The passages below reveal the Sovereign nature of our election and call to Christ, that it’s entirely a matter of God’s will.
(John 3:5-8) – 5 Jesus answered, truly, truly, I say to you, unless one be born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Marvel not that I said to you, you must be born again. 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but you don’t know where it comes from or where it goes: so is everyone that is born of the Spirit.
In Acts 2:1-4, wind is associated with the Holy Spirit, and Jesus also associates the two here. He’s talking about the new-birth in His conversation to Nicodemus. Jesus first compares physical birth with spiritual birth in verse 6. Both are a matter of God’s Sovereign will. We have no more control over our spiritual birth than we do over our physical birth. Jesus then reinforces that fact by describing the nature of wind—it comes and goes as it wishes, wherever it wishes. We hear and see evidence of it as it moves through the trees and feel it upon our bodies, but we can’t see it and we have no control over it. Likewise, the Holy Spirit moves within hearts and lives of sinners as He “wishes” (as He wills). He regenerates (makes-alive – Eph 2:4-6; Col 2:13) the spiritually dead as He wishes, or wills. We have no control over who He chooses or when He chooses to do so. We can see evidence of Him at work in people’s lives, but we are mere observers. God intervenes in people’s lives to bring them to Christ according to His own will. This means that the individuals themselves have no control over their spiritual birth. The Holy Spirit intervenes and regenerates those whom He has chosen, and He does so in order to enable them to spiritually see and hear the truth about Christ and their need for Him. We are spiritually dead and cannot see or hear spiritually in our dead condition (Eph 2:1,5; 1 Cor 2:14). We must first be made alive, and everyone who is made alive and hears the truth and the call of Christ, will receive Him, as faith is also provided to the sinner (Eph 2:8). The move of the Holy Spirit upon the hearts of the spiritually dead can be compared to creation in Genesis 1:1-4. In fact, that’s exactly what Paul does in 2 Corinthians 4:3-6:
(Genesis 1:1-4) – 1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was without shape and empty, and darkness was over the surface of the watery deep, but the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the water. 3 God said, “Let there be light.” And there was light! 4 God saw that the light was good, so God separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light “day” and the darkness “night.” There was evening, and there was morning, marking the first day. (NET)
(2 Corinthians 4:3-6) – 3 But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing, 4 among whom the god of this age has blinded the minds of those who do not believe so they would not see the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For we do not proclaim ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said “Let light shine out of darkness,” is the one who shined in our hearts to give us the light of the glorious knowledge of God in the face of Christ. (NET)
(Also 1 Peter 2:9-10; Acts 26:17-18)
In Genesis we see that creation was in “darkness” and the Holy Spirit was “moving over the surface of the waters.” We then see that God commanded: “let there be light, and there was light.” Out of darkness God brought light, and did so at His command and according to His own sovereign will—“separating the light from the darkness.” In the same way, sinners are in darkness, “blind” to the truth about Christ. Just as in creation, it requires God to intervene to “give us the light of the glorious knowledge of God in the face of Christ.” It requires God to “command” light to shine in our hearts, separating the light from the darkness (1 Th 5:5)—and He does this via regeneration (new-birth). As in creation, when God said “let there be light,” it was done. The idea is that once God commands light to shine in our hearts, it always results in salvation. Just as creation was altered when God commanded light to shine out of darkness, so are sinners altered (born-again) when God commands light to shine out of darkness. Just as the Spirit of God moved over the surface of the waters, He moves among sinners to shine the light of Christ via the new-birth, as He wishes. Just as creation had no control over itself, neither do sinners have any control over themselves. Sinners are at God’s “mercy” (Ro 9:14-18), to do as He wills. We’re only able to see the light of Christ, because God enables us to see—to those whom He has chosen to reveal it, as He wishes. This move of the Holy Spirit upon sinners always results in salvation. To further confirm this, we go to 1 Thessalonians 5:4-5:
4 But you, brothers, aren’t in darkness, that the day should overtake you like a thief. 5 You are all children of light and children of the day. We don’t belong to the night, nor to darkness, (WEB)
Just as God separated the light from the darkness in creation, so does He separate the light from darkness in us, where we become “children of the light and children of the day.” When God reveals the light of Christ, He doesn’t take it away from us. Just as the light of creation remains, so does the light revealed to us remain—we become “children of light.” The parallels between what God did in creation and what He does in the hearts of sinners to draw them to Christ, is unmistakable. The idea that people can be brought into the light of Christ, and then turn back to darkness, doesn’t fit what’s revealed here. Everyone who sees the light, becomes “children of the light.”
God is in control of our salvation from start to finish, so that no one may boast as if we have something to do with our salvation (Eph 2:9; 1 Cor 1:26-31). It’s a God-given relationship, where we hear and follow as naturally as sheep following their shepherd. Which leads us to our “good Shepherd,” Jesus (Jn 10:11):
(John 5:21) – 5 For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom he wishes.
Matthew 11:27) – 27 All things have been delivered to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, neither does anyone know the Father except the Son, and whoever the Son chooses to reveal him.
(James 1:18) – 18 Of his own will he gave birth to us by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures. (WEB)
“By his own choice, he gave us birth” – CSB
The context of John 5:24-25 makes it clear that Jesus is primarily referring to spiritual life here. However, just as He gives spiritual life to “whom He wishes,” He also gives resurrection life to the same (Jn 5:28-29). One follows the other. We must first have spiritual life before we can experience resurrection life, and it’s Jesus who gives us both. Just as the Holy Spirit makes-alive as He wishes, so does Jesus. The Trinity always works in perfect unity and harmony, for God is one (Jn 5:21).
Jesus makes an emphatic statement here (Jn 5:21). He reveals the Sovereign nature of our salvation. He gives life to “whom he wishes.” In Matthew 11:27, Jesus says that He reveals the Father to whoever He chooses. These are the ones who have been “chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world” (Eph 1:4). Those to whom He wishes to give life are those who were chosen for it before He even created humanity. Sovereign election is like sovereign wind—God moves within hearts and lives according to His own will, beyond our control. We as spiritually dead sinners have no control over our salvation. God moves upon our hearts and enables us to both see and believe as we hear the gospel message. There’s nothing within our spiritual deadness and darkness that allows us to do anything regarding our salvation. We can’t take one step toward Christ on our own. It’s God Himself who gives us everything we need to receive Christ, to experience salvation in Him—all for His glory (1 Cor 1:28-31; 2 Cor 1:20; Eph 3:21; 1 Pe 4:11; Rev 1:6; Rev 4:11; Rev 5:12).
Following what Jesus says in John 5:21, He says that “Those who hear will live” in John 5:24:
(Jn 5:25-26) – 25 Truly, truly, I say to you, The hour comes, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and they that hear shall live. 26 For as the Father has life in himself, even so he gave to the Son also to have life in himself:
Arminian theology teaches that sinners can “hear” the voice of Christ (via the gospel message and working of the Holy Spirit within our hearts), and still reject Him—if they so choose to do so. They can choose to receive Christ as Savior, or choose not to. However, that’s not what Jesus Himself says here. He says that “those who hear will live.” He says the very same thing in John 6:45:
(John 6:44-45) – 45 It is written in the prophets, And they shall all be taught by God. Everyone who hears from the Father and has learned, comes to me.
Jesus makes an unmistakable statement in both places, that those who hear, will live—for everyone who “comes to me” (via the drawing of God – Jn 6:44) will live. The idea that a person can reject Christ upon hearing and understanding the gospel message, and realizing their need for Him, is contrary to what Jesus Himself taught. When God commands light to shine in our hearts, He enables us to hear the voice of the Shepherd calling us to follow Him—and just as sheep recognize the voice of their shepherd and follow, so do the sheep of Christ recognize His voice and follow Him unto salvation. (Jn 10:2-4; 14-16; 26-28).
Just as the light of creation remains, so does the light of Christ remain with those who see it. Just as sinners have no control over seeing the light, neither do they have control not to see it (to turn away from it). Likewise, just as creation heard the voice of God (‘let there be light”) and obeyed, so do sinners obey when they hear the voice of Christ when He says “come to Me” (Matt 11:28; Jn 6:45; Jn 10:27-28). When God gives us the light of truth to shine in our hearts (2 Cor 4:6), it always accomplishes the purpose for which it is given—and that is to bring us to His Son.
We see the Trinity at work here: there’s the wind of the Holy Spirit (regeneration), there’s the voice of Christ (the Shepherd) to come, there’s the command of God to give the light of truth. It’s a matter of God’s Sovereign will who this is applied to.
It’s a God-given relationship that begins when we see the truth (to understand with conviction) and hear the voice of Christ, via regeneration. From start to finish, it’s a relationship that can’t be altered—as if we can turn away from it. Once Christ reveals Himself to us, we can’t unsee Him. When Jesus reveals Himself to sinners, it’s always a life-changing experience, as it was with Saul of Tarsus. When Jesus revealed Himself to him on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:3-9; Acts 22:6-11; Acts 26:12-18), it changed his whole life. He was never the same from that point forward. Our conversion may not be as dramatic as his, but the result is always the same. It’s not something we can walk away from; our lives are forever altered from that point forward.