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Born Again

Many Christians introduce themselves as “born again”. They will ask, “Are you a born again Christian?” This phrase has a meaning in our current Christian culture. It typically refers to an Evangelical Protestant in general but I wonder how many people know the context in which Jesus spoke these words. I want to dive into the phrase “born again” specifically in John 3 when Jesus is speaking with Nicodemus. Here is part of their dialogue:

Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.’ Jesus answered him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.’ Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?’ Jesus answered, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.’

I love this interaction. As the text says Nicodemus is a “ruler” of the Jews which specifically refers to his inclusion in the Sanhedrin. This means that he has studied the Old Testament scriptures for his whole life and has authority over others in the Jewish community. I also enjoy that Nicodemus comes to Jesus at night. This could have many meanings but it seems clear that Nicodemus didn’t want to be seen speaking to Jesus. When Nicodemus comes to Jesus he says, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” 

Photo Credit: orwelltoday.com

Notice that Nicodemus doesn’t ask a specific question of Jesus. He admits that Jesus was a teacher from God and uses “we” implying that him and other leaders must have come to this conclusion. He then gives a reason why they believe Jesus was sent by God when he highlights that the great works Jesus did could have only come from God. Jesus’ reply is amazing and needs to be understood by every Christian.

Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.

Here is where we see the phrase “born again”. Jesus shows us that in order for someone to even see the kingdom of God they need to be “born again”.  Jesus will continue with this topic but notice how Nicodemus responds.

Nicodemus said, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” 

Obviously, Nicodemus is thinking literally. How crazy would it be to think that a grown man would actually climb back into his mother’s womb. Not only is that gross it doesn’t make sense. This is where Jesus continues with his point.

Jesus answered, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, “You must be born again.” The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.’

Here we see Jesus reiterating his point of being born again. He says that “unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” Jesus not only restated his point but goes even deeper in his teaching. He equates being born again with being born of “water and the Spirit”. But what does being “born of water and the Spirit” mean?

Some people mistake that being born of “water” refers to the physical birth or baptism. However, Jesus is most likely drawing from Ezekiel 36:25-27 which says:

I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.’

With that context in view we see what Jesus is getting at. Jesus is saying that being “born of water and the Spirit” is what causes a person to see God’s kingdom and when their eyes open they will enter that kingdom. As verse 27 in Ezekiel 36 says when God’s Spirit enters a person it will cause them to walk in the ways of God.

This is the Gospel. The Gospel is completely about God and what he is doing. God is the one that saves. God is the one who gives spiritual birth to man.

The question isn’t, “Are you a Christian?”

The question is, “Are you born again?”

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About Travis Berry

I am a blatantly honest person who loves to think, read, discuss, and write about God and theology. I have a bachelor's degree in Youth Ministry from Crown College. I work at a church in Houston, TX as a Youth Director and love every minute of it! I am married to a wonderful woman named Becky and we have one amazing child! I have a love for God's Word, and a fervor to live it out in the fullest, and I pray this blog reflects that. Thanks for checking out AnotherChristianBlog!.

Posted on November 2, 2011, in Christianity, Theology and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. This is a good post and one thing I am happy about in it, is you are not teaching that being born of the water is from the fluid which surrounds a baby in the womb. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I want you to do me a favor though. Go and read everything in the Bible on Baptism. I think you will see baptism differently. The Bible tells us it saves us, saves us from what? We receive the Holy Spirit when we are baptized. There are a lot of things which go along with our baptism. Go read and we will kick it around a little. Good post and again, thank you, thank you, thank you. God Bless, SR

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