Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Regeneration by the Spirit

Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit” (John 3:6).

A man named Nicodemus asked Jesus about the kingdom of God. Jesus told Nicodemus, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again” (John 3:3). Being born again is an absolute prerequisite for entering the kingdom of God.

Nicodemus did not understand. “How can a man be born when he is old?” he asked. Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again’ ” (vv. 4–7). Jesus adds two things to what He first said. He adds that this new birth is necessary not only to see but to enter the kingdom and that this new birth is an action of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus’ analogy underscores our inability to enter the kingdom. You and I had nothing to do with our physical conception and birth and have nothing to do with our spiritual rebirth into the kingdom. Regeneration is a sovereign act of the Holy Spirit.

Paul makes this same point in Ephesians 2 when he writes, “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins … but … God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions” (vv. 1–5). The words regeneration and new birth are not used here, but Paul is teaching the same thing. He is speaking of a divine and supernatural work by which a human being, who by nature is a child of wrath, is changed from a state of spiritual death into spiritual life.

Paul’s analogy points again to our complete passivity in salvation. A dead man does not ask to live; he is unresponsive and incapable of doing anything. If a dead person is raised to life again, it is only because Someone other than himself grants a new life. Just so, when we are born again, it is caused by the sovereign activity of God.

The same almighty creative power that gives us new birth sustains us day to day. After our spirit has been regenerated by the Holy Spirit, however, our struggle with sin continues. Ask God to help you see one area of sin in your life that needs to be given over for His regenerating work.