It should be understood that the terms "new birth," "created in Christ," "quickened," and "translated" are synonymous with regeneration. They are, or can be, used interchangeably. When a person is regenerated he is quickened, as in Eph. ii. 1. He, also, by this immediate operation, is translated from the power of darkness into the marvelous light of the Son of God. He is, also, by the same operation, created in Christ Jesus. He becomes a new creature in Christ by this work of the Spirit.
We believe and teach that this operation of His Spirit upon man is a sovereign, irresistible work of His Holy Spirit. We have no right to teach it unless God's Word teaches it. I ask the kind reader to examine closely my contentions on this great and important subject. First, it must be an immediate and sovereign work, because of the condition of the ones receiving it. Eph. ii. 1 declares that they were dead in sin until they were quickened by His Spirit. Then, seeing that the dead must be acted upon in order to live, Paul would ascribe the work of quickening to Him and declare that we were the recipients of it.
The dead can never act in that which it is dead to. Therefore, the sinner before regeneration is dead in sin and dead to righteousness. No one can act in a realm where he has no existence. He must have the existence in the realm, and then he is capacitated to act in that realm. However, his condition of being lost in sin, and unable to act in a spiritual sphere, is not the cause of his receiving the work of regeneration. The cause is not in man; the cause is not in our obedience, or anything we think or do; the cause is in the fact that Christ has died to redeem us, and every grace of the Spirit was given to His children in Christ; and since regeneration is one of the graces, it follows that His people are blessed in time with the great work of regeneration. Hence, the cause is not found in us.
It cannot be true, then, that we are born again, or born from above, because we believe, or because we repent, or because we are immersed; but we are born again because it was designed in the work of Christ that His people, who were redeemed by His own precious blood, should be made partakers of His divine nature in the new birth. They actually are made partakers of all the benefits which were and are derived from His life, death, and resurrection.
Now, to see that it is the dead who are blessed with this grace, notice John v . 21, and to understand the manner of it, notice John v. 25. He taught them that He raised them up just as the Father raises the dead. We must all agree, whether we like to or not, that the sovereign power of an infinite life is all that can possibly raise the dead. When you acknowledge that, you also must acknowledge that this is exactly and surely the way we were raised from a state of death in sin to a life in Christ. Often we hear folks say, "I believed and was born again.” Then we ask them, "Why by did you say you were born again?" And they answer, "Because I believed. " That places the great cause of your salvation in your believing and not in Christ. Exactly the opposite is true. You were born again, then you believed. Why did you believe? Because you were born again. You were brought into a higher order of life, where the testimony of a living Christ could corroborate with the witness within, and they being in perfect agreement, we believe. But what if we have no opportunity to hear the external witness of the gospel? Well, that does not affect the operation of the Holy Spirit, neither does it, in any sense, hinder it. "The words that I speak unto you, they are Spirit and they are life." The life eternal is given to His people; separate from and unaffected by any works of man, in any form whatsoever. Eternal life is the gift of God through Christ.
The most learned men, and the greatest theologians that the world has produced, have left their testimony that the receiving of life, or being born again, is a passive work. Notice John i. 11-13. In this text the writer says, "He came unto His own, and His own received Him not. 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," etc. Here we have the term "believe" in the present tense, and the term "were born" in the past tense. Hence, the believer was born again. His being born again is what enables him to believe. Therefore, the text shows that those who believe were already born again, and that they are the ones who have power to become manifest sons of God.
It is expressed by the Prophet Isaiah as the sovereign descending of rain and snow. "For as the rain cometh down, and the snow, from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater; so shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void; but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it." —Isaiah lv. 10, 11. The prophet saw the operation of His Spirit as a passive sovereign work, just as much so as the descending of the rain and snow. The Holy Spirit is that which sovereignly touches and quickens the sinner;, hence the Spirit uses the Word of God's mighty power, which is the ever living Word (Christ) . We are brought into spiritual being, as in John i. 1-4, through the means of this Word. We are born again by this Word. This Word is Christ, and the Spirit uses this Word.
James i. 18 says that this work is by God's will; that we are begotten by Him, and that of and according to His will. This same power, or manifestation of God's mighty power to quicken a sinner, is the same power that was manifested at the grave of Lazarus.To create anything is to bring it into existence. We are brought into a spiritual existence when we are created in Christ Jesus. We have our existence in Him. In the work of creation, the power of creation is, vested in the Creator, and not the created ones. This, too, is represented as a passive work, so far as the ones being created is concerned. We are new creatures in Christ Jesus, because He has created us in Him. Col. i. 13 calls it a translation, and He declares that God has delivered us from the power of darkness and translated us into the kingdom of His Son. This, too, is a passive work.