We’ve learned so many big Bible words. But there’s just one more left. And that word is “regeneration.” To regenerate means to form or create something again. For instance, there’s a strange creature called an axolotl. It’s a goofy-looking amphibian that resembles a salamander. Here’s the most interesting fact about axolotls: if an animal bites off its tail or one of its arms or legs, it can grow a brand-new one! They can regenerate a missing body part. It’s a bit like a tiny superpower!
When we talk about regeneration in the Bible, we’re not talking about regrowing legs or fingers or ears. Instead, we’re talking about regenerating our sinful hearts and souls! Every human being on our planet is born a sinner. Even from the time we learn to walk, we already know how to break God’s commands! What’s going on with us? Ephesians 2:1 describes it this way: “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins.”
Sinners are a bit like the walking dead. They can run, jump, and skip because their bodies are alive and well. But there’s something seriously wrong on the inside. Their souls, that invisible inside part of all of us, is born dead in sin!
When the Bible says that we are “dead in sin,” it doesn’t mean that we’re so dead that we can’t do anything. Instead, it means that our souls cannot do anything to please God – they can only sin! Even when they try to do something good, it’s not for the right reason: to bring glory to God! For anyone to be saved, they need someone to raise their dead spirits to life. They need someone to regenerate their heart!
Thankfully, we serve a God who can raise the dead. Right after the book of Ephesians talks about us being dead in our sins, it says this: “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions…” (Ephesians 2:4-5) Just like God can raise dead human bodies back to life, he can raise our sinful spirits from the dead! That’s what we mean when we use the word “regeneration.” God’s not regrowing a missing leg or a tail – he’s raising our dead and sinful spirits back to life! In John 3:3, Jesus calls this miracle being “born again.”
Regeneration is a bit of a mysterious thing. After all, our souls/spirits are invisible things. We can’t look at them or touch them. That also means we can’t see when they are raised from the dead. How then can we be sure God has regenerated us? Jesus explains this mystery in John 3:8: “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
We can’t see wind with our eyes, but we can see it blow around the leaves of a tree. In the same way, we can’t see our sinful souls raised from the dead. But we can see a change on the outside that shows what’s happened on the inside. What is that change? A person repents of their sin and believes in the good news of Jesus! When a law-breaking sinner does this, we can be certain of what has happened to their sinful soul – they’ve been regenerated by the Holy Spirit!