Jesus proclaimed to Nicodemus that one must be born again to enter the Kingdom of God. Since Adam and Eve, mankind has been cut off from God. The design of the Tabernacle, the Temple, and the worship system under the Old Covenant pictures God as distant and virtually unapproachable. Man in his natural condition, having a carnal mind and dead in his sin, is certainly shown as away from God. Though it is necessary for an individual to be born again to enter God's Kingdom, it takes a gracious and miraculous act—completely on God's part—to close the gap between Him and those He calls (John 6:44).
No one can arbitrarily volunteer for entry and be accepted; a person cannot cause himself to be born again. Flesh does not produce redemption. Unless one is born of the Holy Spirit, whatever one does in the flesh will not make him spiritual in the biblical sense. The Bible shows that the natural mind of man is at war against God and that it is not subject to God's law and cannot be (Romans 8:7), expressing the harsh reality of the carnal heart of mankind.
When Paul writes that the unconverted are dead in trespasses and sin, he means exactly that. Regardless of how sincere or religious they might be, such people are lifeless in terms of true spiritual life that is given by God. They are part of the old, natural creation and are spiritually lifeless unless and until—and completely at His discretion—God graciously gives life by His Spirit. Paul writes, "For He says to Moses, 'I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.' So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy" (Romans 9:15-16).
John W. Ritenbaugh
Born Again or Begotten? (Part Two)