November 15, 2006

Lordship’s (Out of Order) Salvation

On November 13, 2006 at Pulpit Magazine Nathan Busenitz posted a reply to Larry in which he lays out the regeneration before faith position. It is post #51 under the A Few More Thoughts on Lordship (Part 2) article.

This post to Larry opens the door to some serious inquiry in regard to regeneration and faith. In particular: the regeneration before faith issue.

Representative of the Calvinist camp, the ordo salutis (the order of salvation) might be shown as:

1) election, 2) predestination, 3) gospel call 4) inward call 5) regeneration, 6) conversion (repentance & faith), 7) justification, 8) sanctification, and 9) perseverance, 10) glorification.
Those who take a different view of the ordo salutis would typically present it this way:
1) foreknowledge, 2) election, 3) calling, 4) repentance, 5) faith, 6) regeneration, 7) conversion, 8) justification, 9) sanctification, 10) preservation, 11) glorification.
The big difference in the two examples is in the relative placement of regeneration and repentance/faith. There is an order, and I trust you (Nathan) would agree that the events in the ordo salutis occur simultaneously. The Calvinist and Lordship advocates will insist there is no chronological order and that would be the correct thing to say. Repentance, faith, regeneration, conversion, and justification occur simultaneously. Some aspects in the ordo, occur in a chronological order, but the events I cited above do not, they are simultaneous.

It is a mistake to separate regeneration and faith in a temporal way, because they are simultaneous. One important matter, however, should be recognized. In 1 Thess. 1:9 Paul suggests faith precedes repentance. In Acts he puts repentance before faith (Acts 20:21). Repentance and faith occur so closely and/or at the same instant that one must not attempt to separate them.

In an earlier article I pointed out that the elements of the event in ordo occur simultaneously, but the event has a trigger. Calvinists believe regeneration initiates or triggers the simultaneous events in the ordo. Pastor George Zeller made this observation:
The doctrine of man's total depravity has been carried to the extreme by some Calvinists resulting in a wrong understanding of man's inability. They believe that the sinner is dead in sin and totally unable to respond to the gospel. They believe he first must be regenerated and only then will he be able to believe the gospel.” (In Defense of the Gospel, pp. 280-281.)
There is a logical order, not chronological, but logical based on what the Bible says. The Bible teaches faith logically precedes regeneration, for example:
“He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God,” (John 1:11-13).

“Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him,” (1 John 5:1).
The Bible teaches that faith and regeneration are instantaneous: John 3:1-21 (especially vss. 8, 13-16) Rom 3:22, 26; 10:4, 6, 8, 9-13.

The following passages also demonstrate that justification and faith are also simultaneous: Romans 3:22, 26; 10:4, 6, 8-13
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast,” (Eph. 2:8-9).
Ephesians 2:8-9 demonstrates that salvation occurs simultaneously at the very instant man places his faith in Jesus Christ. The Calvinist has a problem with this because he believes man cannot call on the Lord (Rom. 10:13) in faith until he has first been regenerated. The troubling conclusion is that salvation (eternal life) is not received through faith; rather faith is the result of salvation. Nathan wrote,
Thus, according to the reformed ordo salutis, regeneration has causal priority over faith and repentance. This is simply a way of showing that God initiates salvation, enabling and empowering the sinner to believe and repent. Like Jesus told Nicodemus, ‘Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God’ (John 3:3).”
John 3 is the account of Nicodemus’ visit to the Lord at night. This is a very familiar event. We see Nicodemus coming to Jesus by night. He was likely afraid to approach Jesus in broad daylight for fear of the Jews.

I look at John 2:24-25 as a gateway to John 3 and the encounter with Nicodemus. The passage reads, “But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men, And needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man.”

Before Nicodemus arrived Jesus knew what was in his heart and where his problem was. This is why Jesus went right past the acknowledgement of his teaching and miracles right to the heart of Nicodemus’ problem.

Nicodemus had heard the teaching of Jesus, and likely witnessed some of His miracles. It is apparent that Nicodemus was being drawn to the Lord through what he had seen and heard. It is important to note, however, Nicodemus was not yet born again, he has not been regenerated. We can know this because Nicodemus did not even at this point understand the concept of being born again. Jesus is going to tell him how a lost sinner is born again and receives everlasting life.
“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life,” (John 3:14-15).
Jesus gave the illustration of Moses lifting up the serpent (Numbers 21:6-9) to illustrate how man will be saved from spiritual death. Those who looked upon the brazen serpent were spared death from the sting of the fiery serpents. They believed God and by faith looked upon the serpent of brass and were saved. This illustrates the Son of Man being lifted up and those who by faith, believing look to Him will be saved, have everlasting life.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life,” (John 3:16).
In John 3:16 Jesus explains the way in which a lost man receives everlasting life. In His definition of salvation, Jesus says believing precedes regeneration, everlasting life.”

In light of this statement from Jesus, in which He clearly teaches, “everlasting life” came from believing on His name, those who believe regeneration precedes and enables repentance/faith and belief find themselves in contradiction to the Lord. As long as you insist regeneration precedes and enables “the sinner to believe and repent,” you are contradicting the Lord Jesus Christ. Now the debate over the order of regeneration and faith/belief is with the Lord.

The regeneration before faith view under girds the Lordship gospel of submission, full-surrender, self-denial in exchange for salvation. The Lordship advocate believes the lost man has been regenerated (given new life, born again) prior to repentance, faith and belief. To reiterate, he does not believe in a chronological order, but he will insist regeneration has the “casual priority” over, and is the trigger for: repentance, faith, and believing.

Therefore, demands for a commitment to the “good works,” (Eph. 2:10) which should follow salvation in the life of a believer, are no longer works, because they believe the work of conversion, salvation, justification and union with Christ has already been accomplished. Lordship advocates can make any demand he wants because in the Lordship system he is dealing with one who is already a born again child of God, has already become a disciple of Christ.

Lordship advocates call on lost men to make decisions that are impossible for him to make. Nathan stated, “…we are asking them to do something that is impossible apart from the initiating work of the Spirit.” The solution for your impossible decision is the extra-biblical, rational view of ordo, which insists regeneration (eternal life) precedes faith.

From an article titled Faith vs. Fatalism, Evangelist John VanGelderen wrote,
Is it ‘look and live’ or ‘live and look?’ Is it ‘Look unto Me, and be ye saved’ (Is. 45:22) or ‘Be ye saved, and look unto Me?’ Is it ‘He that believeth on Me hath everlasting life’ (John 6:47, cf. John 3:15, 16, 36; 5:24) or ‘He who hath everlasting life believeth on Me?’ Did Paul say to the Philippian jailer ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved’ (Acts 6:36) or ‘Thou shalt be saved, and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ?’” (In Defense of the Gospel, pp. 66-67.)
Pastor George Zeller wrote,
Does regeneration precede faith? Actually they both take place in the same moment of time. The moment a person believes on the Lord Jesus Christ he is regenerated (born again). The moment he receives Christ by faith he also receives God's gift of eternal life. It all happens in an instant of time.” (In Defense of the Gospel, p. 281.)
Nathan’s Calvinistic presuppositions of regeneration’s “casual priority over” (before) faith under gird Lordship’s upfront demands for “implicit obedience, full surrender,” and the “exchange of all that we are for all that Christ is” for the reception of eternal life.

Nathan wrote, “But at this point, the argument is no longer about lordship salvation, but rather about Calvinism.” I would disagree with that because both systems are inseparably intertwined. If one is unwound, both unravel.

I have shown in my book that in regard to the reception of salvation the Lordship position is a false interpretation of the gospel. Lordship Salvation is a works based, non-saving message that frustrates grace. John MacArthur, Walter Chantry, James Boice, and John Piper are sincere men who love God, but they have changed the terms of the gospel to combat the equally heretical so-called “Easy Believism” movement or the Zane Hodges inspired Crossless Gospel.

In years past many Bible believing pastors and Christian leaders have shown that the presupposition of regeneration preceding faith is a position that comes from the reliance on reason over the revelation of Scripture.

We conclude there are two very different interpretations of how eternal life is received.

1) Nathan representative of the Calvinist view of ordo believes regeneration (the gift of eternal life) precedes repentance/faith and belief in Jesus Christ. Nathan believes man cannot believe or express repentance and faith unless he has first been regenerated, been born again. This opens the way for the Lordship gospel of commitment to the “good works” of a disciple in exchange for salvation.

2) Jesus says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life,” (John 3:16).

So, a choice must be made: do we accept the revelation of Scripture and the words of Jesus Christ; or do we choose to rely on a position born from reason rather than revelation as the basis for their theological moorings?


Some of the most penetrating work on Calvinism’s regeneration before faith has been written by Pastor George Zeller. Click on The Dangers of Reformed Theology where you can read about this and other “dangers” that come from Reformed theology.


  1. I am a Calvinist who rejects the LS position, & have been such for about 15 years now; so you may want to reconsider some of your statements here. For an exceleent book that I believe helps shed much light on where the problem ultimaely stems from: mixing law & Gsopel; see John Colquhoun "A Treatise on the Law and Gospel" published by Reformation Heritage Books. He does an excellent job of sorting out some of the church's history of problems in this area.

  2. Pat:

    I appreciate the suggested reading. Would you please e-mail me a link to where I can buy it at Amazon for example?



  3. Pat:

    You are welcome to show me some areas in this article that you might suggest need reconsideration. I would appreciate and consider your input.


  4. Hi Lou,

    Trust you received the link for the book, it's not a historical overview but mainly a doctrinal one; but I do think the problem is a historically recurring one in the history of the Church, & I think Colquhoun exposes the root.

    My concern with the article was the following "I would disagree with that because both systems are inseparably intertwined. If one is unwound, both unravel."--my situation & others would suggest that one can hold to a Calvinistic ordo salutis but still reject the LS position: therefore the 2 doctrinal outlooks can stand alone, or at least one of them can (TULIP). & The Marrow controversy in Scotland is the best example of this.

  5. Pat:

    I appreciate the follow-up. At my workplace it is incredibly busy, which is a welcome change. That, however, means I can't do much in the way of reply and interaction at the moment. I'll try to come back to this at my earliest convenience.

    FWIW, you are among a growing number of Calvinists that do reject LS as MacArthur, for example, defines it. I've had two Ph.D's contact me both of whom at first rejected the arguments in my book (IDOTG) on LS. Upon further study and consideration they later got back to me to say that I am more right on the problems with LS than they first realized.

    Thanks again,