WHAT IS REGENERATION?
Regeneration is not a doctrine of a particular church or religious group, it is a Bible doctrine. Regeneration is only one subject taught in the doctrine of salvation (soteriology). Other subjects are: repentance, faith, justification, sanctification, adoption, redemption and prayer. Much more could be said on this subject than what is included in this booklet. This is just a starting point to help you, the reader, begin a personal study in the Word of God.
To begin, one must realize that regeneration is a work of God through the Holy Spirit in the heart and life of the sinner. The word regeneration means “the act of being born again.”
This is speaking of a spiritual birth. Today many have no idea what the new birth is all about, yet they say, “I am born again.” Going to church, living a clean life, helping others in need, etc., is no indication that a person is born again. The new birth begins, first of all, with repentance toward God and personal faith toward Jesus Christ and His atoning work on Calvary’s Cross. Repentance and faith do not come by a long process of works. When one sees himself a lost sinner and desires to be saved, that is repentance. Then by realizing your sins were paid for by Jesus Christ on the cross and crying out to God for mercy and trusting Him for forgiveness, with total faith in the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, one is born again.
WHAT REGENERATION IS
The New Birth (John 3:3-8)
The word ‘born again’ occurs four times in the Bible:
“Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3)
“Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.” (John 3:7)
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten (born) us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” (I Peter 1:3)
“Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever.” (I Peter 1:23)
Born (or begotten, which is the same word) of God occurs eight times and born of Him (referring to God) occurs twice:
“Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:13)
“Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” (I John 3:9)
“Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.” (I John 4:7)
“Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him.” (I John 5:1)
“For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.” (I John 5:4)
“We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not.” (I John 5:18)
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,” (I Peter 1:3)
“If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him.” (I John 2:29)
Born of the Spirit, three times:
“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. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:5, 6, 8)
‘Born’ is mentioned as an instrument, six times:
“Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.” (I Peter 1:23)
“Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.” (James 1:18, 21)
“For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.” (I Corinthians 4:15)
“That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,” (Ephesians 5:26)
“Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.” (John 15:3)
Before we continue on to the next point, let me encourage you to stop here and read the verses carefully and prayerfully. These verses from the Word of God will open your understanding of the new birth.
Many have the idea that we are all the children of God. We are all the offspring of Adam, but we are not all children of God. We are born sinners according to the flesh and to become God’s child, we must be born into His family. This is a spiritual birth.
Regeneration and the Holy Spirit
John 3:5 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.
Salvation is a work of the Holy Spirit that takes place instantaneous when one repents of their sin and turns to Christ with a broken spirit and contrite heart realizing they are a sinner condemned to spend eternity in hell. However, by faith they trust in the finished work of Christ on the cross; His payment for sin, accepting His death, burial, and resurrection. John 16:8 And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment. Ephesians 2:1 And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins. Titus 3:5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.
The word water in John 3:5 refers to the breaking of water that takes place during child birth and refers to the natural birth, Spirit refers to the second birth which is salvation. This is explained in the next verse as the first birth being born of the flesh, and second birth as born of the Spirit. John 3:6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. There are examples of two births in both John3:5 and John 3:6, the first birth in each verse is the natural or physical birth, and the second birth in both verses is the Spiritual. You cannot have the second without having the first.
Salvation is a spiritual birth that is reserved only for those who have experienced the natural birth, and have trusted Christ.
Regeneration is a Life Giving Process (Ephesians 2:1, 4, 5)
Here in (Ephesians 2:1-5), it is made very clear that we were born spiritually dead. Yes, physically we are alive, but until we are regenerated, we are spiritually dead. “And you hath he quickened, (made alive) who were dead (spiritually) in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1. In I John 3:14), the apostle John speaks of a passing from death unto life. In the physical realm, we pass from life unto death. From the day of our physical birth, death is on our trail and one day will over take us and we will have passed from life unto death “physically.”
Let me pause from our thoughts and interject this truth. Death does not end it all. Every person will live on after death, either in Heaven or Hell.
Life consists of more than our physical being. First there is our spiritual being. In the spiritual realm, we pass from death unto life. Right the opposite from the physical life. It is through the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, we pass from ‘death unto life’ (I John 3:14). When this new birth occurs, we will know it. The dead spirit within us begins to live. Life takes a new meaning and we know we are born again. One of the most significant ways of knowing this fact is given here in the Word of God. “We know we have passed from death unto life because we love the brethren.” The preacher, the deacon, the Christian worker are God’s people that you once hated. You didn’t want anything to do with them, you cursed and told them to leave you alone, will suddenly become dear to your heart. You will love them because you have now become a member of their family in Christ. John says if this does not happen, then you are not saved. Listen as John closes verse 14, “He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.”
The person who does not love God’s children, God’s house and God’s Word is not born again and is spiritually dead and needs to be saved.
Regeneration is God’s Workmanship a Creation in Christ Jesus
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10)
God is the author of eternal salvation. It is He who saves us by His grace. We can never boast that we attained this royal position by any merit of our own. We can only confess that we are the work of God’s own hand. “We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works.” The regenerating work of God through the Holy Spirit places us in Christ Jesus. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature.” (II Corinthians 5:17a)
Being ‘in Christ’ gives us a personal responsibility. We are created in Christ Jesus unto good works and God has ordained (prepared) us to walk in them. As a new creation in Christ we are to live our life in a way which will bring honor and glory to God. “For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s,” (I Corinthians 6:20). The time has come for us to lay aside all works that will bring the applause of men to ourselves and begin to perform good works that will direct people’s attention to our Heavenly Father who is worthy of all praise, honor and glory.
“God,” said the preacher, to a boy who stood watching a caterpillar spinning a very beautiful cocoon, “sets that little creature a task to do; and diligently and very skillfully he does it. Just as God gives us good works to perform in His name and for His sake. Were the insect to remain satisfied forever in the silken ball which he is weaving, it would become, not his home, but his tomb; by not resting in it, but forcing a way through it, will the winged creature reach sunshine and air. He must leave his own works behind, if he is to shine in freedom and joy. So it is with the Christian.” –Cook
Regeneration is a Spiritual Resurrection into a New Life (Romans 6:4-6)
(Romans 6:1-13) deals with freedom from sin’s power. While we were yet in our sins without Christ, sin had a grip on us, we were a slave, in bondage by its power. But through regeneration, we are set free from sin’s power and dominion over us. No longer are we held in its grip. There has been a resurrection. The old man has died and a new man lives in his place. Baptism symbolizes that very fact. Stepping into the baptismal waters is an outward testimony of an inward transformation. Immersion (being covered with water) is a picture of the burial of the old man of sin. We are “being buried with Him (Christ) by baptism into death” verse 4. Being raised from beneath the water is a picture of resurrection. “For if we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection,” verse 5. The old man that died, was crucified with Christ and was buried. Even as Christ rose from the dead by the glory of the Father, we are resurrected from the watery grave. “…even so we also should walk in newness of life,” verse 4.
Baptism is a symbol of our faith union with the risen Lord. Baptism does not save us. We are saved by the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, we become vitally connected with our blessed Lord and He with us. The likeness of His death and resurrection by baptism, symbolizes and seals our faith union with the crucified, buried and risen Saviour.
Regeneration is an Exchange of Hearts (Ezekiel 36:26)
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)
Why do people do the terrible things they do? The answer is very simple. Their heart is deceitful and desperately wicked. The unregenerated heart of man will drive him over the edge. Murder, rape, incest, homosexuality, lying, stealing, cursing and every other sinful act proceeds from a deceitful, wicked, unregenerated heart. Sin and crime does not come from a life of poverty, racial imbalance, culture, illiteracy or any other social ill. It comes from an unregenerated heart that is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked.
Through the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit, He exchanges our wicked heart and gives us a new heart that is soft, kind, loving and compassionate. Only God can give a heart transplant of this magnitude. There is no other remedy for sin, other than a new heart.
“A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 36:26)
The message of the prophet here is to God’s chosen people, Israel. Just as sure as God promised to exchange their heart, He will exchange your heart as well. This is what regeneration does; it exchanges your old mean heart for a new one that is loving and kind. Would you like to have a heart transplant today? Through the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, the operation can take place immediately. No hospital operating room is necessary. No time for good works in preparation for this surgery is necessary. You will not have to be put to sleep and no pain is felt. Simply by faith, ask Jesus to exchange your old hard, stony heart for a soft heart of flesh and He will do it. All you will feel is peace like you have never known.
Before you read any further, will you bow your head and ask God to save you by His grace and exchange your heart? Will you do as David did in (Psalm 51:10) “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.”
WHAT REGENERATION IS NOT
Regeneration is not Reformation
Nor is it turning over a new leaf, deciding to do better, quitting old habits, joining the church, taking a pilgrimage, doing penitence or anything else you can do. It is the work of God through the Holy Spirit in the heart of a sinner.
Regeneration is not Conversion
Many times we speak of regeneration as conversion, but, in reality, conversion means to “turn around” or “repent.” Saved people can be converted (turned around) as was Peter.
“And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.” (Luke 22:31–32)
Regeneration is not Confirmation
Confirmation is a ceremony performed by certain churches where the laying on of hands is administered to baptized persons, which gives them full enjoyment of Christian privileges. This is a religious ceremony, it is not regeneration. “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;” (Titus 3:5). Confirmation is the work of man. Regeneration is the work of God.
Regeneration is not Water Baptism
As previously stated, water baptism is an ordinance depicting the death, burial and resurrection of Christ.
Regeneration is not Church Membership
A person joins the fellowship of a local church after the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit has taken place in his heart. He has followed the Lord in believer’s baptism, but one cannot join the family of God; he is born into it.
Regeneration is not the Lord’s Supper
This is an ordinance in remembrance of Jesus’ body which was broken and His blood which was shed for us.
This is an ordinance that is not to be taken lightly, but after careful examination of one’s life. This is an ordinance of the church that is to be observed by born again, baptized believers. It is not regeneration. Read the apostle Paul’s strong message concerning the Lord’s Supper in (I Corinthians 11:17-30).
The Necessity of Regeneration
There are three things that make regeneration a necessity:
The Depravity of Man
A. Man is corrupt: (Ephesians 4:22; Psalms 53; Genesis 6:12)
B. Man is defiled: (Mark 7:21-23)
C. Man is filthy: (Psalms 14:3; Isaiah 64:6)
D. Man is ungodly: (Romans 5:6; Jude 14–15)
E. Man is evil: (Genesis 6:5)
F. Man is deceitful, desperately wicked: (Jeremiah 17:9)
G. Man is a child of the devil: (John 8:44; I John 3:10; Acts 13:10)
H. Man is spiritually dead: (Ephesians 2:1; I John 5:12)
The Universality of Sin
A. All have sinned: (Romans 3:23)
B. All under sin: (Romans 3:9)
C. All guilty before God: (Romans 3:19)
D. All in unbelief: (Romans 11:320)
E. All condemned: (John 3:18b)
F. All under the wrath of God: (John 3:36b)
G. All dying: (Romans 5:12)
The Holiness of God
God demands it. Yes my friend, God demands regeneration. It is an absolute requirement for you to go to Heaven.
“Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3b)
Jesus makes it clear in these verses that the holiness of God demands regeneration. Man cannot see or enter into His kingdom unregenerated. God’s holiness demands regeneration.
THE CONDITION OF REGENERATION
The Divine Work, Born of God (John 1:13, 3:5)
The new birth (regeneration) is a divine work. It is not inherited from our parents. It is not by works, or the will of man, but of God. Regeneration is the cleansing, quickening and renewing work of the Holy Spirit. “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;” (Titus 3:5)
The Human Element, repentance and Faith (Acts 20:21, Luke 13:3, Acts 16:31)
Regeneration (the new birth) comes through repentance toward God. Turning from sin and self toward the Saviour, the Lord Jesus. Then the element of faith enters in. Realizing you are a sinner and believing Christ is your only hope of deliverance from sin’s bondage. Faith in the finished work of Calvary enters your heart as you believe the Scripture, that Christ was resurrected and ascended back to Heaven and is now your advocate and intercessor between you and God the Father. You trust Him for forgiveness and the saving of your soul.“…Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved…” (Acts 16:31)
Have you repented and received Christ as your personal Saviour? If not, will you right now look back over your life and see where sin has brought you. If you will be honest with yourself and God, you will see that you are a lost sinner, who needs to be forgiven. If you don’t know the Lord Jesus as your personal Saviour, will you now bow your head as the man in Luke 18:13 did and pray “Lord be merciful to me a sinner.”
If you mean this prayer, from your heart, and believe that God has forgiven your sins; you are now His child. Praise Him and pray and study His Word daily.