What is a Born Again Christian?

The term “born again” or “born again Christian” is now a common term used and heard everywhere in conversations. In the Philippines, it commonly refers to Christians who are non-Catholics, in general. That is, Christians who are Protestants, evangelicals, charismatics and the like.

But what does the term really mean? We find a reference to it in John 3 when Christ said to Nicodemus that he needed to be born again in order to see or enter the kingdom of God.

Born Again Interpretations

For some Christians (a minority view), they interpret it as that time in the future at the Second Coming of Christ—at the resurrection—when those who are Christ’s will be changed into spirit beings. That, for them is being “born again.” It is something in the future, yet to happen, at the resurrection, at Christ’s second coming. Only a few Christians believe this interpretation of John 3 . It’s a minority view.

For Christians in general, it means that point in time in their lives when they accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord. It’s that point in time when they were “saved” when they believed. This is the general understanding of many evangelicals or “born again Christians” when they talk about being “born again.” To them, it simply means a time when one becomes converted or becomes a believer of Jesus Christ. A time when one is considered a Christian. It’s that point in time when they “accepted Christ” and were “saved.”

“Christ in our place and Christ for us in every respect” —Thomas F. Torrance
“Christ in our place and Christ for us in every respect” —Thomas F. Torrance

But there’s something that is really intriguing to me and it has expanded my understanding of what it means to be “born again.” According to theologian Thomas F. Torrance in his book, Mediation of Christ on pages 85-86 he wrote:

“…a highlander asked me whether I was born again, and when I replied in the affirmative he asked when I had been born again. I still recall his face when I told him that I had been born again when Jesus Christ was born of the Virgin Mary and rose again from the virgin tomb, the first-born from the dead.”

For Torrance, we became “born again” when Christ was born in Bethlehem (the incarnation) and when he rose again from the tomb (resurrection). As our representative and substitute—in his vicarious humanity—we were implicated in Christ’s incarnation and resurrection. That’s when we were “born again” according to Torrance. I now understand this to be the objective truth about our salvation in Christ which includes all of humanity.

But individually and personally, each one of us need to be “born again”—that is, we need to change our minds, be converted, in order to see the Kingdom of God. This is the subjective truth.

Subjectively, I was “born again” when I accepted and believed in Christ. Objectively, I was “born again” with and through Jesus Christ in his incarnation and resurrection.

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