Regeneration. The word “regenerate” means “to give a new and more vigorous life to something”. It doesn’t mean “to give a new life when there was none before”, but “to give a new lifestyle”. It is the same word from which we get the English word “Renaissance” or “re-birth”. In scripture, regeneration has to do with an outward lifestyle change. It is only found two times; once in Matthew 19, and once in Titus 3.
- The world’s regeneration. “And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration 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” (Matt. 19:28). The world today is overrun by evil, and when Christ returns, He will judge the evil and set up a kingdom where He will “reign in righteousness” (Isa. 32:1). This will be a complete contrast to the world today when believers “suffer for righteousness’ sake” (1 Pet. 3:14; Matt. 5:10). The world’s regeneration refers to the moral transformation that will be accomplished in the Millennium!
- The believer’s regeneration. “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). The washing of regeneration refers to the total change of lifestyle that a person undergoes when they are (1) born again and (2) sealed with the Spirit! Regeneration does not refer merely to new birth, nor to the moral cleansing associated with new birth, but to the outward effect of the whole work of grace in our lives. This is very close to the practical result of putting on of the New Man (“put off all these”, Col. 3:8, and “put on therefore”, Col. 3:12). The “washing of regeneration” is the link between new birth and new creation. Quickening and sealing are the work of the spirit of God, and the outward effect of both is regeneration. You see the work of regeneration begin in a person when they are born again, because they suddenly want what is good and hate what is bad. But they can never get free of that old lifestyle until they are indwelt with the Holy Spirit.
Note: some believers hold that regeneration is God coming in and regenerating our human nature. That isn’t true. God condemned sin in the flesh, and doesn’t try to improve it. Instead He gives a new life (quickening) and a new power (the Spirit) and the result is regeneration.