I understand biblical regeneration to occur at one moment in time, when a heart of stone is changed to a heart of flesh, i.e., when we recognize our sinfulness, repent of our sin, and put our faith in Jesus Christ. That being said, I often hear of regeneration being referred to or thought of as a process, something taking a long time.
Two questions: Does Scripture support any idea of a person seeking God for a period of time before God regenerates them (hence the idea of a process)? And, once God regenerates someone, could it take a period of time for them to actually see fruit or know that they are saved (for instance, young children)? Thanks!
Thank you for your questions.
You asked, first, Does Scripture support any idea of a person seeking God for a period of time before God regenerates them (hence the idea of a process)?
No, this is not supported by Scripture. Romans 3:11 tells us that no one seeks God. Psalm 10:7 says that the wicked (and all of us are wicked by nature, being fallen sinners) do not have God in their thoughts, they do not seek God. Before regeneration, all men are dead in their trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1). So regeneration is necessarily prior to a person's seeking God.
Your second question is, Once God regenerates someone, could it take a period of time for them to actually see fruit or know that they are saved (for instance, young children)?
The answer is, Yes, it might take a period of time before a regenerate person comes to assurance of faith. It took John Bunyan about 18 months after realizing his need of salvation before he finally came to understand that he was forgiven. The Westminster Confession says assurance is not so tied to faith that everyone avoids this kind of struggle.
The Christian life is one that involves growth and we do not always see fruit or recognize fruit right away. You may struggle to gain assurance, but know that the Lord will give it to you if you seek it:
"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." (Matt. 11:28-30)
"What then shall we say to this? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, will he not also give us all things with him? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies; who is to condemn? Is it Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us? Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?... No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom. 8:31-39).
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