What does it mean to be “born again?” Stephen recalls the story of Nicodemus, who visited Jesus at night with a mind full of questions.
Nicodemus Visits Jesus
John chapter three begins with the story of a Pharisee, a Jewish religious leader, named Nicodemus. He comes to see Jesus at night, and says to Jesus, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” Jesus gives a somewhat peculiar response when he says to Nicodemus, “Truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” It’s strange, because Nicodemus hadn’t said anything about the kingdom of God. It almost seems like Jesus is answering a question that Nicodemus didn’t even ask. Maybe he was.
There are other instances in the bible where we can read about how Jesus perceived what people were thinking and responded to them, so it is possible that Jesus knew what Nicodemus really wanted to ask or say, and just cut to the chase. We can’t know for sure, but what we do know is that whatever reason Jesus had to respond this way, there was an important purpose behind it.
Being Born Again
It’s also strange, because of the idea of being born again. Let’s separate ourselves from what we know or think we know about the phrase “born again” in Christianity for a minute, because the idea of being a born again Christian actually comes from this passage. Therefore Nicodemus had no pre-existing point of reference for the idea of being born again. His next question proves the oddity of what he was hearing when he 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?” And I must say, that’s likely the same line of reasoning I would have had in that situation.
Jesus answers in verse 5
“Truly I say to you, unless one is born of water and the spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”
So what did Jesus mean, exactly how does this answer Nicodemus’ question? The answer is critical because Jesus has twice now attached this requirement of being born again as a condition of eternal life, seeing or entering the kingdom of God.
Garden of Eden
Let’s go back to the Garden of Eden. There are some important passages there that can really help us to understand what Jesus is saying here. In Genesis 1, we read that man was made in the image of God. There are a lot of different ideas to what that means, we can be pretty sure that it is not intended to mean we physically look like God, because God is spirit. Some have linked it to man having three parts, body, spirit, and soul, just as God has three parts, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
I believe there is a lot of truth in this, so let’s see how it factors into being born again. In the garden, were two very specific trees, one of those being what was called the “Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.” God forbade Adam from eating the fruit of that tree, for in the day that he did he would surely die. Well, Adam did eat the fruit, only he didn’t die, at least not physically. So, since God cannot be wrong, something of Adam must have died.
We also learn in the New Testament, when Paul writes to a group of believers, that we were once spiritually dead before we were saved. The logical conclusion is that when Adam ate the fruit he became spiritually dead to God, separated by his sin. Finally, in Genesis 5:3, we read that
“When Adam had lived 130 years he fathered a son after his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth.”
The significance of this is that Adam was created perfect, living body, living spirit, living soul, but now through his sin he was spiritually dead, no longer perfectly in the image of God because he was polluted by sin. This spiritual death was passed on to all men, which is why we read Seth was created in the image of Adam, as are all people. So getting back to Nicodemus, and a message for all people, is that Nicodemus was born physically, but in order to enter the kingdom of God, he needed to have his spirit regenerated, or born to new life. He needed to be born again, we all do.
How Can We Be Born Again?
It is Nicodemus’ next question that becomes very important to all mankind. If the condition for eternal life is to be born again, how can we do that?
Jesus’ goes on to explain the how, and in doing so gives what is perhaps the most known and loved verse in the entire Bible, John 3:16,
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life”
That’s the answer. Jesus, God’s Son, came into the world to pay for our sin, and make us alive again spiritually if we believe in Him. It is through faith in Him that we can say we’ve been born again and will one day see, and enter into, the Kingdom of God.
If you would like to know more about how you can be born again today, or would just like to tell us that you have been born again, please contact us. You can do so by email to [email protected] or by phone at 1-800-567-1218.
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Mother – Public Domain
Stephen March is the President of FBH International and HopeStreamRadio. He graduated from the Broadcasting Program at Niagara College in 2001, and has previously worked in television production and post-production. Stephen lives in St. Catharines, Ontario, with his wife Corinne and their four children. He serves as an elder at Scottlea Gospel Chapel.
Read and hear more from Stephen Marchon his contributor’s page.
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