Doctrines of Grace - Regeneration
Regeneration is that act of God by which the principle of the new life is implanted in man, and the governing disposition of the soul is made holy, and the first exercise of this new disposition is secured. (L. Berkhof).
The Need for Regeneration
Jesus said "you must be born again" (John 3:7). "Unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3). Why is this? Because of our condition "by nature": by nature we are - DEAD in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1). Compare Colossians 2:13. Note how this spiritual deadness expresses itself - Ephesians 2:2,3.
What is a spiritually dead man incapable of doing?
1. He cannot receive the things of the Spirit 1 Corinthians 2:14
2. He cannot love and serve God Romans 8:7,8
3. He cannot come to Christ John 6:44
4. He is the slave of sin, under its domination and power Romans 6:16-23; John 8:34
These expressions do not mean that every person is debauched and wallowing in gross and flagrant sin. We may be cultured, well-mannered, educated and outwardly decent from a human perspective and yet be utterly dead spiritually and indifferent to the gospel. Hostility to God is often cloaked - sometimes even by religion! What a dead person needs is life!!
What does God do in regeneration?
He implants a new, living, holy principle within the soul.
New - it wasn't there before. Living - so that it will make its presence felt. Holy - it will operate counter to sin and incline us to holiness and God
Regeneration is a work of God in the soul unobserved by human eyes; it is known by its results, its effects. God describes this work as the giving of a new heart and a new spirit Ezekiel 36:25-27. The results:
1. Recognition of our sinfulness and a humbling of ourselves Ezekiel 36:31
2. A receptivity and sensitivity to the things of God Ezekiel 36:26
3. Obedience to God (including positive response to the gospel) Ezekiel 36:27
4. A new relationship with God Ezekiel 36:28
Who is the agent in regeneration?
The Holy Spirit of God John 3:5. We cannot regenerate ourselves! Remember that the Holy Spirit is the third person of the Holy Trinity. He is not a force, but a person. Note:
1. Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit as "He" John 14:16,17
2. He expresses Himself in scripture Hebrews 3:7ff
3. He may be grieved and resisted Ephesians 4:30, Acts 7:51
4. He loves Romans 15:30
5. He may be lied against Acts 5:3
The reference "water" in John 3:5 is not a reference to baptism but undoubtedly refers back to Ezekiel 36 passage and has reference to purification and cleansing which is part of the work of regeneration. In the illustration of John 3:8 Jesus intimates 2 things:
There is a mystery connected with the work of the SpiritThere is sovereignty in the work of the Spirit.
He works as He wills. This is true of regeneration: He may quicken one yet not another.
What is the instrument in regeneration?
The truth which makes us free John 8:32. The Holy Spirit and the Word are like the surgeon and the instrument. You must have both for a successful operation.
What is the result of regeneration?
Remember what was said about Ezekiel 36. We may also observe the following:
1. Faith in Christ 1 John 5:1
2. Love of the Christian brothers 1 John 5:1
3. Not practicing a sinful lifestyle 1 John 3:9
4. Overcoming the world 1 John 5:4
Regeneration is the fountainhead from which the stream of sanctification flows. In regeneration there is the implanting of the spiritual life: in sanctification the developing and strengthening of it.
Beware of error in this matter
Baptism cannot regenerate. No church ritual can regenerate. A human "decision" cannot regenerate. Responding to an altar-call cannot regenerate.
One may be religious yet unregenerate; emotional yet unregenerate; knowledgeable yet unregenerate.
Regeneration is a radical work. It affects the "heart", the "control centre" of the life.
"You must be born again".