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What the Bible says about God Grants Regeneration
(From Forerunner Commentary)

John 3:8

John 3:8 expands on the sovereign character of God's personal involvement in each person's new birth. At the same time, Christ teaches us that we should judge what has happened in the born-again person's life by what it produces. He illustrates this by saying, "The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit."

This is another verse where people jump to a wrong conclusion, concluding that Christ is speaking of a post-resurrection situation. They do this by assuming that a person is not born into the Kingdom of God until the resurrection. At that time, they will indeed be composed of spirit and be invisible like wind. With that as their assumption, they give themselves the "hatpin test," saying, "I can't possibly be born again yet because I'm still human." We must not fall for this line of reasoning, though, because such a thought directly contradicts the exceedingly clear Colossians 1:13, as well as other scriptures. Once again, people who have concluded this have not correctly analyzed another of Jesus' figurative illustrations. The Scripture cannot be broken (John 10:35)! There is another answer, a right answer.

Interestingly, the Greek word underlying "wind" is the same as the one underlying "spirit": pneuma. This truth supplies one facet of proper analysis because wind and spirit share a few characteristics: They are both invisible to human sight, and neither can be controlled by humans. In other words, each is sovereign and independent in its actions. The wind does as it pleases. No human can direct where the wind comes from, nor order where it is to go or what it is to do.

However, even though wind is itself invisible, its effects can be seen. In addition, the sound of its movement can be heard, and the changes it produces—such as trees swaying, dust blowing, and clouds passing across the sky—can be seen. In this same manner, the invisible Spirit, by which a person receives spiritual birth and produces spiritual fruit, operates.

Notice in verse 8 that the definite article "the" appears before the word "Spirit." In this case, "Spirit" is not used as a mere general term, but Jesus draws attention to a particular Spiritthe One who causes our spiritual birth, our Father in heaven. He is spirit (John 4:24), and He is holy (I Peter 1:16). Who can order Him about and direct the course of His actions? He does as it pleases Him. His operations are sovereign, and He has power over even the most hardened of sinners.

We can witness the changes that He produces in people by noting that the formerly sinful person is becoming holy; the immoral person is becoming moral; the stubborn, obstinate person is becoming gentle, thoughtful, and helpful. In other words, just as with the wind, we see the effects of an invisible cause. The Father grants regeneration and repentance, and He reveals Himself, bestowing His Spirit and spiritual growth on whomever He will (Romans 9:15-16). He does these things at the times and in the ways that please Him.

The born-again person knows his life has changed and enjoys it, but we do not always grasp how God operates on our hearts to subdue our wills to His. However, if we take up the challenges of God's calling, understanding comes. As Paul says in I Corinthians 2:10: "But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God."

It is small wonder that Nicodemus was perplexed by Jesus' instruction. He apparently had never dreamed of such a personal, intimate, and continuous relationship with the Creator God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Born Again or Begotten? (Part Three)

1 Peter 1:2

Peter's words are intended, not merely to instruct, but also to encourage. We listen to God's Word because God Almighty Himself personally chose us to do so. That needs to sink into our brains and become part of how we operate our lives. We are the chosen of God, elect according to His foreknowledge. That is, before we ever knew of the true God, He was watching us. He was monitoring us and waiting for the opportunity that, at just the right time, He would reveal Himself to us in just the right circumstance, just the right environment to give us the best opportunity to respond to the truth.

We can expand this process out to include the whole church. The church exists because God willed it so. The church does not exist because of human goodness, hopes, aspirations, vision, or dreams. It exists because of the eternal purpose of God, which is both a tremendous honor and responsibility.

God, working through His Spirit (notice, "in sanctification of the Spirit"), sets us apart, consecrates us, or makes us fit for His calling. God is a creator. That fact is what Peter explains here. His calling is the first step to prepare us to inherit His Kingdom. We should not limit the calling just to the initial time that He entered our lives, and we began to understand. His calling ultimately includes the whole process.

Peter states the goal He has in mind as "obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ." It is the Spirit of God that makes the calling of God effective. It is a singular act, but at some time in our lives, He "messed with" our brain—He turned the light on—and we began to respond. He did this as a singular act at a specific time, but His calling is also a process that begins with that initial act and ends with resurrection into His Family. The sanctification of the Spirit of God ties all of it together.

The initial act by God opens our mind, which is the beginning of sanctification. It is like being given a second start, which Paul calls "regeneration" (Titus 3:5). Then comes the sanctification that arises with growth, overcoming, and becoming more like God. Finally, there is glorification, which is the ultimate in sanctification. The whole process is encompassed by the calling of God, and the Spirit of God ties all of these steps together.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Truth (Part 3)


 




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