“And the heart-knowing God bore them witness, giving [them] the Holy Spirit as to us also, and put no difference between us and them, having purified their hearts by faith.” (Acts 15:8-9)
Arminians say faith is the part that the unregenerated man does to be regenerated.
Calvinists say faith is the part that the regenerated man does after he is regenerated.
The Bible says God regenerates man by faith…
Arminians say man has to believe in Christ when his heart is still unclean, so that God may make his heart clean.
Calvinists say God should make a man’s heart clean so that he may believe in Christ.
The Bible says God cleanses the heart of man by faith…
Arminians say man has to believe in Christ when he is still dead in order to have life.
Calvinists say God should give life to the dead sinner so that he may be able to believe in Christ.
The Bible says man has life by having Christ, as Christ is the Life.
Arminians say a dead faith can embrace Christ and then become alive.
Calvinists say faith should be vital in order to embrace Christ.
The Bible says faith is vital by embracing Christ through the work of God in the heart of the sinner.
New birth and faith are the two sides of the same coin. From God’s side it is called new birth, from our side it is called faith, but it is the same work by which God makes a man a new creature in Christ. Man cannot be regenerated by the dead faith of the unregenerated man. And a man cannot be regenerated and then have faith, because Jesus Christ is the Life, and only the one who has Jesus Christ has the new life. You ask me how this regeneration happens? I tell you it is not revealed to man. The Lord told Nicodemus: “The wind blows where it will, and thou hearest its voice, but knowest not whence it comes and where it goes: thus is every one that is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8) We can see that new birth happened by the living faith that we observe in the life of the regenerated man, but we can’t know from where the wind came and where it goes.
The real issue is not the order of Salvation, i.e. which came first (faith or regeneration). The issue is the Source of both! The source of our heart’s cleanness is not our faith, contrary to what Arminians teach; we can’t make our hearts clean before we have a living faith. And it is not true, as the Calvinists teach, that a man’s heart can be cleansed before faith in order to believe in Christ. It is by faith that God cleanses our hearts. The Source is God, the means is faith which is His work of regeneration. A sinful and unclean heart is separated from God, as God hates sin: this separation is called “death” (spiritual death) in the Bible. This unclean heart cannot hear or see God, as the Bible says that the natural man who is dead in his sins cannot understand the things of the Spirit (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:14). A man whose heart is unclean cannot confess that he is lost in his sins, but claims that he is good or better than others… So I don’t know how Arminians imagine that such a heart may confess that he is totally lost in his sins and believe in Christ for Salvation… And this unclean heart cannot be cleansed without the blood of Jesus Christ, i.e. without faith. So I don’t know how Calvinists imagine that God will cleanse such a heart and then bring him to Christ… The Bible says that God cleanses such a heart by faith.
Arminians, a dead man cannot choose Christ.
Calvinists, a dead man cannot become alive before having Christ.
The Bible says that God regenerates the dead man by faith in Christ. This dead man has the life as God works faith in his heart, thus making him alive without the contribution of his dead will. God makes the will of man good by giving this man a new good will by faith, and not by hoping that the dead and enslaved will of the dead man believe in Christ. Faith is the regeneration and liberation of the dead and enslaved will. It is by faith that we begin to see and hear and live. Without this work of God which is faith, man is blind and deaf and dead: “Jesus answered and said to them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he has sent.” (John 6:29) Faith is that work of God by which He regenerates the sinner.
Forever the glory will not be given to man’s will for having chosen Christ, because dead man cannot choose Christ. No one’s will is better than another one’s will; we all are dead in sins. And God cannot be accused of injustice or hatred towards any man, because He has loved the whole world and Christ has died for all men and His Salvation is presented to all men, and God desires that all men be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. Forever the glory will be given to God alone for His Grace in Jesus Christ.
Further reading about this topic: By Grace Alone vs. by Christ Alone?