Spiritual rebirth occurs when a person places faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection and receives God’s forgiveness of sin (1 Peter 1:3; 1 John 2:2). Salvation is the state of being reborn, as Jesus says, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again” (John 3:3). Being reborn spiritually is like a caterpillar undergoing metamorphosis and emerging from a chrysalis as a new creature. Salvation is a spiritual metamorphosis with radical consequences, transforming believers’ lives. When one is born again, he or she is a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).
But how can we know that we have been spiritually reborn? Is there a certain experience we should seek? A certain feeling we should have? What’s the proof of the new birth?
Paul asserts that we can and should test ourselves on whether we are in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5). John says that we can know that we have eternal life (1 John 5:13). God’s Word gives believers the assurance of salvation and provides guidelines about how we can know we have been reborn.
You can know you have been reborn if you have placed faith in Jesus Christ. Romans 10:9–11 says, “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As Scripture says, ‘Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.’” The only requirement for salvation is faith in the work of Jesus’ death and resurrection (John 6:29). Nothing and no one else can save, not even our own good works (Acts 4:12; Ephesians 2:1–10). Once a person is saved by placing faith in Jesus, then he or she can be assured of salvation (John 10:28). This is the promise of God.
To have faith in Jesus means to trust Him. We place our faith in Jesus when we recognize that we are separated from God and cannot resolve that problem ourselves, when we understand that God has provided the payment for our sins through Jesus’ death, and when we turn to Him in repentance and belief. Faith in Jesus is not simply intellectual assent to the facts of His existence, His deity, His death on the cross, or His bodily resurrection. Rather, faith in Jesus is a heart-level trust that He is who He says He is and that He has accomplished what He says He has accomplished. It is belief that salvation is by God’s grace; it is reliance on the risen Lord for that salvation.
You can know you have been reborn if you bear the fruit of the Spirit. Galatians 5:22–23 lists the qualities that believers will demonstrate as a result of being reborn by the Holy Spirit: “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (NLT). The work of the Holy Spirit in your life is evidence of rebirth, as the Holy Spirit indwells you (John 14:16–17; 1 John 4:13) and controls you (Romans 8:9).
You can know you have been reborn if you bear marks of a changed life. People will notice a change in the life of the follower of Christ because life before salvation will look different from life in Christ. No longer will the person reborn by the Spirit want to live in sin; children of God do not desire to habitually and without remorse partake in the deeds of darkness (Ephesians 5:5–8; 1 Thessalonians 5:5). Instead, believers will seek to imitate Christ: “If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him” (1 John 2:29, ESV). Of course, no one is perfect this side of heaven, but Christians have been saved to do good works for the Lord, and those works are one evidence of their rebirth (Ephesians 2:10).
You can know you have been reborn if you demonstrate love for your neighbor. Jesus told His disciples that love would set them apart as His followers (John 13:34–35). Having love for fellow believers is a mark of a reborn person (1 John 4:20). Showing love to others, including one’s enemies (Matthew 5:44; Mark 12:31), is a quality of someone who has been born again.
Many believers can recall a specific moment in time when they placed faith in Jesus, but for others arriving at the point of rebirth may have been a longer, more convoluted process. Regardless of whether we remember the exact day, month, and year of our salvation, we can be assured of being reborn because of our trust in Jesus and His continued work in our lives. Because He never changes, Jesus can be trusted as the means and assurance of salvation (Hebrews 13:8).