This morning I was playing action figures with Luke (after he had worn me out wrestling). It's my day off and I love it. I had a couple of good guys and two bad guys - some weird robot looking thing and Two Face. Luke said, "when the robot dies, he can just push his button and he'll come back to life." I asked, "if he's dead, how can he push the his button to come back to life?" Luke's answer, "he just pushes it and then he's alive."
When it comes to the order of salvation a lot of our talk ends up following the same path the Luke did. We often try to put faith before regeneration (being born again). How is this faith possible? I don't think it is. The clear testimony of Scripture is that before rebirth we are spiritually dead (Eph. 2:1, 5). How can spiritually dead people push the faith button?
From a slightly different angle, we could ask, "does faith please God?" or, "is faith a good?" The answer on both counts is yes. Faith pleases God - it is foundational to all acts that please Him. It is good. But, can the one who is of the flesh, who hasn't been born again, do anything that pleases God? The simple answer, according to Paul, is 'No'. Romans 8:5-8: "For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot." Or also Romans 3:10-12:
"None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one."
When considering the order of salvation (ordo salutis), conversion (repentance & faith) and justification come after being born again (regeneration). Certainly, regeneration ensures faith, repentance, justification, as well as sanctification and glorification will follow, but getting the order mixed up lays glory at the feet of man who chooses God independently of his quickening grace instead of at the feet of the all deserving God.
Soli Deo Gloria