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Being Born Again in Scripture

Jimmy Akin

DAY 286

CHALLENGE

“People don’t need to be baptized, just born again.”

DEFENSE

Scripture teaches people are born again in baptism.

The phrase translated “born again” occurs in John 3:3, where Jesus tells Nicodemus, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (KJV). In Greek the phrase involves a pun. The word for “again” is anōthen, which can mean either “again” or “from above.” The point is one must receive a second birth and this birth must be from God.

Context reveals how the second birth occurs. Clarifying his initial statement, Jesus tells Nicodemus, “unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). The reference to water and the action of the Spirit indicates baptism (John 1:33).

Jesus expects Nicodemus to already be familiar with this concept (John 3:10), suggesting an Old Testament background to his teaching. Thus Ezekiel 36:25–27 says that at the restoration of Israel God will sprinkle clean water on people, give them a new heart, and put his Spirit within them so they may keep his commandments, all of which point to Christian baptism.

Further, in the verse immediately after Jesus’ discussion with Nicodemus, John tells us: “After this Jesus and his disciples went into the land of Judea; there he remained with them and baptized” (John 3:22). This, in turn, is followed by a controversy sparked by Jesus beginning to baptize (John 3:23–4:3). The conversation with Nicodemus sets up the controversy.

All this indicates being “born again” in baptism. This is confirmed by other passages, which link the reception of new life and regeneration to baptism.

Thus Paul tells the Romans: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:3–4). And Paul tells Titus that “he saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5).

This same understanding is confirmed by the Church Fathers (see Day 287).

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