Question: "What does it mean to be born of God?"
Answer: The term born of God is found primarily in the book of 1 John. First John 5:1 says, “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well.” Other references are found in 1 John 2:29; 3:9; 4:7; and 5:4, 18.
The term born of God closely mirrors Jesus’ words in John 3:3 when He told Nicodemus that he must be “born again” or, in some translations, “born from above.” Nicodemus responded the way anyone would. He asked, “How can someone be born when they are old?” (verse 4) Jesus’ answer was even more puzzling. He said, “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit” (verse 8).
Why did Jesus begin talking about the wind in relation to being born again? The Greek word for “wind” is pneuma, the same word used for “spirit.” When wind blows, we cannot see it, but we see where it has been. Tree leaves move, plants bend, and we feel the wind touch our faces. Yet no one can catch it or restrain it. When wind blows, it changes everything it touches. So it is with the Spirit. Spiritual birth is an act of the Holy Spirit. He is invisible, yet whenever He moves, there are definite changes. Neither persuasive words nor intellectual agreements have the power to make someone “born of God.” Only the Holy Spirit can perform that transformation in a repentant heart (Mark 1:15; Acts 2:38).
So how does one become born again, or born of God? Jesus used an earthly metaphor to explain a spiritual idea. When a baby is born, a new life emerges that did not previously exist. The baby is a brand-new being who begins to grow to look like the parents. A puppy grows up to look like a dog. A calf grows to look like a cow. An infant grows to look like an adult human. So it is with those born of God. Second Corinthians 5:17 says that, if anyone is in Christ, he is a “new creature.” Later on in John 3, Jesus explains how to become born of God: “Whoever believes in Him shall not perish but shall have everlasting life” (verse 16). When we are born into the family of God (John 1:12), we grow to look more like our Father.
First John 3:9 describes a person who has been born of God: “No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning because they have been born of God.” God our Father is holy, and He desires that His children become holy like He is (1 Peter 1:15–16). When we are born of God, we have a new heart, one that wants to please God (Ezekiel 36:26; 2 Corinthians 5:9; Colossians 1:10). This does not come about by good intentions or white-knuckled effort. We please our new Father by surrendering to His Holy Spirit who lives within us. We allow Him to change our desires, our goals, and our will to conform to His (Romans 8:29; Philippians 2:13). As a baby grows to look like the parents to whom it was born, so do we grow to be more like our heavenly Father when we are born of God (Philippians 3:10; Romans 6:1–2).