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What does it mean to be "Born Again?"

by Robert Randle  
6/16/2009 / Christian Living

One of the most widely used and popular terms among fundamental or Evangelical Christians is that they have been 'born again.' This religious mantra is taken from John 3: 3, where a ruler of the Jews and teacher came to see Jesus at night while He was in Jerusalem and He told him rather emphatically that "Unless you are born again, you cannot see the kingdom of God." This is very unusual because there doesn't seem to be an intervening event to this unexpected meeting. Even more curious is the rather abrupt, dramatic, and enigmatic statement by Jesus to Nicodemus. There is no parable or explanation that would help anyone to understand His meaning. The importance is underscored by Jesus' repetition of the phrase and use of the word "must," which occurs here and again only [??] in Hebrews 11: 6.

In order to help look for clues to solve this puzzle, one must go back again to John 3: 3-7(esp. verse 8), where Jesus mentioned that a person born of the Spirit can disappear and reappear like the wind and is intangible; possibly even passing through solid objects [like Jesus did after His resurrection]. Of course, Jesus may have had a symbolic or spiritual meaning in mind because certainly none of the Apostles and disciples demonstrated this unique ability. Interestingly, only John's writings contain such deep spiritual principles like describing the scene of the crucifixion where Jesus' side was pierced and from it came "blood and water" (19: 34; 7: 37-39; Isaiah 44: 3). Not surprisingly, this same theme ('water and blood") is taken up again in I John 5; 6-8.

There are however, a few citations about this phenomenon that should further help our understanding, with the first found in I Peter 1: 22-23: 'Since you have purified your souls in 1) obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love for the brethren, love one another with a pure heart fervently, 2) having been born again, not of corruptible seed, but incorruptible, 2a) through the word of God, which lives and abides forever. A couple of things have received the notations of 1, 2, and 2a, which are indispensible and need to be kept in mind in conjunction with other following passages in this study.

NOTE: This is the ONLY other place in the Scriptures where the exact words, "born again," like in John 3: 3-7, are used in this context.

Romans 6: 17
But God be thanked that you were the slaves of sin, yet you 1) obeyed from the heart
2a) that form of doctrine to which you were delivered.

So, the question is, how does one 'obey the truth through the Spirit by being born again through the word of God through obeying from the heart that form of doctrine? In Romans 10: 8-10, it says, "But what does it say? The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart {that is,} the word of faith which we preach: that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness and
with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

I Corinthians 10: 1-2, 4
Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all of our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, and were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them and that Rock was Christ.

I Corinthians 12: 13
For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body; whether Jews or Greeks, whether slave or free; all have been made to drink into one Spirit (Cp. 10: 4; I Peter 1: 22).

So, the most reasonable evidence and necessary inference declare that to be "born again" has to do with obeying the Spirit as a result of believing in the word of God, whereby one believes in their heart that God raised Jesus from the dead. As a result of this, one confesses with their mouth what their heart believes. This is not the final piece of the puzzle because baptism is the last requirement as evidenced in Acts 8: 32-37;
I Corinthians 12: 13 and I Peter 3: 20-21.

There are some Christian denominations who teach that a person must pray "The Sinner's Prayer," but no example of this practice is found in the Scriptures. It does mention in John 9: 31, "Now we know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is a worshipper of God and does His will, He will hear him." The prerequisite, then, is 'obedience' not 'prayer;' as King Saul found out in I Samuel 15: 22-23a.

As in all things it is prudent to sincerely and carefully reflect upon God's word. The Apostle Paul writes in II Timothy 2: 15, "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."

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