The New Birth ‑ Part I
The scriptures have a lot to say about being born again and the consequent effects upon those who are born again. Many erroneous ideas have been put forth about what man must/can do to cause himself to be born again. One highly popular evangelist wrote a book on the subject of how man can be born again. The problem with such concepts is that they simply are not true. The plain biblical teaching is that God is sovereign in bringing about the new birth. By the term, sovereign, we mean “independent of all others.” God is under no dependency on man to bring about the new birth. God does not cause anyone to be born again because of their actions of either belief, works, or following a prescribed course of action.
John 3:8 describes God’s sovereignty in causing someone to be born again. “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh or whether it goeth: so is everyone that is born of the Spirit.” Just as God is sovereign, the wind is also independent of the actions of man. “The wind bloweth where it listeth” ‑ No man has ever had the power or knowledge to direct or control the direction or force by which the wind blows. Likewise, man does not have the power or knowledge to bring about the new birth. “And thou hearest the sound thereof” ‑ While we have the evidence of the wind’s blowing, this knowledge is not a cause of the wind’s blowing but is an effect of the wind’s blowing. Likewise, there are many evidences of the new birth given unto us to assure us of that birth, but those evidences are an effect of the birth and not the cause. “But canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth” we are not able to pinpoint a place on earth and say the wind originates here or pinpoint a place on earth and say this is the final destination of the wind. Thus, we conclude the wind is totally independent of man in its blowing, its direction, its origination and its destination. Likewise, the Holy Spirit is totally independent of man in bringing about the new birth. The new birth takes place when and where the Holy Spirit chooses. Likewise, it is God’s choice and not man’s choice as to who will be born again and who won’t be born again.
Likewise John 3:6 teaches us the sovereignty of God in the new birth and affirms that the new birth is not a cooperative endeavor between God and man: “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” In our natural birth it is the actions of the flesh that brought about our natural birth into the world. Even here, it was not our actions, but our parent’s actions that brought about our natural birth. By parallel, the spiritual birth is brought about by the Holy Spirit. Again, it is the actions of the Holy Spirit that brings about this spiritual birth and not our actions. The Lord said in John 6:63, “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life.” Now if I in my flesh could do something to help bring about the new birth, then there would be a profit in the flesh, but the Lord affirms that there is no profit in the flesh, but that the Holy Spirit does the quickening (new birth).
Similarly, John 1:11‑13 teaches us that God is sovereign in bringing about the new birth: “He came unto his own…even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” This passage teaches the Sovereignty of God in causing us to be born again by first ruling out all other possible causes. First, man’s belief is ruled out as a cause for the passage shows that the birth took place prior to man’s belief. This leaves us with the only logical conclusion that belief cannot be a cause of the new birth. Secondly, the new birth is not the result of a blood relationship to Abraham or anyone else. Thirdly, the new birth is not the result of the will or desire of the flesh. Man, by nature, does not desire to be born again. Fourthly, the new birth is not the result of man’s will or choice. Thus, man does not choose to be born again, nor by his choice does the new birth come about. Therefore, having ruled out all other possible causes of the new birth, John simply states that the new birth is “of God.” While there are other scriptures, which show God’s sovereignty in bringing about the new birth, these sufficiently prove God’s independence of man in causing anyone to be born again.