THE DOCTRINE OF REGENERATION
This is the word of the forerunner. But what about Christ? What did He say? We admit that in the Bible there are a few basic doctrines. For example, regeneration is one of the basic truths. Buddhism and Mohammedanism also talk about regeneration. In their teachings they teach that whatever is past is considered as dead yesterday, and whatever is hereafter is considered as born today. But what did Jesus say about regeneration? Let us look at the record of John 3.
"There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This one came to Him by night" (vv. 1-2a).
Nicodemus was a ruler. He was also a learned and aged person. He came to Jesus to discuss some problems with Him, and Jesus brought up the matter of regeneration.
"Truly, truly, I say to you, Unless one is born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (v. 3).
Jesus showed Nicodemus the matter of regeneration, telling him that he needed to be born again. After Nicodemus heard this, he was confounded. He wondered how an old man could be born again. Did that mean that he had to go into his mother’s womb and come out again? Jesus told him that this is not a birth of the flesh, but a birth of the spirit. If a man is not born of the Spirit, even if he could go into his mother’s womb again, the flesh would still beget flesh. Only the Spirit begets spirit. Here you can see that even in such a basic and fundamental matter, Jesus did not expound much doctrine. He only mentioned a very simple fact—the need to be born again.
REGENERATION IS SIMPLY BELIEVING
No wonder Nicodemus asked, "How can these things be?" Jesus told him that this is not an earthly matter. It is something heavenly. That is why he could not believe. How can a man be born again? "And no one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended out of heaven, the Son of Man, who is in heaven. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that every one who believes into Him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that every one who believes into Him would not perish, but would have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes into Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe has been condemned already, because he has not believed into the name of the only begotten Son of God" (vv. 13-18). Have you seen this? This is regeneration!
Jesus was saying that regeneration is not a doctrine. It is believing into Him. To be born again is to believe into Him. If a man does not believe into Him, he cannot be regenerated. After saying so much, it all comes back to "Him."
What is our concept of regeneration? We think that if one was a thief yesterday and returns his booty to the owner today, that this is regeneration. Or, if one thought of having a mistress yesterday, but gives up that idea today, that this is regeneration. We think that as long as we quit doing whatever was bad in the past, considering it as dead, and strive to do well hereafter, we are born again. But this is man’s concept. This is not the regeneration that Christ gives.
The way of Jesus depends on whether you believe into Him or not. He who believes into Him has eternal life! God gave His only begotten Son that every one who believes into Him would not perish, but would have eternal life. He who believes is not condemned, but he who does not believe is condemned. This is not a doctrine. It is a matter of the person. It is a relationship between Him and man.
(The Normal Christian Faith, Chapter 5, by Watchman Nee)