5 June 2020
We will now focus on the Holy Spirit as the author of regeneration. Before we do that, it may be needful to look at the state of fallen man. We have seen in the previous sharing that the Spirit-filled humanity of Jesus was the true image of what man in his unfallen state could have been, a spiritual being. However, the fallen man has not the Spirit (Jude 19), is sensual or natural (1 Cor. 2:14), is sunk into animal life that his wisdom is earthly (James3:15) and is without God (Eph. 2:12). He cannot know the things of the Spirit of God (1 Cor.2:14); his will cannot be subject to the law of God (Rom. 8:7); he cannot call Jesus Lord (1 Cor. 12:3); he cannot please God (Rom. 8:8) and he cannot receive the Spirit of truth (John 14:17). The Apostle Paul described fallen man as dead in the trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1)
The will of fallen man is always free but not always good (Augustine). The will may be free but not liberated; he may be a free agent and yet the servant of sin. The will may be free, and only exercise its freedom against the will of God.
What can free fallen man from his state?: – he needs the new birth or regeneration which is a work of God. The author of regeneration is the Holy Spirit; regeneration is not self-generated. The new birth is not merely a moral reformation, although it leads to one. In his night-time conversation with Nicodemus, Jesus twice spoke of being born again (John 3:3,7). Jesus was not referring to a new beginning from below by human effort, but to a new birth from above by the power of God – the new birth is a birth of the Spirit (John 3:5-8). What Jesus communicated to NIcodemus was the indispensable necessity of the new birth; the new birth is the invariable requisite for mankind to be saved.
Jesus also said to Nicodemus: “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” (John 3:8). The Spirit’s agency is sovereign, like the wind blowing where it will; the mode of His activity is inscrutable; it is like the wind, in regard to which we can neither say where it begins to blow nor where it is hushed to rest; the efficacy is irresistible and the effects certain; we hear the sound thereof.
The Spirit sets forth truth to the mind, and maintains it against any contrary opinion. He, by the Word alone or through the ministry of those who preach it, convinces the unbelieving world such that the unwilling are made willing, and are compelled to feel and so to admit in their conscience the truth of the gospel – an impression which is followed by faith in the heart and confession with the mouth.They are pressed by the force of truth, and yield.
The new birth is so indispensable because man’s nature must be changed. This requires an action wholly supernatural – the natural man, apart from the supernatural work that the Holy Spirit does in him, can do absolutely nothing, and that he needs to be replenished by the Spirit of life.The first desire of man to return to God is from the Holy Spirit; the Spirit’s power and grace precede the will. The application of redemption in man is from first to last by the Holy Spirit and the faith by which we receive adoption as sons is only from the Spirit of God. God by His Spirit must change the hearts of men if they are to walk in HIs ways and keep His ordinances and statutes. The Spirit of the Lord alone works the true, spiritual and moral life. Jesus made it clear to Nicodemus that there is no access to the kingdom of God, nor any sharing in it, except through regeneration, and that this rebirth can take place only through the Holy Spirit.
So in our approach in sharing the gospel, we must be mindful to pray to and depend on God’s Spirit; regeneration does not come about by just reciting a ‘formula’ or quoting a certain ‘prepared prayer’; we cannot argue a person into the kingdom of God with our ‘logic’ and prepared ‘answers’ to expected questions that will be posed. That is not to say that there is no value at all in apologetics or in the preparedness to clarify the doubts of the hearers. All these would be of no avail if the Spirit does not do a supernatural work to change the heart of the hearer. It is ‘fashionable’ nowadays, in organising evangelistic rallies, to rely on the ‘building up’ of the environment to be conducive for reception of the message by ‘uplifting’ those present with ‘suitable’ songs, music and ‘tweaking’ the emotion and ‘atmosphere’ for various ones to be more receptive – the result from such meetings may be many ‘decisions’ made for Christ apparently, but are they truly manifestations of regeneration effected by the Spirit of God?
The author of regeneration is none other than the Holy Spirit of God. He justifies us in our consciousness and testifies of our adoption as children of God. He pours out the love of God into our hearts, gives us peace and joy, and delivers us from the law, the flesh, and from sin and death, He is the comforter and Advocate who defends our cause, protects and supports us, and who does not leave us but remains with us always, comforting us and praying for us. Not only is the spiritual life quickened by Him, but it is also continuously maintained and led by Him. He renews that life and causes it to bear fruit and makes it pleasing to God.