The Mystery of Spiritual Regeneration :: By Bud Hancock

Sowing and Reaping

Every living thing on this planet was designed by God to reproduce itself, either by itself as in the case of some single-cell organisms, some plants and fungi, or in the case of higher creatures by the joining together of genetic material from two creatures of the same species.  This process is a part of the natural law that God instituted at creation.  As a young child, the process was very much a mystery, likely because it was not until reaching an age somewhere between childhood and young adulthood that I became interested enough to try to understand it.

Nowadays, even very young children have a much better understanding of human physical reproduction than I did as a young adult.  I’m not sure if this is a good thing, but it is a fact.

Without going into graphic detail, a sperm cell from a man is planted into the body of a woman; and after uniting with the egg in the woman’s body, a brand-new human is conceived.  In approximately nine months the new human, which started as the combining of two human cells, emerges as a fully developed, breathing baby human, a likeness of the male and female that provided the necessary components to start the process.

This process, which also describes the way in which most plants reproduce, was planned by God to replenish the earth after the six-day creation described in Genesis 1.  Understood as the ‘Law of Sowing and Reaping’, it has been ongoing for nearly six thousand years.

Most people, including children, understand that when a seed is placed into the ground and properly nurtured it will eventually sprout and spring up, producing a plant that will give multiples of seed-bearing fruit identical to that from which the seed originally came.  This process or ‘law’ has provided the food and nutrients from the earth that have nourished every person who ever lived and is not a mystery to any knowledgeable person, including children.

It is the most important physical process used by mankind to grow food for human and animal consumption that allows for the survival of the species.

Though somewhat different from the planting of a seed into the ground, the process of human reproduction is also governed by the natural law of sowing and reaping.  In fact, human reproduction appears to be the quintessential example of sowing and reaping.

Jesus discussed the sowing and reaping process in His teaching recorded in Mark 4:1-32.  Jesus used the example of natural sowing and reaping, or the process of reproduction/regeneration, to teach His disciples the spiritual aspect of sowing and reaping.  The process of planting natural seed into the ground was well established, and I’m sure His disciples already knew this process well.

However, of particular importance is Jesus’ statement in Mark 4:14: The sower soweth the word;” He is now teaching them how spiritual regeneration works.

The process of reproduction, either of plants or humans and animals, through sowing and reaping, is proven and works because God in His wisdom planned it; and everything God planned and created was perfect, at least for a short while.  However, as any Christian knows, or should know, sin entered God’s perfect creation by the temptation of Satan, persuading Eve to disobey God, and the subsequent disobedience of his created man, Adam.

Thus, the perfection of God’s creation was marred and corrupted because of Satan’s success.  When their sin was discovered, God had no choice but to institute the curse they had been warned about before they sinned.  They were told that, in the day they ate of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they would surely die.

That curse brought about their death that day, just as God had said it would.  But, you might ask, how can that be since we are told in Genesis 5:5 that Adam lived for 930 years?

In fact, though his physical body lived a very long time, his spirit died.  And no, Adam did not cease to exist; but because of his disobedience he was cut off from God and lost the fellowship he had with God before he sinned.

This is, in fact, spiritual death or separation from God.  This condition was passed on to all their offspring and is the same condition that all unbelievers will experience throughout eternity if they die physically without a saving belief in Jesus Christ.

Adam and Eve and their offspring lived long physical lives; and through the miracle of human sexual reproduction they and all their descendants have replenished the earth, fulfilling partially the commandment of God to Adam and Eve shortly after their creation.  Today, there are approximately 7.6 billion humans alive on this planet.  God’s plan for replenishment of the earth has indeed worked very well, at least from the human, physical perspective.

However, God wanted Adam and Eve to reproduce and provide a family of multitudes of human sons and daughters with whom He could fellowship, just as He had with Adam and Eve before their fall.  Even though there are so many people alive on the planet, many of them are still separated from God, or are spiritually dead, and cannot have the fellowship He desires due to their sin.

But God, in His wisdom and foreknowledge, had already planned a way for the desired fellowship to be restored; and at the center of that plan was Jesus of Nazareth, referred to in John 1: 1-5, as “The Word.”

His marvelous plan would require a sacrifice to satisfy God’s righteousness.  The sacrifice had to be ‘perfect’ and sinless before God.  But since the fall of Adam and Eve no human born of them was or ever could be perfect. Their sin had corrupted their blood and genetic material, making perfection impossible.  They were all mortal, doomed to physically die, and this obviously presented a problem.

God’s plan required not only the birth of a perfect man, but the perfect, sinless life of that man, and finally, the sacrificial death of that man.  This perfect man known as “The Word” would have to be ‘born of God’.  But how was The Word to get into the world so that God’s plan could be executed?

Every legal earthly man or woman had to come through the womb of a woman.  So how could God get His perfect sacrifice into the flesh and blood world?  Through the process of sowing and reaping.  Just as a seed sown into the ground will bring forth new life, producing much fruit and new seeds, The Word had to be sown into the flesh and blood world.  Since the fleshly body of this man would, of necessity, need to be produced in the womb of a woman, God had to have a willing vessel to use for that purpose.

The prophet Isaiah foretold of God’s amazing plan in Isaiah 7:14, “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”

The glorious, miraculous entry of The Word into our world could not possibly follow the normal process of human reproduction, since the prophet had stated that He would be born of a virgin.  What? Unheard of and physically impossible!  But our omniscient, omnipotent God had this event fully and perfectly planned from before the foundation of the world.

The description of this miraculous event is recorded in Luke 1: 26-38.  The angel Gabriel appeared to a young Hebrew maiden – a virgin named Mary, of the lineage of David – and delivered to her the most important words she would ever hear.

She heard the words of the angel Gabriel. “And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.

Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?  And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore, also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:30-35). 

Mary must have been beyond amazed to learn that she had been chosen by God to bear His Son.  Her immediate response was to question how this could be since she had never “known” (had sexual relations with) a man.  Notice though, the often ignored yet immeasurably important words of Mary in verse 38:

And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.” 

Unlike the ground which does not have to consent or agree to have seed planted into it, man was created by God as a being with a will, the ability and authority from God to make choices that will affect his life.  Mary, who would become the mother of our Lord, had to be willing to accept the life-giving seed into her body that would provide substance for the body soon to grow in her womb. 

With her consent and acceptance, the Holy Spirit ‘overshadowed’ her, and the power of Almighty God accomplished what was physically impossible: He planted The Word, that same Word that was with Him in the beginning (John 1:1-5), in the form of a seed into the womb of a young virgin while she still remained a virgin.  The life of Jesus was not through a flawed human sperm, but through the very Life of God Himself!  The Word gave life to the body that was to be formed in Mary’s womb. 

This was the greatest miracle man had ever known.  Since the seed carrying the life was from God and not a man, this miracle produced the first perfect man since the original Adam, and paved the way for all mankind to be cleansed from sin and establish a relationship and fellowship with our Father God.

The thousands of animals sacrificed by the Jewish High Priests over the centuries were only temporary “coverings” that could not totally satisfy God’s righteousness.  But now the perfect sacrifice needed to satisfy God (that of the perfect man) and spare the human race from His judgment of sin was in the world, and Satan could do absolutely nothing to stop it!

Jesus, the Spotless Lamb of God – born of a virgin, the Son of God – fulfilled the plan of God and carried the sin of all mankind to the cross, suffering the judgment against sin in our place.  Since the death and resurrection of Jesus nearly two thousand years ago, the way for all mankind to be reconciled to God has been provided for anyone who will hear and receive the Word.

Hearing and receiving God’s Word culminates in a person being “born again.”  I have heard that term, being born again, almost all my life; and for many years I never questioned how it happens.

Sowing and Reaping
Since it is the most important event that can take place in any person’s life, there must be a good way to explain it.  But ask any Christian how the new birth or “being born again” happens, and you will usually get the “deer in the headlight” look.  However, since we seem to understand so clearly how the process of physical sowing and reaping or physical reproduction works, there should also be clarity regarding the process of spiritual regeneration.

Spiritual regeneration, giving new life to a dead human spirit, a spirit separated from God, is the same now as it was in the miraculous event that produced the life of Jesus in Mary’s womb.

The process starts with the Word being sown (Mark 4:14); thank God for the sowers! This is followed by the hearing of the Word, being convicted of sin by The Holy Spirit, and finally, allowing the Holy Spirit to overshadow him or her and receive the Word into the human spirit, the true heart of man.  Hearing the Word and receiving the Word must be followed by “speaking” the words, such as we find from Paul in Romans 10:9-10:

“That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.  For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”

A new believer should be taught and counseled to speak these words: “I believe that God has raised Jesus from the dead, and I now confess with my mouth that Jesus is Lord over my life.”  At that point, a person is truly ‘born again’ with a spirit that can access God with boldness and assurance and have fellowship with Him through His Word.

However, it follows that, just as in the case of a newborn human baby, totally helpless and needing constant support, training and teaching from his parents in order to survive and grow, a new believer in Christ also needs support and teaching from older, mature and well-developed believers.  Failing to provide the support, training and teaching needed for a new believer to grow and develop would be just as cruel as leaving a newborn human baby alone, on its own with no help from its parents.

Those who have been saved for many years, or who have grown in the Word, are commanded by the Words of Jesus to be the support a new believer needs to grow and become a strong disciple of Jesus (Matthew 28:19-20).

Any person, male or female, who is a believer and follower of Jesus Christ, can be a ‘sower who sows The Word’.  When the Word has been sown, it is up to the person hearing it to receive it and allow it to take root in his heart (his spirit) and to grow.  If the new spiritual birth is real, the new believer will soon become hungry for the food (God’s Word) that will help him survive, grow and mature.

This is where the real work of being a mature Christian begins, providing the ‘nourishment’ needed by the newborn, regenerated spirit.  When you are a sower, a caretaker who feeds and nourishes a new Christian, the reward will be worth all the toil that goes into your efforts.