‘He’s a born again Christian.’ This phrase suggests that there are some Christians who are born again, and there are other Christians who are not born again. What are we to make of this? According to Jesus, you cannot be a Christian unless you have been born again. There is no such thing as a Christian, who has not been born again. To be a Christian is to be born again. Jesus doesn’t say that some people need to be born again, and other people can be Christians without being born again. Jesus says, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again” (John 3:3). He doesn’t say, ‘Being born again might be a good idea for some of you, but there are others for whom it’s not really all that important.’ Jesus says, “You must be born again” (John 3:7).
The new birth can be described in different ways: ‘born from above’, ‘born of the Spirit’, ‘born anew.’ Each phrase teaches us something about what it means to be born again.
* Born from above – This is not something that we work up from within ourselves. It is a gift which we receive – from above, from God. This is not a case of making ourselves a little better than we are now. To enter the kingdom of God, you need to be born again. Why? – Because his “kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36), we cannot make ourselves members of his kingdom. We can only receive the kingdom of God, as a gift, from the God of the kingdom.
* Born of the Spirit – We must understand the new birth in connection with the work of the Spirit: “He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine, and declare it to you” (John 16:14). The Spirit opens the Scriptures to us. The Spirit leads us to the Saviour. This is the way in which the Spirit produces, in us, the new birth. The circumstances may differ from each of us, but this threefold pattern remains constant: the Spirit, the Scriptures, the Saviour.
* Born anew – To be born anew is to receive new life. We are born anew so that we might live the new life. The features of the new life are described, in Galatians 5:22-23, as “the fruit of the Spirit.” Whatever our personality differences, these are the qualities which are to be seen in the life of every believer.
* Why do we need to be born again?
– Because our nature is sinful: we need a new nature.
– Because the kingdom is God’s kingdom: God is holy.
* How can we be born again?
There is only one way: Jesus Christ.
“Born that man no more may die, born to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth” (from Charles Wesley’s hymn, “Hark! the herald angels sing”).
He died that we might live. He was raised that we might be raised with him. He gave the Spirit that we might be born again.
How do we receive these blessings? – by faith: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
“This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God” (1 John 4:2). Faith in Christ – this is the work of the Spirit of God.
If there is no faith, this is the spirit of antichrist – “every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world” (1 John 4:3); “7 I say this because many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist. 8 Watch out that you do not lose what we have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully. 9 Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son” (2 John 7-9).
Those who bring false teaching concerning Jesus Christ, “the Word made flesh” (John l:14), are not to be given a place of honour among God’s people: “10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take them into your house or welcome them. 11 Anyone who welcomes them shares in their wicked work” (2 John 10-11).
We are to welcome those who are our “brothers and sisters” in Christ (3 John 5). To us, they may be ” strangers”, but they are our friends because they have been born again and are part of God’s family.