Study 5 HIS WORK OF REGENERATION
THE PERSON AND WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
by Francis Dixon
(Scripture Portions: John 3:1-16)
The subject matter of this study is covered fully in the account of our Lord’s conversation with Nicodemus (John 3:1-16). There are other scripture references to the New Birth, to which we shall refer later. By regeneration, or the new birth, we mean that act of the Holy Spirit whereby He communicates the divine life to the sinner, making him a child of God – and in the light of John 3:3, how tremendously important it is that we not only understand the DOCTRINE of regeneration, but that we really know the EXPERIENCE of regeneration! The new birth is the greatest blessing that anyone can experience in this life, and it is the foundation of all our hopes for the world to come. It 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 every denomination of the professing church today there are two classes of members: those who have been born again and are therefore members of the true Church, and those who have never been born again. The wheat and the weeds will grow together until the Lord comes (Matthew 13:30), but when He comes, only the wheat (those who are truly born again) will be saved for all eternity.
1. WHAT THE NEW BIRTH IS NOT
- It is not a NATURAL birth (verses 4 and 6), though it is characteristically the same as a natural birth. Before we started to live we were born; before we begin to live spiritually we must be born again.
- It is not BEING RELIGIOUS. Nicodemus was very religious, but not born again (verse 10). He was the Master in Israel, yet blind concerning his need of and the nature of the second birth.
- It is not HEAD KNOWLEDGE (verse 2). Nicodemus had much intellectual belief, much head knowledge. He began his conversation with the Lord Jesus by saying, ‘We know…’ (verse 2); but any amount of knowledge is no substitute for the new birth. Even the devils believe (James 2:19)!
- It is not mere EXTERNAL REFORMATION. Here again, who could be more outwardly correct 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 or CHURCH MEMBERSHIP. Look up Titus 3:5. The word ‘water’ in John 3:5 does not refer to the ordinance of baptism. 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 2:41.
2. WHAT IS THE NEW BIRTH?
- It is the commencement of the life of God in the soul of man. Look up John 5:40; 10:10; 1 John 5:11-12. When we are born again we ‘may participate in the divine nature’ (2 Peter 1:4).
- 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). Look up 1 John 3:14.
- It is a second birth; a birth from above (verses 3 and 7). Notice the word ‘again’ in John 3:3 and 7. The marginal rendering is ‘born from above.‘
- It is the giving of a new nature. Look up 2 Corinthians 5:17. The new birth is a new creation within the human personality – not a patching up, an improvement of the old nature. Look up John 3:6, and compare Ephesians 4:22-24.
- It is the divine side of conversion; just as conversion is the human side of regeneration. Look up John 1:11-13, and note the last three words in verse 13!
- It is a divine work – all of God (John 1:12-13).
3. WHY IS THE NEW BIRTH NECESSARY?
- Because our Lord said so. Look up John 3:3. This word is imperative.
- Because we all possess a fallen nature. However well educated and cultured we may be – Ephesians 2:2-3 describes us in God’s sight.
- Because by nature we are spiritually dead. Look up John 5:40; Ephesians 2:1; 1 John 5:12.
- Because in our fallen state we cannot please God. Look up John 3:6, and compare Romans 8:8. How conclusive these verses are!
- Because we can never enter the kingdom of God until we possess a nature capable of enjoying the things of that kingdom. The sun and the stars are astronomically understood; a piano concerto is musically understood; flowers and shrubs are botanically understood – and Heaven and spiritual things are spiritually understood. Look up 1 Corinthians 2:14.
4. HOW AND WHEN IS THE NEW BIRTH EXPERIENCED?
How does the new birth take place? How may a person be born again? It is accomplished:-
- By the HOLY SPIRIT. Look again at John 3:5-6; Titus 3:5. The new birth is not the work of man, but 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 James 1:18, and compare 1 Peter 1:23. The Holy Spirit sows the seed of the Word in our hearts and gives us new life.
- In response to FAITH. Study carefully John 1:11-13; 3:14-15; and compare Numbers 21:1-9. Have you believed – received the Lord Jesus Christ, and been born again?