On the New Birth

In his book Finally Alive (ch. 3, pp. 48-53), John Piper has a section on the nature and meaning of the New Birth. The excerpts below serve as a sobering reminder of man’s inadequacy, of the fact that we cannot do a single thing to bring about this transformation. From start to finish, God must do it all.

  1. Apart from the new birth, we are dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1-2). “Dead implies lifeless. Not physically or morally lifeless, but spiritually lifeless… we are not dead in the sense that we can’t sin. We are dead in the sense that we cannot see or savor the glory of Christ… we are unresponsive to God and Christ and this word.”
  2. Apart from the new birth, we are by nature children of wrath (Ephesians 2:3). “Apart from the new birth, I am my problem. You are not my main problem. My parents are not my main problem. My enemies are not my main problem. I am my main problem. Not my deeds, and not my circumstances, and not the people in my life, but my nature is my deepest personal problem.”
  3. Apart from the new birth, we love darkness and hate the light (John 3:19-20). “We are not neutral when spiritual light approaches. We resist it. And we are not neutral when darkness envelops us. We embrace us. Love and hate are active in the unregenerate heart. And they move in exactly the wrong directions – hating what should be loved and loving what should be hated.”
  4. Apart from the new birth, our hearts are hard like stone (Ezekiel 36:26; Ephesians 4:18). “At the bottom of our problem is not ignorance. There is something deeper… our ignorance is a guilty ignorance, not innocent ignorance. It is rooted in hard and resistant hearts… we suppress the truth in unrighteousness. Ignorance is not our biggest problem. Hardness and resistance are.”
  5. Apart from the new birth, we are unable to submit to God or please God (Romans. 8:7-8). “… without the Holy Spirit, our mind’s are so resistant to God’s authority that we will not, and therefore cannot, submit to Him… and if we cannot submit to Him, we cannot please Him.”
  6. Apart from the new birth, we are unable to accept the gospel (Ephesians 4:18; 1 Corinthians 2:14). “The problem is not that the things of God are over [our] heads intellectually. The problem is that [we] see them as foolish… in fact, they are so foolish to [us] that [we] cannot grasp them… the heart is so resistant to receiving them that the mind justifies the rebellion of the heart by seeing them as foolish. This rebellion is so complete that the heart really cannot receive the things of the Spirit. This is real inability. But it is not coerced inability. The unregenerate person cannot because he will not. His preferences to sin are so strong that he cannot choose good. It is a real and terrible bondage. But it is not an innocent bondage.”
  7. Apart from the new birth, we are unable to come to Christ or embrace Him as Lord (John 6:44, 65; 1 Corinthians 12:3). “It is morally impossible for the dead, dark, hard, resistant heart to celebrate the Lordship of Jesus over his life without being born again… we so strongly prefer self-reliance that we cannot come. That is what has to be changed in the new birth. A new preference, a new ability, is given.”
  8. Apart from the new birth, we are slaves to sin (Romans 6:17). “Until God awakens us from spiritual death and gives us life that finds joy in killing sin and being holy, we are slaves and cannot get free. That’s why the new birth is necessary.”
  9. Apart from the new birth, we are slaves of Satan (Ephesians 2:1-2; 2 Timothy 2:24-26) “Our deadness is not unresponsive to the devil. It is perfectly in tune with the devil… the mark of unregenerate persons is that their desires and choices ‘accord with’ the prince of the power of the air. The unregenerate may scoff at the very idea of a devil. And of course, nothing is more in line with the father of lies than the denial that he exists… until God does that that miracle of new birth, we stay in bondage to the father of lies because we love to tell ourselves whatever we please. We keep fondling smooth roaches and warm, fuzzy tarantulas in the dark.”
  10. Apart from the new birth, no good thing dwells in us (Romans 7:18). “Faith is good. The Holy Spirit is good. The new spiritual nature is good. Growing holiness is good. But in [our] flesh, that is, in the person [we] are by nature apart from the new birth, there is no good thing. All that was created good was ruined by being made the servant of man-centered concerns, not God-centered concerns.”
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8 thoughts on “On the New Birth”

  1. Wonderful!

    Thank you for sharing these quotes! I love #2: “Apart from the new birth, I am my problem. You are not my main problem. My parents are not my main problem. My enemies are not my main problem. I am my main problem. Not my deeds, and not my circumstances, and not the people in my life, but my nature is my deepest personal problem.”

    If that ain’t the truth? And yet, we are so full of excuses, aren’t we?

  2. Reminds me of: “Grace is a provision for men who are so fallen that they cannot lift the axe of justice, so corrupt that they cannot change their own natures, so averse to God that they cannot turn to Him, so blind that they cannot see Him, so deaf that they cannot hear Him, and so dead that He Himself must open their graves and lift them into resurrection.” (G.S. Bishop, from Grace in Galations)
    Pink says, “Nowhere does the glory of God’s free and sovereign grace shine more conspicuously than in the unworthiness and unlikeliness of it’s objects” Unworthiness and unlikeliness, indeed!!
    Thanks Ink!

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