Thursday, January 3, 2013

Jesus' Teaching on the New Birth/Regeneration - P1

 John 3:3 Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

Yesterday we looked at James' teaching on the New Birth or what is called "regeneration".  We observed the following characteristics of the New Birth:
1. New Birth Comes from God. James 1:17
2. New Birth Brings a Change of heart. James 1:18
3. New Birth Involves Repentance and Faith. James 1:19-21

These characteristics are mentioned in Baptist Faith and Message's definition of regeneration: "Regeneration, or the new birth, is a work of God's grace whereby believers become new creatures in Christ Jesus. It is a change of heart wrought by the Holy Spirit through conviction of sin, to which the sinner responds in repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Repentance and faith are inseparable experiences of grace."

In today's blog we are eager to see what Jesus teaches on this fundamental doctrine of biblical salvation in John 3:1-21. 

You must be born again or born from above - how James' teaching corresponds with Jesus' teaching about the New Birth
Jesus says in John 3:7 “Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again."  That phrase "born again" in the original Greek of John's text could be easily rendered: "you must be born from above".  Just as in James' text, Jesus teaching on being Born Again or "The New Birth" is identical: namely it comes from God, brings a change of heart and includes faith and repentance.  In John 3:18-21 we see the accompanying change of heart that comes with the New Birth - namely a changed inclination from wanting to practice sin to that of practicing righteousness.  Then of course we cannot forget that no biblical understanding of being Born again is complete without the inclusion of faith and repentance, which we readily see in John 3:14-18. 

What Jesus specifically teaches about being born again
The wider unity of scripture on any given doctrine is important to consider when coming to any specific text - since our interpretation of specific scriptures must be guided by the general testimony of scripture.  With that said, what is Jesus specifically teaching about the New Birth in this text of John?  Let the reader take note:

1. The demand of the New Birth John 3:1-3, 7
As much as being born again is a work deriving from God, it is a demand that we issue forth to all men and women.  Why?  Because as much as it derives from God and brings change to the human heart, it also involves faith and repentance.  In John 3:7 Jesus tells Nicodemas that He must be born-again.  In our presentations of the Gospel, we  make this demand on our hearers.  God's Sovereign work of salvation includes the means of reception: namely faith and repentance.  Furthermore, He has willed that anyone who is Born Again by grace through faith does so by means of verbal communication of the word. (Romans 10:11-17) Without the New Birth, no one will be able to see, understand, enjoy or abide in the Kingdom of God - that is - in the totality of relationship with Him in His reign and work. 

2. The description of the New Birth John 3:4-8
So what is the New Birth or Regeneration? Clearly this truth is something of which Nicodemas, a teacher of the Old Testament should had known.  Passages such as Ezekiel 36 and Jeremiah 31-33 all predicted the New Birth work of the Holy Spirit.  Nicodemas' issue was not an intellectual gap so much as a moral and spiritual one.  The New Birth, in contrast to natural birth, involves God the Holy Spirit uniting with me in my human spirit. (John 3:6; 1 Corinthians 6:17)  The miraculous nature of the Born Again work is that it is done by the Spirit of God.  As Jesus points out in John 3:8 - “The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

The employment of the imagery of wind to compare the Spirit's work in regeneration is referring to the cleansing, purifying and driving away of all that obscures the sinner's heart from seeing and hearing Christ calling him to faith and repentance.   Again the Baptist Faith and message 2000 is instructive on this point: "It is a change of heart wrought by the Holy Spirit through conviction of sin, to which the sinner responds in repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ." 

More tomorrow...........

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