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February 21, 2023

What Is Regeneration? 4 Ways the Bible Talks about an Overlooked Doctrine

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If you search the Bible for the word ‘regeneration,’ you won’t come up with much.

In the English Standard Version, it occurs just once.

When the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 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, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior. (Titus 3:4–6)

If you run your search on the New American Standard Bible, you will find ‘regeneration’ in Titus 3, and also in the words of Jesus recorded in Matthew 19.

Truly I say to you, that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. (Matthew 19:28)

Other translations say, “in the new world” (ESV) or “at the renewal of all things” (NIV).

Jesus is speaking about the new heaven and the new earth, and the word He uses to describe this transformation is “the regeneration.”

Regeneration involves taking something (in this case the planet that has been devastated by sin) and making it new, so that it reflects the glory of God.

And this is the word that the Bible uses to describe God’s work in you. If you are in Christ, then what God will one day do for this planet, He has already done in you!

Regeneration is an often overlooked doctrine. But despite the fact that the word occurs rarely in the Bible, the transformation that God is able to bring through Jesus Christ is one of the Bible’s major themes.

Scripture speaks about regeneration in at least four ways.

1. New Birth

Jesus said,

No one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again. (John 3:3)

You must be born again. (John 3:7)

To be born again is to receive an infusion of new life that comes from God.

This new birth is a work of the Holy Spirit:

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. (John 3:8)

And the Holy Spirit brings new life through the Word.

You have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable,
through the living and abiding word of God. (1 Peter 1:23)

Peter is using the analogy of how human life begins. The living seed comes, and in a moment, a new life is conceived. The seed does not always bring new life, but there is no new life without the seed.

It follows that if we want people to be born again, the best thing we can do is to open the Bible with them. Get the living seed of the Word of God into their lives and pray that the Holy Spirit will bring new life from the seed.

The Holy Spirit brings us to new birth through the living seed of the Word of God. That’s regeneration.

2. New Creation

If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (2 Corinthians 5:17)

God made you. He knit you together in your mother’s womb. But sin has affected all of us in every area of our lives.

When God saved you, He did a new creative work in you, in which He opened your mind, softened your heart, and redirected your will. You are no longer the person you used to be, you are a new creation in Christ. That’s regeneration.

3. New Life

God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. (Ephesians 2:5)

Being dead in our sins and transgressions, we were unresponsive to God, to His commands, and even to His love. So how did you come to repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ?

The answer is that God made you alive with Christ. He regenerated you, by breathing new life into your soul.

Jesus tells us that He came so that we may have life (John 10:10). He did not say, ‘I have come to show you how to do life!’ He said, ‘I came so that you may have life,’ and He gives this life to us by His Spirit, through His Word. That’s regeneration.

4. New Heart

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. (Ezekiel 36:26-27)

The heart you were born with loved the wrong things. By nature, we were lovers of self rather than lovers of God. But God has given us a new heart, and this is why we love Him, trust Him, and want to serve Him. That’s regeneration.

Go Deeper on this Central Doctrine

So although the word ‘regeneration’ is found rarely in Scripture, the truth of regeneration is all over the Bible, and grasping this central doctrine will be of great help to you and to the people you serve.

That’s why we’ve included a session called “Regenerated by the Spirit” in our course called Watch Your Doctrine. You can watch this session below.


Colin Smith

Founder & Teaching Pastor

Colin Smith is the Senior Pastor of The Orchard Evangelical Free Church in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. He has authored a number of books, including Heaven, How I Got Here and Heaven, So Near - So Far. Colin is the Founder and Teaching Pastor for Open the Bible. Follow him on Twitter.
Colin Smith is the Senior Pastor of The Orchard Evangelical Free Church in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. He has authored a number of books, including Heaven, How I Got Here and Heaven, So Near - So Far. Colin is the Founder and Teaching Pastor for Open the Bible. Follow him on Twitter.