“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28 (NIV) Notice that there is something for you to do: “Come to me.” Either you will do this, or you won’t, and Jesus says your experience depends on this. Jesus doesn’t say,...
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you. Ezekiel 36:26 (NIV)
Once we’ve grasped that by nature we’re dead in trespasses and sins, it follows that the dead cannot give themselves life. Only God can give new life to the dead.
This new life is, first of all, a gift: “He chose to give us birth through the word of truth” (Jas. 1:18). Secondly, regeneration is a sovereign work of the Spirit: “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit” (John 3:8).
If regeneration is a gift and a sovereign work, how does it relate to repentance and faith? “To those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12). Those who become God’s children are the ones who believe. John continues, “children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God” (1:12-13).
Regeneration is a work that God does on his own. Faith is a work in which you are involved. These two things happen together. Those who believe in his name become God’s children, and they become God’s children because they’re born of God.
Think about a sunrise. When the sun comes up in the morning, there is light. These two things happen together, never the one without the other. We say, “It is light because the sun rises.” But we’d never say, “The sun rises because it is light.” Regeneration is like the sun rising. Faith is like the light that it brings. Behind all believing lies the miracle of God’s regenerating grace.
In your own words, what is the relationship between regeneration and faith?