What does it mean to be born again?
The term “born again” can be found in the Bible in describing a vital step in a person’s relationship with God and ultimately their receiving the gift of eternal life. This is also connected to the term “being saved” or salvation. What does it mean to be born again? Ultimately, being born again is what happens when a person makes the decision to follow God through Jesus Christ.
This personal decision is more than choosing a religion to follow. It is accompanied by a transformation from the inside out. Scripture tells us that through Jesus, we become a “new creation”. 2 Cor 5:17 shows us what does it mean to be born again. It’s not a denomination. It is a transformation.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” 2 Cor 5:17
This Scripture alone shows us that to truly follow Jesus, there must be a transition from an old self to something new. Being a follower of Christ is a status that we acquire, not something that we are initially born with. You will see, according to the Christian faith, that there is no ceremony or religious birthright that puts us in right standing with God. That is a gift that each of us, as an individual, makes the choice whether or not to accept.
This short article will bring clarity to what does it mean to be born again. If you are not a believer in Jesus as the Son of God, hopefully, this resource will at least bring some clarity to what a Christian believes around the subject. If you are a follower of Jesus, you will understand that this step is a requirement to make such a claim.
For those who just want the short answer on what does it mean to be born again…
If you want to stop reading here and settle for the short answer. Here it is:
What does it mean to be born again? Being born again happens when you accept the gift of salvation through believing in the loving sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is at that moment of true acceptance, by the belief in Jesus within one’s heart, that you are spiritually changed forever. It is as if a new person is born within you because the Holy Spirit then dwells inside of you.
There is no other way in which a person can enter into the Kingdom God or have eternal life. Being part of a specific denomination does not grant this, which means whether you claim to be Christian, Baptist, Catholic, Methodist, Jewish, or anything else, all must take the step to be born again in order to be in right standing with God.
I encourage you to keep reading as we are going to dive into the biblical teaching of what it means to be born again. You and I don’t have to be “reborn” because Christians say so… but because Jesus Himself said that it was the only way.
What does it mean to be born again according to the Bible – John, Chapter 3
The term was used by Jesus Himself. In John 3, He tells a Jewish leader named Nicodemus
“Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” John 3:3
Nicodemus was a high ranking Pharisee and a member of the Sanhedrin. Many looked to him as an expert in the ways of God according to Judaism. This particular influential Jewish leader was intrigued by the ministry of Jesus and came at night to question Him.
Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews; this man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.”
Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
John 3:1-3 NASB
Like some of us, Nicodemus is confused. Thinking on the more literal side, he follows up with an interesting question.
Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?” John 3:4 NASB
So, the Jewish High Ruler is puzzled at the concept of someone being born twice in the same lifetime. After all, a grown adult cannot climb back into mom’s belly. That would be absurd and is definitely not what Jesus is implying. Jesus answers in a way that is often interpreted incorrectly. He says:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” John 3:5 NASB
What does it mean to be born again? It means to be “born of water”
Before we examine what Jesus means here, let’s address what he is NOT saying. When Jesus is talking about being “born of water” He is not talking about water baptism. I have often heard the argument for the necessity of water baptism for salvation being linked to this scripture. That assumption is inaccurate. when considering the context of the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus.
Nicodemus is asking specifically about being born again physically. Jesus responds directly to his question stating that mankind needs to be “born of water and the Spirit.” Born of water is directly related to natural (physical) birth. Obviously, if we were not physically born then we could not be alive in the first place.
Physical birth is the first step for us all. When a child is born physically, it emerges from the physical fluid where it developed inside the mother.
Context is so important. This interpretation shows that Jesus directly answers Nicodemus’ inquiry. Look at the next statement from Jesus for further clarification. Jesus follows, solidifying His answer stating:
That which is born of the flesh is flesh (physically), and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. John 3:6
What does it mean to be born again? It means to be “born of the Spirit”
What does it mean to be born of spirit? Being born of the spirit is what it means to be born again. A true believer in Jesus Christ will be accompanied by the Holy Spirit inside of them. This happens through a personal decision to follow Jesus.
Your old self, which was separated from God by sin, is renewed. You would now have access to the Kingdom of God because of the Holy Spirit birthed in you and makes you eternally alive. No longer would sin separate you from the Father and even though we all physically die, those who are born again partake of eternal life which goes on forever.
By receiving God’s Holy Spirit, we are saved from the wages of sin, which is death. We are transformed into a new creation, not physically but spiritually. In John 3:6, Jesus shows Nicodemus that there is a difference between those born physically and others who are also born spiritually. In those people, a change happens within them that cannot be seen with the naked eye. It is an invisible, “spiritual change” that happens when someone is reborn, through Christ.
Jesus continues to tell Nicodemus:
7 Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
A true Christian must be reborn. They exist physically through natural birth and, in deciding to follow Jesus Christ, then exist through a supernatural birth, being transformed through the Holy Spirit. This is what gives them access to eternal life beyond this world, but also the ability to enjoy that victory here.
John 3:16,17 and the way to Eternal Life
John 3 continues with one of the most well-known bible verses. Jesus sums up God’s plan for salvation.
16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.
How can I know if I am born again?
As stated earlier, you cannot earn salvation, eternal life and right standing with God. It is a gift from God and, like any gift, simply needs to be accepted. Whether you have gone to church all of your life or never once, it is up to you to make a conscious decision to receive God in your heart. That is done through believing in Jesus Christ.
If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. Romans 10:9
There is no special magical prayer or ceremony. What does it mean to be born again? God just wants you to give Him your heart. He wants to transform you from the inside out. If you are unsure as to whether you are born again, you can say a prayer just like this. God will be faithful to His promise and fill you with the Holy Spirit, transforming you into a new creation. Once this happens, eternal life is your future.
It is important, however, to continue learning because now that you can say without a doubt that you are saved, there are so many amazing things in store for you in this world.
What should you do next?
Pray this or a similar prayer from your heart.
“Father God. Today, I make the decision to accept the gift of salvation. I believe in my heart that Jesus lived, died, and rose for me. I am sorry for the things that I do wrong and want the guidance of your Holy Spirit. Today, I am born again because you make me a new person.
Nothing in my past can hold me back and I want to live a life where I follow you and all things are possible. Thank you Lord that I now have eternal life. Help me each and every day to be the person that You called me to be. I pray this prayer in the Mighty Name of Jesus.”
If you prayed this prayer, congratulations! You just started a party in Heaven! Jesus said in Luke 15:7
“I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”
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For more study on this topic, here are some great resources.