The Evangelical Universalist Forum

I am not born again

Have you been born again? Or begotten again?

Today many people claim to be born again. Seemingly this claim is based mainly on Jesus words to Nicodemus as recorded in John 3:3 regarding the necessity of being “born again”.

Truly, truly, I tell you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.

But how can one be sure that the word “gennaō” always means “to give birth”? The word occurs 65 times in the New Testament, so we have plenty of opportunity to see how it is used. If one maintains that it always means “to give birth”, then some passages would have interesting translations:

Abraham gave birth to Isaac, and Isaac gave birth to Jacob, and Jacob gave birth to Judah and his brothers. Matthew 1:2

But as he considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which was born in her is of the Holy Spirit. Matthew 1:20

So also Christ did not glorify himself in becoming a high priest, but was appointed by the one who said to him, “You are my Son, today I have given birth to you” Hebrews 5:5

Our English word “generate” appears to be etymologically related to “gennaō”, though it is thought that “generate” is directly derived from the Latin “genare” (to produce). The older English word “beget” also has this meaning as any good dictionary will indicate. It is my belief that “produce” is the closest English equivalent to the Greek verb “gennaō”.

If you bear with me while I relate some technicalities, I will ultimately explain the importance of the importance of translating “gennaō” as “to generate” or “to produce” or “to beget” rather than “to give birth”.

Thus if the word is translated “produced” in Matthew 1:2, the problems discussed above disappear.
Abraham begat or produced Isaac. God begat Jesus (the only-begotten Son) or produced Jesus (some may not like that way of putting it ---- sounds too much like “created”). The third century church was adamant (and rightly so) in stating in their creeds that Jesus “was begotten not created.”

In Matthew 1:20 “That which was produced in her is of the Holy Spirit.”

There is a Greek word which means “to give birth” ---- “tiktō”. It is used 17 times in the New Testament. Here are 3 examples of verses which contain the word:

“Behold, a virgin shall conceive and give birth to a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel” (which means, God with us). Matthew 1:23

[Joseph] knew her not until she had given birth to a son; and he called his name Jesus. (Matthew 1:25)

And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. Luke 2:7

Does this mean then that “gennaō” is never used in connection with a birth? No. There are two clear references in which it is. Most translators translate the word as “gave birth to” and “is born”.

Now the time came for Elizabeth to be delivered, and she gave birth to a son. (Luke 1:57)

When a woman is in travail she has sorrow, because her hour has come; but when she is delivered of the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a child is born into the world. John 16:21

Does this mean, then, that “gennaō” not only means “to beget” or “to produce” but also “to give birth”?
I think not. It is interesting that both “tiktō and “gennaō” are used in Luke 1:57. Let’s see what the verse looks like when we translate the words properly as “give birth” and “produce” :

Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she produced a son. (Luke 1:57)

Let’s look at John 16:21 when they are translated according to the meanings of “tiktō and “gennaō”:

A woman has grief when she gives birth, because her time has come, but when she produces the child, she no longer remembers the distress, because of the joy that a human being was produced into the world.

And now, I suppose it is time to ask the big question. So what? What’s the difference whether we say a person if “born again” or “begotten” (produced, or generated) again?

I suggest that when we are begotten again, that is when the new life starts in the spiritual womb, there is a lot of growth which must take place until we are ready to be born. After the spiritual fœtus is fully mature, a new birth takes place. When would that be?

Colossians 1:18 He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the first-born from the dead, that in everything he might be pre-eminent.

Jesus is the first-born from the dead. What does that mean? Does it not mean that he was the first to have a true resurrection? The resurrection which Paul describes in I Cor 15 when “this mortal must put on immortality”? No one who was resurrected from the dead prior to Christ , became immortal. Jesus brought Lazarus to life after he was dead four days, but Lazarus was not raised immortal. Some time later, he died a natural death just like everyone else. So Jesus, who was fully human, was born into the resurrection, the first.

Romans 8:29 For those whom he foreknew he also pre-appointed to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the first-born among many brethren.

Again, Jesus was the first-born of many brethren. He was the first to be resurrected to immortal life, but there will be many other brothers and sisters who will be raised to life, those who are being conformed to the image of the Son. “Blessed and holy is he who shares in the first resurrection”, those who are overcomers.

So the sequence is:

[1] The New Production: Re-generation, that is, being begotten again or generated again.

[2]Growth toward Christ-likeness as the process of salvation from sin continues in us (He who began a good work in you will be completing it until the day of Jesus Christ).

[3] Born into the resurrection. Completed, perfected disciples, conformed to the image of Christ, raised to immortality at the coming of Christ.

So using the word “begotten” or “produced” for our regeneration, followed by our growth as a “fœtus” and “born” into the resurrection, seems to best symbolize the process of salvation.

I like it; that has very good explanatory power and clears up some confusions I’ve had.

Excellent, Paidion…that seems to resonate with a hunch i’d had for a while that birth might be the most important sign God has given us of His intention…and Paul hints at it when he says Creation is groaning like a woman in travail. Being born into resurrection and God’s everlasting life makes perfect sense!

“Born into the resurrection. Completed, perfected disciples, conformed to the image of Christ, raised to immortality at the coming of Christ.”
When, in your opinion, does the option of becoming a perfect disciple of Christ become a viable option for us? Is this a state that could theoretically be attained in life, or must we wait for death to reach this transcendence?

My belief is that salvation is a life-long process, and that those who stay on the narrow path which leads to life, will, by the enabling grace of God (Titus 2) made available by the supreme sacrifice of Messiah Jesus, continue to grow toward completion (or perfection).

The day of Jesus Christ is the day in which He raises His persevering disciples. These may be the ones which the writer of Revelation refers to as “overcomers”. Perhaps Christ will put the finishing touches on these disciples so that they will be perfected in that day.

Others, who try to serve God, but who get off the narrow path, may have to undergo post-mortem correction.

Right now, I think that no one reaches perfection in this life, but those who stay on the narrow path are moving in that direction.
However, I may be wrong. Perhaps there are some who reach it during this life. But Paul’s statement quoted above seems to suggest that it won’t happen until the day of Jesus Christ.

You seem like a real cool cat, Paidion. I like that response. I guess moving in the right direction is the best option currently available, and it could always lead somewhere that I’m wanting to go. Thanks for being so common-sensey.

It is difficult for me to fathom becoming perfect in this life. I also find it difficult to believe that Christ eliminates the sinful nature at the moment of death. If he does do this, what is the point of working towards holiness, never to make it, only for death to be our deliverance? To be clear, I am not saying ‘why work towards holiness’ I am merely suggesting that if our efforts are what causes God to grant us perfection when we die, then, in a sense, we become our own savior…

Take me for example. I hate my sin and I am pursuing righteousness but still have something in me that desires evil. If I didn’t desire evil, I would never do it. In fact, if I didn’t desire evil, I would never be tempted to do it. But as long as I can be tempted to do evil, I maintain that my heart is still evil. Now, perhaps my heart is not entirely evil, else I would not have the desire to do good and be good. Though my heart is evil, it is not entirely evil and hence, I can still obey over the pull of evil. To not have an evil heart at some level would be to make obedience trivial. Obedience requires sacrifice. The dying to myself…

I trust that Christ will do when he says He can do, and I put my faith in that, but I must admit, I have doubts. So long as temptation to do evil exists within me, I am not free, nor perfected. I may be able to obey and rise above the flesh consistently and progressively, but to suggest a perfection where I can no longer do evil, well, that is far beyond me. Only through Christ is that possible. I believe that Christ came to save us from our sins, but I guess the how is the part I don’t quite understand. I am not sure it is important to understand the how, either. But inquisitive minds like mine, would love to know.

I haven’t suggested either of these as being the case. What I have stated is that throughout the “fetal stage”, our living here on earth, the person who has been regenerated (begotten again) is in a state of growth “in the womb”. This growth will continue as long as one stays on the narrow path (or “difficult road”) which leads to life. Such a person is an overcomer, though he may occasionally stumble or fail. Such a person “working together with God” has not accepted the enabling grace of God in vain (2 Cor 6:1). This person’s salvation progresses throughout his life time. That is why at the resurrection of the righteous, Jesus needs only to put the finishing touches on such a person to bring him to completion.

On the other hand those who have never been regenerated, as well as those who have been, but have gotten off the narrow path to live their lives as they desire, in other words, take their lives back into their own hands instead of being subject to Christ, will have to be corrected post-mortem.

Sorry, my post didn’t really have much to do with your viewpoint. I was just chiming in on some of the thoughts. To be clear, I take MacDonald’s view anyway; that, perhaps some are made perfect in this life. I never met one, or known to have met one, but that is no reason to believe that one such person couldn’t exist.

Excellent post Paidion!:slight_smile:

I have never ever thought about it in that way before but..Wow!:) That does make alot of sense!:) While I wont sit here and say that I dont think a person could ever become "perfect" in this lifetime, I do believe it is HIGHLY unlikely. Just us being human and in this flesh, we are constantly bombarded with temptations, thoughts, etc that sometimes we have no control over. I guess it goes back to the fact that...We are all sinners while here on earth! Some of us may be Christians, Preachers, Teachers, Someone who has accepted Christ into their hearts, but that doesnt change that we are still sinners. Everyone sins. Now when we have God in our lives, he changes our hearts to where we want to do good and walk pleasingly with him and we are gifted with his Holy Spirit to help us, but in order for all that to grow, we have to nurture it, just like a plant. It will die if left unattended. Not saying that the Holy Spirit will ever leave us, just that if its not nurtured or grown, then we never will be able to see the full extent of what God could do in our lives. The more we grow and nurture that, the more fruit we will see in our lives and the closer relationship we will have with God. But I dont think anyone could reach that point of perfection until Christ comes back:)


So glad I’m post-evangelical and left all that hard work behind… :arrow_right: :arrow_right: :arrow_right:

Thank you, Carrie. I’m glad my post helped in some way. I’d like to make one little comment.

I don’t think it correct to refer to a regenerated person who is staying on the narrow path, as a “sinner”, even though he occasionally sins.
If I go out and help a neigbour with his farm work, does that make me a “farmer”? If my friend occasionally helps me repair my quad or riding mower, does this make him a “mechanic”? It seems to me that the answer is “no”. A farmer is one who makes farming his occupation, or at least one of his occupations. A mechanic is one who works in mechanical work as a trade, at least part of the time.

In my opinion, a “sinner” is one who has a sinful life style, not one who occasionally stumbles, or who sometimes gives way to wrong anger, wrong desire, etc. in particular circumstances.

The woman who was called “a sinner” by both Luke and by the pharisee (Luke 7:37-39) was probably a prostitute. They would never have called just any imperfect woman “a sinner.”

Hmm You have got me Paidion!! HAHA! :laughing: You are very correct:) At first, I had my own thoughts come up as I was reading your reply but wanted to do some double checking and found out I was wrong and (in my head at least) misquoted a verse in the Bible. Its from Romans 3:23 “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” For some reason, in my head, I thought that verse was quoted as saying…For all are sinners and have fallen short of the glory of God:) Looked also and found that no where in the Bible…that I can find ever states that we are all sinners in referring to everyone including Christians. I have a good idea where this mindset came from though:)

For the past 10 yrs I have always felt the need to defend my beliefs when its concerning my husbands mom and dad who are SDA. Dont get me wrong, LOVE them dearly and they love me as well BUT, they are of the mindset that if you sin and do not confess it and ask forgiveness, you are gonna die and be annihilated when God comes back. To me, personally, this is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard of when it comes to making sense. So due to that, I guess I try to push more on explaining how no one can be perfect, we are ALL gonna sin ALOT, mess up ALOT. We were born into sinful bodies with sinful tendencies that we are constantly having to keep in check. Luckily we are able to the closer we are to God and I guess I actually twisted that word sin…to sinners to try and show that the only difference between believers and non believers is that we have God in our lives and they dont. All of that was paid for on the cross. But what I really and truly did was just distort the truth even to myself! :blush: So thank you for that!:slight_smile: