What is a Christian?

by Pastor Matthew Norville, Sr.

A Christian is a person who has been “born again” or “saved” as it is called in the Word of God (the Bible).

A person becomes a Christian when he believes in his heart that God raised Jesus Christ from the dead and makes Jesus the Lord of his life by confessing Jesus as his Lord according to Romans 10:9 which says,

“That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.”

A person does not merely confess that Jesus is Lord of all. He must confess Jesus as his Lord. Sometimes it is said that a person must make Jesus his personal Lord. The person must say something like, “Jesus, I confess you as my Lord” or, “Jesus, I make you the Lord of my life.”

When a person makes Jesus the Lord of his life by making a confession such as this and believing in his heart that God raised Jesus from the dead, he is then “born again” or “saved.” He has now become a Christian.

Becoming a Christian is the same thing as getting saved or getting born again. Making Jesus the Lord of one's life means to put Jesus in charge of one's life. A lord is someone who is a ruler or master.

Jesus said in John 3:3,

“Verily, verily, I say unto thee, ‘Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.’”

He said in verse 7,

“Ye must be born again.”

Being “saved” or “born again” is the same thing as being “born of the Spirit.” Jesus used the terms “born again” and “born of the Spirit” interchangeably in John, chapter 3. When Jesus said to Nicodemus (verse 3), “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, ‘Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God,’” Nicodemus asked (verse 4), “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter the second time into his mother's womb and be born?” Jesus' reply to him (verse 5) was that in addition to being “born of water” (physical birth), he also had to be “born of the Spirit” (spiritual birth) to enter into the kingdom of God.

Jesus also used the terms “born of water” and “born of the flesh” interchangeably. Being “born of water” is the same thing as being “born of the flesh.” Being “born of water” or “born of the flesh” is a person's physical birth where they come out of the water of their mother's womb. Being “born of water” is NOT water baptism.

Jesus used a contrast of physical birth and spiritual birth. When Nicodemus asked how can a person be born physically a second time, Jesus responded by explaining that you don't get born physically a second time. Your second birth is a spiritual birth.

To help understand verse 5, you need to emphasize the word AND when you read it:

“Jesus answered, ‘Verily, verily, I say unto thee, “Except a man be born of water AND of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God”’” (John 3:5).

Sometimes Christians call being born again “the new birth.” Even though the term “the new birth” is not found in the Bible, it does describe something that is Biblical, so there is no problem using the term. The spiritual birth that you experience when you are born of the Spirit is “new” to you. You have never experienced this type of a birth before, so it is a “new” birth.

However, sometimes Christians use the statement, “The new birth is the rebirth of the human spirit.” This statement is incorrect. The new birth (being born again) is NOT a rebirth of your human spirit. It is the first time that your spirit experiences a birth. If it was a rebirth of your human spirit, there would have to be an initial time that your spirit was born. You can't call something a “rebirth” unless it has been born before. If your human spirit was born before, when was it born? The answer is that your spirit was never born before.

Your spirit came into existence at conception—as did your soul and your body. God created you spirit, soul, and body at conception. This was a creation, not a birth. When you came out of your mother's womb you experienced physical birth. Jesus said, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh” (John 3:6). In other words, the only thing that can be born of a woman's physical body (the flesh), is a person's physical body (another person's flesh). A spirit cannot be born of the flesh. Therefore, the first time your spirit is ever “born” is when you are “born of the Spirit” or “born again” at “the new birth.”

The reason that it is called being “born again” is because it is a second birth—your first birth being physical and your second birth being spiritual. It is not a second physical birth, nor is it a second spiritual birth.

Sometimes Christians (and non-Christians) use the term “born-again Christian.” They say things like, “So-and-so is a born-again Christian” or, “I became a born-again Christian on this date.” This term is not found in the Bible. It is not a Biblical term. The term “born-again Christian” is redundant. It is also confusing and misleading. Christians should never use this term.

When a Christian uses the term “born-again Christian,” what are they saying? They are saying that a “born-again” Christian is one type of a Christian—as if there are other types of Christians! If there is such a thing as a “born-again” Christian, then there is such a thing as a “non-born-again” Christian. But there is no such thing as a “non-born-again Christian.” If a person is not born again, he is not a Christian. If a person is truly a Christian, that means that he has been born again.

To say that a person is a “born-again Christian,” is to say that they are a “Christian Christian.” This is redundant. You are saying the same thing twice. Is there such a thing as a “non-Christian Christian?”

A Christian should refer to himself and other Christians as either “born again” or “Christian.” He should say, “So-and-so is born again” or, “So-and-so is a Christian” or, “I was born again on this date” or, “I became a Christian on this date.”

As Christians, we do not want to confuse, mislead, or give people the wrong impression. We also do not want to sound ignorant of what we are talking about. When Christians use the term “born-again Christian” they lead people to believe that they can be a Christian without being born again.

Another term that Christians (and non-Christians) sometimes use is “reborn.” The term “reborn” is also not found in the Bible, but it means “born again,” so there is really not a problem using this term as long as it is not combined with “Christian” creating the term “reborn Christian.” “Reborn Christian” is the same thing as “born-again Christian,” and thus is redundant, confusing, and misleading.

I have also heard the terms “reborn again” and “reborn-again Christian.” I once worked with a woman who referred to us Christians as being “reborn again” or “reborn-again Christians.” Both of these terms are not Scriptural and are redundant. To be “reborn again” would be to be born again again. But you can't be born again again. You can only be born again once. To be a “reborn-again Christian” would be to be a born-again-again Christian or a Christian-Christian Christian. This is ignorance gone to seed! The terms “reborn again” and “reborn-again Christian” are even more redundant than “reborn Christian” or “born-again Christian,” and thus should also never be used by Christians.

(more to come)

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This page last updated January 23, 2022.