John has urged his readers to think about divine remedies for the problem of sin in the life of a Christian. The first that he mentions is the doctrine of regeneration. What do we mean by regeneration?
Regeneration is an action of God whereby a spiritually dead sinner is made alive by him. It is a gracious action because the sinner does not deserve it, nor did he ask for it. It is an action that affects the whole person – his mind is enlightened about God and his ways, his affections are changed and he loves God, and his will is subdued in the sense that he no longer opposes God by sinning against him with full intent.
Moreover, regeneration has definite effects in each person who is made alive by God. A regenerated person no longer loves sin. Instead he loves holiness and wants to obey God. He has new desires. God has written his law on that person’s mind and heart and he reveals that he is a new creature. It is impossible for a regenerated person not to live a holy life.
The first activity of regeneration is faith in Jesus accompanied by repentance for sin. This faith is an expression of enlightenment, that the individual understands the gospel; an expression of new affections, that the individual loves the Saviour; and an expression of new desires, that the individual wants to be a disciple of Jesus. This is why he does not keep on practising sin.
John makes it clear that a person who has experienced regeneration does not practice sin. This does not mean that he is sinless and that he cannot become a backslider for a time. It does mean that a spiritually healthy Christian usually flees from sin and does not wish to get involved in sinful activities.
A regenerated person is justified by God and adopted into his family, is being sanctified, and is on his way to being glorified. It is important that believers remind themselves about who they are and what God has done for them in his great salvation.