Study 4 REGENERATION
GREAT WORDS OF THE GOSPEL
by Francis Dixon
(Scripture Portion: John 3: 1-16)
By regeneration, or the new birth, we mean that act of the Holy Spirit whereby He communicates the divine life to the sinner, thus making him a child of God. The new birth is the key doctrine to every other truth revealed in the Word of God. To understand this doctrine is to open the door to an understanding of every other Bible doctrine. In the professing Church today, in every denomination, there are two classes of members – those who have been born again and who are therefore members of the true Church, and those who have never been born again.
1. WHAT THE NEW BIRTH IS NOT
- It is not a natural birth (John 3:4 and 6), though it is characteristically the same as a natural birth. We did not see the light of day until we were born; before we can begin to live spiritually we must be born again.
- It is not a psychological experience. Modern Theology has taught that “the new birth is a God complex…” The Bible does not teach this.
- It is not being religious. Nicodemus was very religious, but he was not born again (verse 10). He was the Master in Israel, yet he was blind concerning his need of, and the nature of, the second birth.
- It is not head knowledge (verses 2 and 10). Nicodemus had much intellectual belief; he began his conversation with the Lord Jesus by saying, “We know” (verse 2); but knowledge is no substitute for the new birth. Even the demons believe (James 2:19)!
- It is not mere external reformation. Who could be more correct outwardly than Nicodemus? – yet he was not born again – look up 2 Timothy 3:5.
- It is not self-effort or good works. Look up Ephesians 2:8-10. No amount of good works will produce the new birth. We are only to work out our salvation after God has worked it in (Philippians 2:12-13).
- It is not rites and ceremonies, such as baptism, confirmation or church membership. Look up Titus 3:5. The word “water” in John 3:5 does not refer to the ordinance of baptism or to “baptismal regeneration”; baptism and church membership come after we have been born again – not before, or as a means of producing the new birth – look up Acts 2:37-41. Titus 3:5 explains the significance of “water”.
2. WHAT THE NEW BIRTH IS
- It is a new birth, a second birth, a birth from above. Note “again” in verses 3 and 7 – “from above” (margin).
- It is being made alive from the dead; passing from death to life. By nature man is spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1), but by the miracle of the new birth he is raised to newness of life (Romans 6:4).
- It is being made a partaker of the divine nature. The new birth is the commencement of the life of God within the human personality – look up 2 Peter 1:4. God does not alter or patch up the old nature; He gives us an entirely new one!
- It is the human side of regeneration. Look up John 1:11-13, and note the last four words in verse 13.
- It is a very great change. Look up 2 Corinthians 5:17, and compare Romans 6:4 and Galatians 6:15.
3. WHY THE NEW BIRTH IS NECESSARY
- Because our Lord said so. Look up John 3:3 – how imperative this word is!
- Because we all possess a fallen nature. However well educated and cultured we may be, Ephesians 2:2-3 describes our condition in God’s sight.
- Because by nature we are spiritually dead. Look up John 5:40; Ephesians 2:1 and 1 John 5:12.
- Because in our fallen state we cannot please God. God is holy and we are sinful, and we can never have fellowship with Him as we are – look up John 3:6, and compare Romans 8:8.
- Because we can never enter the Kingdom of God until we possess a nature capable of enjoying the things of that kingdom. The stars are astronomically understood; a piano concerto is musically understood; flowers are botanically understood and Heaven and spiritual things are spiritually understood – therefore John 3:3!
4. HOW AND WHEN THE NEW BIRTH IS EXPERIENCED
How does the new birth take place? It is accomplished:-
- By the Holy Spirit. Look again at John 3:5-6 and Titus 3:5, and notice the words “of God” in John 1:13. Thus, we see that the new birth is not the work of man; it is the operation of God the Holy Spirit.
- Through the Word of God. The instrument the Holy Spirit uses is the Word of God – look up 1 Corinthians 4:15; James 1:18 and 1 Peter 1:23. The Holy Spirit sows the seed of the Word in the human heart, and He thereby imparts the new life.
- In response to Faith. Study John 1:11-13 and 3:14-15, and compare Numbers 21:1-9. Also, look up Galatians 3:26. Have you believed? Have you received the Lord Jesus Christ and are you looking to Him alone for salvation?