Faith, or Life?


Elder Mark Green

Jesus while here in the flesh taught that God employs the preaching of the Gospel in producing faith and in giving life. John 17:20: “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word.” How do men believe? “Through their word!” Through the preaching of the Apostles. Jesus knew that men would believe, and he prays for them that believe through their word. Here faith was to be produced through the word; the word as a means. (W. P. Throgmorton, from his debate with Elder John R. Daily in 1912)

If men believe the gospel, they do so when they hear the gospel, and not before. The apostles faithfully preached the gospel, and many men believed because of their preaching. In this the Primitive Baptists have no argument whatsoever with Mr. Throgmorton; that is exactly the position to which we hold. However, that is not the proposition that was being debated on this occasion. It was, “The Scriptures teach that God employs the preaching of the gospel as a means in the regeneration of sinners.” Faith is not regeneration. Regeneration is coming into the possession of life. Faith is something that is a result of that life. However, even if we believed like the Arminians do (that faith is the means by which we come into possession of life), even they logically should distinguish between the means to get something and the thing that was gotten.

Gospel faith is to be distinguished from faith as a fruit of the Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit comes instantaneously with the possession of the Spirit. As soon as a man is born again he has the fruit of the Spirit;   but   he has  it   because   he   was   born  again, not in order to his birth. Old Baptists readily confess that gospel faith is produced through the preaching of the gospel, but we deny that the Spirit and the fruit thus produced are given to a man through preaching. Human communication is able to transmit information, but it is not able to change hearts.

If preaching were able to change men’s hearts in some cases, then it follows that it would be able to do it in every case. But even if men’s hearts happened to be changed while they were listening to preaching, it does not follow that it was the preaching that did the changing; for if that were the case, men’s hearts would be changed every time men heard preaching. Our Lord told us in John Chapter Three that all men are born again the same way: “So is everyone that is born of the Spirit.” Even Mr. Throgmorton admitted in this debate that in exceptional cases men were born again without preaching, but he insisted that it was God’s ordinary method to use preaching. In making that admission, he defeated his proposal; for if “every one” is born of the Spirit the same way, then it must be the case that they are born again apart from the use of preaching, since not all who have been born again were born again through preaching, by Mr. T.’s own admission.