What does it mean to be Born Again?


Written by Dr. Daniel R. Carfrey

This brief study defends the Biblical definition of “regeneration” from the viewpoint of the philosophy that teaches/believes that a person must be born again before they can even “believe” the Gospel. In other words, their doctrine believes that regeneration precedes faith.

REGENERATION is not the RESTORATION of LIFE to a sinner’s will, because it is dead towards God.

  • Total depravity does not mean that a sinner’s will is dead towards God.
  • The sinner is born “dead in trespasses and sins” due to the inherited sin nature from Adam (Ephesians 2:1, 2 Corinthians 5:14)
  • This means he is dying the first death for Adam’s sin, and will die the second death for his own sins apart from being saved (1 Corinthians 5:22, Revelation 20:11-15)
  • This means he has no personal relationship (fellowship) with God apart from salvation, even as Adam was cast out of the Garden of Eden by God
  • This means that in his flesh inherited from Adam dwells “no good thing”(Romans 7:18)
  • This means that the devil incites the sinful desires of the flesh to entice one to sin with the consent of his will (Ephesians 2:1-3)
  • So consequently “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God”
  • But there is no Scripture that says a sinner’s will is dead towards God
  • All are guilty of not seeking God (due to there being no fear of God before their eyes. (Rom.3:9-18,23)
  • But while all don’t seek God, this does not mean that they can’t, according to the apostle Paul (compare Acts 17:26-28). Otherwise, why hold man accountable for not doing so?
  • A good example that man can seek God prior to being saved is God’s commendation of Cornelius. (Acts 10:1-4)
  • Neither does total depravity mean that there could not be some good, due to God’s restraint upon his evil thoughts through the conscience, though man’s relative good is not good enough to obtain eternal life by one’s own works. (Romans 2:7-16)
  • Total depravity simply means that a sinner who is born “dead in trespasses and sins” is incapable to come to God on his own or merit eternal life by his own works.  (Ephesians 2:8-9)

REGENERATION is the IMPARTATION of Christ’s new RESURRECTION LIFE and RIGHTEOUS NATURE to the inward man (spirit) as of the Day of Salvation, and to the OUTWARD man (body) on the Day of Resurrection.

  • Just as a nature to disobey God came as a result of Adam’s one act of disobedience, even so the nature to obey God comes to those given Christ’s gift of righteousness as a result of His total life of obedience (Romans 5:12-25)
  • This means that Jesus Christ had to first earn life by keeping the Law, in order to provide life by grace through His death on the cross for our offences against God’s Law (Romans 10:1-4)
  • Christ’s new life and righteous nature is given by Christ alone to those who place their faith in Him (John 1:12-13)
  • This new birth is imparted to the human spirit within by the Holy Spirit of God     (John 3:4-7)
  • This new birth is compared by Jesus to living water on the inside, (John 4:10-14)
  • This new birth was not available until Jesus rose from the dead and was glorified in heaven (John 7:37-39, Ephesians 2:4-5, Titus 2:11-15, Titus 3:4-7)
  • This new birth is imparted as a seed of Christ’s life and righteous nature, which remains in him, and is enabled to grow and manifest Christ-like conduct as one abides in Christ (1John 2:28-3:10)
  • This new birth and nature will also be imparted to the believer’s flesh or outward man in the day of resurrection (Romans 8:23, Ephesians 1:13-14, Philippians 3:20-21)
  • It is Christ’s life imparted to the believer that makes him or her a new creature, and is the reason there will be no more sin in the new heavens and earth, (2 Corinthians 5:17)


  • Old Testament saints, though not experiencing the new birth in their lifetime, were still able to have a spiritual relationship with God, once they were justified by faith as was Abraham.
  • Old Testament saints were not permitted to enter the presence of God when they died until Jesus first presented His blood to God in heaven (Paradise, Abraham’s Bosom, also Sheol was divided into two parts before Christ’s resurrection). As a result, they are now “spirits of just men made perfect,” (Hebrews 12:22-24)
  • Old Testament believers are now regenerated in their spirits, being in the presence of God, because no one can be part of the kingdom of God apart from being born again (John 3:7)
  • Because every saint in Christ now has the privilege of experiencing the new birth while still living in sinful flesh, he can be a “kind of first-fruits of his creatures,” provided that he allows that righteous nature to manifest itself through the power of God’s Word and the indwelling Holy Spirit (James 1:21, Galatians 5:22-25)
  • The supernatural way of life made possible through the new birth is a mystery that was not revealed in the Old Testament
  • This is why believers today are more accountable to live righteously than the Old Testament saints.

Understanding the true nature of REGENERATION, that it was not experienced until Jesus Christ came to give it, helps one to AVOID the ERROR of those who say, “regeneration precedes Faith.”

  • Those who believe that a man’s will is dead towards God, also believe that a person cannot come to saving faith until God first activates his dead will so that he can believe
  • Thus, because of his own erroneous definition of regeneration, he believes that regeneration precedes faith
  • But it is clear from the words of Jesus to Nicodemus, that one MUST believe in Jesus Christ in order to be born again, not be born again in order to believe
  • Be alert to this crucial doctrinal distinction. Regeneration is the result of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.





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