For a long time I was burdened to see something written on this subject, but could not find it. I have spoken on this subject in the past and tried to reveal some of the golden nuggets that God has blessed me to see. At times I have been misunderstood and have had labels put on me that were not true. Now I am writing on this subject so that we may "grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ."
Some may wonder how the new birth is ascribed equally to the Spirit and Jesus? In Joh 6:63, Jesus stated, "It is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing. The words that I speak unto you, They are spirit, and they are life." By comparing Joh 3:3-8 and Joh 6:63, it is seen that the giving of life is by the Holy Spirit and by the voice of the Son of God. Therefore, when Jesus stated that when He speaks His word it is equal to the Spirit, we see how the new birth is performed mutually by the Spirit and Jesus.
Other passages concerning the new birth state that the giving of life is by God, but they do not tell what means, if any, are used to accomplish it. The only other passage, aside from those given above, that gives credit to the Spirit being instrumental in the new birth is Ga 4:29. All other passages state that it is God Who gives life, but they do not tell how He does it.
Look at the passage again and notice verse twenty-two; these people had purified their souls in obeying the truth. The only way a person can obey something is to know about it. Therefore, to obey the truth, one must have it taught to him. Look at verse twenty-five. It states that the word is that which the gospel minister preaches. You may ask, "Is not Christ preached by the gospel?" The answer is yes, but we logov cannot pass this verse that easily. The word translated "word" in verse twenty-five is a different Greek word from the one in verse twenty-three. The word in verse twenty-five is "rhema," but in verse twenty-three it is "logov." "Logov" may be translated to mean Christ as in Joh 1:1,14, but "rhema" means the written or spoken word. It is never translated nor interpreted to mean Christ. Likewise, "logov" does not always stand for Christ. It can, and most of the time does, mean the written or spoken word. In Matthew #7:24,26,28; John 4:37,39|; and 1Ti 1:15, it is translated "saying." In Matthew #12:36; 18:23; Romans 14:12|; and Heb 13:17, "
You may be thinking that if gospel regeneration is not true then, "What does verse twenty-three mean?" I hope to answer this question later. First I will try to explain the following passages: Jas 1:18; Ro 1:16-17; 10:17; and 1Co 4:15.
I do not wish to divert to the subject of salvation, yet I remind you that "life" and "salvation" are two different subjects. Salvation is something that begins in the mind of God, is experienced in the believer's life, and is complete when in glory with God. Therefore, we are not studying salvation per se. We are studying life and the gospel and their relation to each other.
In Ro 1:17, Paul stated that the gospel reveals the righteousness of God "from faith to faith." Paul did not say that preaching the gospel causes the righteousness of God, but that the gospel reveals God's righteousness. Paul maintained that God's righteousness is revealed to the person who has faith. Ro 10:6-9 further explains this.
In Romans chapter ten, the subject is still the righteousness of God. Paul states that Israel (Israel as a nation) is ignorant of this righteousness. He also tells what God's righteousness maintains or asserts. It does not ask for God's Anointed to come from heaven nor to rise from the dead. The righteousness of God says that the word is so near that it is in the mouth and heart. It further maintains that the word is the same "word of faith" as the gospel of God. Therefore, when the testimony of the gospel is already in an individual, he can confess with his mouth or believe in this heart. Thus, by looking at this passage with Ro 1:16-17, when a man of God preaches the gospel and someone believes, it is because God has already placed the "word of faith" in the individual. Since the word translated "word" here in Ro 10 is "rhema" and not "logov," it cannot be interpreted to mean Christ. When Jesus stated in John 6:63 that the word spoken by Him was Spirit and life, the word He used was also "rhema." By comparing 1Pe 1:23-25 in its context, one sees that the word which "begets again" is "rhema," the same "word" which is already in an individual when, or before, he believes the gospel.
How did this "rhema" get in the individual? It was when he heard the voice of the Son of God, not when he heard the voice of the preacher. When Paul heard the voice of the preacher, Stephen, it was only a "savour of death unto death," but when he heard the voice of the Son of God on the road to Damascus, it brought him to the ground. Then the Lord sent Paul to the preacher for the righteousness of God to be revealed to him. Thus the Scriptures state that "life and immortality are brought to light through the gospel" (2Ti 1:10). This is the same as revealing, bringing to light, or receiving the righteousness of God.
Considering this, how does Ro 10:17 fit into the picture? Ro 10:17 states that faith comes by hearing. However, it does not say that life nor the Spirit comes by hearing. Ga 5:22 states that faith IS a fruit of the Spirit, and we discovered the words that Jesus speaks, or the voice of the Son of God, is Spirit and life. Life (the Spirit) is present prior to faith or belief. A man dead in sin cannot hear nor believe. Furthermore Ro 10:8-9 teaches that when a person hears the gospel and believes, it is because the word, "the word of faith" (rhema), is already in him. Therefore, Ro 10:17 is not teaching the new birth. Yet, it has everything to do with a person believing in Jesus Christ and God revealing His righteousness to him. This is the same as having life and immortality brought to light.
Let us study the word "begot," in this verse. This word is "apokueo" in the Greek language, and it comes from the word "kuo" or "kueo" which means to be pregnant. Therefore, "apo-kueo" means "to bring forth as from the womb, or to give birth to." This word is used only twice in the Scriptures--here and in verse fifteen where it is translated "bringeth forth." James is not speaking about the initial quickening or giving of life, but how the life is manifested or brought to light. Thus, the giving of life to a child of God in the Spiritual realm is like conception in the natural realm.
Some may argue that at conception there is not a person, but only a fertilized egg. However, according to Ps 51:5, David declared that he was a sinner the moment he was conceived in his mother's womb. Some people deny this is talking about original sin, yet I do not stand alone in this thinking. Men such as David Dickson, C. H. Spurgeon, Matthew Henry, John Gill, and many other sound scholars maintain that this verse is teaching original sin. Spurgeon stated, "It is a wicked wresting of scripture to deny that original sin and natural depravity are here taught."
This raises the following question, "Can someone who does not exist, nor ever will exist, be charged with something?" The answer according to logic, as well as the Scriptures, is an emphatic "NO!" Since David was a person at conception, we see that that is when his natural life began. Likewise, when God quickens a person, or gives him Spiritual life, he is alive like the babe in the womb of its mother. When someone preaches the Word of truth to that individual, it is parallel to the doctor bringing a child into the world. Therefore, from the time an individual is quickened or born from above, until the gospel is preached to him, he is existing by the umbilical cord of God's grace. It is possible for a person to be quickened for a time and not know anything about it, as a person is conceived and living for some time before he has a conscience awareness of his existence. Not everyone has a dramatic experience like Paul.
Our conclusion is that James was not speaking about giving spiritual life to anyone; he was speaking about life being brought to light as Paul said in Timothy (2Ti 1:9-10). The context Jas 1 (as well as the entire book) bears out that he wrote to encourage professing believers to exhibit fruits of a child of God. James did not write to instruct how one becomes spiritually alive.
The Greek word for begotten is "gennao" which is a form of "ginomai." "Ginomai" carries the idea "to become." It can mean something coming to pass or something coming into existence. The word "gennao" has the idea "to beget, to be born, or to arise." I have tried to state the meaning of these words as briefly and simply as possible. For a fuller understanding of "gennao" and "ginomai," I suggest that the reader study them in depth.
The word "gennao" is translated as nine different words, with the majority being "begat" and "be born." When looking at Mt 1:2-16, we find that it is used to indicate the giving of life. However, when looking at Mt 2:1,4; Lu 1:57; Joh 16:21, we find that the same word is used concerning a child being brought forth from the womb. Therefore, I have as much right to claim that Paul was speaking concerning bringing life forth as someone else does to say that Paul was inferring the idea of giving life. When interpreting this verse in light of the other passages on this subject, one discovers that Paul was saying the same thing as he wrote to Timothy concerning the gospel--that it was to "bring life and immortality to light." In Ac 18:10, when Paul was in Corinth for the first time and was going to leave because of persecution, the Lord told him to stay because He had "much people in the city." God had people in Corinth before Paul preached there, and God told him to stay and preach to them and bring forth life and immortality to light--that they might receive the righteousness of God. As with James, when we study the context of 1Co 4:15, we see that Paul is not speaking about how the people became living children of God. He was reminding them how they had Christ revealed to them, manifesting themselves as children of God. Since Paul was the first preacher in Corinth, he was instrumental in their conversion but not their regeneration. He was instrumental in their living like God's children, and they were to continue keeping the faith as he had.
I might add that this is exactly the same situation in Phm 10. Paul, by the grace of God, brought to light the life that God placed in Onesimus so Onesimus would live like a child of God and not like the slaves of the world.
This shows how a person might believe in gospel regeneration because the same Word of truth is used in both cases. The difference lies in the person using the Word. I admit that while a minister is preaching the Lord may quicken someone who is listening to the preacher; however, God is not using the preacher's words; it is the words of the voice of the Son of God that quickens. God is only limited to Himself. Just as Jesus told the disciples to loose Lazarus and let him go after He had given him life, likewise, when God quickens a person, we should to be present with the gospel to loose him and let him go. You may ask, "How do we know who God is going to quicken?" I answer, "We don't." This is why Jesus said to go into all the world and preach the gospel; that is why Paul gave his life to be first with the truth of God and not let someone beat him to people with a half-truth (2Ti 2:10). If we, who know this truth, do not go and preach it with the zeal of our brother Paul, may God take it from us and give it to those who will. I sometimes wonder if God has judged us for not spreading the truth by allowing those who preach a half-truth, or even a partial truth, to go and preach to His sheep.