"In reply Jesus declared, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again." How can a man be born when he is old?" Nicodemus asked. "Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb to be born!" Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit." (John 3:3-5)
Here we are told that men are born of the Spirit, or born anew through the Holy Spirit's power. Exactly the same truth is set forth in Titus 3:5: "He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit." It is the work of the Holy Spirit to renew men, to make men anew, to regenerate men.
What is regeneration? "God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions" (Ephesians 2:4-5). Regeneration is the impartation of life to men who are morally and spiritually dead because of their trespasses and sins. Every man and woman and child was born into this world spiritually dead. We are by nature moral and spiritual corpses. In regeneration, the Holy Spirit imparts to us His own life.
Of course, the Word of God is the instrument that the Holy Spirit uses in imparting life. "For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God" (1 Peter 1:23). The mere written Word will not produce the new birth, unless the Spirit of God makes it a living thing in the hearts of those to whom it is given. This comes out plainly in 2 Corinthians 3:6: "The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life." What did Paul mean? He had just contrasted the Word of God written on parchment with pen and ink to when it is written by the Spirit of God on the hearts of men. The Word written or printed in a book kills, brings condemnation and death; but that Word written by the Spirit in our hearts brings life. It is only the Holy Spirit who can take the heart of the individual and write the Word of God into his heart, making him alive.
Heavenly Father, I know how utterly impossible it is to save myself. Only by the miracle of Your life transforming my soul can I be saved. By Your Spirit and Word, may Your life fill my innermost being and continue to shape me in the image of Your Son. Amen
~R. A. Torrey~