Monday, February 15, 2016

Should Lutherans Consider Themselves "Born Again"?

Fun Fact: Many of the key New Testament passages about Baptism are found in a chapter three: Matthew 3:13-17, Galatians 3:27, Titus 3:5, 1 Peter 3:21, and John 3:3-5.

Recently one of our young people, a confirmed Lutheran, was asked by a well-meaning Christian to share when and how she had been born again.  Through no fault of her own, she wasn't quite sure how to respond.

Lutherans hear the term "born again," but it's not used very much in our tradition.  What does it mean - "born again"?  Many fine Christians use the expression to describe the experience and even the moment they found salvation in Christ and made a decision to believe and trust in Him.  I myself have heard many beautiful accounts of people becoming Christians.

The idea of being born again comes from the Bible and is found most famously in John 3.  "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3).

So should Lutherans consider themselves "born again"?  The answer, you might be surprised, is yes.  But more needs to be said.

Based on John 3:5 (note the mention of water) as well as other passages such as Titus 3:5 ("the washing of rebirth"), Lutherans believe that Baptism is when, where, and how they are born again.  Another word for "born again" is "rebirth" or "new birth."  That's why immediately after baptizing a person the pastor says, "The almighty God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has given you the new birth of water and of the Spirit and has forgiven you all your sins, strengthen you with His grace to life everlasting."

One of our hymns, sometimes sung at an infant Baptism, rightly uses the term "born again":

Here we bring a child of nature;
Home we take a new-born creature,
Now God's precious son or daughter,
Born again by Word and water.

When I'm asked, I try to share in a gentle, humble way that I was born again on April 13, 1969 - the day of my Baptism.  I know that it's not always the answer other Christians are looking for, but that's okay.  I can love, encourage, and be encouraged by them just the same.