“It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” (John 6:63)
In John 6:63, one of the most definitive texts in Scripture concerning the doctrine of monergistic regeneration, is given by none other than our Savior; Jesus Christ. Mirroring what Jesus said to Nicodemas in John 3:1-8, and what John records Jesus teaching in 6:35 & 44, Jesus tells the crowd that their inability to accept what He is teaching is not because of their un-intelligence, but rather because of their spiritual impotence.
“It is the Spirit who gives life.” The initiator of spiritual life, or the new birth, is not the sinner, whether they be Jew or Gentile. Rather, it is a work solely by the Holy Spirit. It is He who gives spiritual and eternal life to those the Father gives to the Son (John 6:35). Without this regeneration, no one can come to Christ (John 6:44).
Dr. Steven J. Lawson explains, “Jesus taught that it is absolutely impossible for spiritually dead sinners to exercise saving faith. They are marked by a volitional inability, having no free will with which to exercise faith in Christ.”
Consequently, it is ultimately the responsibility of the Holy Spirit to bring a spiritually dead sinner to faith in Christ. This is what the Apostle Paul wrote about in Ephesians 2:1-5 where it says: “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved.”
Lest there be any misunderstanding, Jesus adds that “the flesh is no help at all” The word flesh (σάρξ; sarx) is not referring to the physical human body, but rather to man’s nature. The sinner’s fallen condition renders him unable to come to Christ in and of himself. Man’s sinful nature is no help at all. It provides no benefit, profit or aid to alleviate the sinner’s lost condition.
Dr. Leon Morris explains that, “People like to feel independent. They think that they come or that they “can” come to Christ entirely of their own volition. Jesus assures us that this is an utter impossibility.”
Jesus then says that “The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” What Jesus said is spiritual truth. It is biblical revelation. It is the Word of God, inerrant and inspired. You may reject Augustinism, Calvinism and/or Reformed Theology. But in doing so, you are rejecting the words and truth spoken by our Lord Jesus Christ regarding fallen man’s spiritual inability.
Dr. Lawson continues: “If you have experienced the new birth, it is not because you initiated it. Rather, it was an event that God brought about in you. More specifically, you were not born again because you exercised faith. In truth, the new birth preceded your faith and produced it. Saving faith is the fruit of regeneration, not the root of it. The biblically correct order of salvation—known in theological language as the ordo salutis—is not “Believe and be born again,” but the very opposite: “Be born again and believe.” The living God must act upon the spiritually dead soul and cause it to be born again. The new birth is by divine choice and sovereign initiative. God’s will affects the human will, not vice versa. Scripture intentionally uses the imagery of birth to underscore this essential truth of the sovereignty of God in regeneration.”
Theologian John Murray writes, “For entrance into the kingdom of God we are wholly dependent upon the action of the Holy Spirit, an action … which is compared to that on the part of our parents by which we were born into the world. We are as dependent upon the Holy Spirit as we are upon the action of our parents in connection with our natural birth. We were not begotten by our father because we decided to be. And we were not born of our mother because we decided to be. We were simply begotten and we were born. We did not decide to be born…. If this privilege is ours it is because the Holy Spirit willed it and here all rests upon the Holy Spirit’s decision and action. He begets or bears when and where He pleases.”
James 1:18 says, “Of his own will he brought us forth…”
John 1:12–13 reads, “All who did receive him, who believed in his name … were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”
John 3:8 says, “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
First Peter 1:3 says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”
Does the believer have any responsibility at all in the salvation of a sinner? Jesus said yes, we do. We are commanded to go and make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20). The Apostle Paul instructed the Church at Rome that God uses ordinary people to communicate the gospel by which the Holy Spirit effects regeneration in the deadened sinner (Romans 10:14-17).
What a truth! What a joy to know that one’s salvation is a free gift from God. What gratitude we should express to God for enacting this new life when He was under no obligation to do so. Thank you Lord for saving my soul.
Soli deo Gloria!