What comes first – faith or new birth?

Christian Briem

“The wind blows where it will” (John 3:8)

These words of the Lord Jesus (verse 8) indicate the greatness of the mystery of new birth. They also show that new birth is a sovereign act of God.

Nevertheless it would be misleading to teach – and sadly, this has happened repeatedly – that new birth precedes faith. The fifth verse (John 3:5) shows – as well as 1 Peter 1:23 and James 1:18 and other passages – that new birth occurs by means of the word of God through the Holy Spirit. New birth cannot be separated from the word of God and faith: “So faith then is by a report, but the report by God's word.” (Romans 10:17).

The two statements in John 3 ‘Except any one be born anew he cannot see the kingdom of God’ (verse 3) and ‘that whosoever believes on him may not perish, but have life eternal’ (verse 16) must always go together.

Such an anomaly is not possible: that somebody is already born again but has not yet believed the gospel. The divine order given in Ephesians 1:13 is: ‘heard – believed – sealed’. God gives the right to be called children of God to those who have believed on His name (John 1:12).

This article is an extract from the author’s book ‘God’s Precious Thoughts’ (“Gottes Kostbare Gedanken”, pp. 42/43).