“ARE YOU A Born-again Christian?” This is common question asked by many religious groups today professing to be Christian. It may appear, at face value, to be but a simple, innocent question rooted only in curiosity. However, the question itself bears significant implications. Why? There are preachers today whose teaching leads others to conclude that one must wear the title “Born Again” upon himself so as to be considered a Christian, and thus be worthy to attain the coveted salvation offered by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This has led some to merely search out groups that use the phrase “Born Again,” believing that if affiliated with such a group their salvation is secured. But, is that so? Is joining any group whose members simply call themselves “Born Again” a guarantee of salvation? Is being born again just a change in a person’s way of life, or is there more involved? These are some very important questions that one must ask before embracing a group declaring itself to be “Born Again.”
BEING ‘BORN AGAIN’
First, does the expression itself have any biblical basis? It was no less than our Lord Jesus Christ who spoke of it in a conversation he had with Nicodemus:
“Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, ‘Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.’ In reply Jesus declared, ‘I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again’.” (John 3:1-3, New International Version)
It can be easily gleaned from this conversation that our Lord Jesus Christ gave much importance to being born again and that it has direct relevance to one’s attaining eternal life. However, just as so many still do today, Nicodemus misunderstood the declaration of the Savior. He asked Jesus:
“’How can a man be born when he is old?’ Nicodemus asked. ‘Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit’.” (John 3:4-5, Ibid)
Clearly, Nicodemus misunderstood and was corrected by our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus went on to explain that being born again meant being born of water and spirit. The question that people must then ask themselves is not whether they have affiliated themselves with a religious group that has for themselves a title of being “Born Again” or not, but rather if they have been born of water and spirit or not. How can a person determine if he has yet undergone such a rebirth via water and spirit?
THE WATER AND THE SPIRIT
Which are the water and the spirit one is to be born of? Jesus spoke of the water, not as that which would only quench a literal thirst:
“Jesus answered, ‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:13-14, Ibid.)
If it is not a literal water that will quench one’s thirst being referred to, but rather a water that will bring one eternal life, what then is being referred to as the eternal life-giving water that leads one to become born again?
“For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.” (I Pet. 1:23, Ibid.)
It is the word of God that will lead a person to become truly born again, not merely a self-proclamation. There is a process one must undergo, which begins with the cleansing power of the words of God. If that is what is meant by being born of water, what about the expression of Jesus when He mentioned that one must also be born of the spirit so as to be born again? Who is the spirit of which one must be born? Our Lord Jesus Christ teaches:
“God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:24, Ibid.)
The Bible teaches us that God is spirit. Thus, to be born again, one must be born of God and of His words. If not, one would only be laying claim to a position of being born again but without a sound biblical basis for such claim.
The Bible teaches us how the process of becoming born anew takes place. Apostle Paul taught:
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” (II Cor. 5:17, New King James Version)
What takes place is a complete rebirth, or the making of a new creation, according to Apostle Paul. If a person has not undergone this process of renewal, he could not be truly born again.
So who have become a new creation? Are they those who have merely made such a claim for themselves? No. According to Apostle Paul, “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.” The apostle identified those who are “in Christ”, thus:
For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace.” (Eph. 2:14-15, Ibid.)
The new creation or those who are truly born again, therefore, are those who became part of the “one new man” which is composed of two parts. Anyone who wishes to be reborn or born again must be brought into the new man by God through His words. It cannot be done by self-declaration, or only by affiliating oneself with a group that merely calls itself “Born Again”.
What are the two parts of the one new man which we are to become part of?
“And He is the Head of the body, the church.” (Col. 1:18, Ibid.)
The two parts of the one new man are Christ as head and the Church His body. Which Church is Christ the head of? It is the Church that carries His name – the Church of Christ:
“Take heed therefore to yourselves and to all the flock over which the Holy Spirit has appointed you overseers, to feed the church of Christ which he has purchased with his blood.” (Acts 20:28, Lamsa Translation)
All truly born-again Christians, therefore, are those who have undergone the process of becoming a member of the true Church of Christ. They have been born of the spirit, born of God, or born of His word; therefore, they have been added as parts of the one new man composed of a head and a body. They are in the body of Christ or Church of Christ.
Membership in the true Church of Christ is therefore necessary for one to become a true born-again Christian. One question people should ask themselves is whether they are in the true Church headed by Christ.
COMPLETE RENEWAL IS NEEDED
But is entering the Church of Christ the only thing needed so as to be truly born again? No. The renewal of one’s life is an important requirement in the process as well. As mentioned by Apostle Paul in the verse quoted earlier, “the old things have passed away” (II Cor. 5:17, NKJV).
The ways of life that must be left behind by anyone becoming part of the Lord’s body or Church were described also by Apostle Paul, thus:
“Throw off your old evil nature and your former way of life, which is rotten through and through, full of lust and deception. Instead, there must be a spiritual renewal of your thoughts and attitudes.” (Eph. 4:22-23, New Living Translation)
The apostle also taught the Church about what happens to the former self of a person once he becomes part of the new creation or is truly born again. It dies and is buried:
“Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” (Rom. 6:3-4, NKJV)
Jesus taught that we need to be born again to receive eternal life. We must therefore not resist the correct process of becoming truly “born again”. The Bible does not show any shortcuts. One becomes a born-again Christian by becoming a member of the true Church of Christ and by living a life in accordance with the will of God.
Source: IGLESIA NI CRISTO, Pasugo, God’s Message, August 2008 Edition, Volume 60, Number 8, ISSN 0116-1636, p. 29-31, by ROBERT F. PELLIEN