Are you a born again Christian? The phrase “born again Christian” originates in the words of Jesus calling for those who follow Him to be born again. What does it mean to be born again? Some have muddied the answer for some time. Beware of those who muddy the water for a little confusion. They use doubt to push people to believe that God will accept any form of godliness even without the power (1 Tim 3:1–5). This study will consider Jesus’s interpretation of what it means to be born again.
Jesus revealed in John 3:5, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” Being born again is essential to salvation. Titus 3:4–5 parallels being born of the water and the Spirit in John 3:5. Paul noted in Titus 3:4–5, “But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.“
The Greek for “regeneration” literally means “born again.” In this passage, believers are saved “through the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Spirit.” The washing is the same as being born of water. Likewise, the apostle Paul revealed in 1 Corinthians 6:11, “And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.” Again, the washing of water is the state of the Christians at Corinth. At this birth in water, believers are sanctified meaning they are made holy by the Holy Spirit. This washing in water is “in the name of the Lord Jesus.”
Another defining passage is also Ephesians 5:25b–26, which says, “Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word.” In this scripture, the Holy Spirit is certainly still involved specifically through the word, which is a little further described as “the sword of the Spirit” (Eph 6:17). Christ demonstrates His love because He washes His church by water to cleanse and make her holy. This is the point where sins are forgiven and believers are saved.
Another passage that brings these points together is 1 Peter 1:22–23. In 1 Peter 1:22–23, Peter revealed, “Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever.” The rebirth is through the Spirit and through the Word of God. The Spirit works upon believers through God’s Word. Remember that this is a rebirth, and Christians are born again through the Gospel (1 Cor 4:15). The Gospel is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. There is no other way but to be born again. This regeneration is a purification done by “obeying” for which people purify their souls, and yet “not by works of righteousness which we have done” (Titus 3:5). For the truth is that salvation is given to believers by God’s grace, and obedience is necessary to come into God’s gracious favor. However, obedience does not earn that grace, because grace is a gift. For Christ’s words teach that Jesus is the source of salvation to those who obey Him (Heb 5:8–9; cf. Matt 7:21). This rebirth is of water and the Spirit is that it is a washing by Christ in water and in Jesus’s name by which the Spirit sanctifies believers through the Word of God.
How is a believer born of the water and the Spirit as a washing in water and in the name of Jesus Christ? Ephesians 2:4–6 shows that the believer is made alive with Christ when one is raised with Christ and thus saved by grace. One is raised with Christ from being buried with Christ in baptism (Rom 6:3-7; Col 2:12–13). Being that Christians are saved by the Gospel, which is the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, then believers must die, be buried, and resurrected with Christ to be saved (1 Cor 15:1–4). First Peter 1:3 shows that believers are born again through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the death, and 1 Peter 3:21 affirms that “Baptism now saves you” “through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”
There is only one practice instituted by Christ that is a regeneration in Jesus’s name. Where do water and Jesus’s name come together? Peter proclaimed in Acts 10:47–48, “‘Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?’ And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord” (cf. 10:43). Although Cornelius received the Holy Spirit, he had to be born of the water as well as the Spirit. Baptism in Jesus’s name is the washing. Ananias addressed Paul in Acts 22:16, “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” This is the exact moment of salvation for the forgiveness of sins. Peter preached in Acts 2:38, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ unto the forgiveness of sins” (cf. Matt 26:28). In Jesus’s resurrection, Jesus revealed in Mark 16:16, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.” This is baptism in the Spirit’s name and to be born of the Spirit in Jesus’s name. Jesus commanded in Matthew 28:19, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” This baptism is in the name of the Holy Spirit. “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body [the Church]” (1 Cor 12:13). Therefore, to be born of the water and the Spirit is to be born again by baptism in Jesus’s name. Baptism in Jesus’s name is moment when one is born again.