Reading: 1 Peter 1:23
The doctrine of the new birth is very often misunderstood. While some think regeneration is something they must do for God, others think it is something they must do with God. The Scriptures make it clear that both those positions are incorrect; the new birth is the work of the Holy Spirit.
The sinner cannot cooperate in this for he is dead in his sins. He does not assist in this for he is without strength. He does not contribute to this for he has nothing to offer; his righteousness is as filthy rags. This is a spiritual work wrought directly by God upon the human spirit. It is illustrated in the creation of Adam. Adam was formed out of the dust of the ground and there he lay, formed but lifeless. His body was there, but it was just dust. There was nothing alive about him, and he certainly couldn’t breathe life into himself. He was lifeless and would have remained that way had the Lord not breathed into him. God did breathe into him the “breath of life” and as Genesis 2:7 continues, “man became a living soul.”
It was all of God. God formed him and God made him alive and that without Adam’s participation. As it was with Adam physically, so it is with all men spiritually. John 1:12–13 speaks of those who are saved in these terms: “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, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” They are born of God. As one theologian put it, “Regeneration is that act of God by which the principle of the new life is implanted in man, and the governing disposition of the soul is made holy … and the first holy exercise of this new disposition is secured” (L. Berkhof). We owe our salvation to God alone.
[Man] is as full of sin as a dead body is full of worms. When the moment of good pleasure arrives for each of the elect however, the Holy Spirit quickens and grants him spiritual life. (Wilhelmus à Brakel, Works, 1:183)