There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him. Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit. (John 3:1-8)
The Meaning of Regeneration
The mention of regeneration occurs throughout the New Testament twice—once in Matthew and again in Titus.
And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, that ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. (Matthew 19:28)
In this context, the word refers to the regeneration of creation during the Kingdom of Jesus Christ. However, in this study, the context of regeneration is not important for us. The second occurrence is very significant because it refers to the regeneration of a person.
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 Ghost. (Titus 3:5)
Here, the word refers to the salvation of a person by the washing of regeneration. What does it mean? What does it mean to be regenerated? There have been several suggestions. Some think that your life becomes warm, growing, glowing, and blossoming, then bursts into fruit in the sunshine of Jesus’ love. Though sweet, this thought has nothing to do with the doctrine of regeneration in the New Testament. According to Charles Hodge, regeneration means, “instantaneous change from spiritual death to spiritual life”.
Another theologian has said, “…regeneration is the communication of the Divine nature to man by the operation of the Holy Spirit through the Word”. This describes the concept of God’s nature as if it were being shared with a person who does not have it. This definition lacks only in one aspect. We read in Titus 3:5, “through the washing of regeneration”. The doctrine of regeneration also includes the concept of forgiveness of sin. The best definition, therefore, would be the following: Regeneration is the divine act of cleansing the elect and communicating spiritual life through the Spirit and the Word. To conclude, in regeneration we have two aspects of Biblical teaching: cleansing and communication of divine life.
It is written in John 3:8, “…so is every one that is born of the spirit”. A person who is born-again, or regenerated, is one who is spiritually past-less; meaning that our past is wiped out and there is nothing but the future for us. The modern liberal denies the need for regeneration because he believes that man is essentially good; why should man undergo a radical change if man is essentially good? Nevertheless, there are compelling reasons for the necessity of regeneration.