Good Question...


...on the meaning of 'born again' in Scripture


I recently got this question...
Is the term, "born again" in the Bible (ref. John 3:3 and John 3:7) a transliteration of the original meaning? If so what does the original text really say? Would you also consider it misleading for Christians to use this term in referring to themselves as having received the baptism of the Holy Spirit? This came up in a chat environment and I wanted to get your slant on it.
I replied:
S...as for your question, The phrase in the Greek is two words: the word "born", followed by a word that can be translated as either 'from above' or 'again'...it is translated differently in several places in the NT...

It is clear from the discussion with Nicodemus that BOTH meanings are in view--a sorta double entendre in my opinion...since Jesus talks about BOTH the (1) from-above birth (the spirit); and (2) a second-time birth (versus the natural birth).

Notice that Nicodemus uses the actual Greek word for 'a second time' (deuteron) in v.4.

As for this being the baptism of the Spirit, it depends on how you understand THAT item.

If you use it to refer to the New Birth (a baptism BY the Spirit into the Body--I Cor 12.13--which is used as a picture of salvation in Romans 6-7), it WOULD MEAN THAT...since salvation = new birth = immersion into the body of Christ (the church) by the Spirit...

If you use it to refer to a post-salvation/justification experience (a la various forms of charismatic teachings), then it would NOT refer to that...the New Birth BY SPIRIT (when you begin trusting in Christ's character, nature, and work as the means to a restored relationship with God) is seen by these groups as being DIFFERENT FROM a Baptism IN THE Spirit (the 'second blessing' type of experience, generally conceived as an indication of commitment or empowering for service)...John 3 is clearly talking about salvation/justification as the end of the chapter shows (e.g. the contrast between eternal life and condemnation), so the charismatic alternative would not really be likely in THIS passage...

Hope this helps (and makes sense, given the terseness!),

warmly,
glenn


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