Part 3 – Regeneration and Sonship
Regeneration means a new birth. Everyone is born once–physically. The Scriptures teach us that we need to experience a new birth in order to have a relationship with God.
Jesus in his conversation with Nicodemus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again (or from above), he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3.3).
Paul refers to regeneration directly.
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 of the Holy Ghost; Titus 3:5 (KJV)
Nicodemus did not understand what this new birth was. Jesus elaborated on His statement saying,
5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you [Nicodemus], unless one is born of water and 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 [the human ‘spirit of man,’ Zech. 12:1]. 7 Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You [Israel] must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit” (John 3.5-8).
Why is a new birth necessary? Because we are dead. We enter this world spiritually dead. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15.22, In Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive.
Paul explained this concept in Romans 5.12-21. When Adam disobeyed God and sinned, we all sinned for Adam was the federal head of the human race (we were “in Adam”). Sin spread seminally through the human race. We inherit the sinful nature of our father Adam. God warned Adam (Genesis 2.16-17) that on the day he ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, that “dying he would die.” Adam died spiritually the instant he ate of the tree. As a result, his relationship with God was broken. He became afraid of Him. The relationship of joy and peace was replaced by fear and guilt. Spiritual death led to physical death and Adam died physically after 930 years. It is the same for us. We enter the world spiritually dead and eventually die physically. When we believe in Christ, we are regenerated. We receive a new life–spiritual life–eternal life. John wrote that to have Christ is to have this life. Not to have Christ is death.
To the Ephesians, Paul wrote:
1 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved) (Ephesians 2.1-5).
And to the Colossians Paul wrote:
When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, (Colossians 2.13).
God gives us His life, eternal life, when we believe Paul’s gospel (1 Corinthians 15.1-4).
He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life (1 John 5.12).
Closely allied with regeneration is the doctrine of sonship. Once regenerated the believer becomes a child of God. John wrote,
11 He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name [Jesus means Savior], (John 1.11-12).
Paul wrote the Galatians in 3.26, For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.
And again in Galatians 4.4-7,
4 But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law,5 so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. 6 Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.
The relationship of children of God is one which God has predestined. Paul wrote in
5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, Ephesians 1.5,
God has elected His children. We exercise our wills by making a choice and believe. But God in His sovereign, omniscient wisdom made a choice also. Such a choice provides the believer in Christ security. Once established, the relationship of being “in Christ” is unbreakable. Jesus illustrated this fact with relation to Jewish believers in the parable of the sheep and the good shepherd,
“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand” (John 10.27-28).
God plan is that we grow from “children” (Rom 8:16) to mature “sons” (Rom 8:14) who have learned to be ‘led of the Spirit’ (Rom 8:14). This is the maturation of the child is biblically called adoption, much as a Jewish son who grows to his Bat Mitzvah. Once a son, always a son.
Paul wrote of our security in Christ:
13 In whom [in Christ] ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Ephesians 1:13 (KJV)