What is it, When is it, and Why Does it Matter?
I. INTRODUCTION: Some may wonder concerning regeneration (what it is, when it occurs, etc.) why it even matters. It matters because God took the time to speak extensively about this subject in His word. It also matters because the wrong understanding of it can lead to grievous error. Now there is always the risk of over-emphasizing any subject, and yet, at the same time, there is also the risk of both under-emphasizing a matter and/or misrepresenting it, even to the point wherein heresy sets in. Such is the case with regeneration; when it is not properly considered, the regeneration gap theory can set in which often leads to compromise. For example, there are many amongst the Primitive Baptists, and other associations, who believe that a regenerate (born again) person can remain an Arminian, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, what have you, for months, years, and even decades on end before ever hearing or believing the true Gospel. Many amongst them go so far as to state that one can be regenerated and yet, all of their lives, never come to the knowledge of Gospel truth. I covered this error in a series of articles starting with Will All Of The Elect Hear and Believe the Gospel? (Part One) and it all starts with the false notion that one can separate spiritual regeneration (in time) from faithful Gospel revelation or proclamation. This simply cannot be, at least not for any extended/significant period of time, as this article aims to prove.
However, before moving on, it is best to start with the right foundation–the glory of God. God is glorified in the highest in the salvation of chosen sinners by the foreordained will and election of the Father, through the atoning blood and established righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ, and by the quickening, guiding, and sealing power of the Holy Spirit. Yet, God is also glorified in quickening His people in conjunction with the preaching of the cross of Christ — for the preaching of the cross, the Gospel, is the contemporaneous power of God unto salvation to all whom He gives spiritual ears to hear (Romans 1:15-17; 1 Corinthians 1:17-18, etc.). At God’s appointed time, in the company of faithful Gospel preaching/witnessing, God will quicken (regenerate, make alive) an elect soul, give them spiritual ears to hear, and will lead them to Christ, causing them to trust in the Gospel being proclaimed and in the Christ and Godhead whom that Gospel reveals. This is the pattern repeatedly set forth in the New Testament and it cannot be set aside or at naught.
It is a dangerous, and slippery slope argument, to maintain that God leaves quickened saints ignorant of the true Christ, and ignorant of the true Gospel, for any extended period after their initial quickening. It is dangerous to maintain that God allows His quickened people to go on believing in, and promoting (for extended periods of time), false gospels, and other false religions. Is there a learning curve if you will? Is there, as with Nicodemus and Paul, a growing period? Of course! However, there is a big difference between being ignorant of key truths for a season (on the one hand) and actively promoting error (on the other).
God has chosen to use the proclamation of the Gospel as His means of initiating the salvation of His people. The Apostle Paul, by the Holy Spirit, declared:
Romans 1:16 “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is [present indicative, contemporaneous] the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth [present particple, everyone actively believing]; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.
One must be quickened to hear the Gospel, to believe the Gospel, but this hearing and believing is in conjunction with salvation. Nothing suggests a quickening and then months, years, decades, later, a spiritual hearing and Spirit-wrought believing. It is clear that Gospel proclamation, during the vast majority of the New Testament era (wherein we have the completed canon, without extra-biblical revelation), is God’s divinely-ordained means of bringing His elect into an experimental relationship, through the new birth, with the Christ; and thus, with the salvific work of Christ, that the true Gospel reveals.
At what does the true Gospel declare about Christ? It declares even His person, His incarnation, His perfect law-keeping and obedience unto death; His crucifixion at the hands of sinners; His enduring the wrath of God for all of the sins of the elect; His putting away their sins forever, having fully paid the sin-debt for them; and His resurrection on the third day, which evidenced that the totality of divine law and justice was fully satisfied. Our Lord procured a righteousness for His people that guarantees them eternal oneness and union with Him; complete and utter salvation; and this is a mighty and blessed teaching — it is truly good news and glad tidings. In light of this, it is no minor error to attempt to separate Gospel proclamation from the quickening work of the Holy Spirit (for any extended period of time), especially when God, Himself, has clearly set forth that this is the method that He has chosen to use to save His people. Does it not make perfect sense that God would yoke the proclamation of Gospel truth to the resulting benefits of Gospel truth? Isn’t it more than reasonable to believe that God would save in conjunction with the announcement of who He is and how He saves? The following should leave you without any doubt.
II. REGENERATION CONSIDERED: In order to understand regeneration, to know what it is, when it occurs, etc., we should start with the two places wherein this word is found in the Bible. First consider:
Matthew 19:28 And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me in the regeneration [paliggenesia; G3824; new birth, reproduction, renewal, recreation, regeneration; literally “anew, again” (palin) and “generation, nature” (genesis)] when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
Many differ in interpretation as to the timing and meaning of the above passage, where the comma should be placed, etc., particularly in regard to the phrase “the regeneration.” However, given that Titus 3:5 is the only other verse wherein this word paliggenesia [regeneration] is found, I believe it right to deem the two verses interrelated. Whatever is in view in Titus 3:5 is quite likely to be in view in Matthew 19:28; therefore, given the variety of interpretation concerning the latter, I have no qualms interpreting Matthew 19:28 via Titus 3:5, or said another way, interpreting Matthew 19:28 via Scripture itself and not via man’s varied opinion on it. In so doing, I am convinced that following the Lord Jesus in the regeneration refers to the same message as:
Ephesians 2:4-6 “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 [syzōopoieō; G4806; to make one alive together with] Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) 6 and hath raised us up together [synegeirō; G4891; to raise together, to cause to rise together], and made us sit together in heavenly [places] in Christ Jesus.
However, I also believe that the ultimate fulfillment of Matthew 19:38 takes place come Judgment Day when we will have our resurrected bodies as well. Nonetheless, the regeneration, points to being quickened, which is the same as being raised up, and this ties-in directly with the following:
Colossians 2:10-13 And ye are complete in Him, which is the Head of all principality and power: 11 In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: 12 Buried with Him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with [Him] [synegeirō; G4891], through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised Him from the dead. 13 And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath He quickened together with [syzōopoieō; G4806] Him, having forgiven you all trespasses…”
Colossians 3:1 “If ye then be risen [synegeirō; G4891] with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.
Titus 3:4-5 “But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, 5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing [loutron; G3067] of regeneration [paliggenesia; G3824; new birth, reproduction, renewal, recreation, literally “anew, again” (palin) and “generation, nature” (genesis)], and renewing of the Holy Ghost…”
III. WHAT IS MEANT BY “THE WASHING OF REGENERATION?” The washing of regeneration is clearly the new birth, being born again (or from above), as one is quickened by the Holy Spirit in conjunction with the proclamation of Gospel truth. How can we know this? Consider:
Ephesians 5:25-26 “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it; 26 That He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing [loutron; G3067] of water by the word.”
This washing [loutron; g3067] in Ephesians 5:26 is the same word washing found in Titus 3:5. We are sanctified and cleansed with the same washing that God also calls the washing of regeneration. As developed in other articles, this washing is also synonymous with spiritual baptism [see the reference to it in Colossians 2:12 above]. When we are spiritually baptized we are washed, cleansed, and regenerated by the Holy Spirit, who immerses us in Christ, is poured upon us, and sprinkles us with clean water and with the blood of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:2, 19). He is yoking us, in time, with the baptism of Christ on the cross, the same baptism wherewith we were baptized in Him (Matthew 20:22-23; Mark 10:38-39)… It is the one spiritual baptism consisting of two time-separated, but thoroughly integrated, parts. For more on this, see:
IV. THE WASHING OF WATER… God calls this same washing, the washing of water by the word! It is the same regenerating washing of water spoken of in:
Ezekiel 36:25 “Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do [them].”
Isaiah 52:13 “Behold, My Servant shall deal prudently, He shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high. 14 As many were astonied at Thee; His visage was so marred more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men: 15 So shall He sprinkle many nations; the kings shall shut their mouths at Him: for [that] which had not been told them shall they see; and [that] which they had not heard shall they consider.” [Note: Continue on to Isaiah 53 for the full import of this quoted passage.]
1 John 5:4 “For whatsoever is born [gennaō; G1080; begotten, generated, a very important word as we shall see below] of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, [even] our faith. 5 Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God? 6 This is He that came by water and blood, [even] Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is Truth. 7 For there are Three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these Three are One. 8 And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.”
[Note: as we shall see, the union of water, blood, and Spirit is a crucial one for the proper understanding of regeneration].
Moreover, the Lord Jesus Himself, speaking of this same regeneration, this same new birth, states in John 3:5 “….Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born [gennaō; G1080; begotten, generated] of water and [of] the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” I will discuss this passage more fully below but clearly we see that a man must be born/begotten/generated of water and the Spirit. That word born [gennaō] literally means begotten; its primary meaning is of men begetting children and it is rarely used in the sense of women giving birth to children. In the Septuagint, the Greek Translation of the Old Testament used in the Lord’s day (during His incarnation), gennaō was used to translate the Hebrew Old Testament word for to beget. In the AV/KJV, gennaō is translated 49 times as begat; 39 times as be born; twice as bear; twice as gender; and only once as bring forth or be delivered. Clearly the primary meaning in view pertains to beget/begat/begotten and these words are fully, and undoubtably, synonymous with the word generate. When one begets, one generates; when one is begotten, one is generated; this is in full agreement with numerous English dictionaries:
- http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/begat?show=0&t=1415494267 (under Synonyms)
Moreover, it is even clear by the original word gennaō that generate is etymologically related to it. Etymology Online defines generate as – “generate (v.) “to beget” (offspring), a back-formation from generation or else from Latin generatus, past participle of generare “to beget, produce.”
Note also the law of first mention; see how God clearly uses gennaō for the first time in Matthew 1:2-6 “Abraham begat [gennaō] Isaac; and Isaac begat [gennaō] Jacob; and Jacob begat [gennaō] Judas and his brethren; And Judas begat [gennaō] Phares and Zara of Thamar; and Phares begat [gennaō] Esrom; and Esrom begat [gennaō] Aram; and Aram begat [gennaō] Aminadab; and Aminadab begat [gennaō] Naasson; begat [gennaō] Naasson begat [gennaō] Salmon; and Salmon begat [gennaō] Booz of Rachab; and Booz begat [gennaō] Obed of Ruth; and Obed begat [gennaō] Jesse; and Jesse begat [gennaō] David the king; and David the king…” — clearly these men did not give birth to their offspring; they begat them; they didn’t just “bring them forth” they generated them. So though gennaō, at times, can mean to give birth, or to bring forth, it (first and foremost) means to beget or generate.
V. WHAT IS MEANT BY THE WASHING OF WATER BY THE WORD? Going back to the issue of washing, namely the washing of regeneration and the washing of water by the word, we must determine what the water is; when the Lord stated “Except a man be born of water” what water did He have in view? Clearly Ephesians 5:26 yokes the water with the word… but what word? It is the rhēma, scripture, the utterances, speeches, sayings, commands, and discourses of God! A man must be born of water and that water is by the rhēma – the word of God.
Note that the word word in the AV/KJV is usually either logos or rhēma. Logos can either refer to God the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ, or it can be used as a synonym for rhēma. God begets through Christ the Word, by the Holy Spirit, but it is in conjunction with the written/spoken words of God (faithfully revealed). For further proof of this, consider:
James 1:18 “Of His own will begat He [apokyeō; to bring forth from the womb, to give birth to, to produce] us with the word [logos] of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures…21 Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted [emphytos; G1721] word [logos], which is able to save your souls. 22 But be ye doers of the word [logos], and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.
This passage yokes begetting/generating with the word of God twice; first, it does so clearly by stating “Of His own will begat He us with the word of truth. It does so secondly through the use of the term “the engrafted word.” That word engrafted is emphytos [G1721] and it means inborn, implanted. However, it is formed from the yoking of two words, one for the word “in” and the other is the word phyō. This word phyō means to beget, bring forth, produce, spring up, shoot forth. So we see that God, of His own will, begets His people with the word of Truth and this word of Truth is the engrafted word — with engrafted being directly related to begetting, producing, generating. That this engrafted word is something that we are not only to hear, but to do, surely evidences that it is God’s holy word, the Bible (particularly the Gospel in this regard), that is in view. Moreover, consider the following passages wherein the phrase the word of Truth is found:
Psalm 119:41-48 “Let Thy mercies come also unto me, O LORD, [even] Thy salvation, according to Thy word. 42 So shall I have wherewith to answer him that reproacheth me: for I trust in Thy word. 43 And take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth; for I have hoped in Thy judgments. 44 So shall I keep Thy law continually for ever and ever. 45 And I will walk at
liberty: for I seek Thy precepts. 46 I will speak of Thy testimonies also before kings, and will not be ashamed. 47 And I will delight myself in Thy commandments, which I have loved. 48 My hands also will I lift up unto Thy commandments, which I have loved; and I will meditate in Thy statutes.”
[Note: clearly, in using the phrase the word of Truth above, God is pointing us to the Bible; especially, seeing that word, judgments, law, precepts, testimonies, commandments, and statutes all point to that which is found within Holy Writ].
Ephesians 1:11-13 “In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will: 12 That we should be to the praise of His glory, who first trusted in Christ. 13 In whom ye also [trusted], after that ye heard the word [logos] of truth, the Gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise…”
2 Timothy 2:15 “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word [logos] of truth.”
The Lord so heavily yokes the Word [Logos] with His words [logos and/or rhēma] that we cannot rightly separate them when it comes to matters of salvation, regeneration, the new birth, etc. This is why, as stated in previous posts, we read in:
1 Peter 1:3, 23-25 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to His abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead… 23 Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word [logos] of God, which liveth and abideth for ever. 24 For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: 25 But the Word [rhēma] of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word [rhēma] which by the Gospel is preached unto you” [or, “which is the good news / glad tidings being brought/announced to you].”
Clearly we see the yoking of the logos with the rhēma. Some may argue that 1 Peter 1:23 has to be speaking of Christ alone due to the use of the words “which liveth [zōē; G2222] and abideth [menō; G3306] for ever;” however, consider John 6:63 “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words [rhēma] that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life [zaō; G2198].” The two words (zōē and zaō) are essentially the same; one is the noun form and the other is the verb form. The words of God are life, they liveth forever; and they abideth forever — for we read, again, in 1 Peter 1:25 “But the word of the Lord endureth [menō; G3306] for ever” — the abideth used for logos is the exact same Greek word as endureth used for rhēma. So God is yoking logos and rhēma by using them in the same breath, describing both as both pertaining to life, and describing both as pertaining to abiding/enduring forever; yet there is a fourth bond between them as well. 1 Peter 1:23 refers to the word (logos) of God as the incorruptible seed by which we are regenerated, born again. Now some will likewise say “see, God uses the word seed and the seed can only be Christ Himself.” But is that accurate? Consider:
Luke 8:11-15 Now the parable is this: The seed is the word (logos) of God. 12 Those by the way side are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. 13 They on the rock [are they], which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away. 14 And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of [this] life, and bring no fruit to perfection. 15 But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep [it], and bring forth fruit with patience.”
Note: They keep it, verse 15 does not state “keep Him.“ Likewise, Matthew 13:19 states “When any one heareth the word [logos] of the kingdom, and understandeth [it] not, then cometh the wicked [one], and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart….” The word here, though logos is used, is clearly the Gospel and yet we see how closely it relates, nonetheless, to Christ Himself. Thus, the Gospel is called the seed as Christ is called the seed. The former reveals the latter but the yoking is clear; God is stressing the importance of both words and both seeds (both of which live and abide forever) in the salvation, regeneration, new birth process. Now, for more on the synonymous relationship between the water and the word (whether logos or rhēma), consider:
Psalm 147:18-19 “He sendeth out His word, and melteth them: He causeth His Wind to blow, [and] the waters flow. 19 He sheweth His word unto Jacob, His statutes and His judgments unto Israel.”
[Note: Regarding, He causeth His Wind to blow consider John 3:8 “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” and note the similarity. Though the Spirit regenerates in like manner as to how the wind appears to blow, He nonetheless does it in conjunction with the flowing (spiritual) waters, which is the word of God proclaimed and spiritually applied to the hearts of those whom He quickens… and He quickens them contemporaneously with the proclamation of Gospel truth].
Proverbs 18:4 “The words of a man’s mouth [are as] deep waters, [and] the wellspring of wisdom [as] a flowing brook.”
[Note: The words of the Lord, particularly His Gospel, are the deepest of waters; they are the wellspring of Christ who is our wisdom, for from Him cometh the living waters, even the Holy Spirit and the scriptural words that He brings to life in our hearts per John 4:10-11 and John 7:38-39].
Amos 8:11 “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD…”
[Note: The thirst is due to a lack of the spiritual water, the hearing of the quickening words of God].
VI. THE SPIRIT, THE WATER, AND THE BLOOD In recapping the above, we see that the washing of regeneration; the washing of water by the word; the sprinkling of clean water upon us; being born of water and the Spirit; being begotten with the word of truth; being born again of incorruptible seed (i.e. the word of God), all point to the same regenerating, begetting, born again experience — and this experience, this spiritual reality, is referred to in Hebrews 10:22 wherein we read “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed [louō; G3068; the verb form of loutron/washing] with pure water.” It is the same idea represented in 1 Corinthians 6:11 wherein we read “And such were some of you: but ye are washed [apolouō; G628 washed off or washed away], but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” After Saul, now Paul, received the Gospel revelation from the Lord, we read in Acts 22:16 that it was said to Him “And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away [apolouō; G628], thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.”
We are perfectly washed after the inward man and our bodies (though the flesh is still dead in sin) are deemed ceremonially clean before God as a result; never again will we need to resort to Old Testament ceremonial washings. Note that this inward washing is spiritual baptism and it is referenced in Acts 22:16 above for only spiritual baptism can wash away sins; consider this passage in light of:
Revelations 1:5 “And from Jesus Christ, [who is] the Faithful Witness, [and] the First Begotten of the dead, and the Prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed [louō; G3068] us from our sins in His own blood…”
1 John 1:7 “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth [katharizō; G2511; to cleanse, make clean] us from all sin.”
[Note: This is the same word cleanseth found in Ephesians 5:26 “That he might sanctify and cleanse it [katharizō; G2511] with the washing of water by the word” — as well as Titus 2:13-14 “Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; 14 Who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify [katharizō; G2511] unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.]
Remember, spiritual baptism is the Gospel. It is the blood of Christ and all that it represents regarding His great redemptive work. It is His crucifixion and death as the suffering Substitute of the elect, who fully atoned for them, served as the propitiation for them, redeemed them, and justified them, establishing a righteousness for them, one that guarantees all of their salvation. The Lord suffered the wrath of God due His people, endured that wrath unto the very end of it, putting their sin away forever. So we are indeed saved by the blood first and foremost (the baptism of Christ on the cross), and yet we are also saved by the water of the word (which reveals the blood to us), when the Lord baptizes us with the Holy Spirit, immersing us into Himself, regenerating us, and causing us to be one with both Him and the baptism wherewith He was baptized. Thus, when we are spiritually baptized, we are spiritually washed with both the water and the blood by the Holy Spirit. Our quickening requires, by divine decree, a washing of the water (the spiritually applied word of God) and a washing of the blood of Christ — together, for they are one when spiritually applied per:
1 John 5:8 “And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.” [Note: or “…and these three are in One” since eisi, G1526; is translated in the AV/KJV as “are” (135x), “be” (14x), “were” (7x) — being the third person plural present indicative of eimi, which means to be, to exist, to happen, to be present]
Doesn’t this tie right back into the Lord’s words when He said in John 6:63 ‘It is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words [the deep waters, the word of Truth] that I speak unto you, [they] are spirit, and [they] are life.‘ Did not the body of Christ yoke the blood and the water (tied in with the word):
John 19:34-37 “But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced His side, and forthwith came there out blood and water. 35 And he that saw [it] bare record, and his record is true: and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe. 26 For these things were done, that the scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of Him shall not be broken. 37 And again another scripture saith, They shall look on Him whom they pierced.
Consider the yoking of Spirit and word in these Hebrew parallellisms and related texts.
Proverbs 1:23 “Turn you at my reproof: behold, I will pour out My Spirit unto you, I will make known My words unto you.
Isaiah 59:21 “As for me, this is my covenant with them, saith the LORD; My Spirit that is upon thee, and My words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth…
John 3:34 “For He whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure [unto Him].
1 Corinthians 2:12-13 “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.
VII. THE WASHING OF REGENERATION / THE RENEWING OF THE HOLY SPIRIT… God yoked the two words together (regeneration and renewal) for a reason and the language of both regeneration and renewing are mutually important. Consider again:
Titus 3:5 “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing [anakainōsis; G342] of the Holy Ghost…”
This word renewing (anakainōsis) in Titus 3:5 is the same word used in Romans 12:2 “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing [anakainōsis; G342] of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” It is a feminine noun which means a renewal, renovation, complete change for the better, and it is derived from the Greek verb anakainoō [G341] which is found only twice in the AV/KJV and is each time translated renew (it means to cause to grow up new, to make new). The two passages at issue are:
2 Corinthians 4:16 “For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward [man] is renewed [anakainoō; G341] day by day.”
Colossians 3:10 “And have put on the new [man], which is renewed [anakainoō; G341] in knowledge after the image of Him that created him:
Now anakainoō stems from ana [G303; literally, in the midst, amidst, into the midst, amongst…] which often has a function similar to the Latin prefix re in that it means again when combined with other Greek words to form a new word (as in the case with both anakainoō and anakainōsis). This is also a very important stem word in that it relates to being begotten or born again (anagennaō = ana + gennaō) as we shall see below. For now, considering again anakainoō and anakainōsis, the other word from whence they derive is kainos [G2537; new]. This is the same word new that is found in Ephesians 4:24 “And that ye put on the new [kainos; G2537] man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness;” and in 2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new [kainos; G2537] creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new [kainos; G2537]; and in Galatians 6:15 “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new [kainos; G2537] creature.” These passages speak of the new man, the inward man, the regenerate man, that which is born from above, born from the midst (of Christ). Yet, you simply cannot separate being born again, born anew, born from above, or regenerated from the preaching/witnessing of the Gospel. Consider again:
1 Peter 1:3 “Blessed [be] the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to His abundant mercy hath begotten us again [anagennaō; G313] unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…”
That word anagennaō (as was mentioned above), from whence we get begotten again, stems from the two words discussed above. We just read how ana has as an inferred meaning “again” in the same sense as the Latin re (for re means both again and it means again and again). So, per the above, when ana was put together with kainos (new) it formed renew, or again new, or again and again new. We also saw how gennaō meant (primarily, first and foremost) to beget, to be begotten, to generate, to be generated (depending upon the verb tense/form). So if you put ana before gennaō you have again begotten, or again born, or regenerated, which is the same as begotten again or born again — these are all the exact same concepts. Seeing this, as we move on to 1 Peter 1:23 “Being born again [anagennaō; G313], not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever” we are brought right back to where we were above — God regenerates, begets again, His people in conjunction with the word of God — with both God the Word and His word, the Bible, in view (per what we’ve already proven above). So we see that anagennaō, being begotten again, which is the same as being begotten in the midst of Christ, has everything to do with the new birth, with regeneration, with being born again. To try to separate these things, or set them at variance with one another, is to go against the clear meaning of the words and the clear intent of God. This truth should be driven home all the more with the next passage; consider again:
John 3:1-8 “There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: 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 [gennaō; G1080; begotten, born; generated] again [anōthen; G509; from above, anew, again, from the first/top/beginning], he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born [gennaō; G1080] when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born [gennaō; G1080]? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born [gennaō; G1080] of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born [gennaō; G1080] of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born [gennaō; G1080] of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be be born [gennaō; G1080] again [anōthen; G509]. 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 [gennaō; G1080] of the Spirit.”
VIII. FURTHER CONSIDERATIONS REGARDING THE LIVING WORD OF GOD… In light of the above, we have now come full circle. As we saw earlier, we again consider that being born again, or begotten again, has everything to do with regeneration (i.e., the washing of regeneration), the washing of water by the word, being born of water and the Spirit; and being begotten with the word — and this all ties in with the blood of Christ and all that the term blood encompasses. We saw that the word of God is alive (is quick), it lives, when spiritually applied, and it abides/endures forever through the blessed operation of the Holy Spirit. God’s word to us is His Bible; it is the complete revelation of God to His people and contains all that they need for life on this side of the grave. When He speaks to us, He speaks to us via His Scripture. Though there was a time when He spoke outside of Scripture, when the Bible was not yet complete, we know from Revelation 22:18-19 that God is bringing no further, extra-biblical, word or revelation to us today.
Revelation 22:18-19 “For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: 19 And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and [from] the things which are written in this book.”
When God’s inerrant word is applied to our hearts, it is life, for “it is the Spirit that quickeneth [zōopoieō; G2227; creates life; begets; gives or produces life; makes alive; causes to live]; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, [they] are spirit, and [they] are life” (John 6:63), seeing that the “word of God [is] quick [zaō in its present participle form; G2198; thus, liveth; is living] and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and [is] a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). This quick, or living, (spiritual) word is what constitutes the living waters, again, as it relates to the operation of the Holy Ghost.
King David understood that the spiritually-applied word makes and sustains life (i.e. it quickens), as did the Lord Jesus whom David typified, when he wrote in:
Psalm 119:24-27; 37-40; 155-156 “Thy testimonies also [are] my delight [and] my counsellors. 25 Daleth. My soul cleaveth unto the dust: quicken [chayah; H2421; preserve alive, let live, give life, quicken, revive, refresh, restore to life, cause to grow] Thou me according to Thy word. 26 I have declared my ways, and Thou heardest me: teach me Thy statutes. 27 Make me to understand the way of Thy precepts: so shall I talk of Thy wondrous works… 37 Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity; [and] quicken [chayah; H2421] Thou me in Thy way. 38 Stablish Thy word unto Thy servant, who [is devoted] to Thy fear. 39 Turn away my reproach which I fear: for Thy judgments are good. 40 Behold, I have longed after Thy precepts: quicken [chayah; H2421] me in Thy righteousness… 155 Salvation [is] far from the wicked: for they seek not Thy statutes. 156 Great [are Thy] tender mercies, O LORD: quicken [chayah; H2421] me according to Thy judgments.“
See the pattern? God makes clear that His words are His written (scripturally-contained) words; His words make up the Bible and not some word over hear, or word over there, outside of holy canon. Consider that the Psalmist also states:
Psalm 119:129-33 “…Thy testimonies [are] wonderful: therefore doth my soul keep them. 130 The entrance of Thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple. 131 I opened my mouth, and panted: for I longed for Thy command-ments. 132 Look thou upon me, and be merciful unto me, as Thou usest to do unto those that love Thy name. 133 Order my steps in Thy word: and let not any iniquity have dominion over me.”
[Note:— Clearly testimonies, words, statutes, commandments, precepts, judgments, they all pertain to what is found in scripture and not to what is found outside thereof. Also, note in the following passages how light (as in verse 130 above) is yoked with life:
Job 3:20 “Wherefore is light given to him that is in misery, and life unto the bitter [in] soul…”
Psalm 36:9 “For with Thee [is] the fountain of life: in Thy light shall we see light.“
Proverbs 6:23 “For the commandment [is] a lamp; and the law [is] light; and reproofs of instruction [are] the way of life…“
John 1:4 “In Him was life; and the life was the light of men.
John 8:12 “Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.“
This is why the word of God is so valuable; this is why God yokes being regenerated, begotten again, born again (anew or from above) with the hearing of the Gospel — it is because His words bring life and light! Salvation is contemporaneous with hearing the words of God, His Gospel truth. This is why (amongst other things) the Lord takes His word so seriously, even declaring in Mark 8:38 “Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of Me and of My words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” — The Holy Spirit moved the Apostle Paul to reiterate this reality in Romans 1:16 “For I am not ashamed of The Gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that [contemporaneously] believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” — So when we read James 1:18 “Of His own will begat He us with the word of truth…” we can rightly interpret it as ‘Of His own will begat He us with the living, quickening, light-bearing word of Truth…”
Consider also the following passage:
John 5:21-25 “For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth [them]; even so the Son quickeneth whom He will. 22 For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son: 23 That all [men] should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent Him. 24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth My word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. 25 Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live.“
What voice and what call are they hearing? It is the Gospel call that the born again (regenerated) saint hears, with spiritual ears to hear, and is led to obey. The entirety of the Bible is clear on this point. God quickens no one apart from His word and His word, for us in our day, is the Bible (in general) and the Gospel truth (in particular) — spiritually applied to our quickened hearts and minds. This is all spiritual, the flesh plays no role, but a new spirit and a new heart has God put in his regenerate people.
We must be careful, and endeavor, to interpret scripture faithfully. We must be ever ready to hear what God has to say. He warns in John 8:43 “Why do ye not understand My speech? [even] because ye cannot hear My word.“ What word couldn’t they hear? Is it not His very speech, the very words that He was declaring before them that they were rejecting (the same words now recorded in Scripture)? They refused to hear the Gospel truth that the Lord was bringing plainly and clearly before them. How fearful is this seeing that the Lord commands in:
Proverbs 1:23 “Turn you at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known My words unto you.”
Yet, He goes on to say in:
Proverbs 1:24-28 “Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; 25 But ye have set at nought all My counsel, and would none of My reproof: 26 I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh. 27 When your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you. 28 Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me…”
Such men could have had life (that is, if those words were applied to their hearts, if God had so willed) but because they rejected the words of God, the Gospel call, the biblical commands, exhortations, and reproofs… they perished. They did not heed Proverbs 7:1-2 “My son, keep My words, and lay up My commandments with thee. 2 Keep My commandments, and live; and my law as the apple of thine eye….” Did not Solomon say of his father David (as the Lord says of His Father) “He taught me also, and said unto me, Let thine heart retain My words: keep My commandments, and live.” (Proverbs 4:4). To keep, to guard in the heart, that which God says is both living and quickening is a blessed thing — may we all have strength, grace, and mercy (all who are Christ’s) to do so all the more.
Note that the Apostle Peter understood the quickening value of God’s word; clearly he was given understanding to declare in John 6:68 “Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.” Later, an angel of the Lord declared to Peter, “Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life” (Acts 5:20); Peter obeyed for we read “And when they heard [that], they entered into the temple early in the morning, and taught…and daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.” This we ought to do ourselves, especially seeing that the next chapter starts with “And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied…“ — multiplied, no doubt, through the preaching and (God-wrought) hearing of the living word unto their regeneration and salvation.
IX. WHAT “PART” OF US IS REGENERATED? Some would ask “what is being regenerated, or born again then? Is it our old flesh or our old spirit?” I do not pretend to understand the depths of this doctrine, I feel it to be way above me (who is it, among men, that can truly know the scope and nature of purely spiritual things in this life); however, the answer, as I see it (with my admittedly limited understanding), is neither. The answer is that we, as integrated beings, are born again; the Lord Jesus said to Nicodemus “Ye must be born again” (not “a part of ye must be born again.”). As natural men and women, we have this fallen flesh but also a fallen spirit — both must be put away forever. The unregenerate saint is dead in trespasses and sin; they are (as a united whole) spiritually dead in that regard. Upon regeneration, God puts in us a new man, a new spirit, that seed that has been hid with Christ from before the world was; it is in that sense that we (as integrated beings) are born again, regenerated, born from above, born amidst Christ,washed with the water of the word, etc. We read in Ezekiel 11:19 “And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh.” This new spirit is God’s “workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).
As I understand it, God does not clean up, or beget again, the old spirit; He crucified it and in its place He begets in us a new man; one created in righteousness and true holiness after His own image. Consider Romans 6:3-6 “For “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall be also [in the likeness] of [His] resurrection: 6 Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with [Him], that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.”— Note that “our old man is crucified…” is in the aorist passive indicative which most often denotes an action that occurred in the past — a one-point-in-time” action, one that was performed for us and not by us — for Christ did it all. That old man is crucified with Christ and a new one put in us. We are instructed in light thereof, “If so be that ye have heard [Christ], and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: 22 That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; 23 And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; 24 And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (Ephesians 4:21-24). We are instructed “Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; 10 And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him…” (Colossians 3:9-10). “Therefore 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).
And yet, we still have the influence of the old man in that we still have this body of death; the flesh has not been changed. God does not regenerate us, make us born again, by begetting again the flesh either — no, the flesh is utterly dead, dead in sin. Come the end of time, God will give us (those who are His) glorified spiritual bodies; however, until then, the flesh remains as dead as it can be spiritually speaking.
1 Corinthians 15:42-44, 49 “So also [is] the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: 43 It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: 44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body… 49 And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the Heavenly.”
1 John 3:2 “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is.”
Philippians 3:20-21 “For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body, according to the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself.”
Note also that though God quickens us, putting that new spirit in us, that inward man is not intrinsically, self-existently alive, righteous, and holy. No, that inner man is kept alive, quickened, renewed day by day (in holiness and righteousness) through blessed eternal vital union with the Lord Jesus Christ. This is why the Apostle Paul, by the Holy Spirit, declared ‘I am crucified with Christ [i.e. after the old man]: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.’ (Galatians 2:20).
So, to sum up this answer to a common concern and objection, our old spirit is not born anew; nor is our old flesh; but we who are regenerate have a new spirit in us though we remain in this body of death — and it is in this sense that we have been begotten again of God. Yet, no one is washed with the water of the word, washed with the washing of regeneration, outside of (or apart from) faithful Gospel revelation. This is why the Apostle Paul could say in 1 Corinthians 4:15 “For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet [have ye] not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten [gennaō; G1080] you through the Gospel.” The Apostle Paul understood that He did not actually beget them (for only the Holy Spirit can spiritually beget) but He knew full well that it was his God-ordained preaching, his faithful witness, that God used (in conjunction with quickening them) to save them. Regeneration is absolutely contemporaneous with faithful Gospel proclamation — though the act of regeneration itself is all of the Spirit of God. So again we see in Philemon 1:19 that the apostle declares “I Paul have written [it] with mine own hand, I will repay [it]: albeit I do not say to thee how thou owest unto me even thine own self besides;” Paul is stating that it was His faithful witness that God used to save Philemon; Paul witnessed faithfully, God quickened Philemon during this witness process; gave Philemon ears to hear the Gospel truth; and granted Philemon the gifts of faith and repentance. However, it was not just Philemon, but Onesimus also, whom Paul begat, for verse 10 states “I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten [gennaō; G1080] in my bonds…”
X. CONCLUSION… Although I am sure much more can be said, I hope that the above will suffice at this time. Rather that repost the content here, I would encourage anyone who still doubts the validity of the yoking of faithful Gospel declarations with regeneration to consider reading the post titled Four Faithful Facts (Regeneration & Gospel Proclamation) if you haven’t already. I trust it will further evidence how God unites the timing of regeneration with Gospel preaching/witnessing. The blood, the water, and the Spirit of God cannot be separated when it comes to the regeneration of God’s people. The Holy Spirit is the One who yokes the blood (the cross of Christ and all that it entails in relation to spiritual baptism) with the water (the word of God spiritually applied, particularly as it reveals to us Christ and His finished work on the cross), and these three are in One.
To God be the glory!