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Christian Biblical Studies
Q What does it mean to be ‘born again’?
A At His baptism Jesus was anointed with the holy spirit, and so became a ‘new creature’ (Matt. 3: 13-17). Had He died on the cross and remained dead, the world’s hope for forgiveness of sin and salvation to eternal life would have ended there. But Jesus was raised, not as a Man, but as a Divine spirit being. Having been begotten as a ‘new creature’ at Jordan, He was born into the spirit nature.
The conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus, recorded in John 3: 1-8 is instructive (this is from the King James [Authorised] Version):
1 There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews:
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.
The distinction between conception and birth is often lost in the standard translations of these verses, as it is here. The Greek word, gennao, rendered ‘born’ throughout these verses, can also carry the meaning of ‘begotten’. It is so translated in the KJV renderings of Philemon 10 (where Paul refers to his evangelising of Onesimus as a begettal); 1 Cor. 4: 15; 1 John 5: 1 (where gennao is rendered ‘born’, ‘begat’, and ‘begotten’ in the same verse).
As the context of our Lord’s conversation with Nicodemus suggests, Jesus draws His analogy from the process of conception and birth of a child. As applied to Jesus, so it was with the elect Church of the Gospel Age – each member was begotten by the holy spirit at his or her consecration, not born.
The popular misnomer, ‘born again’ (or, in some translations, ‘born from above’ or ‘born anew’) should be restricted to spirit-begettal (that is, ‘begotten again’). The expression, ‘born of the spirit’ should be restricted to the culmination of the salvation process – the resurrection-birth.
For the sake of accuracy, the resurrection-birth should be regarded as the true, ‘born again’, though it is rarely, if ever, used this way in evangelical circles.
Matt. 3: 13-17
[NIV-UK, 1984] 13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptised by John. 14 But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptised by you, and do you come to me?” 15 Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfil all righteousness.” Then John consented. 16 As soon as Jesus was baptised, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”
[KJV] I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds: . . .
1 Cor. 4: 15
[KJV] For though ye have ten thousand instructers in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.
1 John 5: 1
[KJV] 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.
April 2018. no copyright