What Being “Born Again” Means
Last week we talked about Jesus telling Nicodemus that he must be born again to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. We said that Nicodemus didn’t understand what Jesus was talking about. Today we are going to talk about why Nicodemus didn’t understand and what being “born again” means.
Now many people think that Jesus was narrow minded and exclusionary in this statement to Nicodemus. These people think that there are many ways to heaven. But Jesus tells the hard truth. He says there is ONLY ONE WAY TO HEAVEN — and that’s to be ‘born again
The expression, being “born again”, is full of meaning. Ephesians 2:1 teaches that people in sin are dead.
“Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins.”
This passage says being dead is caused by disobedience and sin. God warned Adam and Eve that if they disobeyed Him (meaning – if they sinned) they would die. God was talking about spiritual death which is separation from Him forever in hell. So, sinners are dead people, and dead people can’t go to heaven, because heaven is a place of eternal life. Something has to happen to change these people. They have to be rejuvenated – they have to be made alive, and that’s what Jesus means when He says they have to be “born again”.
Unfortunately, Nicodemus did not understand what Jesus was saying. He said, “What do you mean? How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?”
Nicodemus was thinking literally. He was accustomed to a works based system for achieving salvation. Nicodemus was a self-righteous Pharisee. He believed he could be righteous by what he did. However, Jesus said that his approach was wrong, and the only way to get to heaven was to be “born again”. Jesus said, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit.”
Jesus expected Nicodemus to understand what He meant by this statement. Nicodemus was a teacher of the Old Testament, and he should have been familiar with the terms, “water and the Spirit”. These terms were used in the Old Testament to symbolize renewal and cleansing. For example, let’s look at Isaiah 44:3-4.
“For I will pour out water to quench your thirst and to irrigate your parched fields (that means to give life). And I will pour out my Spirit on your descendants, and my blessing on your children.”
Let’s also look at perhaps the most compelling OT passage which uses these terms — Ezekiel 36:24-27.
“For I will gather you up from all the nations and bring you home again to your land. ‘Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean (same idea as Isaiah). Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations.’”
There are other passages in the Old Testament which say the same thing, so, what Jesus told Nicodemus should have been clear. People have to be cleansed of their sins, and they need the Holy Spirit to change them and empower them follow God’s commands.
Jesus continued with His dialogue with Nicodemus. He said “Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life.” Jesus is talking about HOW we are “born again”. It’s not done physically by human effort. It’s done spiritually by the Holy Spirit. Jesus illustrated this by saying, “So, don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.’”
Jesus says being “born again” is like the wind. You can’t see the wind, but you can feel it, and you can see its effects. So, the spiritual rebirth process is not visible — but its effects are visible. People who are born again are visibly different from the way they were before.
Well Nicodemus was still confused. He simply didn’t believe. Next week we will talk about the problem of unbelief.
Until then, have a good week …