A Theology of Regeneration

Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” John 3:3

Illustration

Once there was a brier growing in a ditch and there came along a gardener with his spade. As he dug around it and lifted it up the brier said to itself, "What is he doing? Doesn't he know I am a worthless brier?" But the gardener took it into his garden and planted it amid his flowers, while the brier said, "What a mistake he has made planting me among these beautiful roses." Then the gardener came once more and made a slit in the brier with his sharp knife. He grafted it with a rose and when summer came lovely roses were blooming on that old brier. Then the gardener said, "Your beauty is not due to what came out but to what I put in." Source Unknown.


Regeneration is the spiritual process by which an individual experiences a radical change (new birth), which “changes our disposition from lawless, godless self-seeking into one of trust and love, of repentance for past rebelliousness and unbelief, and loving compliance with God's law henceforth. It enlightens the blinded mind to discern spiritual realities and liberates and energizes the enslaved will for free obedience to God.” (James Packer) (2 Corinthians 5:17; 1 Peter 1:23; Ephesians 2:1, 6).

Nicodemus came to Jesus for information, instead, he received theological instructions that challenged the Jewish assumption that their racial identity – their old birth –and ancestral lineage automatically assured them a place in the kingdom of God. Jesus plainly asserted that Nicodemus’ Jewish identity does not guarantee a place in God’s kingdom. He needed to be born again. “The ancient Greek word translated again (anothen) can be also translated “from above.” This is the sense in which John used this word in John 3:31 and in John 19:11 and 19:23. Either way, the meaning is essentially the same. To be born from above is to be born again.” (David Guzik)

Our spiritual rebirth or regeneration is done by God and by God alone. It is “monergistic, not synergistic.” The Jews thought that obedience to the law guaranteed their access to heaven. Yet, as through Adam and Even humanity is dead in sin, we can only be reborn or resurrected through Christ Jesus. “Regeneration is a sovereign act of God in which humanity plays no role. After God brings us to life, of course, we certainly are involved in "cooperating" with Him. We are to believe, trust, obey and work for him. But unless God acts first, we will never be reborn in the first place.” R.C. Sproul, Tabletalk, 1989

Jesus grafted us in the tree of life by His blood. The beauty of our salvation is in the regenerating work of Christ in us. Through regeneration, we are given citizenship in God’s kingdom. This heavenly identity is from above and requires total surrender to the will of God. Through regeneration, we become a new creature in Christ, “buried with him out of reach of condemnation and raised with Him into a new life of righteousness.” (James Packer, Your Father Loves You, Harold Shaw Publishers, 1986.)

Regeneration does not mean we any longer sin. Our new identity does not make us perfect beings. We are being perfected throughout our Christian journey. That perfecting process is the work of the Holy Spirit and is completed when we transition to heaven. Evidence of that regeneration is in the spiritual fruits we bear for God.

Questions for Personal Reflection

What does regeneration mean to you?

How can others see that you are regenerated?

Prayer- Blessed Lord, I think you for giving me a new identity as a citizen of heaven. Please help me to walk according to your Holy Spirit so I do not allow my sinfulness to prevent me from doing your kingdom work and bring glory to your name.

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