God's Voice in RegenerationGod's "Voice" (John 3:8) in the New Birth
or Regeneration by the Holy Spirit
Over many years, we have affirmed the necessary instrumental use of "means" -- the Word of God, the Gospel -- in the New Birth or Regeneration. We not only believe this is the teaching of the Bible, but it is the teaching set forth in our Baptist Confessions of Faith, contrary to the Pedobaptist "Reformed" and Hardshell view that the "Spirit alone" (apart from or without the use of "means") produces the new birth.
In a recent study in John chapter 3, my attention was drawn to a part of verse 8 which I had overlooked in past studies, and I think it adds to the case that the "means" of the Word of God is employed by the Holy Spirit in a lost person's being "born again." In my recent research on John 3:8, I found that I am not the only one who has evidently overlooked what is revealed in this passage.
In checking several commentaries, I did not find the commentators making any significant remarks on the words of Jesus to Nicodemus in verse 8 --
"thou hearest the SOUND thereof."
My interest was focused on the word "sound" and to what it referred in the context of being born again by the Holy Spirit. This is not the word for "sound" which simply refers to any type of random sound or meaningless noise which one might hear. Rather, it is, in the Greek language of the Scriptures, the word "phone" (See Strong's Concordance #5456; Vine's Dictionary under "sound" and "voice"), and is used for distinctive, meaningful sound.
Actually, the Greek word is most frequently rendered "voice," and is so rendered in the KJV well over 100 times. It is a word which refers to language, speech, utterance, and saying, and that which has a distinctive sound which is understandable (see I Corinthians 14:7)
Also, it is even translated "voice" in John 3:8 in a number of Bible versions, including the American Standard Version, Wycliffe's, Young's, Darby's, English Revised Version, and Douay-Rheims.
The word "voice" in John 3:8 therefore equates to the Word of God in this context.
W. E. Vine points out that "phone" is translated in the King James Version in reference to the voice (1) of God, (2) of Christ, (3) from Heaven, (4) at the resurrection, (5) at the resurrection to judgment, and of course in John 3:8 where "voice" is related to the work of the Holy Spirit in the New Birth.
Thus, when Jesus referred to the unseen work of the Spirit in the New Birth and compared it to the unseen wind and its "sound" (voice), He included a reference to the Word of God which is the instrumental means employed by the Spirit. One cannot "see" the Spirit do His work in the hearts of men, but one can hear the Word by which He brings men to conviction, repentance, and faith in Christ.
This passage therefore adds further emphasis to the refutation of the Pedobaptist "Reformed" and Hardshell heresy on the new birth which alleges that it takes place before, apart from, and without the use of "means," as presented by writers such as Shedd, Berkhof, and their followers.
Addendum: August 8, 2010
Since posting the foregoing, Pastor David Pledger of Houston, Texas referred me to C. H. Spurgeon's sermon, The Heavenly Wind, in which Spurgeon commented on the "sound" of the Spirit in John 3:8 as referring to the Word of God:
Now, Beloved, this shows us that the hearing ear is intended, by God, to be the discerner of the Spirit to men—to the most of men the only discerner that they have. “You hear the sound of it.” What a wonderful dignity the Lord has been pleased to put upon this little organ, the ear! The Romish Church gives the preference always to the eyes. Her priests are always for astonishing men into grace with their wonderful “performances”! But God’s way is, “Faith comes by hearing,” and the first detector of the Holy Spirit is the ear. To some men this is the only revealer of His mysterious Presence, as I have already said—they hear the sound of it, that is to say, they hear the Gospel preached—they hear the Word of God read. Truth, when it is couched in Words of God, is the rustling of the holy wind, it is the footstep of the Eternal Spirit as He mysteriously passes along a congregation. Oh, what grief it is that some never get any further than this, but abide where Nicodemus was at the first—they hear the sound and nothing more. Some of you are now daily hearing the Truth of God which has saved thousands, but it does not save you! You are hearing the very Truth of God which peoples Heaven, but yet it leaves you without a hope of eternal life! Yet be you sure of this, the Kingdom of God has come near you. “You hear the sound of it,” and that wind whose whispers you hear is not far off your own cheeks. When you hear the rustling among the branches of the trees, the breezes are not far to seek, nor is the Spirit of God far away when His sound is heard (Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Volume 23, page 307).
Also, in a sermon, The Spirit and the Wind, C. H. Spurgeon refers to the "sound" of the Spirit is being heard when we hear the Scriptures, the Word of God:
“The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound thereof.” Yes, we cannot see the wind but we can hear it. So may you hear the Spirit of God. When you hear the Scriptures and read the Word, the Spirit of God speaks to you. It is well to hear the Spirit whisper in the ear of conscience when He presses home the truth, and makes the mind to feel its power. Sweetest of all is it when the newly-opened ear hears the Spirit of God speak to it with its own peculiar, “still small voice.” Then it is sweetly true. “You hear the sound thereof.”
My dear Hearers, do you know anything about this? Has the Spirit of God so worked in you that you have recognized the sound? It is a manifest work—have you felt it? (Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Volume 35, Year 1889, page 56).
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