GOD DOES NOT SEEK YOUR ‘CONSENT’ EITHER TO BIRTH YOU OR REBIRTH YOU . . . THAT PREROGATIVE IS WHOLLY HIS!
Likening the new-birth to the wind that blows the Master told Nicodemus, “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!” [John 3:8] “The wind bloweth WHERE IT LISTETH!” meaning it is SOVEREIGN in its operation and thus it is with the Spirit of God in work of regeneration in God’s elect. He sovereignly saves them without their say-so at the appointed time!
The words of A.W. Pink are worth quoting here – “Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well” (John 4:6). Observe, particularly, that the Lord Jesus was beforehand with this woman. He was at the well FIRST! “I am found of them that sought Me not” (Isaiah 65:1) is the language of the Messiah in the prophetic Word centuries before He made His appearance among men, and this oracle has been frequently verified. His salvation is not only altogether unmerited by those to whom it comes, but at first, IT IS ALWAYS UNSOUGHT (see Romans 3:11), and of everyone who is numbered among His peculiar people it may be as truly said, as of the apostles, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you” (John 15:16).
When we were pursuing our mad course of sin, when we were utterly indifferent to the claims and superlative excellency of the Savior, when we had no serious thought at all about our souls, He – to use the apostle’s peculiarly appropriate word —”apprehended” us ( Philippians 3:12). He “laid hold of” us, aroused our attention, illumined our darkened understanding, that we might receive the truth and be saved by it. A beautiful illustration of this is before us here in John 4.
Yes, the Lord was BEFOREHAND with this woman. He was found of one who sought Him not. It was so with the idolatrous Abraham (Joshua 24:3) in the land of Chaldea: the Lord of glory appeared to him while he was yet in Mesopotamia (Acts 7:2). It was so with the worm Jacob, as he fled to escape from his brother’s anger (Genesis 28:10 , 13). It was so with Moses, as he went about his shepherd duties (Exodus 3:1 , 2). In each instance the Lord was found by those who sought Him not. It was so with Zacchaeus, hidden away amid the boughs of the trees “Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down,” was the peremptory command, for, saith the Lord, “today, I MUST abide at thy house” ( Luke 19:5). It was so with Saul of Tarsus, as he went on his way to persecute the followers of the Lamb. It was so with Lydia, “whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul” (Acts 16:14). And, let us add, to the praise of the glory of God’s grace, but to our own unutterable shame, it was so with the writer, when Christ “apprehended” him; apprehended him when he was altogether unconscious of his deep need, and had no desire whatever for a Savior. Ah, blessed be His name, “We love Him, because He first loved us!”
When I was a newly regenerated believer who was fairly new to the Faith I had a great zeal for the Lord (I still do) and had a great desire to ‘win’ as many as I could to the Lord. After all does not Scripture teach that “He that winneth souls is wise?” The whole verse reads – “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise.” (Prov 11:30) It was many years later before the Lord taught me that both the ‘righteous’ and the ‘wise’ in that scripture is none other than the Lord of glory! It is HE who wins the rebellious and God hating soul by His sovereign grace. You and I can no more ‘win a soul’ than we can raise the dead!
But to return, those days I was deluded into thinking that all it took was a ‘decision’ that someone could make to invite Jesus into their heart because THAT is what I was taught. And I had a great burden to win my then Roman Catholic girlfriend of six years to the Lord. And so I would pray for her as though everything depended on prayer and preach to her at every given opportunity to get her to ‘make that decision’ for the Lord.
Little did I know that she was a lover of the writings of one Krishnamurti who is a New-Ager and she had been reading his books. So one day when I was compelling her to make this decision for the Lord and explaining to her how it was all about HER CHOICE etc, she abruptly stopped me and said “Honey, what ‘CHOICE’ are you talking about? We do not even have a choice when it comes to our birth. IF I had had a choice in the matter I would’ve chosen a different set of parents and a different country to be born in. So what ‘choice’ or you talking about? We really do not have a choice!”
Back then as an Arminian, even though I was stumped I tried to reason with her saying that “yes, while we do not have a choice as far as our birth is concerned, we still do have a choice as far as the New-birth is concerned,” etc. But now looking back as someone who is established in the doctrines of Sovereign Grace especially the truth of The Total Depravity of man; I can clearly see how right she was even as an unbeliever and how wrong I was though I knew the Lord!
Concerning our ‘choice’ with regards to our first birth, Loraine Boettner writes – “It is almost universally admitted that God determines when, where, and under what circumstances, each individual of our race shall be born, live, and die, whether it shall be male or female, white or black, wise or foolish. God is no less sovereign in the distribution of His favors. He does what He will with His own. To some He gives riches, to others honor, to others health, to others certain talents for music, oratory, art, finance, statesmanship, etc. Others are poor, unknown, born in dishonor, the victims of disease, and live lives of wretchedness. Some are placed in Christian lands where they receive all the benefits of the Gospel; others live and die in the darkness of heathenism. Some are brought through faith unto salvation; others are left to perish in unbelief. And to a very large extent these external things, which are not the result of individual choice, decide the person’s life course and eternal destiny. Both Scripture and every day experience teach us that God gives to some what He withholds from others. If it be asked why He does this, or why he does not save all, the only available answer is found in the words of the Lord Jesus, “Yea, Father, for so it was well-pleasing in thy sight.” – [Boettner in ‘The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination’]
It was Billy Graham and other Arminians like him, with their prominent emphasis on “decision”, who brought this semi-Pelagian, unwarranted, but highly congenial exaltation of man’s will in salvation to world-wide acceptance. This delusion quickly overtook the “Fundamentalists”, Independent and Southern Baptists, Wesleyans, Pentecostals, Charismatics and virtually all who professed salvation in Christ.
This same ‘Rev’. Billy Graham once wrote a 170 pages book titled – ‘How to be born-again”. He might as well have written a book on how to be born. For in many ways the natural birth is very similar to spiritual birth!
And just as we had no say in the former, neither do we have any say in the latter! And as far as ‘choice’ goes, every man who comes into the world by natural GENERATION ALREADY MADE THAT CHOICE IN ADAM as far his eternal destiny is concerned! “In Adam all die!” (1Cor 15:22) To humbly accept this truth and preach it from the rooftops is to sign your ‘death warrant’ as far as any ‘success’ in the Ministry goes! This truth can only be received by truly regenerated men, the rest of the bench-warmers will trample it under their feet, and turn again and rend you if they could!
In natural birth, we know that the one who is BORN DOES NOT WILL TO BE BORN–in fact, he (as as my old girlfriend reminded me) has NO SAY IN THE MATTER WHATSOEVER! He does not decide the time, place, or circumstances of his birth. He has no power to determine the family into which he will be born etc. The analogy holds true with regard to the spiritual birth. GOD determines the time, place and circumstances. The sinner can no more resist this than can an infant resist and refuse to be born naturally.
This fact is shown so clearly in John 1:13 where speaking of believers it is said, “Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” i.e. “The new birth is “not of blood (by natural descent), nor of the will of the flesh (his own volition), nor of the will of man (the preacher’s persuasion), but OF GOD” [John 1:13] [A.W. Pink]This verse kills the doctrine of those who teach that men are saved when they exercise their “free wills” and accept God’s “offer” of salvation.
God Sovereignly saves us in Regeneration and THEN CALLS US OR ILLUMINATES US BY THE GOSPEL. “Who hath SAVED US (regeneration), and CALLED US (by the Gospel) with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace etc”. [2Tim 1:9] As I always say we must beware of putting the proverbial ‘cart before the horse’!
A man does not believe the Gospel and GET SAVED but believes the Gospel BECAUSE HE IS SAVED!
This is the reason the Gospel is referred to in the Scriptures as a MYSTERY! Because only to the regenerate it is the ‘power of God unto salvation’. The rest can only behold it, wonder about it and perish! “BEHOLD, ye despisers, and WONDER, and PERISH: for I work a work in your days, a work which ye shall in NO WISE BELIEVE, though A MAN DECLARE IT UNTO YOU”. [Act 13:41]
Regeneration is a ONETIME sovereign act of God whereas Conversion is always PARTIAL (on this earth) and CONTINUAL, and can be seen in different parts of our lives at different times. A genuine backslider does not need to be regenerated but he needs to be converted. A backslider no matter how far he has strayed is still God’s son and the Lambs bride! “Turn, O backsliding children, saith the LORD; for I AM MARRIED UNTO YOU”! [Jer 3:14] (my eyes well-up as I write this, for I was the greatest backslider of them all) Prior to Peter’s backsliding, the Lord told him – “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and WHEN THOU ART CONVERTED, strengthen thy brethren”! [Lk 22:31,32]
And I may finally add that it is in conversion that we unlearn much of the error which we held on to initially after our regeneration. Errors such as ‘Free will’, Universal Atonement, The Pentecostal errors etc.
The path of the just is as the shining light that shineth more and more unto the perfect Day! [Prov 4:18] Hallelujah!