The subject of the believer’s salvation needs to be considered from two viewpoints — the divine and the human. God’s work is to regenerate, to justify, to sanctify, and ultimately to glorify. Our responsibility is to repent, to believe, and do good works.
Regeneration is solely the work of God and man has no part or lot in it. This from the very nature of the case. Regeneration is termed a new birth, or birth from above (Joh 3:3), and birth excludes altogether any effort or work on the part of the individual who is born. Personally, we have no more to do with our spiritual birth than we had with our physical. Again, regeneration is likened unto a spiritual resurrection (Eph 2:1; Joh 5:24). Clearly, resurrection is outside man’s province. No corpse can quicken itself. No man and no number of men can reanimate a dead body. Only the living God can speak the word which will call forth a Lazarus from the tomb; and He alone can quicken into newness of life one who, spiritually, is dead in trespasses and sins. Once more, regeneration is denominated a new creation (2Co 5:17; Gal 6:15). Here again we enter God’s domain. He alone can bring into being that which previously had no existence. We repeat, regeneration is solely the work of God, and man has no part or hand in it.
Because regeneration is the work of God it is a miraculous thing. The new birth is no mere outward reformation, no mere turning over a new leaf and endeavoring to live a better life. The new birth is very much more than going forward and taking the preacher’s hand. The new birth is a supernatural operation of God upon man’s spirit. It is a transcendent wonder. All God’s works are wonderful. Physical birth is a marvel. The world in which we live is filled with things that amaze us. But from several standpoints the new birth is more remarkable still. It is a marvel of divine grace. It is a marvel of divine wisdom. It is a marvel of divine beauty. It will prove an eternal marvel, for it is a miracle performed upon and within ourselves, and of which we are personally cognizant. It is a miracle which is being repeated all around us every day.
Because regeneration is the work of God it is a mysterious thing. All God’s works are shrouded in impenetrable mystery. Life, natural life, in its origin, its nature, its process, baffles the most careful investigator. Much more is this the case with spiritual life. The Existence and Being of God transcend the finite grasp. How then can we expect to be able to understand the process by which we become His children? Our Lord, Himself, declared that the new birth was a thing of mystery: “the wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth; so is every one that is born of the Spirit” (Joh 3:8). The wind is something about which the most learned scientists know next to nothing. Its nature, the laws which govern it, its causation, all lie beyond the purview of human inquiry. So it is with the new birth. It is profoundly mysterious.