THE HOLY SPIRIT'S WORK IN REGENERATION
There is a science fiction series on the Public Broadcast System that
runs for a long long time. It is the program about Dr. Who. The Dr. moves
in and out of time and space in a telephone booth if I remember it correctly.
He is always in a jam with someone, or some race that is out to get him.
He does a lot of good along the way.
You might suggest, that kind of show would get boring. Well in a way
it does, so every once in a while Dr. Who dies. This gives some excitement
to the program. Although he dies, he has the ability to regenerate himself
and he comes back the next program. He is a different actor with some differences
centered around the good old Dr. Who that you know and love.
If you know of the Star Trek series you know that someone built a Genesis
machine that would take an old burned out planet and regenerate it into
a thriving world that would be habitable by man.
Even in the lost world of entertainment there is a fascination with coming back to life, with making old things new, and in general playing God. The fallacy however in all of this is the fact that only God can really make old things new. Man just hasn't realized this yet.
This thought of regeneration is somewhat foreign to the regeneration
that we want to talk about today, yet may indicate that the lost world
wants to play god.
INTRODUCTION TO REGENERATION
One of my friends that received his Masters Degree from the Denver Conservative
Baptist Seminary mentioned that one of his questions on his oral examination
before the faculty was this. "What is your ordo salutis?" He asked me what
mine was. I plead ignorance. He said, "So did I." Might I ask you what
your "ordo salutis" is? It is the order of salvation.
There is faith and there is regeneration. Which came first? Some suggest
that to have faith you must be regenerated. They hold that the lost man
is so depraved that he cannot possibly have faith. He must be pulled out
of that position by regeneration before he can know what faith is. Some
suggest that if you are regenerated then you don't need faith. In other
words, regeneration is the complete work and faith is too late. The work
of salvation is done. The Bible would refute this, in that it states that
salvation is by faith!
This is a basic Calvinist Question. The Calvinist would see regeneration
as that which gives the person enough "umph" to accept the Gospel.
The answer to all this is somewhere in the fact that all of it takes
place instantaneously. Most I think would feel that faith comes before
the regeneration takes place. If you don't agree then try a research paper
on it. By the way I have just read recently that to steal from one person
is called plagiarism, but to steal from many is called research.
Calvin believed that repentance and regeneration were one in the same.
"In one word I apprehend repentance to be regeneration, the end of which
is the restoration of the divine image within us;" (Buswell, James Oliver;
"A SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY OF THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION"; Grand Rapids: Zondervan,
1962, vol.II, p 171) I would probably take exception to the idea that repentance
and regereration are one.
Augustine felt that you could have regeneration without election, but
that you could not have election without regeneration. He felt that some
were regenerated by the waters of baptism, but these perished later. These
would be the non-elect. (Buswell, Vol. II, p 172)
Dr. Bob Jones Sr. stated once in a booklet, "THE HOLY SPIRIT", "The
Holy spirit is a diagnostician. He feels the sinner's pulse, looks at the
sinner's tongue, takes the sinner's blood pressure, listens to the sinner's
heartbeat, and says to the sinner, 'You are a poor lost sinner.' The Holy
spirit, after doing this, recommends a physician; and the only physician
He ever recommends to a sinner is the Lord Jesus Christ, Who died on a
cross for lost men of all generations." (p 4-5)
I don't mean to detract from the eloquence of Dr. Jones, but I'm not
sure that there is that much need of examination to determine if a person
is a sinner, or if you can look at the physical evidence and determine
spiritual condition or not, but the Great Physician is certainly the only
one that can cure our ills! Regeneration is one in a process of remedies
that we must go through in salvation. This gets us on the road to a very
The Holy Spirit is the instrument by which man can be regenerated. Dr.
Jones goes on to say, "...the Holy Spirit becomes a trained nurse and applies
the regenerating grace to the sinner's heart and makes him whole." (Jones,
Dr. Bob Sr.; "THE HOLY SPIRIT"; p 5)
The term used in the Scriptures is, "palingenesia" - Strong's number
3824. This word appears only twice in the New Testament. Matt. 19:28. This
verse seems to be related to the redoing of things in the future and not
the spiritual rebirth that Paul speaks of in Titus. Titus 3:5, "Not by
works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he
saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Spirit,"
The term is a combination of "palin" meaning "again" and "genesis" meaning
"birth." Palin is a term that is used many times in the New Testament.
It is always translated, "again." It simply means, "again birth," or born
Richard DeHann mentions of the term, "'Regeneration' may therefore be
defined as 'the act of God the Spirit by which He instantaneously implants
spiritual life in the one who receives Christ.'" (DeHann; "THE HOLY SPIRIT
IN YOUR LIFE"; pp 2-3, used by permission of Radio Bible Class, Grand Rapids,
Is regeneration an implantation of a new something as DeHann mentions? I suspect he is aiming at an implantation of a new nature, however the term itself, "birth again" has no hint of an implantation. It in very clear, terms is a new birth! I suspect that the thought of implantation comes from the belief system that states that we have an old nature and a new nature, coexisting within.
I think that I disagree with the thought of something being implanted
within the lost person to make him a believer. Christ stated "...Verily,
verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the
kingdom of God." (John 3:3) Born is "gennao" (Strong's 1080) also translated
begat, conceived, should be born, brought forth, etc. The term has to do
with birth. The bringing forth of something. "again" (Strong's 509) is
"anothen" which is translated, top, from the very first, again, from above,
and from the beginning. "TAKE IT FROM THE TOP" to put it lightly. Born
from above might well be a good translation. Indeed, the interlinear lists
it that way. This does not allow for an implantation idea.
DeHann goes on to say that the new birth is defined in II Cor. 5:17,
"Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation; old things are
passed away; behold, all things are become new." (DeHann; "THE HOLY SPIRIT
IN YOUR LIFE," Used by permission of Radio Bible Class, Grand Rapids, Michigan.)Again,
this seems to be, not an implantation as DeHann suggests, or a restoration
as Calvin suggests, but a change - a new birth as the terminology suggests
I believe that DeHann shoots himself in the foot. He also suggests that
it is a spiritual resurrection. A spiritual resurrection does not sound
like an implantation to me. There is a picture of spiritual resurrection
in the Scripture however. (Eph. 2:1, "And you hath he made alive, who were
dead in trespasses and sins;"; Rom. 6:13.)
Pardington quotes Dr. A.J. Gordon and states it is the best available
definition. "Regeneration is the communication of the divine nature to
man by the operation of the Holy Spirit through the Word." (Pardington,
Rev. George P. Ph.D.; "OUTLINE STUDIES IN CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE"; Harrisburg,
PA: Christian Publications, 1926, p 319) Again we see the idea that something
passes from God to man in the idea of communication, which is not acceptable.
Pache summarizes, "From the spiritual point of view the soul of sinful
man is dead and estranged from God, for the wages of sin is death (Rom.
6:23). By the miracle of regeneration the soul is revived, newly begotten
and granted eternal life. Jesus described this experience as being born
anew (John 3:3,7). It goes without saying that without this it is impossible
for any man to be saved." (Taken from: "THE PERSON AND WORK OF THE HOLY
SPIRIT"; Pache, Rene; Copyright 1954, Moody Bible Institute of Chicago;
Moody Press. Used by permission. pp 68-69)
I think that Pache has covered the topic well in his statement.
DeHann continues: "THE NECESSITY OF REGENERATION" "Sin has left the
old man, so vile, so corrupt, so evil so devoid of all good, that it could
never be redeemed. The old nature is so depraved that God himself has given
up all hope of ever improving it, patching it up, or making it good. Now,
if these statements seem somewhat extreme, listen to these words in Psalm
14. 'The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see
if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone
aside, they are all together become filthy; there is none that doeth good,
no not one' (Psalm 14:2,3)." (DeHann; "THE HOLY SPIRIT IN YOUR LIFE," used
by permission of Radio Bible Class, Grand Rapids, Michigan.)
He goes on to say, "Man by nature is dead in sin (Ephesians 2:1); blind
and deceived (1 Corinthians 2:14); an alien from God and His enemy (Colossians
1:21); and absolutely unclean (Isaiah 64:6). Even God doesn't try to change
the old human nature. Rather, the Spirit enables the sinner to believe
on Christ. He then creates within him a brand-new nature, and imparts to
him spiritual and everlasting life." (DeHann, pp 5-6, used by permission
of Radio Bible Class, Grand Rapids, Michigan.) I'm not sure implant is
the word he should have used in the first quote though he seems to suggest
that regeneration is the addition in some manner of a new item of business.
A rebirth is what the Bible says, thus we need to understand regeneration
as the rebirth of something, rather than the addition of something. This
relates to the one nature/two nature question. If a believer has two natures
(the old and the new) resident, then DeHann's approach might fit. If, on
the other hand we have one nature - the one that was reborn - then addition
or implantation seems foreign to the thought.
Personally, I feel that the terminology of regeneration - rebirth -
etc. require that our nature is regenerated and that all we have as a believer
is one nature that is responsive to God. We will deal with this in more
detail in later sections.
Indeed, if the old nature was as dead as the Calvinist believes, how
can it possibly be struggling with the new nature in the life of the believer?
Consider it as you spend time in coming weeks reading through the New Testament
and see if the one - new - nature doesn't fit well with the Word.
THE MEANS OF REGENERATION
Ryrie calls it, "...God's act of begetting eternal life in the one who
believes in Christ." (Taken from: "A SURVEY OF BIBLE DOCTRINE"; Ryrie,
Charles C.; Copyright 1972, Moody Bible Institute of Chicago; Moody Press.
Used by permission. p 76)
He goes on to say that faith is man's part and that regeneration is
"God's supernatural act of imparting eternal life."
Regeneration brings a new nature to the person's makeup according to
Ryrie. The old is not eradicated according to Ryrie. "Regeneration does
not make a man perfect, but it places him in the family of God and gives
him the new ability to please his Father by growing into the image of Christ."
(Taken from: "A SURVEY OF BIBLE DOCTRINE"; Ryrie, Charles C.; Copyright
1972, Moody Bible Institute of Chicago; Moody Press. Used by permission.
Might I suggest II Cor. 5:17? "Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he
is a new creation; old things are passed away; behold, all things are become
new." How can you interpret that to mean that the old nature is still here
and active? Indeed, as I have suggested, how can something that is dead
How does "again born" relate to being given a new nature or new ability?
It seems most consistent to see the old nature being replaced by the new
nature, or being "reborn" - becoming a new nature. The thought of an old
nature and new nature coexisting in one person is not consistent with what
the Scriptures show.
We need to move on to the thought of the Holy Spirit's part in the process.
All three members of the Trinity are involved in regeneration, in that
they are all together in the bringing about of salvation. (Jo. 1:12,13)
Yet, the Holy Spirit seems to be the instrument of regeneration. In Jo.
3:3-7, the account of Nicodemus, it mentions being born of the Spirit.
Titus is also clear on this point. Titus 3:5, "Not by works of righteousness
which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing
of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Spirit," (The following show
the salvation of man is in part due to the work of the Father and the Son.
James 1:17,18; II Cor. 5:17)
The Word also is involved in the regeneration process, however the Spirit
is the actual instrument. Two texts mention that the Word is definitely
a part of it. James 1:18, "Of his own will begot he us with the word of
truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures." (see
also I Pet. 1:23)
Woodbridge in his "HANDBOOK OF CHRISTIAN TRUTH" mentions, "The impartation
of life takes place thus: The Holy Spirit of God, utilizing the Holy Word
of God, exalts the Holy Son of God as Saviour. Then the Spirit woos, convicts
and converts the sinner, regenerating him and causing him, through saving
faith in Christ, to enter the family of God."
In short God the Father is the author, Christ is the medium, the Holy
spirit is the agent, and the word is the method.
THE IMPORTANCE OF PROPER UNDERSTANDING OF THE DOCTRINE
The main reason you need to be straight on this doctrine is that you
will, in your ministries, run into people from the Church of Christ, the
Christian Church (Campbellites) and the Disciples of Christ. Many of these
people believe in many of the things that we hold to, but they add Baptism
as a means of attaining regeneration, to their belief system.
The Roman Catholic and some Lutherans will hold to the same doctrine.
They will see this regeneration as taking place when an infant is baptized
while the others listed usually reject infant baptism, but see regeneration
as the result of water baptism. When I was interim pastor in a small town,
one of the church members had told me of a couple that had called and wanted
to be baptized "right away." I called the couple knowing that they probably
believed that they had to be baptized to be saved. They were ultimately
baptized, but they knew that it was only an outward proclamation of what
had been done within.
Tertullian was the first of the church fathers to hold to this doctrine.
(Prayer and Baptism; translated by Alex. Souter; New York; Macmillan; 1919;
The doctrine of Baptismal regeneration is the idea that to be saved
you must believe AND be baptized before you can be saved. The doctrine
is built upon the book of Acts where acceptance and baptism are so closely
related in several places.
Some references that will be problematic to the people holding to baptismal
Mark 16:16 This text mentions, "He that believeth and is baptized shall
be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned." The damnation is
linked quite plainly only to the belief!
I Cor. 1:14-17 mentions that Paul had baptized few of them yet he had
begotten the Corinthians with the Gospel. If baptism were part of regeneration,
then Paul would have been involved in Baptizing all that He led to Christ.
Lu. 19:9 mentions Zacchaeus was saved before he was baptized.
Lu. 23:42,43 mentions the thief would see the Lord in the kingdom that
day --- without baptism.
Acts 10:47 tells that Cornelius was saved before being baptized. "Can
any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, who have received
the Holy Spirit as well as we?"
When in a class on Contemporary Theology in Salem, OR we had a Christian
church pastor (NON-INSTRUMENTAL) that come to class to present the doctrine
of baptismal regeneration. In his opening prayer he prayed for our salvation.
He was totally committed to our lostness. He was there to explain to us
lost Baptists that we needed to be properly baptized so that we could enter
the kingdom. I'm not sure how he planned on saving us, because he did not
bring a baptistry with him.
We sent him a series of questions so that he could return and answer
them. One of the questions was concerning Acts 10:47. That was one of the
questions that he did not attempt to answer. We also asked him about the
Luke 23 text with the thief on the cross. His simple statement was that
this was just a special case.
The important thing to us in fundamental circles is that we do not practice
the doctrine nor hold to it.
Dr. Bryce Augsburger, President of Denver Baptist Bible College and
Seminary, mentioned in a chapel message that independent Baptists do not
believe in Baptismal regeneration, but many of them are near to practicing
it. We save em and run em through the tank. He questioned if the people
really understood the rite of baptism.
The opposite of this is true in fundamental Bible churches at times.
We do not stress Baptism and as a result we have many people that put baptism
off for many years. We need to strike a balance between the two extremes.
I was teaching through this section in college once and after the class
one of the students came to me asked if she could talk to me. She had been
raised in a church which had no baptistry and so she had never been baptized.
She felt that it was important, so was baptized soon after.
When we have a new believer on our hands, we should begin teaching them
some of the basics. One of those basics is baptism. Another is the local
church. If you go into the book of Acts they are going to be confronted
with baptism very quickly.
We need to be sure that we take time with new converts to show them
what baptism is and assure them that a service will be planned when they
are ready to other believers in this public statement of their faith.
Find a balance!
Regeneration is the specific work of the Holy Spirit, though the Father,
The Son, and the Word are also involved. The regeneration is that act by
which the Holy Spirit transforms, through birthing again, the old nature.
This transformation is complete in an instant and is not reversible. It
is that action which prepares us for entrance into the family of God. Without
this transformation nothing else can proceed in the process of salvation.
We might mention at this point that there is a process involved in salvation.
It is realized that the salvation process occurs in an instant, yet there
are things which must precede others. For example, without faith, God cannot
transform. Without transformation, there can be no entrance into the family
of God. We will see this process in detail in the Salvation section.