But grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever. Amen.
2 Peter 3:18
There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.
Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be BORN AGAIN, he CANNOT SEE the kingdom of God. (John 3:1-3) (Emphasis mine)
BORN OF THE SPIRIT
Physical birth is an act of God. No one was ever asked whether or not they wanted to be born. God chooses to give birth to whom He will. The infant is PASSIVE at birth. Birth is NOT its own act. It is born. It comes from a state of darkness into a state of light.
The infant is NOT born because it sees the light. Just the opposite. The newborn child sees the light BECAUSE it has ALREADY BEEN BORN.
Our Lord Jesus knew this. He was teaching a spiritual truth using a physical example -- that of birth. New birth is a miracle. God chooses to give this second birth to whom He will.
The person being born again is PASSIVE. He is NOT born again because he sees spiritual light (truth). Just the opposite. He sees spiritual light (truth) BECAUSE he has ALREADY BEEN BORN of the Spirit.
Without this second birth, sinful, fallen men CANNOT SEE (perceive) the kingdom of God. They are spiritually dead in trespasses and sins. It takes a spiritual making alive through the new birth for anyone to see the LIGHT (truth) of Messiah in the Gospel (Good News).
Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born?
Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be BORN of water and of the Spirit, he CANNOT ENTER into the kingdom of God.
That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is BORN OF THE SPIRIT is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. (John 3:4-7) (Emphasis mine)
Real repentance unto life and saving faith in Christ are GIFTS of the Spirit of God. They are given to each of God's elect at the time of his (or her) new birth. The elect hear the Gospel and believe -- not always at the first hearing, but at the divinely appointed time.
If the non-elect hear the Gospel, they disbelieve. This is not because they lack sufficient evidence, but because their inward nature is opposed to holiness. The elect are NOT born again BECAUSE they believe in Christ. Just the opposite.
They believe in Christ because they have ALREADY BEEN BORN of the Spirit. Most preachers today put the cart before the horse. They teach just the opposite of what Christ taught. They claim a person is born again BECAUSE he believes.
But Christ says that it is impossible for someone to SEE (perceive) or ENTER into the kingdom without FIRST being born again. Spiritual understanding is a gift from God. Without it, no fallen, sinful man will ever repent of sin and savingly believe in Christ.
A NEW NATURE
The Devil and demons would have to be sovereignly changed by God if they were ever to be saved. The sinful principles that actuate fallen men are of the same nature, though not yet so intense, as those that actuate fallen angels.
Fallen men are, at heart, ENEMIES of God. To overcome this enmity, they must receive a new nature. The Spirit of God produces this change through the new birth.
And because this change is produced by divine power, it is the living spring of a new, re-created, spiritual life, which is IRRESISTIBLE and PERMANENT. A newborn baby will instinctively cling to its mother.
So too, the one who is born of the Spirit will instinctively cling to Yeshua HaMashiach (Jesus the Christ) as his Lord and Saviour, by faith. He hears the voice of the Good Shepherd and follows Him in obedience to His Word.
THE WIND AND THE SPIRIT
The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is BORN OF THE SPIRIT. (John 3:8)
The Spirit of God is SOVEREIGN. Like the wind, He moves where and when and how He pleases. Like the wind, man cannot regulate him, nor does He ask man for permission to move.
Like the wind, the Spirit of God can be neither harnessed nor hindered. So close is the likeness of the Spirit to the wind, that the SAME WORD is used for BOTH Spirit and wind -- in BOTH Hebrew (ruach) AND Greek (pneuma).
Sometimes the wind moves very gently, with hardly a rustle. Sometimes it blows harder, moving leaves and branches. Sometimes it roars with great fury -- as in a tornado or hurricane. It's sound can be heard and its results seen from miles away.
So it is with the Spirit of God in the new birth. With some of the elect, He deals so gently that His work is almost imperceptible to other people.
With others of His chosen, His work is so powerful and radical that His action in that person's life is obvious to many. The difference in that person BEFORE and AFTER their new birth is like the difference between night and day.
Such was the case of Saul of Tarsus (Paul). He was on his way to persecute Christians in Damascus when converted to Christ. He then began to preach the faith he once destroyed. He later compared his calling to his physical birth and attributed both to the power of God.
But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace, (Galatians 1:15)
Sometimes the wind is purely local in its reach, at other times wide-spread in its scope. So it is with the Spirit: today He acts on one or two souls, tomorrow He may, as at Pentecost, 'prick in the heart' a whole multitude. (A. W. Pink)
The new birth is known by different figures of speech in the Bible. It is sometimes termed a circumcision of the heart, a new heart with God's Law written on it, regeneration, a sanctification (setting apart) of the Spirit and a spiritual quickening (making alive).
A SPIRITUAL RESURRECTION
And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins: (Ephesians 2:1) Just as Lazarus was raised physically (see John chapter 11) by the mighty power of Christ, so each of the elect are raised from their deadness in sins by the new birth. Lazarus was free to come to Christ -- except for one problem. He was DEAD.
Christ had to FIRST raise Lazarus from the dead. Only THEN could he come to Christ. So it is with each of the elect. We must be raised from the dead by spiritual birth BEFORE we are able to come to Christ.
In each case there is an effectual, inward call (Irresistible Grace). Had Christ just said, Come forth ALL would have come forth from their graves. But he used ELECTION (selection). He said, LAZARUS, come forth.
And so it is with each of God's elect. With the outward call of the Gospel, comes the inward, effectual call of God's Spirit.
IRRESISTIBLE GRACE = EFFECTUAL CALLING
The outward call may be, and often is, resisted. But the inward, effectual call through the new birth can never be resisted. Regeneration does no more violence to the soul than demonstration does to the intellect, or persuasion to the heart. (Loraine Boettner)
Effectual calling is the work of God's Spirit, whereby, convincing us of our sin and misery, enlightening our minds in the knowledge of Christ, and renewing our wills, He doth persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ, freely offered to us in the Gospel.
Shorter Catechism (Answer to Question 31).
I'm not Presbyterian. But I heartily agree with these words just quoted above, because they are Scriptural. In fact, Sovereign Grace Baptists like Benjamin Keach and Charles H. Spurgeon later copied them verbatim into their own Catechisms.
May God be pleased to give eyes to see, ears to hear and a heart to trust and obey Jesus Christ as Lord to many who read this article. How? By Irresistible Grace (by causing them to be Born of the Spirit = Born from Above = Born of God = Born Anew = Born Again).
But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which WERE BORN, not of blood, NOR of the WILL of the flesh, NOR of the WILL of man, but of God. (John 1:12-13) (Emphasis mine)
Note the past tense were born BEFORE they believed on Christ.
Being BORN AGAIN, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the Word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever. (1 Peter 1:23) (Emphasis mine)
George Theiss is a combat veteran of Vietnam who now follows the Lamb of God. He and his wife, Christy, have been married 42 years (in 2019). They have 8 grown children. You can contact George at firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2002 through 2019 by George Theiss