Pastor David B. Curtis


Media #1,214 MP3 Audio File Video File

The Cause of the New Birth

1 Peter 1:3

Delivered 04/14/24

Good morning, Bereans. We are continuing our study of 1 Peter this morning. Today we will be looking at verse 3. Peter is writing to Christians that are being persecuted for their faith and have been scattered from their original homes in different parts of the Roman Empire.

Peter, an apostle of Yeshua the Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Yeshua Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you. 1 Peter 1:1-2 ESV

When Peter considered that they are God's elect, his immediate response was to simply praise Yahweh for his mercy that caused them to be born again.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Yeshua the Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Yeshua the Christ from the dead, 1 Peter 1:3 ESV

This doxological outburst by Peter, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Yeshua Christ," inaugurates what is in the Greek text one long sentence that does not conclude until verse 12. Some say that this passage, extolling the character of God the Father (1 Peter 1:3-5), may reflect an early hymn, poem, or catechismal liturgy. Maybe.

What is interesting to me here is that Peter offers a blessing which in the Jewish tradition is called a b'erakah (literal Hebrew means "blessing"). It is a blessing acknowledging God's mercy as the basis for the New Covenant made through the redemptive work of God the Son in God's divine plan for mankind's salvation.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Yeshua Christ!—we see this exact phrase two other places by in Scripture by Paul.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Yeshua the Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, Ephesians 1:3 ESV
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Yeshua the Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 2 Corinthians 1:3 ESV

"Blessed" is from the Greek word eulogētos. It is exclusively used of Yahweh in the New Testament. We get the English word "eulogy" from this word. A eulogy is something that is usually recited at somebody's funeral, and it means "to speak well of someone."

This is in the form of a Jewish b'erakah. The earliest and simplest form of a b'erakah [Bear-a-ka] was a single sentence in which an individual responded joyfully to Yahweh's deliverance or provision. We see this in Genesis 14.

and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!" And Abram gave him a tenth of everything. Genesis 14:20 ESV

Since we have said that this is a Hebrew b'erakah, we should seek to understand the word "blessed" from a Hebrew perspective. The word "blessed" is barakh. The English word blessed, or the Greek word eulogetos, are purely abstract words. Since the Hebrews did not think in abstract but, rather, in concrete terms, we have to try to find the original concrete meaning of this word. To see a concrete meaning of barakh look at Genesis 24.

And he made the camels kneel down outside the city by the well of water at the time of evening, the time when women go out to draw water. Genesis 24:11 ESV

The words "kneel down" are the Hebrew word barakh. This is our word translated: "bless." Each Hebrew verb has a voice and a mood. The three different voices are active, passive, and reflexive. Active means "to kneel down." Passive means "to be knelt down." Reflexive means "to kneel yourself down." The three different moods are simple, causative, intensive. Simple means "knelt down," Causative: "to cause the action to occur," Intensive: "to drop to the knee."

Whenever you see the word "bless" in your Bible, it is the intensive form of the verb barakh. In the Hebrew it means "to drop to the knee in respect to another person as if to present them a gift." This can be literal or figurative.

How can we bless Yahweh? When we recite a b'rachah, we are not blessing Yahweh but are expressing how blessed Yahweh is ("Blessed are you, Yahweh our God"). When we give our blessings to Yahweh, we give Him our gifts. In Greek thinking, blessings are just words. In Hebrew thinking, blessings are actions.

Peter Christianizes this b'erakah by classifying God not as the God of Israel or as the most high but as "the Father of our Lord Yeshua the Christ."

When Paul uses this b'erakah in Ephesians he goes on to say:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Yeshua the Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, Ephesians 1:3 ESV

Paul says, "Blessed be God" and then adds, "who has blessed us"—now remember what we said that in the Hebrew it means "to drop to the knee in respect to another person as if to present them a gift." Does Yahweh drop to his knee to present us a gift? It sounds strange, doesn't it? Look at Numbers 6.

"So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them."  Numbers 6:27 ESV

Bless here is barak. The idea here in the Hebrew is that the priest is to take Yahweh's name and put it on the people. How does he do that? By taking His character and putting it on the people. In the previous verses the Aaronic blessing spells out the character of Yahweh.

"I will bless them"—Yahweh "kneels down" by giving His teaching (Torah) to the people. So how has Yahweh blessed the Ephesians? Verses 4-14 spell it out. He chose us in Him, He predestined us as sons, He bestowed His grace on us freely in the Beloved, He provided us with redemption through His blood, He forgave all of our sins, He gave us wisdom and insight, He made known the mystery of His will, and He gave us an inheritance.

The same is true for Peter's audience, they have been blessed by Yahweh and they are to, therefore, bless Yahweh.

As I said, Peter Christianizes this b'erakah with the genitival prepositional phrase "the Father of our Lord Yeshua the Christ." By calling God this, Peter is saying, "Yeshua is of the same essence as God," because like produces like. If God was His Father, then He had the nature of God.

This phrase, "the Father of our Lord Yeshua the Christ" denotes several things: (1) His personal relationship with the believer; (2) His name, Yeshua; (3) His lordship; and (4) His status as the promised Messiah who would bring salvation.

"According to his great mercy"—the word mercy here is from the Greek eleos, which means "pity or compassion." Mercy shown to another human being is illustrated in the Good Samaritan's action. Yeshua inquired as to who proved to be a neighbor to the wounded man.

He said, "The one who showed him mercy." And Yeshua said to him, "You go, and do likewise."  Luke 10:37 ESV

So, he is saying that the Good Samaritan showed mercy. What did this mercy look like? Was it just an emotional concern? No!

He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. Luke 10:34 ESV

That is mercy! A good definition of "mercy" would be: "to help one afflicted or seeking aid, to bring help to the wretched." Mercy is the outward manifestation of pity. The verb signifies a feeling of sympathy with the misery of another, especially when manifested in action. Our text says that Yahweh's mercy is great. Our God is abundant in mercy.

All of Yahweh's goodness to us begins with mercy. Spurgeon writes, "No other attribute could have helped us had mercy been refused. As we are by nature, justice condemns us, holiness frowns upon us, power crushes us, truth confirms the threatening of the law, and wrath fulfils it. It is from the mercy of our God that all our hopes begin."

Paul tells us in Romans 9 that God is sovereign in the giving of his mercy.

So, then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. Romans 9:18 ESV

How does God demonstrate his mercy to us?  Our text says, "According to His great mercy—He has caused us to be born again." God, because of His mercy, caused us to be born again. Because we were born in sin, He had to give us a brand-new birth in order to change our condition. We were born dead in sin. We were born dead in trespasses and sins. We had no life in us. We were alienated from the life of God. Jeremiah said,

Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then also you can do good who are accustomed to do evil. Jeremiah 13:23 ESV

So there has to be a change in your nature and that's why the Bible says if you're in Christ, you're a new creation.

He has caused us to be born again—this phrase is used to assert God's sovereignty in the new birth. The ESV here give us a literal reading. Peter's saying that God caused us to be born again seems to refer the readers back to what he talked about in verses 1 and 2. He talked about the believer's election, which speaks of how God chose them before time. Just as human birth has nothing to do with the child, neither does the second birth.

"Born again"—the idea of being "born again" is a very familiar concept to believers. At least the terminology is a very familiar part of evangelical lingo. It has been popular for a long time for believers to speak of themselves as being born-again Christians. But born-again Christian is redundant. To be born again is to be a Christian, and to be a Christian is to have been born again.

"Born again" here is the Greek word anagennaō. This word is only found twice in the Scriptures—here and in 1 Peter 1:23. But the root gennaō is used in John 3:3. All Peter tells us here is that Yahweh causes the new birth. To learn more about the new birth, let's look at what John tells us.

Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. John 3:1 ESV

Here we meet a man named "Nicodemus"—it is surprising for a Jew in Palestine to have only a Greek name. This Greek name means "people crusher" or "conqueror of the people." This is a fitting name for a member of the sect of Pharisees whose harsh interpretation of the Law of Moses made the Law an intolerable and oppressive burden to the people.

Lazarus tells us that Nicodemus was "A man of the Pharisees"—as a Pharisee, Nicodemus had respect for the Jewish Scriptures and was nationalistic politically. He would have stressed the careful observance of Israel's laws and the traditions of the elders. This was the way of salvation for Pharisees.

Not only was Nicodemus a Pharisee, he was a, "Ruler of the Jews." In this context, this is a technical phrase for members of the Sanhedrin. In other contexts, it could mean a leader of a local synagogue.

So, as Pharisee ruler (member of the Sanhedrin) and teacher, Nicodemus represented the essence of Judaism at that time. This is a formidable man in the religious system of Israel. In fact, he may have been one of the most formidable men of his day based on what Yeshua says in verse 10/

Yeshua answered him, "Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things?  John 3:10 ESV

This man has reached the pinnacle of Judaism, because he is the teacher (definite article—the teacher of Israel). He's a leading man in apostate Judaism.

Now in his favor, Nicodemus was a very unusual man because he preserved a measure of open-mindedness amid the Pharisee conventionalism in which he had been brought up. (Nicodemus in the Chosen.)

This man came to Yeshua by night and said to him, "Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him."  John 3:2 ESV
Yeshua answered him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."  John 3:3 ESV

"Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God"—the Greek verbs translated "born" in verses 3-8 (eight of them) all derive from gennao, the normal word for being born. The word translated "again" is anothen, which has a double meaning, as pointed out by Z. C. Hodges. The word may mean either "again" or "from above."

Lazarus uses this word anothen four times in this Gospel (3:3, 7; 3:31; 19:11) and in the latter 2 cases the context makes clear that it means "from above." Here (3:3, 7) it could mean either, but it seems that Hodges is right in contending that the primary meaning intended by Yeshua is "from above." This phrase points to God as the source and origin of this birth.

So, "born again" in Peter is one Greek word anagennao which is a compound word made up of ana [again]+ gennao [to be born]. While anothen (from above) points to the source of this new birth, anagennao (born again) points to the fact that this is a second birth, distinct from the first physical birth. This entire verse clearly teaches the spiritual and divine source of this second birth.

Our Lord uses a passive voice in "born," which means He is declaring the necessity of a condition that someone else must bring about on our behalf. The passive voice expresses the subject's being acted upon. So, Yeshua told Nicodemus, you cannot birth yourself spiritually so that you enter the Kingdom. Someone else must birth you, and apart from that new birth, you cannot enter the Kingdom.

The whole point of the analogy of being born from above is to demonstrate that Yeshua is saying something has to happen to you that you can't do and to which you cannot contribute in any way. We made no contribution to our physical birth, and that is why the Lord chooses this analogy. We also make no contribution to our spiritual birth.

No one gives himself or herself physical life, and no one by any means gives himself or herself spiritual life. That's the whole point. Spiritual birth or regeneration is the work of God in salvation.

What does it mean to be born from above? The term "born again" or "born from above" is synonymous with "regeneration." Being born from above is the same as "receiving a new heart" (Ezekiel 36:26) or what Ephesians 2 calls being "made alive." First Peter calls it "being called out of darkness into His marvelous light." All of these terms refer to what theologians call "regeneration."

Hodge says that regeneration is "the instantaneous change from spiritual death to spiritual life. Regeneration, therefore, is a spiritual resurrection, the beginning of a new life." Thiessen says, "Regeneration may be defined as the communication of divine life to the soul, as the impartation of a new nature, or heart and the production of a new creation."

There are many different views of regeneration within the Church. The Pelagian view says that regeneration is a moral transformation, a work of man. Most liberals today hold this view. It was condemned by the Church in 431 at the Counsel of Ephesus. Practically, the Pelagian says, "I can save myself by my works." Adam was the first Pelagian; he tried to cover his sin with fig leaves. God killed animals and clothed Adam and Eve with the skins to picture Christ's righteousness.

The Catholic view says that regeneration is accomplished by baptism, so it is a work of man through a divine ordinance. The Church of Christ also holds the view of baptismal regeneration. The Arminian view is called "semi-pelagianism." Regeneration is not exclusively God's or man's work—it is the fruit of man's choice to cooperate with the divine influences. They teach that the work of man, a decision to trust Christ, is prior to the work of God. This view is held by most evangelicals today. They believe it was necessary for them, in an act of their own will, to cooperate with the grace found in the preaching of the Word.

Then there is the position that we hold here at Berean Bible Church called the "Reformed View," which teaches that "regeneration is of the Lord." God made us alive, who were dead; God made us willing, who were unwilling. Salvation from beginning to end is a work of God, according to the Reformed View.

The basic debate in the Church is between Calvinism and Arminianism. Those who hold the Pelagian or Catholic views are not Christians because they trust themselves, not Christ. Calvinism proclaims a God who saves, while Arminianism speaks of a God who enables man to save himself. One makes salvation dependent on the work of God, the other on a work of man; one regards faith as part of God's gift of salvation, the other as man's contribution to salvation; one gives all the glory of salvation to God, the other divides the praise between God, who built the machinery of salvation, and man, who by believing operated it.

What does the Bible teach about regeneration? Well as we saw in John 3:3, we MUST be born from above, because the condition of humanity demands it according to Ephesians 2.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins Ephesians 2:1 ESV

Fallen man, in his natural state, lacks all power to commune with God because man is spiritually dead. Apart from the new birth, man cannot understand spiritual things. Without a birth from above, Yeshua says, "He cannot see the kingdom of God"—"to see the kingdom," and the phrase in verse 5, "to enter the kingdom," both mean "to experience the kingdom." Yeshua uses the term "see" in the sense of "experience, encounter, participate in"—e.g., "see death" (8:51), "see life" (3:36).

To "see the Kingdom of God" or "to enter the Kingdom," both mean to "obtain eternal life" (cf. Mark 9:43, 45, 47). Lazarus used "Kingdom" language rarely (vv. 3, 5; 18:36). This is the only passage in John that mentions the "Kingdom of God," though Yeshua spoke of "My kingdom" in 18:36. He generally used "life" language instead (cf. 1:12-13).

To a Jew with the background and convictions of Nicodemus, "to see the Kingdom of God" was to participate in the Kingdom at the end of the age, to experience eternal, resurrection life. Predominant religious thought in Yeshua's day affirmed that all Jews would be admitted to that Kingdom apart from those guilty of deliberate apostasy or extraordinary wickedness (e.g. Mishnah Sanhedrin 10:1). But here was Yeshua telling Nicodemus, a respected and conscientious member not only of Israel but of the Sanhedrin, that he cannot enter the Kingdom unless he is born from above.

The Kingdom of God is spiritual, not geographic. God reigns in the hearts of people! What do you need to have a Kingdom? Only two necessary components: a king and subjects. You don't need a geographic realm.

The idea of "Kingdom" in both the Tanakh and New Testament is primarily dynamic rather than spatial. It is not so much a Kingdom with geographic borders as it is a "kingdominion" or reign. In the Scriptures, the spatial meaning of Kingdom is secondary and derivative. The Kingdom of God or Kingdom of heaven is, quite simply, the rule and reign of God. Christianity is the Kingdom of God.

Nicodemus said to him, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?"  John 3:4 ESV

He interprets Yeshua's use of anothen to mean "born again." The word translated "second time" is anothen, which has a double meaning. It could mean either "again" or "from above." Nicodemus takes the meaning of "again."

Nicodemus did not understand what Yeshua was talking about at all. At this point he could not believe that the new birth was a requirement for entrance into the Kingdom and was amazed by the very thought. His response is therefore marked with unbelief, which prompts him to reply with a crassly literalistic interpretation of what Yeshua said as a way of expressing a certain degree of scorn. He knew he couldn't crawl back into his mother's womb.

Yeshua answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. John 3:5 ESV

Nicodemus' misunderstanding leads Yeshua to explain His point slightly differently. Here He says, "born of water and the Spirit," which is just a different way of saying, "born from above" in verse 3. Here Yeshua says that he "cannot enter the kingdom of God (i.e., he "cannot see the kingdom of God," verse 3). So, Yeshua is saying the same thing but in a different way so that Nicodemus will get it. What he is saying in verse 5, then, was something that Nicodemus should have understood.

There is great controversy today over what Yeshua means by "born of water and the Spirit." It is noteworthy that the definite article translated "the" before "Spirit" is absent in the Greek text. The English translators have inserted it to clarify their interpretation of "spirit" (pneuma) as the Holy Spirit.

What do you think is the most common understanding of water in this verse?

The word "water" here is understood by the majority of contemporary commentators to refer to Christian baptism, though there is little agreement among them on the relation between "water" and "Spirit."

Some commentators take the "water" as an allusion to water baptism and the "spirit" as referring to the Holy Spirit. According to this view, spiritual birth happens only when a person undergoes water baptism, and as a result, experiences regeneration by the Holy Spirit.

In considering audience relevance, Christian baptism would have had no significance for Nicodemus. He knew nothing of Christian baptism. And it's interesting that Yeshua never mentioned water baptism again in clarifying the new birth to Nicodemus.

Another view proposed by many scholars is that "water" is an allusion to the amniotic fluid in which a fetus develops in its mother's womb. Other scholars see it as a euphemistic reference to the semen, without which natural birth is impossible. Rabbinic literature quite often refers to male semen as "water," "rain," "dew," and similar terms. So, this interpretation understands "water" to refer to normal physical birth, which is common to everyone, and "Spirit" to refer to the spiritual birth, which is essential for life in the Kingdom.

This view assumes that two births are in view, whereas the construction of the Greek phrase favors one birth rather than two. If two were in view, there would normally be a repetition of the preposition before the second noun. Also, the entire expression "of water and the Spirit" is the equivalent of anothen, "from above," if there is genuine parallelism between verse 3 and verse 5. This too argues that the expression should be taken as a reference to one birth, not two.

What would be the point of telling Nicodemus or anyone that they have to be born physically and then spiritually? If they are hearing Yeshua speak, they have already been born physically!

The Pillar New Testament Commentary states,

The most plausible interpretation of 'born of water and the Spirit' turns on three factors. First, the expression is parallel to 'from above' (anothen, v. 3), and so only one birth is in view. Second, the preposition 'of' governs both 'water' and 'spirit.' The most natural way of taking this construction is to see the phrase as a conceptual unity: there is a water-spirit source (cf. Murray J. Harris, NIDNTT 3. 1178) that stands as the origin of this regeneration. Third, Jesus berates Nicodemus for not understanding these things in his role as 'Israel's teacher' (v. 10), a senior 'professor' of the Scriptures, and this in turn suggests we must turn to what Christians call the Old Testament to begin to discern what Jesus had in mind.

Judaism expected the Kingdom of God to be the Age of the Spirit. The pouring out of the Spirit of God was an important part of Old Covenant expectations for the Messianic Age.

"And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Even on the male and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit. Joel 2:28-29 ESV

Joel spoke of the pouring out of the Spirit on all flesh. Isaiah 32:15-20 looked forward to a time when peace and righteousness would be restored on earth and the Spirit would be poured out from above. When water is used figuratively in the Tanakh, it habitually refers to renewal or cleansing, especially when it is found in conjunction with "spirit."

For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants. Isaiah 44:3 ESV

Here we see the connection of water and spirit. Most important to our discussion is:

I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. Ezekiel 36:24-27 ESV

Here the water and spirit come together, the first to signify cleansing from impurity and the second to depict the transformation of heart that will enable people to follow God wholly.

So, the revelation that Yahweh would bring cleansing and renewal as water, by means of His Spirit, was clear in the Tanakh. Yeshua evidently meant that unless a person has experienced spiritual cleansing and renewal from the Spirit of Yahweh, he cannot enter the Kingdom.

As I said earlier, the construction of the phrase in the Greek text indicates that the preposition "of" governs both "water" and "Spirit." This means that Yeshua was clarifying regeneration by using two terms that both describe the new birth. He was not saying that two separate things have to be present for regeneration to happen.

That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. John 3:6 ESV

Two words are being contrasted here—flesh and spirit. In the Greek, these are sarx versus pneuma. In Paul's letters, he often contrasts these two words, but in the Fourth Gospel, the contrast appears only here. In the Synoptic Gospels, the sarx versus pneuma contrast appears only in Mark at Yeshua's prayer at Gethsemane.

Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak."  Mark 14:38 ESV

What is the context of "flesh" in John 3:6 and Mark 14:38? It depicts human frailty, not sinful nature. Until now, man has only thought in terms of "birth" in human terms—the seed of man bears children. Man is "begotten" by the seed of a human father and becomes "flesh" when he is born in the kingdom of the world. But Yeshua tells Nicodemus that man can enter the Kingdom of God only when man is "born" of the heavenly Father, born from above. Earthly life comes to man only from an earthly father; eternal life comes only from the heavenly Father.

Yeshua is saying, "No longer is being in Covenant with God a question of being born in the physical line of Abraham, but, rather, of being born from above through the action of the Holy Spirit by means of life-giving water to become a child of God."

This would have all been difficult for Nicodemus to grasp. He viewed acceptance by God like so many of his Jewish contemporaries did. He thought that his heritage (ancestry, position, works, all that made him what he was) was adequate to get him into the Kingdom and make him acceptable to God. He had to realize that he needed a complete spiritual cleansing and renewal that only God could provide by His Spirit! The same is true today. To gain acceptance with God, most people are relying on themselves, on who they are, and on what they have done.

Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again.'  John 3:7 ESV

This word translated "again" is the Greek word anothen. It is derived from an adverb that means "above" so that "again" may mean simply "from above."

Nicodemus shouldn't have been amazed at the idea that there is a spiritual birth in addition to a physical birth, since the Tanakh spoke of it (Ezek. 36:25-28). There is also an intertestamental reference from Jubilees 1:25 that says, "I will create in them a holy spirit and I will cleanse them … I will be their Father and they shall be my children." The Essenes of Qumran wrote in one of the Dead Sea Scrolls that God would cleanse man, "of all wicked deeds by means of a holy spirit; like purifying waters He will sprinkle upon him the spirit of truth." These texts revealed that entrance into the Kingdom is a spiritual matter, not a matter of physical descent or merit. This was a revelation that most of the Jews in Yeshua's day, including Nicodemus, missed.

The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So, it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit."  John 3:8 ESV

Both the Hebrew word ruach and the Greek word pneuma can mean "breath" or "wind" as well as "spirit," though in the New Testament any meaning other than "Spirit" is rare. This is a clever play on both meanings of the word pneuma in this passage and biblical scholars point out that we do not get the same sense of the word-play when translated into English. There is word-play also in the use of the word "sound"; "you hear the sound of it, is literally, "voice." The word-play suggests the "sound" of the wind, but the "voice" of the Spirit. This coming of the Holy Spirit is not something that can be explained by man, and yet it happens. The wind cannot be seen, but its sound can be heard; the Spirit cannot be seen, but the Spirit's voice is heard in the hearts for those who have been regenerated by the Spirit's gift of new birth.

What are the similarities here between the wind and Spirit? First, both the Spirit and the wind operate sovereignly. Man does not and cannot control either one. Second, we perceive the presence of both by their effects. Third, we cannot explain their actions, since they arise from unseen and partially unknowable factors; they are mysterious.

So, he is making clear that the new birth is the work of the Holy Spirit. When you are born again, you are born by the Spirit. The new spiritual life that comes in the new birth comes through the Holy Spirit.

So, the new birth and the new life that comes with it is the work of the Holy Spirit. We don't cause the Spirit to bring about the new birth any more than we make the wind blow.

Verse 8 stresses the enigma of why some people believe when they hear/see the Gospel and others do not. John later asserts that no one can believe unless drawn by the Spirit of God.

So, being "born from above" and being "born of water and the Spirit" are the efficient cause of regeneration. Titus 3:4-5 supports this reading.

he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Yeshua the Christ our Savior, Titus 3:5-6 ESV

The renewing of the Holy Spirit is a further explanation of regeneration. Clark translates it this way: "the washing effected by regeneration is the renewal." The Holy Spirit cleanses us through regeneration so that being born of water and being born of the Spirit refer to the same thing.

In our text in John, when Yeshua says, "Unless one is born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God," He uses a passive voice in "born." Through this usage, He is declaring the necessity of a condition that someone else must bring about on our behalf. The passive voice expresses the subject's being acted upon. So, Yeshua told Nicodemus, you cannot birth yourself spiritually so that you enter the Kingdom. Someone else must birth you, and apart from that new birth, you cannot enter the kingdom.

This new life, this regeneration, is based on two things: God's mercy and Yeshua's resurrection.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Yeshua the Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Yeshua the Christ from the dead, 1 Peter 1:3 ESV

"Born again to a living hope"—suggests that hope was not a part of their natural experience, but was distinctively Christian. This vital hope has its roots in "the resurrection of Yeshua the Christ from the dead." Because He lives, we shall live. Our new birth gave us this life. Yeshua's resurrection is a central truth of the gospel.

The new or second birth is the miraculous work of the Spirit beneath the level of our conscious thought that imparts new life and accounts for our response of faith. You can know that you have been born again if you believe in Christ.

Everyone who believes that Yeshua is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. 1 John 5:1 ESV

"Has been born of God"—is a perfect passive indicative, conveying a settled condition brought about by an outside agent—Yahweh. So, let me state it like this: "Everyone who is presently believing in Christ has been in the past born of God." This verse teaches that faith is the result and evidence of one's being born again and not the reverse. In other words, we are not born again as the result of faith. Birth precedes the believing.

Continue the Series

Berean Bible Church provides this material free of charge for the edification of the Body of Christ. You can help further this work by your prayer and by contributing online or by mailing to:

Berean Bible Church
1000 Chattanooga Street
Chesapeake, VA 23322