The “Ordo Salutis” And Monergism: The Case For Faith Preceding Regeneration, Part 3 -- By: R. Bruce Compton

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 175:699 (Jul 2018)
Article: The “Ordo Salutis” And Monergism: The Case For Faith Preceding Regeneration, Part 3
Author: R. Bruce Compton

The “Ordo Salutis” And Monergism: The Case For Faith Preceding Regeneration, Part 3*

R. Bruce Compton

* This is the third article in a three-part series offering exegetical support for a Calvinist soteriology that places faith logically before regeneration. An earlier edition of this article was presented at the sixty-seventh annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society in Atlanta, Georgia, November 17, 2015.

R. Bruce Compton is Professor of Biblical Languages and Literature and New Testament Chair at Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary, Allen Park, Michigan.


Pauline passages that theologians often use to argue that regeneration precedes faith in the ordo salutis in fact support the opposite order. At the same time, human depravity and the spiritual state of the lost at the moment of conversion require a life-giving work of the Spirit preceding faith. The key texts identify this work as Spirit illumination. Furthermore, these texts distinguish illumination from regeneration. According to these texts, illumination is an ongoing activity in the life of the believer, whereas regeneration is a one-time event that takes place at conversion.

Ephesians 2:5–8a

Arguments For Regeneration Preceding Faith

In Ephesians 2:1–10 Paul recounted for his readers how God had transformed them from being dead in trespasses and sins to being alive. Interpreters holding to regeneration preceding faith commonly point to Ephesians 2:5 as supporting that order. There Paul described the readers’ former lost condition as being spiritually dead and enslaved by sin. As such, the readers were incapable of responding savingly to the gospel and, therefore, of contributing in any way to their own salvation.

The remedy for his readers’ lost condition, Paul stated, was that God had intervened to make them alive, that is, to regenerate them, and he did this on the basis of the saving work of Christ. To reinforce God’s exclusive role in their deliverance, Paul added the parenthetical statement that their salvation was based solely on God’s grace. Thus, proponents of regeneration preceding faith conclude from Ephesians 2:5 that the first act in initial salvation is that the spiritually dead are made alive. In other words, God initiates the sequence of events in salvation with regeneration, and with this initial event the individual is entirely passive. Furthermore, since the individual is passive, thei...

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