address two specific statements where I do disagree, to help get the conversation going! 😉

    You said – “Plus, there is nothing in scripture which remotely suggests that God has confined all of humanity over to a condition of total inability due to the fall of Adam.” I think Rom 11:32 suggests that He has – “For God has committed them all to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all.” But notice, His plan is that, in spite of their inability cause by His commitment of them to disobedience, into which He allows all to fall, He also affirms His plan to provide mercy to all so that they will have an opportunity of repentance (2Pet 3:9).

    You also said – “Mankind is not born hardened, calloused and unable to respond to clearly revealed truth. They may grow calloused if they continually trade God’s truth in for lies (Acts 28:27; Romans 1:25).” I agree that they are not born that way. But I believe that all are allowed to be brought to a condition where they will not seek their own salvation, even though their innate conscience convicts them at times, but that they need a “clearly revealed truth” brought to them by the HS through His work of enlightenment and conviction (John 1:9, 16:7-8).

    Praise His name that He will do this at least a few times (cf. Job 33:14-30), and He will even break through any “hardened, calloused” heart to cause it to truly “hear” the implications of His call. But the warning still remains – “Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden you heart” (Heb 3:7-8), a warning that the Calvinist has no response for, since it could not be for the elect, who are unable to resist His voice when they hear it, nor for the non-elect, unable to hear His voice inviting them to believe, in their view.

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      1. Hi Leighton. I would say it is the combination of the words “committed…to disobedience” which points pretty powerfully to inability. The Greek words for the verb and the prepositional phrase which makes up this combination could easily be rendered – caught in a state of willful rejection and being unpersuaded. This is the same kind of judicial hardening, same word, in 11:30. So God does it, but God promises to overcome it for all at least a few times, and they only have those moments, when they hear His voice, to respond for salvation.

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      2. I’m actually going to have to side with Leighton on Rom. 11:32, which has a parallel verse in Gal. 3:22.

        συνέκλεισεν γὰρ ὁ θεὸς τοὺς πάντας εἰς ἀπείθειαν, ἵνα τοὺς πάντας ἐλεήσῃ. (Rom 11:32 NA28)

        ἀλλὰ συνέκλεισεν ἡ γραφὴ τὰ πάντα ὑπὸ ἁμαρτίαν (Gal 3:22 NA28)

        All being “locked up” under sin, does not exclude them from being able to believe and choose (Total Inability).

        Gal. 3:22 ends: ἵνα ἡ ἐπαγγελία ἐκ πίστεως Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ δοθῇ τοῖς πιστεύουσιν. (Gal 3:22 NA28) The ending of Gal. 3:22 is parallel with ἵνα τοὺς πάντας ἐλεήσῃ (Rom 11:32 NA28). God having mercy on all is providing faith in Jesus Christ as a gift.

        The reason they were locked up was to channel them into righteousness by faith instead of by works, not to take away any ability they had to make a choice to believe in Christ. So as with the rest of Scripture we have 1. an inability to achieve righteousness by works for all flesh. 2. an ability to accept the righteousness by faith in Christ wherever it is preached. It’s important not to confuse Total Depravity, since the question here at hand is: can the Totally Depraved make a choice accepting Christ (or does their depravity prevent that causing inability). Saying “I’m totally depraved but I put my faith in Christ,” is showing that the totally depraved have an ability to accept and trust. My key text for disproving inability (and also disproving regeneration before faith) is the fact that in Romans 4 Abraham was said to believe while still ungodly. This means the unregenerate (those locked up under sin) still have the ability to respond to grace and believe, when God presents his grace to them.I actually think Brian agrees completely with that.

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      3. Glad you jumped in David! You said – every unbeliever has “an ability to accept the righteousness by faith in Christ wherever it is preached.” From a recent conversation you seemed to concede that being judicially hardened would make one unable to exercise such an “ability” of faith or choice. I think you might concede that from a lifestyle of disobedience, to which God has committed all, some become self-hardened in their hearts so that the seed of the word, though heard audibly, is not understood and does not take root, or even if it is accepted and understood to some extent, it doesn’t produce any fruit until salvation, being eventually choked out or scorched out.

        You know of the promises of enlightenment to everyone and conviction to everyone. Do you believe those are necessary and do they happen automatically when any part of God’s word is proclaimed? Would you concede that after being committed to disobedience, there may be opportunities where the word is heard, and becomes unfruitful, because there is no HS enlightenment and conviction directly with it? This is my view. I do not believe God promises the necessary enlightenment or conviction for salvation every time the word is preached. God started the hardening process, man continues it, God overcomes it sufficiently, at least a few times for all, but can also continue the hardening if man rejects those opportunities.

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    1. you say:
      Would you concede that after being committed to disobedience, there may be opportunities where the word is heard, and becomes unfruitful, because there is no HS enlightenment and conviction directly with it?

      I get what you’re saying—in fact I like what you’re saying. It’s true, our ground can be hard, rocky and full of birds. This is why I’m such a strong believer in prevenient grace, this is the power that is working to bring all men to a choice and overcome their TD. Without prevenient grace, it’s true, I agree we are all stuck in TI. When I pray for lost souls, I never pray God overcome their will—I pray God overcome anything that prevents them from seeing the what decision they are making, and the desirableness of the truth. Even our prayers for the lost are this prevenient grace God gives—one sows and another reaps. bless

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  2. you say:
    God is not awakening every man and making him aware of his guilt and making him conscious of his sin.

    God gives the means and rules in his Word, and I don’t see how the Word says that all the world is being awakened to sin. I see the Word saying that the strongman blinds the hearts of the unbelieving in spiritual death, before a “stronger one” comes and sets them free. Paul was a spiritual warrior, and he wouldn’t say “I don’t need to fight this fight because all will hear the Gospel without me.” He did all things *for the sake* of the elect, for you and me.

    you say:
    God, for some unknown reason, chooses not to ‘awaken’ everyone yet speaks to everyone as if they might respond and then condemns those who refuse to accept a truth they were born unable to understand and accept.

    Scripture tells us clearly, the actions and choices of one person, can affect other people’s chance at grace. Christ said the Pharisees “locked up the kingdom of heaven” for people and made some twice the son of hell they were. This is why responsibility is a thing we should all take seriously. We’ve been entrusted with the Word of reconciliation and the Holy Spirit.

    you say:
    This assumes that mankind is born unable to understand and accept clearly revealed truth, a concept no where taught in scripture.

    I think you’re merely begging the question of how the truth is revealed here. We say the Word is nothing without the Spirit, and *the Word itself says it’s nothing without the Spirit.* It is easy to build a strong case for this, I think. “You search *the Scriptures* because you think *in them* you have eternal life.” Now I’m going to have to confront your view with the Word of God here: What does Jesus go on to say. “But you refuse to *come to me* that you may have life.” Jesus said the Word was a *signpost* pointing to spiritual realities. Jesus said if people realized in his day that he was the Christ, they had been listening to the Father *through* the Word. Now I’m not saying the Spirit can necessarily be separated from the Word, but I’m saying the Word can be lifeless and without the Spirit. This is exactly Paul’s point when he talked about a veil over the Jews’ eyes at *the reading of the Word.* I guess someone didn’t teach Paul the sufficiency of the Word alone here, because Paul clearly indicated the Word alone did not lift the veil from people’s eyes. What did Paul go on to say? “But whenever a man turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.” Oh, well Paul means whenever a man hears the Word, right? “Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” Whenever a man turns to the Spirit, the veil is taken away; whenever a man comes to Christ himself, he receives life.

    you say:
    What is there to “re-enable” if the ability to respond to God’s powerful truth was never lost?

    Generational sin and iniquity.

    you say:
    The scripture clearly teaches that mankind is born responsible (able to respond) to the clear revelation of God (see Romans 1).

    Actually I think you’ll find in Romans 1 that “God gave them over,” and if you compare that with the OT passages of God cursing generations of the wicked’s descendants, you’ll find that generational sin and iniquity cause people to be born into this state because their ancestors denied the revealed truth, just like Cain started an ungodly line by denying the revealed truth he had (he did not master sin).

    you say:
    all of humanity is born unable to believe the clearly revealed truth of scripture, but they are able to believe the lies of the Koran or other false world religions. Yet, God holds us responsible for believing lies of false religions and rejecting the truths of scripture.

    Two things. First I think you’re language “God holds them responsible” is incorrect. God doesn’t hold us responsible for Adam’s sin, but God holds us responsible for what Adam’s sin does *inside us,* which is a predilection to the god of this world and doing his sinful will. Paul said God had mercy because he did things ignorantly in unbelief, but he never said God *forgave* him because he did things ignorantly in unbelief; on the contrary he said he was the greatest of sinners. And this gravitational trend from some Arminian thought unsettles me, a trend that always leads away from faith in grace to some more universal Gospel were we don’t need the Holy Spirit through a knowledge of Christ’s redemption. Sort of a “crossless” Gospel that people seem drawn to when they realize that some people really are victims of Adam’s sin.

    you say:
    Are we to take from these verses that the words of God are only powerful, life-giving and sufficient to enable the lost to respond if and when the Holy Spirit “touches the heart” and effectually regenerates the soul?

    A thousand times Yes.

    you say:
    Where does the bible teach this kind of inward mystical working of the Holy Spirit?

    Almost everywhere… the list is really long. God talks about a long and elaborate wooing process in the OT pictures and all over the place is described a mystical working of the Spirit in our hearts. Ever heard someone’s testimony “The Spirit was really striving with me.” Well believe them, he was; the Spirit really was striving with them. The treasures and mysteries and difficulties and truths of Scripture are something we can labor in, and then take out and make clear to others. This is what the Word teaches us. Because plenty of people have read significant portions of Scripture, even the entire thing multiple times (I personally know of cases) and have had zero revelation. It’s just not real to them and they don’t understand what it says. It’s like a “sealed book” like Isaiah the prophet said.

    you say:
    The Holy Spirit works through human means, which indicates that the means actually accomplish the work of the Holy Spirit.

    Let’s not get fuzzy about what we do and what the Spirit does. We may step out in faith in actions and obedience, but we don’t bring the regeneration through our words anymore than we bring the physical healing through our own power, should God heal through us. Even Christ was very deliberate and clear to say that it wasn’t his own works, but it was the Finger of God moving through him. Christ indicated had that Spirit left him, he would not act out of his deity but be like any other man. It was the rules of the game for our redemption.

    Bless you brother Flowers, love you so much and hate to disagree with you; perhaps I’m just Paul’s thorn in your side. I hope we can sharpen each other like iron sharpens iron. Looking forward to hearing Michael Brown, always huge respect for that brother.

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    1. Diz,
      You wrote “We may step out in faith in actions and obedience, but we don’t bring the regeneration through our words anymore than we bring the physical healing through our own power, should God heal through us.” I think you must have misread this article. It was never said that we bring regeneration through our words nor was it implied. In fact we see in bold print : ” “The Holy Spirit uses the word of the preacher to touch the heart of the hearer, making the heart accessible to the truth the word clearly reveals.” How did you miss this? The Bible tells us that Faith comes through hearing God’s word. It does not say faith comes through regeneration as the Calvinists imply.

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      1. I didn’t miss it. It’s just that Leighton seems to actually conflate the Spirit and Word together into one, so it’s difficult to get around some of the doublespeak. Because although he said “The Holy Spirit uses the word,” you’ll notice what he writes immediately after:

        You see, the Reformed author was subtly teaching that the word proclaimed by the preacher remains insufficient unless and until the Holy Spirit “touches the heart” and makes those words “accessible.”

        And why does this matter? He says:

        It speaks to an important doctrinal issue: the sufficiency of scripture, God’s Holy Word.

        So what does it seem like he’s really saying then? He’s saying that the word IS the working of the Holy Spirit and not separate from the Holy Spirit. The logical conclusion of this can only be that the words themselves ARE the working of the Spirit. And that’s where we disagree… we believe in the sufficiency of God’s Spirit in God’s Word and we don’t conflate the two. They are not the same thing. So the reason it looks like I’m “missing something” is not because I didn’t pay attention, but because his wording and logic are very subtle, and thus on first glance you might think there’s some doublespeak going on. Hope that clears it up, blessings!

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    2. Diz, you say:
      Almost everywhere… the list is really long. God talks about a long and elaborate wooing process in the OT pictures and all over the place is described a mystical working of the Spirit in our hearts. Ever heard someone’s testimony “The Spirit was really striving with me.” Well believe them, he was; the Spirit really was striving with them. The treasures and mysteries and difficulties and truths of Scripture are something we can labor in, and then take out and make clear to others. This is what the Word teaches us. Because plenty of people have read significant portions of Scripture, even the entire thing multiple times (I personally know of cases) and have had zero revelation. It’s just not real to them and they don’t understand what it says. It’s like a “sealed book” like Isaiah the prophet said.

      Can you show us the list, partially at least? As you have quoted many verses to back your other comments up, we need a sound doctrinal ground, rooted clearly in the Scripture for this as well.

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      1. To put it under the context of this blog, we need those verses in the Scripture to show: that the words of God are only powerful, life-giving and sufficient to enable the lost to respond if and when the Holy Spirit “touches the heart” and effectually regenerates the soul.
        The author then asked “Where does the bible teach this … (etc.)” with which you replied “Almost everywhere… the list is really long. (etc.)”
        So, we need those verses.

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  3. Excellent thoughts brother. I pray that the Lord will continue to open those of the Reformed faith to see that we (myself an Arminian) have a biblical understanding of salvation as well. When I go evangelizing with my Calvinist brothers, they are often surprised to hear that I too hold that the Holy Spirit must work through our preaching to draw sinners to salvation. I have often said that the issue of Calvinism and Arminianism does not become an issue with the lost until they repent and look back to see what God has done in saving them. In discipleship is where the issues come into play. Until then, may we all preach the gospel to the lost and allow the Lord to exalt His name by saving sinners by His grace.

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  4. I find it ironic that the unregenerate man can do by nature the things contained in the law, yet requires regeneration in order to understand the living word.
    Unless, of course, one argues that ‘nature’ actually means ‘natural instinct’.

    Rom 2:13 (For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.
    Rom 2:14 For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves:
    Rom 2:15 Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;)

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    1. Just curious, how do you know those weren’t regenerate Gentiles? It seems to me Paul was contrasting the work of the Spirit in new Gentile converts who automatically then knew what the right thing to do was, with the hypocritical outwardly religious Jews who hid their sin inside?

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      1. Rom 2:14 For when the Gentiles, which have not the law;

        I thought the law was required prior to regeneration; is it not the law that leads us to Christ?

        Gal 3:24 Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.

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      2. I’d argue that Paul taught that the Law was actually something you experience after regeneration:

        I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive and I died.

        In both Rom 7 and Rom 2:14-15 we have a person who “delights in the Law of God in the inward man.” I think Paul makes a strong case that can only happen through regeneration, otherwise “There is none who seek God… there is no one goood, not one… all are under the power of sin… every mouth will be silenced… no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by works of the Law…. all fall short of the glory of God.”

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  5. “I’d argue that Paul taught that the Law was actually something you experience after regeneration:

    I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive and I died.”
    ………………………………
    You lost me on regeneration.
    Paul was alive not having the Law, while the law was written in his heart; when the Law came, Paul died; then he was regenerated in order to experience the law?

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    1. I think you mixed up that order just a bit. First Paul is spiritually alive (regenerated). Now in comes Mr. Law, what does Mr. Law do to Paul? It teaches him that “evil is right beside him,” now what is that evil? It’s the old man and his bondage to sin. This produces spiritual death instead of life, and why? “Because I was sold on the auction block to sin as my master in Adam.” In other words, the Law was for the Adamic nature and it “deceived” Paul in attempting to find life and be justified by it, and when Paul attempted that. the Law “produced all manner of sin in him.” Now we need to stop and think about a few things here. Do unbelieving sinners “delight in the Law of God in the inner man,” well we can clearly see Paul didn’t teach that, he taught that they are taken captive to do the will of Satan. Are sinners all over the world just focused on the Law and thinking about how it applies to them and how they don’t love God enough? No, of course not, they couldn’t care less about the Law. It doesn’t take Law to manifest sin in an unsaved person. The Law is not a tutor to a lost person who is not even seeking God until the Spirit moves him or her to. The Law was given to a covenant people, and not for the purpose of meriting righteousness, but for the purpose of illustrating grace. Paul didn’t go around teaching Gentiles “First I preach you must submit to the Law, then afterwards I come later and tell you about Jesus.” He understood the Law had its function and taught what it was, so that when we encounter it, we understand it’s purpose.
      bless

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      1. “First Paul is spiritually alive (regenerated). Now in comes Mr. Law, …”
        ……………………….
        Regeneration is not the same as ‘born again’?

        1Pet 1:23 Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.
        …………………………………..
        Maybe that’s where my confusion lies.

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      2. I’m defining regeneration as equal to being born again. Perhaps you think I embrace the unBiblical doctrine of Eternal Security? That could certainly explain your confusion. regards

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      3. Ok David, So, I am glad you do not believe regeneration is a just a changing of the will, like Calvinism teaches. I didn’t think you did, but I was confused by some of your previous statements. I must be me. 🙂 I wasn’t really thinking about OSAS. I already know your mind on that. 🙂 But I will answer your questions.

        I believe that when we are placed in Christ we are free from the rule (law) of sin and the rule (law) of death (Rom 8:2). Sin is still working death in our flesh, our body of death (Rom 7:23-24), but the resurrection is the guarantee that we will one day be released forever from that flesh, and the sealing of the Spirit is the guarantee that once baptized into the body of Christ we will receive that inheritance of a new body at our day of redemption (Eph 1:13-14). And yes, we still sin with our flesh, even though sin (the flesh) no longer has the rule over us, but with our mind (the wanters of our true new selves in Christ) we always desire to please Christ (Rom 7:14-20).

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      4. you say:
        I believe that when we are placed in Christ we are free from the rule (law) of sin and the rule (law) of death (Rom 8:2)

        I’m gonna have to press you a little here: aren’t we free conditionally upon whether we walk after the Spirit or after the flesh? I don’t see any “irresistible grace monergism” for walking after the Spirit, do you?

        you say:
        . Sin is still working death in our flesh, our body of death (Rom 7:23-24), but the resurrection is the guarantee that we will one day be released forever from that flesh

        Doesn’t the Scripture teach us we can be released right now if we walk after the Spirit? Would you see “sin in my members” as something you can’t escape, unlike Paul’s view of the Spirit of life setting us free from sin?

        you say:
        And yes, we still sin with our flesh, even though sin (the flesh) no longer has the rule over us, but with our mind (the wanters of our true new selves in Christ) we always desire to please Christ.

        It is very interesting, isn’t it, that the person in Rom. 7 desired to please Christ? Mightn’t you think that if we sin, for that moment sin did indeed rule over us (at least temporarily)?

        Thanks for any answer.

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      5. Thanks David for the questions. I’ll try my best, and my feelings won’t be hurt if you think my answers aren’t that satisfying! 🙂

        you asked – “…aren’t we free conditionally upon whether we walk after the Spirit or after the flesh? I don’t see any “irresistible grace monergism” for walking after the Spirit, do you?” You would agree, I think, that Paul is declaring that walking after the Spirit and not after the flesh is descriptive of someone who is “in Christ” who also has no condemnation and has freedom from the law of sin and death. In his using the indicative and not the subjunctive, Paul removes using that phrase, “who walk…”, from being seen as a “condition” for either getting saved or staying saved, but it is only a description of someone who is saved, that is “in Christ.” I don’t know if I would call it monergism, but God promises to discipline His children when they sin, and also a preservation of their righteous standing.

        You would agree that preservation of our righteous standing is guaranteed after the resurrection, even though we still will have some freedom of will. I believe the NT description of salvation guarantees our righteous standing, and also guarantees divine discipline to keep our “walk” to remain after the Spirit, but not be sinless. If someone does not walk after the Spirit, or does not experience God’s discipline, they should doubt their salvation. In your view, they lost it. In my view, they never had it. But their need it still they same.

        you asked – “Doesn’t the Scripture teach us we can be released right now if we walk after the Spirit? Would you see “sin in my members” as something you can’t escape, unlike Paul’s view of the Spirit of life setting us free from sin?” We are released, which was not caused by our walk, but by our position in Christ, which we entered into by faith. I see Paul teaching freedom from sin’s rule, but not from the experience of sin. In other words, a Christian can and will fall into sin, but God’s discipline will keep him from ever again being ruled over by sin (his flesh).

        you asked – “It is very interesting, isn’t it, that the person in Rom. 7 desired to please Christ? Mightn’t you think that if we sin, for that moment sin did indeed rule over us (at least temporarily)?” Yes, it is interesting that Paul’s description of his battle in his flesh is always one where he wants to do the right thing and doesn’t want to do the wrong thing. But, he admits that he still sins, yet describes it as not the real him sinning, but that “sin” dwelling in his flesh does. I don’t claim to fully understand this division in the human nature, that Paul is describing, but I believe Paul is stating that after receiving the new birth, which is the receiving of the life of Christ, the nature has changed in a irrevocable way, though partially, but the guarantee for the rest of the change is also promised.

        I hope this helps.

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      6. In the light of your view of mongeristic irresistible walking in the Spirit that is autonomatic, how do you interpret this verse:

        22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

        25 Therefore each of you must put off …

        Why would Paul directly command it again here and many other places?

        But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. 17For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.…

        And why does Paul need to continually carefully exhort and teach converts to do something that they will automatically do no matter what since they are in Christ? I’m just having real trouble comparing this teaching to what the Bible seems to actually say.

        blessings

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      7. Good morning David! I hope what I explained in my previous answers did not seem to you like I was twisting those Scriptures away from a reasonable, grammatical, contextual meaning.

        I see three different expression of “walking” in relation to the HS. Walking according to (Rom 8:2) which describes the normal salvation life, walking with the Spirit (Gal 5:16) which is devotion within the Christian life, and keeping in step with the Spirit (Gal 5:25) which is moment by moment obedience to His leading. Like hiking up a mountain, God will help but not force you as His child you to never give up following, His discipline will pick you up and prod you on (though there is a warning that you may be extracted and sent home, not finishing the course designed for your life and His glory).

        So the normal Christian life will be a practice of righteousness and not a practice of sin (a reasonable understanding of the present tense of the Greek verb used by Paul here in Rom 8:2, and by John in 1John). But you can walk behind the Spirit a long way off, like a stubborn child, that deep down inside wants to obey, and knows they are a child, but are tripping and falling often, and who needs to be disciplined and picked up and prodded forward. If they don’t get disciplined, or they wish they were not a Christian, they should certainly doubt their salvation.

        But walking right next to the Spirit is a life of prayer and devotion. It is full of praise and thanksgiving and submission to other believers. Out of such devotion there is revealed to you where to place your feet in the same steps and according to the same cadence that the Holy Spirit is stepping out in front of you. When mountain climbing, I have found it very helpful to stay close to the leader, listen with devotion to His instructions, and place my hands and feet in the same locations he placed his. I hope this helps.

        I wouldn’t call it completely monergistic, though there are monergistic aspects to it, just like there are for other aspects of our salvation. That is, God doing things we have no part in accomplishing, but that He accomplishes in the unconditional fulfillment of His promises for His children.

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      8. But even the way you describe it implies we have to actually do something, and not just be monergistically carried, which would make the same logical nonsense out of choices that Calvinism does. bless

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      9. We do! And as you would agree, nothing we do is ever meritorious. So it all boils down to what everlasting effects of salvation are given to us at regeneration, and what ones are delayed until the resurrection, and which result from unconditional, promises never to be removed from regeneration onward, and which ones only become unconditional at the resurrection. I think you know already what I believe the Scriptures teaches about these things, and i think I have a pretty good idea of your view.

        But if you think I am twisting any of the meaning in Scriptures I am presenting, please tell me what you would think lines up more reasonably with the grammar. Thanks, my friend.

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      10. I’m glad you seem to agree we have to do something, and what we do matters. When Paul tells us to put off the old man, we can assume he really means 1. we are able to do it 2. there is a way to do it 3. it is not necessarily automatically done. So when Paul elsewhere says:

        6Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him,

        We know he doesn’t mean to say “as you have received Christ so you will also continue to walk in him no matter what” because that would violate grammar.

        I would attempt to show that Romans 7 is actually instructing us how to put off the old man. It is not, as so many Christians (really a very many!) seem to think Paul is implying with a whimper that we will simply never be fully free of sin but it will continue to beset us our entire lives. It is illustrating what principles put us *into* sin and what principles take us *out* of sin. What a sad Gospel Paul would have had if Romans 7 was the Normal Christian Life.

        blessings brother

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      11. Hi David, I think you and I discussed Rom 7:9 already. But if Paul is regenerated, and then the law comes, how does he then “die”. If “alive” means spiritual life in this verse, wouldn’t it be natural to say that “died” means spiritual death.

        But a bigger issue I would like you to clarify is your view of regeneration. Do you believe regeneration is prevenient grace before being enabled for faith and the reception of the everlasting life of salvation? If you do, do you ever feel uncomfortable that the meaning of regeneration (birth) is disconnected from the experience of life?

        Liked by 1 person

      12. No of course I don’t believe regeneration is prevenient grace.

        To embrace OSAS you have to define eternal in an unbiblical way, that is, incapable of changing. Eternal is the quality of the thing, not the immutability of the property. Spiritual death is also defined as “eternal” death, because this is the quality of the death. There is an amazing array of passages that speak against OSAS but we should probably discuss that in a different post.

        Let me ask you one question to clarify: Do you think a regenerate person can experience the law of sin and death? Also do you think a regenerate person can live out of the old man? Thanks for any answer.

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  6. dizerner

    I’m defining regeneration as equal to being born again.
    ………………………………
    You stated:
    “First Paul is spiritually alive (regenerated). Now in comes Mr. Law, …”

    Regeneration followed by the Law

    Scripture states:
    1Pet 1:23 Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.

    The Law followed by regeneration.

    Both are true?

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    1. Hey peanut you’ve really intrigued me, could you help me understand how you see 1 Pet. 1:23 to be showing “the law followed by regeneration.”

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      1. Being born again,… by the word of God.
        Regenerated by the word of God; the word of God is the cause, regeneration is the effect to those who humbly believe.

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    2. Never like to jump in on a blog conversation but I guess that is the nature of blogging? :

      “Regeneration is not the same as ‘born again’?” I would agree totally with this. Of course, many people do define it as being born again, but the definition doesn’t really coincide with normal every day use of the word. I don’t think we should use the term ‘regeneration’ at all when speaking about salvation. Just about all the main passages which deal with salvation use the picture of new birth, new creation, or being born again. None of them use ‘regeneration’. We are not as might popularly be perceived ‘regenerated’ when we become Christians. We are created as new beings. None of the old remains, everything has become ‘new’. At least that’s how I read it. Ask yourself if you think Jesus told Nicodemus that he needed to be regenerated, or be made completely new when he used the phrase born again? Do we want to be reconditioned or made brand new? Does the new ‘me’ contain some of the old ‘me’ or is it completely new?

      If you look at the one verse in Titus 3 which does use the word regeneration, you find that its derivatives in the greek come from again and birth so in fact that also looks rather like new birth or born again too! It’s just that it’s been translated as regenerated which I think has other connotations in normal usage which do not fit with the meaning in scripture.

      That’s my two pennyworth 🙂

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  7. Biblically, the Word of God is the Lord Jesus Christ; the law of God is the word of God.
    The law of God and the gospel of salvation by faith are both the word of God.

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    1. Alright. Well I see Scripture teaching us the Law “increases our sin” and the Law “brings forth death.” This is not to say the Law is bad, but that we are bad. The Word of God *includes* the Law, but then it adds grace—thank God. “The Law comes though Moses but grace came through Jesus Christ.” bless

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      1. Yes; but, did I misunderstand when you stated:
        “dizerner
        October 6, 2015 at 2:27 pm

        I’d argue that Paul taught that the Law was actually something you experience after regeneration:”
        ………….
        Does not the law lead one to Christ in order to be regenerated? Are you stating that regeneration is first required in order to experience the law?

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  8. No, I was merely arguing for the particular case of Rom. 7 (the man who wished to do good and delighted in the Law in his inner man). It’s a good point. It would seem the Law works as a principle of conviction and sin production, both before and after regeneration.

    Like

  9. I have been listening to your podcasts for a while now, although I took a break for a while and restarted recently. I have really enjoyed how you have started having callers come in like Brian. It’s added a whole ‘nother level of depth to your podcasts. Good work Leighton. I continue to admire how respectful you are. It’s a breath of fresh air. The spirit of your teaching speaks to me that you “get it”. You love your opponents, can admit if you err, and are quick to forgive. That’s the true spirit of a Christian. Thank you sir and keep it up.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes on CARM I go by Phate999. Although I have not been posting there in a long while. I’m glad I wrote the above since it encouraged you. Blessings!

        Like

  10. Dr. Flowers writes, “Therefore, anything and everything the proclamation of the gospel accomplishes should be credited to the Holy Spirit…..The Holy Spirit calls people to repentance and faith through the proclamation of the gospel therefore that calling is sufficient to enable whosoever hears it to respond to its appeal.”

    At the end, Pastor Flowers just reiterates the Calvinist conclusion. Salvation is a work of God (the Holy Spirit emphasized here) and it is only “whosoever hears” who are saved and not everyone.

    As Paul says to the Corinthians, “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.” God uses people to plant (preach) and water (teach), but it is God who gives the increase. No matter how you slice it, the “increase” that God gives ends up being His elect and none other.

    So, Dr. Flowers argues against strawmen to write an article that concludes by saying that the Calvinists are right – God is saving His elect and is using people as planters and waterers toward that end.

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    1. We all believe salvation is a work of God, brother. That is not unique to Calvinists. The difference is whether we believe it to be for whosoever believes (by a free morally accountable response to God’s Word) or for those God effectually brings to faith (i.e. “His elect”)…

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      1. Pastor Flowers writes, “The difference is whether we believe it to be for whosoever believes (by a free morally accountable response to God’s Word) or for those God effectually brings to faith (i.e. “His elect”)… ”

        Actually, both Cals and non-Cals seem to believe that God is heavily involved in enabling a person to be saved. Calvinists say that a person believes “by a free morally accountable response to God’s Word” that manifests following God’s effectual call.

        The difficulty is to explain how any person who is morally accountable and exercises LFW could possibly reject salvation. Calvinists say that it isn’t possible. Non-Calvinists like to believe it is possible but don’t know how it could happen – rejecting salvation is an insane decision that denies that a person understands his moral accountability or that he exercises LFW.

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