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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [1]

Introductory.-A study of the NT idea of regeneration does not mean, of course, simply an examination of the passages in which that particular metaphor occurs, but a consideration of the theory which the NT writers held as to the nature of the experiences which they found in themselves and in their converts. These experiences did not take place in a vacuum, but in a world in which supernatural religion was an intensely significant interest. No movement can ever be so original that it is entirely independent of the ideas and conditions of its day. However new it may be in its spirit, it will inevitably clothe itself in the familiar forms of human speech and conduct, even though it give to them a wholly new significance. In the time of Jesus, people believed already in a Divine power which would make them fit for an immortality of bliss. They thought of the necessary transformation as a death and resurrection, as a new birth, as a purification. If the totality of the utterances of later Judaism and of the non-Christian religions be considered, it is probable that we should regard the conditions of the new life which they present as, for the most part, unethical, external, magical. But when the finest of these utterances are read with due appreciation, it must be recognized that they have a large ethical meaning.[Note: Reitzenstein’s comparison of the NT with these is, however, significant: ‘the tremendous seriousness with which guilt and atonement are preached is, so far as I can discover, lacking in Hellenism’ (Poimandres, p. 180, n. 1).]The gospel of regeneration was not a striking novelty either to the Jewish or to the pagan world, and if the condition of regeneration were simply stated as a belief that Jesus was the Messiah the Son of God, it might seem quite consonant with the common faith of the time. And this was probably so much the case that one of the great problems before the creative personalities of Christianity, who were passionately inculcating a spiritual faith, was to put ethical content into those supernatural conceptions of the new religion with which the people were all too easily satisfied. It is probable, therefore, that we shall have to look for the highest meaning of regeneration as conceived by the apostles, not so much in those miraculous aspects which have generally attracted attention, important as these are in NT thought, but rather in what was added of real ethical quality to the conceptions that otherwise might have been largely external and magical.

So far as Judaism is concerned, it has always been recognized that early Christianity formed itself against the background of the great faith that had come from the OT, and it has latterly been quite generally recognized that the background of NT theology is also that apocalyptic Messianism that had come to such elaborate development at the time. The continuity of revelation which has been thought of between the OT and the NT has made it easy for us to think of Christianity as accepting the language, the metaphors, and many of the externals of Judaism, giving to them a larger significance. But it is necessary also to realize that Christianity was able to take over the whole schema of apocalypticism by simply putting Jesus as the expected Messiah. The conditions for a doctrine of regeneration were then complete. Current Judaism made sharp distinction between the present age under the dominion of Satan and the coming age when the Messiah would be in power. Among the most glorious expectancies regarding the Messiah were the supernatural endowments that He would bestow upon His people. And there was not wanting the ethical expectation that sin would be pardoned, and a great era of righteousness would ensue. If, then, Jesus were the Messiah already manifested, crucified for sin, raised from the dead, coming again in glory, empowered to bestow an earnest of the gifts of the coming age, a supernatural new life would, of course, be possible. The believer in those redemptive facts would be translated from the Kingdom of Satan to that of Messiah. He would receive salvation, he would become a child of God, he would be miraculously re-born (a phrase already probably used of proselytes), and he would obtain the gift of the Spirit with its miraculous effects. It is evident that there is here a possibility either of the highest ethical motive or of confidence in a mere magical salvation. The whole spiritual quality of the new faith depended upon the degree in which the acceptance of Jesus became a moral power in human lives. If regeneration gave men a sure status, guaranteeing that they would be pardoned in the coming Judgment, so that they might live secure in having made comfortable provision for the future, then the whole supernaturalism would be in vain. If, on the other hand, it inspired them to be worthy to reign with Christ, it would have the highest moral quality. The great NT passages are concerned not with a definition of regeneration, but with entreaties and exhortations to live the new life which had been so Divinely bestowed.

But not only in Judaism was there a background for the doctrine of regeneration. The researches of recent years compel us to recognize that there were widespread hopes and expectancies of new life among the people who had felt the influence of the great mystery-religions.[Note: See art. Mystery, Mysteries.]And these were not national and racial, as were those of the Jews, but personal. The individual could be saved through a purification, this sometimes seeming to be ethical, perhaps more often ceremonial. There was intense interest in personal immortality, and a belief that the way to this salvation and immortality was that of initiation into the mysteries, involving mystic communion with the god. The very metaphor of the new birth was in all probability employed, indicating the attainment of a new status and the possibility of miraculous charismata. Indeed, it is not without significance that the word ‘regeneration’ is not used in the great NT passages. Its only occurrence as applied to the individual is  Titus 3:5, a passage of very doubtful Pauline authenticity, where the most obvious interpretation is that salvation is effected by baptism. Is it possible that the word had so sacramental a significance that it was better avoided by those who were insisting upon an actual ethical renewal? With the triumph of sacramentalism in the Church the word attained its technical value.[Note: For a careful study of the word παλινγενεσία see art. ‘Regeneration’ in HDB, by J. Vernon Bartlet, and for its use in the mystery-religions see Reitzenstein, Poimandres, and Die hellenistischen Mysterienreligionen, s.v. παλιγγενεσία in Index.]Of course the documents that present these ideas so fully belong for the most part to a period not earlier than the end of the 2nd cent. a.d., and it is possible to maintain that they have been coloured by Christianity. But the essential doctrines of the mystery-religions could not have been so soon completely metamorphosed. Clemen (Primitive Christianity and its Non-Jewish Sources, p. 231), in a very careful examination of the material, recognizes the priority in the mystery-religions of many of the redemptive doctrines, and these not without ethical character. So far as regeneration is concerned, he believes that even the γεννηθῆναι ἂνωθεν ( John 3:7) might be so derived. He thinks also that the mention in the Naassenic sermon of a πνευματική, ἐπουράνιος, ἄνω γένεσις, in which the reference is to the Eleusinian mysteries, may well indicate a general influence, at least upon the Christian phraseology. This is not to say that Christianity borrowed its ideas from paganism at the same time that it felt the most intense revulsion against the idolatries, but only that certain common religious thought-forms concerning miraculous purifications and transformations were current, and Christianity inevitably expressed its own new-born faith in the language of the day. If, then, in the non-Jewish world Jesus was proclaimed as the Son of God, who had become incarnate, had died the sacrificial death, had risen from the dead and ascended into heaven, was coming again to give immortality to His followers, it would be quite in accord with the religious ideas of the time to believe that an acceptance of these redemptive facts would constitute one a child of God, and would avail to secure the gifts of the Spirit, which would be the attestation of having passed from death unto life. And, again, as among the Jews, it would be possible to accept such a doctrine in a wholly external way, making the salvation process merely miraculous. There was, of course, the other glorious possibility that those who believed themselves saved from sin and translated into eternal life by the loving acceptance of the grace of God in Jesus Christ would be actually impelled by new ethical motive, and would manifest the moral, as well as the miraculous, fruits of the Spirit. This was the experience of the NT writers themselves, and it is to this new life of love and moral endeavour that they exhort their readers.

The basis for a doctrine of regeneration is therefore to be found in the sacramentalism of both Judaism and the mystery-cults. And the NT writers believe in a miraculous change of status brought about at the moment of faith. But they always insist that this has no meaning unless a new moral life, governed by new motives, has actually resulted. And this is a practical nullification of the sacramental conception. It is further a nullification of the artificial distinction which later theology elaborated between regeneration and sanctification. In the effort to make a self-consistent theology all the passages which referred to the miraculous change or status were used for a doctrine of regeneration, and those which referred to the ethical agency of the Spirit for one of sanctification. There was thus developed the idea that regeneration produced a complete change of nature, an idea which neither common human experience nor scientific psychology supports. The NT writers, far more concerned with the facts of experience than with the formulation of a self-consistent theology, developed no such theory. To them regeneration was always a moral fact. Hence the idea of the regeneration of infants, very easily held by those who believe in the possibility of a supernatural change of nature, does not appear in the NT. The reason for this will be noted in the discussion of 1 John.

The examination of the NT documents may well begin with Jesus’ teaching in the Synoptics, then proceed to the Book of Acts as presenting the external manifestations of the early Christian experience with the interpretations that were current in the Church, and then to the writings that more clearly express the personal contributions of the great spiritual leaders.

1. The Synoptics. -The idea of regeneration, strictly so called, does not appear in the words of Jesus in the Synoptic tradition. This is significant at once of the faithfulness of the tradition and of Jesus’ own extraordinary originality. The παλινγενεσία of  Matthew 19:28 is, of course, the Messianic consummation. But neither here, nor in any other passage that refers to the Kingdom of God in apocalyptic fashion, is there any statement of a miraculous change of status, of the individual. The saying of John the Baptist that the Coming One shall baptize with the Holy Spirit ( Matthew 3:11,  Luke 3:16) implies the supernaturalism of the charismata, but Jesus’ own words have to do with the simplicity of a religious experience within the reach of all who fulfil the ethical conditions of thorough-going repentance ( Matthew 18:3) and heroic, sacrificial choice of the higher values ( Matthew 10:39,  Matthew 11:25 ff.,  Matthew 16:24 ff.,  Matthew 18:8 f.). Of course God Himself reveals truth to the obedient soul ( Matthew 16:17), but there is no natural incapacity for righteousness. Men can become sons of their Father if they will ( Matthew 5:45). The striking figure used of the Prodigal, who was alive after being morally dead, is only a strong expression of the happy result when the foolish sinner ‘came to himself.’

2. The Book of Acts. -That the specific metaphor of regeneration had not been theologized in the primitive Church is evident from the entire absence of the figure from this book. The only reference to men as the children of God is the quotation from the Greek pcet ( Acts 17:28). However, there is here the essentially similar idea, as throughout the NT, that the saved man is one who has received the gift of the Holy Spirit. He is Divinely possessed. He may be so carried out of himself by the supernatural enthusiasm that he appears to onlookers as drunk ( Acts 2:13); more generally he has the miraculous power of uttering ecstatic sounds (speaking with tongues,  Acts 2:4,  Acts 10:46,  Acts 19:6), and declaring his faith in exuberant public speech (prophesying,  Acts 11:28,  Acts 19:6,  Acts 21:9-10); while those especially endowed may work miracles ( Acts 2:43,  Acts 4:30,  Acts 5:12,  Acts 8:13,  Acts 14:3). This gift of the Holy Spirit, with its wonderful manifestations, is the distinguishing mark of the Christian ( Acts 2:33;  Acts 2:38,  Acts 5:32,  Acts 8:17,  Acts 10:44,  Acts 15:8,  Acts 19:6). The schema of the new religion is clearly set forth; Jesus is the Messiah ( Acts 2:36,  Acts 5:42), predicted in the Scriptures ( Acts 7:52,  Acts 8:35,  Acts 13:47), attested by the Resurrection ( Acts 2:32,  Acts 10:41,  Acts 13:33,  Acts 26:23); acceptance of Him as such is the basis of salvation ( Acts 4:12,  Acts 10:43,  Acts 13:39); but there must be also a very definite repentance, not merely for having crucified the Messiah ( Acts 2:38), but a turning from iniquities ( Acts 3:26), and from darkness to light ( Acts 26:18), and this is to be followed by works worthy of repentance ( Acts 26:20); baptism follows on repentance and seems to have a sacramental efficacy (βαπτισθήτω … εἰς ἄφεσιν τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ὑμῶν,  Acts 2:38; βάπτισαι καὶ ἀπόλουσαι τὰς ἁμαρτίας σου,  Acts 22:16). As regards baptism, it is noteworthy that Cornelius and his company are accepted of God and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit before they are baptized ( Acts 10:44;  Acts 10:47), though in every other case the gift of the Spirit is subsequent to baptism. Finally, those who are thus saved and endowed are ordained unto eternal life ( Acts 13:46;  Acts 13:48), the blessed inheritance of the future ( Acts 26:18). While it is evident that much of this programme would be entirely familiar to the world of the mystery-religions, the peculiar power of primitive Christianity was manifest in its fine moral glow and its gracious charities, as well as in its religious enthusiasm. And this story of the early Church reveals, on the one hand, an utter absence of those coarser elements, from which the mystery-cults, whatever may have been their philosophical refinements, never freed themselves, and, on the other hand, a positive moral power resulting from glad allegiance to the Historical Founder of Christianity, such as was never accorded to the mythical founders of the other religions of the time.

3. The Pauline writings. -The central passage for St. Paul’s thought on the experience of regeneration is Romans 6-8. It is evidently autobiographical in fact as well as in rhetorical form, and is a wonderful piece of self-revelation. It is a classic of religious experience, and yields in a most interesting way to clear psychological interpretation. The passage exhibits what the experience of regeneration really is in the case of such persons as are conscious of what has been called ‘the divided self.’ It is the case, familiar enough in some form to most of us, where all one’s ethical ideals reinforced by education lead in one direction, while the strength of many habits and even of primitive instinct (if ἐπιθυμία in  Romans 7:7 is to be understood as ‘lust’) impel one in another direction. When attention is concentrated upon duty, a man acts according to his sense of higher values; when impulse determines his conduct, he is false to his better knowledge. And so, in spite of longings and endeavours after moral victory, defeat is the constant result. To the earnest Pharisee the terrible impasse is reached, that he wants to be righteous but he cannot ( Romans 7:21-24): he must actually do what he hates ( Romans 7:15). Some new idea with very high emotional quality is essential to secure the concentration of attention on the nobler course of conduct. This comes to St. Paul in his conversion experience. He feels himself thereupon released from the thrall of the lower self and empowered to live in the higher self. The new idea has the emotive power necessary to make his ethical ideals actually attainable, and so he comes into the experience of the peace of the unified self ( Romans 7:24-25; cf.  Romans 5:1). An element of this new idea that has strong emotional value is the belief that there awaits the victor in the conflict an eternity of splendid peace in the full enjoyment of all those experiences for which now he must contend so hardly ( Romans 8:15-17). This creates a condition distinctly favourable for pursuing lines of conduct conducive to the desired end. The transformation has thus taken place, that ethical ideals are no longer merely intellectually conceived, but have gained an emotional quality that renders the inhibition of contrary tendencies easy and natural ( Romans 8:2). Of course under strong provocation the old impulses to wrong conduct would revive, and sometimes so strongly as to overcome the new inhibitions and pass over into action. But the experience of victory and unity would be so vivid that this re-emergence of the divided self would be painful, the new desirable lines of conduct would renew their hold upon the attention, the inhibitions would regain their sway, and peace would again ensue. (This involves an interpretation of  Romans 7:7-25 as a continuous experience, and not merely a post-conversion memory.)

St. Paul’s own interpretation of this regeneration experience is based on the antagonism between the σάρξ and the πνεῦμα. Whether his psychology involves an actual anthropological dualism it is perhaps not necessary to decide. He was probably not conscious of attempting a philosophical explanation, but was using the currently conceived antagonism between flesh and spirit to express the fact of his own experience and observation. The resolution of the antagonism is to St. Paul a Divine miracle of grace ( Romans 7:25). The flesh is gaining the victory, but the Divine Spirit comes to the reinforcement of the human spirit and overcomes the flesh. St. Paul conceives the πνεῦμα θεοῦ as an actual external power coming to the aid of the believer, as a donation to be received ( Romans 8:15; cf.  2 Corinthians 1:22,  Ephesians 1:13;  Ephesians 4:30). It is difficult here to follow him exactly because we are not sure of his psychology, but it is not at all difficult to arrive at his practical purpose. He is not so much concerned to explain the religious experience of the Christian, except to ascribe it to the power of God, as he is to insist that it must be a moral experience, involving necessarily the active moral endeavour of the believer. The passage is primarily hortatory, only incidentally doctrinal. St. Paul knows that eternal vigilance has been the condition of his own moral victory, God-given though he believes it to be, and he is anxious for his readers not to fail of victory by any easy acceptance of an external salvation.

The four rich metaphors of this passage, of which regeneration is not one, are all employed with this hortatory aim. (1) Death and resurrection.-Under the symbol of baptism, the believer is pictured as dead and risen again, in order to enforce the obligation of living in newness of life ( Romans 6:3-11). (2) Change of masters.-The figure of the bondservant is used to press the alternative that we belong either to sin or to righteousness. Our conduct determines which is master ( Romans 6:16-23). (3) Remarriage of a widow.-Just as a widow assumes a new loyalty when she marries a new husband, so are we free from the old sense of moral obligations and under the highest necessity of being true to the new ( Romans 7:1-6). (4) Legal adoption of children.-The most significant figure of adoption is employed to indicate a new relationship to God attested by the presence of the Divine Spirit, enabling the believer to call God his Father. But this is all dependent upon actual life in the Spirit (or in the spirit, conceived as the higher human nature) ( Romans 8:12-17). The Apostle is peculiarly careful that these metaphors shall not be pushed to an unethical conclusion. He sees the danger in his own day, which was fully realized in the history of the doctrine of regeneration. If any reader assumes that, having been baptized, he is therefore dead to the old life, St. Paul is not afraid to present to him the paradox, that the man who has died to the flesh and is thus released from its bondage ( Romans 6:6-7,  Romans 8:10) is still to go on putting to death the doings of the body ( Romans 8:13). In close juxtaposition he speaks of a definite bestowal of the Spirit (aorist ἐλάβετε,  Romans 8:15), with a constitution of the status of adoption, and of a relationship to God contingent on an ever-present obedience (ὄσοι ἄγονται,  Romans 8:14). So the new life of the Christian is at the same time an ethical achievement and a supernatural gift. St. Paul does not carefully distinguish between these. They are merged in any vital religious experience, so that the regenerate man is the one who is in the actual experience of living the new life of moral victory ( Romans 8:9).

Entirely in keeping with Romans 6-8 are all St. Paul’s references to the new spiritual life. He assumes that it has had a miraculous beginning (note his use of the past tense: δικαιωθέντες, ἐλευθερωθέντες, κληθέντες, ἡγιασμένοι), but he lays the emphasis upon the ethical endeavour, which alone can make the potential actual. Thus in  Romans 12:2, using the word ἀνακαίνωσις, very near akin to the idea of regeneration, he calls upon his readers to make a complete change for the better. Sanday-Headlam (International Critical Commentary, ‘Romans’5, 1902) paraphrase, ‘do not adopt the external and fleeting fashion of this world, but be ye transformed in your inmost nature.’ Denney (Expositor’s Greek Testament, ‘Romans,’ 1900) says that the process would in modern language be rather sanctification than regeneration but that the latter is assumed. Would it not be nearer to the Apostle’s thought, as to his experience, to say that he regards the process of spiritual renewal as one bestowed by God through faith, but rendered significant and vital only by continued faithfulness? To the Colossians he affirms in repeated metaphors a definite change that has been effected by Divine agency: a translation from the kingdom of evil to the Kingdom of Christ ( Colossians 1:13), a reconciliation from alien enmity ( Colossians 1:21-22), a death and resurrection with Christ ( Colossians 2:20,  Colossians 3:1;  Colossians 3:3), an unclothing and reclothing ( Colossians 3:9-10). But the reconciliation is dependent on continuance in the faith ( Colossians 1:23); the members of the dead man are to be put to death ( Colossians 3:5); and the new man is to be renewed ( Colossians 3:10). In the last passage the equivalent word for regeneration (ἀνακαινούμενον) is clearly used in the sense of process as in  2 Corinthians 4:18, where the contrast is between the loosening hold upon physical life and the growing sense of spiritual reality. To the Ephesians St. Paul writes in the most absolute terms of a fore-ordained adoption as sons ( Ephesians 1:5) and of salvation as a free gift ( Ephesians 2:8), and the metaphor of the new life is a resurrection ( Ephesians 2:1;  Ephesians 2:5-6), not as in Romans a dying and rising with Christ, which is merely a bold use of the symbol of baptism, but a resurrection to new life of a nature so corrupt as to be regarded as morally dead. And yet the splendid description of Divinely given salvation is only an argument for a realization of an actual moral renewal, progressively to take place: putting away the old man, putting on the new, being renewed (ἀνανεοῦσθαι) in the spirit of their minds ( Ephesians 4:22-25). The same paradox, though with a change of metaphor, appears in  Ephesians 5:8.

4. The Epistle to the Hebrews. -The figure of regeneration is not used in this document. Christians are called sons of God and brethren of Christ, but are not said to have been made so. When they are called the sons whom Jesus brings unto glory ( Hebrews 2:10) the antithesis is not between sons of God and the unregenerate, but between the mortal humanity of the sons whose likeness Jesus took and the immortal glory of His own proper estate which they shall share. And in the consciousness of son-ship that is gained through suffering ( Hebrews 12:8) the antithesis is between uncared-for children who receive no correction and those beloved who are the objects of paternal discipline. However, the initial Christian experience as a definite change of attitude and relationship is very clearly expressed. It is an enlightenment ( Hebrews 10:32), a tasting of the heavenly gift (of forgiveness), a reception of the Holy Spirit, a tasting of the good word of God, and of the powers of the age to come (i.e. a foretaste of the blessed experiences that the expected Messianic Age would bring) ( Hebrews 6:4-5). This experience is elaborated in many passages of the Epistle and is represented as produced by Divine power. The blood of Christ cleanses the conscience from sin, and makes it possible for the man of faith to serve the living God ( Hebrews 9:14,  Hebrews 10:22). The blood of the covenant is that which sanctifies (sanctification being here equivalent to regeneration) ( Hebrews 10:29). Baptism symbolizes (or perhaps effects) the cleansing ( Hebrews 10:23), The Holy Spirit is bestowed as a gift ( Hebrews 2:4). Indeed, salvation would seem to be altogether miraculous when it is said that by one offering God hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified ( Hebrews 10:14). And yet the purpose of the Epistle is to warn against apostasy, and to insist that all the blessedness of the new life is only a potentiality to be realized by faithfulness. The great passage ( Hebrews 6:4-6) which enumerates all that has been done for the believer is written for the sake of the conclusion that if apostasy follows such blessedness there is no further hope. If we hold fast, we belong to Christ ( Hebrews 3:6), and are partakers of Christ ( Hebrews 3:14). We shall not escape if we turn away ( Hebrews 12:25), and if we sin wilfully after being enlightened there is no further means of salvation ( Hebrews 10:26). Thus, although the new religious experience is Divinely bestowed and sustained ( Hebrews 12:2) and perfected ( Hebrews 13:20-21), it is not magical and sacramental, but dependent upon ethical striving and continued faithfulness.

5. The Catholic Epistles. -In the Epistle of James the idea of regeneration is connected with the coming Messianic Age: believers are Divinely brought forth (ἀπεκύησεν) as firstfruits of the new order ( James 1:18). In another figure the dualism between this world and the Divine order is indicated, when God’s people are represented as joined to Him by a marriage vow so that ‘the friendship of the world is an adultery’ ( James 4:4). Yet, while this Epistle recognizes miraculous salvation, it distinctly affirms that religion can be defined only in ethical terms ( James 1:26-27), and lays careful emphasis on justification by works ( James 2:14-26).

1 Peter is full of the exultant expression of a rich religious experience. The metaphor of regeneration appears several times. It is used to express the utterly new life which belongs to the person who has attained a hope of resurrection and heavenly glory (ἀναγεννήσας,  1 Peter 1:3). Again, Christians are said to be begotten again (ἀναγεγεννημένοι) to a new life of brotherly love, the moral quality of the regeneration being very marked ( 1 Peter 1:22-23). And, with expansion of the figure, the new-born babe is urged to desire the fitting nourishment for producing the maturity of salvation ( 1 Peter 2:2). St. Paul’s great figure of death and resurrection is employed to indicate that union with Christ means a death to sins and a life unto righteousness ( 1 Peter 2:24).

In 2 Peter the new life is separated from the old by a καθαρισμός ( 2 Peter 1:9). It is described as an escape from the corruptions of the world ( 2 Peter 1:4,  2 Peter 2:20). Christians thus become ‘partakers of the divine nature’ ( 2 Peter 1:4). This is effected through knowledge (ἐπίγνωσις) of God ( 2 Peter 1:2;  2 Peter 1:8) and of Christ ( 2 Peter 1:2;  2 Peter 1:8,  2 Peter 2:20,  2 Peter 3:18). But if, in spite of this redemptive knowledge, there should be a return to the defilements of the world, salvation is lost and ‘the last state is become worse with them than the first’ ( 2 Peter 2:20). The Epistle is throughout strongly ethical.

6. The Johannine literature. -The purpose of the Gospel of John is definitely stated in the conclusion ( John 20:31) to be a demonstration that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, in order that men might believe and have life in His name. Life is the key-word of the Gospel. This is more than a hope of immortality, which of course it includes ( John 6:40,  John 14:19), It seems to imply a certain rich and exuberant experience as a result of the indwelling of the Spirit. One becomes, as it were, a perennial spring of spiritual vitality ( John 4:14,  John 7:38 f.). It is an experience of spiritual apprehension ( John 8:47), of walking in light and not in darkness ( John 8:12). The object of salvation is that one shall live to the full, abundantly ( John 10:10). It may be doubted whether our modern social interpretations of the abundant life were in the mind of the writer, but he evidently referred to an exultant sense of the glorious worthfulness of being a child of God, superior to worldly circumstance, possessed of the Spirit, with miraculous powers, and certain of a glorious future. This new life is so different from ordinary mundane life that very naturally the metaphor of regeneration is used to explain it. As our human begetting by the will of man bestows upon us common life, so the Divine begetting gives us life eternal ( John 1:13). The antithesis is clear: one is either regenerate or not ( John 3:6). The conversation with Nicodemus affords the opportunity for presenting the doctrine. The Kingdom of God comes not by natural heritage even to a Jewish Rabbi, but by supernatural bestowment. It is mysterious as the incalculable winds, but is inevitable and essential ( John 3:8). The condition of this regeneration is a belief that Jesus is the Messiah, Son of God; for what is definitely stated in the prologue ( John 1:12-13) is implied in the believing unto eternal life ( John 3:15). Regeneration as thus presented might seem to be the mere change of status with miraculous charismata in consequence of an external act of homage, which the pagan heart would so well understand. But faith is not an external act in this Gospel. He that dceth the truth cometh to the light ( John 3:21); he that is willing to do the will of God gains experiential evidence of the truth of the gospel ( John 7:17). And the great central teaching of the last discourse of Jesus is fundamentally ethical. The figure changes from regeneration to that of the branch in the vine. The question is not whether the branch is in the vine, but whether it bears fruit, failing which it is cast forth and burned ( John 15:5). And the fruit is love ( John 15:12). So the test of regeneration is the actual experience of love of the brethren, the actual fulfilment of the commandment of Christ. Belief, then, through which comes regeneration, is not an intellectual assent, but a passionate loyalty, rich in ethical impulse, and a continuous experience.

1 John has the same theme as the Gospel, but the treatment is more homiletic. The conditions are peculiarly favourable to the definition of a doctrine of regeneration, for the letter is evidently written to a Christian community or communities, in which many must, belong to the second or third generation of believers, and therefore would not have experienced the decided change involved in a conversion from heathenism. The silence of the NT upon the matter of the regeneration of children is interesting in view of the large place which it has held in subsequent theological discussion. In the NT, however, regeneration is always dependent upon faith. The children would, of course, receive such instruction as would enable them to believe. Both the Jewish and the Greek world were thoroughly familiar with the idea of a coming of age at puberty, and the children probably received the baptism which was the seal of their faith at that time. The figure of regeneration had not been so thoroughly theologized that the question whether or not children were regenerate would arise. The silence of the NT is an assumption that the children of believers were candidates for salvation. But a religion dependent on instruction might easily become merely formal. And it is such a situation that this Epistle presupposes. It is addressed to the Christian community ( 1 John 5:13), to fathers who have long known the truth, to young men who are conquering evil ( 1 John 2:13-14), all of whom have received the gift of the Spirit, which is an abiding enlightenment ( 1 John 2:27). The writer identifies them with himself in the absoluteness of salvation-‘we are of God, and the whole world lieth in the evil one’ ( 1 John 5:19). And yet the distinctive emphasis of the Epistle is upon regeneration as a moral experience rather than as a religious status. When the author says, ‘whosoever believeth is begotten of God’ ( 1 John 5:1), he is stating the fact which any primitive Christian would have understood. But with equal emphasis he insists that ‘everyone that dceth righteousness is begotten of him’ ( 1 John 2:29), and against that ‘everyone that loveth is begotten of God’ ( 1 John 4:7). He does not say that we know that we have passed from death unto life because we have been baptized, but because we have the Spirit ( 1 John 4:13), and the evidence of this is love of the brethren ( 1 John 4:12,  1 John 3:14). The ethical quality of regeneration is still more emphatically stated-‘whatsoever is begotten of God dceth no sin’ ( 1 John 3:9,  1 John 5:18). Thus mankind is divided into children of God and children of the devil, each living according to the paternal nature that is in them ( 1 John 3:9-10). Of course this is stated in absolute terms, and the correction is at hand: ‘if we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves,’ etc. ( 1 John 1:8;  1 John 1:10). It is St. Paul’s fine paradox again: we are children of God by supernatural creation; the Divine seed is in us; what is Divine cannot sin; therefore the believer does not sin in his own proper nature, and if he does sin he seeks and finds forgiveness. And the paradox is true to the real religious experience. But sacramentalism is avoided, and the whole conception of regeneration is ethicized by the warning against confidence in a formal regeneration which does not manifest itself in new life. The regenerate life is an exultant and abiding love to God and the brethren ( 1 John 4:12-13;  1 John 4:18), and if this is absent there is no regeneration at all ( 1 John 1:6,  1 John 2:9).

Literature.-Article‘Regeneration’ in Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols)by J. V. Bartlet, in Dict. of Christ and the Gospelsby J. Denney, and literature there cited; works on NT Theology, especially B. Weiss (Eng. translation, 1882-83), W. Beyschlag (Eng. translation, 1895), H. J. Holtzmann (1896-97). G. B. Stevens (1899); also special works: T. D. Bernard, The Progress of Doctrine in the NT, 1864, 51900; G. B. Stevens, Johannine Theology, 1894, The Pauline Theology, 1892; O. Pfleiderer, Paulinismus2, 1890 (Eng. translation, 1891); A. B. Bruce, St. Paul’s Conception of Christianity, 1894; P. Gennrich, Die Lehre von der Wiedergeburt, 1907. For the historical background: R. Reitzenstein, Die hellenist, Mysterienreligionen. 1910, Poimandres, 1904; J. G. Frazer, GB[Note: B Golden Bough (J. G. Frazer).]3, pt. iv., Adonis Attis Osiris, 1914; F. Cumont, The Oriental Religions in Roman Paganism, Eng. translation, 1911; M. Brückner, Der sterbende und auferstehende Gottheiland, 1908; A. Loisy, ‘The Christian Mystery,’ In J. Hibbert Journalx. [1911] 45 ff.; C. Clemen, Primitive Christianity and its Non-Jewish Sources, Eng. translation, 1912; T. G. Soares, ‘Some Psychological Aspects of Regeneration in BW[Note: W Biblical World.]xxxvii. [1911] 78 ff.; E. D. Burton, ‘Spirit, Soul and Flesh,’ in AJTh[Note: JTh American Journal of Theology.]xvii, [1913] 563 ff., xviii. [1914] 59 ff., 395 ff., 571 ff.

Theodore Gerald Soares.

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [2]

REGENERATION . In the language of theology, ‘regeneration’ denotes that decisive spiritual change, effected by God’s Holy Spirit, in which a soul, naturally estranged from God, and ruled by sinful principles, is renewed in disposition, becomes the subject of holy affections and desires, and enters on a life of progressive sanctification, the issue of which is complete likeness to Christ. The term, however, to which this word corresponds (Gr. palingenesia ), occurs only twice in the NT (  Matthew 19:28 ,   Titus 3:5 ), and in the first instance denotes, not the renewal of the individual, but the perfected condition of things at the Parousia (cf.   Acts 3:21 ,   2 Peter 3:13; see Restoration). In the other passage (  Titus 3:5 ), the expression ‘the washing [laver] of regeneration’ connects ‘the renewing of the Holy Ghost’ with the rite of baptism, which is its outward symbol and seal (see below). The doctrine, nevertheless, is a thoroughly Scriptural one, and the change in question is expressed by a great variety of terms and phrases: ‘born,’ ‘born anew,’ ‘a new creation,’ ‘renewed,’ ‘quickened,’ etc., to which attention will immediately be directed. The fundamental need of regeneration is recognized in the OT as well as in the NT ( e.g.   Psalms 51:10-11 ), though, necessarily, the prophecies speak more frequently of national renewal (  Jeremiah 31:31 ff;   Jeremiah 32:38-40 ,   Ezekiel 36:25-28 ,   Hosea 6:1-3 etc.) than of individual.

The classical passage on the need of regeneration is   John 3:3 ff. Spiritual life, it is taught, can come only from a spiritual source, and man, naturally, has not that life (  John 3:6 ). Hence the declarations: ‘Except a man be born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God’; ‘Except a man be born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.… Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born anew’ (  John 3:3;   John 3:5 ). The miracle is wrought by the Spirit of God, whose action is sovereign (  John 3:8 ). Many do marvel, like Nicodemus, at the strangeness and universality of this demand of Christ; yet the strangeness will disappear, and the need of a supernatural agent to effect the change will be felt, if due consideration is given (1) to the vastness of the change, and (2) to the condition of the human nature in which the change is to be made.

(1) It is sufficient, to show the vastness of this change, to reflect that here, and elsewhere, regeneration means nothing less than a revolution of such a kind as results in the whole man being brought round from his ordinary worldly way of feeling, and thinking, and willing, into harmony with God’s mind and will; truly brought round to God’s point of view, so that he now sees things as God sees them, feels about things as God feels about them, judges of things as God judges of them, loves what God loves, hates what God hates, sets God’s ends before him as his own. Who can doubt, if this is the nature of the change, that it does not lie in man’s own powers to produce it; that it can be effected only through a higher power entering his being, and working the change?

(2) The need of a supernatural agency in the change is further evident from the condition of the human nature in which the change is wrought. The testimony of Scripture is uniform that man has turned aside from God ( Psalms 14:1-3 ,   Romans 3:9 ff.), and that his nature has undergone a terrible depravation (  Genesis 6:5;   Genesis 8:21 ,   Psalms 51:5 ,   Isaiah 1:2-4 ,   Romans 7:14 ff.,   Ephesians 2:1-3;   Ephesians 4:17-18 etc.); that the bent of the will is away from God (  Romans 8:7-8 ); that the love of God has been replaced by love of the world, and the self-seeking principles connected therewith (  1 John 2:15-16 , cf.   John 5:42;   John 5:44 ); that the better nature is in bondage to a law of sin, which works lawlessness in thought, feeling, and desire (  Romans 7:22-23 ,   1 John 3:4 RV [Note: Revised Version.] ). Is it not obvious, leaving out of account altogether the darker forms in which evil manifests itself, that this is a condition of soul which only a Divine power can rectify?

Nothing, therefore, is more plainly taught in Scripture than that this spiritual change we call regeneration is one which nothing short of Divine power can effect. It is spoken of as a being born of God ( John 1:12-13;   John 3:5 ,   1 John 3:9 etc.); as a new creation (  2 Corinthians 5:21 ); as a being raised from the dead (  Ephesians 2:5-6 ). It is compared to that great work of the omnipotence of God in raising Christ Himself from the dead (  Ephesians 1:19;   Ephesians 1:22;   Ephesians 2:1;   Ephesians 2:6 ). It is a complete renewal, transformation, of the inner man (  Romans 12:2 ,   Ephesians 4:23 ,   Colossians 3:10 ,   Titus 3:15 ,   1 Peter 1:22-23 ). Yet, while so distinctively a supernatural work, it is made equally clear that it is not a magical work; not a work bound up with rites and words, so that, when these rites and ceremonies are performed, regeneration is ipso facto effected. This is the error of sacerdotalism, which binds up this spiritual change with the rite of baptism . It would be wrong to say that baptism has no connexion with the change, for it is often brought into most intimate relation with it (  Romans 6:4 ,   Titus 3:5 ,   1 Peter 3:21; perhaps even in Christ’s words,   John 3:5; with the historical examples of the connexion of the receiving of the Spirit with baptism,   Acts 2:38;   Acts 19:2-8 etc.). Baptism is connected with regeneration as outwardly representing it, and being a symbol of it; as connected with profession (  1 Peter 3:21 ), and pledging the spiritual blessing to faith; but it neither operates the blessing, nor is indispensable to it, nor has any virtue at all apart from the inward susceptibility in the subjects of it. In some cases we read of those on whom the Spirit of God fell, that they were baptized afterwards (  Acts 10:44;   Acts 10:48 ), and in all cases faith is presumed to be already present before baptism is administered; that is, the inward decisive step has already been taken.

On the other hand, when we look to the means the instrumentality by which the Holy Spirit effects this change, we find it always in Scripture declared to be one thing, namely, the word . This is what is meant by saying that regeneration is effected, not magically, but by the use of. rational means. It is connected with the outward call of the gospel (hence the older divines were wont to treat of this subject under the head of ‘vocation,’ or ‘effectual calling’). We speak, of course, only of adults, of those who are capable of hearing and understanding the call, and are far from limiting the grace of God in infants, or others whom this call does not or cannot reach. What is affirmed is, as regards those who have come to years of intelligence, that God’s dealing with them is through the word, and this is the constant representation. The OT equally with the NT extols the saving, converting, quickening, cleansing, sanctifying power of the word of God ( e.g.   Psalms 19:7 ff.,   Psalms 119:1-176 ). Jesus declares the word to be the seed of the Kingdom (  Luke 8:11 ). He prays: ‘Sanctify them in the truth; thy word is truth’ (  John 17:17 ). Conversion, regeneration, sanctification, are connected with the word (  Acts 11:19-21 ,   Ephesians 1:13 ,   Colossians 1:5 ,   1 Thessalonians 2:13 ,   2 Thessalonians 2:13 ,   James 1:18 ,   1 Peter 1:23-25 [‘Begotten again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, through the word of God,’ etc.])

If this is the nature, generally, of regeneration, then it has what may be termed a psychology; that is, there is a process which the mind goes through in the experience of this spiritual change. The Spirit of God, doubtless, has innumerable ways of dealing with human souls; still, if we look closely, it will be found that there are certain elements which do in some degree enter into all experience in regeneration, and furnish, so far, a test of the reality of the change. There is first, of necessity, the awakening of the soul out of its customary spiritual dormancy out of that deep insensibility to spiritual things in which ordinarily the natural mind is held (  Ephesians 5:14 , cf.   Romans 14:11-12 ). Especially there comes into view here the peculiar awakening of the soul through the conscience, which takes the form of what we call conviction of sin towards God (cf.   Acts 16:29-30 ). Probably no one can undergo this spiritual change without in some degree being brought inwardly to the realization of his sinful condition before God, and to the sincere confession of it (  Psalms 51:4 ). The law of God has its place in producing this conviction of sin; but law alone will not produce spiritual contrition. See Repentance. For this there is needed the exhibition of mercy. Hence the next stage in this spiritual process is that described as enlightenment growing enlightenment in the knowledge of Christ, This also, like the preceding stages, is a Divine work (  John 16:14-15 ,   2 Corinthians 4:4 ). Even with this, however, the work of regeneration is not complete. The will of God for man’s salvation has not only to be understood, it has also to be obeyed. There is the will to be laid hold of the will, the centre and citadel of the being. So the work of the Holy Spirit is directed, finally, to the renewing of the will. It is directed to the renewing of the will, first of all, in the form of persuasion , for the Holy Spirit does none of His work by violence. Everything that God accomplishes is accomplished in accordance with the nature He has given us; but God most graciously, most lovingly, brings His persuasions to bear upon our wills, and by the power of appropriate motives draws us to the acceptance of Christ (  John 6:44 ). With this there goes what, in the next place, may be called the potentiation of the will the enabling of it, or imparting to it the power needful in order to lay hold on Christ with full and fast faith (  Ephesians 4:16 ). Last of all, this work of regeneration is completed when the soul is brought to the point of absolute surrender of itself to Christ when, drawn and persuaded, and at length enabled by the Spirit, it yields itself up entirely to Christ as its Saviour, and lays hold on Christ for a complete salvation. There is now union with Christ by faith, and, with that, entrance into the life the experience of the newborn child of God. ‘If any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things are passed away; behold, they are become new’ (  2 Corinthians 5:17 ).

James Orr.

Holman Bible Dictionary [3]

Biblical Terms The term regeneration ( palingenesia ) appears in  Titus 3:5 as a description of the spiritual change which baptism symbolizes. The idea of regeneration is also conveyed by the use of other terms related to the idea of birth. Jesus referred to regeneration when he told Nicodemus (  John 3:3 ) that he must be “ born again ” ( gennao anothen ). The term born again may also be translated as “born from above.” This translation emphasizes the sovereign role of God in bringing about the experience of regeneration. In  John 1:13 the term born ( gennao ) refers to the act of regeneration. In  1 Peter 1:23 another Greek word ( anagennao ) receives the translation “born again.” All of these words describe the complete spiritual change which occurs when Christ enters the life of an individual.

The idea of regeneration also appears in other figures of speech which refer to concepts in addition to birth. When Paul described those in Christ as a “new creation” ( 2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV), he was referring to the act of regeneration. In   Ephesians 2:10 Paul referred to Christians as God's “workmanship” made for the purpose of good works. Sometimes the idea of receiving new life is used as a description of regeneration (compare   John 5:21;  John 7:38;  John 10:10;  John 10:28 ). In  1 Peter 2:2 , the apostle described followers of Jesus as “newborn babes.”

Whether the figure used involves birth, life, creation, or flowing rivers, the Bible is presenting a new experience of life which is enriching, comprehensive, and thoroughly renewed in holiness.

Need for Regeneration The great need for an experience of regeneration is apparent from the sinful condition of human beings, “dead in trespasses and sins” ( Ephesians 2:1 ). Left to themselves, human beings will corrupt God's revelation of Himself and turn to gross forms of disobedience ( Romans 1:18-32 ). God, however, demands holiness as a condition for having fellowship with Himself ( Hebrews 12:14 ). Human beings therefore must have a radical change in the very character of their personality. God promises such a change in the experience of regeneration.

Source of Regeneration Throughout Scripture the source of regeneration is the work of the Holy Spirit. Both Scripture ( Romans 3:10-23 ) and human experience indicate that people lack the power and will to reform. God works upon the human disposition by the use of truth ( James 1:18 ). This truth is the message of salvation which we find in the gospel of Jesus Christ. The role of the Holy Spirit is to take this truth and commend it to the understanding of each hearer ( John 16:8-11 ). Regeneration occurs when the Holy Spirit takes the truth of the gospel message and allows the individual both to understand it and to commit oneself to it. There is a divine initiative through the Holy Spirit. There is a human responsibility in the response to the Spirit's urging.

Role of Baptism Some churches hold that the experience of regeneration is brought about by the act of baptism. The view which advocates this teaching is known as baptismal regeneration. The Scriptures do not present baptism as the means of regeneration but as the sign of regeneration. Peter's discussion of baptism in  1 Peter 3:21 pictures the experience of baptism as the symbol of a conscientious response to God. In other texts (  Acts 2:38;  Colossians 2:12;  Titus 3:5 ) we can understand the meaning of the biblical writer by distinguishing between regeneration as an inward change and baptism as the outward sign of that change. The actual change of regeneration is an instantaneous experience brought about by the Holy Spirit. Baptism becomes a means of demonstrating publicly and outwardly the nature of this change. See Baptism .

Result of Regeneration  Ephesians 4:17-32 makes the result of regeneration apparent. Paul first discussed the nature of the spiritual change in a believer. In regeneration each believer has put off the old way of life, become clothed with a new way of life, and is in the process of having one's mind renewed in its thinking, reasoning, and willing. Because of this experience Paul urged each believer to practice truth, control anger, demonstrate kindness, and submit to the control of the Holy Spirit. The fact of regeneration formed the basis for giving an appeal to live a new life.

The experience of regeneration does not leave an individual content and passive in efforts at Christian growth. Old powers of evil have been broken. The possibility of victory in the constant struggle with sin has become certain.

Thomas D. Lea

Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary [4]

This is the word, and the doc trine connected with it, which hath been, and ever will be, a stumbling-block to the whole world of mere natural men, who receive not the things of the "Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto them, neither can they know them, because they are spiritually discerned." ( 1 Corinthians 2:14)

The carnal mind, in every age of the church, hath been disposed to receive the doctrine of re generation as a mere figure of speech. They are unable to explain it upon any principles of their own, and therefore wish of all things to class it under the character of metaphor or parable. But it will be found to all the unawakened and unregenerated in eternity an awful reality to them. I well remember to have heard it said concerning a prelate of the highest rank in the establishment, who in the close of life expressed himself on this subject in these very solemn words: "I have read (said he) much on the doctrine of regeneration, and I have heard much upon it; should hope, it is after all, but a mere figure of speech; but if it be a real truth, I can only say, that I known nothing of it in my own experience." What a dreadful confession this for a man in his dying hours!

Our blessed Lord, who brought life and immortality to light by his Gospel, brought this doctrine of regeneration also, as a fundamental part of that Gospel, to the full and complete testimony of it in his conversation with Nicodemus the Jew. ( John 3:1-21) I beg the reader to pay a close attention to this blessed Scripture, looking up to God the Holy Ghost to render it plain and intelligible; and, under his divine teaching, the doctrine itself cannot fail to appear in its true light.

The holy Scriptures, with one voice, declare, that man by the fall of Adam lost all apprehension of the divine nature; he became virtually dead in trespasses and sins: so that the recovery from hence could only be effected by the quickening influences of the Holy Ghost. Hence every son and daughter of Adam is born, as to spiritual faculties, in a state of spiritual death, and is as incapable, until an act of regeneration hath passed in quickening to a new and spiritual life, of any act of spiritual apprehension, as a dead body is to any act of animal life.

Scripture describes the different degrees of death in a clear and distinct manner. The death of the body is the separation of soul and body, so that the soul, which is the life of the body, if fled, leaves the body lifeless, and without any longer principle of consciousness. "The body (saith an apostle) without the spirit is dead." ( James 2:26)

Spiritual death is the death of sin, by reason of the want of the quickening Spirit of God in the soul; so that as Christ is the life of the soul, every Christ-less soul is a dead soul. Eternal death is the separation both of soul and body from God for ever: and this is the state of the unreclaimed and unregenerate wicked.

Now then, as in the first instance, while the soul actuates the body that body is alive, but without; the soul so actuating, the body would be dead; so in the second, unless Christ, who is the life of the soul, actuates the soul by regeneration, that soul continues dead as by original transgression was induced. And in the third, if living and dying without the blessed influence of regeneration, that soul and body must remain in a state of eternal death, and separation from God for ever.

Now, from this Scriptural statement of spiritual death, it will be easy to gather what is meant and implied by the doctrine of regeneration. It is, to all intents and purposes, in the spiritual faculties creating a new life, a new birth, a new nature: hence the Scriptures describe the recovery from sin under the strongest expressions. "You, (saith the apostle, speaking to the regenerated Ephesians), ( Ephesians 2:1) hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins." So again,  Ephesians 2:5 "Even when we were dead in sins, hath he quickened us together with Christ." So again—"If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature." ( 2 Corinthians 5:17) And hence the apostle elsewhere saith, that our recovery to a state of grace, and the new life, is "not by works of righteousness which we have done, but by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost, shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Lord." ( Titus 3:5-6) I only add an humble prayer to God to grant to all his renewed members the sweetest testimony in their own experience to this most blessed truth, that they may know that they are born again, "not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of our God, which liveth and abideth for ever." ( 1 Peter 1:23)

Charles Buck Theological Dictionary [5]

A new birth; that work of the Holy Spirit by which we experience a change of heart. It is to be distinguished from baptism which is an external rite, though some have confounded them together. Nor does it signify a mere reformation of the outward conduct. Nor is it a conversion from one sect or creed to another; or even from atheism. Nor are new faculties given in this change. Nor does it consist in new revelations, succession of terrors or consolations; or any whisper as it were from God to the heart, concerning his secret love, choice, or purpose to save us. It is expressed in Scripture by being born again,  John 3:7 . born from above, so it may be rendered,  John 3:2;  John 3:7;  John 3:27 . being quickened,  Ephesians 2:1 . Christ formed in the heart,  Galatians 4:12 . a partaking of the Divine nature,  2 Peter 1:4 . The efficient cause of regeneration is the Divine Spirit. That man is not the author of it is evident, if we consider,

1. The case in which men are before it takes place; a state of ignorance and inability,  John 3:4 .

2. The nature of the work shows plainly that it is not in the power of men to do it: it is called a creation, a production of a new principle which was not before, and which man could not himself produce,  Ephesians 2:8;  Ephesians 2:10 .

3. It is expressly denied to be of men, but declared to be of God,  John 1:12-13;  1 John 3:9 . The instrumental cause of it may be so called, is the word of God,  James 1:18 .  1 Corinthians 4:15 . The evidence of it are, conviction of sin, holy sorrow, deep humility, knowledge, faith, repentance, love, and devotedness to God's glory. The properties of it are these:

1. It is a passive work, and herein it differs from conversion. In regeneration we are passive, and receive from God; in conversion we are active, and turn to him.

2. It is an irresistible, or rather an invincible work of God's grace,  Ephesians 3:8 .

3. It is an instantaneous act, for there can be no medium between life and death; and here it differs from sanctification, which is progressive.

4. It is a complete act, and perfect in its kind; a change of the whole man,  2 Corinthians 5:17 .

5. It is a great and important act, both as to its author and effects,  Ephesians 2:4-5 .

6. It is an internal act, not consisting in bare outward forms,  Ezekiel 36:26;  Ezekiel 27:1-36 :

7. Visible as to its effects,  1 John 3:14 .

8. Delightful,  1 Peter 1:8 .

9. Necessary,  John 3:3 .

10. It is an act, the blessings of which we can never finally lose,  John 13:1 .

See Calling, Conversion; and Charnock's Works, vol. 2: p. 1. to 230; Cole and Wright, but especially Witherspoon on Regeneration; Doddridge's Ten Sermons on the Subject; Dr. Gill's Body of Divinity, article Regeneration; Dr. Owen on the Spirit; Lime Street Lectures, ser. 8.

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary [6]

a new birth; that work of the Holy Spirit by which we experience a change of heart. It is expressed in Scripture by being born again,  John 3:7; born from above; being quickened,  Ephesians 2:1; by Christ being formed in the heart,  Galatians 4:19; by our partaking of the divine nature,  2 Peter 1:4 . The efficient cause of regeneration is the divine Spirit. That man is not the author of it, is evident from  John 1:12-13;  John 3:4;  Ephesians 2:8;  Ephesians 2:10 . The instrumental cause is the word of God,  James 1:18;  1 Peter 1:23;  1 Corinthians 4:15 . The change in regeneration consists in the recovery of the moral image of God upon the heart; that is to say, so as to love him supremely and serve him ultimately as our highest end, and to delight in him superlatively as our chief good. The sum of the moral law is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, and soul, and strength, and mind. This is the duty of every rational creature; and in order to obey it perfectly, no part of our inward affection or actual service ought to be, at any time, or in the least degree misapplied. Regeneration consists in the principle being implanted, obtaining the ascendancy, and habitually prevailing over its opposite. It may be remarked, that though the inspired writers use various terms and modes of speech in order to describe this change of mind, sometimes terming it conversion, regeneration, a new creation, or the new creature, putting off the old man with his deeds, and putting on the new man, walking not after the flesh, but after the Spirit, &c; yet it is all effected by the word of truth, or the Gospel of salvation, gaining an entrance into the mind, through divine teaching, so as to possess the understanding, subdue the will, and reign in the affections. In a word, it is faith working by love that constitutes the new creature, the regenerate man,  Galatians 5:6;  1 John 5:1-5 . Regeneration is to be distinguished from our justification, although it is connected with it. Every one who is justified, is also regenerated; but the one places us in a new relation, and the other in a new moral state. Our Lord, in one instance, uses the term regeneration for the resurrection state: "Ye which have followed me, in the regeneration, when the Son of man shall sit on the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging,"   Matthew 19:28 . And, accordingly, Dr. Campbell translates the passage thus: "At the renovation, when the Son of man shall be seated on the glorious throne, ye, my followers, sitting also upon twelve thrones, shall judge." We are accustomed, says he to apply the term solely to the conversion of individuals; whereas its relation here is to the general state of things. The principal completion will be at the general resurrection, when there will be, in the most important sense, a renovation or regeneration of heaven and earth, when all things shall become new.

Bridgeway Bible Dictionary [7]

All people are sinners; therefore all are spiritually dead and unable to give themselves spiritual life. They are cut off from God, with no hope of salvation through anything they might plan or do. God, however, can save them from this hopeless condition by forgiving their sins, giving them new life and restoring them to a right relationship with himself. This experience is called the new birth, or regeneration, and is the work of the Spirit of God within the individual. It takes place when people humbly submit to Jesus Christ and trust him for forgiveness, salvation and life ( John 1:12-13;  John 3:3-6;  Ephesians 2:1;  Ephesians 2:5;  Titus 3:5).

To be regenerated means, in other words, to be born anew, to be spiritually re-created. This is not something people themselves can do. It is entirely the work of the merciful and sovereign God ( John 1:13;  John 3:5;  Titus 3:3-7;  James 1:18;  1 Peter 1:23; cf.  Psalms 51:10;  Ezekiel 11:19). Without it sinners remain in their hopeless state and are incapable of experiencing spiritual life ( John 3:5-6). Through it they become children of God and enter his kingdom ( John 1:12-13;  John 3:3;  John 3:5; see also Adoption ).

Regenerated people are new people ( 2 Corinthians 5:17;  1 Peter 2:2; cf.  Galatians 6:15). They have new life inwardly, characterized by renewed minds that govern all his thinking and attitudes ( Romans 12:2;  Ephesians 4:23-24; cf.  Ezekiel 36:26-27;  Jeremiah 31:33). They also have new life outwardly, characterized by loving behaviour towards others, hatred of sin and victory over the world’s temptations ( Colossians 3:10;  Colossians 3:12-13;  1 John 2:29;  1 John 4:7;  1 John 5:4;  1 John 5:18; cf.  1 Corinthians 5:7-8).

Fausset's Bible Dictionary [8]

Palingenesia . Only twice in the New Testament:  Titus 3:5 of the regeneration of the soul by the Holy Spirit, and  Matthew 19:28 the regeneration of the body and of the material world. (See Baptism .) Besides his natural birthday the believer has a spiritual birthday in this life, and a birthday to glory in the life to come. The marks of regeneration are given  1 John 3:9;  1 John 3:14;  1 John 5:1;  1 John 5:4. Only if God's Spirit regenerate the soul now will the same Spirit quicken to immortality and glory the body hereafter ( Romans 8:11;  Philippians 3:21).

The third and crowning step will be the regeneration of our home, this earth, and of "the whole creation," "the restitution of all things" ( Acts 3:21;  Matthew 19:28;  Romans 8:19-23). Nations and society shall be first regenerated in the millennial world, with Israel as their priest-kingly head ( Isaiah 2:2-4;  Isaiah 2:11); wars shall cease, and even the wild beasts cease to rage. (See Thousand YEARS.) (Revelation 20;  Isaiah 65:16-25). The final regeneration of the earth and nature shall be after the millennium (Revelation 21;  2 Peter 3:7-13).

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [9]

The new birth; that work of the Holy Spirit by which the soul, previously dead in sins, is created anew in Christ unto righteousness. It is expressed in Scripture by being born again and born from above,  John 3:3-7; becoming a new creature,  2 Corinthians 5:17; being quickened to a new life of holiness,  Ephesians 2:1; having Christ formed in the heart,  Galatians 4:19; and being made partaker of the divine nature,  2 Peter 1:4 .

The sole author of this change is the Holy Spirit,  John 1:12,13   3:4   Ephesians 2:8-10; and he effects it ordinarily by the instrumentality of gospel truth,  1 Corinthians 4:15   James 1:18   1 Peter 1:23 . In this change the moral image of God is brought back into the soul, and the principle of supreme love to our neighbor is implanted. Regeneration, producing faith, is accompanied by justification, and by actual holiness of life, or sanctification begun, and completed when the "babe in Christ" reaches in heaven "the fulness of the stature of the perfect man" in Him. In  Matthew 19:28 , regeneration means Christ's making all things new. In  Titus 3:5 , "the washing of regeneration" denotes the purifying work of the Spirit in the new birth.

Vine's Expository Dictionary of NT Words [10]

1: Παλιγγενεσία (Strong'S #3824 — Noun Feminine — palingenesia — pal-ing-ghen-es-ee'-ah )

"new birth" (palin, "again," genesis, "birth"), is used of "spiritual regeneration,"  Titus 3:5 , involving the communication of a new life, the two operating powers to produce which are "the word of truth,"  James 1:18;  1—Peter 1:23 , and the Holy Spirit,  John 3:5,6; the loutron, "the laver, the washing," is explained in  Ephesians 5:26 , "having cleansed it by the washing (loutron) of water with the word."

 Matthew 19:28 Titus 3:5Even. Matthew 19:28  Acts 3:21 Psalm 2:6 Revelation 20:7,8

Easton's Bible Dictionary [11]

 Matthew 19:28  Titus 3:5 Matthew 19:28  Acts 3:21 Titus 3:5  1 John 3:14 2 Corinthians 5:17 John 3:5 Romans 12:2 Ephesians 2:6

This change is ascribed to the Holy Spirit. It originates not with man but with God ( John 1:12,13;  1 John 2:29;  5:1,4 ).

As to the nature of the change, it consists in the implanting of a new principle or disposition in the soul; the impartation of spiritual life to those who are by nature "dead in trespasses and sins."

The necessity of such a change is emphatically affirmed in Scripture ( John 3:3;  Romans 7:18;  8:7-9;  1 Corinthians 2:14;  Ephesians 2:1;  4:21-24 ).

Webster's Dictionary [12]

(1): ( n.) The reproduction or renewal of tissues, cells, etc., which have been used up and destroyed by the ordinary processes of life; as, the continual regeneration of the epithelial cells of the body, or the regeneration of the contractile substance of muscle.

(2): ( n.) The union of parts which have been severed, so that they become anatomically perfect; as, the regeneration of a nerve.

(3): ( n.) The entering into a new spiritual life; the act of becoming, or of being made, Christian; that change by which holy affectations and purposes are substituted for the opposite motives in the heart.

(4): ( n.) The reproduction of a part which has been removed or destroyed; re-formation; - a process especially characteristic of a many of the lower animals; as, the regeneration of lost feelers, limbs, and claws by spiders and crabs.

(5): ( n.) The act of regenerating, or the state of being regenerated.

Morrish Bible Dictionary [13]

The word is παλιγγενεσία, lit . 'new birth,' a renovation as in the return of spring. The word occurs but twice in the New Testament. In  Matthew 19:28 it speaks of the time when Christ will sit on the throne of His glory; and in   Titus 3:5 it refers to the new order of things, in connection with the presence of the Spirit, into which believers were brought. The word does not occur in the LXX. Josephus (Ant. xi. 3,9) uses it for the 'restoration' of the Jewish nation after the exile. It will be seen that the word regeneration has not in scripture the sense of 'new birth,' to which the term has been commonly applied. Intimately connected with regeneration is the idea of 'washing,' referring probably to a cleansing, or separation from old associations, which is essential to the idea of regeneration.

King James Dictionary [14]


1. Reproduction the act of producing anew. 2. In theology, new birth by the grace of God that change by which the will and natural enmity of man to God and his law are subdued, and a principle of supreme love to God and his law, or holy affections, are implanted in the heart.

He saved us by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.  Titus 3 .

Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology [15]

See New Birth

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [16]

rḗ - jen - ẽr - ā´shun , re4-:

I. The Term Explained

1. First Biblical Sense (Eschatological)

2. Second Biblical Sense (Spiritual)

II. The Biblical Doctrine Of Regeneration

1. In the Old Testament

2. In the Teaching of Jesus

3. In Apostolic Teaching

III. Later Development Of The Doctrine

IV. Present Significance


I. The Term Explained.

The theological term "regeneration" is the Latin translation of the Greek expression παλινγενεσία , palingenesı́a , occurring twice in the New Testament (  Matthew 19:28;  Titus 3:5 ). The word is usually written παλιγγενεσία , paliggenesı́a , in classical Greek. Its meaning is different in the two passages, though an easy transition of thought is evident.

1. First Biblical Sense (Eschatological):

In  Matthew 19:28 the word refers to the restoration of the world, in which sense it is synonymical to the expressions ἀποκατάστασις πάντων , apokatástasis pánton , "restoration of all things" ( Acts 3:21; the verb is found in  Matthew 17:11 , ἀποκαταστήσει πάντα , apokatastḗsei pánta , "shall restore all things"), and ἀνάψυξις , anápsuxis , "refreshing" ( Acts 3:19 ), which signifies a gradual transition of meaning to the second sense of the word under consideration. It is supposed that regeneration in this sense denotes the final stage of development of all creation, by which God's purposes regarding the same are fully realized, when "all things (are put) in subjection under his feet" ( 1 Corinthians 15:27 ). This is a "regeneration in the proper meaning of the word, for it signifies a renovation of all visible things when the old is passed away, and heaven and earth are become new" (compare  Revelation 21:1 ). To the Jew the regeneration thus prophesied was inseparably connected with the reign of the Messiah.

We find this word in the same or very similar senses in profane literature. It is used of the renewal of the world in Stoical philosophy. Josephus ( Ant. , XI, iii, 9) speaks of the anáktēsis kaı́ paliggenesı́a tḗs patrı́dos , "a new foundation and regeneration of the fatherland," after the return from the Babylonian captivity. Philo (ed. Mangey, ii. 144) uses the word, speaking of the post-diluvial epoch of the earth, as of a new world, and Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (xi. 1), of a periodical restoration of all things, laying stress upon the constant recurrence and uniformity of all happenings, which thought the Preacher expressed by "There is no new thing under the sun" (  Ecclesiastes 1:9 ). In most places, however, where the word occurs in philosophical writings, it is used of the "reincarnation" or "subsequent birth" of the individual, as in the Buddhistic and Pythagorean doctrine of the transmigration of souls (Plut., edition Xylander, ii. 998c; Clement of Alexandria, edition Potter, 539) or else of a revival of life (Philo i. 159). Cicero uses the word in his letters to Atticus (vi. 6) metaphorically of his return from exile, as a new lease of life granted to him. See Eschatology Of The New Testament , IX.

2. Second Biblical Sense (Spiritual):

This sense is undoubtedly included in the full Biblical conception of the former meaning, for it is unthinkable that a regeneration in the eschatological sense can exist without a spiritual regeneration of humanity or the individual. It is, however, quite evident that this latter conception has arisen rather late, from an analysis of the former meaning. It is found in  Titus 3:5 which, without absolute certainty as to its meaning, is generally interpreted in agreement with the numerous nouns and verbs which have given the dogmatical setting to the doctrine of regeneration in Christian theology. Clement of Alexandria is the first to differentiate this meaning from the former by the addition of the adjective πνευματική , pneumatikḗ , "spiritual" (compare anapsuxis ,  Acts 3:20; see Refreshing ). In this latter sense the word is typically Christian, though the Old Testament contains many adumbrations of the spiritual process expressed thereby.

II. The Biblical Doctrine of Regeneration.

1. In the Old Testament:

It is well known that in the earlier portions of the Old Testament, and to a certain degree all through the Old Testament, religion is looked at and spoken of more as a national possession, the benefits of which are largely visible and tangible blessings. The idea of regeneration here occurs therefore - though no technical expression has as yet been coined for the process - in the first meaning of the word elucidated above. Whether the divine promises refer to the Messianic end of times, or are to be realized at an earlier date, they all refer to the nation of Israel as such, and to individuals only as far as they are partakers in the benefits bestowed upon the commonwealth. This is even true where the blessings prophesied are only spiritual, as in  Isaiah 60:21 ,  Isaiah 60:22 . The mass of the people of Israel are therefore as yet scarcely aware of the fact that the conditions on which these divine promises are to be attained are more than ceremonial and ritual ones. Soon, however, great disasters, threatening to overthrow the national entity, and finally the captivity and dispersion which caused national functions to be almost, if not altogether, discontinued, assisted in the growth of a sense of individual or personal responsibility before God. The sin of Israel is recognized as the sin of the individual, which can be removed only by individual repentance and cleansing. This is best seen from the stirring appeals of the prophets of the exile, where frequently the necessity of a change of attitude toward Yahweh is preached as a means to such regeneration. This cannot be understood otherwise than as a turning of the individual to the Lord. Here, too, no ceremony or sacrifice is sufficient, but an interposition of divine grace, which is represented under the figure of a washing and sprinkling from all iniquity and sin ( Isaiah 1:18;  Jeremiah 13:23 ). It is not possible now to follow in full the development of this idea of cleansing, but already in  Isaiah 52:15 the sprinkling of many nations is mentioned and is soon understood in the sense of the "baptism" which proselytes had to undergo before their reception into the covenant of Israel. It was the symbol of a radical cleansing like that of a "new-born babe," which was one of the designations of the proselyte (compare   Psalm 87:5; see also the tractate Yebhāmōth 62a). Would it be surprising that Israel, which had been guilty of many sins of the Gentiles, needed a similar baptism and sprinkling? This is what  Ezekiel 36:25 suggests: "I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you." In other passages the cleansing and refining power of fire is alluded to (e.g.   Malachi 3:2 ), and there is no doubt that John the Baptist found in such passages the ground for his practice of baptizing the Jews who came to him ( John 1:25-28 and parallel's).

The turning of Israel to God was necessarily meant to be an inward change of attitude toward Him, in other words, the sprinkling with clean water, as an outward sign, was the emblem of a pure heart. It was Isaiah and Jeremiah who drew attention to this ( Isaiah 57:15;  Jeremiah 24:7;  Jeremiah 31:33-35;  Jeremiah 32:38-40 , et passim ). Here again reference is made to individuals, not only to the people in general ( Jeremiah 31:34 ). This promised regeneration, so lovingly offered by Yahweh, is to be the token of a new covenant between God and His people ( Jeremiah 31:31;  Ezekiel 11:19-21;  Ezekiel 18:31 ,  Ezekiel 18:32;  Ezekiel 37:23 ,  Ezekiel 37:24 ).

The renewing and cleansing here spoken of is in reality nothing else than what  Deuteronomy 30:6 had promised, a circumcision of the heart in contradistinction to the flesh, the token of the former (Abrahamic) covenant (of circumcision,   Jeremiah 4:4 ). As God takes the initiative in making the covenant, the conviction takes root that human sin and depravity can be effectually eliminated only by the act of God Himself renewing and transforming the heart of man ( Hosea 14:4 ). This we see from the testimony of some of Israel's best sons and daughters, who also knew that this grace was found in the way of repentance and humiliation before God. The classical expression of this conviction is found in the prayer of David: "Create in me a clean heart, [[O G]] od; and renew a right (margin "stedfast") spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy Spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with a willing spirit" ( Psalm 51:10-12 ). Jeremiah puts the following words into the mouth of Ephraim: "Turn thou me, and I shall be turned" ( Jeremiah 31:18 ). Clearer than any passages of the Old Testament, John the Baptist, forerunner of Christ and last flaming torch of the time of the earlier covenant, spoke of the baptism, not of water, but of the Holy Spirit and of fire ( Matthew 3:11;  Luke 3:16;  John 1:33 ), leading thus to the realization of Old Testament foreshadowings which became possible by faith in Christ.

2. In the Teaching of Jesus:

In the teaching of Jesus the need of regeneration has a prominent place, though nowhere are the reasons given. The Old Testament had succeeded - and even the Gentile conscience agreed with it - in convincing the people of this need. The clearest assertion of it and the explanation of the doctrine of regeneration is found in the conversation of Jesus with Nicodemus ( John 3 ). It is based upon (1) the observation that man, even the most punctilious in the observance of the Law, is dead and therefore unable to "live up" to the demands of God. Only He who gave life at the beginning can give the (spiritual) life necessary to do God's will. (2) Man has fallen from his virginal and divinely-appointed sphere, the realm of the spirit, the Kingdom of God, living now the perishing earthly life. Only by having a new spiritual nature imparted to him, by being "born anew" ( John 3:3 , the Revised Version margin "from above," Greek ἄνωθεν , ánōthen ), by being "born of the Spirit" ( John 3:6 ,  John 3:8 ), can he live the spiritual life which God requires of man.

These words are a New Testament exegesis of Ezekiel's vision of the dead bones ( Ezekiel 37:1-10 ). It is the "breath from Yahweh," the Spirit of God, who alone can give life to the spiritually dead.

But regeneration, according to Jesus, is more than life, it is also purify . As God is pure and sinless, none but the pure in heart can see God (  Matthew 5:8 ). This was always recognized as impossible to mere human endeavor. Bildad the Shuhite declared, and his friends, each in his turn, expressed very similar thoughts ( Job 4:17;  Job 14:4 ): "How then can man be just with God? Or how can he be clean that is born of a woman? Behold, even the moon hath no brightness, and the stars are not pure in his sight: how much less man, that is a worm! and the son of man, that is a worm!" ( Job 25:4-6 ).

To change this lost condition, to impart this new life, Jesus claims as His God-appointed task: "The Son of man came to seek and to save that which was lost" ( Luke 19:10 ); "I came that they may have life, and may have it abundantly" ( John 10:10 ). This life is eternal, imperishable: "I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand" ( John 10:28 ). This life is imparted by Jesus Himself: "It is the spirit that giveth life; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I have spoken unto you are spirit, and are life" ( John 6:63 ). This life can be received on the condition of faith in Christ or by coming to Him ( John 14:6 ). By faith power is received which enables the sinner to overcome sin, to "sin no more" ( John 8:11 ).

The parables of Jesus further illustrate this doctrine. The prodigal is declared to have been "dead" and to be "alive again" ( Luke 15:24 ). The new life from God is compared to a wedding garment in the parable of the Marriage of the King's Son ( Matthew 22:11 ). The garment, the gift of the inviting king, had been refused by the unhappy guest, who, in consequence, was 'cast out into the outer darkness' ( Matthew 22:13 ).

Finally, this regeneration, this new life, is explained as the knowledge of God and His Christ: "And this is life eternal, that they should know thee the only true God, and him whom thou didst send, even Jesus Christ" ( John 17:3 ). This seems to be an allusion to the passage in Hosea ( Hosea 4:6 ): "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me."

3. In Apostolic Teaching:

It may be said in general that the teaching of the apostles on the subject of regeneration is a development of the teaching of Jesus on the lines of the adumbrations of the Old Testament. Considering the differences in the personal character of these writers, it is remarkable that such concord of views should exist among them. Paul , indeed, lays more stress on the specific facts of justification and sanctification by faith than on the more comprehensive head of regeneration. Still the need of it is plainly stated by Paul. It is necessary to salvation for all men. "The body is dead because of sin" (  Romans 8:3-11;  Ephesians 2:1 ). The flesh is at enmity with God ( Ephesians 2:15 ); all mankind is "darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God" ( Ephesians 4:18 ). Similar passages might be multiplied. Paul then distinctly teaches that thus is a new life in store for those who have been spiritually dead. To the Ephesians he writes: "And you did he make alive, when ye were dead through your trespasses and sins" ( Ephesians 2:1 ), and later on: "God, being rich in mercy,... made us alive together with Christ" ( Ephesians 2:4 ,  Ephesians 2:5 ). A spiritual resurrection has taken place. This regeneration causes a complete revolution in man. He has thereby passed from under the law of sin and death and has come under "the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus" ( Romans 8:2 ). The change is so radical that it is possible now to speak of a "new creature" ( 2 Corinthians 5:17;  Galatians 6:15 , margin "new creation"), of a "new man, that after God hath been created in righteousness and holiness of truth" ( Ephesians 4:24 ), and of "the new man, that is being renewed unto knowledge after the image of him that created him" ( Colossians 3:10 ). All "old things are passed away; behold, they are become new" ( 2 Corinthians 5:17 ).

Paul is equally explicit regarding the author of this change. The "Spirit of God," the "Spirit of Christ" has been given from above to be the source of all new life ( Romans 8 ); by Him we are proved to be the "sons" of God ( Galatians 4:6 ); we have been adopted into the family of God (νἱοθεσία , huiothesı́a ,  Romans 8:15;  Galatians 4:5 ). Thus Paul speaks of the "second Adam," by whom the life of righteousness is initiated in us; just as the "first Adam" became the leader in transgression, He is "a life-giving spirit" ( 1 Corinthians 15:45 ). Paul himself experienced this change, and henceforth exhibited the powers of the unseen world in his life of service. "It is no longer I that live," he exclaims, "but Christ liveth in me: and that life which I now live in the flesh I live in faith, the faith which is in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself up for me" ( Galatians 2:20 ).

Regeneration is to Paul, no less than to Jesus, connected with the conception of purity and knowledge. We have already noted the second New Testament passage in which the word "regeneration" occurs ( Titus 3:5 ): "According to his mercy he saved us, through the washing (margin "laver") of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, which he poured out upon us richly, through Jesus Christ our Saviour." In  1 Corinthians 12:13 such cleansing is called the baptism of the Spirit in agreement with the oft-repeated promise (  Joel 2:28 (in the Hebrew text   Joel 3:1 );  Matthew 3:11;  Mark 1:8;  Luke 3:16;  Acts 1:5;  Acts 11:16 ). There is, of course, in these passages no reference to mere water baptism, any more than in  Ezekiel 36:25 . Water is but the tertium comparationis . As water cleanseth the outer body, so the spirit purifies the inner man (compare  1 Corinthians 6:11;  1 Peter 3:21 ).

The doctrine that regeneration redounds in true knowledge of Christ is seen from  Ephesians 3:15-19 and   Ephesians 4:17-24 , where the darkened understanding and ignorance of natural man are placed in contradistinction to the enlightenment of the new life (see also  Colossians 3:10 ). The church redeemed and regenerated is to be a special "possession," an "heritage" of the Lord ( Ephesians 1:11 ,  Ephesians 1:14 ), and the whole creation is to participate in the final redemption and adoption ( Romans 8:21-23 ).

James finds less occasion to touch this subject than the other writers of the New Testament. His Epistle is rather ethical than dogmatical in tone, still his ethics are based on the dogmatical presuppositions which fully agree with the teaching of other apostles. Faith to him is the human response to God's desire to impart His nature to mankind, and therefore the indispensable means to be employed in securing the full benefits of the new life, i.e. the sin-conquering power (  James 1:2-4 ), the spiritual enlightenment ( James 1:5 ) and purity ( James 1:27 ). There seems, however, to be little doubt that James directly refers to regeneration in the words: "Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures" ( James 1:18 ). It is supposed by some that these words, being addressed "to the twelve tribes which are of the Dispersion" ( James 1:1 ), do not refer to individual regeneration, but to an election of Israel as a nation and so to a Christian Israel. In this case the aftermath would be the redemption of the Gentiles. I understand the expression "first-fruits" in the sense in which we have noticed Paul's final hope in  Romans 8:21-32 , where the regeneration of the believing people of God (regardless of nationality) is the first stage in the regeneration or restoration of all creation. The "implanted (the Revised Version margin "inborn") word" ( James 1:21; compare  1 Peter 1:23 ) stands parallel to the Pauline expression, "law of the Spirit" ( Romans 8:2 ).

Peter uses, in his sermon on the day of Pentecost, the words "refreshing" (  Acts 3:19 ) and "restoration of all things" ( Acts 3:21 ) of the final completion of God's plans concerning the whole creation, and accordingly looks here at God's people as a whole. In a similar sense he says in his Second Epistle, after mentioning "the day of God": "We look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness" ( 2 Peter 3:13 ). Still he alludes very plainly to the regeneration of individuals ( 1 Peter 1:3 ,  1 Peter 1:13 ). The idea of a second birth of the believers is clearly suggested in the expression, "newborn babes" ( 1 Peter 2:2 ), and in the explicit statement of  1 Peter 1:23 : "having been begotten again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, through the word of God, which liveth and abideth." It is in this sense that the apostle calls God "Father" (  1 Peter 1:17 ) and the believers "children of obedience" ( 1 Peter 1:14 ), i.e. obedient children, or children who ought to obey. We have seen above that the agent by which regeneration is wrought, the incorruptible seed of the word of God, finds a parallel in Paul's and James's theology. All these expressions go back probably to a word of the Master in  John 15:3 . We are made partakers of the word by having received the spirit. This spirit (compare the Pauline "lifegiving spirit,"  1 Corinthians 15:45 ), the "mind" of Christ ( 1 Peter 4:1 ), is the power of the resurrected Christ active in the life of the believer. Peter refers to the same thought in  1 Peter 3:15 ,  1 Peter 3:21 . By regeneration we become "an elect race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession" in whom divine virtues, "the excellencies of him who called you" ( 1 Peter 2:9 ), are manifested. Here the apostle uses well-known Old Testament expressions foreshadowing New Testament graces ( Isaiah 61:6;  Isaiah 66:21;  Exodus 19:6;  Deuteronomy 7:6 ), but he individualizes the process of regeneration in full agreement with the increased light which the teaching of Jesus has brought. The theology of Peter also points out the contact of regeneration with purity and holiness ( 1 Peter 1:15 ,  1 Peter 1:16 ) and true knowledge ( 1 Peter 1:14 ) or obedience ( 1 Peter 1:14;  1 Peter 3:16 ). It is not surprising that the idea of purity should invite the Old Testament parallel of "cleansing by water." The flood washed away the iniquity of the world "in the days of Noah," when "eight souls were saved through water: which also after a true likeness (the Revised Version margin "in the antitype") doth now save you, even baptism, not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the interrogation (the Revised Version margin "inquiry," "appeal") of a good conscience toward God, through the resurrection (-life) of Jesus Christ" ( 1 Peter 3:20 ,  1 Peter 3:21 ).

The teaching of John is very closely allied with that of Jesus, as we have already seen from the multitude of quotations we had to select from John's Gospel to illustrate the teaching of the Master. It is especially interesting to note the cases where the apostle didactically elucidates certain of these pronouncements of Jesus. The most remarkable apostolic gloss or commentary on the subject is found in   John 7:39 . Jesus had spoken of the change which faith in Him ("coming to him") would cause in the lives of His disciples; how divine energies like "rivers of water" should issue forth from them; and the evangelist continues in explanation: "But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believed on him were to receive: for the Spirit was not yet given; because Jesus was not yet glorified." This recognition of a special manifestation of divine power, transcending the experience of Old Testament believers, was based on the declaration of Christ, that He would send "another Comforter (the Revised Version (British and American) "advocate," "helper," Greek Paraclete ), that he may be with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth" ( John 14:16 ,  John 14:17 ).

In his Epistles, John shows that this Spirit bestows the elements of a Godlike character which makes us to be "sons of God," who before were "children of the devil" ( 1 John 3:10 ,  1 John 3:24;  1 John 4:13 , etc.). This regeneration is "eternal life" ( 1 John 5:13 ) and moral similarity with God, the very character of God in man. As "God is love," the children of God will love ( 1 John 5:2 ). At the same time it is the life of God in man, also called fellowship with Christ, victorious life which overcomes the world ( 1 John 5:4 ); it is purity ( 1 John 3:3-6 ) and knowledge ( 1 John 2:20 ).

The subject of regeneration lies outside of the scope of the Epistle to the Hebrews , so that we look in vain for a clear dogmatical statement of it. Still the epistle does in no place contradict the dogma, which, on the other hand, underlies many of the statements made. Christ, "the mediator of a better covenant, which hath been enacted upon better promises" (  John 8:6 ), has made "purification of sins" ( John 1:3 ). In contradistinction to the first covenant, in which the people approached God by means of outward forms and ordinances, the "new covenant" ( John 8:13 ) brought an "eternal redemption" ( John 9:12 ) by means of a divine cleansing ( John 9:14 ). Christ brings "many sons unto glory" and is "author of their salvation" ( John 2:10 ). Immature Christians are spoken of (as were the proselytes of the Old Testament) as babies, who were to grow to the stature, character and knowledge of "full-grown men" ( John 5:13 ,  John 5:14 ).

III. Later Development of the Doctrine.

Very soon the high spiritual meaning of regeneration was obscured by the development of priestcraft within the Christian church. When the initiation into the church was thought of as accomplished by the mediation of ministers thereto appointed, the ceremonies hereby employed became means to which magic powers were of necessity ascribed. This we see plainly in the view of baptismal regeneration, which, based upon half-understood passages of Scripture quoted above, was taught at an early date. While in the post-apostolic days we frequently find traces of a proper appreciation of an underlying spiritual value in baptism (compare Didache vii) many of the expressions used are highly misleading. Thus Gregory Nazianzen ( Orations , xi. 2) calls baptism the second of the three births a child of God must experience (the first is the natural birth, the third the resurrection). This birth is "of the day, free, delivering from passions, taking away every veil of our nature or birth, i.e. everything hiding the divine image in which we are created, and leading up to the life above" (Ullmann, Gregor v. Nazienz , 323). Cyril of Jerusalem (Cat., xvii, c. 37) ascribes to baptism the power of absolution from sin and the power of endowment with heavenly virtues. According to Augustine baptism is essential to salvation, though the baptism of blood (martyrdom) may take the place of water baptism, as in the case of the thief at the cross (Augustine, De Anima et Eius Origine , i. 11, c. 9; ii. 14, c. 10; ii. 16, c. 12). Leo the Great compares the spirit-filled water of baptism with the spirit-filled womb of the virgin Mary, in which the Holy Spirit engenders a sinless child of God (Serm. xxiv. 3; xxv. 5; see Hagenbach, Dogmengeschichte , section 137).

In general this is still the opinion of pronounced sacrmentarians, while evangelical Christianity has gone back to the teaching of the New Testament.

IV. Present Significance.

Although a clear distinction is not always maintained between regeneration and other experiences of the spiritual life, we may summarize our belief in the following theses:

(1) Regeneration implies not merely an addition of certain gifts or graces, a strengthening of certain innate good qualities, but a radical change, which revolutionizes our whole being, contradicts and overcomes our old fallen nature, and places our spiritual center of gravity wholly outside of our own powers in the realm of God's causation.

(2) It is the will of God that all men be made partakers of this new life ( 1 Timothy 2:4 ) and, as it is clearly stated that some fall short of it ( John 5:40 ), it is plain that the fault thereof lies with man. God requires all men to repent and turn unto Him ( Acts 17:30 ) before He will or can effect regeneration. Conversion, consisting in repentance and faith in Christ, is therefore the human response to the offer of salvation which God makes. This response gives occasion to and is synchronous with the divine act of renewal (regeneration). The Spirit of God enters into union with the believing, accepting spirit of man. This is fellowship with Christ ( Romans 8:10;  1 Corinthians 6:17;  2 Corinthians 5:17;  Colossians 3:3 ).

(3) The process of regeneration is outside of our observation and beyond the scope of psychological analysis. It takes place in the sphere of subconsciousness. Recent psychological investigations have thrown a flood of light on the psychic states which precede, accompany and follow the work of the Holy Spirit. "He handles psychical powers; He works upon psychical energies and states; and this work of regeneration lies somewhere within the psychical field." The study of religious psychology is of highest value and greatest importance. The facts of Christian experience cannot be changed, nor do they lose in value by the most searching psychological scrutiny.

Psychological analysis does not eliminate the direct workings of the Holy Spirit. Nor can it disclose its process; the "underlying laboratory where are wrought radical remedial processes and structural changes in the psychical being as portrayed in explicit scriptural utterances: 'Create in me a clean heart' ( Psalm 51:10 ); 'Ye must be born again' ( John 3:7 the King James Version); 'If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold all things are become new' (  2 Corinthians 5:17 the King James Version), is in the region of subconsciousness. To look in the region of consciousness for this Person or for His work is fruitless and an effort fraught with endless confusion. Christian psychology thus traces to its deep-lying retreat the divine elaboration of the regenerated life. Here God works in the depths of the soul as silently and securely as if on the remotest world of the stellar universe" (H. E. Warner, Psychology of the Christian Life , 117).

(4) Regeneration manifests itself in the conscious soul by its effects on the will, the intelligence and the affections. At the same time regeneration supplies a new life-power of divine origin, which enables the component parts of human nature to fulfill the law of God, to strive for the coming of God's kingdom, and to accept the teachings of God's spirit. Thus regenerate man is made conscious of the facts of justification and adoption. The former is a judicial act of God, which frees man from the law of sin and absolves him from the state of enmity against God; the latter an enduement with the Spirit, which is an earnest of his inheritance ( Ephesians 1:14 ). The Spirit of God, dwelling in man, witnesses to the state of sonship ( Romans 8:2 ,  Romans 8:15 ,  Romans 8:16;  Galatians 4:6 ).

(5) Regeneration, being a new birth, is the starting-point of spiritual growth. The regenerated man needs nurture and training. He receives it not merely from outside experiences, but from an immanent power in himself, which is recognized as the power of the life of the indwelling Christ ( Colossians 1:26 ,  Colossians 1:27 ). Apart from the mediate dealings of God with man through word and sacraments, there is therefore an immediate communication of life from God to the regenerate.

(6) The truth which is mentioned as the agent by whom regeneration is made possible ( John 8:32;  James 1:18;  1 Peter 1:23 ), is nothing else than the Divine Spirit, not only the spoken or written word of God, which may convince people of right or wrong, but which cannot enable the will of man to forsake the wrong and to do the right, but He who calls Himself the Truth ( John 14:6 ) and who has become the motive power of regenerated life ( Galatians 2:20 ).

(7) Recent philosophy expressive of the reaction from the mechanical view of bare materialism, and also from the depreciation of personality as seen in socialism, has again brought into prominence the reality and need of personal life. Johannes Muller and Rudolf Eucken among others emphasize that a new life of the spirit, independent of outward conditions, is not only possible, but necessary for the attainment of the highest development. This new life is not a fruit of the free play of the tendencies and powers of natural life, but is in sharp conflict with them. Man as he is by nature stands in direct contrast to the demands of the spiritual life. Spiritual life, as Professor Eucken says, can be implanted in man by some superior power only and must constantly be sustained by superior life. It breaks through the order of causes and effects; it severs the continuity of the outer world; it makes impossible a rational joining together of realities; it prohibits a monastic view of the immediate condition of the world. This new life derives its power not from mere Nature; it is a manifestation of divine life within us ( Hauptprobleme der Religionsphilosophie , Leipzig, 1912,17 ff; Der Kampf um einen geistigen Lebensinhalt , Leipzig, 1907; Grundlinien einer neuen Lebensanschauung , Leipzig, 1907; Johannes Muller, Bausteine fur personliche Kultur , 3 volumes, Munchen, 1908). Thus the latest development of idealistic philosophy corroborates in a remarkable way the Christian truth of regeneration. See also Conversion .


New Testament Theologies by Weiss, Beyschlag, Holtzmann, Schlatter, Feine, Stevens, Sheldon, Weinel. Textbooks on Systematic Theology: articles "Bekehrung" by R. Seeberg; "Wiedergeburt" by O. Kirn in Hauck-Herzog RE3  ; "Regeneration" by J. V. Bartlett in Hdb  ; "Conversion" by J. Strachan in Ere  ; George Jackson, The Fact of Conversion , London, 1908; Newton H. Marshall, Conversion; or, the New Birth , London, 1909; J. Herzog, Der Begriff der Bekehrung , Giessen, 1903; P. Feine, Bekehrung im New Testament und in der Gegenwart , Leipzig, 1908; P. Gennrich, Die Lehre yon der Wiedergeburt , Leipzig, 1907. Psychological: W. James, Varieties of Religious Experience , 189-258; G. Stanley Hall, Adolescence , II, 281-362; G. A. Coe, The Spiritual Life , New York, 1900; E. D. Starbuck, Psychology of Religion , New York, 1911; G. B. Cutten, Psychological Phenomena of Christianity , London, 1909; H. E. Warner, The Psychology of the Christian Life , New York, 1910; H. W. Clark, The Philosophy of Christian Experience , London, 1906; Harold Begbie, Broken Earthenware, or Twice-Born Men , London, 1909; M. Scott Fletcher, The Psychology of the New Testament , London, 1912.

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [17]

( Παλιγγενεσία ,  Titus 3:5, A Being Born Again ) , that work of the Holy Spirit by. which we experience a change of heart. It is expressed in Scripture by being born anew ( John 3:7, "from above"); being quickened ( Ephesians 2:1); by Christ being found in the heart ( Galatians 4:19); a new creation ( 2 Corinthians 5:17); a renewing of the mind ( Romans 12:2); the washing, i.e. the Purifing of regeneration ( Titus 3:5); a resurrection from the dead ( Ephesians 2:6); a putting off the old man, and a putting on the new man ( Ephesians 4:22-24). And the subjects of this change are represented as begotten of God ( John 1:13;  1 Peter 1:3); begotten of the Spirit ( John 3:8); begotten of water, even of the Spirit ( John 3:5); new creatures ( Galatians 6:15); and partakers of the divine nature ( 2 Peter 1:4). The efficient cause of regeneration is the divine spirit. Man is not the author of the regeneration ( John 1:12-13;  John 3:4;  Ephesians 2:8;  Ephesians 2:10); the instrumental cause is the word of God ( James 1:18;  1 Peter 1:23;  1 Corinthians 4:15).

The change in regeneration consists in the recovery of the moral image of God upon the heart; that is, so as to love him supremely and serve him ultimately as our highest end. Regeneration consists in the implantation of the .principle of love to God, which obtains the ascendency and habitually prevails over its opposite. Although the inspired writers use various terms and modes of speech to describe this change of mind, styling it conversion, regeneration, a new creation, etc., yet it is all effected by the word of truth or the Gospel of salvation gaining an entrance into the mind through divine teaching, so as to possess the understanding, subdue the will, and reign in the affections. In a word, it is faith working by love that constitutes the new creature or regenerate man ( Galatians 5:6;  1 John 5:1-5). Regeneration, then, is the recovery of the moral image of God, and consequently of spiritual life, to a soul previously dead in trespasses and sins. It is the work of the Holy Spirit, opening the eyes of the mind, and enabling the sincere penitent to believe the Gospel and receive Christ as his only Saviour. This gracious work is in accordance both with the character of the Holy Spirit and with the constitution of man; hence, by it no violence is done to any physical, intellectual, or moral law or mode of action in human nature. The change is produced in the will, or heart, that is, in the Moral, and not the natural, faculties of the soul. As depravity is wholly in the will and heart, the source and seat of all moral action, the divine operation consists in renewing the heart, and communicating a change of views, with a relish for the things of the Spirit. As justification places us in a new relation to God, so regeneration produces in us a new state of mind. In the case of children dying in infancy, they, of course, need regeneration to fit them for the eternal world. And there can be no difficulty in conceiving that they are regenerated by the Holy Spirit, in virtue of Christ's death, in the same sense in which they are depraved, in consequence of Adam's transgression; the disposition to sin is removed, the disposition to holiness is implanted, and thus their salvation is secured. The evidences of regeneration are conviction of sin, holy sorrow, deep humility, knowledge, faith, repentance, love, and devotedness to God's glory. The properties of it are these:

1. It is a receptive work, and herein it differs from conversion. In regeneration we receive from God; in conversion we are active and turn to him.

2. It is a powerful work of God's grace ( Ephesians 3:8).

3. It is an instantaneous act, for there can be no medium between life and death; and here it differs from sanctification, which is progressive.

4. It is a complete act, and perfect in its kind; a change of the whole man ( 2 Corinthians 5:17).

5. It is a great and important act, both as to its author and effects ( Ephesians 2:4-5).

6. It is an internal act, not consisting in bare, outward forms ( Ezekiel 36:26-27).

7. Visible as to its effects ( 1 John 3:14).

8. Delightful ( 1 Peter 1:8).

9. Necessary ( John 3:3). (See Conversion); (See New Birth). Our Lord in one instance ( Matthew 19:28) uses the term Regeneration for the resurrection state. Accordingly, Dr. Campbell translates it "the renovation," and remarks that the relation is here to the general state of things in the future world, where all things will become new. (See New Creation); (See Restitution).