Is Regeneration a Miracle?

By James E. Cooper

Those who defend miraculous healing for today often insist that regeneration is a miracle. A. J. Gordon quotes with approval another man who said, “You ask God to perform a real miracle when you ask Him to cure your soul of sin as you do when you ask Him to cure your body of fever” (The Ministry of Healing, p. 193). The assumption here is that when one is convinced that regeneration itself is a miracle, a major obstacle to belief in miraculous healing is overcome. We deny that regeneration is by miraculous means.

Webster defines miracle in part as “An event or effect in the physical world deviating from the known laws of nature, or transcending our knowledge of these laws.” Anything that happens contrary to the known laws of nature is called a miracle; it may not be a miracle at all. One may simply be unaware of what laws of nature are acting.

The latter part of Webster’s definition (“an extraordinary, anomalous, or abnormal event brought about by superhuman agency”) comes nearer to the realization that a proper definition of miracle must distinguish God’s special, supernatural manifestations from things which occur by natural force or law. The difference in a miracle and a natural occurrence is not that the power of God is at work, but that in a miracle God operates in an unusual manner. Gordon says, “a miracle is the immediate action of God, as distinguished from his mediate action through natural laws” (p. 193). We accept this definition with the provision that we remember that there are “natural laws” in the spiritual as well as the physical realm. Paul shows that the law, “whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap,” applies in the spiritual realm as well as in the physical realm (Galatians 6:7-8).

Regeneration refers to the new birth. To be regenerated is to be born again. As there is no miracle involved in being born the first time, there is no miracle involved in being born again. The child comes as the result of the operation of God’s natural laws. Conception takes place when sperm and egg are united. Following a period of gestation, delivery follows, and a new life begins. The “miracle” of birth is the result of God’s natural law of procreation at work.

In the process of regeneration, the new (or spiritual) birth, the seed must also be planted. In the parable of the sower, Jesus taught that the “seed of the kingdom” is the “word of God” (Luke 8:11). Peter declares that we have been “begotten again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, through the word of God, which liveth and abideth” (1 Peter 1:23). By the preaching of the gospel, which is “the power of God unto salvation” (Romans 1:16), we are “begotten” by the gospel (1 Corinthians 4:15) and thus receive the “implanted word, which is able to save our souls” (James 1:21). When the Word of God works on our hearts, we are brought to the completion of the new birth when we are “born of water and of the Spirit” (John 3:5) and enter into the church of Christ.

Regeneration is the normal spiritual effect of the working of God’s fixed spiritual law in the matter. The Scripture teaches us that God’s law concerning regeneration requires faith in Jesus as Christ (John 8:24) based on evidence in God’s word (Romans 10:17), repentance of sins (Acts 17:30), and baptism “for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38; compare also Mark 16:16; Acts 22:16 and Galatians 3:26-27). One who thus enters “into Christ” becomes a “new creature” (2 Corinthians 5:17), and walks in “newness of life” (Romans 6:3-4). There is no miracle in regeneration; it takes place in harmony with God’s fixed (and known) spiritual law of procreation!

Truth Magazine XVIII: 7, p. 98
December 19, 1974