Apologetics may be simply defined as the defense of the Christian faith. The word "apologetics" derives from the Greek word apologia, which was originally used as a speech of defense.

What does "Rebirth", "Born Again", "Born from Above" or "Regeneration" Mean?

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  • What does "Rebirth", "Born Again", "Born from Above" or "Regeneration" Mean?

    It was Jesus who first declared that spiritual rebirth was an absolute necessity for entering the kingdom of God. He declared to Nicodemus, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" John 3:3. The word unless in Jesus' teaching signals a universally necessary condition for seeing and entering the kingdom of God. Rebirth, then, is an essential part of Christianity; without it, entrance into God's kingdom is impossible. Regeneration is the theological term used to describe rebirth. It refers to a new generating, a new genesis, a new beginning. It is more than "turning over a new leaf"; it marks the beginning of a new life in a radically renewed person. Peter speaks of believers having "been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God" 1 Peter 1:23.

    Regeneration is the work of the Holy Spirit upon those who are spiritually dead (see Ephesians 2:1-10). The Spirit recreates the human heart, quickening it from spiritual death to spiritual life. Regenerate people are new creations. Where formerly they had no disposition, inclination, or desire for the things of God, now they are disposed and inclined toward God. In regeneration, God plants a desire for Himself in the human heart that otherwise would not be there.

    Regeneration is not to be confused with the full experience of conversion. Just as birth is our initiation, our first entrance into life outside the womb, so our spiritual rebirth is the starting point of our spiritual life. It occurs by God's divine initiative and is an act that is soverign, immediate, and instantaneous. An awareness of our conversion may be gradual. Yet rebirth itself is instantaneous. No one can be partially reborn any more than a woman can be partially pregnant.

    Regeneration is not the fruit or result of faith. Rather, regeneration precedes faith as the necessary condition for faith. We also do not in any way dispose ourselves toward regeneration or cooperate as coworkers with the Holy Spirit to bring it to pass. We do not decide or choose to be regenerated. God chooses to regenerate us before we will ever choose to embrace Him. To be sure, after we have been regenerated by the sovereign grace of God, we do choose, act, cooperate, and believe in Christ. God does not have faith for us. It is our own faith by which we are justified. What God does is quicken us to spiritual life, rescuing us from darkness, bondage, and spiritual death. God makes faith possible and actual for us. He quickens faith within us.

    John 3:5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.
    Many interpreters understand "water" here as the water of baptism, but such a reference, before Christian baptism was instituted, would have been meaningless to Nicodemus. Others find a reference to John's baptism, but Jesus nowhere makes John's baptism a requirement for salvation. Probably the statement refers to OT passages in which the terms "water" and "Spirit" are linked to express the pouring out of God's Spirit in the end times, and the purification and new life that flow from His arrival - Isaiah 32:15; 44:3, Ezekiel 36:25-27.

    John 3:6-8 - That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.[c] 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You[d] must be born again.’ 8 The wind[e] blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
    This passage emphasizes the priority and sovereignty of God in the work of Salvation. It does not exclude the reality and necessity of human response in repentance and faith, but it shows that this response is the fruit of the Spirit's work and not the means which we are regenerate. Regeneration precedes faith.

    Ezekiel 36:25 - I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you.
    The Sprinkling or pouring of water refers to the ritual purifications for removing religious defilement Exodus 30:17-21; Leviticus 14:52, Numbers 19:17-19. It is also used as a symbol for the gift of God's Spirit in the anointing of kings and priests and in the prophetic call of Joel 2:28-29. The out-pouring of God's Spirit is a sign of the messianic age Ezekiel 37:14; 39:29, Isaiah 42:1; 44:3; 59:21. The language of Ezekiel 36:25-27 is closely paralleled in Psalm 51:7-11.

    Ezekiel 36:26 - And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
    The heart and the spirit are the location of the thoughts and the will that underlie actions. Israel's transformation will not just be external but internal as well. Instead of a heart of stone, unable to respond to God with love and obedience, God will provide a new heart and a new spirit. Note that these changes come as the result of divine initiative and not human effort. Jeremiah describes the New Covenant in the say way Jeremiah 31:33, Proverbs 3:3; 7:3, Romans 2:15; 2:29, 2 Corinthians 3:3.

    Ezekiel 36:27 - And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.[a]
    The new spirit will be the Spirit of God transforming those in whom He dwells and enabling them to obey the law of God. This is a work as glorious as the Spirit's original work in creation Genesis 1:2; Ezekiel 37:1-10; Romans 7:6; 8:2-17, Galatians 5:16-18, 22; 1 John 3:24.


    Sources:
    ESV Reformation Study Bible
    Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem

  • #2
    Romans chapter six gives a summary of what being born from above means even though it looks like it is chiefly concerned with dying and rising to live again. The core concept appears to be that baptism points to one's death to sin and one's resurrection to life in the image of Christ.
    What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? 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. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: 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. For he that is dead is freed from sin. (Romans 6:1-7 KJV)
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    • #3
      Regeneration is not the fruit or result of faith. Rather, regeneration precedes faith as the necessary condition for faith. We also do not in any way dispose ourselves toward regeneration or cooperate as coworkers with the Holy Spirit to bring it to pass. We do not decide or choose to be regenerated. God chooses to regenerate us before we will ever choose to embrace Him. To be sure, after we have been regenerated by the sovereign grace of God, we do choose, act, cooperate, and believe in Christ. God does not have faith for us. It is our own faith by which we are justified. What God does is quicken us to spiritual life, rescuing us from darkness, bondage, and spiritual death. God makes faith possible and actual for us. He quickens faith within us.
      This is exactly what it was like for me.

      So are those destined for hell shafted because they resisted the call or because God chose to leave them unregenerated and with no chance at salvation?

      What about Romans 8:29
      "For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters."

      What part does that play in God's selection process?
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      • #4
        Originally posted by atpollard View Post
        This is exactly what it was like for me.

        So are those destined for hell shafted because they resisted the call or because God chose to leave them unregenerated and with no chance at salvation?

        What about Romans 8:29
        "For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters."

        What part does that play in God's selection process?
        Curious as to whether you have come to your own conclusion? Have you found the answers to your question, atpollard?

        God bless,
        William
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        • #5
          Originally posted by William View Post
          Curious as to whether you have come to your own conclusion? Have you found the answers to your question, atpollard?

          God bless,
          William
          In a sense yes, and in a sense no.
          To some extent the quest for me to 'figure God out' is both a life long struggle, and a fools errand. I will never have God all figured out. The very concept, proves that whatever I was calling God, was not really God. Yet God, infinite, perfect, patient God has invited me to 'come' and 'abide' and 'reason together'. Thus I am not only permitted to seek answers to unanswerable questions, I am encouraged to do so. To seek them with God's blessings.

          So what answers I have are but a snapshot of an ongoing process. A Polaroid of where I am at THIS moment in my journey. With that caveat, God does not seem the type to love anyone against their will. God had ample opportunity to create being at the beginning that would worship and obey Him and would not rebel. Yet God chose not to do so. He chose instead to place a tree of temptation in the middle of the garden where his beloved creation would be forced to confront the temptation every day. To trust God, or to rebel. God foreknew the result. I believe that the glory revealed by Redemption far overshadows any glory that might have been revealed by simple obedience. Thus God chose the hard road for himself in order that Man might recieve a greater blessing and God a far greater glory.

          In the same way, I do not see it in the character of God, at least as much of his infinite Self that has been revealed to a very finite me, to create a being either for salvation or distruction with no thought for the will of the being or the Glory of God. To create a man with no free will, a man who must worship God like an automaton ... brings little glory to a God who has done and suffered so much to reveal His true Glory to all creation. In the same way, to create a man with no chance to be saved, who is just as much a puppet, only far worse, a puppet created for damnation would seem to bring no glory to a God so worthy of Glory.

          Therefore, I must hang my hat upon the word "foreknew". God, infinitely wise, infinitely holy, but not infinitely patient, God foreknew how each heart that he could woo, (and no heart, however hard, is beyond his ability to woo) would ultimately view that invitation. Some would respond with utter shock and gratitude, lavishing their adoration upon their God and Savior (like the woman washing the Lord's feet with her tears), while others would ultimately treat the Lords love with contempt (like the kiss of Judas). Armed with this foreknowledge of the true response of the heart of men, God made his decision that even though none, like Adam, could pass the test, still God, through Christ would save some ... in spite of themselves.

          There seems to be no 'Shiboleth' that will reveal the regenerated heart of a man, before God works his miracle in our soul. Thus there is no way for us to know whom God foreknew. Our choice is to trust God and to watch as His choice is revealed over time. To marvel as one tree that men held in high esteem, is cursed and dies, while another tree that all men agreed was past saving, suddenly blooms and yields a bountiful harvest of fruit.

          Those of us walking along with our imperfect knowledge, simply stare in wonder at the miracle of Salvation unfolding before our eyes. And we lift our voices in praise of our Creator, our Savior, our Lord and our Friend.

          That's as much as I have figured out and my current, best guess.

          Arthur
          Last edited by atpollard; 11-02-2016, 08:13 AM.
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          • #6
            So, here arises the question: Does God offer regeneration to all his children? Luther and Calvin were both ok with what Calvin called "Paedo-Baptism", namely, the Baptism of Infants and Those of Tender Years. The Lutheran and the Reformed, Calvinist, and Presbyterian Churches still, to my knowledge, perform such. Are we all humans offered Regeneration and then its up to us to accept it? Or not? Because I can tell you the exact date that I was regenerated, and it was NOT my Baptism, or any other church ritual, although I do consider such events important.

            On 29 May 2016 I was minding my own business, sitting in a church that I had attended because of a friend. I was not even Christian, let alone Lutheran. After the service I was sitting there trying to be polite when I had a personal Vision of Jesus Christ. He reached out his hand from the Cross and said, "You are a sinner, and you deserve eternal damnation and everlasting punishment. But take my hand, Sinner, and Live!"

            I thought I was cracking up. I had lost my mind. Surely this hadn't actually happened. And then, two minutes later, I had the SAME Vision. Well, who am I to argue with the Lord my God? I went to the Pastor and insisted on starting classes to join the LCMS. I was confirmed formally on 21 August 2016. It so happens that 29 May, the day of my Vision, was my 42nd birthday.

            But I count that as my day of spitual regeneration in Christ, through the power of the Holy Ghost with the Father working in me. May the Holy Trinity be blessed and praised forever.
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            • #7
              Originally posted by Diego View Post
              So, here arises the question: Does God offer regeneration to all his children? Luther and Calvin were both ok with what Calvin called "Paedo-Baptism", namely, the Baptism of Infants and Those of Tender Years. The Lutheran and the Reformed, Calvinist, and Presbyterian Churches still, to my knowledge, perform such. Are we all humans offered Regeneration and then its up to us to accept it? Or not? Because I can tell you the exact date that I was regenerated, and it was NOT my Baptism, or any other church ritual, although I do consider such events important.

              On 29 May 2016 I was minding my own business, sitting in a church that I had attended because of a friend. I was not even Christian, let alone Lutheran. After the service I was sitting there trying to be polite when I had a personal Vision of Jesus Christ. He reached out his hand from the Cross and said, "You are a sinner, and you deserve eternal damnation and everlasting punishment. But take my hand, Sinner, and Live!"

              I thought I was cracking up. I had lost my mind. Surely this hadn't actually happened. And then, two minutes later, I had the SAME Vision. Well, who am I to argue with the Lord my God? I went to the Pastor and insisted on starting classes to join the LCMS. I was confirmed formally on 21 August 2016. It so happens that 29 May, the day of my Vision, was my 42nd birthday.

              But I count that as my day of spitual regeneration in Christ, through the power of the Holy Ghost with the Father working in me. May the Holy Trinity be blessed and praised forever.
              First of all, happy very belated birthday. :) Second, praise and thanks be to God for your experience! The Lord has truly guided you to His own Church! I recommend this Scripture for contemplation and reflection: John 3:8. The Lord blessed your life with a vision that has proven transformative for you. I pray that you continue to benefit from our heavenly Father's favor.
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