By Bernie Augsburger
Regeneration can be described as a biological term. It is comprised of two words that mean “to bear” and “again.” Before this word was used by Biblical writers to signify a spiritual rebirth, it was used by the Greeks to refer to their birthdays. The word is used only two times in the Bible. In Matthew 19:28, “regeneration” is used in the general sense of the rebirth or renewal of the earth in the Millennial Kingdom. In Titus 3:5, “regeneration” is used of the new birth of an individual at the time of salvation.
Regeneration is an umbrella term for other Biblical concepts. The term “new creation” in 2 Corinthians 5:17 indicates the inception of regeneration. The term “born again” (John 3) can also be translated as “born from above,” showing the source of regeneration. The term “made alive” in Ephesians 2:5 indicates the transforming change that brings new life to a person who was entirely dead before the regeneration took place.
Consider the necessity of regeneration
Every person as a descendant of Adam and Eve is born with a sin nature and cannot act in a way that pleases God (Rom. 5:12; 3:10–18). As Paul stated in Ephesians 2:1, “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins.” Spiritual deadness is essential to being made spiritually alive. It means that an unsaved person is dead with no human ability to respond to God.
Consider the means of regeneration
Scripture indicates two means in regeneration: the Word of God and the Holy Spirit of God. In speaking with Nicodemus, Jesus said, “So is everyone who is born of the Spirit” (John3:8). Again Jesus said, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing” (John 6:63). I believe that “the washing of regeneration” in Titus 3:5 is a reference to the application of the Word of God at the time of regeneration. Most likely it is a parallel passage to Ephesians 5:26 and 27: “That He might sanctify and cleanse her [the church; v. 25] with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.”
Consider the source of regeneration
Regeneration is not a cooperative effort between God and man. God initiates the new birth by reaching down to us in love, mercy, and grace and lifting us from our lifeless condition. We do not meet Him halfway, as the words of the song “Reach out to Jesus, He’s reaching out to you” imply.
I am told that in the realm of creation entities cannot pass by their own power from a lower level to a higher realm. For instance, things at the mineral level don’t have the innate power to pass upward to the vegetable realm. Neither can vegetables by their own initiative pass upward to the animal realm. No animal by its own accord can pass into the human realm, despite what evolution teaches. But the higher realm can always reach down into the lower realm and radically affect it. Likewise, no human is able to initiate regeneration by reaching up by itself into the divine realm to accomplish regeneration. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh” (John 3:6)!
Bernie Augsburger is state representative of the Illinois/Missouri Association of Regular Baptist Churches. This article was first published in Trumpet Notes and is reposted here by permission.