[This article could not have been completed without the work of others who came before me, the assistance of those who pointed me to certain texts and documents, the expertise of those whom I consulted for advice and clarification on theological matters, and the help of the individuals who assisted me on readability before finalizing this document. To all of these I say, “Thank you!”]
On a recently uploaded YouTube video there are two clips put together exposing some faulty teaching of “Apostle” Bill Johnson of Bethel Church in Redding, CA. In the second part, which begins at 3:40, Johnson states that Jesus was ‘born again.’ Here is the uncut sermon from December 20, 2009 with the ‘born again’ Jesus portion beginning at 33:48. Following is the transcription:
“…Did you know that Jesus was born again? I asked… the first service and they said, “No.” But I will show it. It’s in the Bible. He had to be. He became sin.
In Hebrews 1 it says this, “For to which of the angels did he ever say, ‘You are my son. Today I have begotten you’?” And Acts 13 explains that: “God has fulfilled this for us, their children, in that he has raised up Jesus. As it is also written in the second Psalm: ‘You are my Son, Today I have begotten You.’ And that He raised Him from the dead, no more to return to corruption.” He was born through Mary the first time and through the Resurrection the second time. He was ‘born again.’” 
Did Jesus become sin? If so, when? Was it at His incarnation? Was it on the cross? Was it some time in between?
As we examine Scripture we find, of course, that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life. However, Scripture does say He ‘became sin’ as substitution for ours:
21God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God. [II Corinthians 5:21 NIV]
Please note that Jesus Christ did not ‘become sin’ in that He did not become a sinful being with corruptible flesh but, rather, our sins were imputed to Him by the Father to atone for the sins of all who believe on Him. The following explains this:
“God used the principle of imputation to benefit mankind when He imputed the sin of believers to the account of Jesus Christ, who paid the penalty for that sin – death – on the cross. Imputing our sin to Jesus, God treated Him as if He were a sinner, though He was not, and had Him die for the sins of the entire world (1 John 2:2). It is important to understand that sin was imputed to Him, but He did not inherit it from Adam. He bore the penalty for sin, but He never became a sinner…” 
We’ve established the correct interpretation regarding how Jesus Christ ‘became sin;’ but, what is Johnson’s belief? Apparently, he does not ascribe to the orthodox view because, if so, he would not state that Jesus had to be born again. Regarding this apparent view of Johnson: who would be worthy to atone for Jesus’ supposed sin in order for Him to be born again?
Going back to the second paragraph of the transcript, Johnson quotes the question from Hebrews 1:5a, then attempts to answer this question over in Acts 13. The trouble with this is that these are two completely different contexts. Why did he do that? It just leads to potential confusion.
Logic would lead us to think that Johnson was making a thesis statement in the first paragraph while explaining it in the next. So, to paraphrase Johnson: Jesus ‘became sin’ and thus had to be ‘born again’ which can be proven using Scripture.
Therefore, if we take Johnson’s words in the second paragraph as a strict chronology in the context he provides by isolating the verses in Hebrews and Acts, we should find the answer to his thesis statement. In addition, we may be able to determine his underlying theology. First, he quotes the first part of Hebrews 1:5:
For to which of the angels did God ever say,“You are my Son; today I have begotten You?”
Next he states:
And Acts 13 explains that…
Explains what? Explains ‘to which of the angels did God ever say…’? No, that’s not what Johnson answers (it was a rhetorical question in the context of Hebrews and, hence, did not require an answer) as he has shifted to a completely different context over in Acts as pointed out above. So, which question IS Johnson attempting to answer?
…God has fulfilled this [“You are my Son; today I have begotten You” from above] for us, their children, in that he has raised up Jesus [at the Resurrection]. As it is also written in the second Psalm:‘You are my Son, Today I have begotten You.’ [Jesus is the Father’s begotten Son, today at the Resurrection.] [Bracketed comments mine for explanation.]
If we take his words at face value here he seems to be inferring that Jesus became God’s Son at the resurrection. Johnson appears to solidify this thought by continuing with the following:
…And that he ‘raised him from the dead, no more to return to corruption.’
Johnson now states that Jesus was ‘born again’ “through the Resurrection:”
He was born through Mary the first time and through the Resurrection the second time. He was ‘born again.’
So, can we conclude that Johnson believes Jesus was ‘born again’ through the Resurrection, and subsequently, or simultaneously, became God’s Son only then? The view of Jesus being God’s Son at or through the Resurrection is only unorthodox if the belief is that Jesus was not the Son of God before this event. We’ll return to this at a later point.
Now that we understand when and how Jesus was ‘born again’ according to Johnson, it may seem plausible to assume he is also explaining with the words in the second paragraph of the transcript when and how Jesus ‘became sin.’ Is it possible then, that he is saying it is through Mary that Jesus ‘became sin?’ This would make sense if he equated “corruption” with “sin” and that Jesus’ birth through Mary made Him ‘corruptible flesh,’ i.e., human. We’ll attempt to answer this later.
In his book When Heaven Invades Earth from 2003, Johnson further defines his theology:
“Jesus lived His earthly life with human limitations. He laid his [sic] divinity aside as He sought to fulfill the assignment given to Him by the Father: to live life as a man without sin, and then die in the place of mankind for sin. This would be essential in His plan to redeem mankind. The sacrifice that could atone for sin had to be a lamb, (powerless), and had to be spotless, (without sin).”  [all as per original]
This is bad Christology (the view of Christ’s nature, person and deeds) which we’ll explain more a bit later. When did Jesus lay aside His deity? And, when, if ever, did He pick it back up? Did Jesus have to strive to be sinless? This is just faulty theology. [This issue of Johnson’s faulty Christology is also spoken of here. ] Is it that Johnson just does not understand orthodox Christian doctrine? This seems doubtful as he is a fifth generation pastor by his own admission.
This also contradicts Johnson’s words in the transcript. How could Jesus have been spotless and without sin yet ‘became sin’ thus making it a requirement that He be born again? How can that be reconciled?
Perhaps the words from Johnson’s books can be harmonized with the words in the video/audio in order to understand his theology.
Returning to Johnson’s When Heaven Invades Earth we find Jesus as a boy at the Temple:
“He was simply a 12-year-old boy with priorities that were different from everyone else.” 
With this he may be inferring that Jesus was not yet divine; but, this is inconclusive.
However, with his words below, Johnson claims outright that Jesus did not become The Christ until His baptism which, by extension, means He was not divine at the Incarnation:
“Christ is not Jesus’ last name. The word Christ means ‘Anointed One’ or ‘Messiah.’ It is a title that points to an experience… …He had to receive the anointing in an experience to accomplish what the Father desired.” [emphasis mine]
“The anointing is what linked Jesus, the man, to the divine enabling Him…”. 
Scripture makes it clear that Jesus was divine at His Incarnation by identifying him as “Immanuel” (God with us) and the “Anointed One” – The Christ – at the virgin birth, contrary to Johnson. Given his view that Jesus was not The Christ at His birth, then, by extension, does this mean he believes Jesus was born into the same fallen, Adamic sin nature as the rest of us?
This points, once again, to faulty Christology known as the Kenosis heresy. Adding Johnson’s words from a few paragraphs earlier: “The sacrifice that could atone for sin had to be a lamb, (powerless)…” drives it home. Louis Berkhof in The History of Christian Doctrine quoting Everard Digges La Touche: “In the most absolute and consistent form it [the Kenosis doctrine] teaches what La Touche calls ‘incarnation by divine suicide.’”
Adding to this, Johnson, in his book The Supernatural Power of a Transformed Mind: Access to a Life of Miraclesstates:
“…Jesus had no ability to heal the sick. He couldn’t cast out devils, and He had no ability to raise the dead. He said of Himself in John 5:19, ‘the Son can do nothing of Himself.’ He had set aside His divinity… …Jesus so emptied Himself that He was incapable of doing what was required of Him by the Father – without the Father’s help…”
Johnson lifts this Scripture out of its proper context. So, was Jesus Christ really “powerless” with the ability to do “nothing of Himself?” He makes clear His words:
17”The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life – only to take it up again. 18No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.” [John 10:17-18]
Johnson explains his belief that Jesus received the “title” of Christ at His baptism:
“The word anointing means to “smear.” The Holy Spirit is the oil of God that was smeared all over Jesus at His water baptism. The name Jesus Christ implies that Jesus is the One smeared with the Holy Spirit.” 
With the above, Johnson misconstrues the meaning of the word “anointing” in this context. First of all, in the Gospel accounts the Greek word from which we get the word “anoint” is not used at all in regard to Jesus’ baptism. The Holy Spirit ‘descended upon’ Jesus.
In Acts 10:38, in which Jesus is described as having been ‘anointed’ with the ‘Holy Spirit’ (also see Acts 4:27, Luke 4:18 and Hebrews 1:9), the Greek word used is chrio which is defined:
To anoint (physically with oil; spiritually, with the Holy Spirit), to assign a person to a special task, implying a giving of power by God to accomplish the task. 
Johnson is over-literalizing a metaphor. The spiritual application should be used rather than the physical. Referring to the Holy Spirit as a ‘smearing’ smacks of sacrilege. This error begun in the first two sentences has compounded itself in the third with its implications. He’s equating ‘Christ,’ The “Anointed One,” with the Holy Spirit “anointing.”
Here’s the Strong’s definition of “Christ” from the Greek Christos:
“Christ, Anointed One, Messiah, the Greek translation of the Hebrew 4899 (cf. Greek 3323). The Messiah is the Son of David, an anointed leader expected to bring in an age of peace and liberty from all oppression. In the NT, the Messiah is Jesus, who came first to bring liberty from sin and peace with God and who will come again to bring all things under His control.
The orthodox view of the significance of Jesus’ baptism is stated here:
“Jesus was baptized to publicly announce Himself as God’s Son, and to pronounce the beginning of His ministry with the Holy Spirit’s power. Jesus did not “need” the Holy Spirit. However, to set an example for us, Jesus emptied Himself (Philippians 2:7) and relied upon the Holy Spirit’s power. Jesus’ baptism and reliance upon the Holy Spirit is an example that we are to follow in our own lives.” [see endnote 9 below on “Jesus emptied Himself”]
Note that Jesus “publicly announced Himself” as the Son of God; however, He already was the Son of God at His incarnation (and before this, of course). Jesus Christ being ‘fully God and fully man’ at the virgin birth did not needthe Holy Spirit. He was already the “Anointed One.”
This same “anointing” is available to others according to Johnson. With his belief, then, by implication, when individuals receive the Holy Spirit – thus receiving the same ‘Christ’ “anointing” as Jesus – they will, in essence, be just like Jesus. Taken to its logical conclusion, this leads to the view that once an individual receives this ‘Christ anointing’ he/she will be Joe/Jane Christ. Quoting Johnson:
Through the shedding of His blood, it would be possible for everyone who believed on His name to do as He did and become as He was. 
This seems to state outright that we can become just like Jesus Christ. While we are to strive to be ‘like Christ’ by the leading of the Holy Spirit, we are never going to be equal to Christ. Jesus Christ is the one and only Son by nature. We, however, are adopted as sons (and daughters) by grace. There is only one Christ and He is Jesus Christ!
According to Johnson, after receiving the “anointing,” we are to pass ‘it’ to others. Not necessarily others who are or wish to become Christians exclusively, but to anyone:
“For the most part, the anointing has been hoarded by the Church for the Church. …thinking it is for our enjoyment only. …This wonderful presence of God is to be taken to the world.” 
“…When we are smeared with God, it rubs off on all we come into contact with – and it’s that anointing that breaks the yokes of darkness.” 
“…The anointing is substance. It is the actual presence of the Holy Spirit, and He can be released into our surroundings”  [all emphasis mine]
Johnson is claiming the “anointing” is a transferable, tangible substance; however, the “anointing” is also described as the “smearing” on of the Holy Spirit at baptism. Are these one and the same? Presumably not since Johnson refers to the “anointing” above as an impersonal ‘it.’ The Holy Spirit, as the third person of the Trinity and part of the Godhead, is most certainly not an ‘it!’
This seems as though Johnson is implying the Holy Spirit may be manipulated almost at will. If that’s the case, could we just ‘pass Him on,’ so to speak, to unbelievers – those in “the world” – in order to bring salvation?
The Apostle John makes it clear there is a counterfeit anointing. Is it possible Johnson is passing a counterfeit?
20But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth…26I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. 27As for you, theanointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit – just as it has taught you, remain in him. [1 John 2:20, 26-27 NIV; emphasis mine. Underlined portion is rendered in other translations as “is true, and is not a lie”]
Johnson also speaks quite a bit about the antichrist spirit:
“The nature of the antichrist spirit is found in its name: anti, “against”; Christ, “Anointed One.’” “…The spirits of hell are at war against the anointing, for without the anointing mankind is no threat to their dominion.” “The antichrist spirit has a goal for the Church – embrace Jesus apart from the anointing.”
The first sentence is nearly correct; however, it’s not a complete definition (see below). However, in the second and third passages, once again we find Johnson confusing “anointing” with “Anointed One.” Johnson’s view here then may be better stated as ‘anti-anointing,’ ‘anti-Holy Spirit,’ or, perhaps, anti-hagiopneuma [or anti-pneumahagios].
Johnson defines further his version of the antichrist spirit calling it a ‘religious spirit:’
“The spirit of antichrist is at work today, attempting to influence believers to reject everything that has to do with the Holy Spirit’s anointing. …That spirit has worked to reduce the gospel to a mere intellectual message, rather than a supernatural God encounter. …But, never does this spirit expect the anointing of God’s power to be available in the here and now…”“It is the antichrist spirit that has given rise to religious spirits. A religious spirit is a demonic presence that works to get us to substitute being led by our intellect instead of the Spirit of God.” 
Since Johnson’s definition of antichrist would be more accurately termed ‘anti-anointing,’ or ‘anti-Holy Spirit,’ then this “demonic presence,” – the term he uses to describe those with ‘religious spirits’ (those who hold to doctrine over personal experience) – are actually those who are against Johnson’s “anointing” rather than against Christ.
The prefix ‘anti’ from which the term ‘antichrist’ is derived is defined as:
“in exchange for (often as a sign of benefaction), in place of (often as a sign of contrast), instead of (often as a sign of an exchange of a relationship), one after another (often as a sign of purpose or result). Note that this preposition used in absolute does not mean to be ‘against’ or ‘in opposition to’ something.” 
Therefore ‘antichrist’ is not just ‘against Christ’ it can be ‘instead of Christ,’ ‘in place of Christ,’ et cetera.
Johnson’s Christology Defined
If we take Bill Johnson’s words in total so far, we have Jesus devoid of divinity at birth, but receiving His divinity at baptism by the “anointing” of the Holy Spirit and thereby becoming the “Anointed One” and consequently obtaining the ‘title’ of Christ. Immediately following this “anointing,” The Father declared, “This is My much loved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” In laying His divinity aside he was “powerless,” completely dependant upon the “anointing” in seeking to live a sinless life. He was successful in living out a sinless life; however, because He had ‘laid His divinity aside,’ he died as the man Jesus – a “powerless” lamb – on the Cross. Further, since He ‘became sin’ He had to be ‘born again.’ He was ‘born again’ through the Resurrection and was consequently reaffirmed as God’s Son. Presumably, He reacquired His divinity which He previously laid aside.
The remaining question to attempt to answer: When was it that Jesus ‘became sin’ according to Johnson? Logically, it was either at birth or at the Cross. Let’s explore these two options.
First, if He ‘became sin’ at the Cross as per the orthodox meaning as described near the beginning of this article – i.e., our sin was imputed to Him by the Father– then it would not have been necessary for Him to be ‘born again.’ So, it is fair to say he either does not hold to this doctrine or he does not fully understand it.
Second, If Johnson’s view is that Jesus ‘became sin’ on the Cross like that of Word of Faith, then, it is considered heretical. We can’t know for sure since, of course, Johnson is not clear on how he supports this particular view.
The next possibility then is that Johnson believes Jesus ‘became sin’ at His incarnation. Since Jesus apparently did not have a divine nature until His baptism, according to Johnson, then it is logical to assume that He had only a human nature and, by extension, He inherited an Adamic, sin nature. Going back to the second paragraph of the transcription: if we consider, as noted above, the possibility that Johnson was actually explaining his viewpoint on when and why Jesus ‘became sin,’ it is plausible that his interpretation of “corruption” in Acts 13 is “sin,” and thereby “corruption” could mean “corruptible flesh.”
It seems the most plausible conclusion is that Johnson believes Jesus ‘became sin’ at the Incarnation since Jesus was not divine until baptism; however, this is not made certain in the texts.
It appears Johnson has adopted a Christological view close to that of Cerinthianism, derived from its main spokesman Cerinthus. A form of 1st century Gnosticism, this is one of the heresies the Apostle John was specifically refuting in his first epistle. He did this by proclaiming that Jesus Christ came in the flesh, was the Son of God, and had preexisted as part of the Triune God [vv 1:1-4]. Further, he identifies that which is antichrist [vv 2:22-23; 4:2-3].
1Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus [Christ] is not from God. This is the spirit of antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world. [I John 4:1-3 NIV. Emphasis mine.] 
The study note of 4:2 referencing ‘Every spirit that acknowledges that’ “Jesus Christ has come in the flesh” ‘is from God’ states:
…Thus John excludes the Gnostics, especially the Cerinthians, who taught that the divine Christ came upon the human Jesus at His baptism and then left him at the cross, so that it was the man Jesus who died.” 
The Apostle John goes further in showing that Jesus was also divine at the Cross (blood):
6This is the one who came by water and blood – Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. 7For there are three that testify:[the Father, the Word and the Holy Spirit and these three are one] 8[And there are three that testify on earth:] the Spirit, the water and the Blood; and the three are in agreement. 9We accept man’s testimony but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about His Son. 10Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart. Anyone who does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because he has not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. 11And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. [I John 5:6-11 NIV] 
The study note referencing verse 5:6 explains the importance of Jesus being divine at the Crucifixion:
“…He [John] now asserts that it was this God-man Jesus Christ who came into our world, was baptized and died. Jesus was the Son of God not only at His baptism but also at His death (v. 6b). This truth is extremely important, because, if Jesus died only as a man, his sacrificial atonement (2:2; 4:10) would not have been sufficient to take away the guilt of man’s sin…”  [emphasis mine]
Sad to say, but, Bill Johnson’s ‘Jesus’ is not the one of orthodox Biblical Christianity. In addition, his ‘Christ’ is inconsistent with Scripture; and, this ‘Christ’ does not offer true salvation.
The Good News!
However, there is good news! Salvation is available through the one True Savior: the Anointed One, The Messiah, the one and only Son of God – Jesus Christ.
Orthodox Christianity asserts that Jesus Christ is the one and only Son of God, [John 3:16] incarnated through the Virgin Mary by the Holy Spirit coming upon and overshadowing her [Luke 1:26-35; Matthew 1:18], fully God and fully man [John 5:18; Philippians 2:6-7] – the unique God-man – at all times during His earthly ministry. He was preexistent as part of the Triune Godhead (the Trinity) from ‘the beginning’ [Genesis 1:1; John 1:1] and He is ‘the alpha and the omega’ [Revelation 1:8, 21:6, 22:13], the beginning and the end.
Salvation into eternal life is only through Jesus Christ [John 14:6] as a result of His death, burial, and resurrection on the third day [Philippians 2:8; Matthew 28:1-7; Luke 24:1-10,46] which atoned for our sins [John 3:16; Romans 5:8, 10:9]. Christ has now ascended to be at the right hand of the Father [Acts 2:33] serving as our mediator [Galatians 3:19-20; 1 Timothy 2:3-6]. Salvation is a free gift of unmerited grace through faith in Jesus Christ [Ephesians 2:8-9]. Jesus’ death also fulfilled the Law of Moses [Matthew 5:17; Romans 8:1-2]; consequently, Christians are free from this bondage [Galatians 3:10-25].
If you believe the above and acknowledge the fact that you are a sinner in need of a Savior [Romans 3:23, 5:12, 6:23], repent of your sins [Luke 13:5; Matthew 3:2], and accept Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior, you will gain eternal life [Romans 10:9,13]. At the point of salvation the Holy Spirit indwells each and every believer [Romans 5:1-2,5] identifying each one as a Christian who has become a new creature [2 Corinthians 5:17]. Christians are a Royal Priesthood [1 Peter 2:9] with the confidence to enter the Most Holy Place [Mark 15:37-38] to petition the Father by prayer [Hebrews 10:19-22] in the Name – i.e., in the character – of Jesus Christ, His Son as revealed through His Word.
The Holy Spirit empowers all believers [Romans 8:9-11] to live out the Christian life; and, His indwelling is a seal guaranteeing eternal life [2 Corinthians 1:21-22; Ephesians 1:13-14] if we stand firm to the end [Matthew 24:13]. The Holy Spirit brings conviction of sin and guides into all Truth [John 16:8-11,13]. He will testify and bring glory to Jesus Christ [John 15:26, 16:14]. The Holy Spirit gives believers spiritual gifts [1 Corinthians 12:7-11; Romans 12:4-8; I Peter 4:9-11] just as He determines [1 Corinthians 12:11] and, He intercedes on our behalf [Romans 8:26-27]. AMEN!