THE DOCTRINE OF THE TRINITY (16)
The Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit and Regeneration
“Except a man be born again he cannot see the Kingdom of God” (John 3:3)
This particular study brings us to consider the one aspect of the Holy Spirit’s ministry which is most precious and indeed personal for each believer. He is the prime agency in bringing us into the family God, joining us to Christ and converting our souls. The word regeneration denotes the new birth which brings new life to the soul. The necessity of this doctrine was especially articulated by Jesus Christ in His conversation with Nicodemas. Christ’s emphasis was that regeneration is a spiritual work in which man is passive, because he is flesh. Only the Holy Ghost can effect such a spiritual change in the life of the sinner.
1: The Necessity of Regeneration
Addressing Nicodemas, Christ emphasised that one cannot “see the kingdom of God” without the new birth. For a man who prided himself in his belonging to Israel, this must have been received with some shock. Whatever his Jewish pedigree may have been Nicodemas, without the intervention of the Holy Ghost, he was outside the Kingdom.
Entering God’s Kingdom without Regeneration would be a Contradiction
The Kingdom of God is a spiritual force in the world:
“For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost” (Romans 14:17).
This Kingdom is the Church, the Body of Christ, encompassing the Saints who who are on earth as well as those in heaven. As this Kingdom is defined not in a physical sense but in a spiritual, it would therefore be impossible to belong to this Kingdom without a spiritual transformation.
Entering God’s Kingdom without Regeneration would be for God to Deny Himself.
The clearest outward evidence of the Holy Spirit at work in the soul is repentance. Repentance is proof that the nature has been transformed because there is an outward desire to conform to holiness. Therefore writing to the Corinthians Paul said:
“Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” (1st Corinthians 6:9-11).
The many references in the New Testament to the necessity of repentance is evidence enough to suggest that God would be a most inconsistent creature, He would not be God, if He permitted entrance into the kingdom without the new birth.
Entering God’s Kingdom without Regeneration would be for God to act Contrary to His Nature.
God is intrinsically and absolutely holy in every aspect of His nature. Therefore His kingdom is holy, just and pure. It would be incongruous for God to devise a kingdom that was inconsistent with his nature.
It is evident that man at his heart is a depraved and corrupt creature as Ephesians 2 aptly demonstrates:
DEAD – “in trespasses and sins”
DEPRAVED – “walked according to the course of this world…fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind”
DOOMED – “the children of wrath”
When addressing Nicodemas, Christ taught “that which is born of the flesh is flesh”; man cannot be altered by anything that he generates or contrives. There must be a new work accomplished in his heart by an outside agency before he can enter God’s kingdom.
2: The Power of Regeneration
Our Saviour’s lesson, instructs us that when one experiences the new birth, that individual enters God’s Kingdom. That person as a member of a spiritual kingdom becomes spiritual, a saving and a thorough change has taken root in his being. The Scriptures employ a variety of phrases which capture the power of this experience:
John 3:7 – “Born again” or ‘life from above’.
2nd Corinthians 5:17 – “new creature” or ‘ new creation’.
2nd Peter 1:4 – “partakers of the divine nature”
Romans 8:11 – “quicken” or ‘make alive’.
Ezekiel 36:26 – “heart of flesh” – a responsive, sensitive heart.
Titus 3:5 – “washing of regeneration”
Acts 3:19 – “repent and be converted” – transformation.
This new nature, born of the Holy Ghost cannot sin and is the basis of sanctification in the life of the Christian:
“Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” (1st John 3:9).
“For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.” (Galatians 5:17)
3: The Reception of Regeneration
While regeneration precedes faith, it is also true that one cannot know the assurance of the new birth without faith. Therefore the sinner cannot have faith without the operation of the Spirit in his heart, it is faith that grants him the peace that he or she does indeed belong to God. Principle is the grace without which we cannot be Christians.
“But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, 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.” (John 1:12-13)