Faith Precedes Regeneration and Revelation Precedes Faith

Salvation begins with God revealing himself to man. Man cannot find God unless he reveals himself to man. God’s love for his creation is why there is a way for people to be saved from their just desert (John 3:16). Christ came into the world to save mankind, which means he had to pay for man’s sins (John 1:29). He also had to initiate the salvation opportunity on a personal level since man on his own will never pursue God (Rom 3:11). He did this by enlightening every person (John 1:9–13) and by drawing and calling individuals to salvation (John 6:44; 12:32) so that a person can by grace, trust in the person and work of Christ, which is the will and work of God (John 6:29).

It is after God reveals himself and enables mankind to believe that he gives man the command and opportunity to believe, which man does not have to do (Matt 11:20–24). If man does respond in faith to the revelation of God, God will respond by creating a new person (2 Cor 5:17). The work of regeneration is totally a work of God, as was the first creation. The order of salvation is revelation, faith, and regeneration.

The Bible presents two paths men choose between when seeking to know God (Matt 7:13–14). The broad road is man seeking to come through a myriad of plans, but they all have one thing in common; they are devised by man, and they are based upon man’s intelligence, virtue, works, or ability (Matt 11:25). God, at some point, actually hides the true way from those who seek to come on their own in spite of his clear revelation to men regarding his way, the only way to come to him. Sinful man is incessantly seeking to come to God according to his own chosen path of salvation, and God is seeking to get man to humble himself and come God’s way. Succinctly, man’s way is built upon man’s pride in trusting his own ability to satisfy the demands of a holy God, whereas, God’s way is built upon his love and the sacrifice of Christ for man’s sins. God’s way requires man to humble himself, distrust himself, and trust the person and work of Christ to do for him that which he cannot do for himself.

The following three passages all demonstrate the sequence of the salvation process to be revelation, faith, and then the reception of new life. That is to say, God initiates salvation by revealing himself and his plan to man, and grace-enabling man (providing everything necessary for a person to be saved) to come by faith, to which God responds by causing the person to be born again as a new creation (John 3:3; 2 Cor 5:17).

John Chapter Six
On one occasion, Jesus revealed himself through the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand (John 6:1–14), and then he further revealed himself through specific verbal revelation. Jesus, knowing their hearts, scolded them for seeking and being satisfied with physical food when the miraculous revelation should have caused them to seek God (John 6:26–27). Then the people asked Jesus a direct and specific question. “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?” (John 6:28). They were asking him how they could be saved, to which he responded, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent” (John 6:29). He directed them away from the natural, what they could see and feel with the five senses, Moses and bread, to the divine bread that gives life eternal (John 6:32–33).

Here Jesus revealed God’s plan of salvation, which is to trust the revelation of God through Christ. This verbal revelation from God regarding his way of salvation is in absolute contrast to man’s way of salvation. In God’s plan of salvation, God does all the work, and man distrusts his own merit and trusts God’s work alone. If man trusts God, God responds by giving man salvation (Eph 2:8–9). Those who trust him have the assurance of salvation; he said, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst” (John 6:35).

A person must come to him in full trust, which necessitates also rejecting every aspect of self-trust. The promise is if someone comes God’s way, he is assured God will respond, and he will be secure. Jesus promised, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day” (John 6:37–39). The message is clear; God’s way is by faith in him to do what man cannot do for himself. When a person comes to God according to his plan, believing his revelation over everything else, the Father gives that person to the Son and will raise him up.

Verse 40 reiterates the sequence of revelation, faith, and trusting God and God’s promise to do for man what man cannot do; he will save him and keep him. Jesus said, “For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:40). The word behold means to observe or to look at; that is to say, the one who sees God’s revelation and trusts that revelation, God will save. Christ reemphasizes that the true way of salvation is narrow and of God alone; he says, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him, and I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:44).

This verse is a clear revelation that God repudiates man’s works as contributing to salvation. It is impossible to come to God through one’s abilities or even initiation, i.e., plan. True salvation begins with God drawing man through natural and particular revelation, to which man can by God’s grace plan of salvation respond in faith; when man trusts God alone, God saves securely.[1] But man must be drawn by God, and God draws through revelation and grace enablements.[2] God responds to faith by granting security in Christ. Man’s part is to believe God’s revelation (vs. 40, 44) and those who do receive God’s eternal life (vs. 47). Some continued to try to come to God according to their own plan and did not believe God’s plan was the only way (vs. 64); they did not receive salvation. They did not receive because a person cannot come to God, believe in Christ the way he wants to or without illumination. True salvation, the only path to salvation, requires the call and draw of God. He must grant salvation, and he only grants coming by trusting his revelation of his Son (vs. 37).

John Chapter Three
The gospel of John says, “Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews; this man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, ‘Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.’ Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.’ Nicodemus said to Him, ‘How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?’ Jesus answered, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I said to you, “You must be born again.” 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.’ Nicodemus said to Him, ‘How can these things be?”’ (John 3:1–9).

This revelation to Nicodemus declares that a person, regardless of his race, privileged knowledge, or dedication cannot come to God because being right with God requires what man cannot do; he cannot even contribute to it. Man must be born again, created in righteousness and holiness (Eph 4:24). Man did not contribute to his first creation nor can he to his essential second creation because God is the creator and man is the created. Here we see that the new birth does not precede faith; rather, we see God’s revelation (need of new birth) comes first, which can only be rightly responded to by faith. Man must trust God’s word that what he has is insufficient for salvation and that he must rely on God to do what he alone can do. It is that revelation followed by faith in the truthfulness of God’s revelation that precedes the new birth. This pattern is seen in the historical analogy of the serpent incident (John 3:14–15) and the worldwide gospel of God (John 3:16). God reveals the plight of man and the path to salvation, and man trusts God’s revelation that he is incapable of delivering himself and that God alone can deliver him; this results in the new birth, salvation.

Matthew 27:42; Luke 23:42–43
The thief on the cross illustrates the same truth. We first see God’s revelation regarding Christ, then the criminal’s act of faith, which is followed by Christ promise of security. The revelation of God, “And above His head they put up the charge against Him which read, ‘THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS”’ (Matt 27:37). Though they meant this in derision, it is the truth (Zech 9:9; Matt 27:11). Then we see the faith of one of the criminals on the cross when he said, “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!” (Luke 23:42). Christ did not look like a king, not on a throne, but this man trusted God’s revelation about him, and God responded to his faith, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43).

The pattern of salvation that we see throughout the Scripture is succinctly and precisely laid out by John, “So Jesus said to them, ‘For a little while longer the Light is among you. Walk while you have the Light, so that darkness will not overtake you; he who walks in the darkness does not know where he goes. While you have the Light, believe in the Light, so that you may become sons of Light.’ These things Jesus spoke, and He went away and hid Himself from them” (John 12:35–36).


[1] I understand natural revelation to be enough to condemn and enough to provide an intermediate step in salvation. That is to say, everyone gets an opportunity to know God through natural revelation, and if they accept that he will get the gospel to them (Rom 1:18­–23; Acts 14:17–; Acts 17:22–31; Rev 14:6–7).
[2] By grace enablements I include things like conviction of the Holy Spirit, and sacrifice and drawing of the Son. For a more complete list see, https://ronniewrogers.com/2016/07/05/grace-enablements/.