The Necessity of Regeneration (IV)
Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit” (John 3:3-8).
New Creation—New Life
How is it that God regenerates the lost soul, gives new life, and makes a new creation? I can’t give you an exhaustive explanation, but allow me to touch on a few key aspects of God’s sovereignty in salvation.
First, he lovingly takes care that he gospel is preached as an earnest call for sinners to leave the life of sin and to receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
Second, those who are regenerated (regeneration precedes faith) have their minds powerfully enlightened by the Holy Spirit, so that they may rightly understand and discern the things and ways of the Lord (comp. Rom. 8:5-8; 1 Cor. 2:14-16).
Third, by the effective working of the Holy Spirit, who causes us to be born again, God penetrates into the innermost recesses of man. He opens the closed heart; he softens the hard heart; and he instills new qualities into man’s will.
God makes the will of man that was dead, alive; that was evil, good; that was unwilling, willing; and that was stubborn, obedient. Regeneration is truly a new life, a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17).
The regenerating work and power of the Holy Spirit makes the soul that was dead to the things of God into a new creation. It is, as it were, a resurrection of the soul from the dead through the love and power of God (cf. Eph. 2:4-10).
And just as God sovereignly gives us a new heart, he also gives us all things in Christ. In light of what Jesus says to Nicodemus in the text, it is clear that regeneration—as a biblical power—is not inferior in power to creation itself or to the resurrection of the dead.
It is equally clear that all whose hearts are spiritually renewed are certainly, unfailingly, and irrevocably regenerated and people actually believe—the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit must precede faith.
Saving faith is, therefore, a gift of God, not because it is merely offered by God to man and then left up to man’s free will (where is that in the Bible?) to choose for or against God. No, faith is a gift of God because it is actually conferred on man, instilled and infused into him.The divine grace of regeneration by the Holy Spirit makes the will of man spiritually alive, heals it, corrects it, pleasantly and, at the same time, powerfully bends it and transforms it into a new creation.