Can people affect when they or others are regenerated?

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No, regeneration is solely in God’s hand. The one who is dead in trespasses and sin has no moral ability whatsoever. The new birth is what we call a “monergistic” regeneration. It is not “synergistic” where there are two operating parties—God and the sinner. It’s monergistic because there is only one active Agent at work in the new birth, and that is God.

The sinner has no more ability to determine the time of his spiritual birth than he has the ability to determine the time of his physical birth. There’s nothing that any of us have done to determine when we were physically born into this world. That was exclusively a sovereign choice God made before time began. There is no plan B or plan C. There is only plan A. The same is absolutely true with the new birth. God has appointed the time of our entrance into His kingdom, not only that we would enter the kingdom, but how we would arrive there.

God has orchestrated all the events of the sinner’s life, not only when they would be born again, but who would bring the gospel to them, and which verse would be the entry point into their heart. God was in control of whatever was going on in their life, whether they were being humbled, traumatized, or something else. That's all in God’s hand.

God makes us willing on the day of His power. That’s why when we are given a crown in heaven, it’ll be on our head for about half of a millisecond before it is tossed back at the feet of the Lord Jesus Christ. It was Christ, the Father, and the Spirit who determined that we would be saved and at what time. They determined and executed everything. No sinner is greater than the Almighty and omnipotent God.

God brings about our new birth at exactly the millisecond He so sovereignly desires. Some of us were converted in our youth. Others were regenerated in college or in a latter year in life. All of that was foreordained and predetermined by our sovereign God in heaven. Therefore, to the praise of the glory of His grace, it all goes back to God: “From him, through Him, and to Him are all things. To God be the glory forever and ever. Amen” (Rom. 11:36).

This is a transcript of Steven Lawson’s answer given during our 2021 National Conference, and has been lightly edited for readability. To ask Ligonier a biblical or theological question, email or message us on Facebook or Twitter.