The term, “born again,” does not have its roots in the American experience. It is an expression that began on the lips of Jesus. He used “born again” to describe what happens when someone goes from being an enemy of God to a son or daughter of the living God. As Scripture later says, as many as receive him, to them he gives the right to become the children of God (John 1:12).
Today, the common use of the term has its roots in the 16th century but comes to us most directly through the neo-evangelical movement of the 1940’s and 50’s.
The 16th-century Reformers gave their attention to orthodoxy in order to capture the essence of the Gospel. In doing so they came up with the 5 Solos (authority of Scripture alone, saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, and to the glory of God alone). As such, the Reformation of the 16th century was about correct belief.
A hundred years later, some people wanted to go further because they felt there was still more the Reformation of the 16th century could accomplish. So, the Pietists in Germany and the Puritans in England put their minds to complete the Reformation.
This desire to complete the Reformation worked its way from Germany to England and on to the Anglicans who landed at Jamestown in Virginia. At that time, the Anglicans were serious about faith and right thinking, but they also wanted to back up what they knew to be true with action. They believed that the best witness of a transformed mind was a transformed life. They saw the language of re-birth, regeneration, and being born-again as the best way to describe this transformation.
So, do “born-again” Christians represent a particular brand of Christianity? Well, if we believe Jesus when he said, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again,” then a born-again Christian is the only kind of Christian you should ever want to be. Far from dividing Christians into different types, the term is Jesus’ way to describe all those who can see the kingdom of God.
So, are you a born-again Christian? If you trust the words of Jesus, then you are!
Now that’s something to Celebrate!