#WCSK Episode 1.9: Regeneration

Introduction

We are now near the end of What Christians Should Know Volume I. There will be one more lesson in this volume. I have written much so far about central principles of the Christian faith—ideas that, to some, may feel far away or removed from their personal experience. This lesson on regeneration by far contains the most palpable applications to each person’s existence because, in the end, one of the most central questions will be, “How will all of this affect my life?” Regeneration thus helps believers answer the question, “How do I know I am saved?” Think of the prior lessons being like a business’s overall motto—for example, “Finger lickin’ good.” That may sound great but provides no specific details or guidelines on how an employee’s day will look in pursuit of “Finger lickin’ good.” Regeneration does just that—by providing a glimpse of the daily experience—in the walk of the Christian.

What Christians should know is that regeneration means being born again by the Holy Spirit and being given a new heart and mind.

Wayne Grudem defines regeneration as “a secret act of God in which he imparts new spiritual life to us; sometimes called ‘being born again.’”[1] Regeneration is part of the entire process of salvation that continues Christ’s atoning sacrifice in the cross—that is, Christ has paid the price for our sins, and the Holy Spirit actualizes that work in our lives so that He can put sin to death and raise us up to new life. Regeneration, or being “born again,” is totally and completely dependent on God[2] in the same way that our natural births were not an active, voluntary choice on our part.

Certainly, there is a very specific ordering of salvation, called the ordo salutis, and each other component (election, calling, [regeneration], conversion, justification, adoption, sanctification and perseverance) will be discussed separately in future volumes of What Christians Should Know. Because salvation has a specific order, confusion about the sequence will result in divergent beliefs about how someone enters into and engages in a relationship with God. Regeneration is part of a sequence and sets the tone of a Christian’s life after he or she has been elected and called. Furthermore, the Bible teaches us that in order to be regenerated, we had to be exposed to the Word of God and hear the gospel. James 1:18 says, “In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures” (italics mine). I Peter 1:23-25 says, “For you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God. For, ‘All flesh is like grass, And all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, And the flower falls off, But the word of the Lord endures forever.’ And this is the word which was preached to you” (italics mine).

Calling can therefore be thought of as God speaking to us from the outside and summoning us to Him; regeneration, then, is the Holy Spirit working on us from the inside so that we can respond faithfully to God and live a Christ-centered life. As Jesus said in John 6:44, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.”[3] An example of this truth can be seen in Acts 10:44-48. Here, the apostle Peter preaches the good news to the house of Cornelius, and then all those who hear were overpowered by the Holy Spirit:

While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message. All the circumcised believers who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. For they were hearing them speaking with tongues and exalting God. Then Peter answered, “Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?” And he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.

Similarly, in Acts 16:13-14, the apostle Paul preaches the gospel to a crowd of women, and one of the women, Lydia, had her heart opened by The Lord. The text says, “and we sat down and began speaking to the women who had assembled. A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul.” As Paul says in Romans 10:17, “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.”

Regeneration is total, not partial: “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”[4] Before regeneration, we were dead in our whole being.[5] God thus aims to make us new creations in regeneration—not slightly used, or almost new—but brand new creations. The Greek word for new, kainos, implies freshness in respect to an unheard of or unprecedented novel substance. From this concept stems the conclusion that regeneration is a finite event in the Christian’s life, yet the effects of that regeneration will manifest over time. Hence, God’s work is always good, full, and complete while our response is gradual and a “work in progress.” Of course, regeneration does not mean that a Christian will live a perfect life. Rather, it means that the life of a Christian will not be characterized by continued indulgence in sin.

I. By Grace Alone

We spoke about the grace of God in a prior lesson. Specifically, regeneration is a special type of grace imparted on people who are otherwise totally undeserving.[6] This act of grace is performed by the Holy Spirit,[7] and without the grace of regeneration (i.e., without God), no one could …

Regeneration Born Again Holy Spirit New Creation Heart

Dr. C. H. E. Sadaphal

 

[1] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 699.

[2] John 3:3-8; I Peter 1:3; cf. James 1:18

[3] See also John 6:65.

[4] II Corinthians 5:17

[5] Ephesians 2:1

[6] Ephesians 2:1-5

[7] John 3:5-8

[8] John 3:3, 5; cf. I Corinthians 2:6-16

[9] John 14:26, 16:7

[10] John 16:13

[11] Romans 8:4-13; Ephesians 5:18

[12] Proverbs 4:4, 5:12, 10:8; Matthew 5:28, 6:21; Mark 7:21-23

[13] Proverbs 6:14, 25; 16:1

[14] Proverbs 2:10, 3:1-3, 23:15

[15] Proverbs 2:2, 24:32

[16] Matthew 12:34

[17] John 15:16; Ephesians 1:4-5; Romans 8:28-30

[18] Mark 16:15; Romans 10:14-17; I Corinthians 9:16; Revelation 3:20

[19] Mark Driscoll, Religion Saves (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2009), 19.

[20] Ephesians 2:1, 5; Colossians 2:13

[21] Ephesians 2:5; Colossians 2:13

[22] II Peter 1:4

[23] Ephesians 2:15, 4:24

[24] II Corinthians 5:17

[25] Ephesians 2:10

[26] John 1:13; Romans 6:1-23; I Peter 1:3, 23

[27] Psalm 40:8

[28] I Corinthians 6:18

[29] Genesis 39:9

[30] Psalm 139:8-9, 23-24

[31] Ephesians 4:17-24

[32] Colossians 3:5

[33] Colossians 3:8

[34] I Peter 2:2

[35] Romans 7:22

[36] I John 4:7

[37] Psalms 37:4; Romans 7:4-6; Galatians 5:16-17

[38] I John 1:3

[39] Ephesians 2:19-20

[40] Romans 12:5

[41] Ephesians 2:22

[42] Romans 6:6, 7:6

[43] Galatians 5:19-23

[44] I John 4:4

[45] I John 5:18b

[46] cf. James 2:14-26.

[47] II Timothy 2:19

[48] Matthew 11:11; Luke 7:28

[49] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 706.

[50] Ephesians 5:18

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