Definition

Regeneration is a rebirth, to be re-generated. It points to the inward change that occurs in those who are saved. See John 3:7, 1 Peter 1:23, Titus 3:5 (link to salvation). Regeneration is a spiritual rebirth that effects the individual as a whole. Regeneration affects the person and is not limited to a heart condition. See 2 Corinthians 5:17. The term “Old Things” refers to our own morals, value system, priorities, beliefs, loves, associations, etc.

Regeneration is a must for salvation (John 3:3,5). A truly changed life cannot occur if regeneration doesn?t happen. Regeneration (being born again) really makes things new.

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The Process of Regeneration

Regeneration occurs because of the Spirit of God and the word of God just as it was in God?s calling through the preaching of the Gospel. Regeneration is possible and primarily due to the work (activities) of the Holy Spirit. It is a spiritual rebirth since it takes place within our spirit. Notice that Jesus Christ Himself was born of the Spirit (Matthew 1:20). However, this wasn?t regeneration but rather generation. That is, Jesus was originally born of the Spirit of God the first time whereas we are born of the Spirit of God the second time, being born in sin the first.

Regeneration is a rebirth from God Himself. This means that we are born of God. See 1?John?1:13; John 3:9; 4:7; 5:4,18. The Holy Spirit produces life in us in the same way that He was active in the beginning during creation. Recall that the Spirit of God hovered over the face of the earth and then God spoke. It is commonly believed that the hovering Spirit produced what the spoken word of God commanded or confessed (see Genesis 1:2). Note that only the Holy Spirit can cause regeneration to take place.

Born Of Water and of the Spirit (John 3:5)

(John 3:5 KJV) “Jesus 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.”

There are many interpretations of this scripture because of “Born of Water.” Let me list some interpretations of “born of water” and compare then against scripture teaching. This phrase is said to represent the following.

  1. Baptism. This interpretation would contradict many New Testament teachings (Ephesians 2:8-9). There is no scripture that supports the belief that baptism is a requirement for salvation.
  2. Act of repentance that John the Baptizer?s baptism signified. This, however, is not correct because Priscilla and Aquila corrected Apollos when he was preaching such baptism (Acts 18:24-26). The baptism that we partake of today is not the same as John the Baptizer?s baptism.
  3. Natural birth. Thus it was saying that unless a person is born the first time (naturally) and the second time by the spirit? It is not probable that Jesus would have made this a requirement for salvation since it is obvious that people are saved and it is understood that one is born the first time in order to be alive on the earth.
  4. Word of God. This is taken to be a synonym for the Holy Spirit. See John 15:3; Ephesians 5:26; 1 Peter 1:23. This interpretation tries to show the cleansing properties of the word of God. It, therefore, may be read as “by water, even the Spirit.” The Amplified Bible uses this interpretation.
  5. Cleansed (Ezekiel 36:25, Titus 3:5). This appears to be a more attractive interpretation because it speaks of being born of the Spirit and the fact that the Holy Spirit cleanses us from sin. Therefore, John 3:5 says we must be washed by the cleansing of the Holy Spirit.

The Word of God

Regeneration is possible because of the work of the Holy Spirit and occurs by the implanting of the word of God in the receptive heart (1 Peter 1:23,25). Jesus illustrates the importance of the word of God in general in Mark 4:3-9 and James 1:18.

Since the word of God is so important for regeneration, we see that it is very important that constant exposure to the word of God is very important. For example, a child can be constantly exposed to the word of God via Sunday School, church, mom and dad?s instructions, pastors, etc. This word penetrates the heart until the point when the Holy Spirit effects regeneration.

Illumination

Regeneration relates to the total person: heart, mind, body (effectively). See Mark 12:30. Regeneration first involves illumination of the inner man (mind) so that he can see his sinful plight and know that he needs salvation (2 Corinthians 4:4,6, Acts 2:23,36, Acts 26:17-18.

Illumination opens the eyes of a person and they realize their sinful state and that they need to be saved. An example of illumination can be found in Genesis.

(Genesis 3:7 NIV) “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.”

Satan has the entire world in darkness and thus deceived. We think we can be righteous by “being a good person” following rules. Some are so deceived that they don?t realize their degenerate state. No one is righteous on their own (Romans 3:9-18). The world is enslaved by a realm of darkness (Colossians 1:13, John 3:19).

Illumination allows us to see, showing us that we are lost and need to be saved.

Illumination shows us that we and our deeds are sinful by nature.

Conviction

Conviction of sin must occur in order for regeneration to take place. Conviction is an acute awareness that you are a sinner and guilty as such before God. It is a sense of guilt or shame that leads to repentance. Conviction brings about sorrow that surpasses simple remorse. Conviction brings on extreme grief on the inside as you are aware that you are effectively against God and that your sinful nature keeps you separated from Him.

The Holy Spirit brings about this conviction (Acts 2:37, John 16:8). This type of conviction involves the very core of an individual. See 2 Corinthians 7:10, Matthew 27:4.

Not Condemnation

It is important to realize that conviction is not for the purpose of condemnation. The purpose of conviction is to prepare the way for repentance. Unless we are sorry within of our sinful state, we will not really make a decision to change. The Holy Spirit shows us what a wretched person we are and we therefore respond.

Repentance

Repentance is the process of turning from the old to the new. Repentance sets the stage for regeneration. After a person is convicted of sin, the next step is to decide to turn over a new leaf on life. It is the process of deciding to leave the old ways behind and to head towards the new way of life. An Old Testament illustration of repentance can be found in 2 Chronicles 6:36-39. We can also see God?s response to repentance in 2 Chronicles 7:14.

Repentance involves the will of a person. It is the movement of self away from the sinful way to God?s way.

The precursor to true repentance can be found in the Old Testament. Israel was constantly called to repent (Example: Ezekiel 33:11) Another example of conviction that leads to repentance can be found in the book of Acts (Acts 2:38). The people repented after being convicted of their sin of killing Jesus Christ.

John the Baptist preached repentance (Matthew 3:8).

Repentance and Forgiveness

Repentance and forgiveness are closely related. In the case of salvation, repentance follows a conviction. As I said earlier, the conviction is not to condemn us but to bring us to repentance (the decision to change). Therefore real repentance that is induced by the Holy Spirit?s conviction results in the forgiveness of God. Repentance without the Holy Spirit will produce condemnation due to the guilt that surfaces. This is another reason why we have to be careful to preach the Gospel in conjunction with the Holy Spirit and not by our own decision or power.

Repentance must produce corresponding actions else it is not real repentance. Confession with the mouth without corresponding activity does not result in the forgiveness of God. True repentance originates from the heart (the conviction) and therefore, the confession of repentance expresses the true inner state and is not just talk. An example of the importance of corresponding actions of repentance can be found in the book of Matthew.

(Matthew 3:8 AMPLIFIED) Bring forth fruit that is consistent with repentance?let your lives prove your change of heart”

Repentance leads the way for newness and thus, conversion.

Results of regeneration

The results of regeneration is that a person becomes new. They are no longer dominated by the sin nature. It brings newness to a person?s heart, mind, and will.

Regeneration takes place primarily in a person?s heart, the center of their being. For example see Ezekiel 36:26. The heart is purified or made clean whereas it was originally evil (Matthew?15:19). God purifies all of our hearts without distinction Acts 15:9.

God?s Law Written on the Heart

See Jeremiah 31:33 and Hebrews 8:10. God writes His laws on our hearts which enables us to keep His laws.

Regeneration brings unification of the heart. See Ezekiel 11:19. This implies an undivided heart (Jeremiah 32:39, Psalm 86:11). This singleness of heart allows us to love God with all of our heart (Deuteronomy 6:4,6; Matthew 22:36). The first Christians were of one heart and one mind (Acts 4:32).

Renewed Mind

The mind is renewed as a result of regeneration. The mind takes on a whole new attitude or disposition regarding the things of God (Ephesians 4:22-23).

The renewed mind allows us to have a real knowledge of God (Jeremiah 9:23-24). Normal human knowledge is not the same as the knowledge of God (Hosea 4:1; 1 Corinthians 1:21). Therefore, to know about God is not the same thing as having a knowledge of God.

We have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16), a new outlook. Our thoughts and knowledge will have a new source: Jesus Christ. A new mind means that all of life will be viewed differently because of the new source.

Liberated Will

We are no longer in bondage to the sin nature. Our will becomes free from sin and evil. See Titus 3:3 and 1 Corinthians 6:9-11. We do not have the ability within ourselves to free the will from sin (Romans 7:14-15, 24-25).

We are now able to do God?s will since we are in Christ and Christ is in us and Christ?s disposition was to do the will of God.

It is important to realize that our will is not simply a matter of decision. If that were so then drug addicts could really decide to stop doing drugs. We also would be able to, by the act of our will, stop habitual behaviors and the like. The will is, therefore, controlled or influenced by something else. What causes you to will something? That is what regeneration gets at. It cuts the very bond between the will of humans and the controlling spirit of sin and death. Now we can truly say that we want to do what God wants and we have the power within us to do so.

New Nature

Of course regeneration gives us a new nature. We dispose of the old sin nature and take on the nature of God. We, therefore, have the character of God dwelling on the inside of us. Therefore, sin becomes out of character for a regenerated person. God?s nature and the character begin to operate in our lives transforming us into the image of Christ.

  • 2 Corinthians 5:17?We are new
  • 2 Peter 1:4?Partakers of the divine nature
  • 1 John 3:9?Sin is unnatural

God?s nature can be viewed as centered around the concept of true love, righteousness, and truth.

A New Life

A regenerated person passes from death to life (Ephesians 2:1). We are alive to God (Romans 6:11). The old life that we had was really death (separation from God).

Life is characterized by unity with God. Without Christ, we were all dead (Ephesians 2:12).

We obtained a fellowship with God because of regeneration. We are born of God and therefore children of God. We regain fellowship with God (1 John 1:3). That fellowship was originally broken by Adam in the garden of Eden.

(Genesis 2:17 NIV) “but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.””

He ate and therefore died. He abandoned the fellowship and union that he had with God the father.

The new life that we have in Christ also brings the following:

  • Happiness?The fulfillment of the pursuit of happiness
  • Abundant life (John 10:10). This should be understood in relationship with the life of God and not necessarily great riches and the like.
  • Joy (John 15:11). Joy is fueled by our knowing who we are in Christ
  • Victory in Christ (1 John 5:4, Romans 8:37)
  • Eternal life (John 3:16)

Summary

An important aspect that we see in regeneration is the activity of the Holy Spirit. Regeneration can only take place with the preaching of the word of God, the Gospel, with the moving of the Holy Spirit. We cannot lead a person to Christ by our own strength or power. We can only act as vessels of God which we are anyway.

Salvation is very critical and should not be taken lightly. We may have loved ones or friends that we really want to be saved. The effective and only way to effect salvation in these people is to yield to the Holy Spirit and do the part that you are prompted to do. Of course, there are some things that we can always do to help the person see the true Christian way. These can be summarized by

(Matthew 5:16 KJV) “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”

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REGENERATION
A study on regeneration as it relates to salvation
Study Prepared by William R. Cunningham
January 1998

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