The Characteristics Of Regeneration
Updated: Nov 3, 2020
Notes compiled by Marty Zide and Steve McAtee
These characteristics will define for us the finer points of what actually happens when a person is regenerated. We will discuss how it happens, when it happens, along with some other details.
a. Regeneration is completely the work of God
Regeneration is the creative work of God. Regeneration means to bring to life again. It is a work that a creature cannot do. Since we are the creature upon whom regeneration came, then we are not the ones who have brought about this new birth.
Eph 2:4-5 - But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Messiah (by grace you have been saved).
Eph 2:10 - For we are His workmanship, created in Messiah Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
God is the initiator and the one by whom regeneration takes place. It is done purely by a supernatural work by Almighty God.
b. Man does not cooperate with God in the process of regeneration
Someone who is dead cannot cooperate in anything. He doesn’t need our assistance so regeneration can take place. When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, he did not cooperate in the resurrection. It was a supernatural work that was performed by the Lord Jesus.
Check the miracles that Jesus performed. They could not have been done by the power of man, nor did He need their assistance in performing them.
c. Regeneration is an instantaneous act that is done to us before we even know that it happened
We didn’t feel it the moment it happened any more than a human being knows when they were first conceived. Eventually, we see the results of it when faith is placed in the Lord Jesus, and when we begin to manifest the evidence of true spiritual life.
As I grow physically I become aware of my existence, and humanness. The same is true spiritually. When God implants the incorruptible seed in our heart and conception takes place, we are not even aware of it at that time. Over time as the seed is exposed to the Word of God, it brings forth the birth that is acknowledged by faith in the Lord Jesus and spiritual growth follows. Peter speaks of this seed.
1 Pet 1:23 - for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God.
What is the incorruptible seed that Peter is speaking of? We usually conclude that the seed is the Word of God. However, the prepositions in this verse, in the original Greek text, leads us to believe that the seed is not referring to the Bible itself.
Now, when you look at the Greek text of verse 23, you’ll discover that there is a significant change in the prepositions. In the Greek text, the preposition Ek means of. Ek indicates the source. When the Bible speaks about being born of the Spirit in John 3:8 that’s Ek. The Spirit is the source of that birth. To be born of God, that is Ek.
In John 1:13 we read the source is God, but when Peter says in verse 23 “by the Word of God” he uses the preposition dia. Now, dia expresses instrumentality or means. In other words, Peter is saying that the new birth has two elements about it. It is not that it occurs only through the instrumentality of the Word, but its source is the incorruptible seed.
Now if the Word of God is the instrumentality and means, then what is the incorruptible seed? It is something else besides the Bible. It’s not the instrumentality. Whatever it is, it is the source of regeneration. John and Peter give us an answer.
1John 3:9 - No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.
The incorruptible seed is a new nature of the divine life that God implants within our hearts that produces regeneration. Peter calls it the divine nature.
2Pet 1:4 - For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.
To sum it up, the Bible presents the new birth in this way. God is the author, we see this in John 1:12-13. The Spirit is the agent, see Titus 3:5. And the Bible is the instrument. We see this in 1 Pet. 1:23.
d. Regeneration is accomplished by God without the use of any means
Although most would be quick to say that regeneration is effected by the means of the Word of God, I hope we’ve seen that it is a direct operation of the Spirit of God upon the spirit of man. After regeneration, the Word of God is then used to fertilize the implanted seed to bring forth new birth.
Can truth be the means for the new birth when the natural man does not receive the things of the spirit of God? Remember, they are foolishness unto him. Neither can he know them because they are spiritually discerned. Can truth be the means of our new birth if we cannot receive the truth? No, it cannot.
If we cannot receive truth because we are dead in sin and because we do not have the Spirit of God, then can we say that regeneration is produced by the coming of the truth? No, we cannot receive the truth. So regeneration is effected without means. It is affected by the direct operation of the Holy Spirit upon the spirit of man.
1 Cor 2:14 - But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.
e. Regeneration renews the will
The unregenerate man is unable to be willing to obey God. He naturally does not please Him. He is unwilling and worse yet, unable to do that which pleases God.
Matt 23:37 - Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling.
As a result of regeneration, the unwilling will was renewed and is made willing. The natural man cannot do this on his own. This is something that only God can do.
Heb 13:20-21 - Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord, equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus the Messiah, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
Phil 2:12-13 - So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.
Our being willing is the product of God’s working in us. Without God’s previous work in us, we cannot to do what He desires. Regeneration has a renewing effect upon the mind, emotion, will, and spirit of a human being. David understood this as we see him praying to God in the Psalms. He often asked God to exert this power to transform his being, in order that he might do the will of God.
Ps 119:35-37 - Make me walk in the path of Your commandments, for I delight in it. Incline my heart to Your testimonies and not to dishonest gain. Turn away my eyes from looking at vanity, and revive me in Your ways.
What is he praying for? He is praying that God will make him willing. This is what we ought to be praying for as well. We ought to pray that God would make our rebellious heart willing to do His will. This is what regeneration and the new birth ultimately leads to in the life of a true believer.
Coming Next – What Follows Regeneration