Parallel Passages on Regeneration

Ephesians 2 is one of the primary proof-texts often cited by Calvinists for regeneration preceding faith (apparently because it mentions being spiritually ‘made alive’ without using the word ‘faith’ in the same sentence).

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive [suzwopoieÑw] together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up [sunegeiðrw] with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus….” (Ephesians 2:4-6)

While reading the scriptures, I noticed that his letter to the Ephesians wasn’t the only place Paul expounded upon the theme of our being raised with Christ. Compare the structure and wording in Colossians 2,

“In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised [sunegeiðrw] with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive [suzwopoieÑw] together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses….” (Colossians 2:11-13) [emphasis mine]

The Colossians passage, clearly expounding upon the same subject as that in Ephesians, includes an additional piece of detail concerning how we’re raised unto life together with Christ.

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8 Responses

  1. Classic and great observation. But it is also important to note that the Ephesians passage interprets being made alive to being saved by grace, and then goes ont to detail that this salvation (of being made alive) takes place through faith. So Eph 2 itself also testifies that regeneration/being made alive/salvation takes place by faith, and therefore is preceded by faith, which is the means that receives this salvation/giving of life.

  2. Comparing similar passages has been extremely helpful to me as I try to understand the truth about our relationship with God. One such comparison that is somewhat surprising is found in 1st Corinthians 7:19 and Galatians 5:6.

    1st Corinthians 7:19

    “Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but what matters is the keeping of the commandments of God.”

    Galatians 5:6

    “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love.”

    Faith and obedience are pitted together as arch-enemies by many people that I talk to. You can pull out your favorite passage (like Ephesians 2) and try to make a point about faith. Another can pull out James 2 and argue a different perspective. But until we are willing to take all the scripture for what it says, we will continue to find our view of God to be painfully incomplete.

    My conclusion? Faith and obedience both matter to God. Your conclusion? Faith and regeneration go hand in hand. As long as we continue to let Scripture dictate our soteriology, I will keep reading these posts and learning together with you 🙂

  3. A good resource to have is a book titled “Pauline Parallels” by Francis and Sampley. In addition to the two texts you referenced the book also includes these texts.

    Romans 3:21-31, 6:1-10, 9:14-18, 11:1-6, 11:17-24

    1 Corinthians 3:1-4, 4:6-7

    2 Corinthians 5:14-21

    Galatians 2:15-21

    Philippians 3:17-21

    Colossians 2:8-15, 3:1-11

    2 Thessalonians 2:1-12, 2:16-17

    The book can be previewed on Google books; it does have some shortcomings but overall it can be useful.

    Grace & Peace

  4. You know this would be a good thing to post in repsonse to John Piper’s book, “Finaly Alive” which uses Ephesians 2 as it’s central theme.

  5. Off topic JC, but your remote ceramic sock bot post on SEA was awesome.

  6. It is also important to note that before this statement is even made in Ephesians 2, the statement is clearly made in chapter one verse 13 (so, Eph 1:13) that we are marked IN CHRIST with the HOLY SPIRIT after “having believed”! One can only have new life when one is in Christ with the Holy Spirit. Apart from these things there is no new birth.

  7. Seems to me that if we read further in this passage (verses 8-9) itself that Paul expounds upon what he meant…we aren’t just saved by grace, but “by grace through faith.”

    Using the Colossians passage also has an interesting twist. “We were raised with him through faith.” If someone wanted to change the meaning of “through” to mean “after,” then why wouldn’t we do that for Colossians 1:16 which says that “all things were created through him…”? This would change the meaning of everything so that it might say that Christ came after all things were created, which is clearly NOT what Paul states.

  8. ND, the term “through” does imply some sort of precedence, either logical or chronological. Also, if we adopt the formula,

    B through A -> A precedes B

    2:11-13 implies,

    [Life] through Faith -> [Faith] precedes [Life]

    and 2:16 indicates,

    [All Things] through [Christ] -> [Christ] precedes [All Things]

    I think you got it backwards.

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