Are Christians born again or born from above?

by Mike Ratliff

3 ἀπεκρίθη Ἰησοῦς καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ· ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω σοι, ἐὰν μή τις γεννηθῇ ἄνωθεν, οὐ δύναται ἰδεῖν τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ. John 3:3 (NA28)

3 Jesus answered and said to him, amen amen I say to you, except one is born again, he is not able to see the Kingdom of God. John 3:3 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

In John 3:3 (above) is a term that is unique to Christianity and is not well understood even by those have been γεννηθῇ ἄνωθεν. The word translated above as “again” is  ἄνωθεν or anōthen, which is comprised of ἄνω or anō, “above, upwards,” and the suffix θεν or then, which denotes “from.” 

“The most significant use of anōthen occurs in Jn. 3:3, 7 when Jesus tells Nicodemus that he must be “born again” (or does it mean “born from above”?). We really do not need to choose between these two options, for when we are born from above (i.e. born of the Spirit of God), we experience rebirth (i.e. we are born again). The ambiguity in the word beautifully covers both concepts.” – Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old & New Testament Words, page 274.

The word translated as “born” is γεννηθῇ the aorist tense, subjunctive mood, passive voice form of γεννάω or gennaō. We get our English words generation and genetic from this word. Literally it speaks of men begetting, but in the metaphorical sense we find its usage in passages like John 3:3 in which God is begetting in a spiritual sense. This consists in regeneration, sanctifying, quickening anew, and ennobling the powers of the natural man by imparting to him a new life and a spirit in Christ (1 John 5:1). That is what it means to be “born of God” (1 John 3:9) and being the “sons of God” (Romans 8:14).

Peter used another word that we translate as “born again” in 1 Peter 1:23. Here is that passage from the NA28 Greek text, “ἀναγεγεννημένοι οὐκ ἐκ σπορᾶς φθαρτῆς ἀλλʼ ἀφθάρτου διὰ λόγου ζῶντος θεοῦ καὶ μένοντος.” Here is my translation, “having been born again not from corruptible seed but incorruptible through the abiding Word of the living God.” The words translated here as “having been born again” is one Greek word, ἀναγεγεννημένοι the perfect passive participle form of ἀναγεννάω. This verb form describes a state brought about by the finished results of the action. The passive form tells us that Christians are “born again” as a work of God not by our own works. The word ἀναγεννάω could easily have been translated here as “begotten us again.” Our new birth unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. (paraphrased from 1 Peter 1:3).

My brethren, we have new life in Christ because we have been born from above, we have been begotten again by God not by anything we have done or according to any value worth we have. Can we say glory hallelujah?

Soli Deo Gloria!