Regeneration – Part 2
“The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” NASB
The analogy of birth and new life
Consider that Jesus uses the analogy of birth. A person no more had some choice in the matter of their natural birth as they do their spiritual birth. We did not choose to be physically alive, and we did not choose to be born, it is something that happened to us. This Sovereign work of God is performed by God before any person has capacities to even see, hear or understand the Gospel, being dead in sin. A person’s ability to receive Christ as Savior and believe the Gospel are granted by the Sovereign choice and resurrecting ability of God.
John 1:12-13 – 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, 13 who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. NASB
John 6:44 – 44 “No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. NASB
Romans 9:16 – 16 So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. NASB
Matthew 11:27 – 27 “All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son, except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father, except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.
Lazarus had no capacities to raise himself from the dead, nor did he possess the ability to resist the powerful Word of God to be resurrected (John 11:43). This is clearly portrayed in the prophecy of Ezekiel where the nation of
Ezekiel 37:11-14 – 11 Then He said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of
Do babies resist being born? Do people being raised from the dead resist the free gift of life? Have they even the ability to do so? The answers is of course, no! People do not resist this regenerating work of God because it is this work whereby God overcomes the resistance of the fallen human nature by giving them the capacities to understand their dreadful state of death and their great need to be saved by God’s power and free grace.
Acts 10:44-45 – 44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message. 45 And all the circumcised believers who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out upon the Gentiles also. NASB
Acts 13:48 – 48 And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed. NASB
Regeneration is an invisible work of which we only see the results over time
When someone is born again, we are not always immediately aware of it because we only see what happens after someone gets saved. There is an obvious change that happens in the life as we see God’s power changing us(sanctification). But we were not aware when the secret power of God actually resurrects someone from spiritual death and grants them new life.
John 3:8 – 8 “The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” NASB
Wayne Grudem explains this very clearly in chapter 34 of his Systematic Theology….
“Exactly what happens in regeneration is mysterious to us. We know that somehow we who were spiritually dead (Eph. 2:1) have been made alive to God and in a very real sense we have been “born again” (John 3:3, 7; Eph. 2:5; Col. 2:13). But we don’t understand how this happens or what exactly God does to us to give us this new spiritual life……
Because regeneration is a work of God within us in which he gives us new life it is right to conclude that it is an instantaneous event. It happens only once. At one moment we are spiritually dead, and then at the next moment we have new spiritual life from God. Nevertheless, we do not always know exactly when this instantaneous change occurs. Especially for children growing up in a Christian home, or for people who attend an evangelical church or Bible study over a period of time and grow gradually in their understanding of the gospel, there may not be a dramatic crisis with a radical change of behavior from “hardened sinner” to “holy saint,” but there will be an instantaneous change nonetheless, when God through the Holy Spirit, in an unseen, invisible way, awakens spiritual life within. The change will become evident over time in patterns of behavior and desires that are pleasing to God.
In other cases (in fact, probably most cases when adults become Christians) regeneration takes place at a clearly recognizable time at which the person realizes that previously he or she was separated from God and spiritually dead, but immediately afterward there was clearly new spiritual life within. The results can usually be seen at once—a heartfelt trusting in Christ for salvation, an assurance of sins forgiven, a desire to read the Bible and pray (and a sense that these are meaningful spiritual activities), a delight in worship, a desire for Christian fellowship, a sincere desire to be obedient to God’s Word in Scripture, and a desire to tell others about Christ. People may say something like this: “I don’t know exactly what happened, but before that moment I did not trust in Christ for salvation. I was still wondering and questioning in my mind. But after that moment I realized that I did trust in Christ and he was my Savior. Something happened in my heart.” Yet even in these cases we are not quite sure exactly what has happened in our hearts. It is just as Jesus said with respect to the wind—we hear its sound and we see the result, but we cannot actually see the wind itself. So it is with the working of the Holy Spirit in our hearts.”
Regeneration precedes faith
Many times we fail to understand the Bible about this because of how the experience happened to us. Again Grudem explains…
“The idea that regeneration comes before saving faith is not always understood by evangelicals today. Sometimes people will even say something like, “If you believe in Christ as your Savior, then (after you believe) you will be born again.” But Scripture itself never says anything like that. This new birth is viewed by Scripture as something that God does within us in order to enable us to believe.
The reason that evangelicals often think that regeneration comes after saving faith is that they see the results (love for God and his Word, and turning from sin) after people come to faith, and they think that regeneration must therefore have come after saving faith. Yet here we must decide on the basis of what Scripture tells us, because regeneration itself is not something we see or know about directly:”
We heard the Gospel and then we believed, at least it seemed like that is what happened. But we were not aware that our belief was the granting of faith to us by God’s Sovereign choice and the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit in the new birth. But that is in fact what happened. We only learn of this great truth after we examine Holy Scripture and understand the process of salvation. Jesus made this very clear…..
John 6:63-65 – 63 “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. 64 “But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who it was that would betray Him. 65 And He was saying, “For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me, unless it has been granted him from the Father.” 66 As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew, and were not walking with Him anymore. NASB
Here Jesus explains that the reason many people do not believe. This is why he says in verse 65 “for this reason I have said to you”, referring to verse 64 where he says “some of you do not believe.” The Bible plainly declares that the reason people do not believe is because saving faith has not been granted to them by God.
Matthew 13:11 – 11 And He answered and said to them, “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted. NASB
And to those who believe the Bible plainly declares it is because it has been granted to them by God.
Philippians 1:29 – 29 For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, NASB
This is also clearly seen in the salvation of the Apostle Paul(Acts 9:18) or of
Acts 16:14 – 14 And a certain woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul. NASB
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