What Does It Mean to Be Born Again?

John 3 - What does it mean to be Born Again?

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JOHN 3:3-4  3 Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 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?”

How would you paraphrase Jesus' reply to Nicodemus?
Look, you have no clue because you haven’t been “born again” (John 3:3).

What does it mean to be “born again”?
ἄνωθεν (anothen), the original Greek word translated “again,” more commonly means “from above” or “from on high” - i.e., from heaven. This Greek word occurs 13 times in the Bible and is translated “from above” 5 times, “top” 3 times, “from the first” once, “from the beginning” once, “again” only twice, and not translated once. Jesus is saying that Nicodemus “cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3) because he has not received spiritual birth from heaven - i.e., from God.

What do you think of Nicodemus' reply?
If Nicodemus had stopped after the first question - “How can a man be born when he is old?” (John 3:4) - he would have expressed just incomprehension. But his second question - “Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” (John 3:4) - indicates that he may have been either trying to make light of Jesus’ reply, which he may have considered a snub in front of Jesus' disciples around them, or expressing shock since being born a Jew is what the Jews thought guaranteed their entry into heaven.

JOHN 3:5-8  5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘Ye must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

What is Jesus saying in this passage?
The Greek word for “again” (John 3:7) is the same one used in John 3:3 above. Jesus is distinguishing between our physical birth - “That which is born of the flesh is flesh” (John 3:6) - and the spiritual birth - “that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6) - required for us to “enter the kingdom of God.” (John 3:5)

Why is “Spirit” (John 3:5) capitalized?
Jesus is referring to God the Holy “Spirit,” the enabler of the spiritual birth.

Is the “Spirit” then a different God?
No, God the Holy Spirit, along with God the Father and God the Son (Jesus), comprise one God, and Jesus affirmed this in Mark 12:29 by declaring, “the LORD is one.” But the Bible also clearly describes three distinct personhoods for God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Understanding this truth about God, commonly called “Trinity,” is challenging to the limited human mind but can be facilitated by using this visual tool.

But is the Holy Spirit someone who can be said to have a 'personhood'?
Yes, Acts 13:2 says that He speaks: “As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, 'Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.'”

Can the “Spirit” be seen?
No, but neither can the wind, yet you know of its existence, as Jesus says in John 3:8 above.

What is the “water” of which John 3:5 says one also needs to be born to enter the kingdom of God?
Jesus is talking about the “living water” in the next chapter (John 4:7-14).

What is this “living water”?
It's salvation through Jesus Himself, whom John 1:1 also calls the “Word.” To enter the Kingdom of God, we need to be saved through the Word of God.

Is there a more direct equation between “water” and the “word” in the Bible?
Yes, Ephesians 5:25-26 says, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word.” Also, 1 Peter 1:22-23 adds, “Since ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever.”

And who enables us to do that?
The “Spirit,” as Jesus said in the passage above.

JOHN 3:9-12  9 Nicodemus answered and said to Him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered and said to him, “Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things? 11 Truly, truly, I say to you, We speak what We know and testify what We have seen, and ye do not receive Our witness. 12 If I have told you earthly things and ye do not believe, how will ye believe if I tell you heavenly things?”

What is happening in this passage?
Nicodemus, one of the rulers and “teacher” of Israel is completely lost and is being chastised by Jesus, a street preacher.

Who else is Jesus addressing?
“Ye” (John 3:7 & 12) is the plural second person pronoun - i.e., plural “You” - so Jesus is also chastising those whom Nicodemus represents.

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