This post is a response to a specific set of questions. The questions were asked by a friend of my dad. He asked two questions based on regeneration and belief:
(1) Sproul says regeneration has to precede faith/belief because man cannot (or will not) come to God unless God first changes man’s heart. Does that mean there are potentially people who have been regenerated but do not yet believe?
There is a great amount of technicality here. Unfortunately, this answer will be quite laborious. Let me say that the answer is both yes, in one sense, and no, in another sense.
Yes, there are regenerated persons who do not yet believe. Since, as reformed theologians believe, regeneration must precede redemption and regeneration and redemption are two separate (but related) events, it must follow, then, that there is an intervening period, perhaps, between regeneration and the person’s decision to respond to Christ in repentance and faith.
The puritans believed that regeneration was a long and sometimes arduous journey. I would argue that an intervening time is not necessary, but that it is certainly possible and not problematic because of the “no” part of this answer.
No, there are no regenerated persons who will not believe. Regeneration is the down-payment (so to speak) on the work of redemption that God Himself accomplishes in the hearts and lives of His elect persons.
Romans 8:29-30 says: For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
God chooses (that’s the meaning of “foreknew”) and then predestines to Christ-likeness. Those predestined will be called (that’s an actually call that actually accomplishes something…an “effectual” call) the ones called will be justified (that’s the application of Christ’s work on the cross) and those justified will be glorified.
So it is no problem to have a period of time between regeneration and the response of repentance and faith. Once God begins the process by regeneration, it will be–ipso facto–accomplished. Therefore, anyone who has truly been regenerated will believe. To argue that one can be regenerated and not ultimately believe is to argue that there is such a thing as a square circle.
(2) I’m also thinking about James 2:19 where he says the demons believe God is one and wondering how the two work together. I.e. if regeneration precedes belief, and the demons believe, does that mean demons are regenerated? I know the answer is “no”, but I’m not sure how to get there from Sproul’s argument.
James 2:19 says: You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! This question is an excellent question! However, this question is combining two separate and mutually exclusive realms–the realm of man and the realm of angels
In the realm of man, redemption is offered to all based on the individual’s response in repentance and faith. In the realm of angels, however, there is no such provision for redemption.
In 1 Timothy 5:21, Paul writes: In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of the elect angels I charge you to keep these rules without prejudging, doing nothing from partiality. This implies that there are two categories of angels–elect and non-elect–similar to mankind. But this implication argues that the demons are the non-elect. The demons are the ones who were not kept by God Himself during the rebellion of Lucifer.
Demons are not offered redemption in any way, shape, or form. In 2 Peter 2:4, Peter writes: For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment; The statement by Peter, here, shows that God did not spare the non-elect angels and offered them no chance or hope of redemption, nor will He ever offer them redemption. The demons are eternally condemned.
Also, it bears stating that, aside from the fallen angels not being offered redemption, angels are never described in the quite lofty way that humans are. Angels are never spoken of as “image bearers.” Mankind alone bears the image of God (for a deeper discussion of what this means, read this.) 1 Peter 1 also tells us that there are things revealed to man, namely salvation, that the angels themselves long to look into.
Mankind holds quite a privilege. Never did God choose to purchase salvation for the angels. Only man has the unique opportunity for redemption and, ultimately, salvation–and that is all by the Grace of God.