Jesus answered and said to him, Truly, truly, I say to you, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.…
I. ITS NATURE.
1. It is something that is not merely done for a man, but is done upon him. The former is justification, which is a change of state in the reckoning of law, whereas regeneration changes the man himself and gives him a new character. This being the case, regeneration is conscious, whereas justification is not. Is there then in each of us such a character of holiness as no natural temperament, civilization, learning, maxims of prudence or courtesy could have formed, and without such as is not dishonouring to God to ascribe to the agency of the Spirit?
2. Regeneration being something which is done on a man's person, it is his mind, not his body, which undergoes the change, although the regenerated mind may have a beneficent effect upon the body.
3. Regeneration being mental, it is effected, not on the faculties of the understanding, but on the passions and affections of the will. These faculties do often, as a matter of fact, undergo considerable improvement, but it is in consequence of the incitement with which regeneration has supplied them. It will not make a bad memory good, but it frequently stirs up a sluggish memory.
4. Regeneration is not an organic change, in respect of the extinction or addition of any passion or power; but entirely a functional change, in respect of the direction of the powers, so that their emotions are expended on different objects from those to which they were formerly directed. Take, for example, the change produced on the passions of love and anger.
(1) When a man is regenerated, he will continue to love objects which he loved before, but with a change of reasons for loving them. Unregenerate he loved gold for its ministry to his luxury and pride; regenerate he loves it because it helps him to honour his Master.
(2) A regenerated mind will in some cases entirely forsake former objects of affection, and expend itself on others about which he was careless. He may withdraw from former worldly companions, not because he despises them, for they may be decent and amiable, but because there is more attraction for him in the fellowship of the saints.
(3) The regenerated mind will in many cases regard objects with feelings the opposite to those with which it regarded them in its state of nature, loving what it once hated, and hating what it once loved.
II. ITS CHARACTERISTICS.
1. It is a change of heart from a state of carelessness about God, or slavish fear of Him, or enmity against Him, into a state of filial reverence, confidence and obedience; of admiration of Him, gratitude towards Him, dependence on Him, loyalty towards Him.
2. It is a change of mind in which the name of Jesus was wearied of, or resented, or despised, or maligned, into a state in which, in union with that of the Eternal Father, it receives a place "above every name," as most honoured for its excellence, most endeared for its love, and most loyally reverenced for the legitimacy of its claims.
3. It is a change from a state of mind in which the Name of the Holy Spirit obtained no acknowledgment, into a state in which it is cherished, in union with the names of Father and Son, as the Comforter, Counsellor, and Advocate of the soul.
4. It is a change from a state in which the gratification of the flesh, or the avoidance of its pains, or the culture of the intellect, were matters of supreme importance, to a state in which holiness of heart is the principal concern.
5. It is a change from a state in which this world is the object of greatest interest, into one where eternity is a name of the greatest fear and the greatest hope.
6. It is a change from a state of enmity against to one of love for man.
7. It is a change of feeling with reference to the Church, the Bible, and the means of grace.
(W. Anderson, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.