Regeneration means to be born again. In the context of the New Testament, it is the spiritual rebirth associated with receiving the Holy Spirit. Some argue that regeneration occurs first and then is followed by faith. Others argue that regeneration differs from person to person. Some argue that a person becomes a Christian and then one must seek the Spirit to receive Him. By definition, regeneration must be God’s act, but we still ask when does regeneration take place? What is the evidence of the New Testament?
- John 7:37-39 “On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'” Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” ESV Evidence: belief > regeneration
- Galatians 3:2 “Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith?” ESV Evidence: hear > faith > regeneration
- Acts 2:38 “And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” ESV Several things suggest that “gift of the Holy Spirit” refers to the gift which is the Holy Spirit. It is certainly one of the grammatical possibilities. This grammatical possibility seems to make the best sense in the light of the New Testament’s teaching that Christians receive the Holy Spirit (see Romans 8:9 and 1 Corinthians 6:19). Evidence: repentance > baptism > regeneration
- Acts 5:32 “And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.” ESV Evidence: obedience > regeneration
- John 3:5 “Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” ESV Grammatically, the passage is talking of one birth with two aspects: water and the Spirit. Given the context of the New Testament, the water in this passage most likely refers to baptism. Evidence: water and regeneration
- 1 Corinthians 12:13 “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body- Jews or Greeks, slaves or free- and all were made to drink of one Spirit.” ESV Evidence: baptism and regeneration
- Titus 3:5 “he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit” ESV Clearly baptism and regeneration are linked together in other passages. This makes the reference to washing most likely a reference to baptism. Evidence: washing and regeneration
When taken with all the New Testament evidence, becoming a Christian involves faith, repentance, confession, baptism, and regeneration. Regeneration before faith does not fit the evidence. Neither does the idea that the reception of the Spirit is long after becoming a Christian. And although there is a variety of ways of expressing things, as the above list demonstrates, the variety is not inconsistent. A pattern emerges from the evidence when taken as a whole. Have you been born again?