(Image courtesy of https://www.bhpalmbeach.com.)
"The issue isn't Calvinism.  The issue isn't Arminianism.  The issue is regeneration!" Paul Washer emphatically declared in a sermon entitled "10 Indictments Against the Modern Church".  In a world full of extremes - freedom versus legalism, Calvinsism versus Arminianism, tolerance versus bigotry - it is important to stand firm on the truth, not wavering too far to the right or to the left.  Regeneration is exactly one of those truths to stand firm on, and is arguably the most important doctrine of all.

Regeneration, in theology, is defined as the formation of a new heart, new mind, new passions, and new affections - having once directed all these toward sin, the believer has been re-formed through the Spirit of God to direct these toward God.  It is what happens to the Christian at conversion and what results afterward; therefore, it is the most powerful and influential doctrine revealed to man by God.

Regeneration Alluded to in the Garden
"And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her seed;
He shall bruise you on the head,
And you shall bruise him on the heel" (Genesis 3:15).
When Adam and Eve sinned, they chose friendship with the devil over friendship with God.  They rebelled against God's clear command and, instead, submitted themselves to the serpent, to obey him rather than God.  God, however, declared to man and the devil, "I will not allow you two to be friends.  I am mankind's God and My created order and purpose will not be changed."  At this moment, God declared to man that He would do something great among men to defeat the friendship man had made with the devil.  But how would God accomplish this great thing?  Through a re-formation (re-generation) of man's desires; that is to say, God will change man's mind and heart - his thinking and feeling.

Regeneration Promised to Israel
"Behold, days are coming," declares the Lord, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them," declares the Lord. "But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days," declares the Lord, "I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them," declares the Lord, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more" (Jeremiah 31:31-34).
What was first alluded to in the Garden of Eden, God declares a little more clearly through the prophet Jeremiah.  God, in essence, declared, "Man's friendship and love for sin keeps him from Me.  There is no law or work that people can do to regain the holy relationship they had with Me in Paradise.  Therefore, I will re-form a people for Myself, a people who will love Me and will obey all My commands joyfully.  I will give them a new heart and a new mind to love Me, for their heart's right now are always against Me.  I will make for Myself a bride who will not adulterate herself with other husbands.  She will love Me, both for My glory and her joy.  Therefore, I will be their God and they will be My people.  My creation purpose will not fail."

God knew the Covenant of Separation made with Israel and Judah through the Covenants of Circumcision and the Law would never accomplish regeneration.  God knew that man, even in his best efforts and under the most desirable circumstances, was never capable of achieving holiness through obedience of works.  God must change man internally before he would delight in the ways of God, for which man was made in the first place.  Again, God declared to His people through Jeremiah, "I am about to do something miraculous to My people.  Get ready."

Regeneration Revealed through Jesus
"No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the prophets, 'And they shall all be taught of God.' Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me. Not that anyone has seen the Father, except the One who is from God; He has seen the Father. Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life" (John 6:44-47).
This is how God would fulfill His promise of regeneration; that is, how He would turn the hearts of His people to love Him and, in turn, cause them to be satisfied in Him: He would send His Son to die on their behalf.  But why?  The penalty due for sin is death.  Since man had sinned, death - both physical and spiritual - was inevitable: "but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die" (Genesis 2:17).  Therefore, death was necessary to fulfill the requirements of sin.  But God, knowing man must die and not wanting man to die but instead to love Him and be loved by Him, revealed His Son Jesus, a willing and humble servant, as the sacrifice to die for the people's sins.  Jesus, being fully God and fully man, did not sin for He was incapable of sinning, yet He humbled Himself to death on behalf of the people whom God would call to Himself through regeneration, so that "the life lived in the body might be lived by faith in the Son of the God" (Galatians 2:20).  It is by belief and trust (faith) in God that one is saved from death to life - "for it is the power of God for salvation of everyone who believes" (Romans 1:16).

Where once works were required in the Garden for life and peace with God, and man failed, God now was calling men everywhere to believe in His promise by faith (trust in His Word).  Where once people were saved by faith looking forward to the promise of the Messiah, we are now saved by faith looking back on the promise of the Messiah that already came.

In light of all this, Jesus confidently quotes Isaiah when He says, "And they shall all be taught of God."  What does this mean except that God will draw men unto Himself in order to be taught by Him; that is, to have the knowledge of Christ's law of love placed in their minds and the passion to obey Christ's law of love placed in their hearts.

But notice the key ingredient said by Jesus: "Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me."  There is a change that takes place in all who hear the Word of God and come to Jesus.  The natural, sinful man can never choose Jesus Christ because he does not hear God calling him.  But to the one whom God is calling to repentance and faith in Him, He draws to His Son Jesus, by whom we are saved!  New affections, new desires, and new passions are given as a result of the spiritual transformation that takes place when one's ears are opened to the Word of God.  Therefore, it is the power of God (that is, the Word of God that is preached/proclaimed) by which you are saved - not of works, so that no one can boast in their own understanding (Ephesians 2:8-9, Proverbs 3:5-6).

Regeneration Comes to All Who Believe
"... for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, "Abba! Father!"  The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him" (Romans 8:13-17).
The results of regeneration are extraordinary!  God, indeed, has fulfilled His wonderful promises in the believer!  Notice Paul's contrast between the unregenerate sinner and the regenerate believer.  To the unregenerate person, there is promised death, slavery, and fear.  To the regenerate person, there is promised life, freedom, adoption, love, fellowship, suffering, and glory.  This is a distinct list, yet suffering doesn't seem to fit the blessing of regeneration.  On the contrary, suffering as a regenerate believer is of great blessing, for it means that enmity between Christ's offspring and the devil's offspring has been realized (Genesis 3:15).  It is a fulfillment and reality of regeneration that the children of God are enemies of the children of the devil.  For if there is not enmity between the children of God and the children of the devil, the believer is still in a bad position.  But praise be to God for His faithful promises and spiritual regeneration given to all who believe!

What does it mean that "all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God" and "the Spirit Himself testifies with our spirits that we are children of God"?  It means this: Regeneration is a most profound doctrine.  It is the judge by which all persons are judged.  If one claims to believe in Christ, his affections, passions, and desires will be for God if, indeed, the person is regenerate.  If one claims to believe in Christ, yet his affections, passions, and desires are for himself, that person is a liar and is himself deceived.  Regeneration always brings about reformation in the life of the human.  Praise God for His Spirit, whom He graciously gives to all who believe in His Name - and who bears witness in our lives of the power of God!

Oh Father God, I thank You for Your Word, by which we are changed, re-formed, re-generated.  Your Gospel is the most glorious Word ever spoken, the most beautiful story ever told, the greatest mission ever accomplished.  Your Word does not fail, oh God, and Your Spirit is holy; all Your works are wonderful.  Thank You, Jesus, for sending us Your Spirit, by which we are kept steadfast in the faith the Father has called us to.  May You increase our joy in You, oh God, according to Your great grace.  And may You be glorified, oh God, for it is You who have done this great work!  Hallelujah and amen!