Faith is seeing and knowing the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, (2 Cor 4:6) and scripture asserts that in order to have this faith one must be regenerated. There must have been an initial work of God in the unbelievers heart that woos him, draws, enables the unbeliever to see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ and then he believes. ‘For God, who said let light shine out of darkness, made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ’, (2 cor 4:6). Thus regeneration comes before faith for without this secret act of God then the unbeliever remains in blindness; for the god of this age has blinded their eyes from seeing the light of the gospel in the face of Jesus Christ.
In john chapter 3 Jesus says to Nicodemus that unless one is born again one cannot enter the kingdom of God and what makes a person born again is the Spirit which acts accordingly as He wills. The Spirit moves first and cause the unbeliever to be born again and then the unbeliever can now truthfully say that Jesus is Lord and fully surrender their lives to him for they have seen the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
Then you may ask, is evangelism then hopeless and should we not just lock ourselves away praying endlessly and never engaging with the unbelievers? To hold this view is to completely deject the entirety of scripture and negate our responsibility. We are to preach the gospel to all creatures, inviting them all to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved. Peter emphasizes the necessity of preaching and regeneration when he writes ‘for you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God, (1 peter 2:23). And James 1:18 also says that God chose to give us birth through the word of truth.
Regeneration therefore comes before faith and regeneration is all of God and nothing to do with us, ‘God gave them the right to become children- children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will but of God’, (1 John 1:13). But also the earlier part of the text which reads ‘yet all who received him, to those who believed in his name He gave the right to become children of God’. So, regeneration and saving faith are so close to each other that both happens almost simultaneously