Born Again

Key Text : John 3:1-14

What does the phrase ‘Born Again’ mean?

Right from the start we need to be clear ‘Born again’ is not a phrase invented by the church or anti – Christian media. Jesus himself used the phrase as a description of what it really means to be a saved follower of His. Jesus said that only those who are born again will see the kingdom of heaven, enter into heaven and live eternally in heaven. So it’s important that all of us discover and understand what it means.


In John chapter 3, Jesus meets a man named Nicodemus, who comes to him under the cover of darkness. Nicodemus was a prominent man in society, learned and deeply religious.

So why did he come to Jesus at all? The answer is that his outward religiosity had failed to give him real satisfaction in life. He was hungry for truth, for meaning, for reality, for Joy. His heart was dissatisfied, his mind was seeking. When he saw Jesus, he saw someone who had the authority and the power of God running through Him. Jesus healed the sick, raise the dead and fed the hungry and He never asked to be paid for any of those deeds. More importantly, Jesus was a man who demonstrated heavenly authority. He claimed to forgive sins. He spoke about the kingdom of heaven. He never quoted any scribes or rabbis. He said ‘I say to you.’ He spoke from His own authority, as if He had authority from God Himself. Because He did.

So Nicodemus came to Jesus because he was convinced that Jesus was not just another teacher, but someone with authority from heaven. But Nicodemus was not yet willing to admit that he needed to be saved from his sins. (maybe you’re the same?) He was still trying to protect his reputation as a morally superior and religious man. That’s why he came to see Jesus at night. He didn’t want anyone to see him and say oh look at Nicodemus, he’s becoming a Jesus freak.

Nicodemus wanted to know the truth and the question that was burning in him and burns in many today is ‘If I die, will I go to heaven?’ One of the great spiritual tragedies of his time and of our time as well, is that people allow their fear of peer pressure to keep them out of the kingdom of heaven.

v.2  ‘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.’

Who was the ‘We’ that Nicodemus referred to? Nicodemus was not alone among the members of the Sanhedrin to recognise Jesus power and authority.

But the members of the Sanhedrin were afraid of peer pressure. They were afraid of what other powerful men might think of them. They were afraid of being cancelled by the cancel culture of first century Israel. Because they didn’t want people to judge them or mock them for being a follower a disciple of Jesus, they denied Christ and condemned themselves to an eternity without Him. In other words they excluded themselves from God’s heaven.

Jesus said ‘You must be born again’ but Nicodemus who was a very literal minded Pharisee asked Jesus ‘How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born?’ 4

For the second time v.5 Jesus begins His reply with the phrase ‘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 (surprised) that I said to you ‘you must be born again’

The repeat of the word ‘truly’ is a statement of literary emphasis. Jesus was trying to get Nicodemus to pay close attention. He was about to tell him the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Jesus told Nicodemus and He tells the same thing to us that in order to go to heaven, we must allow God to do something to us.

We must allow God to transform us and completely change us. We cannot make ourselves acceptable to God by keeping religious rituals or trying to live a good life. We cannot simply make cosmetic changes. We must be radically transformed. We must be born again. This second birth is a spiritual transformation that can only be effected by Holy Spirit.

What does Jesus mean when he says, that no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the spirit?

Jesus is referring to God’s O.T. proclamation through the prophet Ezekiel 36:25-27 ‘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. 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. And I will put my Spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.’

Ezekiel spoke of a time to come when God would give His people a transformational new beginning. The symbols of that new beginning are water and the spirit. Water cleanses us of all sin, idolatry and impurity. Holy Spirit transforms our hearts, taking away our hearts of stone and giving us new, softened hearts of flesh so that we can walk in the spirit and follow God in obedience.

To be born of water and the spirit is not an idea that Jesus invented through His conversation with Nicodemus. It’s a promise that God the Father made through the O. T. prophet Ezekiel six centuries before the coming of Jesus. A born again person is one who has been radically transformed by Jesus, whose life has been invaded by the power of Holy Spirit, who is living for Jesus in this life and who is going to heaven in the next.

Who is going to heaven? All those who have experienced a new beginning in life by being born of water and the spirit, all those who have been cleansed by God and have been given a new heart and a new indwelling spirit. Self-improvement is not enough. We need a radical transformation, we need a complete rebirth that only Jesus through Holy Spirit can bring.

We are all born with the sin of Adam encoded in our spiritual DNA. Every human being who has ever lived has been born with a built in sin problem. That same problem is what nailed Jesus to the cross until he died and satisfied the father justice. He was buried in a tomb but on the third day He rose in triumph over death and the grave, Hallelujah! When we commit our life to Jesus, when we are born again, we become new creatures, we become radically transformed.

To be born again, we must first admit we have a problem that needs solving. We must admit that we are sinners. We deserve everlasting punishment. We are heading for hell and we are incapable of saving ourselves from our own sin. We must recognise our lost condition. Anyone who wants to spend eternity in the presence of God the Father must understand that heaven cannot be earned. We cannot do anything to deserve being saved. If we try to convince ourselves that we are good enough to satisfy a Holy God, that our good work can qualify us to get into heaven, we are fooling ourselves.

“None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” Romans 3:10-12

There’s nobody living right, not even one, nobody who knows the score, nobody alert for God. They’ve all taken the wrong turn; they’ve all wandered down blind alleys. No one’s living right; I can’t find a single one. (Msg Paraphrase)

That’s the undeniable truth that Jesus himself stated ‘truly, truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the spirit v.5