Neo-Calvinists and Neo-Reformed Bible Teachers are often cited teaching that in order for someone to believe the gospel they must first be regenerated. This is based on a faulty application of 1 Corinthians 2:14 (ESV):
The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.What such Teachers and students of this kind of Calvinist/Reformed theology do not understand or possibly forget, is that the Spirit of God accompanies the gospel (and all of the Word of God also called the sword of the Spirit, Ephesians 6:17) to enlighten the natural man, who without the Spirit's aid would not comprehend both his lost condition and the truth of the gospel that he may be saved. Now they may not accept what they understand or they may shun the light but it is not that the light is not being given by the Word of God by means of the Spirit's enlightenment. And here, this context, is referring of course to doctrines beyond the gospel which the natural man is not given spiritual enlightenment but as to the gospel, the Scriptures are quite clear, that the Spirit of God has come into the world with regard to the unsaved to enlighten men about sin, righteousness and judgment (John 16:7-11).
But that is not may main point here, rather my objective is to compare some Scriptures and understand what they, in the least imply, but to me seem rather explicit regarding the order or the point at which regeneration occurs when we are saved. The first text is from Acts 16:31 (ESV):
And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”And the second is Titus 3:5 (ESV):
He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,Now, as we look in Acts 16:31 something has to occur before we are saved. What is that something? Belief is that something and specifically belief in the gospel which is what is being expressed when stating, "believe on the Lord Jesus Christ". The title and/or expression, "Lord Jesus Christ" is shorthand for the gospel, that God (Lord) came in human form (Jesus) and was the God man, the prophesied Messiah (Christ) who lived sinless, who suffered for our sins and was put to death on the cross, and was resurrected that whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
So to be saved one must first believe. Belief first, then salvation.
What Happens at Salvation?
Well, that brings us to Titus 3:5 where it says we are "saved...by the washing of regeneration and the renewal of the Holy Spirit". Remember again, salvation comes when? After belief.
So here in Titus we have documented the spiritual realities of what transpires when salvation occurs after we have believed. Not only are we regenerated (paliggenesía-brought back to spiritual life, spiritually resurrected) which includes a washing or cleansing factor but we are renewed (anakaínōsis - to make anew or to make something new). The word renewed is referring to our being a new creature in Christ which is precisely what Paul is talking about in 2 Corinthians 5:17 (ESV):
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.So consider the absurdity being forwarded by those who insist regeneration occurs before one is saved, because understand, regeneration and renewal occur together and they aren't merely some pre-faith enlivenment of the dead human spirit but a washing away of sin and the creation of a new person. To assert this transpires before we ever believe, that is to possess the properties of salvation before ever believing the gospel which is our salvation, is to run contrary both to the order which is presented in Scripture and more importantly, the nature of the gospel which again, is what gives us these things.
Understand what is being charged by Neo-Calvinists and Neo-Reformed types (sadly by some classic Calvinists and Reformed as well), that products and properties of salvation are given to unbelieving men, that they are made new creatures (a new spiritual species) but as well washed clean through regeneration, before they ever believe! Absurd is a nice way of putting such theological atrocity.