The Holy Spirit is no less the author of spiritual creation or regeneration than the Father and the Son. The excellence of that creation, and wherein it consists. How we are to understand holy Scripture, when it attributes a body or members to God.
62. So, then, the Father creates in good works, and the Son also, for it is written: “But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them who believe on His Name; who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” 1086
63. In like manner the Lord Himself also testifies that we are born again of the Spirit according to grace, saying: “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, because it is born of flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit, because God is Spirit. Marvel not that I said unto you, Ye must be born again. The Spirit breatheth 1087 where He willeth, and thou hearest His voice, but knowest not whence He cometh or whither He goeth, so is every one who is born of the Spirit.”
64. It is then clear that the Holy Spirit is also the Author of the grace of the Spirit, since we are created according to God, that we may be made the sons of God. So when He has taken us into His kingdom by the adoption of holy regeneration, do we deny Him that which is His? He has made us heirs of the new birth from above, do we claim the heritage and reject its Author? But the benefit cannot remain p. 123 when its Author is shut out; the Author is not without the gift, nor the gift without the Author. If you claim the grace, believe the power; if you reject the power, do not ask for the grace. He who has denied the Spirit has at the same time denied the gift. For if the Author be of no account how can His gifts be precious? Why do we grudge the gifts we ourselves receive, diminish our hopes, repudiate our dignity, and deny our Comforter?
65. But we cannot deny Him. Far be it from us to deny that which is so great, since the Apostle says: “But ye brethren, like Isaac, are the children of promise, but as then, he that is born after the flesh persecutes him that is after the Spirit.” 1088 Again certainly is understood from what has gone before, is born after the Spirit. He then who is born after the Spirit is born after God. Now we are born again when we are renewed in our inward affections and lay aside the oldness of the outer man. And so the Apostle says again: “But be ye renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new man which is created according to God in truth and righteousness and holiness.” 1089 Let them hear how the Scripture has signified the unity of the divine operation. He who is renewed in the spirit of his mind has put on the new man, which is created according to God.
66. That more excellent regeneration is then the work of the Holy Spirit; and the Spirit is the Author of that new man which is created after the image of God, which no one will doubt to be better than this outer man of ours. Since the Apostle has pointed out that the one is heavenly, the other earthly, when he says: “As is the heavenly, such also are the heavenly.” 1090
67. Since, then, the grace of the Spirit makes that to be heavenly which it can create earthy, we ought to observe by reason though we be without instances. For in a certain place holy Job says: “As the Lord liveth, Who thus judgeth me, and the Almighty, Who hath brought my soul to bitterness (for the Spirit of God which is in my nostrils).” 1091 He certainly did not here signify by His Spirit the vital breath and bodily breathing passages, but signifies the nostrils of the inner man within him, wherewith he gathered in the fragrance of eternal life, and drew in the grace of the heavenly ointment as with a kind of twofold sense.
68. For there are spiritual nostrils, as we read, which the spouse of the Word has, to whom it is said: “And the smell of thy nostrils;” 1092 and in another place: “The Lord smelled a smell of sweetness.” 1093 There are, then, as it were, inward members of a man, whose hands are considered to be in action, his ears in hearing, his feet in a kind of progress in a good work. And so from what is done we gather as it were figures of the members, for it is not suitable for us to imagine anything in the inner man after a fleshly manner.
69. And there are some who suppose that God is fashioned after a bodily manner, when they read of His hand or finger, and they do not observe that these things are written not because of any fashion of a body, since in the Godhead are neither members nor parts, but are expressions of the oneness of the Godhead, that we may believe that it is impossible for either the Son or the Holy Spirit to be separated from God the Father; since the fulness of the Godhead dwells as it were bodily in the substance of the Trinity. For this reason, then, is the Son also called the Right Hand of the Father, as we read: “The Right Hand of the Lord hath done mighty things, the Right Hand of the Lord hath exalted me.” 1094
It has been thought well in translating this verse to keep the words “spirit” and “breath” as suiting the argument of St. Ambrose. But there can be little doubt that the ordinary translation is the correct one. Bp. Westcott has the following note: “In Hebrew, Syriac, and Latin the words [for spirit and wind] are identical, and Wiclif and the Rhemish version keep “spirit” in both cases, after the Latin. But at present the retention of one word in both places could only create confusion, since the separation between the material emblem and the power which it was used to describe is complete. The use of the correlative verb (πνεῖ, John 6:18, Rev. 7:1, Matt. 7:25, 27, Luke 12:55, Acts 27:40) and of the word sound (voice) is quite decisive for the literal use of the noun (πνεῦμα), and still at the same time the whole of the phraseology is inspired by the higher meaning. Perhaps also the unusual word (πνεῦμα, 1 Kings 18:45, 1 Kings 19:11, 2 Kings 3:17) is employed to suggest this. The comparison lies between the obvious physical properties of the wind and the mysterious action of that spiritual influence to which the name “spirit,” “wind,” was instinctively applied. The laws of both are practically unknown, both are unseen, the presence of both is revealed in their effects.”—Westcott on S. John iii. 8.123:1088 123:1089 123:1090 123:1091 123:1092 123:1093 123:1094