Have you ever wondered why Jesus the Christ concentrated more on the idea of being born again than He concentrated on the idea of salvation? Here’s why!
Concerning whether or not people need to be born again, Apostle Paul writes in Titus that God:
…saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life (Titus 3:5-7, NIV).
Translation: regeneration is a must! Being born again is a must, because if we never experience our second birth (our spiritual rebirth/renewal/regeneration), we never will be truly saved! In essence, regeneration is the definitive prerequisite to salvation. That’s right! Being born again and being redeemed are not synonymous.
For sure, Jesus the Christ knew the difference between rebirth and salvation. In fact, during His earthly ministry, He didn’t explicitly teach about salvation because His primary focus was on the Kingdom of Heaven and how people must enter into this spiritual Kingdom. He taught that they must come through the ONE and only door/gate—that they must come through Him. Christ’s teaching on how people enter into the Kingdom of God confirms that there is ONLY one way (one path) that leads to living an eternal life with God.
This veiled reference to salvation aside, without a doubt Jesus the Christ explicitly taught that before people could come through Him (before they could be saved from an eternity spent in the Lake of Fire) they first MUST be born again! Repeatedly, Jesus the Christ made it clear that unregenerate sinners neither would see nor would they enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. Certainly that is why Jesus the Christ insisted that people must be born again instead of preaching and teaching that people must be saved!
It is safe to say that He understood the difference between regeneration (rebirth) and salvation. Like God, Jesus the Christ knew that it virtually was impossible for sinners to be saved from the wrath of God without God’s intervention. Consequently, God uses His saving grace and His Holy Spirit’s power for the purpose of influencing every sinner’s necessary born-again experience.
Knowing that we would be utterly hopeless as long as we lived outside of a life in Christ is why God graciously intervenes in our lives and quickens our human spirits so that we can hear the Word of God and receive our measure of faith. God knows that it takes us being born again before we can proceed to the most crucial step in His redemption plan, which is responding to the Holy Spirit’s initial conviction. By God’s Grace, His Holy Spirit first convicts us about our need to be aware of our sin-guilt, to be accountable for our own sins, and to confess our awareness. For sure, it is our confessed awareness and accountability that will activate the Holy Spirit’s successive convictions: confessing our sins, repenting our sins (turning away from our sins and turning toward Jesus the Christ), and accepting Jesus the Christ as our Savior.
After we accept Jesus the Christ as our person Savior, we are reconciled and restored. Christ gives us His righteousness (He justifies us so that we will be in right standing with God); the Holy Spirit begins His practical sanctification process (He begins transforming us unto the image of Jesus the Christ); and our eternal life begins while we are still on Earth. But again, none of the Holy Spirit’s successive convictions that lead to our salvation can happen if we first didn’t have a genuine born-again experience!
The Apostle John says that “…to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn! This is not a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan – this rebirth comes from God” (John 1:12-13, NLT). Once again, being born again is wholly, completely, and supremely because of God’s divine power (mighty workings of His Holy Spirit) and Grace. By God’s design, we are inactive receivers of our second birth! That is to say that there is nothing that we can do, say or think about that will influence our regeneration. Furthermore, if the Holy Spirit doesn’t rejuvenate our spiritually DEAD human spirits (spirits that are dead in sins and trespasses), we just would continue to deny our sinfulness and continue to deny our need for a Savior.
Since being born again of the Holy Spirit is something that humans cannot do under their own strength, might, and predilection, people need to know and understand that they are never considered to be regenerated just because they are fortunate enough to have been born (physically born) into a Christian family. Similarly, people need to know that they are not born again just because they make a decision to be saved, or make a commitment to the Lord, or choose to rededicate their lives, or walk down the aisles of the church and give their preacher their hand. Finally, people need to know that they are not born again just because they orally repent their sins and/or boldly profess to believe in Jesus the Christ. The spiritual truth is that people repent and believe because the Grace and Holy Spirit of God already have regenerated their dead human spirits, which is that quickening that eventually leads to believers’ spirits being put back in the right standing and relationship with Father and Creator God–they are presented to God just as if they had never sinned!
Unfortunately, because too many “churchy” people tend to think that regeneration (the rebirth) and salvation are the same, that water baptism is the second birth, that water baptism saves, or that people have something to do with their own rebirth, we have too many professed Christians in our modern-day churches who really never have been born again (people who never have received a regenerated spirit). The sad truth is that not until people study the Word of God for themselves until they know God’s Word inside and out, and not until pulpit ministers and other spiritual leaders teach the truth about the second birth, which is that being born again is solely of God, the numbers of people who neither will see nor enter into the Kingdom of Heaven will continue to be staggering!