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By Curtis Pugh

According to the Bible there is a difference between the new birth and conversion. One is the cause of the other. To use the terms regeneration (or the new birth) and conversion interchangeably is an error that brings confusion and misunderstanding.

The Bible says, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit,” (John 3:6-8). These verses indicate the absolute necessity of the new birth, and the sovereignty or independence of the Spirit in birthing whom He wills.

The Bible says about those born again: “Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God,” (John 1:13). A person's will has nothing to do with his or her new birth. Paul wrote in Romans 9:16: “So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.”

But conversion is another matter. It is the result of regeneration (the new birth). It involves a change in understanding and in behavior – living a different life. The Bible says, “Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him,” (James 5:19). Such a conversion from erroneous thinking to understanding the truth can be brought about by a believer teaching the one who is in error. Jesus quoted the prophet saying, “He [God] hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them,” (John 12:40). Conversion, then, involves “seeing,” “understanding,” and being “converted” to a different way of thinking and living. This only comes about because the Spirit of God has made a spiritually dead sinner alive in regeneration. Only then will conversion – a changed life – come about.

A baby is not alive because it cries and moves. These are evidences of life. Actions do not cause life. So with the born again sinner. Those whom the Spirit regenerates repent, believe, pray and begin living a holy life, but these things do not cause spiritual life. They are evidences of it.

Regeneration is the spiritual birth brought to pass by the Holy Spirit. Conversion is the outworking – the evidence – of that new life. Regeneration is a one-time act of the Spirit. Conversion is an ongoing experience of the regenerate. Jesus told Peter, “But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren,” (Luke 22:32). Peter was already regenerate, but had sinned and needed to live differently. He did not need to be born again, but he needed to live right – he needed conversion.

Grace Bible Baptist Church
26080 Wax Road
Denham Springs, LA 70726

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