The Holy Spirit re-creates the person by giving them a new heart and making them a new creature whose affections are now inclined toward God instead toward self.
“He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit,”(Titus 3:5)
In his letter to Titus, Paul gives him instruction on the doctrine of Regeneration. He explains that believers are regenerated and renewed by the power of the Holy Spirit. We can best understand regeneration as a spiritual renewal of the person. Another term for regeneration is “born-again” or rebirth, as described in the following definition: “Regeneration is the inner cleansing and renewal of the human nature by the Holy Spirit. Mankind’s spiritual condition is transformed from disposition of sin to one of a new relationship with God. Regeneration involves both moral restoration and the reception of new life. The idea of regeneration is expressed as rebirth, being born again. This new birth suggests the newness of life in Christ. The process of regeneration is not brought about by human righteousness but by the gracious act of God.”
The regeneration of the unbeliever is the process where a person who is spiritually dead is re-created by the life giving power of the Holy Spirit and he now has a new relationship with God. The Holy Spirit re-creates the person by giving them a new heart and making them a new creature whose affections are now inclined toward God instead toward self. Now that they have a new heart, their life is orientated toward the will of God. The nature of the soul is changed because it is now made holy by the work of the Holy Spirit. Noted theologian Louis Berkhof explains this in his definition of regeneration: “The act of God by which the principle of the new life is implanted in man, and the ruling character of the soul is made holy. It is a fundamental change in the principle of life and nature of the soul, and therefore affects the whole person.”
Regeneration is associated with other verses in scripture from both the Old and New Testaments. In the opening text (Titus 3:5), Paul teaches that regeneration includes the washing and renewal of the person by the Holy Spirit. This verse is connected to the teaching of Jesus in John 3:5, “Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of the water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” In Old Testament texts the word water is commonly used as a figurative term for cleansing. Jesus is here indicating that the rebirth includes a spiritual cleansing by the Holy Spirit. The regeneration of believers was prophesized in the Old Testament book of Ezekiel concerning the future New Covenant, “Then I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within them, and take the stony heart out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh,” (Ezek. 11:19).
Points to consider regarding regeneration:
- Regeneration is solely the work of God.
- The Holy Spirit is the agent of regeneration.
- Scripture describes regeneration with three illustrations; new birth, spiritual resurrection, and re-creation.
- It is an instantaneous event.
- It is not observable as it is a mysterious process of God.
- It is not the same as conversion. Conversion is the human response to the gospel invitation, while regeneration is God’s action of renewal. (In the Arminian (non-Calvinist) view, the doctrine of regeneration is the same as the Calvinist view but in the scheme of salvation, regeneration follows conversion. While in the reformed view, conversion follows regeneration).