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. 4 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? 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. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. 8 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 3:3-8, KJV; all other Biblical quotations are from the ESV.)
Regeneration is the act by which God gives us a new and better spiritual life and, as in the above passage, is generally referred to as being born again. It follows the Gospel call and conversion and is accompanied by justification and adoption. For the past few days my family and I have been considering it in our after-breakfast Bible reading time guided by Chapter 34, “Regeneration,” of Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1994).
Regeneration fulfils the promise that God made to Israel through Ezekiel, “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules” (Ezekiel 36:26-27). However, as suggested by John 3:8 (see the quotation with which I opened this post), how God does this is a mystery to us.
In most cases when adults become Christians, there is a clearly recognizable time when the person is regenerated. “The results can usually be seen at once–a heartfelt trusting in Christ for salvation, an assurance of sins forgiven, a desire to read the Bible and pray…, a delight in worship, a desire for Christian fellowship, a sincere desire to be obedient to God’s Word in Scripture, and a desire to tell others about Christ” (Grudem, page 701). However we can’t always identify when regeneration occurs. For example, children growing up in a Christian home may not display a radical change from sinner to saint.
Nevertheless that regeneration has occurred can be seen by its results, which include:
– A person who has been regenerated lives a life free of continual sin. “No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God” (1 John 3:9).
– A person who has been regenerated is enabled to overcome the pressures and temptations of the world that would keep him or her from obeying God’s commandments. “His [God’s] commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world” (1 John 5:3-4).
– A person who has been regenerated is protected from Satan. “Everyone who has been born of God does not keep sinning, but he who was born of God [Jesus Christ] protects him, and the evil one [Satan] does not touch him” (1 John 5:18).
– A person who has been regenerated manifests the fruit of the Spirit–“love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 6:22-23).