Regeneration, a theological term for being “born again”, is the term for when God creates a human spirit in the believer at salvation. “Born again” is a poor translation of the Greek and leads one to think that the human spirit already exists and is simply being regenerated. The Greek words for “born again” help us to fully understand the meaning: “born” - “gennao”, which means “to bear or to bring forth a child”; “again” - “anothen”, which means “anew or from above”. The word “regenerate’ in English can mean to be restored, to reform, to bring into existence again, but it can also mean to be made anew. However, the Greek word for regeneration is “palingenesia” and means a new birth. Regeneration is a new birth, a spiritual birth from above (from God). It is the “new creation” of II Corinthians 5:17, which is better translated “a new spiritual species”. It is a brand new nature, something that did not exist prior to faith in Christ. (John 3:1-8; I Thessalonians 5:23; Titus 3:5; Ephesians 2:1,5)
Prior to salvation a person is “spiritually dead” or separated from God. Upon faith in Christ, a person becomes alive spiritually and is no longer separated from God. Regeneration, therefore, is the supernatural work of God whereby He imparts spiritual life to a spiritually dead person. All three members of the Trinity are involved in regeneration. It is the will of the Father that everyone comes to know Christ as Savior. Regeneration is made possible by Jesus Christ’s sacrificial death. It is the work of the Holy Spirit that produces this new birth in the believer. (Ephesians 2:5-6; Colossians 2:13; James 1:18; I Peter 2:24; Titus 3:5)
Spiritual death means that a person is “in Adam”, does not possess a human spirit, is minus the righteousness of God and has no ability within himself to remedy the situation. Being “in Adam” means that every member of the human race is born with Adam’s original sin, which was imputed to each person at birth. It is Adam’s original sin that condemns us at birth. Spiritual life means that a person is “in Christ”, possesses a human spirit, has the righteousness of God and that God has remedied our formerly hopeless situation. Being “in Christ” means that at salvation God the Holy Spirit places us into union with Jesus Christ. It is this union that removes all condemnation from the believer. (John 3:17-18; Romans 5:12-14, 8:1; I Corinthians 2:14, 15:22)
It is the work of Christ that secures forever our relationship with God and provides the potential for regeneration for every human being. It is still a matter of personal volition (free will) whether a person chooses to believe in Christ or whether a person rejects Christ. God does not force anyone to believe in Christ.
On the Cross Jesus died twice. First, He died spiritually as the full and complete payment for the sin of all mankind. Because the penalty for sin is spiritual death or separation from God, someone had to pay this penalty. Only a perfect, sinless person could have accomplished this, having no sin of His own to pay for. This person had to have the ability to pay, the willingness to pay and had to be related to the person for whom he is paying the penalty. This had to be done in order to meet the requirements of the “Kinsman Redeemer” under Jewish law. Remember that Christ fulfilled the Law perfectly (even in His death). (Romans 6:23; Leviticus 25:27, 48; Jeremiah 50:34; Matthew 5:17)
Christ’s second death on the Cross was physical. He rose again to conquer death and the grave. Since we are in union with Christ, we too will conquer physical death and the grave. When Christ was resurrected, He became the “firstfruits” of all believers. This means that He was the first to receive a resurrection body and we will also receive a resurrection body because of our relationship with Him. (I Corinthians 15:12-20, 51-57)
A new birth is possible only as the result of what Christ accomplished on the Cross. God the Father designed the plan of salvation, Jesus Christ carried out that plan and God the Holy Spirit reveals that plan. Jesus Christ was a willing sacrifice and joyfully went to the Cross because He knew what He was going to accomplish for you and me. NEVER did His resolve to execute the Father’s plan waiver for even a millisecond. Many would have us believe that Christ was asking the Father to deliver Him from having to go to the Cross when He said, “If it be possible remove this cup from me”. But we know this cannot be the case, since Jesus was perfect and always willingly and joyfully obeyed the Father’s plan. So the cup must represent something different. (James 1:18; I Peter 2:24; Titus 3:5; Hebrews 12:1-2)
It is the human spirit that provides the believer with the ability to have a relationship with God, to learn, to understand and to apply Bible doctrine and to produce divine good (service to God). (Romans 1:9; 8:16; Job 32:8) An unbeliever does not possess a human spirit and is, therefore, unable to have a relationship with God, to understand spiritual things or to produce divine good. (I Corinthians 2:14) It is the human spirit that the Holy Spirit teaches and this becomes the positive influence in your soul. Divine Viewpoint Thinking is the result of this influence and overrules Human Viewpoint Thinking when properly applied. The soul of man has the potential to be corrupted since it contains “free will”. The human spirit, on the other hand, does not contain free will and, therefore, has no potential for corruption. The creation of the human spirit also sets up a battle in the soul. This battle between the sin nature and the new spiritual nature is for the control of the soul. (Galatians 5:16-17; I John 3:9)
Regeneration also sets up the potential for the production of divine good by the believer. Producing human good can be accomplished by the believer or the unbeliever. It is divine good that is rewardable in eternity, whereas the believer’s human good will be “burned up” at the Judgment Seat of Christ.
After salvation, the believer is commanded to do good works. The question is what are good works as outlined in the Word of God. In Ephesians 2:10 the Greek word for “good works” gives us great insight as to the proper meaning. The Greek word for “good” is “agathos” and means “good of lasting value or of high character”. The Greek word for “works” is “ergon” and simply means “a task or production of any kind”. Together they mean divine production, which is the only kind that is of lasting value.
The Scriptures are very clear that divine production can be produced only if properly motivated under the control of the Holy Spirit. The believer that is not controlled by the Holy Spirit is controlled by the sin nature and can produce only “wood, hay and straw” (human good). This does not imply that human good is necessarily evil. Human good becomes evil when it is substituted for divine good. (I Corinthians 3:12-13)
Regeneration also sets up a potential for the believer to have fellowship with God. Prior to salvation a person is separated from God without the ability to have a relationship with Him. Upon faith in Christ, a person’s relationship with God changes from merely being His creation to being His child. Once a child, the believer can choose to have fellowship with his heavenly Father as a matter of personal volition. This fellowship is broken when the believer, of his own free will, chooses to sin. The good news is that God knew the believer would sin after salvation and designed a magnificent recovery system for this purpose. It is the utilization of this system that enables the believer to spend a maximum amount of time in fellowship with God.
This system is outlined in I John 1:6-10. We occasionally refer to this system as “Rebound” because it means, “to bounce back”. When a believer chooses to sin he loses his fellowship with God and must use God’s system in order to recover (bounce back to) that relationship. Restoration to fellowship is a matter of naming, admitting or acknowledging your sin to God. This system is the way in which the believer regains the filling (control) of the Holy Spirit. It is impossible to have fellowship with God apart from the control of the Holy Spirit.
Verse 9 says that not only does God forgive the sins we name, but He also purifies us from all wrongdoing. Wrongdoing can be any sin - ones that we have forgotten or ones that we did not know were sins. This means that God in His magnificent grace “covers all the bases” and the slate is wiped clean. Once the believer is restored to fellowship with God and is being controlled by the Holy Spirit, he is ready to resume the Christian Way of Life. Resuming the Christian Way of Life is analogous to what verses 6-7 call “walking in the light”. Since Jesus Christ is the True Light, walking in the light is tantamount to allowing God to control your life. The more of the Light (Bible doctrine) that you have stored in your soul, the more information the Holy Spirit has available to guide you in your “walk”. Confession of sin is passive on our part, whereas walking is active. Success in the Christian Way of Life requires both. It is impossible to “walk in the light” if you’re out of fellowship with the Light. It is also impossible to advance spiritually as a Christian if you’re “walking in darkness” (not controlled by the Holy Spirit).
Regeneration is much more than simply being “born again”. Regeneration sets up numerous potentials for the believer. But as with everything in the Christian Way of Life, they are only potentials. You must make the decision to act upon those potentials!