Category: Salvation, Word: REGENERATION
January 1, 2016 | by: Kendell Easley, prepared by Dave Maniquis | 2 Comments
Posted in: 52 Words
He saved us—not by works of righteousness that we had done, but according to His mercy, through the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit. (Titus 3:5)
DEFINITION: Regeneration or being born again refers to God’s act of making a person alive spiritually. This is the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit by which sinners are given new spiritual life enabling them to relate to God in faith, love, obedience, and delight.
The noun “regeneration” occurs twice only in the New Testament, Titus 3:5 and Matthew 19:28 (referring to creation). Yet the concept abounds. A closely related verb form is used in 1 Peter 1:23: “You have been born again…through the living and enduring word of God.” The longest passage is John 3:1-8, Jesus’ discourse with Nicodemus about being born again or born from above. Jesus made it plain that a person must experience this new birth in order to enter the kingdom of God. No one has been born again apart from the work of the Spirit. In other places in John’s writings this is called being “born of God” (Jn. 1:13; 1 Jn. 3:9).
Paul’s letters speak similarly. We have been “made alive” with Christ and are now “renewed” (Rom. 12:2; Titus 3:5). The old life has gone; a new life has come (Rom. 6:4). The effect of regeneration is to change the human heart from spiritual death to spiritual life, so that there is now a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). This change was foreseen in several Old Testament passages, notably the New Covenant prophecy of Jeremiah 31:31-34 (see also Deut 30:6).
Some theologians, notably those in the Roman Catholic tradition, have interpreted the Bible to mean that regeneration occurs at the time of (and because of) water baptism. This rises from a misunderstanding of Jesus’ words about the need to be “born of water and the Spirit” (Jn. 3:5). He was referring to the cleansing action of the word of God along the lines prophesied in Ezekiel 36:24-27 and noted in 1 Peter 1:23, cited above. The biblical understanding sees baptism as a testimony that regeneration has already occurred, rather than as a means to receive it. Regeneration is the sovereign task of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 2:6-16).
Regeneration happens at the moment of conversion. Yet the logical relationship between the Spirit’s regenerating work in a sinner and that sinner’s repentance and faith has been the focus of much heated discussion. Is faith the basis upon which the Spirit regenerates or is faith the fruit of regeneration? The biblical language, emphasizing regeneration as moving from death to life and as sovereignly worked by the Spirit, appears to favor the latter view and understands faith itself as a gift from God. One illustration sometimes used is that human infants breathe because they have been born, not in order to be born. The life of the infant comes as a result of the act of the human father. Similarly Christians “breathe spiritually” (exhaling=repentance; inhaling=faith) because they have already received life from their heavenly Father (1 Jn. 4:7).
Although many Christians remember the exact circumstances in which they were born again, others are uncertain. Our responsibility is to know whether we have received spiritual life (evidenced by “spiritual breathing”), not the time and place we were regenerated.
REFLECTION: How important is it to emphasize that being born again is the sovereign responsibility of the Spirit? How certain are you that you have experienced regeneration?
PRAYER: Holy Spirit, Yours is the work of giving new life to those once dead in trespasses and sin. Only life from You could enable me to love God and to live in happy obedience to Him as my Father. Let my life today reflect that I am a new creation in Christ. Amen.
Dave Maniquis is a Teaching Elder at Restoration Church. He holds a BA in History from Rutgers University and an MA in Biblical Studies from Reformed Theological Seminary. He enjoyed a 23-year career in the U.S. Government, working and traveling extensively in Western and Eastern Europe. He has been a Christian for most of his adult life and has been involved in church planting, overseas as well as here in Port Orange, teaching the Bible and speaking into others’ lives with the Gospel. He is married to Maureen and they have two wonderful sons, Dylan and Evan.