I hope you know the dictionary definition of the word “regeneration.” It is to re-generate; it is to make something alive once again. Once again? Yes, once again. Theologically, regeneration is the operation of God whereby, the human spirit – which once lived in Adam, but died when he sinned against his Creator – is made to live once again.
Regeneration is a theological word because it is a Bible term. And because it is a Biblical term, it needs to be taught and preached from time to time. That is not necessarily true of all the words in the world’s theology books, but it is true in this case.
However it needs to be pointed out that it is not a common Biblical term; it is used only twice in the Bible. We read a few minutes ago from Matthew 19:23-30 – Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. Then answered Peter and said unto him, Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore? And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” When the Lord Jesus used the word “regeneration” in verse 28 there was no special definition. “In the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” This “regeneration” means either the re-birth of the nation of Israel, or the re-creation of the universe after all the destruction of the Lord’s judgments. I prefer the first interpretation. So it still is related to the doctrine of salvation.
The only other use of the word “regeneration” is here in Titus 3:5. For those of you who like this kind of trivia, the Greek word is “paliggenesia” (pal-ing-ghen-es-ee’-ah), and if you listen closely you’ll hear the word “genesis.” The word is relatively rare in our Bibles, but outside the Bible, in the common or Koine Greek speech it was far more common.
Strong’s Concordance, with the agreement of Thayer and other experts, defines the word this way: “New birth, reproduction, renewal, recreation, regeneration. “Hence renovation, regeneration, the production of a new life consecrated to God, a radical change of mind for the better. The word often used to denote the restoration of a thing to its pristine state, its renovation, as a renewal or restoration of life after death. The renovation of the earth after the deluge. The renewal of the world to take place after its destruction by fire, as the Stoics taught. The signal and glorious change of all things (in heaven and earth) for the better, that restoration of the primal and perfect condition of things which existed before the fall of our first parents, which the Jews looked for in connection with the advent of the Messiah, and which Christians expected in connection with the visible return of Jesus from heaven. Cicero’s restoration to rank and fortune on his recall from exile. The restoration of the Jewish nation after exile. The recovery of knowledge by recollection.” “Regeneration” is a synonym for the “new birth” – or is it the other way around?
Please remember, there are various ways to look, or explain, salvation.
There are various aspects of God’s saving grace. But just as I often say that the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, should never be separated very far, neither should any of the various aspects of redemption. Can a person be regenerated without being adopted? Not according to the Bible. Can a sinner be regenerated without being converted? Some seem to think so, but it isn’t true. So what again is it to be regenerated? To be born again; made alive. What is it to be converted? It is to be changed from a sinner to a saint; a child of hell to child of God. What is it to be justified? Declared righteous What is it to be adopted? To be fully received into the family of God. What is it to be sanctified? To become one of God’s saints. Are regeneration and sanctification the same thing? Not exactly. Are they related when it comes to salvation? Certainly. Closely related? Not really. Is there a difference between being born again and being adopted? Are they spiritually related? There are a lot of Christians who inadvertently interchange those terms and no harm is done. But there are also false teachers and false religions which do so, causing a great deal of harm. I don’t intend to get into those muddy waters, but to be safe and concise, wouldn’t it be better for the children of God to know the difference between each of these things, and know when to use one and when to speak of the other?
Regeneration is that aspect of salvation concerned with the impartation of eternal life to the dead soul.
And therefore it is the work of the Holy Spirit.
Physically speaking, from where do we get life? Isn’t it from our parents? Where do our pets get their life? From where does the life come that our roses and tomatoes possess? Despite what evolutionists might suggest, there is no such thing as “spontaneous generation.” Life has never popped up out of no where, or from non-living things. The smartest scientists in all the world, with all their desires and resources, have never brought life out of non-living things.
When it comes to the soulish part of man, regeneration is by its very nature is the work of God. John 1:11 – Christ Jesus “came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”
John 3:3 – “Jesus answered and said unto (Nicodemus), Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? 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.”
Regeneration is similar, in some ways to resurrection – it is the work of God alone. John 5:20 – “For the Father loveth the Son, and sheweth him all things that himself doeth: and he will shew him greater works than these, that ye may marvel. For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom he will.”
Ephesians 2:4 – “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”
It is the Holy Spirit who is most directly described as regenerating dead souls. Not God the Father? Even though “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures”/
Not Christ Jesus? Even though “if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” I John 5:11 – “And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.”
Regeneration is the work of the Trinity, but it is more specifically the work of the Holy Spirit. John 3:3 – “Jesus answered and said unto (Nicodemus), Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? 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.”
Titus 3:4 – “But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, 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; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”
Is it accurate to say that the details of regeneration are inscrutable? Generally speaking it is. The new birth is impenetrable, difficult to fully understand. But there are illustrations, types and allegories, which anyone can grasp if they are willing. And the Biblical terms are not too difficult either. Regeneration is described as “new birth,” and a birth is something rather common. Nicodemus was told that he had to be born again. And even though he couldn’t understand how, he did understand at least part of the “what.” It is also described as a kind of spiritual resurrection. Paul told the Roman Christians that they were alive from the dead. He told the Ephesians, “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved).”
Regeneration is likened to a new creation. II Corinthians 5:17 – “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” We are created in Christ Jesus unto good works.
None of these things can be accomplished through any human means. No scientist has been able to create something out of nothing. No mortician has been able to resurrect the dead. And birth is merely the passing on of the life of mom to the life of the child. John 1:11 – Christ Jesus “came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of (the Holy Spirit).”
And what does this Holy Spirit regeneration do?
Those who have been regenerated are given a new nature. Does this mean that the old nature with all its sins and weaknesses is gone? No, it just means that there is a spiritual nature or aspect to that new saint of God. I haven’t spent a lot of time meditating through this thought: But a Christian is a two-natured person, as a pregnant mother possesses a second nature. For the most part they are inseparable, but they are still two distinct natures or lives.
Another result of regeneration is a new experience. Just as Paul looked on life with different eyes after he was given a revelation of Heaven…. Just as Lazarus, after his resurrection, looked on life with a new vision…. The new saint of God looks upon life, earth, heaven, and eternity differently. Regeneration is not, in itself a mere experience, it is the fountain of many new experiences. That person was spiritually dead, but now he has life, and life means experiences. He was spiritually blind, but now he can see. As indwelt and under the control of the Holy Spirit, he has new spiritual sensations. The fruit of the Spirit are all new experiences. Do you experience the fruit of the Spirit? – love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, meekness and patience?
And another result is eternal security to go along with that eternal life. One of the causes of confusion in regard to the security of the soul is directly connected to confusion about the nature of regeneration. How can a Christian be Heaven bound one day and Hell bound the next, if he has been given eternal life? I am of the opinion that the majority of those who deny eternal security, do so because they have never been regenerated. The witness of that truth is a part of the ministry of the Spirit. And the understanding of regeneration is a great source of blessing and comfort to the Christian.
Coupled to regeneration and its eternal life, the Holy Spirit guarantees the ultimate glorification of that saved person. The Spirit becomes that guarantee Himself, by sealing that soul to the Lord.
Also that regenerated person, by the grace of God, becomes a temple of the Lord. Just as the Old Testament Tabernacle or Temple was from time to time filled with the Holy Spirit so can and be the Christian. That will be our subject this evening.
But the question for this hour is – “Have you been born again?” Jesus said to all of us as he spoke to Nicodemus, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Have you been born again; regenerated by the Spirit of God?