Biblical Teaching from a Reformed Perspective

I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy
name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: for thou
hast magnified thy word above all thy name. Ps. 138:2

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the necessity of a new birth by Mike Aldridge

In the third chapter of John's gospel, Jesus has an encounter with a Jewish Religious leader named Nicodemus. Nicodemus approaches Jesus by night, for fear of what others might say or do, and during the course of the conversation Jesus states unequivocally that unless a man is "born again" he cannot see (understand), nor enter, the kingdom of God (John 3:3,5).

Of course, this brought great confusion to Nicodemus, for he thought within himself, "How can a man be born when he is old?" "Can he enter a second time into his Mother's womb?"

But Jesus was not speaking of a natural birth, however, He was speaking of a spiritual birth. Jesus explains that that "which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit" (John 3: 6).

In other words, it is our spirit that is to be brought to life by the Holy Spirit. Our bodies are yet to be quickened (brought to life) (Rom. 8:11).

And why must our spirit be quickened? Because when mankind fell through Adam, our representative, we all died spiritually. We are dead spiritually in tresspasses and sins even though we are alive physically. Consider the words of the Apostle Paul,

"Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:" (Rom. 5:12).

And again, " And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;" (Eph. 2:1).

Thus, we are all born spiritually dead. That is why David states in the Psalms, "Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me" (Ps. 51:5).

Being dead spiritually we are 'naturally' the enemies of God. We may not consider ourselves to be God's enemies (subjectively), but we are enemies nonetheless (objectively). Continuing from above in Ephesians 2, Paul writes:

"And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others" [Emphasis Mine] (Eph. 2:1-3).

And in Col. 1:21 we read: "And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled" [Emphasis Mine].

Also, being dead spiritually...

we are not subject to the law of God: "For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be" ( Rom. 8:6-7).

We do not seek the things of God
(Romans 3:10-18), as some suppose and teach. There are no "seekers".

And, we cannot know the things of the Kingdom, for they are spiritually discerned (John 3:6; 1 Cor. 2:14).

In other words, we have no desire for God or the things of God because we cannot see them or know them. In reality we despise the things of God (Rom. 2:4; 1 Thess. 4:8).

We are all in this natural state of rebellion before the new birth (See esp. Rom. 1:18-32). We are all spiritually dead (Eph. 2:1-5).

Thus, if we die (physically) in this state of "spiritual rebellion" or "spiritual death," we will be eternally separated from God, doomed to an agonizing and just punishment that is everlasting:

"And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power;" (2 Thess. 2:7-9).

What an awfull and fearful description of hell! Elsewhere, hell is described as a place of fire where there is "wailing and gnashing of teeth" (Mat. 13:40-42).

The Good News, however, is that Jesus died on Calvary 's cross in order to pay the penalty for sin. And everyone who repents of their sin and confesses Jesus as Lord will be saved - saved from God's everlasting wrath against unrepentant sinners:

"That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved" ( Rom. 10:9).

Jesus, who is God in the flesh, whom we call the "Christ", or "Messiah", both lived and died so that everyone who believes in Him will be given eternal life (John 3:16; Titus 1:2). If we will but come to Christ (Matt. 11:38; John 7:37), we shall be forgiven of sin, cleansed of all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9), and made alive (spiritually) as new creatures in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17).

But here's the caveat: it is clearly taught in Scripture that no one can (has the ability to) come to Christ unless the father draws him (John 6:44). This is the delimma of fallen man. Being dead spiritually, man does not have the ability to come to Christ. Something must be done for him before he can respond to the things of God. And that something is regeneration which is accomplished by the Holy Spirit through the power of the Gospel (2 Thess. 2:13-14; Rom. 1:16). The Holy Spirit, therefore, works in conjunction with the preaching of God's word (for faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God - Rom. 10:17) to open the hearts of those who should be saved (Acts 2:46; 16:14).

It is not until our hearts are opened by the Lord that we can believe; for the "natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned" (1 Cor. 2:14). Once God opens the heart by His soverign choice and makes us partakers of the divine nature (2 Pet. 1:4), then, and only then, do we have the ability to believe.

This is why our Lord said what He did to Peter upon Peter's confession that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God:

"Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven" (Matt. 16:17)

Even the faith to believe, therefore, is a gift of God (Eph. 2:8-9; Rom. 2:4).

This opening of the heart by the Holy Spirit to believe the Gospel is what we call the "new birth" or "regeneration." Again, it is not until we are "born again" that we can see or enter the kingdom of God. We do not see it first and are thus born again on the basis of our faith (faith preceeding regeneration). This presupposes that we have already seen it (before being born again) and are thus responding to it by faith. We are born again first (regeneration preceeding faith) and are then able to see it (the Kingdom, i.e. spiritual things) and believe. For, again, no man can see the Kingdom of God unless (or until) he is born again. Let it not be mistaken. We do exercise faith, but the faith that leads to salvation is a gift that comes from God only as He opens our hearts first by His regenerating power (See Acts 16:14).

Clearly, therefore, salvation or the "new birth" is a sovereign work of God. It is what theologians refer to as "monergistic regeneration," meaning that in no way do we cooperate with God in the process of regeneration. However, once regenerated, we are immediately infused with the desire and the ability to believe, repent, and turn to God with our whole hearts, which we do freely and gladly (this is where free will comes into play). We do not come into the kingdom of God kicking and screaming, as some who misunderstand election suggest. Rather God effectually calls us by His grace and gives to us a heart that is inclined to love Him. And it is out of such a heart that we now act freely and gladly to surrender our lives to Him.

This whole process (hearing, believing, repenting, receiving) happens instantaneously and is what we call salvation or the "new birth." The new birth process is initiated by God and faithfully executed by God so that He is the Author and Finisher of our salvation (Heb. 12:2). Those who experience the new birth are referred to throughout Scripture as the Elect (Matt. 24:22,24,31; Mark 13:20,22,27; Luke 18:7; Rom. 8:33, 9:11, 11:5,7,28; Col. 3:12; 1 Thess. 1:4; 1 Tim. 5:21, Titus 1:1; 1 Pet. 1:2, 2:6, 5:13; 2 Pet. 1:10; 2 John 1:13.

The number of the elect has already been determined. Their names are already written in the Lamb's book of Life and have been since before the foundation of the world (Phil 4:3; Rev. 13:8). These are the ones given to the Son by the Father. And all that the Father gives to the Son will come to the Son (John 6:37). And of those given to the Son by the Father He (the Son) will lose none but raise them up at the last day (John 6:39). This is the security of the believer.

What a glorious thing the new birth is! What an honor to be chosen by God, to be elected, to experience the new bIrth! Our election is not on the basis of any good thing we do, but soley on the pedetermined purpose and will of God (John 1:11-13 esp. v. 13; Rom. 9:6-16 esp. v. 16, Eph. 1:5) for His manifested glory.

It is to this end that the new birth takes place.

And with this new birth comes the promise of an abundant life both now and forever. Amen!

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