The Nature of the New Birth

Taken and adapted from, “The Doctrine of the New Birth”
Written by, A.W. Pink

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What is the new birth?

What is the fundamental difference between one who is dead in trespasses and sins, and one who has been quickened together with Christ? Various are the answers returned to these questions; confusing and contradictory are the thoughts often entertained upon this subject. The effects of the new birth are frequently confounded with the new birth itself. Ignorance concerning God’s answer to these questions has often caused regenerated persons to doubt whether or not they have actually passed from death unto life. In considering the nature or character of the new birth we shall deal first with the negative side.

1     The New Birth Is Not a Process of Reformation

Reformation is the work of man; regeneration is the work of God. Reformation is the attempt to eliminate evil from the old nature; regeneration is the impartation of a new nature. Reformation aims to earn salvation by our own efforts; regeneration is due to the gracious operation of the Holy Spirit. Reformation seeks to improve the old creation; regeneration is the bringing into existence of an entirely new creation. Reformation is external; regeneration is internal. Reformation is turning over a new leaf; regeneration is the beginning of a new life. Reformation is a tedious and protracted process; regeneration is instantaneous and complete. In short, reformation is human; regeneration is divine.

2     The New Birth Is Not the Purification of the Heart

Often have we heard preachers tell their congregation that regeneration is a “change of heart.” While their intention is good, their language is misleading. In this as in everything, we do well to “hold fast the form of sound words.” A “change of heart” is an expression nowhere to be found in the Holy Scriptures. It is true there are several passages which seem to convey this idea, but for lack of space we cannot discuss them now. Regeneration does not change the heart, though it results in a radical change of life.

In Jeremiah 17:9 we read, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.” The word which is here rendered “desperately” is usually translated “incurably,” and ought to be so here. The heart is never changed for it is incurably wicked. John 3:6 sets forth the same truth: “That which is born of the flesh is flesh,” and it never becomes anything else. There is no process by which a horse can be developed from a tree. Neither does a son of Adam ever develop into a son of God. Regeneration is not a process of transformation. It is altogether a new creation. Even in a born-again person the old evil heart remains unchanged till the day of one’s death.

The New Birth Is Impartation of the Divine Nature

Regeneration is neither the changing of anything in man, nor the removal of anything from man; it is the implanting of an entirely new nature within man. Birth in the spiritual realm is precisely what it is in the physical—it is the gateway of life, the starting point of a new existence. Everything that is born partakes of the nature of its parents. That which is born of the vegetable is vegetable; that which is born of the animal is animal; that which is born of man is human; that which is born of God is divine. Like always begets like. This fundamental law is expressly stated and reiterated on the frontispiece of divine Revelation. In the first chapter of Genesis we read no less than nine times that each order of creation brought forth after its own kind. The herb of the field brought forth after its kind. The fowl of the air brought forth after its kind. The fish in the sea brought forth after its kind. Here is God’s refutation of the infidel theory of evolution. We repeat, like begets like. Those begotten of God are the children of God. When we are born again, born of God, we are made partakers of the divine nature just as really and actually as we were made partakers of the human nature at our first birth. Regeneration, then, is the reception of a new nature, a spiritual nature.

Regeneration is the very life of God Himself, communicated to the human spirit. Regeneration gives us a place in the family of God by means of a spiritual birth.