What Does It Mean to Be Born Again?
The Bible’s answer
The term “born again” refers to a new beginning in the relationship between God and the person who is born again. (John 3:3, 7) God adopts those born again as his children. (Romans 8:15, 16; Galatians 4:5; 1 John 3:1) Similar to those who are legally adopted, they experience a change of status, becoming part of God’s family.—2 Corinthians 6:18.
Why is a person born again?
Jesus said: “Unless anyone is born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.” (John 3:3) So being born again prepares a person to rule with Christ in God’s Kingdom. This Kingdom rules from heaven, so the Bible describes the “new birth” as providing an inheritance that is “reserved in the heavens.” (1 Peter 1:3, 4) Those who are born again are given the conviction that they will “rule together as kings” with Christ.—2 Timothy 2:12; 2 Corinthians 1:21, 22.
How is a person born again?
When Jesus discussed the subject, he said that those born again would be “born from water and spirit.” (John 3:5) This expression refers to baptism in water followed by baptism with holy spirit.—Acts 1:5; 2:1-4.
Jesus was the first person to be born again. He was baptized in the Jordan River, after which God anointed (or, baptized) him with holy spirit. Jesus was thus born again by holy spirit as a son of God with the hope of returning to life in heaven. (Mark 1:9-11) God fulfilled this hope by resurrecting Jesus as a spirit creature.—Acts 13:33.
Others who are born again are also baptized in water before they receive the holy spirit. a (Acts 2:38, 41) They then have the sure hope of life in heaven, which God will fulfill in the resurrection.—1 Corinthians 15:42-49.
Misconceptions about being born again
Misconception: A person must be born again to gain salvation or to be a Christian.
Fact: Christ’s sacrifice provides salvation not only for those who are born again as the ones who will rule with Christ in heaven but also for the earthly subjects of God’s Kingdom. (1 John 2:1, 2; Revelation 5:9, 10) That second group of Christians have the opportunity to live forever in Paradise on earth.—Psalm 37:29; Matthew 6:9, 10; Revelation 21:1-5.
Misconception: A person can choose to be born again.
Fact: The opportunity to have a relationship with God and gain salvation is open to all. (1 Timothy 2:3, 4; James 4:8) However, God chooses those who will be born again, or anointed with holy spirit. According to the Bible, being born again “depends, not on a person’s desire or on his effort, but on God.” (Romans 9:16) The expression “born again” can also be rendered “born from above,” confirming that the selection of those who are born again comes “from above,” or from God.—John 3:3, footnote.
a One exception was the case of Cornelius and those with him.—Acts 10:44-48.