The Necessity of Regeneration Before Faith
Totally depraved man is not able to do anything that is spiritually good unless his nature is first reborn or renewed. This regeneration is the gift of God by His Holy Spirit. It does not proceed from within man himself nor is it initiated in any way by man. He certainly can do nothing to earn or merit his salvation, nor does he deserve God’s desire to give him salvation. He does not have the freedom to will to do this. Man has neither the natural ability nor the desire to choose to be saved and serve God. The Scripture makes it clear that fallen man is “under bondage” to sin and therefore is bound to serve Satan (the result of which is death). See Romans 6: 16-23.
A man is free only insofar as his slavery allows him (as far as his chains will reach). Man is allowed to love God after the fall, but he is not able or desirous to do this because of the depraved nature of his heart and mind. So, fallen man does what comes naturally–he “freely” sins and delights in it (Romans 1:21-32). He is a willing slave to sin, and will even deny that he is a slave and needs to be redeemed. Cell mates on “death row” may claim to be free as long as they can walk six feet across their cell, but they are only free (in their own minds) within the limits of their bondage which leads to death.
Anyone in bondage or slavery is not free to do anything he pleases, unless he is first set free. The Israelites who were slaves in Egypt were not free to walk away until God released them. They were not free to walk away from their slavery and serve God as He had commanded them in His covenant. Nor did they have a desire to be free and worship God. They even rejected Moses who had come to lead them to freedom; and they later expressed their desire to go back to slavery.
The Scriptures tell us that the natural or unregenerate man is “dead in his trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1ff.). A “dead” person simply cannot decide or choose to come back to life, unless he is raised from the dead and given life by a greater power outside of himself. The same is true spiritually. Fallen sinners are dead and can no more come back to life by themselves than Lazarus could come from the grave apart from the life-giving power in the voice of Jesus. A dead man cannot suddenly decide by himself to take of the water of life in Jesus Christ, no matter how much he needs it. He does not even have a thirsting for it.
Sin is a spiritual blindness which darkens the heart (Eph. 4:18; II Cor. 3:14; 4:4). No matter how brightly the light of the gospel may shine in the eyes of the unbeliever, he cannot see it any more than a blind man can see the light of the sun (see Matt. 6:23). Likewise, you may shout in the ears of a deaf man to no avail. Until he is given “ears to hear,” he cannot receive the gospel with understanding or faith.
Blog post content is taken from Rev. Paul Treick’s book, Faith of Our Fathers, Living Still: A Study of the Five Points of Calvinism, available for purchase. It is posted with the gracious permission of the author.
If you’d like to read the blog series from the beginning, start here.