Can We Have Peace With God Before Regeneration?
Q: You believe that justification is not the same thing as regeneration (being born-again), and thus do not believe that one is saved when they are justified. What, then, do you make of Romans 5:1 that says, "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God"? Can a person actually have peace with God if they have only experienced justification but not regeneration?
A: I take Romans 5:1 quite literally. Justification does bring us peace with God. That is the nature of justification. We cease being God's enemies and become His friends. This fact brings great peace to one's mind if it is truly comprehended. Your argument is that we could not truly have peace if we knew that we were not yet saved because we have not been regenerated yet. I see your point in this and can both confirm your objection, and deny it. The fact of the matter is that justification does bring peace with God, even to one who has not been regenerated. The restoration of our relationship with God does bring a sense of peace to our mind. Even if I knew that I was not yet saved, knowing that I was on God's good side would definitely bring me a sense of peace.
Although I believe that one can have peace without having been regenerated, I do not believe that this is where the explanation of Romans 5:1 lies, or that it really interprets the passage as it would have been understood by the original readers. The question of whether or not one could have peace with God without being regenerated misses the point of this passage, and of the Biblical message as a whole. Part of our problem is the way we view salvation. We tend to look at salvation from a fragmented picture which
sees justification, regeneration, adoption, and sanctification as separate events. This is partially true in that the different aspects, although overlapping one another, do occur at different times. One is not regenerated when they believe. They must be baptized in water and receive the Holy Ghost, which occurs later in time, no matter how little of time this may be. Although this is true we should not fragment the various aspects so
much so that we do not think of them all as being part of salvation.. They are doctrines which explain various aspects of that which happened to us at salvation, which is one event. The Bible speaks of this one event as a "conversion." One believes, repents, is baptized, and is filled with the Holy Ghost. The Bible does not view it as a process that one completes as though we are on some conveyor belt in an assembly factory. Conversion is an event, but an event consisting of various elements. It is a one package deal, and the writers of the NT only explained the different aspects of what occurred to us at our conversion.
I say all of this to say that those to whom Paul wrote were already converted. They were justified, sanctified, adopted, and regenerated. He was not addressing people who had only been justified. The Bible does not speak of believers like this. He was addressing the church, which has received adoption, sanctification, and regeneration already. Those people were justified, and as a result had peace with God.
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