3Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
4Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?
5Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
6That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
7Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.
The common understanding of this passage is that a person becomes a saved child of God by the new birth and then he will see, or understand, the kingdom of God.
However, it has also been suggested that because of total depravity we cannot understand the things of the Gospel so that the new birth is first given, then having the ability to see the kingdom of God we are able to exercise faith and finally be saved and justified.
It is nowhere suggested in the Scripture that the image of God is erased, although it certainly has been corrupted. Being made in the image of God we have the capacity to understand the Gospel when it is presented to us. Although we would never develop the Gospel plan by our own imagination, we are challenged by it when we are presented with the Word of God.
Ps 119:130 The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple.
Heb 4:12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
3We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you,
4Since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which ye have to all the saints,
5For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel;
6Which is come unto you, as it is in all the world; and bringeth forth fruit, as it doth also in you, since the day ye heard of it, and knew the grace of God in truth:
Receiving the Word of God comes first, and then we have faith. We are not born of God and then receive the Word. The new birth comes as a result of believing the Word. It is after we receive the Word that we believe.
Eph 1:13 In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,
Rom 10:17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
1Pet 1:23 Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.
The new birth comes as a result of receiving the Gospel, it is not given in order to receive the Gospel.
1Cor 4:15 For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.
Regeneration comes by the Word. We are not regenerated in order to receive the Word.
Eph 5:26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,
Titus 3:5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;
The Word itself does not create faith, but provides the substance of faith. We exercise faith in the Word and then salvation is wrought. Those who did not exercise faith did not receive the blessing of salvation.
1Thess 2:13 For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.
Jas 1:18 Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.
Heb 4:2 For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.
7Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner,
8And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed.
We are taught in the Scriptures that in being born again we have all that accompanies salvation. It is not that we are born of God and then at some later moment become saved receiving the righteousness of God.
The ability to fight sin, which is a capacity of the saved, is attributed to those who are born of God. If one were merely born in order to exercise faith, his birth would not be accompanied by power over sin.
1John 5:18 We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not.
The new birth has a living hope, the hope of the saved, not a potential hope of one anticipating salvation, the living hope does not come at a later moment when we are saved.
1Pet 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
If we believe then we are born of God; not are born of God and then believe.
1John 5:1 Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him.
The consequence of faith is the new birth; it is not that the consequence of the new birth is faith. We hear the Word and are convinced by it that we are sinners in need of salvation. If we receive the Word with faith, we become regenerated, born again, begotten of God.