The phrase “Born Again Christian” can be frequently misinterpreted. Looking at its primary reference, we see that its meaning is not about physical birth but about experiencing a spiritual renewal. It is an expression many Protestants use to define the moment or process of fully accepting faith in Jesus Christ. It is an experience when the teachings of Christianity and Jesus become real, and the "born again" Christian acquires a personal relationship with God.
You Must Be Born Again: John 3
The term stemmed from an encounter in the New Testament in which the words of Jesus were not understood by a Jewish Pharisee, Nicodemus.
Jesus replied, "Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again." John 3:3
“How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!” John 3:4
Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. John 3:5
"Born of water and the Spirit" is a reference to baptism, as Christ commands His disciples in the Great Commission to "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Matthew 28:19). Jesus then explains to Nicodemus what it means to be born of the Spirit:
That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again.' The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit." John 3:6-8
What is a Born Again Christian?
In John 3:3-7, Jesus tells Nicodemus, a Pharisee and member of the Jewish ruling council, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." Nicodemus is confused by this statement and asks how someone can be born again when they are already old. Jesus responds by explaining that this rebirth is not physical but spiritual, often described as being "born of the Spirit" or "born of God."
In Christian theology, being "born again" is understood as a spiritual rebirth. It signifies a profound transformation or conversion experience where an individual turns away from a life apart from God and accepts Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. This experience is often associated with repentance, faith, and a commitment to follow Christ.
Bible Verses about Being Born Again
2 Corinthians 5:17 - Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
1 Peter 1:23 - Since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God;
John 3:7 - Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’
"Born Again" Meaning
The phrase "born again" in the original Greek is "γεννηθῇ ἄνωθεν" (gennēthē anōthen). Let's break down the key elements:
γεννηθῇ (gennēthē): This is a form of the Greek verb "gennao," which means "to be born" or "to be begotten." It is in the aorist passive subjunctive tense, indicating a one-time action in the past with ongoing effects.
ἄνωθεν (anōthen): This adverb can mean "from above," or "anew" or "again." In the context of the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus, it is often understood as "again" or "anew."
So, the phrase "born again" can also be translated as "born from above" or "born anew." It emphasizes a spiritual rebirth or transformation, a radical change that occurs in a person's life through faith in Christ. It's not a physical rebirth but a metaphorical or spiritual one, emphasizing a new life and a new nature that comes through a relationship with Jesus Christ.
Born Again Theology
The idea of being "born again" carries several key theological and spiritual implications:
Spiritual Renewal: It signifies a transformation of one's inner self, where a person's heart and spirit are renewed by the Holy Spirit. It represents a turning away from a life of sin and a turning toward God and righteousness.
Forgiveness of Sins: Through the process of being born again, Christians believe that their sins are forgiven and that they are reconciled with God. This is often associated with repentance and faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
New Life: Being born again is seen as the start of a new life in Christ. Believers are considered new creations in Him, with old ways of thinking and living passing away and a new way of living in accordance with God's will emerge.
Eternal Life: It is also connected to the promise of eternal life. Those who are born again are believed to have the assurance of eternal life with God in heaven.
Baptism: In many Christian traditions, baptism is seen as the outward expression of being born again. It symbolizes the washing away of sins and the emergence of a new life in Christ.
Different Christian denominations may have varying interpretations of what it means to be "born again" and how this spiritual rebirth is experienced. Some may emphasize the role of a personal confession of faith in Jesus, while others may see it as a process that unfolds over time.
In summary, being "born again" in the Bible refers to a profound spiritual transformation, a new birth in Christ, which leads to forgiveness of sins, reconciliation with God, and the promise of eternal life. It is a fundamental concept in Christian theology and has significant implications for the life and beliefs of Christians.
What does it Mean to be Born Again?
How to be Born Again
The phrase “born again” applies to people who have accepted Jesus as their Savior or Redeemer. The born-again soul realizes that they are a sinner (Romans 3:23) and that the penalty for that sin is death (Romans 6:23). To rectify the circumstances, God sent His only Son to die in their place, to take the punishment for sin (Romans 5:8). After Jesus’ death, He arose from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:3-6). Jesus is the only way to God (John 14:6), and He provides the blessing of salvation. Each person can receive or reject God’s gift through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9) and experience new birth (John 3:1-8). Whoever follows Jesus as Christ, the Son of God, and has accepted His gift of life can be called a Christian. That is where the journey of rebirth begins.
Being born again is having a change or transformation of the soul and heart by the work of God’s Spirit. One’s soul is the part of our being that consists of three things: the mind (or its disposition), emotions (feelings), and our will (what we determine).
This spiritual makeover when we become a born-again Christian is a change in how we think, manage our emotions, and make choices by our will.
“And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God” (Romans 8:27).
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2).
“‘Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?’ But we have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16).
By being born again, renewing our minds, and having a close relationship with God, we can grow spiritually by spending time in His presence and studying His Word (the Bible). Even though we may not be able to fully understand God, His Spirit dwells within us, providing us with a deep comprehension of His nature and His ways.
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Get rid of all bitterness, rage, and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice” (Ephesians 4:29, 31).
Born-again Christians are not to let their emotions control their behavior. Philippians 4:6 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” In Him, we have peace.
Will of God
“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us” (1 John 5:14).
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21).