Salvation: What is Regeneration?
You Must Be Born Again
Have you ever considered that nothing in all creation can disobey God? Electrons, atoms, stars, galaxies, the forces of nature, everything in creation, all do what God designed them to do. God says to the electron, “You shall have this mass, this spin, this charge and these are the laws that shall govern you.” The electron obeys. It can’t take time off and just take it easy. God says to the planet earth, “You shall revolve around the Sun at 10,000 mph and spin on the axis at 1,000 mph.” The earth obeys and we can set our watch by it. God says to the human creature, “Come!” And they say, “NO!” Not even the angels can do this. And the ones that did are destined for the lake of fire with no hope of salvation.
But here’s the beautiful thing–God made a way for disobedient humans to be reconciled to Himself, which was the topic of the last three videos. What Jesus did at the cross, offering His life as an atoning sacrifice for our sins, made it possible for God to forgive us and cleanse us from our sin. But it doesn’t just stop with forgiveness and cleansing. God forgives us and cleanses us so He can restore His spiritual life to us, and this miraculous infusion of God’s spiritual life into us is what the Bible calls “regeneration,” or more commonly being born again. The purpose of this video is to explain what exactly that means and how to experience it.
AW Tozer wrote:
“God’s highest purpose in the redemption of sinful humanity was based on his hope that we would allow Him to reproduce the likeness of Jesus Christ in our once-sinful lives.”
This is essentially what being born again is all about–God reproducing the likeness of Jesus in our once-sinful lives. Perhaps the Apostle Paul said it best:
My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So, I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (Galatians 2:20 NLT).
Most translations of the Bible don’t supply the words “old self” and you’ll usually find it written with the pronoun “I” as in “I am crucified with Christ.” Either way, I think “old self” is an accurate way of thinking about this because the Paul is talking about a part of himself that had to die. The “old self” is the sinful nature, or sometimes called in the Bible “the flesh,” it’s the corrupt nature we inherited from Adam and Eve after they fell into sin.
Something happened to Adam Eve spiritually when they disobeyed God, and understanding exactly what happened in the garden when our first parents fell into sin will really help us understand how they died, the spiritual condition they found themselves in, regeneration, and other doctrines believe it or not. So, let’s go to the book of Genesis and see how God created the first humans and then see the effects sin had on that original creation and why it has to be recreated if it ever hopes to live in God’s presence.
In the book of Genesis, we see God breathing a part of Himself into Adam at his creation. Then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature (Genesis 2:7). Notice the man of dust, the flesh man, was not alive. The body that had just been made out of the elements of the earth was no animated until God imparted spiritual life to that lifeless body. There is way more going on here than God performing CPR to make Adam come to life. God breathed some kind of spiritual life force into Adam’s physical body and then he became a living creature. Adam was obviously more than just a body–he had a spiritual part to him.
The animating life force that God breathed into Adam was spirit. Consider the the following scriptures that document this fact.
- Zech 12:1– Thus declares the Lord, who stretched out the heavens and founded the earth and formed the spirit of man within him:
- 1 Cor. 2:11– For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him?
- James 2:26- For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.
- Matt. 27:50–And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.
- Luke 23:46-Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last.
- Ps. 146:4– His spirit departs, he returns to [e]the earth;
On that very day his plans perish.
- Eccl. 12:7–and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it
- We actually see an example of the spirit returning to the body of a dead person. And they laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. But taking her by the hand he called, saying, “Child, arise.” And her spirit returned, and she got up at once. And he directed that something should be given her to eat (Luke 8:53-55).
Here’s a couple New Testament passages to really drive home the point.
- 1 Peter 3:4–but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.
- 2 Cor. 4:16–Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.
The life force that God breathed into Adam, was the “spirit of life.” The Apostle Paul wrote:For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death (NASB). What Paul is saying here is the spiritual law that sin and death operate under can only be reversed by applying another law–the law of the Spirit of Life. And notice Paul says this spirit of life is in Christ Jesus. Paul explains this in greater detail later in this same chapter:
However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you (Romans 8:9-11).
Boom! There it is! To be born again is to have the Spirit of God come to dwell inside us in our spirit. But rememeber, He won’t come live in there if it’s dirty and filled with sin. That’s why Jesus had to die on the cross to make atonement so God could cleanse those old dirty temples! But until justice was served and the sin payment was fulfilled, reconciliation could not happen, but once Jesus shed His blood and died in our place, God could then forgive and cleanse those who come to Him by faith.
That may have been overdone for a lot of you, but it was very important to iron that out. Understanding the spiritual part of humans makes the scene in the Garden of Eden make way more sense. Many people get confused as to why Adam and Eve didn’t actually die the day they ate the fruit when God clearly told them they would. The Bible says:
The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:15-17).
Have we found a glaring contradiction in the Bible? When Adam and Eve do disobey later in the story, they don’t die like God said they would. The story continues with them being expelled from the garden, having Cain and Abel, and then dying hundreds of years later. Adam was 903 years old when he died, so did God lie when he said they would die when they ate the fruit? No. They did die, but it was spiritual death. Their spirits lost the source of life they were created with–the spirit of life. They died because the life of God, the person of the Holy Spirit that had been infused into their spirit, was snuffed out.
See, Adam and Eve were created to be temples of Almighty God, and when they sinned, they defiled God’s temple. God won’t live in a dirty temple. He hates sin as we demonstrated in the last two videos. So, when sin entered the human spirit, God had to leave. He moved out of His temple, and when He left their spirit, He took His spiritual life with Him. Without God’s life force in your spirit, that makes you dead spiritually, and because you are spiritually dead, your physical body can’t live forever.
Here is where regeneration comes in. When we get saved, the person of the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in our spirit, and it gets recreated. God renovates the dirty sinful temple of our spirits so He can move back in with His eternal spirit and glory. An old, sinful temple can’t contain that holiness and glory, so God has to recreate it entirely, even going so deep as to change our very nature!
And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires (1 Peter 2:4).
This is why all the shallow psychological religions of today can’t help the sinner. The world tries to deal with the old self by trying to educate it, fix it up, repair it, put a band-aid on it and hope we can make the best of this life. You can teach it to love Mozart, Shakespeare, and Picasso. You can even teach the old self to be giving and selfless to a degree, but don’t be fooled. The old sinful self is completely ruined and there is nothing good in it. The Apostle Paul wrote, And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature (Romans 8:17). God’s response to this is regeneration–a complete renewal of the inner man, the human spirit. This complete renewal of the inner man is what Jesus meant when He told Nicodemus he must be “born again.”
V3. Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
Born Again: This word again is ἄνωθεν (anothen) in the Greek and it means “13x from above, from a higher place, Jn. 3:31; of time, from the first or beginning, Acts 26:5; from the source.”
Judging by the way Nicodemus replies, he just didn’t get it.
V4. Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”
See? Nicodemus was way off the target. He was clearly only thinking in physical terms thus totally missed Jesus’ point. Jesus goes on to clarify:
V5. “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.
Notice how Jesus answers the question by making it obvious he is not talking about physical birth. He gives the very obvious differences between water birth and spirit birth. Born of water refers to the water womb, the sack of amniotic fluid we incubate in for 9 months in our mother’s womb. We all know what happens when it’s time for the baby to be born––the water breaks; the child is born of water. This is not referring to water baptism, as I was taught growing up. I think it will become more obvious that Jesus is not referring to baptism as we continue in the passage.
V6. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
That’s pretty clear right? Flesh vs spirit. It doesn’t get any easier than that. Thank you, Jesus, for just saying it out right. That which is born of the flesh is flesh. That which is human is human. Humans can only give birth to humans. Like kind. But, God is spirit, and what He gives birth to, or in God’s case, what God produces, what God creates and gives life to, is spirit. And now you know why I spent so much time emphasizing that earlier in this video.
V7. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ V8. The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
In other words, the wind is mysterious and creates disturbances in nature that we can see and feel though wind itself is invisible. The spirit likewise is invisible, but His power still works in the lives of His people.
Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? (John 3:9-10).
Notice Jesus gives Nicodemus a slight rebuke and asks him how it’s possible he doesn’t understand what he’s talking about. Where would Nicodemus ever get something so profound from the Old Testament? Here is one passage.
Ezekiel 36:26-27–And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.
Nicodemus should have known this passage from Ezekiel, being a teacher of Israel and all. Getting a new spirit is precisely what Jesus meant by born from above or born from the original source. Born of the spirit. Born of the spirit is to be born of God, because God is spirit (John 4:24). But what is spirit and how is it related to the body? Now that’s a topic worthy of discussion, but is outside the realm of our current study. If you want to know more about spirit, I made a video titled God is Spirit: Quantum Physics and God. I talk about the difference between matter and spirit by exploring some concepts in quantum physics.
The fancy theological term for “born again” is regeneration, a term I’ve already said a couple of times, but now that we understand the spiritual side of humankind, let’s take a look at a very important verse about this.
“First, 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” (Titus 3:5).
There are three Greek words used in this verse that I think are important enough for us to take a closer look at:
- Washing λουτρόν (loutron) means to bathe
- Regeneration παλιγγενεσία (palingenesia) means new birth, reproduction, recreation. Literally translated it means Genesis Again.
- Renewal ἀνακαίνωσις (anakainōsis) means renovate or make new
Regeneration, then, is where the Holy Spirit of God renovates, cleans, and completely remakes the dead temple of our spirit so He can move back in. He doesn’t just remove the dust and cobwebs and sweep sin under the rug. No, he totally renovates the human spirit by infusing it with His own spiritual genetic material. Peter wrote: 1 Peter 1:23–since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God.
If you think about how seeds work, they contain DNA, which is the genetic information cells need to function properly to keep the organism alive. When we get born again, or regenerated, we have a New Genesis, we get God’s spiritual genes, so to speak, and we are given a new spirit. We become a new creature just like Paul wrote in 2 Cor. 5:17. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). This new creation, is created to be like God. We have His life, His spirit, His name, His glory, and His power residing in our spirit, and because of this, we have the right nature to exist in God’s holy presence.
In closing, regeneration is the miraculous action of the Holy Spirit to recreate our human spirit, but this is only the first phase of our salvation. As Paul wrote, we get the “promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession… (Ephesians 1:13-14). What good is a new spirit infused with the eternal life of God if that spirit will be eternally bound to a corrupt, sinful body? This is why God promises us new, upgraded, glorified bodies that are compatible with our new spirits, and this will happen at the resurrection on the last day. I am looking forward to it.
If by chance you watched this video and you aren’t a Christian, you haven’t been born again, or regenerated by the Holy Spirit, I hope you are curious about HOW to get born again. It’s really simple. You simply need to believe the Gospel–the good news that God loves you enough to die for your sins, He was buried for three days, and then was raised from the dead. If you believe in your heart that all of that is true, you can be saved (1 Cor. 15:1-5). If you are reading this right now and believe it’s true, then I want you to find a pastor, or a close friend who knows a lot about the Bible and talk to them about your faith and what your next step should be. If you meet someone worth their salt, they’ll encourage you to get baptized and join a local church family. I don’t want to just lead you through a prayer over the internet and leave you to fend for yourself. You need to find a spiritual mentor, a Church family, and people you can learn from and grow with, but if you can’t, simply cry out to God:
Father in Heaven,
I come to you as a sinner. I recognize my sin. I see my need to ne reborn because I’m dead spiritually and I need your eternal life! I believe that Jesus is the Son of the one, true God. I believe He came to earth as a man, died for my sins, was buried, and was raised from the dead three days later. I don’t understand it all fully, but I believe it and I accept it and I want to live the rest of my life for you, Lord. Whatever you do when you save people, please do it to me now and lead me in the paths of righteousness for the rest of my life.
In the name of Jesus, Amen.