What does it mean to be born again; how does it happen?
There seems to be so much misunderstanding about what it means to be “born again.” One of the proofs that the term is misunderstood is because I so often hear the claim by some that, “I am a ‘born again’ Christian.” The phrase “born again” Christian,” is a redundant expression. To ask a person if they are born again, Christian is a foolish question
If you are “born again” then you are a Christian. If you are a Christian, then you must have been “born again.” If you have not been “born again,” then you are not a Christian. Calling oneself a Christian presupposes the other. That said one who calls himself or herself a Christian but has not been “born again” is a Christian in name only, a nominal Christian and not a true believer in the Lord Jesus Christ and thus is still lost in sin.
So we should all take a good look at scripture and then a good look at ourselves.
John 3:3-8 “Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again[b] he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.[c] 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You[d] must be born again.’ 8 The wind[e] blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
The following is a Note from The Reformation Study Bible, R.C. Sproul, General Editor
It was Jesus who first declared that spiritual rebirth was an absolute necessity for entering the Kingdom of God. He declared to Nicodemus, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.” (John 3:3) The word unless in Jesus’ teaching signals a universally necessary condition for seeing and entering the Kingdom of God. Rebirth, the, is and essential part of Christianity; without it, entrance into god’s Kingdom is impossible.
Regeneration is the theological term used to describe rebirth. It refers to a new generating, a new genesis, a new beginning. It is more than “turning over a new leaf”; it marks the beginning of a new life in a radically renewed person. Peter speaks of persons having “been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and abiding Word of god.” (1 Peter 1:23)
Regeneration is the work of the Holy Spirit upon those who are spiritually dead (see Eph 2:1-10). The Spirit recreates the human heart, quickening it from spiritual death to spiritual life. Regenerate persons are new creations. Where formally they had no disposition, inclination, or desire for the things of God, now they are disposed and inclined toward God. In regeneration, God plants desire for Himself in the human heart that otherwise would not be there.
Regeneration is not to be confused with the full experience of conversion. Just as birth is our initiation, our first entrance into life outside the womb, so our spiritual rebirth is the starting point of our spititual life. It occurs by God’s divine iniative and is an act that is sovereign, immediate, and instantaneous. An awareness of our conversion may be gradual. Yet rebirth itself is instantaneous. No one can be partially reborn any more than a woman can be partially pregnant.
Which comes first?
Regeneration is not the fruit or result of faith. Rather, regeneration precedes faith as the necessary condition of faith. We also do not in any way dispose ourselves toward regeneration or cooperate as coworkers with the Holy Spirit to bring it to pass. We do not decide or choose to be regenerated. God chooses to regenerate us before we will ever choose to embrace Him. To be sure, after we have been regenerated by the sovereign grace of God, we do choose, act, cooperate, and believe in Christ. God does not have faith for us. It is our own faith by which we are justified. What God does is quicken us to spiritual life, rescueing us from darkness, bondage, and spiritual death. God makes faith possible and actual for us. He quickens faith within us.
I pray I have clarified the issue and not further clouded it.
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