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Born Again or Begotten (Conceived)?

By Chuck Henry
chuck.henry@sbcglobal.net
http://www.halleluyahfellowship.com
rev. 8/2/2012

 

 

Table of Contents

 

Introduction

The Greek Word Gennao

As Newborn Babes (1 Pet 2:1-2)

Eating Solid Food (Heb 5:12-14)

The Old Man vs. the New Man (or the New Fetus, or the New Embryo ?)

Newness of Life

Regeneration, Renewal, and Transformation

John 3:8 – What is the proper interpretation?

1 John 3:9 – Whoever has been gennao of Yahweh does not sin

Conclusion

 

 

 

Let it be acknowledged at the outset that this discussion can be very controversial. But consider this: if a person comes to Yahweh through Yahshua His Son, repents, is baptized in Yahshua’s name for the remission of sin (Acts 2:38), and continues to live a life of faithfulness, then regardless of whether a person refers to that process as one of being “begotten” (or conceived) or as one of being “born again,” the important thing is that they are going through the process. Recognizing this may help to quell the controversy.

 

That being stated, there is a very important issue associated with this topic, and that is the issue of whether one can, in this life, actually live a life of victory over sin:

 

  • Mainstream Christianity teaches being born again, but also believes that we are still sinners, and always will be, during this life because we can’t help but sin everyday.

 

  • Those who teach that we are at this time only in a “begotten” state, say that is impossible to be born again until the resurrection, when mortal is changed to immortal. If I have perceived correctly, many who teach this also seem to fall into the same category as mainstream Christianity relative to the matter of sin. That is, there seems to be an outlook that it is not possible during this life to live in victory over sin; but rather, that victory will not come until when they deem the born-again experience will take place – at the resurrection.

 

There is an old saying that the “proof is in the pudding,” and I believe that is certainly true in this case. A person can say that they are going through the process, but if they don’t show it in their life, then they are in reality not going through the process. In other words, a person can claim all he wants that he is either spiritually begotten or born again, but if it doesn’t show in his life, his actions belie his confession. This goes along with the teaching we are given in James, chapter 2, that “faith without works is dead” (Jam 2:20).

 

Unless otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version (NKJV).

 

 

 

The Greek word which has been translated as both “begotten” (or conceived) and “born,” is gennaao. Here is what is found for this word in Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance

 

G1080. gennao, ghen-nah'-o; from a var. of G1085; to procreate (prop. of the father, but by extens. of the mother); fig. to regenerate.

KJV:--bear, beget, be born, bring forth, conceive, be delivered of, gender, make, spring.

 

The fact of the matter is, simply, that the Greek word gennao can mean either begotten (or conceived) or born again. Therefore, there has to be something more that enters into the equation in order to determine what the proper translation should be.

 

 

 

1 Pet 2:1-2

1 Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking,

2 as newborn [G738 artigennetos] babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby.

 

Strong’s definition follows:

 

G738. artigennetos, ar-teeg-en'-nay-tos; from G737 and G1084; just born, i.e. (fig.) a young convert:--new born.

 

A newborn is no longer in the pre-born, begotten, stage of life, but a newborn has been, in fact, born.

 

 

 

Heb 5:12-14

12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of Yahweh; and you have come to need milk and not solid food.

13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe.

14 But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

 

The progression from milk to solid food describes the maturation process of a baby that has been born and goes from the point of partaking only of milk to that of being able to partake of solid food. If we are kept only in a begotten state, how is it that even milk can be partaken of, much less solid food? Yet, 1 Peter 2:1-2, examined above, and Hebrews 5:14 indicate that we should not only partake of milk, but that we should also progress to solid food in this life.

 

 

 

Col 3:9-10

9 Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds,

10 and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him.

 

Eph 4:17-24

17 This I say, therefore, and testify in the Master, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind,

18 having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of Yahweh, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart;

19 who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.

20 But you have not so learned Messiah,

21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Yahshua:

22 that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts,

23 and be renewed in the spirit of your mind,

24 and that you put on the new man which was created according to Yahweh, in true righteousness and holiness.

 

Does it seem correct to think that when we put off the old man and put on the man that this is talking about the embryonic stage of life? Ephesians 4:17, quoted above, refers to walking. Does anybody in the embryonic stage of life walk? No. It is only some time after they are born that they start walking.

 

 

 

Rom 6:4

Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Messiah was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

 

Again, here in Romans 6:4, we are told how we should “walk,” and that is in “newness of life.”

 

Also see:

 

2 Cor 5:17

Therefore, if anyone is in Messiah, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.

 

 

 

Tit 3:5

Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration [G3824 paliggenesia] and renewing [G342 anakainosis] of the Holy Spirit.

 

regeneration:

 

Strong’s: G3824. paliggenesia, pal-ing-ghen-es-ee'-ah; from G3825 and G1078; (spiritual) rebirth (the state or the act), i.e. (fig.) spiritual renovation; spec. Messianic restoration.

KJV:--regeneration.

 

Further researching this word in Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon yields the following information:

 

prop. new birth, reproduction, renewal, re-creation … hence, moral renovation, regeneration, the production of a new life consecrated to God, a radical change of mind for the better, …Tit. iii. 5.

 

-- Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1979. Pg. 474.

 

renewing:

 

Strong’s: G342. anakainosis, an-ak-ah'ee-no-sis; from G341; renovation.

KJV:--renewing.

 

In Titus 3:5, quoted above, notice that this renewal goes along with regeneration. Romans 12:2 actually states that this results in a transformation! —

 

Rom 12:2

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed [G3339 metamorphoo] by the renewing [G342 anakainosis] of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of Yahweh.

 

The Greek word translated “transformed” is metamorphoo (G3339) and means “to transform (lit. or fig. ‘metamorphose’)” – Source: Strong’s. It is from whence we get our word metamorphosis, which means:

 

1 a : change of physical form, structure, or substance especially by supernatural means

 

   b : a striking alteration in appearance, character, or circumstances

 

2 : a typically marked and more or less abrupt developmental change in the form or structure of an animal (as a butterfly or a frog) occurring subsequent to birth or hatching

 

-- “metamorphosis,” Merriam-Webster Dictionary

URL: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/metamorphosis

Accessed: 6/28/2012

 

 

 

Joh 3:1-12

1 There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews.

2 This man came to Yahshua by night and said to Him, Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from Yahweh; for no one can do these signs that You do unless Yahweh is with him.

3 Yahshua answered and said to him, Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born [G1080 gennao] again, he cannot see the kingdom of Yahweh.

4 Nicodemus said to Him, How can a man be born [G1080 gennao] when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born [G1080 gennao]?

5 Yahshua answered, Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born [G1080 gennao] of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of Yahweh.

6 That which is born [G1080 gennao] of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born [G1080 gennao] of the Spirit is spirit.

7 Do not marvel that I said to you, You must be born [G1080 gennao] again.

8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born [G1080 gennao] of the Spirit.

9 Nicodemus answered and said to Him, How can these things be?

10 Yahshua answered and said to him, Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things?

11 Most assuredly, I say to you, We speak what We know and testify what We have seen, and you do not receive Our witness.

12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?

 

With regard to John 3, the “begotten” proponents express the idea that we are born of water – by the waters of baptism – but we are not born of the spirit. They say that if we were born of the spirit, we would be invisible. What is invisible, however, is the rebirth that takes place in the inner man. Just as with the wind, you can see the effects of it, but you cannot see the wind itself, so it is with the person who has had a spiritual rebirth – you can see the effects of it, but you did not (and cannot) see what took place in the inner man.

 

The New Testament in Modern English by J. B. Phillips translates the phrase this way:

 

Nor can you tell how a man is born … by the Spirit.

 

-- as quoted in Twenty-Six Translations of The Bible, Vol. III, New Testament. Curtis Vaughn, General Editor. Grand Rapids: The Zondervan Corporation. © 1985.

 

This can be compared to Paul’s remarks in 1 Corinthians to the effect that the natural man cannot discern the things of the Spirit—

 

1 Cor 2:14-15

14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of Yahweh, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

15 But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one.

 

Only a few chapters after Yahshua’s comments to Nicodemus in John 3, we find further remarks He made concerning the Spirit residing in the inner man, the heart—

 

Joh 7:38-39

38 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.

39 But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Yahshua was not yet glorified.

 

 

 

1 Joh 3:9

Whoever has been born [G1080 gennao] of Yahweh does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born [G1080 gennao] of Yahweh.

 

KJV: “doth not commit [G4160 poieo] sin”

 

One of the objections expressed against being born again is that, according to the way this verse is worded (at least in the KJV and NKJV), a person in the born again state does not and cannot sin. Of course, this is an attempt to once and for all knock down the idea of being born again in this life.

 

In answer to this, first of all notice that it is the Greek word gennao which is used in this verse. As previously pointed out, gennao can mean either begotten or born again. Therefore, this verse could just as easily be read “begotten of Yahweh.” Consequently, it could just as easily be used as a big gun against the idea of being begotten! This obviously leaves us at a standoff.

 

How can this enigma be solved?

 

The solution lies in examining another underlying Greek word from which the English in this verse has been translated. As shown above, the KJV reads: “doth not commit sin.” The Greek word which “commit” is translated from is poieo (G4160). It has a variety of applications in English, one of which is the idea of continuing. Upon checking other translations, this usage is agreed upon by many translations:

 

1 Joh 3:9 NIV

No one who is born of Yahweh will continue to sin, because Yahweh’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of Yahweh.

 

1 Joh 3:9 Amp

No one born (begotten) of Yahweh [deliberately, knowingly, and habitually] practices sin, for Yahweh’s nature abides in him [His principle of life, the divine sperm, remains permanently within him]; and he cannot practice sinning because he is born (begotten) of Yahweh.

 

1 Joh 3:9 TEV

Whoever is a child of Yahweh does not continue to sin, for Yahweh’s very nature is in him; and because Yahweh is his Father, he cannot continue to sin.

 

1 Joh 3:9 TLB

The person who has been born into Yahweh’s family does not make a practice of sinning because now Yahweh’s life is in him; so he can’t keep on sinning, for this new life has been born into him and controls him--he has been born again.

 

1 Joh 3:9 NASB

No one who is born of Yahweh practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot* sin, because he is born of Yahweh.

 

* cannot sin – Although the NASB states “practices sin” in the first part of the verse, it sill states “cannot sin” in the later part. I suspect that the thought in the mind of the translator(s) was that, indeed, a person will not commit sin as long as they are abiding by Yahweh’s spirit. However, if a person steps aside from their submission to Yahweh’s spirit, that is when errors take place.

 

In addition to the foregoing evidence from verse 9, the next verse lends context and verification of the proper understanding of the matter—

 

1 Joh 3:10

In this the children of Yahweh and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does [G4160 poieo] not practice righteousness [KJV: “doeth not righteousness”] is not of Yahweh, nor is he who does not love his brother.

 

It is very interesting in verse 10 that even the NKJV says “does not practice righteousness.” The KJV states: “doeth not righteousness.” Once again, the underlying Greek word for “doeth” is poieo. As you can see, the believer, having experienced a spiritual rebirth, does not practice sin, but practices righteousness. This can be expressed in a variety of ways, such as: “he does not keep on sinning,” “he does not live a life of sin,” etc. To put it in a way that Paul put it in Romans 6:1 —

 

Rom 6:1

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?

 

His answer is in the next verse:

 

Rom 6:2

Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?

 

Moreover, in the same chapter of Romans, Paul also explains—

 

Rom 6:16-18

16 Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?

17 But Yahweh be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered.

18 And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.

 

Let us consider that to be a slave of righteousness is not to be in a state of helpless sin. Please also consider that the very essence of the Good News is not only redemption, but also deliverance from a life of sin.

 

Paul also makes a point on this in Galatians 2:17—

 

Gal 2:17

But if, while we seek to be justified by Messiah, we ourselves also are found sinners, is Messiah therefore a minister of sin? Certainly not!

 

Paul states that if we seek to be justified by Messiah, we should not be living a life of sin. To do so would, in effect, make the Messiah a minister of sin, which He certainly is not.

 

The point is that we are to be delivered from sin and live righteously, not that it becomes impossible to sin. It is revealing that earlier in 1 John, this statement is made:

 

1 Joh 2:1

My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Yahshua the Messiah the righteous.

 

To be certain, we are not to sin. But, if John meant to convey the idea in 3:9 that it is impossible for the child of Yahweh to sin, why did he previously add the contingency in 2:1, “if anyone sins”?

 

 

 

With true repentance, baptism, and receiving of Yahweh’s spirit, I believe something takes place which can justly be described as that of being born again in the mind. Of course I am not trying to say at that point that we are no longer flesh and blood – it is true that that part does not occur until the resurrection—

 

1 Cor 15:50

Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of Yahweh; nor does corruption inherit incorruption.

 

I will also again caution that I do see a certain danger in the “begotten-only” belief if it is a belief that relegates one to believing that he cannot overcome the flesh in this life. Paul speaks of being in the flesh versus being in the Spirit in Romans 8. He also explains that we are going to be either carnally-minded or spiritually-minded—

 

Rom 8:6-14

6 For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.

7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against Yahweh; for it is not subject to the law of Yahweh, nor indeed can be.

8 So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please Yahweh.

9 But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of Yahweh dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Messiah, he is not His.

10 And if Messiah is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.

11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Yahshua from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Messiah from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.

12 Therefore, brethren, we are debtors; not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh.

13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of Yahweh, these are sons of Yahweh.

 

In 2 Corinthians 10, Paul makes further remarks about this. In order to minimize any confusion, I would like to note that in verse 3, Paul is simply acknowledging our existence in a fleshly body when he states, “For though we walk in the flesh …” It is clear from his ensuing description that, though our present existence is in a body of flesh, he is describing our involvement in a spiritual battle, a battle in which we will not be successful if we are carnally minded.

 

2 Cor 10:3-5

3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh.

4 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in Yahweh for pulling down strongholds,

5 casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of Yahweh, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Messiah.

 

To wave the white flag of surrender in this spiritual battle and resign ourselves to being a servant of sin would be a grave mistake.

 

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