Does regeneration precede faith?



By Spencer D Gear

This is what happened while Paul and Silas were in prison at Philippi and the jailer asked,

“Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household” (Acts 16:30-31 ESV).

Was this a true or false statement? Is it possible for reprobate sinners to believe on the Lord Jesus and be saved? If you talk to some Calvinists, they will say, “No!”. I encountered one of these on Christian Fellowship Forum. He wrote:

Our choice to follow God has a bearing on our salvation, it is how God works to save us, but it does not have any CAUSAL bearing on it. that is, we are not saved because we choose to follow God, we choose to follow God because we have been saved.[1]

Here’s the word of another Calvinist, R. C. Sproul:

“In regeneration, God changes our hearts. He gives us a new disposition, a new inclination. He plants a desire for Christ in our hearts. We can never trust Christ for our salvation unless we first desire him. This is why we said earlier that regeneration precedes faith (1986:118, emphasis in original).

Charles Spurgeon, a Calvinist, knew the folly of the kind of thinking that states that regeneration is logically prior to faith. He preached that it is absurd to say that a sinner is regenerate logically before he/she believes. Spurgeon stated:

“If I am to preach faith in Christ to a man who is regenerated, then the man, being regenerated, is saved already, and it is an unnecessary and ridiculous thing for me to preach Christ to him, and bid him to believe in order to be saved when he is saved already, being regenerate. But you will tell me that I ought to preach it only to those who repent of their sins. Very well; but since true repentance of sin is the work of the Spirit, any man who has repentance is most certainly saved, because evangelical repentance never can exist in an unrenewed soul. Where there is repentance there is faith already, for they never can be separated. So, then, I am only to preach faith to those who have it. Absurd, indeed! Is not this waiting till the man is cured and then bringing him the medicine? This is preaching Christ to the righteous and not to sinners. ” [Sermon, The Warrant of Faith].

Norman Geisler, who calls himself, a moderate Calvinist (1999:129)[2], stated that

Contrary to the claims of extreme Calvinists, there are no verses properly understood that teach regeneration is prior to faith. Instead, it is the uniform pattern of Scripture to place faith logically prior to salvation as a condition for receiving it (1999:228).

To support his position, Geisler examines Romans 5:1;Luke 13:3; 2 Peter 3:9; John 3:16; Acts 16:31; Romans 3:24-25; John 3:6-7; and Titus 3:5-7 (1999:228-230), to demonstrate that faith is prior to regeneration.


Geisler, N 1999. Chosen but free. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House Publishers.

Sproul, R C 1986. Chosen by God. Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House Publishers.


[1] Christian Fellowship Forum, Contentious Brethren, ‘Mortal sin = loss of salvation’, lrschrs #2, available at: (Accessed 5 August 2012). This person has a major problem with sight and so writes with many typographical errors. I have corrected 10 spelling mistakes in this short post.

[2] His exact words were, ‘We have been defending a moderate form of Calvinism’ (1999:129).

Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 29 October 2015.