“Born Again”—Man’s Part and God’s Part
“Everyone who has been born from God does not carry on sin, because His reproductive seed remains in such one, and he cannot practice sin, because he has been born from God.”—1 John 3:9.
1, 2. What have we learned (a) as to the outcomes of saved ones? (b) as to Jehovah’s purpose in having certain ones “born again”?
IN THE foregoing article we have noted that many millions of professed Christians claim to have been “born again.” Too, we have seen from the Scriptures that while there is only one salvation—based on faith in Christ’s ransom sacrifice—there are two different outcomes to be enjoyed by these saved groups, a heavenly outcome and an earthly one.
2 We have also seen that Jesus Christ was born again following his baptism in the Jordan. Then Jehovah God caused holy spirit to descend upon Jesus in the form of a dove, at which time God acknowledged Jesus as his spirit-begotten Son. We have also seen what Jehovah’s purpose was in having Jesus born again, namely, that upon his death and resurrection he might be the glorious, powerful King of God’s kingdom. We have also learned that it is Jehovah’s will that Jesus Christ have associates ruling with him and that these, too, must be “born again.”—Matthew 3:13-17; John 1:12; 3:3; Hebrews 10:5-10; Revelation 20:6.
3. How do Jesus’ Kingdom associates differ from him when it comes to their being “born again”?
3 What about these anointed footstep followers of Jesus Christ? When are they “born again”? What steps must they take before Jehovah acts on their behalf, bringing them forth as spiritual sons? Because God was his Father, Jesus was born as a perfect human. Thirty years later his Father brought him forth as a spiritual Son, causing him to be “born again.” But all of Adam’s descendants are born sinners, ‘alienated and actually enemies of God because their minds are on works that are wicked.’ As such they are in no state for Jehovah to deal with them and bring them forth as spiritual sons.—Psalm 51:5; Colossians 1:21.
Man’s Part: Six Primary Steps
4, 5. (a) Before God would consider prospective disciples for spiritual sonship, how many steps must these take, and of whom else are these required? (b) What is the first step?
4 What steps are required on the part of prospective disciples before Jehovah would consider them for spiritual sonship? There are six distinct steps that these must take. But let it be noted that God requires these same things of all who would become true Christians and gain salvation, whether their eventual reward will be a heavenly one or an earthly one.
5 To begin with, such persons must take in accurate knowledge about Jehovah God, their Creator and Life-Giver, and about his Son, Jesus Christ, their Savior and Redeemer. (Psalm 36:9; 100:3; Matthew 20:28; Romans 10:13-15) In Jesus’ prayer to God on his last night on earth as a man, he stressed the importance of this step, saying: “This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ.”—John 17:3.
6. What is the second step these must take?
6 However, knowledge of itself is not enough. A person must exercise faith, even as we read: “God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.” Yes, as the apostle Paul so clearly shows, “without faith it is impossible to please [God] well.” This faith regards God’s promises as a reality, as good as fulfilled. It is more than mere belief, for we are reminded by the disciple James that even the demons believe and yet shudder, and, further, that “faith without works is dead.”—John 3:16; Hebrews 11:1, 6; James 2:19, 26.
7. What is the very first work required as proof of a person’s having faith?
7 The very first work that is required as proof of a person’s faith is that of repentance. Yes, a person must repent of his wrongful course and cease willingly engaging in sin. When Jesus began preaching, he said: “Repent, you people, for the kingdom of the heavens has drawn near.” (Matthew 4:17) For a person to repent of his wrong course, he would have to stop it. He would have to feel deep regret, sorrow, remorse over it. In fact, it is imperative for all who would gain life in the paradise earth also to do this, for “all the wicked ones [God] will annihilate.”—Psalm 145:20
8. Repenting of one’s sins must be followed by what step?
8 However, merely to stop doing what is sinful is not enough. A person must take the step of conversion. That is, he must turn around and make progress in the opposite direction. He must heed the counsel Peter gave the Jews in his day: “Repent, therefore, and turn around so as to get your sins blotted out.” Yes, ‘do works that befit repentance.’ (Acts 3:19; 26:20) That this step is required, even, of all who hope to enjoy everlasting life on earth is clear from the words found at Proverbs 2:20, 21.
9. (a) What two further steps are required of these, in fact, required of all who would be followers of Jesus Christ? (b) Of what was Jesus’ baptism a symbol?
9 Then, just as Jesus presented himself at the Jordan to do his Father’s will, so the next step required of all who desire to become followers of Jesus Christ, regardless of their hope, is to present themselves to God. Today, this includes making a dedication to Jehovah God, after which they must follow in the footsteps of his Son, Jesus.* (Luke 9:23) Further, as a sixth step they must symbolize this dedication and make an open confession of it by undergoing baptism just as Jesus did.—Matthew 28:19; compare Acts 2:41.
Jehovah God’s All-Important Part
10. The fact that more than man’s part is needed to be “born again” can be seen from what illustration?
10 Acquiring knowledge of Jehovah God and Jesus Christ, exercising faith, repenting, converting, dedicating and being baptized—do these steps automatically result in a person’s being “born again”? By no means! You could no more be “born again” spiritually due to your own efforts than you could have been born in the first place due to your own efforts. Even as physical birth requires an active role on the part of human parents, so this spiritual birth, this being “born again,” requires an active role on the part of the divine Parent, Jehovah God, and his heavenly organization, or “woman.” (Isaiah 54:1, 5) All that the person taking the above steps can do is put himself in line to be “born again,” if that be God’s will.
11. If it is God’s will, what action does he take toward those who have done their part?
11 Because of mankind’s inherited imperfection, God himself now acts in behalf of those individuals whom he pleases to call to the heavenly kingdom. That is why we read: “We have been declared righteous as a result of faith.” Faith in what? Faith in Christ’s sacrifice, for it is stated: “We have been declared righteous now by his blood.” (Romans 5:1, 9) Notice that it is God and not the person himself that thus officially declares that one righteous. This gives him a standing different from that of “the creation,” mankind in general who must await “the revealing of the [spiritual] sons of God” before they can be “set free from enslavement to corruption and have the glorious freedom of the [earthly] sons of God.” (Romans 8:19-22) Those whom God declares righteous thus have the right to perfect human life imputed to them. Because of this, Jehovah God can now act directly upon them by his spirit.—Romans 8:33.
12. Being “born again” was accompanied with what phenomena in the case of Jesus and the early disciples, and why did such cease?
12 Those whom God declares righteous he now brings forth as his spiritual children. How? By means of his holy spirit, or active force, which he causes to become active on their behalf, resulting in their being “born again.” In the case of Jesus as well as in that of his disciples gathered on the day of Pentecost, God indicated his bringing them forth as spiritual sons by supernatural phenomena. However, once the credentials of true Christianity were firmly established, there was no further need for such manifestations, and these were “done away with.”—Matthew 3:16; Acts 2:3; 10:44-48; 1 Corinthians 13:8-10.
13. To what do the “water” and the “spirit” refer? (John 3:5)
13 This arrangement for spiritual rebirth is what Jesus had reference to when he said to the Jewish ruler Nicodemus: “Most truly I say to you, Unless anyone is born from water and spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. What has been born from the flesh is flesh, and what has been born from the spirit is spirit. Do not marvel because I told you, You people must be born again.” (John 3:1, 5-7) The water here mentioned no doubt refers to the literal water of baptism. And the spirit? To Jehovah’s holy spirit acting upon the individual.
14. Of what do the “calling” and the “choosing” consist, and for what purpose are these Christians anointed and commissioned?
14 The Scriptures speak of those who are “born again” as having first been “called.” This call to them is an invitation by God himself to be associates with Jesus Christ. Those who act upon the invitation are “chosen.” (Revelation 17:14) They become part of the “chosen” congregation, whose commission is to “declare abroad the excellencies” of Jehovah God. (1 Peter 2:9) These “born again” Christians are anointed with God’s holy spirit to preach, even as Jesus was. So we read: “He who guarantees that you and we belong to Christ and he who has anointed us is God.”—Isaiah 61:1, 2; Luke 4:16-21; 2 Corinthians 1:21.
15. How does the spirit bear witness to a person’s being “born again,” and by what is that conviction strengthened?
15 Concerning these “chosen” ones, the apostle Paul testified: “The spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are God’s children.” (Romans 8:16) How does God’s holy spirit do this? By instilling in these Christians the heavenly hope. “According to [God’s] great mercy he gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an incorruptible and undefiled and unfading inheritance. It is reserved in the heavens for you.” (1 Peter 1:3, 4) As these keep a good relationship with their heavenly Father, he strengthens them in the conviction that they are indeed “born again” Christians.
How Can a Person Be Certain?
16. Since when has the “faithful and discreet slave” placed the emphasis on the earthly hope, and to what conclusion does this lead?
16 Those sharing in preaching this good news of the Kingdom in modern times are confident that Jehovah God is leading his dedicated servants by means of his visible spirit-begotten organization, the “faithful and discreet slave.” (Matthew 24:45-47) Under its direction the heavenly hope was held out, highlighted and stressed until about the year 1935. Then as ‘light flashed up’ to reveal clearly the identity of the “great crowd” of Revelation 7:9, the emphasis began to be placed on the earthly hope. (Psalm 97:11) It is reasonable to conclude, therefore, that by that time the full number of 144,000 would have been nearly completed. Of course, any individuals proving unfaithful would need to be replaced. But, understandably, these would be comparatively few. And by whom would these be replaced? It seems reasonable also to conclude that most likely this heavenly hope would be extended to some who had endured in integrity, who had stuck to their dedication over the years, rather than its being held out to unproved newly dedicated ones. (Compare Luke 22:28-30.) However, from reports at hand it appears that even some newly dedicated Christians have considered themselves to be “born again.”
17. What kind of feelings cause some to think mistakenly that God has implanted in them the heavenly hope?
17 Any who in comparatively recent times dedicated themselves and were baptized and who consider themselves to be “born again” would do well to reflect seriously on the following questions: What reasons have you for feeling that Jehovah God has planted this hope in you? Could it be that your emotional feeling is a holdover from the mistaken belief you previously held while in Babylon the Great that heaven is the destiny of all good people? Or could it be that you feel this way because you had great inward disturbances, that you at first fought against the idea but it gradually won out? But did it win out because you wanted it that way, perhaps even unconsciously? Such struggles do not of themselves prove that you were “born again.”
18. Why would not appreciation of deep spiritual matters of itself prove that a person had been “born again”?
18 Or do you feel that you have been chosen by God to be one of the 144,000 anointed ones because of your keen appreciation of spiritual things, because of your fondness for deep spiritual truths? Then note that ever so many who do not profess to be “born again” are ‘spiritual men’ in the fullest sense of the word. (1 Corinthians 2:14, 15) And there is no question about the spiritual strength of those men and women of faith listed in Hebrews chapter 11. None of those were “born again.” All of them looked forward to “a better resurrection [to life under God’s kingdom]” right here on this earth.—Hebrews 11:35.
19. (a) Why would great zeal not necessarily prove that God had bestowed upon a person the heavenly hope? (b) What incident seems to indicate that with some the profession of having the heavenly hope might be due to a lack of modesty?
19 Or might it be that you feel the way you do because of your displaying more zeal than some of your fellow Christians? But that of itself could not be the determining factor, for the apostle Paul time and again found it necessary to counsel anointed Christians in regard to taking their spiritual obligations seriously. (1 Corinthians 11:20-22; Galatians 4:9-11) Or could it be that your profession to be of the anointed is due to a lack of modesty? There are some who quite recently have professed to be of the anointed but who, instead of building unity in the congregation, have felt they must have their own Bible study group. To the contrary, mature “born again” Christians remain close to the local congregation even though it is largely comprised of the “other sheep.” (John 10:16) However, a person’s being “born again” is a personal matter between God and each Christian. No one should judge another on this question.—Romans 14:10.
20. In view of the foregoing, to what conclusions do we come on being “born again”?
20 From all the foregoing what do we conclude? That Jehovah God is just and righteous, wise and loving. He has the right to assign his intelligent creatures to their respective roles—some to serve his purpose in the heavens, others to do so here upon earth. It is not as though the heavenly prize is something to be gained by personal choice and effort, or to be coveted selfishly. It is unique and no human creature may presume upon it. It is indeed a marvelous undeserved kindness that Jehovah God bestows on a few of his creatures, in the furtherance of his wise, just and loving purposes, but not due to any special merit on their own part. Being “born again” is limited to these. (Romans 3:23, 24; 11:33-36) Also, everlasting life on the paradise earth is an unspeakably privileged goal toward which rightly inclined persons may press forward. (Revelation 21:1, 3, 4) All is undeserved kindness. No one should be so presumptuous as to say to Jehovah, “What have you been doing?”—Daniel 4:35.
Since Jesus already was a member of a dedicated nation, his coming to Jehovah and being baptized was not a symbol of his dedication, but, rather, of his presentation of himself to Jehovah to commence the special work God had for him to do.
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Even as physical birth requires an active role on the part of human parents, so being “born again” requires an active role by the Father and his heavenly “wife”
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Babylon the Great has taught many to think that all good people go to heaven