Before answering the question about what it means to be “born again” first we need to un-pack what the Jehovah’s Witnesses teach when it comes to this subject.
Awake February 8th 1988
Does this mean then that in order to gain God’s favor, everyone must be “born again”? Not at all. Jesus’ sacrifice covers more than the 144,000 persons who have been specially chosen to be with him in the heavens.
So even though John 3:3 says unless “ANYONE” is born again, Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that only “144,000” need to be born again.
A Jehovah’s Witness would respond in saying that only 144,000 are going to heaven and therefore only those will see the kingdom. This is a whole different subject, and if you would like to know more about who the 144,000 are, here is a link to John Stickland’s article from a few years ago relating to this subject.
So while the Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that there are 2 classes which “a great crowd” who will be resurrected on the earth and “144,000” who go to heaven, the bible teaches that we have “one hope”
There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call
Is that important though to be born again? What does it actually mean?
Lets go back to the whole text in John 3 and un-pack what Jesus was talking about.
3 Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. 2 He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”
3 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.[a]”
4 “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”
5 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit[b] gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You[c]must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”[d]
9 “How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.
10 “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? 11 Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. 12 I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? 13 No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man.[e] 14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up,[f]15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”[g]
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.
The term born again in the Greek literally means “born from above”.
So even though Nicodemus just like the other Pharisees kept the law down to a tee, he had a real need. He needed a change of his heart—a spiritual transformation. New birth, being born again, is an act of God whereby eternal life is imparted to the person who believes and who trusts in the name of Jesus Christ.
So even though he was brilliant at keeping the law, he had to change his attitude.
Speaking from experience and being very honest here, as a Jehovah’s Witness I was so focussed and so distracted in keeping all the Watchtower laws such as no birthdays, no Christmas etc, that you forget what is the most important thing “faith in Jesus”.
Why was Abraham a friend of God? Because of how well he kept the law? No …
By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance.
Jesus knew that Nicodemus thought that he had to be “good enough” in order to get to heaven. Jesus however corrected him.
EVERYONE who BELIEVES may HAVE ETERNAL LIFE in HIM…..how about that for a revelation!
It’s about believing in Jesus that means we HAVE eternal life that exists only in Jesus.
What a contrary to what the Jehovah’s Witnesses believe!
“Similarly, Jehovah is using only one organization today to accomplish his will. To receive everlasting life in the earthly Paradise we must identify that organization and serve God as part of it.” Watchtower 1983 Feb 15 p.12
“In effect, Jesus also conveys Jehovah’s voice to us as he directs the congregation through “the faithful and discreet slave.” We need to take this guidance and direction seriously, for our everlasting life depends on our obedience.” Watchtower 2014 Aug 15 p.21
How serious is it though to not be born again?
Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
Surely this means then that all religious groups (Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Christians, Muslims, Catholics) are not condemned then? After all they all believe in Jesus.
Well the Pharisees believed in Jesus (obviously, because they lived at the same time as him). They did not however believe he was the “Eternal Father, Mighty God, Prince of Peace” prophesied in Isaiah 9:6 as well as in other old testament writings. Jesus here in verse 18 says if you do not believe, you are condemned, highlighting the seriousness of not believing who he was.
What happens when you are born again?
2 Corinthians 5:17
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
Does this mean then we stop sinning? Not at all, it means now we have been forgiving and adopted into the family of God.
God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ.
Does this mean that sin enters into heaven? No.. when we are born again all sin is erased, and we are declared righteous.
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
One of the huge things I noticed with those “born again’s” that I used to meet when I was a Jehovah’s Witness is how at peace they were. Waking up knowing that God has you in the palm of his hand and no matter how much you let him down, he loves you.
This does not mean that as Christians we go around not caring about sinning. On the contrary, but now our good works come as a result of our salvation not because we want to be.
This picture of Bobby and I at the Mormon out reach a number years ago, sums it for me…
The verse says… He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit
1 Peter 1:3 –
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
Right across the bible we see how this new birth is a gift of Jesus, and yet it is doctrine rejected by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
We must put our faith in the right Jesus who is the Alpha and Omega, the First and Last the God Almighty and go to him and him alone for salvation.