What Does ‘Born-Again’ Mean?

I’m wondering this myself.  I always thought born again meant those who accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior because they had done something terrible and for some reason I had a visual image of the fringes of society.  Shame on me!

I’m born-again.  I’m a born-again Christian.  All Christians and those who accept Jesus as their Savior and have been baptized are born again.

Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” John 3:3

“…unless he is born of water and the Spirit.” John 3:5

Society paints born again Christians as somehow fallen and a bit freaky.  It’s been given a derogatory connotation.  If someone says, “I’m a born-again Christian,” it’s an immediate reaction and for me it is usually negative.  Like somehow you weren’t worthy enough to just be a plain Christian.

We are all born again if we accept Jesus and have been baptized.  As Jesus explains in John 3, you were born once of woman and second of the Spirit.  We are not automatically born saved.  That comes later as an act of free will.

In essence, to be born again is to be born of the Spirit and of water.

I’m wondering if you take this passage literally, born again means you have been baptized AND received the gift of the Holy Spirit. My understanding of being saved is you only have to accept Jesus as your Savior.  John 3:16 “…whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  This act gives you the Holy Spirit inside.

I feel ashamed I bought into society’s view of born-again Christians however it came about.  We should just be Christians, understood to be born again.  Unless the term is meant to differentiate those who have been baptized from those who haven’t?  Even so, I think the term has been grossly misunderstood and misused.

I’m counting on you all to put in your two-cents and offer up some clarification.

16 thoughts on “What Does ‘Born-Again’ Mean?

  1. Yes, that’s what I believe being “born-again” means. We have accepted Christ as our Lord and Savior and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit – he who is able to live in us and change us; our baptizm is a representation of what was old (our former ways)dying, and re-birth as a child of God – desiring to live in his way. What sets us apart is our re-birth. The gift he gives after his own sacrifice on our behalf. A real Christian doesn’t just wear the label. A real Christian has a personal relationship with Jesus Christ that grows and allows us understanding, directly from him, of his word and his ways. The world is an empty place, and those who walk in this world and become part of it, are merely searching for what we already know and have. The peace and assurance that only Christ Jesus can give.

  2. I was not aware that “born again” for some people had a negative connotation. In my mind it has always meant that a person had accepted & recognized Christ as it’s Savior. As newborns is costumary the baptism, in which a child is not making the decision; therefore, the “again” meant that the grown-up is making this decision out of his own will, with the full understanding of its meaning.

    1. Baptism makes a statement about the new life you have accepted by accepting Christ as your Savior. Even Jesus was baptized – I think that has significance for us.

  3. I agree – we should just call ourselves Christians. As I was listening to the radio talk-show a number of years ago I’ll always remember one listener calling in and stating with indgnation, “I’m a better Christian than most people,” and I believe that’s where the problem lies. The western world believes if you’re not Muslim or Buddhist and you live a good, moral life, then you are a Christian. Thus Christians needed to differentiate themselves as “a born-again Christian” or as a “real Christian.” I recently heard a missionary from Yemen speak and he said 99% of the population there is Muslim. They consider all American people to be Christians and they identify Christianity with movie stars, pop singers, anyone who, in their opinion, is famous and lives an opulent lifestyle. Does that mean we must say “I’m a born-again Christian?” Not in my opinion. Because “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded, that He is able to keep that which I’ve committed unto Him against that day.” I’m a Christian, thank you, Lord.

  4. Great question! This question of the role of baptism seems to be often debated and misunderstood (even in BSF circles!). Saving “belief” in Jesus clearly involves more than an academic acknowledgement that he is God’s son (even demons believe), even though not every scripture reference to salvation mentions what all else is involved. It’s not complicated, but we must read and understand what other scriptures say, as well as [the wonderful and famous] John 3:16. Here’s just 2 others:

    In Acts 2:38, Peter told the crowd to…”Repent and be baptized…for the forgiveness of your sins…” I’m told the greek word for “for” here is “eis,” which means “so that” or “in order that.” So, this means literally, “Repent and be baptized so that your sins may be forgiven.” Romans 6:3,4 says that [believers] are baptized “in order that,” just as Christ was raised from the dead, we too may live a new life! It’s sad that many try to minimize the meaning and importance and beauty of baptism. It would be like getting married without having a wedding! It’s a beautiful gift to literally [and symbolically] establish our relationship with God as one of his followers. We are “going public” with our faith. We are humbling ourselves in obedience to his call on our lives. Consider the story of Naaman, a man of faith in 2Kings 5…ask yourself, when was he was cured of his leprosy? Though Naaman originally thought it rediculous, and was stubborn and angry, God required it of him as an act of surrender of his will. Baptism is not a “work” that earns our salvation, but simply the outward sign that shows we are willing to submit to his lordship. Could it be that baptism is the actual moment we identify with Christ, and receive his “washing?” Once convicted/convinced of the realization of who Jesus is, and what he has done for us, why would any believer delay, even a single day, this beautiful act of submission? Thank God for his indescribable gift of salvation through Jesus Christ!

    1. As a believer in Jesus Christ, The saving grace comes upon one as one repents, states with mouth that Jesus Christ is their Lord and Savior. And believes in heart That JesusChrist, who was “sinless” became sin was cruxified, died and was ressurected on the third day, that for whom ever would believe in him would have ever lasting life. Baptism is an outward act of internal conversion, publically announcing that Jesus Christ IS MY LORD AND SAVIOR. Remember that the thief on cross who called out to Jesus was told, “On this day you will be in the kingdom”, along with many others that Jesus healed and or forgave of their sins merely by believing IN HIM.
      MY OPIONION: I guess for me the difference of the verbage “Born Again Christian” vs. Christian, is A Personal relationship with the Lord Jesus who lives out ones’ life Christlike vs a religion.

  5. I don’t believe you have to be baptized to be born again. Jesus is the living water so, when you believe in Jesus as the son of God and Lord and Savior of your life, the holy spirit enters you and you are washed in the living water of Jesus Christ. There is nothing else required but believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior.

    I believe baptism is simply a way to make public your state as born again.

    1. I do love you, but please explain John 3:5, Acts 2:38, Acts 22:16, Romans 6:3,4 that seem to differ from your opinion. I sympathize with all who have been taught that baptism is “not necessary,” and would love to try to understand this logic. I’m not a Bible scholar, but these and other verses seem pretty clear. Obviously God is judge, and he alone will decide who is saved (whew, what a relief!). I believe he knows our hearts, and even “doctrinal error,” like any other sin, can be forgiven, but let’s be very careful to respect his will for us through his written word.

  6. Another thought: Just because you are baptized does not mean you are saved. I firmly believe there are many in our churches today who have been baptized but are not really born again believers.

    1. Agree with you very well said and truly let all of them who claim to be best christian and good christian, look into their own self and say to Christ that i have not sinned the three ways ( thought, physical, words).
      I strongly believe that apart from my God and savior ” Jesus Christ” no body in this world has the ability credibility of doing so.
      So better don’t say that who is the best baptized etc. as human we don’t even have the cleanliness as the dust touched by Jesus feet say maybe

  7. To be born again means we have a new life in Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come.

  8. I just read this blog and agree that all Christians or true followers of Christ are born again and have become new creations, because not all who call themselves christians are. However, I do NOT agree that baptism is required for salvation. First of all righteousness was accredited to Abraham because of his faith not because of his circumsion (which was the outward sign of faith in the old testament as baptism is in the new). Also the new testament says that it is by faith alone not by works so that no man can boast Eph 2: 8-9. Also, Christ told the thief on the cross that today you will be with me in paradise and he did not take him off the cross and baptize him first. Also, Romans 10:9 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. And let’s not forget John 3:16. And in stating that baptism is required for salvation you are saying that if a person were saved in a location that he could not be batized got in his car to drive to some water and died on his way there that he is going to hell. God is concerned about our heart condition. Baptism is our first step in following Christ in obedience. What Christ did on the Cross is the only thing that gives us remission of our sins, his death for our sin, his sacrifice, his atonement, his substitution, not our baptism. Otherwise you are saying that we can do something to save ourselves, it is only by the grace God has given us that we are saved through Christ Jesus, anything else makes less of Christ sacrifice. It is through his blood we are washed white as snow, through his stripes we are healed.

  9. I don’t think you’re ideas of born-again are entirely right. (I know, who am I to correct your thoughts?) I’m just someone who has had some experience. Born-again needs to be thought of as a ‘verb’ not a ‘noun’. It’s the process a Christian goes through and it can take weeks, months, years…It’s the process of extreme gut wrenching guilt over past sins, even sins from long ago; then there’s the true turning to the Lord, not just going to church or being nice to people, but crying, sobbing truly begging for forgiveness; then its cleansing, feeling truly blessed and knowing his love, you really know you are forgiven and are compelled to study the bible and to Learn More about Jesus. No special water required, no fancy church, just you and the Lord and your personal thoughts.

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