aymon de albatrus
"3 For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, [and] hating one another. 4 But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, 5 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; 6 Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; 7 That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life." (Tit 3:3-7)
Regeneration literally means a "new birth." The Greek word (palingenesia) is used with reference to the changes produced by springtime, a passing from death (winter) to a new life (spring). In the Bible it appears only two times: Mat 19:28 meaning the "restitution of all things" and in Tit 3:5 denoting that change of heart elsewhere spoken of as a passing from death to life (1Jo 3:14); becoming a new creature in Christ Jesus (2Co 5:17); being born again (Joh 3:5); a renewal of the mind (Rom 12:2); a resurrection from the dead (Eph 2:6); a being quickened (Eph 2:1,5).
This change is performed entirely by the Holy Spirit. It originates not with man but with God (Joh 1:12,13; 1Jo 2:29; 5:1,4). It consists in the implanting of a new principle or disposition in the soul of the elect who are by nature "dead in trespasses and sins". It imparts spiritual life in these who will then be enabled to seek God, for otherwise no one would (Rom 3:11,12). It is the receiving of a New heart (the inner core essence of man) which totally changes the disposition of the person receiving the new nature: "26 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and you shall keep my judgments, and do them." (Eze 36:26-27)
This impartation is referred to as being "Born Again" and this process is emphatically stated in Scripture as a must to enter Heaven (Joh 3:3; Rom 7:18; 8:7-9; 1Co 2:14; Eph 2:1; 4:21-24). It is absolutely necessary for a person to be born again in order to enter the kingdom of God. In chapter 3 of John, Jesus tells Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council, that he will not enter the Kingdom of God unless he is born anew. It is God that selects (elect) those who He wants with Him in Heaven and on those he imposes His imprimatur of being "Born Again".
The new birth is then, a sovereign act of God by his Spirit in which the believer is forensically cleansed from sin and given spiritual birth into God's household. It renews the believer's intellect, sensibility, and will and attitude, to enable that person to enter the kingdom of God and to do good works prepared for him before time was: "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them." (Eph 2:10) (Eph 1:3-7)
Regeneration may be defined as that supernatural work of the Holy Spirit of God which is performed in the inner core of a sinner whereby the sinner is given a new heart, being brought from spiritual death to spiritual life, and is made able and willing to repent of his sins before God and trust alone in Jesus Christ to be his Lord, Master and Saviour.
Regeneration is NOT what is preached in many Christian circles today as experiencing "regeneration" (or "being born again") simply as something that happens when a person "makes a decision to accept Jesus Christ into his heart as personal Saviour." The idea that the experience of regeneration is a decision which every sinner ought to make and indeed every sinner can make is an idea which is false, as we have seen above, in regeneration man is totally passive, for it is a Sovereign act of God, man is passive in this
How then can a believer prove to himself that he has been regenerated? Basically there are four tests:
Believe that Jesus is the Christ:
"Hereby know you the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God:" (1Jo 4:2) "ÖÖ that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost." (1Co 12:3) No person can honestly say that Jesus Christ has come in the Flesh (thus He is God) and that He is the Lord of his own life and of everything, UNLESS the Holy Spirit that dwells in him gives it to him, i.e. thus proving he has a regenerated heart.
Keep His commandments:
"And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments." (1Jo 2:3,4) "If you keep my commandments, you shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Fatherís commandments, and abide in his love." (Joh 15:10) (Pro 7:2) No one has desire or is even willing to keep Godís commandments, UNLESS he has received a new heart from the Lord that enables him to do so (Eze 36:26,27). With a regenerated heart men actually wants to keep Godís commandment, and like David they will holler: "Give me understanding, and I shall keep your law; yes, I shall observe it with my whole heart." (Psa 119:34)
Spirit of Adoption:
"Ö. you have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father." (Rom 8:15) "And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father." (Gal 4:6) No man has desire of God (Rom 3:11), UNLESS he has been regenerated in his inner core which enables him to cry out with much desire for his heavenly Daddy, longing to be with Him the soonest. To the regenerated nothing on this Earth has more value than to be with his Abba Father (Luk 14:26; Phi 3:8).
Have love (Agape) for the brethren:
"We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brothers. He that loves not his brother stays in death." (1Jo 3:14) One does not need to be a genius to observe that men do not love each other, just see the thousands of terrible wars over the time man has been on the earth, even between neighbours and within the family; UNLESS man is Born Again. Then he has an innate love for his brethren in Christ and when the believer meets another that he has never known before it is like, as he has known him forever. If one says he is a Christian but has no love for the believers then he also has no love for God for it was God that elected those brethren to Himself, thus that man in hating the Christians is also hating God, demonstrating he is NOT a child of His. (1Jo 4:20)
If a believer can truly and honestly identify himself with the above four tests he can be sure that he has been regenerated by the Lord. This is what Paul means when he says to test yourself if you are in the Faith: "Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? unless indeed you fail to meet the test!" (2Co 13:5) Failing in any of the above tests puts that personís regeneration in serious doubt, thus demonstrating he is not a true Christian.
Another proof of regeneration is if you find this conflict in your inner self: "For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that you cannot do the things that you would." (Gal 5:17; Rom 7:18-25)
Regeneration is not by men's works, but by Godís own good will and pleasure. His great love and free gift, His rich grace and abundant mercy, are the cause of it and these attributes of God are displayed in the regeneration and conversion of sinners. God, not man, is the source of regeneration (Eph 2:1,8) that makes us now partakers of the divine nature (2Pe 1:4), having been made new creatures. Regeneration is part of the "salvation package," along with sealing (Eph 1:14), adoption (Gal 4:5), reconciliation (2Co 5:18-20), and the other salvation concepts.
Regeneration is necessary because before salvation we were not conscious to be God's children (even though we were already elected before time was) (Joh 1:12-13; Eph 1:4); rather, we were behaving as children of wrath (Eph 2:3; Rom 5:18-20). Prior to salvation, we were degenerate. After salvation we are regenerated. The result of regeneration is peace with God (Rom 5:1), new life (Tit 3:5; 2Co 5:17), and eternal sonship (Joh 1:12-13; Gal 3:26). This regeneration is eternal and begins the process of sanctification wherein we become the people God intends us to be, fit for the Kingdom (Rom 8:28-30).
God grants regeneration to His elect by means of the finished work of Christ on the cross. It cannot be gotten in any other way. No amount of good works or keeping of the law can regenerate the heart, which from birth is "deceitful and wicked above all things" (Jer 17:9). Only Christianity has the concept of "regeneration", the other religions often require a massive amount of works and deeds that must be done to gain favour with God, without ever knowing when it is enough and never having the certainty that one is truly saved (1Jo 5:13).
Total true regeneration of the heart is necessary for salvation as Paul explains this concept perfectly: "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." (Gal 2:20)
Man by nature always objects to the doctrine of regeneration. Nothing else demonstrates the depth of sin in the human heart as this objection to the doctrine of the rebirth or being born again, from above. We see in the New Testament Scriptures that men objected to it in those days. When our Lord, Master and Saviour Jesus Christ spoke about it, He was always persecuted. People disliked Him for mentioning it. When He began to expose the depth of iniquity in the human heart and to talk about a rebirth, they invariably despised Him. They disliked it then, and it has always been the same ever since.
The natural man with an unregenerate human heart objects to this great and wondrous biblical doctrine of rebirth and regeneration. It is reported that when John Wesley was truly converted, he went back to his university at Oxford and preached a sermon on this very subject; and he was hated for it. Those respectable religious people in Oxford disliked this doctrine, and they made it impossible for him to continue preaching there. And it is equally true today.
People sit and listen to an address or sermon on what is called the fatherhood of God or the brotherhood of man and they never object to it. When they are exhorted to live a better life, they never express any objection at all. They say that it is perfectly right, and even though they are reprimanded for not living better lives, they say that it is perfectly true and quite fair and that they could do better. But if a preacher stands before the natural man and says, "You must be born againóyou must have a new life from God," they ask, "What is this strange doctrine?" and when it is stated that regeneration is a sovereign act of God (man is passive in it) they revolt with much dislike towards the speaker. (1Co 2:14; 1Jo 4:2,14; 5:20)
Illumination and regeneration are required, because prior to conversion a person is incapable of perceiving spiritual knowledge, it is because sinful rebellion rules his heart that man refuses to believe. The difference between the regenerate and unregenerate is the relationship each has with the Holy Spirit, one as friend and the other as an enemy. Only the Spirit can confer spiritual knowledge, to the delight of the recipients.
This true knowledge of God is found in the Word of God but is only apprehended through the regenerative work of Holy Spirit. Therefore, only the Holy Spirit via personal revelation communicates spiritual knowledge. This is the only way one can be enabled to see the beauty, harmony, truth and excellence of the Scriptural Word. It cannot penetrate into our minds unless the Spirit, as the inner teacher, through his illumination makes entry for it. Regeneration is ALL of God, praise Him, forever and ever.
That an unbeliever is in need of regeneration is obvious from the sinful condition of human beings, "dead in trespasses and sins" (Eph 2:1),
Like infants that do not induce, or cooperate in, their own procreation and birth; no more can those who are 'dead in trespasses and sins' prompt the quickening operation of God's Spirit within them. In this respect man is utterly passive since such an action is not within his independent natural affections, capacity or desires,
Truly as Jesus, when calling Lazarus out of the grave, did not ask for permission, so the dead sinner does not play a role in his spiritual resurrection nor make a contribution to God's spiritual work (Joh 11:43),
When an elect sinner is regenerated, he undergoes a "second birth" and becomes a new creature (2Co 5:17),
When man is regenerated, the sinner, having been quickened, passes from spiritual death unto spiritual life (Col 2:13),
In the regenerated state man is enable to perform the good works, which God has, before time was, ordained that he should walk in them,
We are spiritually deaf (also dead) until the Spirit of God enables us to hear, through regeneration, the truth of God and the voice of the Master Jesus and to follow Him. That is the exclusive work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts (Joh 10:27). AMEN