Being born again, or “born from above”
When a sinner for the first time comes to Jesus, confesses his sins, repents, becomes forgiven/cleansed/regenerated and decides to leave his old sinful life style behind him to live a new life with Jesus Christ, this can be expressed with being “born again”. He has put off the old man and put on the new. If a person has gone from spiritual death to spiritual life, being born again is truly a good description and expression – because the person has been given his life back and can start a brand new life together with the holy Spirit given to those who first repent (Acts 2:38). He has been given the key to the kingdom of God.
Sometimes you will hear the question “Can you be born again AGAIN?” from particularly reformed believers who are convinced that it is only possible to make the transfer from spiritual death to spiritual life one time only (without ever reverting back to spiritual death) and that a person who is born again WILL endure to the end and inherit the kingdom of God as a certainty. They believe that if a person does seem to revert back to deep sin and spiritual death, then he was not saved to begin with. This is commonly believed by the “once saved always saved” camp as well as the “perseverance of the saints” camp. The question, however, should be rephrased in order to avoid misunderstandings. There is a risk that the person asking the question might interpret the expression in one way, and the person answering might understand it in a different way. “Born again” might be only two words but the expression has a deep meaning.
We can agree that a sinner can only once be “totally converted for the first time” (when he repents, becomes forgiven, gets baptized and becomes a completely new cleansed person and a child of God). However, it is possible for the same sinner to go back to one or more of his old sins because he does not lose his free will in the process. Even Jesus Christ had the ability to sin (something he never did), so naturally we too could still make this choice. The serious part is that an unrepentant sinner is always lost, and people who were previously born again are not excepted from this danger. The devil is always on the hunt to tempt Christians with the hope to ensnare them in sin, and sometimes he succeeds when Christians give in for temptations. Some Christians repent at once, some do not repent until after months or years, and some Christians never repent but have truly reverted back to their own vomit and remain there. People can go from life, to death to life again:
The prodigal son: Luke 15:24 For this my son was dead, and is alive AGAIN; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.-32 It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive AGAIN; and was lost, and is found.
The debt which was cancelled by the Lord, and later reinstated again: Matt. 18:23 Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants.— 27 Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and FORGAVE HIM THE DEBT.—32 Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me:33 Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee?34 And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him.35 So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.d
2 Pet. 2:20 For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are AGAIN entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning.21 For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.22 But it is happened unto them accor—ding to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit AGAIN; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.
So the question should rather be if a born again child of God can still choose to sin, and yes he can. Even King David, a man of God’s own heart, chose to sin quite severely – through murder, adultery and lies – and did not repent until after about a year. What does the Bible say about a righteous man who sins like King David?
Ez. 18:24 But when the righteous turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and doeth according to all the abominations that the wicked man doeth, shall he live? All his righteousness that he hath done shall not be mentioned: in his trespass that he hath trespassed, and in his sin that he hath sinned, in them shall he die.—26 When a righteous man turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and dieth in them; for his iniquity that he hath done shall he die.
Ever since the time of Adam, the truth remains that the wages of sin is death and that Satan lied when he taught the opposite. Sins still separate us from God.
Being born again (1 Pet. 1:23)
Being born again is a translation from the Greek verb anagennaō (Strong’s 313). According to the Blueletter Bible, it could mean (apart from being born again) to be born anew, to produce again or to have one’s mind changed so that he lives a new life conformed to God’s will (so unlike before). From Strong’s 303 and 1080; to beget or (by extension) bear (again):—beget, (bear) × (again). We can read about being born again (313) in 1 Pet. 1:3 (twice) and in. v. 23.
1 Pet. 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,—13 Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ;14 As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance:15 But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation;16 Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.17 And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man’s work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear:—22 Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently:23 Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever
“Ye must be born again”, says Jesus (John 3:3,7)
“Be born” is here a translation of the verb gennaō (Strong’s 1080) and is a variation of genós (Strong’s 1085). In the KJV it is translated: begat, be born, bear, gender, bring forth, be delivered. “Again” is a translation of the adverb anōthen (Strong’s 509) and can be translated again, anew, from above, from a higher place, top, from the first and from the beginning.
We are all born physically from water (in our mother’s womb), but we also need to be spiritually reborn in order to become heirs to God’s kingdom, and that is when we are forgiven and cleansed from our past sins. No wonder Jesus taught “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand”!
Luke 15:7 I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.
From the below text we learn that Jesus seemed surprised about Nicodemus’ failure to understand him, indicating that Jesus was no Calvinist (Calvinists believe God is the one who enables and prevents people to believe). Jesus also compares himself with the serpent in the wilderness during the time of Moses, and people had to walk up to this serpent to behold it in order to be cleansed from their wounds. They had to make their own choice to do it, and similarly we need to make our own choice to approach Jesus in order to be cleansed from our “spiritual wounds” (our sins). Whosoever believes in Jesus will get eternal life, showing that it is a universal offer for everyone. God loved the WORLD, and sent his son not to condemn THE WORLD but to save it. Parts of the world will still be condemned, but this does not change the fact that Jesus was sent to enable salvation to the world. We can see in v. 18-20, that the reason why people are still being condemned is because they do not believe in Jesus and do not come to the light due to their evil ways (they love darkness rather than light). If you do evil deeds you hate the light and do not come to the light. In v. 36 we can see that a person risks the wrath of God if he does not believe (and obey) the son of God (Jesus, God in flesh). God has no reason to be angry at someone who acts according to his will, which means that he is only angry at those who do NOT do his will but walk their own ways.
John 3:2 The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.4 Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.7 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.8 The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.9 Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be?10 Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?11 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness.12 If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?13 And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:15 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.20 For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.21 But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God —31 He that cometh from above is above all: he that is of the earth is earthly, and speaketh of the earth: he that cometh from heaven is above all.32 And what he hath seen and heard, that he testifieth; and no man receiveth his testimony.33 He that hath received his testimony hath set to his seal that God is true.—36 He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.
The new man who is born again
Do not trust reformed Mr Piper (see picture right), but trust in the Bible which says that Jesus did not come to condemn the world but was sent so that the world through him (the condition) could be saved. We must therefore remain in the vine (Jesus) so that we will not be cut off (John 15). Below we can see various descriptions about how a new person in Christ is expected to live his life. We can read about THE OLD MAN being put off:
Colossians 3:5 Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:6 For which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience:7 In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them.8 But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.9 Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have PUT OFF THE OLD MAN WITH HIS DEEDS;10 AND HAVE PUT ON THE NEW MAN, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:11 Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.12 Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering;
2 Cor. 5:9 Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him.—17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, HE IS A NEW CREATURE: OLD THINGS ARE PASSED AWAY; behold, all things are become new.
Rom. 6:6 Knowing this, that OUR OLD MAN is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.—12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.13 Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.–-16 Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?
Eph. 4:17 This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, 18 having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; — 2 22 that you put off, concerning your former conduct, THE OLD MAN which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, 23 and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and that you PUT ON THE NEW MAN which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.25 Therefore, putting away lying, “Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,” for we are members of one another. 26 “Be angry, and DO NOT SIN”:do not let the sun go down on your wrath,27 nor give place to the devil. 28 Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need. 29 Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. (NKJV)
Romans 8:12 Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh.13 For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.
1 John 1:6 If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth:7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.
Galatians 5:16 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.17 For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.18 But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.24 And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.
Titus 2:11 For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,12 Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;
Matthew 9:17 Neither do men put new wine into old bottles: else the bottles break, and the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish: but they put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved.
1 Cor. 5:6 Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?