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Q. What does it mean to be "born again?"Return to Table of Contents
A. The true meaning of being "born again" is that through the Sacrament of Baptism, the person has become a new creature. (Catechism of the Catholic Church # 1265) The baptized person has received the "newness of life." [Rom. 6:4] This new creation is everything! [Gal. 6:15]
Q. How does one know if he has truly been "born again?"Return to Table of Contents
A. One knows if he has truly been "born again" from the fact that he was properly baptized by having water poured on his head while the following words were said, "I baptise you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit." (C.C.C. # 1284)
Q. When a person is "born again", is he supposed to feel something?Return to Table of Contents
A. As a general rule, those who are emotionally stable do not feel anything. This is because the manifestation that takes place during the Sacrament of Baptism by the grace of God the Father and the power of the Holy Spirit in the Most Holy Name of Jesus is a spiritual manifestation.
At the same time, it should be noted that there is nothing to prevent God from providing an overwhelming experience to an emotionally balanced person as the result of the Sacrament of Baptism, although these are rare.
Q. I am confused by a statement that is frequently made in my church when someone relapses into sin. The members say that "if one relapses into sin, then he was never born again." What assurance is there that one has been "born again?"Return to Table of Contents
A. First of all, such a statement results from a failure to understand the Divine and miraculous process that takes place during the Sacrament of Baptism. Relapsing into sin has nothing to do with being 'born again.' The Sacrament of Baptism does not erase the human nature that is weak and which tends to sin. It applies to the spiritual nature of the person.
Jesus said, "Stay awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." [Mt. 26:41] And Saint Paul said, "For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate." [Rom. 7:15, 19] This clearly demonstrates that there is an ongoing battle between the human nature and the spiritual nature. The human nature will always oppose the spiritual nature of man.
Q. Then why do we have to be baptized if the human nature continues to draw us towards sin?Return to Table of Contents
A. To answer that question, you must understand what happens during the Sacrament of Baptism. To understand what happens, you must be aware that thousands of years ago, according to the Old Testament, God the Father made four promises. These are, (1) the promise of a new Covenant, [See Ezek. 31:31, 3]; (2) a new spirit, [See Ezek. 11:19-20, 18:31, 36:26]; (3) of a new heart, [See Ezek. 11:19-20, 18:31, 36:26] and (4) the indwelling Holy Spirit. [See Ezek. 36:27; 1 Cor. 3:16]
As you will have noted from reading the above passages, Ezekiel 36:26-7 makes reference to two different spirits. One is a reference to the indwelling Holy Spirit, the other being a reference to the human spirit.
"Everyone has a human spirit which gives life to the physical body. For a body without a spirit is dead." [Jas. 2:26] The human spirit coexists with the physical body. Another word for the "human spirit" is "ghost." When the body dies, the "human spirit" or the "ghost" departs from the physical body.
You may also wish to verify the following Bible references. In John 6:63, Jesus said, "It is the (human) spirit that gives life: the flesh is useless." In Luke 23:46, when Jesus died on the cross, He commended His (Holy) Spirit into the hands of the Father. In verse 7:59 of the Act of the Apostles, when St. Stephen was being stoned, he prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my (human) spirit."
[For further references on the human spirit, please see: Job 32:8; Prov. 18:14, 20:27; Ecc. 3:21; Eze. 11:19, 36:26; Zech. 12:1; Mt. 26:41; Lk. 8:55; Jn. 3:6; Rom. 8:15; 1 Cor. 2:11; Jas. 2:26]
Now you also need to understand that in biblical terms, there is a difference between the soul and the spirit. While most dictionaries interchange these two words, indicating they mean the same, they are not the same. The soul is the "me," the "self- awareness of existence," the "self-consciousness." The human spirit is the spiritual body of the person, the ghostly form. Equally, as angels have a spiritual body (form), they also have a soul, a self-consciousness.
Because sin has entered the world through our first parents, the soul, the human spirit and the physical body are called to die, all having been contaminated by the sinful nature. The physical body and the human spirit are both "forms," one of a physical nature world, the other of the spiritual realm. The soul, in order to live, must have a body in which to manifest itself, either a physical body (that needs a spirit) or a spiritual body, that being the human spirit.
Once you understand all this, you can then perceive what happens during the Sacrament of Baptism! During the Sacrament of Baptism, the first human spirit, the one that you were born with, it dies! At that precise moment, God creates a new human spirit within you. This is why the Holy Bible teaches that during the Sacrament of Baptism, you die with Christ, you are buried with Christ and you are raised as a new creation with Christ. Literally speaking, you now have a new human spirit that cannot die. It is of the "seed of God" [1 Jn. 3:9, 5:18] That is why "God yearns jealously for the spirit that He has made to dwell in us." [Jas. 4:5]
Now that the baptized individual has received a new human spirit that cannot die, his soul (self-consciousness) can eternally continue to manifest itself through the new spiritual body at the death of the physical body. This is why the Catholic Church teaches to its members that the soul cannot die. The soul of a baptized person cannot die because it has a new human spirit that is protected by the indwelling Holy Spirit of God.
As previously stated, the manifestation that takes place during the Sacrament of Baptism is a spiritual one. It does not stop the free will of the individual (the soul) from continuing to sin. Speaking of perseverance against sin, Saint Paul said, "Brothers and sisters: Live by the spirit, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. For what the flesh desires is opposed to the spirit, and what the spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want." [Gal. 5:16-7]
(Note: The English Version of the Latin Vulgate has a small "s" on the word "spirit." This clearly makes it a reference to the human spirit and not the Holy Spirit. Poor translations of modern Holy Bibles have concealed the truth.)
Jesus said, "God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in (human) spirit and truth." [Jn. 4:24] "For the Father seeks such as these to worship Him." [Jn. 4:23]
(Note: Here it is very clear that Jesus was talking about the human spirit.)
The newly created human spirit during the Sacrament of Baptism is of the godly seed. By nature, it is drawn to God and seeks to please God. Those who are baptized and who embrace their new spiritual nature, the spiritual mind of the human spirit, they are the ones who are able to please God. For the fruit of the Holy Spirit that flows from their heart is pleasing to God.
Consider the following. If someone waits until he is 25 years old to be baptized, prior to that age, is his worship pleasing to the Lord? No, because he is worshipping God with his first human spirit that has a sinful nature. If he dies before he reaches the age of 25, will he enter Heaven? No, because he was not born again, not having received his new human spirit of the godly seed. "Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the Kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit." [Jn. 3:5] "What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the (Holy) Spirit is (human) spirit." [Jn. 3:6]
Now you understand why one must be baptized, even as an infant, to secure his admission into the Kingdom of God.
Q. Does that mean that those who are "born again" are saved?Return to Table of Contents
A. No! The Sacrament of Baptism provides the new birth that secures "eternal life" but not salvation. The eternal life that the Christian receives is his "first installment" [2 Cor. 1:22] towards salvation. Now, by the grace of God, the believer is obligated to walk his living faith in Christ. He must shine in the fruit of the Holy Spirit [Gal. 5:22-3] as a living stone. "Faith without works is dead." [Jas. 2:26]
Living his faith in Christ also implies that he must received the Sacrament of Confession to reinstate the righteousness that he received when he was baptized. While this Sacrament justifies him in the eyes of God, he is still not saved. He must received the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist in order to have life in him. The Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist saves the soul once it has met all the other conditions previously mentioned.
Q. But if I receive a new human spirit of the godly seed during the Sacrament of Baptism, even if I do not live my faith, am I not saved because I was born again?Return to Table of Contents
A. Jesus said, "I tell you, to all those who have, more will be given; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken way." [Lk. 19:26] "From those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away." What a powerful statement! How can you take away something from someone when he has nothing? From those who refuse to receive the Sacraments in a state of grace and who refuse to shine in the love and the light of Christ by the grace of God the Father and the power of the Holy Spirit, God's gift of the new creation that was received during the Sacrament of Baptism will be taken away. He will come short of the blessed hope of salvation.
As Saint Paul said, "For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life." [Eph. 2:10] We were created so good works would be our way of life. Having been born again through the gift of the new human spirit, we are indebted to God. In thanksgiving, we are obligated to embrace a willing heart that joyfully receives the Sacraments and performs good works as a way of life.