Are You a Born Again Christian?

by Steve Dewhirst

What other kind of Christian is there? Jesus told the night-visitor Nicodemus, "Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." When Nicodemus expressed his puzzlement, the Lord explained, "Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God" (John 3:3-5).

This rebirth is universally equated with the forgiveness of sins and salvation. Jesus testified of two elements necessary to experience our new birth: water and the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is involved in several ways. First, His work of revealing God's Will to man is the avenue through which we learn of God's desire to save us. "Of His Own Will He brought us forth by the Word of Truth..." (James 1:18). Second, the Spirit "seals" or marks-for-identification those who come to belong to God (Ephesians 1:13). And third, included in this "sealing," the Spirit is "given to those who obey Him" (Acts 5:32). We may not understand all aspects of the Spirit dwelling in us, but we do know that without the inspired Scriptures we could not be saved, for "Faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the Word of God" (Romans 10:17).

But the other essential element of being born-again is water. The only sense in which water is ever mentioned in connection to a "new life," is when speaking of water baptism for the remission of sins (Romans 6:3,4; Colossians 2:12,13). It's also interesting to note that many denominational commentators, who personally reject baptism as having any connection to salvation, admit that John 3:3-5 teaches water baptism for that very purpose.

The late Dr. Merrill C. Tenney, well-known theologian and long-time lecturer at Wheaton College in Illinois, taught in his Bible classes that John 3:3-5 teaches water baptism for the remission of sins. To Dr. Tenney, the meaning was so obvious it could not be denied. But when asked how he reconciled the fact that Jesus taught water baptism, while being affiliated with a denomination that denied the importance of it, he replied, "I can't." Well, he was nothing, if not straightforward.

Water baptism is an act of faith that declares our confidence in God to raise us to a new spiritual life, just as He raised Jesus from the grave (Colossians 2:12). We have faith to obey Jesus in baptism because the Holy Spirit inspired men to write God's Word for us. The Spirit and water are both essential to being born again; hence, Jesus' Words: "Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God." There can be no real Christians, except born- again Christians.

Curiously though, the world has completely redefined the meaning of being born-again. Nowadays it's relatively popular to be "born-again." From politicians and actors wishing to change a "bad boy" image, to our neighbors next door, everyone is being born-again. But this vital soul-saving principle taught by Jesus has been altered to accommodate the "wisdom" of men.

Instead of being born "of water and the Spirit," folks are told to just "accept Jesus as your personal Savior," even though no Scripture is produced to support the instruction. Or perhaps people are told to "invite Jesus into your heart." Again, however, no passage can be found to illustrate the correctness of such a move. In fact, nearly anything can be an acceptable means of being "born again," except the things Jesus actually taught!! Conversations can turn downright ugly if one even tries to mention baptism. Instead of being a simple act of faith, baptism has been transformed into a "work" that only ignorant, insincere people use to try to earn their redemption.

And this, despite the words of the apostle Paul: "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 the renewing of the Holy Spirit..." (Titus 3:4,5). Even sectarian writers acknowledge that the "washing of regeneration" is a reference to water baptism. And note that Paul makes a clear distinction between the meritorious works of men on the one hand and baptism on the other. Baptism, properly understood, is an act of faith, not a "good work" one does to "win points" with God. How can it be that everyone wants to be "born again," but so few seem willing to do what Jesus taught? It must be because modern man wants to take the lead in his own salvation, rather than being led by the Spirit.

At any rate, next time someone asks the familiar question, "Are you a born-again Christian?" look at him dumbly and reply, "What other kind is there?"

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