As I see it, this is one of the greatest proofs there are against Calvinism. The foundational belief of Calvinism is that regeneration precedes faith. It is asserted that because the bible describes the unsaved man as “dead in trespasses and sins” and because he is completely unable to do anything to save himself, he is therefore incapable of repenting or believing until God brings him to new life. “Can a dead man repent or believe?” they ask - their doctrine of Total Depravity. All of Calvinism stands or falls with this core doctrine.
We know that the Old Testament Saints had faith and were saved.
Romans 4:9 “… for we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for
Hebrews 11:8 “By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.”
Hebrews 11:17 “By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son,”
Abraham’s faith was counted for righteousness. Yet we see here in John 7: 39 that the indwelling Holy Spirit which regenerates and brings new life, creating a new nature within “was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified”. Although the Holy Spirit WAS active in the Old Testament, He did not indwell believers. The Holy Spirit came upon individuals and filled others for a time, empowering them and allowing them to proclaim the message of God and to fulfill his purposes, but did not regenerate them and indwell them.
Only with the coming of the New Covenant did God dwell (tabernacle) within man. Only with the New Covenant is a new Heart given, with the words of God written upon it. (Heb. 10:16, 2Cor.3:2&3) Only with the New Covenant sealed by the blood of Christ was eternal redemption (Heb. 9:12)- the complete remission of sins given. Only through the New Covenant were believers perfected.
Hebrews 10:14 For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are
Hebrews 10:1 “For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered
year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect.”
Hebrews 10:3 “But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year. 4 For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.”
The Bible clearly teaches that man can and does repent and believe PRIOR to
Hebrews 11:13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but
having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.
Charles Spurgeon recognized the foolishness of saying that the sinner must be regenerated before he can believe: "If I am to preach the 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. Am I 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 entitled The Warrant of Faith].
Mark 2:17 When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.