Tom asked this question. He said he has asked many people this question, and the answers have been quite varied. Some said they were born again before the ministry of John the Baptist. Some said they came to faith through John’s ministry. Others said that they came to faith when Jesus called them to be His disciples.
Others, however, suggested that they did not come to faith until late in Jesus’ ministry or even until after Jesus rose from the dead and appeared to them.
I can state precisely when three of the eleven disciples came to faith. And I can say that all eleven were born again long before Jesus went to the cross, even though I do not know precisely when each one came to faith. (So, we can eliminate those last two suggestions.)
The first chapter of John reports that Andrew came to faith and then led his brother, Peter, to faith in Christ (John 1:41). Another of the Twelve, Philip, came to faith the next day (John 1:45). Philip, in turn, led Nathanael to faith in Christ (John 1:45-49). Some suggest that Nathanael is Bartholomew, another of the Twelve. However, it is quite possible that Nathanael and Bartholomew are two different people, and that the former was merely in one of Jesus’ larger group of disciples.
It is implied, but not directly stated in John 1, that the apostle John was one of John the Baptist’s two disciples who left John the Baptist to join Jesus (John 1:32-39). It is highly likely that John the apostle came to faith in Christ through the ministry of John the Baptist just before he left to become one of Jesus’ disciples. But that is not explicitly stated.
John 2:11 says, “and His disciples believed in Him.” We do not know who these disciples were. It has been suggested that this might be a different group from those mentioned in John 1. In addition, while John might mean that they came to faith at the wedding of Cana, he might merely be saying that they believed in Him, not that they first believed in Him on this occasion.
We know that by John 13:10 and John 15:3, all the Twelve, except Judas Iscariot, were already born again by the night before Jesus died. Luke 10:20 says that the seventy, minus Judas, were all in the Book of Life by the time Jesus sent them out to minister.
The bigger question is this: Why didn’t any of the Gospel writers give absolutely clear statements detailing when and how each of the Eleven came to faith in Christ? I suspect the answer is that the Synoptic writers were not evangelistic in purpose, and hence, this was not vital for their message, and that John was calling attention to the Lord Jesus Christ, not to the Eleven.
Another question is this: What difference does it make? Does it matter to us whether Matthew was born again before or after Jesus called him to become one of His followers? No.
We know that people are born again by believing in Jesus, not by following Him (John 3:16; 5:24; 6:47). Therefore, we are sure that the Eleven were not born again by choosing to follow Jesus. Whether before or after they began to follow Him, they were born again like everyone is, by faith in Him for everlasting life.
I looked online and the only article I found dealing with when the Eleven were born again was a blog dealing with John 2:11, by me. See here.
You may not know precisely what day or week or month or even year you were born again. That is not important. What is important is that right now you are certain that you have everlasting life that cannot be lost because you believe in Jesus for that life.
Don’t worry if you do not know precisely when the Eleven were born again. Instead, make sure you know that you are part of God’s forever family.