Regeneration: Are people “born again” today?
I’ve learned that there are believers today who believe this is something that only happened in a former time. They do not believe that people today in this present Dispensation of Grace are “born again” when they are saved.
When students of the Bible see or hear this phrase, many will think of the story of Nicodemus recorded in John 3 where Jesus told him he needed to be born again to see the kingdom of God. This is the story that leads up to the well-known verse, John 3:16. So, let’s begin our study of this by reading through that passage.
1 There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews:
2 The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.
3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
4 Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?
5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
7 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.
8 The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.
9 Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be?
10 Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?
11 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness.
12 If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?
13 And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.
14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:
15 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.
16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. [Emphasis added]
Clearly the heart of this message is that this man, this Pharisee, as “religious” as he was, still needed to be “born again” to enter “the kingdom of God.”
While it is understood that the phrase “the kingdom of God” is often used in Scripture to refer to regenerate Israel’s future in a coming kingdom on Earth, it is also used by the apostle Paul for our eternal future in Heaven as members of the Body of Christ. Here are three of the many passages where he speaks of this.
12 Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light:
13 Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: [Emphasis added]
I Thessalonians 2:11-12
11 As ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children,
12 That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory. [Emphasis added]
II Timothy 4:18
18 And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. [Emphasis added]
As it was for Nicodemus, spiritual life is necessary for anyone in any time to enter God’s kingdom. And although Israel has been promised an earthly kingdom, we as believers today have been promised entrance into a heavenly kingdom. The 2 Timothy 4:18 verse we just noted suffices as all the Biblical documentation we need for that.
In our natural state from the time of our birth, we are said to be spiritually dead with no hope of getting into either kingdom on our own. However, when we became believers, we were given spiritual life and made partakers of God’s kingdom. Inasmuch as we’re all born spiritually dead, is that not a second birth, a new birth?
1 And you hath he quickened, [made alive] who were dead in trespasses and sins; [Emphasis added]
This same passage later goes on to tell us more about this.
4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,
5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with [SUNZOOPOIEO = made alive with] Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) [Emphasis added]
How is it that we pass from spiritual death to spiritual life? The apostle Paul tells us.
5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration [PALINGENESIA = regeneration], and renewing [ANAKAINOO = to make new or renew] of the Holy Ghost; [Emphasis added]
We have not one, but two things in this one verse that speak of a new birth, a new beginning, for anyone today who accepts God’s provision of the cross, burial, and resurrection for their salvation.
The word regeneration is a translation of the Greek PALINGENESIA, which is from the word GENNAO, to be born, plus the prefix PALIN, meaning again. Therefore, the word means to be born again or generated again. Then, in addition to that, we have the word renewing which, as I noted above, comes from a word that means to make new or renew. Doesn’t that just build even more of a case for a new birth in our time? It surely does!
This spiritual birth comes through a ministry of the Holy Spirit. It is spoken of elsewhere in the Bible by such expressions as “born of the Spirit,” “born from above,” “born of God,” and “begotten of Him.”
Even James speaks of this new birth people must have to enter God’s blessing.
18 Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. [Emphasis added]
In our time, being born again happens the moment a person accepts the gospel message presented to us through the writings of the apostle Paul. We are then immediately given the spiritual life, the eternal life needed for entry into Heaven.
II Timothy 1:10
10 But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel: [Emphasis added]
Yes, we as believers have this new life today by accepting the gospel message. We have spiritual life that is eternal because we have been born again.
22 But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.
23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. [Emphasis added]
When at salvation we gained the righteousness of Christ, we went from spiritual death to spiritual life. We’d been born once, but we needed to be born again. This new life is also portrayed as a spiritual resurrection.
21 That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord. [Emphasis added]
While I completely agree that there are many differences in our program from what went before in God’s dealings with Israel, this is not one of them. For anyone in anytime to spend eternity with God in a place of blessing, spiritual life must be imparted to them. This makes a new birth essential for anyone. For us today it is secured immediately when one accepts the work of Christ as the sole basis for salvation. If you’ve not done that, let me encourage you to get that done now. There’s not even one good reason to delay on this. As the apostle Paul once told a Philippian jailor [Acts 16:31], “believe on the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.” You will also immediately be born again to become a child of God.
26 For ye are all the children of God [having been born again into His family] by faith in Christ Jesus. [Emphasis added]