Regeneration and the Sovereign Spirit

“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.” (John 3:8 ESV)

In this verse Jesus is explaining to Nicodemus how someone is born again. Regeneration is the work of the sovereign Holy Spirit. The Greek word for wind (pneuma) also means “spirit.” Thus Jesus’ words could also be translated this way:

“The Spirit breathes where He wills, and you hear His voice but do not know where He comes from or where He is going; in this manner is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

Sam Storms makes three observations from this verse (Chosen For Life, pp. 112-113):

  1. Like the wind, the work of the Holy Spirit is invisible and mysterious (you “do not know where it comes from and where it is going”).
  2. Like the wind, the work of the Holy Spirit is efficacious and sovereign (it “blows where it wishes”) and cannot be pinned down by human plan.
  3. Like the wind, the work of the Holy Spirit reaps observable fruit (“you hear the sound of it”).

When we see a person repent, believe in, and follow Jesus Christ, we are seeing the fruit of regeneration. We did not see the actual work of the Holy Spirit in causing a person to be born again. But we know He did His sovereign work because now we see the effects.

John Murray sums it up for us: “While the wind is invisible, irresistible and not subject in any way to our will, it does manifest its presence where it is: we hear its effects. So is it with the new birth. It manifests itself in the fruit of the Spirit – ‘that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.’ By a secret, incomprehensible operation when, where, and how the Spirit pleases, he begets, or gives birth to men, and this is a birth that becomes manifest in the fruits that are appropriate to its nature and purpose.”

When we observe the fruit of regeneration in a person’s life, let us praise God for only He can do the miracle of granting spiritual life to the dead. And let us rejoice that we are witnesses to the sovereign work of the Spirit, who still breathes where He pleases just as Jesus says He will.


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