Regeneration: Who gives new life?

Regeneration is the fact of being born again or (as the Greek can also be translated) born from above, and according to Jesus, it's incredibly important. He told Nicodemus that ‘unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God’ (John 3:3). Regeneration makes one a ‘new creation’ (2 Cor. 5:17) and so it must have results in one’s life.

Whose Work is Regeneration?

The fact that regeneration means being born from above points to the truth that regeneration requires an outside source above us. It isn't something that we produce in ourselves. The Bible teaches us that, since the Fall, all mankind are totally depraved, ‘dead in trespasses and sins’ (Eph. 2:1). Being dead, we couldn't produce life in ourselves; that life had to come from an outside source. It's because man is dead in sin that Jesus said ‘you must be born again’ (John 3:7). A dead man is incapable of resurrecting himself!

The same passage in Ephesians which tells us that the unsaved are dead in sin also teaches how this death is replaced with life. ‘But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)’ (Eph. 2:4-5). It's God who regenerates. God alone, out of His rich mercy and grace gives us a new life in Christ. Peter confirms what Paul wrote: ‘Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead’ (1 Peter 1:3). To beget us again is to give us a new life, and God gives us this new life out of ‘His abundant mercy’. Regeneration is wholly of the grace of God.

And that grace flows to us from the saving work of Christ. Both Paul in Eph. 2:5 and Peter in 1 Pet. 1:3 show us that our regeneration is a result of Christ's triumphant resurrection.

How does God bring about our Regeneration?

James writes concerning our regeneration that ‘of His own will [God] brought us forth by the word of truth’ (James 1:18). Thus the will of God is the ultimate cause of our regeneration [1] and He uses His Word to bring that regeneration about. Peter writes that we have ‘been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever’ (1 Peter 1:23), further clarifying that ‘this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you’ (1 Peter 1:25). Thus God uses His Word in the gospel to regenerate us. Yet this is not the whole Biblical teaching, for as we have already seen it is God Himself who regenerates people; it is not the Word that regenerates. However God acts through His Word by His Spirit. As Christ explained to Nicodemus, ‘unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit’ (John 3:5-6). Paul writes that God ‘saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit’ (Titus 3:5). So, God regenerates by His Holy Spirit, yet He has appointed a means by which He acts, namely His Word, the preaching of the Gospel. God works by His Spirit through His Word. Word and Spirit belong together.

[1] see also John 1:13