ATS Bible DictionaryRegeneration
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 1 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 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.
International Standard Bible EncyclopediaBAPTISMAL REGENERATION
bap-tiz'-mal re-jen-er-a'-shun: As indicated in the general articles on BAPTISM and SACRAMENTS, the doctrine ordinarily held by Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Baptists, Methodists, and also by Low-Church Episcopalians, differs from that of the Roman and Greek churches, and of High-Church Anglicans, in its rejection of the idea that baptism is the instrumental cause of regeneration, and that the grace of regeneration is effectually conveyed through the administration of that rite wherever duly performed. The teaching of Scripture on this subject is held to be that salvation is immediately dependent on faith, which, as a fruit of the operation of the Spirit of God in the soul, already, in its reception of Christ, implies the regenerating action of that Spirit, and is itself one evidence of it. To faith in Christ is attached the promise of forgiveness, and of all other blessings. Baptism is administered to those who already possess (at least profess) this faith, and symbolizes the dying to sin and rising to righteousness implicit in the act of faith (Romans 6). It is the symbol of a cleansing from sin and renewal by God's Spirit, but not the agency effecting that renewal, even instrumentally. Baptism is not, indeed, to be regarded as a bare symbol. It may be expected that its believing reception will be accompanied by fresh measures of grace, strengthening and fitting for the new life. This, however, as the life is already there, has nothing to do with the idea of baptism as an opus operatum, working a spiritual change in virtue of its mere administration. In Scripture the agency with which regeneration is specially connected is the Divine "word" (compare 1 Peter 1:23). Without living faith, in those capable of its exercise, the outward rite can avail nothing. The supposed "regeneration" may be received-in multitudes of instances is received-without the least apparent change in heart or life.
The above, naturally, applies to adults; the case of children, born and growing up within the Christian community, is on a different footing. Those who recognize the right of such to baptism hold that in the normal Christian development children of believing parents should be the subjects of Divine grace from the commencement (Ephesians 6:4); they therefore properly receive the initiatory rite of the Christian church. The faith of the parent, in presenting his child for baptism, lays hold on God's promise to be a God to him and to his children; and he is entitled to hope for that which baptism pledges to him. But this, again, has no relation to the idea of regeneration through baptism.
ANGLICAN (HIGH-CHURCH) DOCTRINE
Regeneration, the initial gift of life in Christ, is, in the church's normal system, associated with the sacrament of baptism. The basis for this teaching and practice of the church is found primarily in our Lord's discourse to Nicodemus (John 3:1-8) wherein the new birth is associated not only with the quickening Spirit but with the element of water. The Saviour's words, literally translated, are as follows: "Except one be born (out) of water and Spirit (ex hudatos kai pneumatos gennaomai), he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." (That it is the impersonal aspect of the Divine Spirit, i.e. as equivalent to "spiritual life" which is here presented, is indicated by the absence of the article in the Greek of John 3:5.) Entrance into the kingdom of God implies entrance into the church as the outward and visible embodiment of that kingdom. our Lord, in the passage above cited, does not limit the possibility or the need of "new birth" to those who have arrived at adult age, or "years of discretion," but uses the general pronoun tis, "anyone." The Anglican church does not, however, teach that baptism is unconditionally necessary, but only that it is "generally" necessary to salvation (compare the language of the Church Catechism with the qualification mentioned in the Prayer-Book "Office for the Baptism of Those of Riper Years," "Whereby ye may perceive the great necessity of this Sacrament, where it may be had"). It is not taught that the grace of God is absolutely or unconditionally bound to the external means, but only that these sacramental agencies are the ordinary and normal channels of Divine grace.
The typical form of baptism is that appropriate to the initiation of adults into the Christian body. Justin Martyr in his First Apology (chapter lxi) no doubt testifies to what was the general view of Christians in the 2nd century (circa 150 A.D.): "As many as are persuaded and believe that the things taught and said by us are true, and, moreover, take upon them to live accordingly, are taught to pray and ask of God with fasting for forgiveness of their former sins;. and then they are brought to a place of water, and there regenerated after the same manner with ourselves; for they are washed in the name of God, the Father and Lord of the universe, and of our Saviour Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit." For the due administration of this sacrament, personal faith and repentance on the part of the candidate are prerequisite conditions. However, "the baptism of young children" (i.e. of infants) "is in any wise to be retained in the Church, as most agreeable to the institution of Christ" (XXXIX Articles, Art. XXVII, sub fin.). In the service "For the Baptism of Infants," repentance and faith are promised for the children by their "sureties" (ordinarily known as "sponsors" or "godparents"), "which promise, when they come to age (the children) themselves are bound to perform."
The person, whether adult or infant, receives in his baptism a real forgiveness; a washing away of all sins, whether original or actual. He also receives, at least in germ, the beginnings of new life in Christ; which life, however, must be developed and brought to perfection through his personal cooperation with the grace of God. But regeneration, as such, is not conversion; it is not even faith or love, strictly speaking. These latter, while they are conditions, or effects, or evidences of regeneration, are not regeneration itself, which is purely the work of God, operating by His creative power, through the Holy Ghost. The moral test of the existence of spiritual life is the presence in heart and conduct of the love of God and of obedience to His commandments (see 1 John passim).
It may be added that the bestowment of the gifts of spiritual strength-of the manifold graces and of the fullness of the Holy Spirit-is primarily associated with the laying on of hands (confirmation) rather than with baptism proper; the rite of confirmation was, however, originally connected with the baptismal service, as an adjunct to it. The newly-made Christian is not to rest content with the initial gift of life; he is bound to strive forward unto perfection. Confirmation is, in a sense, the completion of baptism. "The doctrine of laying on of hands" is accordingly connected with "the doctrine of baptisms," and both are reckoned by the author of the Epistle to the He as among "the first principles of Christ" (Hebrews 6:1, 2 the King James Version).
For the Anglican doctrine on the subject of regeneration in baptism the following authorities may be consulted: Hooker, Ecclesiastical Polity, V, lix, lx; Waterland, The Doct. Use of Christian Sacraments; Regeneration; Wall, Infant Baptism; R. I. Wilberforce, The Doctrine of Holy Baptism; Darwell Stone, Holy Baptism, in "The Oxford Library of Practical Theology"; A. J. Mason, The Faith of the Gospel. For patristic teaching on this subject, compare Tertullian, De Baptismo.
William Samuel Bishop
1. Definition of Terms:
Regeneration is here taken in its strict meaning to denote that internal spiritual change, not of the substance, but of the qualities, of the intellect and will of natural man, by which blindness, darkness in regard to spiritual matters, especially the gospel, is removed from the former, and spiritual bondage, impotency, death from the latter (2 Corinthians 3:5 Acts 26:18 Philippians 2:13), and the heart of the sinner is made to savingly know and appropriate the Lord Jesus Christ and the merits of His of atoning sacrifice, as its only hope for a God-pleasing life here in time and a life in glory hereafter. Regeneration in the strict sense signifies the first spiritual movements and impulses in man, the beginning of his thinking Divine thoughts, cherishing holy desires and willing God-like volitions. But it does not signify the radical extinction of sin in man; for evil concupiscence remains also in the regenerate as a hostile element to the new life (Romans 7:23-25 Galatians 5:16, 17). Peccatum tollitur in baptismo, non ut non sit, sed ut non obsit-Augustine. "Sin is removed in baptism, not that it may not be, but that it may not hurt." Reduced to its lowest terms, regeneration in the strict sense may be defined as the kindling saving faith in the heart of the sinner; for according to 1 John 5:1, "whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is begotten of God." Such terms as new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17 Galatians 6:15 margin), spiritual quickening, or vivification (Ephesians 2:5 Romans 6:11), spiritual resurrection (Ephesians 2:6 Colossians 3:1), are true synonyms of regeneration in the strict sense. In the point of time justification coincides with regeneration in the strict sense; for it is by faith, too, that the sinner is justified. But these two spiritual events must not be confounded; for justification affects, not the internal conditions of the sinner's heart, but his legal standing with God the righteous Judge. Regeneration is called baptismal regeneration in so far as it occurs in the event and as an effect of the application of the Christian baptism.
SeeBAPTISM (I), I, 6.
2. Scriptural Basis of This Doctrine:
The two leading texts of Scripture which declare in plain terms that baptism is a means for effecting regeneration in the strict sense are John 3:5 and Titus 3:5. But this doctrine is implied in Acts 2:38 Ephesians 5:26 Galatians 3:27 1 Peter 3:21. In John 3:7 it is immaterial whether anothen gennethenai is rendered "to be born from above" or "to be born a second time." For the second birth is never of the flesh (John 1:13; John 3:4, 5); hence, is always of divine origin, "from above." It is ascribed to the agency of the entire Trinity: the Father (James 1:18 1 Peter 1:3); the Son (John 1:12); and the Spirit (Titus 3:5). But by appropriation it is generally attributed to the Spirit alone, whose particular function is that of Quickener (see Cremer, Bibl.-theol. Worterb., 9th edition, under the word "pneuma," 894). Baptism is an instrument by which the Holy Spirit effects regeneration. "Water and the Spirit" (John 3:5) is a paraphrastic description of baptism: "water," inasmuch as the man is baptized therewith (1 John 5:7, 8 Ephesians 5:26) for the forgiveness of sin (Acts 2:33; Acts 22:16 1 Corinthians 6:11), and "Spirit," inasmuch as the Holy Ghost is given to the person baptized in order to his spiritual renewal and sanctification; "both together-the former as causa medians, the latter as causa efficiens-constitute the objective and causative element out of which (compare John 1:13) the birth from above is produced (ek)" (Meyer). In Titus 3:5 "the expression to loutrou palingenesias, literally, `bath of regeneration,' has been very arbitrarily interpreted by some expositors, some taking loutron as a figurative name for the regeneration itself, or for the praedicario evangelii, `preaching of the gospel' or for the Holy Spirit, or for the abundant imparting of the Spirit. From Ephesians 5:26 it is clear that it can mean nothing else than baptism; compare too, Hebrews 10:22 1 Corinthians 6:11; Acts 22:16." Of this laver of regeneration Paul says that through it (dia), i.e. by its instrumentality, men are saved. Meyer is right when, correcting a former view of his, he states: "According to the context, Paul calls baptism the bath of the new birth, not meaning that it pledges us to the new birth (`to complete the process of moral purification, of expiation and sanctification,' Matthies), nor that it is a visible image of the new birth (Wette), for neither in the one sense nor in the other could it be regarded as a means of saving. Paul uses that name for it as the bath by means of which God actually brings about the new birth." The application of baptism and the operation of the Spirit must be viewed as one undivided action. Thus the offense of Spurgeon, Weiss and others at "regeneration by water-baptism" can be removed.
3. Faith in Baptism:
Baptism does not produce salutary effects ex opere operato, i.e. by the mere external performance of the baptismal action. No instrument with which Divine grace works does. Even the preaching of the gospel is void of saving results if not "mixed with faith" (Hebrews 4:2 the King James Version). Luther correctly describes the working of baptism thus: "How can water do such great things? It is not the water indeed that does them, but the Word of God which is in and with the water (God's giving hand), and faith which trusts such word of God in the water (man's receiving hand)." But this faith, which is required for a salutary use of the gospel and baptism, is wrought by these as instruments which the Holy Spirit employs to produce faith; not by imparting to them a magical power but by uniting His Divine power with them (Romans 10:17 2 Corinthians 4:6 Ephesians 5:26).
4. Infants and Adults:
The comprehensive statements in John 3:6 Ephesians 2:3 ("by nature") show that infants are in need of being regenerated, and Matthew 18:3, 6, that they are capable of faith. It is not more difficult for the Holy Spirit to work faith in infants by baptism, than in adults by the preaching of the gospel. And infant faith, though it may baffle our attempts at exact definition, is nevertheless honored in Scripture with the word which denotes genuine faith, pisteuein, i.e. trustfully relying on Christ (Matthew 18:6; compare 2 Timothy 3:15; 2 Timothy 1:5). In the case of adults who have received faith through hearing and reading the gospel (James 1:18 1 Peter 1:23 1 Corinthians 4:15), baptism is still "the washing of regeneration," because it is a seal to them of the righteousness which these people have previously obtained by believing the gospel (Romans 4:11-13 Galatians 3:7); and it reminds them of, and enables them to discharge, their daily duty of putting away the old and putting on the new man (Ephesians 4:22, 24), just as the Word is still the regenerating word of truth (James 1:18) though it be preached to persons who are regenerated a long time ago. Accordingly, Luther rightly extends the regenerating and renewing influences of baptism throughout the life of a Christian, when he says "Baptizing with water signifies that the old Adam in us should, by daily contrition and repentance, be drowned and die, with all sins and evil lusts; and, again, a new man should come forth and arise, who shall live before God in righteousness and purity forever" (Smaller Catechism).
W. H. T. Dau
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 palingenesia, occurring twice in the New Testament (Matthew 19:28 Titus 3:5). The word is usually written paliggenesia, 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 apokatastasis panton, "restoration of all things" (Acts 3:21; the verb is found in Matthew 17:11, apokatastsei panta, "shall restore all things"), and anapsuxis, "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 anaktesis kai paliggenesia tes patridos, "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 pneumatike, "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, 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 Yebhamoth 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; 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, 32; 37:23, 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 God; 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 anothen), by being "born of the Spirit" (John 3:6, 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 purity. 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 (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" (2:1), and later on: "God, being rich in mercy,.... made us alive together with Christ" (2:4, 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 (huiothesia, 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 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 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, 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 (1:2-4), the spiritual enlightenment (1:5) and purity (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" (1:18). It is supposed by some that these words, being addressed "to the twelve tribes which are of the Dispersion" (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, 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, 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, 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, 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 Parakletos), that he may be with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth" (John 14:16, 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, 24; 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" (8:6), has made "purification of sins" (1:3). In contradistinction to the first covenant, in which the people approached God by means of outward forms and ordinances, the "new covenant" (8:13) brought an "eternal redemption" (9:12) by means of a divine cleansing (9:14). Christ brings "many sons unto glory" and is "author of their salvation" (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" (5:13, 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. xxiv0.3; xxv0.5; 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.
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See BAPTISMAL REGENERATION.
Easton's Bible Dictionary
Only found in Matthew 19:28
and Titus 3:5
. This word literally means a "new birth." The Greek word so rendered (5. This word literally means a "new birth." The Greek word so rendered (palingenesia) is used by classical writers with reference to the changes produced by the return of spring. In Matthew 19:28
the word is equivalent to the "restitution of all things" (Acts 3:21
). In Titus 3:5
it denotes that change of heart elsewhere spoken of as a passing from death to life (5 it denotes that change of heart elsewhere spoken of as a passing from death to life (1 John 3:14
); becoming a new creature in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17
); being born again (John 3:5
); a renewal of the mind (Romans 12:2
); a resurrection from the dead (Ephesians 2:6
); a being quickened (2:1
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 Revised Unabridged Dictionary
) The act of regenerating, or the state of being regenerated.
2. (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.
3. (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.
4. (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.
5. (n.) The union of parts which have been severed, so that they become anatomically perfect; as, the regeneration of a nerve.