What is Regeneration?


1. What is regeneration?
Regeneration is an immediate re-creation of the sinful nature by God the Holy Spirit and an implanting into the body of Christ.

2. Is it a judicial or a re-creating act?
The latter. In regeneration the condition and not the state of man is changed.

3. Does regeneration occur in the consciousness or below the consciousness?
Below the consciousness. It is totally independent from what occurs in the consciousness. It can therefore be effected where the consciousness slumbers.

4. Is regeneration a slow process or an instantaneous action?
It is an instantaneous action that is the basis for a long development in grace.

5. Is regeneration concerned with the removal of the old or the enlivening of the new?
Regeneration includes both. However, one can rightly maintain that the latter has prominence.

6. Is regeneration a mediate or an immediate act of God?
It is immediate in the strict sense. No instrument is employed for it.

– Geerhardus Vos, Reformed Dogmatics)

“Regeneration is an act by God to awaken spiritual life within us – bringing us from spiritual death to spiritual life. On this definition, it is natural to understand that regeneration comes before saving faith. It is in fact this work of God that gives us the spiritual ability to respond to God in faith. However, when we say that it comes “before” saving faith, it is important to remember that they usually come so close together that it will ordinarily seem to us that they are happening at the same time. As God addresses the effective call of the gospel to us, he regenerates us and we respond in faith and repentance to this call. So from our perspective it is hard to tell any difference in time, especially because regeneration is a spiritual work that we cannot perceive with our eyes or even understand with our minds.

Yet there are several passages that tell us that this secret, hidden work of God in our spirits does in fact come before we respond to God in saving faith (though often it may be only seconds before we respond). When talking about regeneration with Nicodemus, Jesus said, “Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). Now we enter the kingdom of God when we become Christians at conversion. But Jesus says that we have to be born “of the Spirit” before we can do that. Our inability to come to Christ on our own, without an initial work of God within us, is also emphasized when Jesus says, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” p 703 (John 6:44), and “No one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father” (John 6:65). This inward act of regeneration is described beautifully when Luke says of Lydia, “The Lord opened her heart to give heed to what was said by Paul” (Acts 16:14). First the Lord opened her heart, then she was able to give heed to Paul’s preaching and to respond in faith.

By contrast, Paul tells us, “The man without the Spirit (literally, the “natural man”) does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor. 2:14 NIV). He also says of people apart from Christ, “no one understands, No one seeks for God” (Rom. 3:11).

The solution to this spiritual deadness and inability to respond only comes when God gives us new life within. “But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses made us alive together with Christ” (Eph. 2:4–5). Paul also says, “When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ” (Col. 2:13 NIV).”

– Grudem, W.A., 2004. Systematic theology: an introduction to biblical doctrine, Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House.