What Does it Mean to be Born Again?
The wonderful salvation plan
of God involves our re-birth spiritually, which Jesus called being born again
. Each of us is born once in the flesh to human parents, but in order to see and enter into the Kingdom of God, we must be born again by God's Spirit. This is because "flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption"
(I Corinthians 15:50).
God is a Spirit, so His children are those who are born of His Spirit. Jesus told Nicodemus, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit"
(John 3:6). God can only be worshipped in spirit and in truth (John 4:24), and therefore His spiritually-born children will be the ones to share His eternal life and partake in Christ's heavenly inheritance.
The Bible also tells us the following:
The Process of Spiritual Birth
- Spiritual birth is produced by the will of God. "Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God" (John 1:13).
- Spiritual birth begins with God's incorruptible seed. "Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever" (I Peter 1:23).
- Only those who are born again can see the Kingdom of God. "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'" (John 3:3).
- Only those who are born again can enter the Kingdom of God. "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'" (John 3:5).
- Those who are born of God do righteousness and cannot sin.
(To learn more about this concept, read the Old Man and New Man teaching.) "If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him" (I John 2:29). "Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God" (I John 3:9).
- Those who are born of God have the love of God in them. "Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love" (I John 4:7-8).
- Those who are born of God love Him and believe in Jesus. "Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat, loveth him also that is begotten of him" (I John 5:1).
- Those who are born of God are persecuted by those born of the flesh. "Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake" (Matthew 5:11). "But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now" (Galatians 4:29).
- Whoever is born of God overcomes the world by faith. "For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith" (I John 5:4).
New birth into God's family (that is, being "born again") is a process
, just as salvation is a process. Similar to physical birth, a spiritual birth involves conception, growth in a womb, and finally, labor and delivery.
Here is the process of spiritual birth: at the moment of true repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, the Father forgives your sins, justifies you (declares you righteous) in His sight, and gives you His spiritual, incorruptible seed in your spirit. This is spiritual conception
. The Greek words for "born again" could also be translated conceived again
or generated again
, implying that a new creation in Christ is one who has received a fresh start with brand new genetic material. "But as many as received him [spiritual conception], to them gave he power [the Holy Spirit] to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God"
After spiritual conception, the children of God grow in maturity
by abiding in Christ and being renewed by the Holy Spirit. "And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God"
(Romans 12:2). This process involves patience and faith (see Revelation 13:10). "For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith"
Just as a child in the womb knows very little about the "real" world, we in this present world cannot see the realities of the heavenly realm except by faith. The apostle Paul taught that as long as we are on earth, our understanding of spiritual truths will be incomplete: "For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known"
(I Corinthians 13:12). Therefore, we must walk by faith and not by sight, "for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal"
(II Corinthians 4:18).
Even as we walk by faith and mature spiritually, the Holy Spirit witnesses to an ongoing, marvelous work of God, which is our adoption into God's family. "For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba [Daddy], Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God"
(Romans 8:15-16). The culmination of our adoption is still ahead, for we "which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body"
(Romans 8:23; also see Galatians 4:5; Ephesians 1:14). The whole creation, in fact, waits and travails in anticipation for the sons of God to be revealed: "For the earnest expectation of the creature
waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God ... for we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now"
Indeed, there is yet a day coming when the children of God will be birthed
by the Holy Spirit (see John 3:6) into an eternal Kingdom. Our physical body comes from the line of Adam and cannot
inherit God's spiritual Kingdom, for it is corrupted by sin and death. Paul said, "And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption ... For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality"
(I Corinthians 15:49-50,53). Ultimately, the children of God will receive a glorified, immortal body like Christ's, for He "shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the
working [of the Spirit] whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself"
(Philippians 3:21). At that time, our new birth into God's spiritual family will finally be complete.
And so, being "born again" is a process which is initiated by the Father, continued by faith in Christ, and brought to completion by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Yes, those of us who are "born again" are now
the sons of God, but we are also becoming
the sons of God. We are called to see and enter the Kingdom of God
now by faith, being led by the Holy Spirit: "for as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God"
(Romans 8:14). Yet, we are also called to overcome and be faithful unto death: "he that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son"
(Revelation 21:7). This is the Father's destiny for His children! "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew
him [Jesus] not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him [Jesus]; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he [Jesus] is pure"
(I John 3:1-3).
Paul related our process of "becoming" the sons of God to the growth of a son who is heir to his father's inheritance. As long as the son is a child, he studies under tutors just like a servant would — until he grows up and is mature enough to inherit the father's estate (see Galatians 4:1-3). The same is true for the sons of God: we are even now being "conformed to the image of his Son [Jesus]"
(Romans 9:29) and growing in grace (II Peter 3:18), all the while anticipating the joyous day of receiving our inheritance with Christ in God's Kingdom. We grow spiritually, "till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ"
Our loving Heavenly Father sees the entire process of our birth and salvation from beginning to end.
We see only a small fraction of His work in us, and therefore must trust Him to complete the process of salvation which He initiated in us. How so? By allowing Him to mold us like clay into Christ's image, by abiding in Christ, and by growing the seed of His Holy Spirit in our hearts with the water of the Word. This is why faith
is so essential, because the same way that we receive Jesus as our Savior (by faith), we also continue in Him (by faith). "As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving"
(Colossians 2:6-7). And, as we will discover later, our obedience is the
evidence of our faith.