Is prior regeneration of the heart required for a man to have faith that Christ is the Messiah who can cover his sin and save him, or does regeneration follow or come along with our faith?
ESV - 5 He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.
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Regeneration (paliggenesia) is a term only used twice in scripture, in Tit 3:5 and Matt 19:28. It figuratively means a spiritual rebirth, or literally the Messianic restoration. S. Michael Houdmann has a great explanation of what regeneration means: https://ebible.com/questions/3487-what-is-regeneration-according-to-the-bible Basically, regeneration is the believer's new life, or 'new birth,' in Christ as we die with Christ in baptism and rise to new life by the Spirit. The popular phrase 'born again' sums up this aspect of our new life in Christ; although we will not literally be born again in new spiritual bodies until the judgement, we receive God's Holy Spirit to help us walk in holiness now. As to when it occurs, scripture gives ample evidence that this newness of life immediately follows faith, it does not precede it. The washing of rebirth and renewal follows our response to the gospel in faith. "...Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been set free from sin...For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace...But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." - excerpts from Rom 6 Regeneration in Tit 3:5, and our new life in Christ, are linked with the baptism of the Holy Spirit which believers receive. "So if God gave them the same gift [the Holy Spirit] he gave us who have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could stand in God’s way?" When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, “So then, even to Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life.” Acts 11:17-18 "...There he found some disciples and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?” “John’s baptism,” they replied. Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. There were about twelve men in all." Acts 19:1-6 "Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us walk in step with the Spirit." Gal 5:25 The indwelling Holy Spirit is one of the promises of God that is immediately fulfilled when we believe. The Holy Spirit acts as a down payment or security of other future promises to be fulfilled at the judgement, such as the new spiritual bodies we will one day receive, because we have the Holy Spirit with us on Earth, now, to help us walk in newness of life. (II Cor 1:20-22) "...there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death...You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit...And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you." - excerpts from Rom 8:1-18
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