The Marks of Saving Faith Pt.1— John MacArthur

Posted: September 15, 2009 in doctrine, General Discussion, life, Mentors, Scripture, Theology
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I found this over at Shepards Fellowship . Enjoy

What kind of things do and do not prove the genuiness of saving faith?



Churches today are filled with people who hold to a faith that does not save. James referred to this as a “dead faith”-meaning a mere empty profession (James 2:17, 20, 26). Paul wrote to the people in the church at Corinth to test or examine themselves to see if they were truly in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5). As important as it was in Paul’s day, how much more important it is for people in our churches today to put their faith to the test and to make sure they have not been deceived.

But where do we start? By what criteria do we determine true from empty faith? What are the distinguishing marks of genuine saving faith? Surprisingly, there are a number of popular standards or tests that really don’t prove the genuineness of one’s faith one way or the other. So before we look at the tests that prove genuine faith, let’s take a look at some popular tests that neither prove nor disprove the genuineness of one’s faith.

Here is a list of seven conditions that do not prove or disprove the genuineness of saving faith. One can be a Christian and possess these things or one may not be a Christian at all and still possess them. While they don’t prove or disprove one’s faith, they’re important to know and understand so you will not be deceived.

Seven conditions that do not prove or disprove genuine saving faith.

1. Visible Morality

There are some people who just seem to be good people. They can be religious, moral, honest, and forthright [trustworthy] in their dealings with people. They may seem to be grateful, loving, kind and tenderhearted toward others. They have visible virtues and an external morality. The Pharisees of Jesus day rested on visible morality for their hope and yet some of Christ’s harshest words were directed at them for this very thing.

Many who possess visible morality know nothing of sincere love for God. Whatever good works they appear to possess, they know nothing of serving the true God and living for His glory. Whatever the person does or leaves undone does not involve God. They’re honest in their dealings with everyone-but God. They won’t rob anyone-but God. They’re thankful and loyal to everyone-but God. They speak contemptuously and reproachfully of no one-but God. They have good relationships with everyone-but God. They are like the rich young ruler who said, “All these things [conditions] have I kept, what do I lack?” Their focus is on visible morality, but that visible morality doesn’t necessarily mean salvation. Jesus told one of the Pharisees “you must be born again” (John 3:6), not “you must put on an external morality.” People can “clean up their act” by reformation rather than regeneration-so reformation in itself is not a mark of saving faith.

2. Intellectual Knowledge

Another condition that can be misleading is intellectual knowledge. People can possess an intellectual understanding and knowledge of the truth and yet not be saved. While the knowledge of the truth is necessary for salvation, and visible morality is a fruit of salvation, neither of these conditions by themselves translate into true saving faith. People can know all about God, all about Jesus, who He was, that He came into the world, that He died on the cross, that He rose again, that He’s coming again, and even many details about the life of Christ-and still turn their backs on Him.

That’s what the writer of Hebrews was warning against in Hebrews 6:4-6. There were people in the church who knew all about God and understood gospel truths. They even had a measure of experience with gospel truth. They’d seen the ministry of the Holy Spirit at work in people’s lives-and yet knowing all of that, they stood in grave danger of turning away and rejecting Christ.

In Hebrews 10 the writer warns this kind of man that he is treading underfoot the blood of Christ by not believing what he knows to be true. There are many people who know the Scriptures but are on their way to hell! A man cannot be saved without the knowledge of the truth, but possessing that knowledge alone does not save.

3. Religious Involvement

Religious involvement is not necessarily a proof of true faith. According to Paul there are people who possess an outward form (a mere external appearance) of godliness but who have denied the power of it. They have an empty form of religion. Jesus illustrated this when He told of the virgins in Matthew 25. They waited and waited and waited for the coming of the bridegroom, who is Christ. And even though they waited a long time, when He came they didn’t go in. They had everything together except the oil in their lamps. That which was most necessary was missing. The oil is probably emblematic of the new life; the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. They weren’t regenerate. They had religious involvement but were not regenerate. A person can be visibly moral, know the truth, be religiously involved, and yet not possess genuine saving faith.

4. Active Ministry

It is possible to have an active and even a public ministry, and yet not possess genuine saving faith. Balaam was a prophet who turned out to be false (Deuteronomy 23:3-6). Saul of Tarsus (later becoming the apostle Paul) thought he was serving God by killing Christians. Judas was a public preacher and one of the twelve disciples of Christ-but he was an apostate. In Matthew 7:22-23 Jesus said, “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'” Those whom Jesus spoke of had been involved in active and public ministry-but Jesus said he never knew them. Sobering words indeed.

5. Conviction of Sin

By itself, even conviction of sin is not a proof of salvation. Our world is filled with guilt-ridden people. Many even feel badly about their sin. Felix trembled under conviction at the preaching of the apostle Paul, but he never left his idols or turned to God (Acts 24:24-6). The Holy Spirit works to convict men of sin, righteousness, and of judgment, but many do not respond in true repentance. Some may confess their sins and even abandon the sins they feel guilty about. They say, “I don’t like living this way. I want to change.” They may amend their ways and yet fall short of genuine saving faith. That’s external reformation, not internal regeneration. No degree of conviction of sin is conclusive evidence of saving faith. Even the demons are convicted of their sins-that’s why they tremble-but they are not saved.

6. The Feeling of Assurance

Feeling like you are saved is no guarantee you are indeed saved. Someone may say, “Well, I must be a Christian because I feel that I am. I think I am one.” But that is faulty reasoning. If thinking one is a Christian is what makes one a Christian, then no one could be deceived. And then, by definition, it would not be possible to be a deceived non-Christian, and that doesn’t square with the whole point of Satan’s deception. He wants people who are not truly saved to think they are. Satan has deceived multiplied millions of religious people into thinking they are saved even though they are not. They may say to themselves, “God won’t condemn me. I feel good about myself. I have assurance. I’m ok.” But that doesn’t necessarily mean a thing.

7. A Time of Decision

So often people say things like: “Well, I know I’m a Christian, because I remember when I signed the card,” or “I remember when I prayed a prayer,” or “I remember when I walked the aisle” or “went forward in church.” A person may remember exactly when it happened and where they were when “it” happened, but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything. Our salvation is not verified by a past moment. Many people have prayed prayers, gone forward in church services, signed cards, gone into prayer rooms, been baptized, and joined churches without ever experiencing genuine saving faith.

These are seven common conditions or tests that don’t necessarily prove or disprove the existence of saving faith. What then are the marks of genuine saving faith? Are there some reliable tests from the Word of God that enable us to know for certain whether one’s faith is real? Thankfully there are at least nine biblical criteria for examining the genuineness of saving faith.

  1. Phil says:

    I’m surprised that MacArthur doesn’t mention 1 John in his article. 1 John 5:13, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life”

    Here’s a question…
    How much faith is enough faith to recieve salvation?

    • Born4Battle says:

      The faith that is a gift of God, however large or small, is sufficient. We are not given its size, only that it it s gift from God (Eph 2:8-9). Since it is God who gives us the faith that saves us and it is not something we somehow have in our human nature, it will accomplish what it sets out to do – bring us irresistably to the Cross . As humans, we place faith in all sorts of things, but as humans we lack the faith that can/will save a man. Only God can gives us saving faith and it will accomplish what it sets out to do, for the word of God will never return void.

  2. Bill says:

    Phil, only faith given by God is enough faith to believe.

  3. Phil says:

    What if a sinner prays and receives Christ with faith that is not given from God, are they saved?

  4. Bill says:

    No. Saving faith is from God, we do not possess it until God gives it to us.

  5. Phil says:

    Bill, I assume you’re referring to Ephesians 2:8,9. I do not believe, based on my own personal study and exegesis of the passage, that the “gift” in that passage is refering to faith, but to salvation.

  6. Bill says:

    Phil, You know I respectfully disagree with your interpretation of Eph. 2:8-9. Grace and faith are both gifts from God that are neccessary for salvation. It’s hard for me to believe that spiritually dead people can have any kind of faith that would be good enough to satisfy the wrath of God that rest upon us all, before conversion.

  7. Phil says:

    Bill, In the link you provided none of the theologians provides an exegesis of Ephesians 2:8,9. In fact only MacArthur mentions the passage, but only as a reference in passing. Could you send me a link stating your position with a an exegesis of the The following link is an excellent exegesis of Ephesians 2:8,9.

  8. Phil says:

    Sorry about the typo in my last post. But you get the idea 🙂

  9. Bill says:

    Matthew Henry–“I. By whom, and in what manner, it was brought about and effected. 1. Negatively: Not of yourselves, Eph_2:8. Our faith, our conversion, and our eternal salvation, are not the mere product of any natural abilities, nor of any merit of our own: Not of works, lest any man should boast, Eph_2:9. These things are not brought to pass by any thing done by us, and therefore all boasting is excluded; he who glories must not glory in himself, but in the Lord. There is no room for any man’s boasting of his own abilities and power; or as though he had done any thing that might deserve such immense favours from God. 2. Positively: But God, who is rich in mercy, etc.

    Note, Every converted sinner is a saved sinner. Such are delivered from sin and wrath; they are brought into a state of salvation, and have a right given them by grace to eternal happiness. The grace that saves them is the free undeserved goodness and favour of God; and he saves them, not by the works of the law, but through faith in Christ Jesus, by means of which they come to partake of the great blessings of the gospel; and both that faith and that salvation on which it has so great an influence are the gift of God. The great objects of faith are made known by divine revelation, and made credible by the testimony and evidence which God hath given us; and that we believe to salvation and obtain salvation through faith is entirely owing to divine assistance and grace; God has ordered all so that the whole shall appear to be of grace. Observe,
    II. Wherein this change consists, in several particulars, answering to the misery of our natural state, some of which are enumerated in this section, and others are mentioned below. 1. We who were dead are quickened (Eph_2:5), we are saved from the death of sin and have a principle of spiritual life implanted in us. Grace in the soul is a new life in the soul. As death locks up the senses, seals up all the powers and faculties, so does a state of sin, as to any thing that is good. Grace unlocks and opens all, and enlarges the soul. Observe, A regenerate sinner becomes a living soul: he lives a life of sanctification, being born of God; and he lives in the sense of the law, being delivered from the guilt of sin by pardoning and justifying grace. He hath quickened us together with Christ. Our spiritual life results from our union with Christ; it is in him that we live: Because I live, you shall live also. 2. We who were buried are raised up, Eph_2:6. What remains yet to be done is here spoken of as though it were already past, though indeed we are raised up in virtue of our union with him whom God hath raised from the dead. When he raised Christ from the dead, he did in effect raise up all believers together with him, he being their common head; and when he placed him at his right hand in heavenly places, he advanced and glorified them in and with him, their raised and exalted head and forerunner. – And made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. This may be understood in another sense. Sinners roll themselves in the dust; sanctified souls sit in heavenly places, are raised above the world; the world is as nothing to them, compared with what it has been, and compared with what the other world is. Saints are not only Christ’s freemen, but they are assessors with him; by the assistance of his grace they have ascended with him above this world to converse with another, and they live in the constant expectation of it. They are not only servants to the best of masters in the best work, but they are exalted to reign with him; they sit upon the throne with Christ, as he has sat down with his Father on his throne.
    III. Observe what is the great design and aim of God in producing and effecting this change: And this, 1. With respect to others: That in the ages to come he might show, etc. (Eph_2:7), that he might give a specimen and proof of his great goodness and mercy, for the encouragement of sinners in future time. Observe, The goodness of God in converting and saving sinners heretofore is a proper encouragement to others in after-time to hope in his grace and mercy, and to apply themselves to these. God having this in his design, poor sinners should take great encouragement from it. And what may we not hope for from such grace and kindness, from riches of grace, to which this change is owing? Through Christ Jesus, by and through whom God conveys all his favour and blessings to us. 2. With respect to the regenerated sinners themselves: For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, etc.

  10. Bill says:

    From John MacArthur on Eph.8:2-9 “That” ‘refers to the ENTIRE previous statement of salvation, not only the grace but ALSO the faith. Although people are required to believe for salvation, even the faith is part of the gift of God which saves and cannot be exercised by one’s own power. God’s grace is preeminent in EVERY aspect of salvation.”

    To God, not man, be the Glory!

  11. Phil says:

    Bill, I agree with your last two statements: “God’s grace is preeminent in EVERY aspect of salvation.” and “To God, not man, be the Glory!”

    Just because I believe that mankind has the ability (through the drawing power of the Holy Spirit) to accept or reject Christ does not mean that God is not totally soveriegn or does not get all the Glory in Salvation.

  12. Bro. Phil,

    Great conversation. It is good to see you diligently seeking the truth. I could not refrain from pointing out a few problems with the link that you gave as an “excellent exegesis” on Eph. 2:8-9.
    1) The author of that link says, “If saving faith is the gift of God, then how does the sinner receive this gift? Does he pray that God will give him the gift of faith? Does he hope that God will sovereignly bestow this gift upon him so that he can be saved? What must he do to have faith?”
    For a man to even ask such things of God would be a demonstration of “faith”. Who prays to a God that they do not believe in? But, that is beside the point. To assume that sinners (unregenerate) are aimlessly seeking God for salvation is not found in Scripture. On the contrary, Scripture says, Rom 3:10 as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; Rom 3:11 no one understands; no one seeks for God.” So there is something to be said of one who seeks God, it is not a natural thing!
    2) I find it rather ironic that the author would quote the “Prince of Preachers” C.H. Spurgeon and Author Pink on this issue. However, his quote has nothing to do with how a man receives faith. Spurgeon is talking about sharing the gospel to all men. I would however encourage you to read Spurgeon more extensively to get a better understanding of regeneration and faith:
    “To believe in Jesus is a better indicator of regeneration than anything else, and in no case did it ever mislead. Faith in the living God and his Son Jesus Christ is always the result of the new birth, and can never exist except in the regenerate. Whoever has faith is a saved man, from the sermon, “Faith and Regeneration” by C.H. Spurgeon.
    3) The author says, “The view which insists that regeneration precedes faith is inconsistent with the clear teaching of the Bible. For example, John 1:12 does not say: “As many as have been regenerated, to them gave He the power to believe on His Name, even to those who have become the children of God.” Instead John 1:12 teaches that those who receive Christ by faith become children of God (that is, they are born of God or regenerated).” Let us look at this Scripture in its entirety, “Joh 1:12 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: Joh 1:13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” Man has no more to do with being born of God than he did when he was born of his mother. “Tit 3:3 For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. Tit 3:4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, Tit 3:5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.” This would be the POWER John was referring to.

    REGENERA’TION, n. Defined by Noah Webster:

    1. Reproduction; the act of producing anew.

    2. In theology, new birth by the grace of God; that change by which the will and natural enmity of man to God and his law are subdued, and a principle of supreme love to God and his law, or holy affections, are implanted in the heart.

    4) My question would be, How does the natural man receive the things of the Spirit unless he is first regenerated?
    1Co 2:14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.

    Thanks for the space Bill.
    Soli Deo Gloria

  13. Phil says:

    Hi Historic Protestant,

    Thanks for numbering your points. It makes it easiier for me to repond.

    Point 1 – Yes, I agree that we are all inherit the sin nature. And therefore the drawing of the Holy Spirit must be initiated before a sinner can receive Christ. But I believe, unlike Calvinist, that the Holy Spirit’s drawing power is given to not just the elect but to all those who have been exposed to the Gospel. The draw of the Holy Spirit can be resisted and since the road to Heaven is the narrow one, more will reject the drawing of the Holy Spirit than will yield.

  14. Phil says:

    oops I didn’t mean to hit the submit button yet. Oh well that is basically my response to point one from Historic Protestant. I was in the process of getting you the verses to support my position. I will finish the post later. Sorry about that.

  15. Phil,
    It is normal (expected) for man to resist the the gospel call. That very fact is what makes God’s redeeming grace amazing. The Bible says in Joh 6:44 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.”; Joh 6:65 And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” Read chapter 6 of John, please!

    It is the powerful work of God that regenerates, quickens, makes alive, a new creation; “1Th 1:4 For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, 1Th 1:5 because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.
    Here we see the power of God being demonstrated in man just as we did in John 1:12,13

    I would like to leave you with a couple of quotes from some well respected men of God.

    “When a person hears a preacher call for repentance he can resist that call. But if God gives him repentance he cannot resist because the gift is the removal of resistance.” – John Piper

    “…it is easy to overlook the great variety of ways that the ‘gospel’ is used in the Bible. The most obvious example is how Paul makes ‘gospel’ almost synonymous with ‘justification by faith’, while the gospel writers almost seem to make it synonymous with ‘the kingdom of God’. We have to be careful that we do not elevate one perspective on the gospel over all others, nor that we assume the perspectives contradict one another. We must have an outline of the gospel that encompasses the way all the Biblical writers speak. “…the gospel is news about what God has already been done for you, rather than instruction and advice about what you are to do for God. The primacy of his work, not our work, is part of the essence of faith. In other religions, God reveals to us how we can find or achieve salvation. In Christianity, God achieves salvation for us. The gospel brings news primarily, rather than instruction. ” …the gospel is all about historic events, and thus it has a public character. “It identifies Christian faith as news that has significance for all people, indeed for the whole world, not merely as esoteric understanding or insight.” [Brownson, p. 46] …if Jesus is not risen from the dead, Christianity does not “work”. The gospel is that Jesus died and rose for us. If the historic events of his life did not happen, then Christianity does not “work” for the good news is that God has entered the human “now” (history) with the life of the world to come….the gospel is news about what God has done in history to save us, rather than advice about what we must do to reach God. The gospel is news that Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection in history has achieved our salvation…Jesus does not just bring good news; he is the good news.”
    – Tim Keller

    Iron sharpens iron!

  16. Phil says:

    Hi HP,

    I would like to address you posts starting with the later first and then finish the former next.

    I honestly have no problems with your most recent post. I’m alittle confused by Pipers’ quote. What does he mean by, “But if God gives him repentance he cannot resist because the gift is the removal of resistance.” ? As far as Keller, I agree whole heartedly with his quote.

    I wanted to continue my reponse to your first quote…

    Point 1 – here’s my verses to support what I stated in the previous post: John 3:14, John 12:32.

    Point 2, 3, and 4 – Thes e points all deal with regeneration preceding faith. This belief blows my mind. It seems backwards to me. How can someone have new life before faith. As ypu mention Regeneration is reproduction, the being born again of the Spirit. It is synonymous with salvation. How can someone recieve regeneration or born again salvation? Acts 16:31 says, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.” Faith comes before salvation or regeneration

    Again as I mentioned before, I believe the call of the Holy Spirit when Christ is liftd up is what gives humans the ability to choose or reject Christ and is that divine prick of the heart, by the grace of God in the heart of a spritually dead sinner.

    Thanks for the stimulating discourse,

  17. Bill says:

    Maybe I should work more often. Thanks for explaining this way better that I could H.P. Feel free to take up all the space you need.

    Phil, I understand where are coming from. You are using the same arguements I did at first. But as I continue to search out the scripture’s the more God shows me my error’s. Keep searching. I still thank God for the patience that he gave Shane and Rich with me.


  18. Phil,
    God leads, gives, and grants repentance.
    Act 5:31 God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.
    Act 11:18 When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.”
    Rom 2:4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?
    2Ti 2:25 correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth,

    Piper is saying that man being born at enmity with God will continually resist God unless man is given a new nature, a new heart that takes away the enmity. A heart of flesh, not stone, that is drawn by faith to see Christ for who and what He is, which in return leads man to repentance. This is the POWER of the gospel. The problem with man is not his intellect but his nature. I would never take away the responsibility of man to come to Christ, but I would never pat him on the back and say, “good job”, “best decision you ever made” , because Scripture tells us of the supernatural work of God that takes place in man effectually that leads him to Christ. Amazing grace!
    Mat 22:14 For many are called, but few are chosen.”

    EFFECT’UAL, a. Producing an effect, or the effect desired or intended; or having adequate power or force to produce the effect. The means employed were effectual.
    According to the gift of the grace of God given me by the effectual working of his power. Eph 3.

    I have listed the first section of the “1689 Baptist Confession of Faith” explaining the effectual call of God. Historically this has been called “Irresistible Grace”.

    1) “AT a time appointed by and acceptable to God, those whom God has predestinated to life are effectually called by His Word and Spirit out of the state of death in which they are by nature, to grace and salvation by Jesus Christ. Their minds are given spiritual enlightenment and, as those who are being saved, they begin to understand the things of God. God takes away their heart of stone and gives them a heart of flesh. He renews their will, and by His almighty power He sets them to seek and follow that which is good, at the same time effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ. And to all these changes they come most freely, for they are made willing by divine grace.”
    Deut. 30:6; Ps. 110:3; Song 1:4; Ezek. 36:26,27; Acts 26:18; Rom. 8:30; 11:7; Eph. 1:10,11,17,19; 2:1-6; 2 Thess. 2:13,14.

    God bless!

  19. Phil says:

    Hi HP,

    Thanks again for responding to my post. I have some questions for you that confuse me about some of the reformed positions. These are questions that quite frankly drive me nuts and I cannot reconcile them in my mind.

    At the beginning of your last post you repeated a statement by John Piper,

    “that man being born at enmity with God will continually resist God unless man is given a new nature, a new heart that takes away the enmity. A heart of flesh, not stone, that is drawn by faith to see Christ for who and what He is, which in return leads man to repentance.”

    My question is…What must occur for a sinner to be given this new nature and new heart? If man’s repentive appeal to God does not result in the new nature and new heart than what does?

    In the last paragraph you quoted the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith. In this quote I am looking for the authros mention of the sinner’s repentance prayer, but do not see it.

    My question is from the moment God gives a sinner a new heart and nature to the moment a sinner repents is how long? If not instantaneous than what would happen if the sinner were to die before his/hers repentive prayer of faith to God? Would they go to Heaven or Hell? Can this be proven from scripture?

    Thanks for taking the time to read my post.


  20. Randy says: Here is a good place to see a video on saving faith by R C Sproul that was helpful to me today.

    • Phil says:

      Hey Randy,

      Thanks for the link. I watched some of the videos on his website and have bookmarked it for future reference.

      While perusing the videos I watched the 2nd video of MacArthur, Lingo and Sprouls QandA. Maybe this off topic but Sproul’s answer a womans question disturbed me? Her’s the question and Sprouls answer…

      Woman – “Is that grace available to everyone…God’s help?”
      Sproul – “You mean regenerative grace?”
      Woman – “Hmm Hmm ”
      Sproul – “No”

      This is one of the “Big” problems I have with Calvinism; Limited Atonement. God’s grace is available to ALL. John 3:16 and Romans 5:15,16 and 1 John 2:2


      • Phil says:

        sorry about the typos 😦

      • Randy says:

        Hey Phil, Did the “saving faith” video help any? You didn’t mention if it clarified anything for you. I’m not sure about the Q and A session i’ll have to veiw it. I think the “saving faith” video was a very good presentation. I can understand your reservations about limited attonement sometimes I have my own. One thing that helps me with it is the statement I once heard “The power of the attonement isn’t limited but the scope of the attonement is.” I don’t know who said that but it makes sense to me. If you look closely at John 3:16 you won’t see it is as all inclusive as some may think. Notice who it states can have everlasting life and not perish. It states (whosoever believeth) therfore by process of elimination we can deduct that (whosoever believeth not) shall not receive everlasting life, but perish, or be damned as Mark 16:16 says.
        It seems to me that the scope of the attonement is limited to those who beleiveth. I may be wrong but I can’t see someone damned for their unbelief having their sins attoned for at the same time. This would seem to me to limit the power of the attonement, else why were they damned? Was the attonement not sufficient? I think not! Well I know that’s enough to think about for now. Good to hear from you Phil. Kudos Bill for another topic that digs deep into my inner man!

      • Phil says:

        Hi Randy,

        Yes the saving faith video did clear thing up for me. I disagree with Sproul on the “fiducia” element of salvation. Also I believe “Faith = Justification”, not “Faith = Justification + Works”. I also disagree with Sproul about being adopted and not born into the family of God. I believe the Bible uses both to illustrate your new relationship to God when you become saved.

  21. Hey Phil,

    Question 1)
    “What must occur for a sinner to be given this new nature and new heart? If man’s repentive appeal to God does not result in the new nature and new heart than what does?”

    Phil, first of all there is nothing appealing about us except maybe the fact that God could receive glory in our redemption through Christ. The only thing that could have occurred in man was none other than the divine mercy of God.
    Rom 9:9 For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return and Sarah shall have a son.”
    Rom 9:10 And not only so, but also when Rebecca had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac,
    Rom 9:11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad–in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of his call–
    Rom 9:12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.”
    Rom 9:13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”
    Rom 9:14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means!
    Rom 9:15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”
    Rom 9:16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.
    Rom 9:17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”
    Rom 9:18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.
    Rom 9:19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?”
    Rom 9:20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?”
    Rom 9:21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honored use and another for dishonorable use?
    Rom 9:22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction,
    Rom 9:23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory–
    Rom 9:24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?
    Question 2)
    “In the last paragraph you quoted the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith. In this quote I am looking for the authors mention of the sinner’s repentance prayer, but do not see it.”

    The authors never mention a sinners prayer because they understood that a prayer never saved anyone. Repentance and baptism are results (fruit) of the new birth (regeneration).
    Question 3)
    “My question is from the moment God gives a sinner a new heart and nature to the moment a sinner repents is how long?”

    Six to nine months! LOL, just kidding. Seriously though, this is not found in Scripture. But I would say it varies from each individual, and I could see it happening instantaneous as well. I’ve heard testimonies where people can recall certain seeds being sown in their lives in which they would accredit to their coming to the Lord.

    Question 4)
    “If not instantaneous than what would happen if the sinner were to die before his/hers repentive prayer of faith to God?

    Scripture says,
    Joh 17:12 While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.

    Joh 17:20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word,

    Luk 22:31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat,
    Luk 22:32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”

    He is the Author and Finisher of our faith! All that the Father gives the Son will come!

    To God be the glory! Amen

    • Phil says:

      Hi HP,

      I guess I didn’t phrase my question correctly. What I’m trying to understand is from a human standpoint what is required for regeneration and/or saving faith?

      Let me state it this way…If I am witnessing to someone and they have come to the point where they want this salvation that God offers, what is the reponsibility of that person to receive salvation – what must they do? Must they pray (acquiesce, call or appeal of faith) to God (whether silently or audibly) or is nothing required of the human?


  22. Bill says:

    Phil, when you are witnessing and if God intends on saving them, that person will be saved, nothing can stop it. He (God) has been 100% successful. They must repent and believe,(human responsibility) that is all. I think alot of the scripture verses listed by Shane in this discussion will support this. (Irresistible Grace).

    Can you imagine our God sitting in heaven with his fingers crossed saying “c’mon you can do it, just say yes….please”. I can’t see that.

    I would encourage you to read “Knowing God” by A.W. Pink. It’s a real eye-opener.

    My point in all this is…….Whether it is instantaneous or not, it will happen, thus saith the Lord.

  23. Christie says:

    To go back to the original post referencing the verse in Ephesians, I have heard it best explained this way …if I can formulate and type this well (I’m tired…sorry :))

    For by grace are ye saved through faith; This is all one sentence containing (1) a prepositional phrase (For by grace), noun (ye), are saved (verb) through faith (another prepositional phrase) …. One complete thought following by a semi-colon …we are saved by God’s grace through faith… Now… the next part of the verse immediately following the semi-colon, is directly modifying the PREVIOUS NOUN… (definition modify: grammar transitive verb to affect the meaning of another word, usually by describing it)

    (next part) AND THAT NOT OF YOURSELVES: is the next phrase following the word FAITH… which means…that it must refer to FAITH (the word directly preceding this phrase) and NOT to the verb (saved) or to the idea of salvation. (See note further down regarding salvation)…

    IT IS THE GIFT OF GOD: Is a parenthetical phrase directly referring to the object just preceding…which would still be the noun FAITH. It is my understanding that the parenthetical in the original language is NOT referring to the verb SAVED…it is referring in this instance to the noun FAITH…

    So the faith we receive is a gift from God… and (continuing in the next verse) is NOT of works…is NOT what WE DO TO ACHIEVE SALVATION…lest any man should boast. Paul is teaching that the faith God grants us is a gift from Him that we may receive another gift also from Him…the gift of GRACE…which leads to another gift…that of Salvation. But these two (Grace and Salvation) are not directly referred to in the second part of verse 8.

    If FAITH were not a direct gift from God, then mankind could waltz around saying, “Look at me! See what IIIIIIII did! I accepted Christ because of the faith IIIIIIII have inside MEEEEE. ”

    And where it would be appealing as man to toot our own horn and be proud of the choice or decision that we personally make, it is not substantiated through these two verses.

    Faith is NOT manufactured within ourselves. It is the gift given to us by God with the resulting effect of salvation of our souls.

    That is the explanation that has made the most sense to me this year concerning this passage.

    I hope this made some sort of sense… Rich has a much broader scope on how to explain things in much more detail than I do… 🙂 (Have you noticed he’s wordy?) Perhaps he will add a comment tomorrow?


  24. Bill says:

    Christie, That was awesome Thank you. You and Rich are such a blessing to us!

  25. Phil says:

    I honestly don’t know what I believe anymore. I thought I had evrything figured out and then I’m confronted with this calvinism stuff. I’m seriously thinking about taking an hiatus and just disappearing with me and my Bible and no other influence and reading the Bible all the way through and then coming back and looking at all these “systems” of dcotrine.

  26. Richard says:


    This is reformed theology, not Calvinism. What Christie has done is apply the grammar principle to the syntax of the scripture…so that we have a proper understanding of what the author, the apostle Paul, was saying. Once we understand that, then we rightly adjust our doctrine with scripture. When we do this, we will always see God glorified for who He is. Reformed theology is returning to what the WHOLE of scripture teaches. As scripture says, we are called to be as the Bereans…to search out these things to see if they are so. As God says in scripture, return to the old paths. If you would desire further study of this verse, we will gladly contact two or three Greek professors and have them give an expository and an understanding of this scripture.

    Now that we see this verse in its true context, are we desiring to give God ALL glory for our salvation…that there was nothing in us as Matthew 5:3 states: “Blessed are the poor in spirit”…poor meaning “a beggar…having nothing at all” dependent totally on God’s mercy and grace.

    That should be the desire of all Christians…to see HIM lifted up…High and Holy. Because THAT is who He is and what He deserves.


  27. Bill says:

    Phil, my brother, now you know how I felt. 🙂

  28. Phil,
    My brother, we never arrive to the point of figuring it all out. But on that note I want to encourage you to continue your studies, and seek what God has revealed to us. Press on!

    I want to interject a historical view of our conversation in hope of shedding some light on the church’s stance on this subject.

    The Canons of the Council of Orange 529 AD

    CANON 5. If anyone says that not only the increase of faith but also its beginning and the very desire for faith, by which we believe in Him who justifies the ungodly and comes to the regeneration of holy baptism — if anyone says that this belongs to us by nature and not by a gift of grace, that is, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit amending our will and turning it from unbelief to faith and from godlessness to godliness, it is proof that he is opposed to the teaching of the Apostles, for blessed Paul says, “And I am sure that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6). And again, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8). For those who state that the faith by which we believe in God is natural make all who are separated from the Church of Christ by definition in some measure believers.

    CANON 6. If anyone says that God has mercy upon us when, apart from his grace, we believe, will, desire, strive, labor, pray, watch, study, seek, ask, or knock, but does not confess that it is by the infusion and inspiration of the Holy Spirit within us that we have the faith, the will, or the strength to do all these things as we ought; or if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, “What have you that you did not receive?” (1 Cor. 4:7), and, “But by the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Cor. 15:10).

    CANON 7. If anyone affirms that we can form any right opinion or make any right choice which relates to the salvation of eternal life, as is expedient for us, or that we can be saved, that is, assent to the preaching of the gospel through our natural powers without the illumination and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, who makes all men gladly assent to and believe in the truth, he is led astray by a heretical spirit, and does not understand the voice of God who says in the Gospel, “For apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5), and the word of the Apostle, “Not that we are competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence is from God” (2 Cor. 3:5).

    God bless!

  29. Christie says:

    Beautiful, brother H.P.! Thanks for posting..

  30. Phil says:

    Thanks everyone for your words of encouragement, but I still will not recant – lol…Just kidding 🙂

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