Is one justified before he is regenerated and sanctified? Or, is one regenerated and sanctified before he is justified? Traditionally, it has been Protestants who see justification as preceding regeneration and sanctification while Catholics have seen regeneration and sanctification as preceding justification. Yet, the Hyper Calvinist who insists that regeneration precedes faith finds himself in agreement with the Catholic view. A typical Hyper Calvinist writes on this issue as follows:
"Verse 29 (Rom. 8 - SG) announces the divine fore-ordination; verse 30 states the manner of its actualization. It seems passing strange that with this divinely defined method before them, that so many preachers begin with our justification, instead of with that effectual call (from death unto life — our regeneration) which precedes it. Surely it is most obvious that regeneration must first take place in order to lay a foundation for our justification. Justification is by faith (Acts 13:39; Rom. 5:1; Gal. 3:8), and the sinner must be divinely quickened before he is capable of believing savingly.
The Arminian allots to man the first place, the Calvinist gives God that position of honor. Thus the Arminian begins his discussion of salvation with justification, for the sinner must believe before he can be forgiven; further back he will not go, for he is unwilling that man should be made nothing of. But the instructed Calvinist begins with election, descends to regeneration, and then shows that being born again (by the sovereign act of God, in which the creature has no part) the sinner is made capable of savingly believing the gospel.
He does not save us from the penalty of sin until He has delivered us from the love of sin." ("Salvation From The Pleasure Of Sin" - See here)
I have addressed this issue in previous postings. See here and here and here
In the third posting referenced above I cited these words:
"All those who stand in the tradition of the Reformation believe that justification and regeneration are closely related and that one cannot and will not be present without the other. However, there has been some sharp disagreement as to their logical order, if not their temporal order.
There is no question about Calvin's placing justification before regeneration in the order of logic (see Institutes, Bk. 3, chap. 11, secs. 6,11). G.C. Berkouwer also acknowledges this in his Faith and Justification, pages 29, 30.
The systematic Calvinists of the seventeenth century, however, reversed Calvin's order and put regeneration before justification. This was the result of moving the doctrine of an arbitrary predestination to the center and starting point of their theological thinking."
Kenneth Wuest correctly states (emphasis mine):
"In John 1: 12, justification precedes regeneration in the divine economy. Mercy is only given on the basis of justice satisfied." (Word Studies, page 41)
"But under the divine government of the universe, there were two things that stood in God's way of making human beings His children, the fact that they were not His children by birth and the fact that they were law-breakers. The first could easily have been remedied by regeneration, but the thing that stood in the way of this act of mercy on God's part was the fact that human beings are sinners, and God's justice demands that sin be paid for before mercy can be righteously bestowed. This is clearly recognized in John 1: 12 where the Greek work translated "power" was a technical expression used in the law courts for a legal right to be or do something. The word "sons" is not from our word huios here but from teknon, and should be translated "children." To those who received the Lord Jesus as their Saviour, as the One who died in their stead on the Cross, thus satisfying the justice of God in view of man's sin, God gave the legal right to become His children."
"Regeneration is therefore dependent upon justification, since an act of mercy in a law court can only be justly based upon the fact of the law being satisfied in the punishment of the crime committed. In human law courts this is impossible, for the prisoner cannot be punished and be set free at the same time." (pg. 92, "Word Studies in the Greek New Testament, for the English Reader" - see here)
Justification unto Life
"Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men. " (Romans 5: 18 NIV)
It is extremely problematic to place justification after regeneration and sanctification in an "ordo salutis."
Is sanctification a part of regeneration? Does not Paul speak of the "washing of regeneration"? (Titus 3: 5)
If one is sanctified in regeneration, and if faith and justification follow regeneration, then we have placed sanctification before justification. This however cannot be, for justification is the grounds upon which God is free to regenerate and cleanse the soul. Forgiveness must precede regeneration in the order of the divine mind and working.
In the passage cited above, does "life" come after, or go before, "justification"? Are we regenerated unto justification? No. Justification is "unto" life, or unto regeneration.
So, if we affirm that we are "justified by faith," then we must say that we are "justified by faith unto life." Or, as the NIV renders it - "justification that brings life for all men."
To affirm that one becomes alive (by birth or regeneration) and then become justified, is to reverse what Paul stated. The passage would have to be rewritten to say - "life that brings justification."
Justification is by faith alone, a proposition that many "Reformed" disciples confess, men like James White, Tom Ascol, Wayne Grudem, Ligon Duncan III, R. C. Sproul, John Hendryx, etc.
God justifies the ungodly
"But to him that does not do any works, but believes on him that justifies
the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness." (Rom. 4:5)
The word "ungodly" is one of the strongest expressions that can be used to describe a sinner. This scripture certainly contradicts the notion that God justifies regenerate/godly saints.
God justifies the uncircumcised
In order to illustrate that justification comes on the ungodly who believe, Paul illustrates his point from the example of Abraham. The father of the faithful was justified by faith while he was uncircumcised.
In the minds of the Jews, uncircumcision stood for an unclean and unsanctified state. Circumcision is a symbol of the new heart (Deut.30:6; Col. 2:11-13). So the new life is the sign and witness of the blessing of justification, not the cause or even the condition necessary for justification. Paul's gospel declares that God justifies the ungodly, the uncircumcised and the heathen through faith and faith alone (Rom. 4:5, 10; Gal. 3:8).
God calls the things that be not as though they were. Human wisdom will question, "How can God pronounce a man righteous before the Holy Spirit has made him righteous?" This is how the Catholic system reasons.
"According to the glorious gospel of saving grace, God forgives sinners rather than transformed, born-again saints. But according to Rome, a sinner cannot be forgiven unless he first becomes a new creature."
John Wesley was noted for his great emphasis on holiness of life; yet he stood decidedly with the Reformers on the true relation of justification and regeneration. Said Wesley:
"If any doctrines within the whole compass of Christianity may be properly termed fundamental, they are doubtless these two; the doctrine of justification, and that of the new birth: the former relating to that great work which God does for us, in forgiving our sins; the latter, to the great work which God does in us, in renewing our fallen nature. In order of time, neither of these is before the other; in the moment we are justified by the grace of God, through the redemption that is in Jesus, we are also 'born of the Spirit;' but in order of thinking as it is termed, justification precedes the new birth. We first conceive his wrath to be turned away, and then his Spirit to work in our hearts." Sermons on Several Occasions, sermon 45, "The New Birth."