Being Born Again—The Road to Salvation?
HOW would you answer the question, “Are you born again?” Millions of believers around the globe would answer with an emphatic, “Yes!” They believe that being born again is a mark of all true Christians and the only way to salvation. They echo the view of such religious leaders as theologian Robert C. Sproul, who wrote: “If a person is not born again, . . . then he is not a Christian.”
Are you among those who believe that being born again puts you on the road to salvation? If so, you no doubt want to help your relatives and friends to find that road and to start walking on it. For them to do so, however, they need to understand the difference between an individual who is born again and someone who is not. How would you explain to them what it means to be born again?
Many believe that the expression “born again” refers to someone who makes a solemn promise to serve God and Christ and, as a result, is changed from being spiritually dead to being spiritually alive. In fact, a current dictionary defines a born-again individual as “a usually Christian person who has made a renewed or confirmed commitment of faith especially after an intense religious experience.”—Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary—Eleventh Edition.
Would you be surprised to learn that the Bible does not agree with that definition? Would you like to know what God’s Word really teaches about being born again? You will surely benefit from taking a closer look at this subject. Why? Because an accurate understanding of what it means to be born again will affect your life and your expectations for the future.
What Does the Bible Teach?
The only place in the entire Bible where the expression “born again” is found is at John 3:1-12, which describes an intriguing conversation that took place between Jesus and a religious leader in Jerusalem. You will find that Bible account quoted in full in the accompanying box. We invite you to read it carefully.
In the account, Jesus highlights several aspects of the “new birth.”a In fact, Jesus’ discussion helps us to answer these five vital questions:
◼ How important is the new birth?
◼ Is it up to us to decide to experience the new birth?
◼ What is its purpose?
◼ By what means does it take place?
◼ What change of relationship does it bring about?
Let us consider these questions one at a time.
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“You People Must Be Born Again”
“Now there was a man of the Pharisees, Nicodemus was his name, a ruler of the Jews. This one came to him in the night and said to him: ‘Rabbi, we know that you as a teacher have come from God; for no one can perform these signs that you perform unless God is with him.’ In answer Jesus said to him: ‘Most truly I say to you, Unless anyone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.’ Nicodemus said to him: ‘How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter into the womb of his mother a second time and be born, can he?’ Jesus answered: ‘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. The wind blows where it wants to, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from and where it is going. So is everyone that has been born from the spirit.’ In answer Nicodemus said to him: ‘How can these things come about?’ In answer Jesus said to him: ‘Are you a teacher of Israel and yet do not know these things? Most truly I say to you, What we know we speak and what we have seen we bear witness of, but you people do not receive the witness we give. If I have told you earthly things and yet you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?’”—John 3:1-12.