Author: Ron Graham
“Born Again Christian”
—Language of error
People say “born again Christian” because they believe that two kinds of Christians exist. There are those Christians who have experienced the new birth, and other Christians who supposedly haven't. They are the spiritually unborn. This belief is false.
1 Unscriptural Language
It is important to speak as the Bible speaks. We must avoid using biblical terms in unbiblical ways. The term “born again Christian” does not appear anywhere in Scripture. It is an invention.
Of course the word “Christian” appears in Scripture: "The disciples were called Christians first in Antioch" (Acts 11:26). "If anyone suffers as a Christian, don't be ashamed but glorify God in this name" (1Peter 4:16).
The term “born again” can also be discovered in Scripture, with the wonderful promise of re‑birth (John 3:1-21, Titus 3:5). But never, never does the Holy Spirit use the phrase “born again Christians” —as though there were some other kind.
The scripture does not say, “The disciples were called Born Again Christians first in Antioch”. They were called simply “Christians”. So when and where were they first called “Born Again Christians”? I don't know exactly, but I know it was not in the days of the apostles who wrote Scripture.
Sometimes an adjective is added to the word “Christian” as a way of emphasising some quality in the Christian. For example we might speak of “Bible‑believing Christians”. We probably don't mean that some Christians believe the Bible and others don't. Rather, we mean that any Christian worthy of the name is a Bible believer, and one who doesn't believe the Bible is not really a Christian.
But that isn't the way that most people use the term “born again Christian”. They use it divisively. Let me explain...
2 Divisive Language
You wouldn't use the expression “wet water” or talk about a “time‑measuring clock”. Water by definition is wet, and clocks by definition measure time. That kind of language is known as “tautology”. It is pointless repetition. On the other hand, you might describe water as cold, or a clock as accurate, because those descriptions distinguish the water from other water, and the clock from other clocks.
When folk use the term “born again Christian” they usually are meaning to draw a line between Christians. They think, and imply, that some Christians are born again as distinct from others who are not —just as some clocks are “cuckoo clocks” as distinct from other clocks which are not. And usually, in making that distinction, they further imply that “born again Christians” are superior to those they deem not to be born again.
We must not divide the body of Christ by name‑calling. Christ is not divided! "Try hard to keep the unity of the Spirit in the peace that binds you together. There is one body and one Spirit, as you also were called in one hope at your calling. There is one Lord, one faith, one immersion, one God and Father of all..." (Ephesians 4:3-6).
"Let there be no divisions among you, but be perfectly joined together in the same mind and judgment" (1Corinthians 1:10-13).
Of course not all distinctions are divisive. We might speak of “overseas Christians” as distinct from those on our own shores. But we would not thereby imply any division in the body of Christ. Nor would we suggest that Christians here are an elite as opposed to Christians there.
But distinguishing some Christians as “born again” is not so benign. It is not only unscriptural language, but also the language of elitism and pride. It labels some Christians as more holy, more blessed, more saved, than other Christians. It is the language of division.
3 Language of Error
Usually when people use unscriptural language, or use Bible terms in unscriptural ways, they are teaching error. This is the case with the term “born again Christian”.
In the Bible, there are two spiritual states, (1) dead in sin, and (2) alive in Christ. As Paul writes, "God is rich in mercy, because his love for us is great. Even when we were dead in sins, he made us alive together with Christ, saved by grace. And God raised us up together and sat us together in heavenly heights in Christ Jesus." (Ephesians 2:5-6).
Now there is the truth. A person who is dead in sin can be made alive in Christ receiving all the riches of God’s grace and mercy. There is no in‑between state where one is no longer dead in sin, but has not been born again. This unborn state is an invention. The term “born again Christian” arises from this error in order to perpetuate it.
Paul goes on to say, "You were without Christ, being aliens... but now in Christ Jesus, you who were once far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ." (Ephesians 2:11-13).
Incidentally, there in Ephesians chapter 2, Paul is discussing how Jesus has broken down the division between Jew and Gentile and made them all one body in him. But we are noticing that he has no idea that some of this one body, whilst no longer dead in sin, are not yet fully alive in Christ. In chapter 1 he has already declared that this body of Christ is "blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ" (Ephesians 1:3).
You may judge that some people do not have the fullness of blessings in Christ, and therefore they are not born again. But you may not want to say they are dead in sin, or that they are not Christians. So you invent a spiritual womb where people are neither dead in sin nor born again. Unfortunately for you, that idea of unborn Christians is foreign to the Bible and you are believing and promoting a serious error. I invite you to think through this lesson carefully.