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Saturday, November 26, 2022

Born Again At The Point Of Faith? - John 1:12-13

Many believe and many teach and preach that a person is born again (becomes a Christian) at the moment they come to believe in Jesus as the Savior.  This is a common misconception.  At first glance, without some thought, John 1:12-13 seems to support that idea.  The reality is that it does not.  But, let us read the passage. 

John 1:12-13, from the New American Standard Bible New Testament Reference Edition Version 1963, reads as follows:  "(12) But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in his name:  (13) who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will on man, but of God." 

You can immediately see (if you are a careful student) that as written verse 12 is in conflict with verse 13.  Verse 12 says that those who believe have the right to become God's children, meaning they are not yet--not at the point of belief.  Yet, verse 13 says they were born of God. 

How does one deal with this apparent contradiction?  If you have a New American Standard Reference Edition Bible from 1995, or for that matter the New Testament reference edition I quoted from above, you will find in the reference notes on verse 13 that the word "born" could have been "begotten," it was a translator’s choice.  In fact, the Analytical-Literal Translation uses the word "begotten" as does the Literal Standard Version and Young’s Literal Translation.    Use the word "begotten" and the conflict between verses 12 and 13 disappears. 

How do we know the word "begotten" is the correct word to use here when either "begotten" or "born" can be used with justification as a translation of the Greek?  There are three reasons.  (1) The Bible cannot contradict itself and be true.  Use the word "born" here and you have a contradiction between the two verses.  (2) There is always a begetting before a birth.  (3) By Paul's conversion experience. 

Paul (known as Saul at that time) most certainly believed when confronted by Jesus himself on the road to Damascus (Acts 22) but when Ananias came to him 3 days later he told Paul to "'Arise, and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on his name.'" (Acts 22:16 NAS)  Do you not find it strikingly strange that a man who believes with his whole heart still has sins 3 days later?  It shouldn't because Paul was begotten three days earlier, not yet born again. 

Jesus says water is a part of the new birth (John 3:1-7, see verse 5).  When we understand what is involved in the new birth, thus understanding how one becomes a Christian, we will know when to use the word "begotten" versus "born."  Remember as a correct translation of the Greek either word is correct but there are times when the context demands one or the other.  In John 1:13 there is really no choice unless you desire a Bible contradiction in which case the Bible cannot be true. 

When you understand John 1:12-13 you will understand that faith alone is not enough to make you a child of God no matter what anyone tells you.  If you are saved by faith alone Ananias lied to Paul in Acts 22 for Paul, being a strong believer in Christ, had no sins to be washed away. 

The believing world may hate it but baptism is a part of what makes one a Christian, born again.  Jesus says so in John 3:5 for being in the kingdom of God is equivalent to being a Christian.  If you disagree you are disagreeing with Jesus, not with me.

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