The question is often raised, "What does it mean to be born again"? This question arises from different understandings concerning the passage from John where Jesus and Nicodemus are talking and Jesus tells him, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh and spirit gives birth to spirit." (John 3:5-6 NIV) And add to the mix the whole gifts of the Spirit thing and you get a real confusing situation. What does it mean to be born again? Does it mean that a person must have something beyond faith in Jesus Christ? Is not faith in Him enough to save? Or must you do something to be sure that you are saved?
Put bluntly, does a person have to speak in tongues in order to be born again? Does a person have to have certain date and time when he can say that he was "born again" in order to be saved? I often ran into this when I was in prison ministry. The "marks" of a true Christian included being able to speak in tongue. (We will deal with that in another blog.) And those who didn't speak in tongues was looked down upon as though you were a "second class" Christian.
So do you need to be born again? Yes. But before you gnash your teeth or jump up in joy or anger, hear me out. You do need to born again just as Jesus told Nicodemus. But this isn't an action on your part. It is the work of the Holy Spirit when He brings you to faith in Jesus. This happen through those precious Means of Grace (the means or things that the Holy Spirit uses to bring us to faith and keep us in faith, Word, Baptism and Lord's Supper). The Holy Spirit works to bring us to faith in Jesus through the Word, which is a common way an adult comes to faith as he is able to hear the Word, study it and the Spirit works through that Word. Then there is Baptism, often the means that the Holy Spirit uses to bring an infant or a child into a faith-filled relationship with Jesus. Either way, through Word or Baptism, a person is born again. (Baptism gives you both water and Spirit.)
Why do we need to be born again? Because we are born sinful (Psalm 51:5). Lost, sinners that we are, we cannot save ourselves. We cannot make that decision for Christ because "every inclination of the heart is evil all the time." (Genesis 6:5) The only decision we can make of ourselves is to sin, to turn away from Christ, to have nothing to do with God. The Spirit works in our hearts to change us, to make us new, to give us a new life. Paul writes, "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" (2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV) He writes of being made new in various other places as well. So we are made new, born again, through the Spirit, when we are brought into faith in Jesus Christ.
That begs the question, do you need to be "born again" in the sense of how it is used for those who have an "extra measure" of the Spirit, making them "true" Christians and others who aren't "born again" aren't true Christians? The answer is no you do not need that to be saved.
Jesus says, "Whoever believes in Him (the Son of God, Jesus) is not condemned, but whoever doe snot believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son." (John 3:18 NIV) It is faith in Jesus that saves, not being "born again" so that you can speak in tongues or have other gifts of the Spirit. The gifts of the Spirit are never meant to tear someone down or make a believer doubt his/her salvation. That would not be the work of the Holy Spirit (remember we are told to test the spirits to see where they are from).
Do in answer to the question, "Can I be saved without being 'born again'?" The answer is a definite yes. For if I understand the question correct, you are asking if you are saved by faith in Jesus Christ alone. And that is the only way we are saved - through faith in Jesus Christ alone. Don't let anyone make you feel as though you are not a "true" Christian just because you cannot point to a day or time when you were brought to faith or make you doubt your faith because you haven't had one of the "special" gifts of the Spirit. Those gifts are from the Spirit as He desires to give them not as we desire to receive them.
Faith in Jesus Christ, and faith alone saves. Read Ephesians 2:1-10 for more help in understanding this. God bless!