Is there a difference between the words “conversion” and “regeneration”?
We commonly use “conversion” and “regeneration” to refer to the “new birth,” the moment an individual experiences salvation.
In Acts 3:19 we see the familiar and often-used verse, “Repent therefore and be converted [literally “turn”—active voice], that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.” The apostle Peter was addressing Jews. He was telling those men of Israel that national repentance must precede national restoration. Following the Tribulation and repentance of Israel, the times of refreshing would be the blessings of Christ’s future Kingdom, the Millennium (v. 21). Yet individual Jews could respond to the gospel of Christ and be saved in the Church Age.
Some Bible scholars make the distinction that “regeneration” refers to the work only God can do, the new life which the triune God imparts in saving a person (God, 1 Peter 1:3; Jesus Christ, John 10:28; the Holy Spirit, Titus 3:5; see also 2 Corinthians 5:17). In contrast they believe “conversion” speaks of the individual’s response to the gospel, because, as we’ve seen, the word for “conversion” in the original has to do with “turning.” People are beckoned to turn from sin unto God (1 Thessalonians 1:9, 10).
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