Most people consider the idea of faith existing apart from the ministry of the gospel as ludicrous. This concept is what I would call a Primitive Baptist distinctive. Primitive Baptists not only believe that regeneration precedes faith, but also contend that faith can exist apart from the preached word. Those that espouse the view that God uses the human agency as a means of regeneration often deride this view as new, or even heretical. So it is always a blessing to find historical quotes also advocating this principle.
About a month ago a friend directed my attention to the footnotes in the Geneva Bible for Acts 10:2. If you are not familiar with the Geneva Bible, it was the fifth English translation of the Bible, first Bible with verse divisions, and the first ever study Bible. The committee that translated the Bible and added the footnotes were reformed in theology. I point the latter out because most modern day reformers will violently argue that God given faith cannot exist apart from the preached word. Let’s now check out the Geneva footnotes for Acts 10:2.
Geneva Footnotes for Acts 10:2
“A (a)devout man, and one that feared God with (b)all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway.
a. So that he worshipped one God, and was not an idolater, and neither could he be void of faith in Christ, because he was a devout man: but as of yet he did not know that Christ had come.
b. This is a commendable thing about the man, that he laboured to have all his household, and well-known friends, and acquaintances to be religious and godly.” End Quote.
Did you catch that? Footnote a for verse 2 states that Cornelius, though completely absent of gospel knowledge, was not void of faith because he was a devout man! In essence, this footnote advocates the truth that regeneration precedes gospel preaching. Some may argue that this is not the meaning of the footnote. I would then ask what is the meaning? How could he have faith and not be regenerated?
So, is the Primitive Baptist view of regeneration a new innovation? Certainly not. It is as old as the Geneva Bible. Actually, it is as older than any Bible, it’s as old as the covenant of grace itself. Whereas we only need the Bible to prove this principle, it is encouraging to see respected sources in agreement with this Primitive Baptist distinctive.
Originally published August 2015