June 9, 2019 The New Birth

 

 

Scripture reading: John 3:3-7.

 

For evangelicals, this is a very familiar passage. Even though it may be familiar, it is possible that one cannot fully appreciate its importance nor have an adequate understanding of the new birth.

 

It is important for a person to have a good understanding of the new birth because it has to do with salvation. It has to do with one’s eternal destiny! Even if you are confident of your own regeneration (this is just another term for the new birth), having a good understanding of regeneration will give you greater confidence when you speak to others about it.

 

[I. The nature of the new birth]  [A.] Regeneration is solely the work of God and man has no part or lot in it. It is a new birth. This is true by the very nature of the case. A birth includes no effort from the one born. We have no more to do with our spiritual birth as we did with our physical birth.

 

In Ephesians (2:1), regeneration is likened to a resurrection. We are told that we were dead but then we were made alive. But no corpse can make itself alive! Only the living God can speak the word that can call Lazarus from the tomb. Lazarus could not enliven himself and neither can we.

 

Regeneration brings about a new creation. This is the term that is used – a new creation (2 Cor 5:17). But creation of life is God’s domain. He alone can bring into being that which previously had no existence.

 

[B.] The new birth is a miraculous thing. It is not a person trying to better their self. It is not “turning over a new leaf.” It is a supernatural operation of God in the spirit of man. It is God breathing his very life into a human spirit! It is a work of divine grace. If you have experienced it, fall on your knees and thank God for it! For you did not deserve it and you still do not deserve it! “Lord, thank you for regenerating me! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Never take the precious gift of your life from me!”

 

[C.] Because regeneration is the work of God, it is a mysterious thing. Even biological life is mysterious. The most basic unit of life is the cell. But what actually makes a cell alive? Biologists have been studying this for over a hundred years and they do not know. Much more is spiritual life mysterious. Our Lord declared that it was a mystery:

 

8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” [1]

 

Jesus personifies the wind. He says it blows where it wishes. So it is with the Spirit. He regenerates whom He wishes. We do not know when it will happen nor who will have the experience. It’s mysterious!

 

[D.] The new birth is the implanting of the divine nature. It is God’s Spirit imparting life to our human spirit which, because of sin, is dead to the things of God. When God breathes life into us his very nature is placed within us. Once we are regenerated we have a new spirit! Ezekiel prophesied of the day that was coming when God would do such a marvelous work.

 

26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.[2]

 

This promise was originally given to Israel; but, since the days of Christ, Gentiles have become partakers of this glorious promise!

 

Once a person has been born again, they have the nature of God within them!

 

[II. The necessity of the new birth] The new birth is an absolute necessity. [A.] It is a necessity for receiving eternal life.

 

4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. [3]

 

There is nothing we can do to escape (be saved) from the wrath of God. God’s anger is a righteous anger against both sin and sinner because of divine justice. There are no “works” – good deeds – that we can do to escape God’s justice. It is only by being born again and renewed by His Spirit that we are saved. We are then justified – that means declared righteous by God – because of his grace. Regeneration and justification happen together. Without the new birth there is no salvation and no justification.

 

[B.] The new birth is a necessity for entering the kingdom.

 

5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.[4]

 

In order to enter the kingdom of God in its coming phase, the next age, one must be born of water, that is baptism,[5] and the Spirit. Jesus made the necessity quite clear:

 

7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’[6]

 

  • The kingdom of God requires spiritual life. No spiritually dead or spiritually lazy person will enter.
  • The kingdom of God requires a spiritual nature. No carnally natured person would be happy in the kingdom.
  • The only way to receive spiritual life and a spiritual nature is through regeneration.

 

 

[C.] The new birth is an imperative necessity because man is totally depraved. The theologian, Arthur Pink, summed up our condition:

 

Every member of Adam’s race is a fallen creature, and every part of our complex being has been corrupted by sin. Man’s heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, his mind is blinded and darkened, and his thoughts are only evil continually. His reasonings are unsound, his affections are prostituted, and his will is alienated from God. He is without righteousness, under the curse of the law, and in bondage to sin and to Satan; truly his case is desperate and his condition deplorable.[7]

 

Does this description sound too pessimistic? Every one of these descriptions is taken from the Bible! Pink has summarized them, but they are God’s testimony about the condition of unregenerate man.

 

Because people, all people, are depraved by nature the new birth is a necessity.

 

[D.] The new birth is a necessity because it is a universal need. It was not to the woman caught in adultery that Jesus said, “You must be born again.” It was not to the thief on the cross that he said, “Unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” It was to Nicodemas, a teacher in Israel. A man of unblemished character. No matter how good a person seems on the outside, God knows every person’s heart. He knows your heart! The need of the rebirth is universal! If you have not been born again you should seek the mercy of God for this gift. Seek and ask. Ask daily. Ask often.

 

[III.] How is the new birth brought about? I have already said that the new birth is a direct operation of God’s Spirit upon our spirit and that it is mysterious. But, is there any other means by which God uses to accomplish the blessing? According to revelation, the answer is yes.

 

The new birth is effected by the word of God applied by the Holy Spirit.

 

22 Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, 23 since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; 24 for

       “All flesh is like grass

and all its glory like the flower of grass.

       The grass withers,

and the flower falls,

25    but the word of the Lord remains forever.”

And this word is the good news that was preached to you. [8]

 

Because we have been born again through the living and abiding word of God, we ought to love one another! The Spirit uses the word of God to enliven us! Peter says that this word is what was preached to us. Thus, we see that the word of God may either be spoken or written. We may hear it or we may read it. The Spirit then takes what we hear or read and makes it alive to us.

 

You may speak God’s words! Whenever a person, any person, accurately speaks the gospel or any portion of Scripture then they are speaking God’s words! Neither the gospel nor any Scriptural truth originates with us.  No part of the Bible was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21). When I am preaching, if I am faithful to what the Scriptures say, then you are hearing the words of God. But it is not just preachers. It is any Christian. It is you! You may speak the words of God! And, you ought to!

 

Here is what we should notice: Both things are needed. Without the operation of the Spirit even the words of God will be of no effect. And, without the words of God there is no content to be believed. Faith is essential and faith requires content.

 

When I was at Sheppard AFB, TX as a 19-year old, there was a young airman who shared the gospel with me. That was the first time I had ever heard the gospel. I rejected it. At that point in my life I intellectually assented to the truth that Jesus Christ was God’s Son and had died on the cross for the sins of the world because I had heard that as a boy. But I had no saving faith. I was still in my sins. Biblical faith is more than mental assent. You see, I heard the words of God at Sheppard AFB from that airman but the Holy Spirit had not made them alive to me.

 

The new birth is brought about when one hears (or reads) the words of God and the Holy Spirit applies them to the heart.

 

[IV.] Lastly, what are the evidences of the new birth? When a person is born from above there are certain marks that indicate this. This is important to consider because, I tell you, there are many who are under the misguided notion that they are right with God when they have not been regenerated.

 

[A.] The first evidence is repentance. Indeed, “repent” was the first word out of our Lord’s mouth when he began his ministry.

 

17 From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” [9]

 

Jesus even defined his ministry as one which calls sinners to repentance (Luke 5:32).

 

To repent means to change one’s entire way of thinking about sin and one’s attitude towards it. The word come from the Greek word, μετανοεω. It derives from the root word, noeo, which means “to think,” and the prefix, meta, which means “change.” We are familiar with the term metamorphosis. We use that word to well describe the transformation of a caterpillar into a butterfly. Meta – change; morphosis – shape or form.

 

Repentance is taking sides with God against sin, especially in my own life. It is a turning away from sin with a resolve to never sin again. Now, the one who repents will sin again; however, he or she hates sin and flees from it. Without repentance there has been neither regeneration nor the forgiveness of sins (Rev 16:9, 11; Acts 3:19; 2:38; 11:18; Luke 13:3-5; 24:47; Ezekiel 18:30-32; Isaiah 30:15).

 

[B.] Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and in God the Father is the evidence of the new birth. Oh! What a great misunderstanding there is about faith!

 

24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. [10]

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. [11]

 

Most often, in our English translations of the Bible, the word believe is used as a verb and the word faith is used as a noun. They represent the underlying word in the original language, which is better translated trust. Faith is more than acknowledgment. It is trust.

 

The fruit of the new birth is trust in Jesus Christ as one’s own Lord and Savior. When you trust someone, you follow them. Hence, biblical faith by necessity includes following Jesus. Anyone who claims to be a Christian but does not follow Jesus has not been born again.

 

[C.] Love for God is evidence of the new birth.

 

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. [12]

 

When one is born again, the love of the Father is in them. They love the Father and they love His Son.

 

It is the Spirit bringing life to our heart that germinates love.

 

and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. [13]

 

[D.] Love for other followers of Christ is evidence of the new birth.

 

We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death.[14]

 

Those who do not sincerely love other Christians have not been born again. Do you know that most people think they love everyone. Yet, love is not defined by what we think of ourselves nor by what we feel. Love is more than a feeling. Love is shown by what we actually do for others.

 

By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. [15]

 

[E.] Active involvement in a local church is evidence of the new birth. Did you know that there are many thousands of people who have said some kind of a prayer when they were young, maybe even baptized, but who never attend nor are they supporting a local church? I tell you, those people have not been born again. They may have even been told they were by well meaning but confused Christians. “Pastor, how you can you judge them?” Well, I’m not the one judging. It is the Spirit, speaking through the apostle John, that judges them.

 

They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us. [16]

 

There may be some who meet with a church for years, even many years, then they go their own way. The apostle says that if they leave this shows that they are not of the Body of Christ. What does he write? “If they had been of us they would have continued with us.” It could not be any plainer. In fact, that is the word he uses: “They went out, that it might be plain that they all are not of us.”

 

These are not the only evidences of the new birth. The way one treats their own family members, even the way one treats their animals (Proverbs 12:10), are evidences. Good deeds, and care for the poor are evidences. These five, however, are the most telling.

 

[V. Conclusion] What ought we to do with this revelation regarding the new birth? If you have not been born anew then know that your greatest need is unmet. No one can see the kingdom of God unless they have been born again. I have emphasized that regeneration is solely the work of God and no one can bring about their own rebirth. This may lead you to think that there is nothing that you can do. But this is not so.

 

There are two things that you can do. First, if you know that you lack eternal life, you should be very concerned. Do not ignore your concern. Rather, ask God to have mercy upon you. Ask God to breathe his life into you. Confess your absolute inability. Pray that kind of a prayer often – many times per day. There is a powerful promise in God’s word. It is this: Draw near to God and he will draw near to you. This promise appears many times in the Bible (2 Chronicles 15:2; Zech 1:3; Luke 15:20; James 4:8). Although your heart does not yet love God, allow the fear of eternal justice move you to plead for mercy.

 

The second thing that you can do is to expose yourself to the words of God. Remember that I said that the new birth is effected by the words of God as applied by the Spirit. Give the Spirit many opportunities! The more you hear and read the words of God, the more opportunities the Spirit will have.

 

For those who have already been regenerated, I say, knowing that the rebirth is a sovereign work of God, you should find great peace and calm when you share either the law (to convict of sin) or the gospel (to relieve conviction of sin) with others. It does not depend on you at all! It is God’s work! You only need to be faithful to open your mouth. He will do the rest.

 

 

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Jn 3:8). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Eze 36:26–27). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Tt 3:4–7). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[4] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Jn 3:5). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[5] Robert Govett, John (Hayesville, NC: Schoettle Publishing Co, 2010), 79-85.

[6] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Jn 3:7). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[7] Arthur Pink, The New Birth (Sterling, VA: Grace Abounding Ministries), 13.

[8] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Pe 1:22–25). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[9] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 4:17). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[10] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Jn 5:24). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[11] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Jn 5:1). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[12] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Jn 2:15). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[13] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ro 5:5). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[14] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Jn 3:14). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[15] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Jn 3:16–18). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[16] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Jn 2:19). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.