Summary: Born again??? What on earth does that mean?
John 3:1 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council.
2 He came to Jesus at night and said, "Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him." 3 In reply Jesus declared, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again."
4 "How can a man be born when he is old?" Nicodemus asked. "Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!"
5 Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ’You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit."
9 "How can this be?" Nicodemus asked.
10 "You are Israel’s teacher," said Jesus, "and do you not understand these things? 11 I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. 12 I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?
13 No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven--the Son of Man. 14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. 16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
We used to play a game called aggravation. Each player had four game pieces in a starting box. You had to roll the dice for a 1 or 6 to get out of the starting place and then you tried to move around the board to get home where you were safe. If someone landed on your space while you were on your way around the board you had to go back to the starting place. I remember being almost home and one of my sweet family would land on me and make me go all the way back to the starting box. It was very aggravating. Starting all over can be difficult. The older I get the harder it seems to be. But sometimes a new start can be a blessing. Jesus tells us about a fresh start from the Spirit of God that brings us to God’s kingdom.
Here in John 3 Jesus tells this man Nicodemus that for him to see the kingdom of God he’s going to have to start all over... be born again. This idea sounded crazy to Nicodemus. His question was, “How? Can a man return to his mother’s womb and be born again?” He may have even thought, “And what if your mother has already died?”
Of course we know that Jesus wasn’t talking about that kind of birth, but he was talking about a new beginning... one so new Jesus called it being “born again.” You can’t get too much newer than that. John 1:11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God-- 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
Just think about this with me. Jesus is telling us of a radical new beginning. A spiritual beginning that takes us into a whole new realm. This new beginning brings us into the rule and reign of the Almighty God. Not as sinners, but as new born children of God. God wants to be our Father. His kingdom is for his children! And for us to have this blessing, we must have a new beginning.
It is a beginning that involves three things: faith, water and the Spirit. When Jesus says you must be born of water and the Spirit he is talking about when it happens, and what it is that happens. Water and the Spirit are connected. Some have tried to separate the water and the Spirit into two different births, but this misses what Jesus actually said. He speaks of one birth with two components. It is one birth involving water and the Spirit, not one birth of water and another birth of the Spirit. One birth, two elements. The Greek word that connects water and the Spirit is “kai.” This means they happen together. It also appears that they happen at the same time. It is the Spirit that makes the real meaningful difference. The water marks the point of birth. The Spirit defines the kind of birth. Interesting that almost all births involve water. Christian birth is no exception. This can only be referring to the water of baptism. The only reason to make the water here refer to the mother’s amniotic fluid at birth at an earlier time is because there is some resistance to accepting what this tells us about Christian baptism in water. This interpretation is based on a fear of connecting salvation with any physical event because it might be construed salvation through human works. Clearly, being born again is not a human birth!