How are individuals made alive spiritually?
Jesus said, “I tell you the solemn truth, unless a person is born from above, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3 NET).
The Bible teaches us that we become a child of God only through the new birth. Those who believe on Jesus Christ become God’s children. “As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe on His name, who 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).
By whose authority do we become the children of God? “As many as received Him, to them He gave the right . . .” It is the authority of Jesus Christ. Those who believe on Him have the right to become the children of God.
It is clearly not a physical birth, but a spiritual birth that is in mind, and it is something that is received by the person who believes in Him (1 Pet. 1:23). The initiative in the new birth is with God.
Without Christ we are spiritually dead in trespasses and sin (Eph. 2:1-3). Every individual must be born again because the natural man is altogether void of spiritual life. We need divine life, and that is what God provides through the new birth.
“He who believes in the Son has eternal life” (John 3:36, 16). He has it right now (1 John 5:13). Clearly the individual who believes on Him receives God’s kind of life (6:40). It is the teaching throughout the New Testament (Eph. 2:8-9; Rom. 10:9-10).
The biblical doctrine of the new birth takes all the glory and initiative away from man and gives it all to God the Father. He alone is responsible for our salvation; therefore, He alone gets all the glory. He creates the new spiritual life within us and causes us to believe on Christ. God chooses to give us eternal life (1 Jn. 3:1; Eph. 1:5; Jas. 1:18; 1 Pet. 1:23).
We become a child of God when God gives us His life. It is an act of God. We receive that life the moment we believe on Christ. It comes from God and is received only on the basis of God’s grace. Those who believe become God’s children. Only by receiving Christ do we gain the right to become a child of God.
How do we not become a child of God? There is absolutely nothing that man can do to contribute to his spiritual birth. This is made very clear in John 1:13, “who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” No amount of human activity, religious cultivation, or moral teaching can change the essential nature of man. Therefore, it is imperative that man’s deepest need is to be born again.
In the Jewish mind “blood” is equivalent to human life. Spiritual birth cannot come about as a result of any human process or achievement. Man is not by nature a child of God. We are by nature sinners. No human agency can achieve the new birth. All human effort is powerless and superficial in regard to spiritual life. There is nothing in our human nature or character that can bring about a spiritual birth.
“Born of the water and the Spirit” does not refer to baptism regeneration (John 3:5). From the context “water” here is referring to the water bag broken at physical birth of a baby. Water here is symbolic of a spiritual birth. From other passages of Scripture we learn that baptism is in no wise essential to salvation. It does not form one of the conditions which God requires the sinner to meet. If baptism were necessary then man would be saved by his works.
The Bible teaches we are saved by grace through faith in Christ and not of works. It is the free gift of God. “What must I do to be saved?” The Bible says “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved” (Acts 16:31).
The Holy Spirit uses the Word of God to bring about regeneration (1 Pet. 1:23). No sinner is born spiritually apart from the Word. The “children” are those who believe on Christ. Men are God’s sons only as they respond to what He does for them in Christ. They are born into God’s family when they receive His Word.
The new birth is an absolute miracle. All human initiative and effort is ruled out. Men are “born of God.” There is no other way to become a child of God. It is the work of the Holy Spirit within the person. It is life in Christ and is divine in origin. The whole emphasis in this verse and in John chapter three is the activity of the Spirit of God, not human effort, works or merits by demanding the sinner to be “born again.” He excludes any possibility of human effort in salvation.
The word “believing” and “receiving” refer to the same operation of the Holy Spirit when a person ceases trusting in his own human merits and trust in Christ Jesus alone for salvation.
Are you enjoying the things of God, spiritual things, which are discerned and enjoyed by spiritual regeneration? Are you enjoying the privileges of being a child of God? In order to have spiritual discernment we must be born again (1 Cor. 2:10, 14).
The Holy Spirit gives us a new spiritual nature. When He gives us this new nature we are “born again” (2 Pet. 1:4). It is an act of God.
Because of this new birth the individual is a changed person who loves the things he once hated, and hates the things he once loved. A radical change takes place in the heart of the believer. “Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new thing have come” (2 Cor. 5:17). The NET Bible reads, “So then, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; what is old has passed away–look, what is new has come!”
SELAH! Pause – reflect- just think of that!
Message by Wil Pounds (c) 2006
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