A Prolegomena to the Washing of Regeneration – Titus 3:5

[This post was originally placed on our church blog in a series of teachings on Titus 3:5 – Pastor Dusty]

INTRODUCTION (Read Titus 3:1-15)

Regeneration can be defined as the sole activity of God wherein he radically transforms the moral, mental, emotional, volitional, and relational substance of a person through the unique work of the Holy Spirit. As can be seen in the famous dialogue between Jesus and Nicodemus in John chapter three, this transformation is likened to a new birth where one begins his or her newly imparted spiritual life (see John 3:3-8; 2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 6:15; James. 1:18; 1 Pet. 1:3; 1 John. 2:29). According to Scripture, this new birth has origin in God the Holy Spirit Who alone brings it about apart from human activity (John 1:13; 3:8). Jesus Himself said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6 “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 “Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 “The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

And so, just as the wind blows where it desires and it cannot be controlled by man, just as a man cannot control the timing, place, and conditions of his natural birth, so it is with man’s spiritual regeneration. The value systems of the regenerated heart are completely renovated and not just slightly modified. Old impulses and habits are replaced with new ones (Gal. 5:19-24; Col. 2:11-12) because the old nature, with its sin-dominated desires has been crucified with Christ (Rom. 6:1-11; Gal. 2:20), and those wicked desires are replaced with a new spiritual life that is never to be defiled (1 Pet. 1:4).

Furthermore, regeneration is God’s gracious means of cleansing from sin whereby the Spirit of God purifies the converted person from moral corruption. Paul clearly states that regeneration is the work of God alone and not of humans (Rom. 4:4-5; Gal. 2:16-17; Eph. 2:4-5, 8-9). This purification or washing from sins occurs through the blood of Christ being applied to the elect in regeneration (1 Peter 1:18-19; 1 John 1:7). Since regeneration is the sole act of God alone and isn’t caused by any human activity, it logically and biblically comes before the noticeable outward signs of conversion to Christ; which the New Testament defines as faith, repentance, confession, and water baptism. So what does the Bible say about regeneration preceding faith? Before we can discuss that issue, we need to define the difference between monergism and synergism.

A DEFINITION AND EXPLANATION OF MONERGISM[1]

Monergism as defined by the Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms is the view that “the Holy Spirit is the only agent who effects regeneration of Christians. It is on contrast with synergism, the view that there is a cooperation between the divine and the human in the regeneration process.”[2]

In other words, monergism is the doctrine that our new birth is the work of God with no contribution of man, since according to Scripture the unregenerate man, of himself, has no desire for God and cannot embrace the gospel (1 Cor 2:14, Rom 3:11,12; Rom 8:7; John 3:19, 20). Monergism teaches that man remains resistant to the outward call of the gospel until the Spirit comes to disarm him and call him inwardly and implant in him an altogether new and holy disposition for God. As a result, our faith comes about only as the immediate result of the Spirit working faith in us in the hearing of the proclamation of the word.

The 1646 London Baptist Confession of faith states quite appropriately in this regard in article 24, XXIV.

FAITH is ordinarily begotten by the preaching of the gospel, or word of Christ, without respect to any power or agency in the creature; but it being wholly passive, and dead in trespasses and sins, doth believe and is converted by no less power than that which raised Christ from the dead.

God alone grants the necessary illumination and understanding of His word that we might believe, repent, confess, and desire water baptism. It is He alone who raises the spiritually dead, who brings about spiritual circumcision; who unstops our ears; and it is He alone who does the radical work of taking out the unregenerated heart of stone and replaces it with a heart of flesh so as to create an incurable God-lover. Jesus told Nicodemus that we naturally love darkness, hate the light and will not come into the light for fear that we will be exposed for who we are as wicked, depraved sinners (John 3:19-20). Such hardened resistance to the spiritual light of Christ by unbelievers is natural and to be expected because it is rooted in the constituent nature of the unregenerate sinner. Only God, by His grace, can lovingly change, overcome and disarm such a rebellious disposition. As the Scriptures clearly teach, the natural man, apart from the regenerative work of the Holy Spirit does not welcome or embrace (de,comai) the things of the Spirit of God (1 Cor. 2:14), and will not come to Christ on the basis of his own volition because, as Jesus so graphically portrayed in John 8:44, he is a willing and voluntary slave to his own sinful desires which are grounded in the desires of his father, the devil (John 8:44-47). Thus, as monergism teaches, the unregenerate sinner must be set free by the grace of God from the shackles of sin and if such does not take place, as was said earlier, he will be a willing and voluntary slave to his own sinful nature.

Now, monergism is not the idea that God forces people to believe against their wills. Such is logically contradictory, for if one is forced to outwardly act contrary to their inward desires then such can be no true faith. Just as God does not force people to physically see against their wills when He gives them physical eyes, neither does He force them to believe against their wills when He gives them spiritual eyes. Martin Luther said,

When God works in us, the will, being changed and sweetly breathed upon by the Spirit of God, desires and acts, not from compulsion, but responsively.[3]

So, monergism does not teach that God forces men to believe but that He gives them the ability to believe, and as a result, they naturally and gladly do so since the very bent of their natures have been radically changed forever. On the next level, monergism cannot be described (as has been in some circles) as divine rape. When people are physically violated they are acted upon against their wills, but God does no such thing in the monergistic salvation of sinners. Instead, as Luther said, God makes Himself sweet to the sinner and the sinner willingly and gladly embraces Jesus as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

A BRIEF EXEGETICAL DEFENSE OF MONERGISTIC REGENERATION

I will now present a brief exegetical presentation of monergism from the writings of the apostle John. The key question in this discussion is this: Does regeneration precede faith? First, let us remember, the issue is the logical, not necessarily the temporal order. Both Arminians and Calvinists agree that they are so close in time as to be considered simultaneous. When both parties look at the “believing” in 1 John 5:1, both agree that this is a reference to saving faith as well as the faith by which we live each day. We both agree that faith is the means of salvation and we both agree that regeneration is defined as “the new birth/being born again.”

Second, one can test the consistency of the assertion I make regarding the relationship between faith and regeneration in 1 John 5:1 by looking at the grammatical structure of 1 John 2:29. If one uses 1 John 5:1 to say that regeneration occurs after faith, then, logically, since the grammatical constructions are exactly the same, then practicing righteousness also precedes regeneration, which is a heretical position (Jer. 17:9; Isa. 64:6). However, that’s the logical conclusion if you are going to interpret these verses in a synergistic fashion.

The literal reading of 1 John 5:1 as translated from the Greek text is “every one believing that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God (the words translated “has been born” is a perfect passive 3rd person singular in the Greek. Cf. the English Standard Version). Being in the passive voice, the translation “has been born” denotes that the birthing is solely completed by the agency of God and not the agency of man. As the voice of the verb form of genna,w shows, man is passive in the process of the new birth and not active. The indicative mood shows that this is a real action and not a hypothetical or possible action. Again, when verbs are passive, that means the object of the verb (namely, man) is being acted upon by Another outside of the object, which in this case, is God. Thus, the person believing that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God. Grammatically and contextually, 1 John 2:29 is an exact parallel from which we conclude that practicing righteousness is a result of the new birth and not the cause of it.

1 John 5:1 from some English translations is often used by synergists to assert the truth of regeneration through faith. However, that would require an active or at least middle voice verb. The middle voice is rare in Koine Greek and is usually the last grammatical choice when parsing a verb form. I know of no exegetical commentary that looks at 5:1 or 2:29 and says gege,nnhtai is in the middle voice. It is most definitely in the passive voice, thus indicating that the one who is now believing, repenting, confessing, and submitting to water baptism, has been the passive recipient of spiritual regeneration. And so, the passive verb “has been born,” gege,nnhtai, (perfect passive indicative 3rd person singular from genna,w) indicates that they did not cause their own birth. God caused their birth. Now, John has a very specific style. He writes in parallel constructions and spells out the relationships between them. For example, take John 8:43:

Why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot hear My word.

First, note: “Why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot hear My word.” This is stated verbatim. Jesus says there is a causal relationship between their ability to understand and hearing. They do not understand because of their inability to hear. John then parallels this with verse 47:

He who is of God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not hear them, because you are not of God.

John uses a grammatical construction in v. 47 exactly like 1 John 2:29, 4:7; and 5:1! He spells out the causal relationship between the ability to hear and understanding in v. 43 and bookends it in v. 47 with “for this reason . . .” In other words, John is saying, “He who is of God, hears the words of God for this reason, you do not hear them, because you are not of God.” There is a clear and consistent logical, temporal, and causal relationship here.

It would be meaningless for someone to say about John 8:47, “They hear because they are of God but being of God is not logically/temporally prior to hearing.” Causal relationships depend on their logical / temporal order. Exegesis determines this order for all of these. Therefore, not only is there a logical and temporal order, there is also a causal relationship between regeneration and practicing righteousness, loving the brethren, believing, confessing, repenting, and water baptism. Regeneration precedes and is the cause each activity. Again, righteous actions, love, and believing are the results of regeneration not the cause of it. 1 John 5:1 and its grammatical parallels are very clear: Regeneration precedes faith!

Again, 1 John 5:1 says, “every one who goes on believing [a present, continuous action] that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God [a perfect tense, completed action with abiding effects]. Faith and all the other accompanying outward actions of conversion are not the cause, but the evidence of the new birth.

Thus, I dogmatically believe, not by tradition, but by comparing the aforementioned passages with diligent exegesis that we have overwhelming evidence of a monergistic regeneration that logically and biblically can be said to precede faith.

Notes:
[1] For a thorough explanation of the doctrine of monergistic regeneration, please refer to Robert Reymond, A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith, (Nashville, Tenn.: Thomas Nelson, 1998), 718-721.

[2] http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/monergism_short.html

[3] http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/topic/regeneration.html

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9 Comments on “A Prolegomena to the Washing of Regeneration – Titus 3:5”

  1. Barry Says:

    Your using Jeremiah 17:9 “More tortuous than all else is the human heart, beyond remedy; who can understand it?” as the basis for the claim that it is heretical to be righteous before one is “born-again”?

    You’re certainly getting more out of those three thoughts than I am.

  2. genembridges Says:

    Pray tell what do you get out of those 3 thoughts?

    What Dustin actually stated was that “practicing” righteousness before regeneration/conversion is a heretical position in view of the teaching of 1 John 2:29. So what he did was mount an argument from 1 John, not Jeremiah or Isaiah. The latter establish the condition of the human heart, 1 John 2:29 tells us that such a heart cannot practice righteousness apart from regeneration (being born again). To say otherwise is a heretical position.

    That’s the inconsistency the Arminian must face exegetically. On the one hand he wishes to hold fast onto justification by faith and maintain that good works (practicing righteousness) in the Johanine sense cannot flow from anything other than being born again, so he maintains the Johanine order for 2:29. However, he promptly reverses that order in 1 John 5:1 by either (1) trying to diminish the force of 1 John 5:1, but that’s inconsistent with the parallels in 1 John, one of which directly spells out the causal relationship, and/or (2) stating that regeneration is the result of or occurs after the exercise of saving faith.

  3. Barry Says:

    1 John 2:29 “If you consider that he is righteous, you also know that everyone who acts in righteousness is begotten by him.”

    The emphasis here is practicing righeousness. It tells me, in this limited context, that if one acts righteously you are part of him. It doesn’t tell me that one position goes in front of another or follows another or is heretical and damnable if you mix up the order. It does not speak to regeneration or being “born-again” or pointing fingers if one wants to act righteously prior to some special or particular conversion.

    I’m not applying other stipulations to the verse. And, that is why, when Dustin used Jer 17:9 as a basis for backing up the claim that it was heretical to practice righteousness prior to conversion I though he was reading more into Jeremiah than the verse stated. I still do.

  4. Dustin Says:

    Hi Barry,

    Thanks for leaving your comments. My point was to show that righteousness (dikaosune) cannot be worked by the unregenerate and to say that this is the case denies the literal, word-for-word translation 1 John 2:29 when compared with other passages of Scripture (such as Romans 8:7-8). My exegesis proceeds from 1 John 2:29’s use of the perfect passive indicative 3rd person singular of gennao, which points to the idea that regeneration has a logical prius over the practicing of dikaosune as defined by the New Covenant commands of Christ (see also 1 John 3:9; 4:7; and 5:1 where the same grammatico-sytactical relationship is present). I also did not define why I used Jer. 17:9 in the context of this teaching manuscript as I assumed my Calvinistic listeners/readers/church members would understand that there is a direct correlation between the unregenerate’s total inability to please God and the fact that the heart is deceitful above all things and incurably sick (Jer. 17:9).

    1 John 2:29 is speaking in reference to being “born-again” as the original Greek term used for “born” in 1 John 2:29 (gennao) is the exact same term used to refer to spiritual rebirth in John 3:3ff. Of course, it goes without saying that it is not speaking of being born physically (as that is utterly foreign to the context of 1 John 2), but spiritually. Thus, given John’s use of the perfect passive of gennao in the context of being “born” spiritually, the righteous acts of Christians proceed not before their regeneration, but after. See the translation of 1 John 2:29, 3:9, 4:7, and 5:1 in the English Standard Version for a committee-based translation that follows the Greek text precisely.

  5. Barry Says:

    Dustin,

    I hope you had a nice 4th.

    Righteousness is a bit tricky. It didn’t originate with Christ. It had been around a long long time before him and it referred to keeping the covenant with God and keeping the commandments. Specifically, it deals with “doing-right” and conduct and ethics. As 2 Peter 2:7-8 speaks of Lot being righteous amongst people of bad conduct. If anything, the Old Testament is saturated with ethics and conduct and keeping the Mosaic laws.

    In the New Testament a new twist is added by saying that righteousness in the belief of Christ leads to salvation. In Paul’s letter to the Romans, Rom 10: 3-4, Paul transposes the old Mosaic righteousness (“doing-right”) in God to doing right by having faith in Christ. I’m fine with that.

    I think that to argue that regeneration “must” antedate being righteous misses the point that we should have faith and do good.

    If a person has faith their entire life in Christ and God through the baptism of water and spirtit, as embodied in John 3:5, is it necessary to make the claim that they are “born-again”? If “anothen” has the dual meaning of “born from above” and “born again” I think that the actual point here that is being made is that people have faith in Christ and God and do the right thing.

    I’m not about to throw somebody overboard because I consider them to be heretics just because they are “doing-right” in terms of ethics and conduct but haven’t been converted in Christ in the particular way I would like to see it. If someone has faith in Christ and is of good conduct, they don’t have to stand in front of me and prove it by going through somekind of test or being grilled or judged. I think God is going to do the judging.

    I’d rather try to take the pole out of my own eye before I try to take the splinter out of my brother’s (although, hypocrite and sinner that I am, I’ve tried to pull out my brother’s splinter enough times–I confess).

  6. Dustin Says:

    Hi Barry,

    My comments are followed after yours in brackets for easier reading.

    ******************************************************

    Righteousness is a bit tricky. It didn’t originate with Christ. It had been around a long long time before him and it referred to keeping the covenant with God and keeping the commandments. Specifically, it deals with “doing-right” and conduct and ethics. As 2 Peter 2:7-8 speaks of Lot being righteous amongst people of bad conduct. If anything, the Old Testament is saturated with ethics and conduct and keeping the Mosaic laws.

    In the New Testament a new twist is added by saying that righteousness in the belief of Christ leads to salvation. In Paul’s letter to the Romans, Rom 10: 3-4, Paul transposes the old Mosaic righteousness (“doing-right”) in God to doing right by having faith in Christ. I’m fine with that.

    [Yes. But there’s more to it than that. Lot’s more. It is true that there are different meanings of “righteousness” in Scripture. Righteousness (dikaiosune) and to justify (dikaioo) in both the NT and the OT is an important word group that is found in the Septuagint (Greek version of the OT) which translates from the Hebrew sedeq and sedaqa. The dik words in Greek were clearly influenced by the sdq words in Hebrew.

    This word group often means godly, obedient, pious living. This is perhaps the most common use of the word group. As you alluded to, it often has an ethical flavor. All of the words that are dik/sdq words I have placed an asterisk on before and behind:

    “Ill-gotten treasures are of no value, but *righteousness* delivers from death. 3 The LORD does not let the *righteous* go hungry but he thwarts the craving of the wicked.” (Proverbs 10:2-3)

    “The *righteous* man is rescued from trouble, and it comes on the wicked instead. 9 With his mouth the godless destroys his neighbor, but through knowledge the *righteous* escape” (Proverbs 11:8-9).

    “And if we are careful to obey all this law before the LORD our God, as he has commanded us, that will be our *righteousness*” (Deuteronomy 6:25

    But it is very clear that this word also refers to a forensic character carrying the meaning of not guilty and is often translated “innocent” or “acquit” in various modern translations:

    “When men have a dispute, they are to take it to court and the judges will decide the case, *acquitting* the *innocent* and condemning the guilty” (Deuteronomy 25:1).

    “who *acquit* the guilty for a bribe, but deny *justice* to the *innocent*” (Isaiah 5:23).

    “Have nothing to do with a false charge and do not put an *innocent* or honest person to death, for I will not *acquit* the guilty” (Exodus 23:7).

    “then hear from heaven and act. Judge between your servants, condemning the guilty and bringing down on his own head what he has done. Declare the *innocent* not guilty, and so establish his *innocence*” (1 Kings 8:32).

    “*Acquitting* the guilty and condemning the *innocent*- the LORD detests them both” (Proverbs 17:15).

    So, then, since this dik/sdq word group carries these two meanings, how does the apostle of justification by faith apart from works (Paul) use this word group? Let’s look to Romans 1-4. The first time the word appears in Romans is in verses 16 and 17:

    I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 17For in the gospel a *righteousness* from God is revealed, a *righteousness* that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The *righteous* will live by faith” (Romans 1:16-17)

    We will have to hold off to figure out just what kind of righteousness Paul is referring to there since that is the very question we are trying to answer, “What is Gospel righteousness or what is the righteousness that is imputed to the believer?” Let’s keep looking:

    “But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his *righteous* judgment will be revealed. 6God “will give to each person according to what he has done.” 7To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. 8But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. 9There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; 10but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 11For God does not show favoritism” (2:5-11).

    In this section, Paul tells Jews that God’s judgment against them is righteous or ethically upright. God will judge everyone by his works. In verse 7-10 we see righteousness and wickedness in conceptual form. God will condemn the wicked (those who do evil) but he will reward the righteous (those who do good). This is very important for the section that follows:

    “All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law. 13For it is not those who hear the law who are *righteous* in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared *righteous*” (Romans 2:12-13).

    Paul’s argument is against the Jews who believe that simply by having the law they are righteous in God’s sight. Paul says, No. You get righteous by *doing* the law not by simply having it or hearing it! Paul continues his argument in chapter 3:

    “What advantage, then, is there in being a Jew, or what value is there in circumcision? 2Much in every way! First of all, they have been entrusted with the very words of God. 3What if some did not have faith? Will their lack of faith nullify God’s faithfulness? 4Not at all! Let God be true, and every man a liar. As it is written: “So that you may be proved *right* when you speak and prevail when you judge.”

    Once again we find that even when these dik/sdq words refer to God they refer to his ethical behavior. In this case his clearly holy and ethical judgments on those who have the law but disobey God. Paul continues:
    “But if our *unrighteousness* brings out God’s *righteousness* more clearly, what shall we say? That God is *unjust* in bringing his wrath on us? (I am using a human argument.) 6 Certainly not! If that were so, how could God judge the world? 7Someone might argue, “If my falsehood enhances God’s truthfulness and so increases his glory, why am I still condemned as a sinner?” 8 Why not say-as we are being slanderously reported as saying and as some claim that we say-”Let us do evil that good may result”? Their condemnation is deserved (Romans 3:5-8).
    The use of this word group continues to be uniform. Paul argues that both Jews and Gentiles are unrighteous:

    “What shall we conclude then? Are we any better? Not at all! We have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin. 10 As it is written: “There is no one *righteous*, not even one” (Romans 3:9-10).

    Paul, then, moves to the climax of his argument that Jews and Gentiles alike are under sin and condemnable by God. They are not righteous in the sense that they have lived godly or obedient lives. Because of that, no one can be found in God’s courtroom as righteous:

    “Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. 20 Therefore no one will be declared *righteous* in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.”

    Look back at Proverbs 17:15 again: “*Acquitting* the guilty and condemning the *innocent*- the LORD detests them both” (Proverbs 17:15). Now we really seem to have a problem don’t we? The whole world is guilty because we have lived “unrighteously” and have neither kept the demands of the law written on our hearts nor have we kept God’s laws (whether Mosiac or the commands of Christ). How can we ever be “acquitted”? That is the issue that Paul turns to next in his argument. Keep in mind the following questions for Romans 3 and 4: What is Paul’s solution for those who have not done the law? How will they get dik/sdq? Is Paul’s solution to make the people doers of the law? Or is Paul’s solution to get them acquitted by making them innocent?

    We have seen that the term comes from the Greek root dik and the Hebrew root sdq. We have seen that this word group can be used for godly, obedient, and pious living as well as for acquittal or innocence in a courtroom setting. We have also seen that Paul clearly uses dik words to refer to godly living. But does he ever use it forensically or in a courtroom setting in which the term means innocent of transgression or acquitted? In order to figure this out we need to continue following Paul’s argument in Romans 3 and 4.

    As we follow His argument in we have seen that *everyone* is condemnable because no one is righteous (dik/sdq). That is, no one has lived in a way that is godly, obedient, and pious. Therefore, they are found guilty in God’s courtroom. Look back at Romans 3:20 one more time:

    “Therefore no one will be *declared righteous* in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.”
    That phrase “declared righteous” is a translation of the word dikaiothesetai. Notice the dik root. The issue is being found or declared dik/sdq in God’s sight. The translators included the word declared for several reasons, one of which is that they realized that this is a courtroom setting. It is about being “judged.” Will we be acquitted or condemned? We need His declaration of “righteousness” or “innocence.” How do we get it? Remember that I asked you to keep in mind the following questions: What is Paul’s solution for those who have not done the law? How will they get dik/sdq? Is Paul’s solution to make the people doers of the law? Or is Paul’s solution to get them acquitted by making them innocent? Let’s try to answer these questions in the verses that follow:

    “But now a *righteousness* from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify” (Romans 3:21).
    There is a way to get dik/sdq apart from godly, obedient, and pious behavior. It is apart from keeping God’s law and yet the Old Testament testified to this different way to get dik/sdq. What is it? We simply need to keep reading:

    “This *righteousness* from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, 23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24and are *justified* freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:22-24).

    The dik/sdq is obtained through faith rather than our own ethical or godly behavior. Paul summarizes his whole argument up to this point by saying “there is no difference, for all have sinned…” We all deserve to be condemned because of our un-dik/sdq behavior. So, how do we get diksdq-ified? It is by grace, as opposed to our works, through redemption. That is, we get dik/sdq-ified through some sort of transaction in which our dik/sdq is purchased. Redemption is the payment of a price to get someone like a slave freed from bondage. Well, what is the price that is paid or what does it take for those who are un-dik-sdq to be dik/sdq-ified?
    “God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement (propitiation), through faith in his blood” (Romans 3:25 a, b).

    So, in order to get redeemed or dik/sdq-ified it required God to present Christ as a sacrifice of atonement or a propitiation to satisfy His wrath against us. We are dik/sdq-ified when we place our trust (faith) in His blood. Notice that this is all about getting forgiven or acquitted. It seems that Paul reaches back to the Old Testament and grabs the semantic range of this word group and sometimes uses definition #1- ethical, godly, obedient living- and sometimes he uses definition #2- acquittal or innocence of wrongdoing. Let’s keep going because he continues to use dik/sdq words:

    He did this to demonstrate his *justice*, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished- 26 he did it to demonstrate his *justice* at the present time, so as to be *just* and the one who *justifies* those who have faith in Jesus” (Romans 3:25c-26).

    God is perfectly dik/sdq and he demonstrates it. How? He demonstrates it by the cross. Don’t you wonder how David died as a man after God’s own heart and went to heaven? He committed adultery with Bathsheba, murdered Uriah, and was a terrible father to Absalom, among other grievous sins. How can God just overlook this? Is God a dik/sdq judge or does He simply wink at the sins of His friends and let them out of the punishment they deserve? God demonstrates his dik/sdq that you might have wondered about by pouring out His wrath on Christ and having Christ redeem David and other people who lived prior to the cross and were guilty and yet friends of God. No sin goes unpunished and therefore God remains perfectly dik/sdq and yet we don’t get punished but rather we are dik/sdq-ified! God is perfectly just and yet he declares the guilty dik/sdq? But what about Proverbs 17:15: “*Acquitting* (dik/sdq-ing) the guilty and condemning the *innocent* (dik/sdq)- the LORD detests them both” (Proverbs 17:15). Is the Lord doing something he detests or something that is un-dik/sdq? Absolutely not! He poured out His judgment on Christ so that we might be redeemed or dik/sdq-ified and God might still be found dik/sdq!

    Paul’s argument demands a courtroom setting in which, at times dik/sdq refers to ethical uprightness or obedience to God’s standards and at times it refers to innocence from transgression or acquittal. It seems that the OT background of dik/sdq allows for this broader usage of the word group and Paul’s argument seems to demand it such that Christ’s righteousness (sdq/dik) is given to the believer and that is sufficient to declare a man righteous before God, apart from works.]

    I think that to argue that regeneration “must” antedate being righteous misses the point that we should have faith and do good.

    [Well, in my view, striving after ethical righteousness is the problem that Paul points out in Romans 2-3. He says that all types of people are condemnable before God by attempting to adhere to the ethical standards of righteousness that they have, whether Jew or Gentile. According to Paul, it is the *forensic* character of sdq/dik that gets a man off the hook before God in both Old and New Covenant eras (cf. Paul’s argument in Romans 4, esp. verses 22-24).]

    If a person has faith their entire life in Christ and God through the baptism of water and spirit, as embodied in John 3:5, is it necessary to make the claim that they are “born-again”?

    [I’m not sure I understand your question Barry.]

    If “anothen” has the dual meaning of “born from above” and “born again” I think that the actual point here that is being made is that people have faith in Christ and God and do the right thing.

    [I must respectfully disagree since John 1:13 describes being born “from above” as something that doesn’t originate from the will of man nor from the will of the flesh, but from God. Also, if you are speaking about 1 John 2:29’s reference to practicing righteousness; then as I argued exegetically already, the grammar is clear that being born of God logically precedes the practicing of righteousness.]

    I’m not about to throw somebody overboard because I consider them to be heretics just because they are “doing-right” in terms of ethics and conduct but haven’t been converted in Christ in the particular way I would like to see it.

    [Well, from the perspective of the apostle Paul, there is no one who does right in terms of ethics and conduct . . . . “no not one.” (Rom. 3:10). This is the argument that I’ve laid out in great detail above from Romans 2-4 in regards to the necessity for a forensic righteousness credited to the believer; just as it was credited to Abraham.]

    If someone has faith in Christ and is of good conduct, they don’t have to stand in front of me and prove it by going through some kind of test or being grilled or judged. I think God is going to do the judging.
    [There are none of good conduct before God’s tribunal: Romans 3:10-11 as it is written, “THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE; 11 THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS, THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD;

    Jesus also told us to “judge not according to appearance, but judge a righteous judgment.” (John 7:24) and “you shall know them by their fruits.” (Matt. 7:21) To practice discernment as commanded by Jesus, requires making judgment calls as to their fidelity (or lack thereof) to the Scriptures.]

    I’d rather try to take the pole out of my own eye before I try to take the splinter out of my brother’s (although, hypocrite and sinner that I am, I’ve tried to pull out my brother’s splinter enough times–I confess).’

    [The intention of my post certainly wasn’t to offend, but to inform, educate, and encourage those of like-precious faith. Now, due to my need to care for a family member with health problems, work full-time, and tend to ministry issues, I will not have time to respond in this combox again. I appreciate the interaction and I’ll gladly give you the last word. God bless!]

  7. Dustin Says:

    correction: Matt. 7:16, “You will know them by their fruits.”

  8. Barry Says:

    You are a remarkable man Dustin and their should be more people like you.

  9. Dustin Says:

    Thanks Barry, you’re very kind.


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