“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.“ – Vs 3 NASB
Born again. What an overused and misunderstood term. It was the calling card of the religious right for years and a badge of honor for many conservative evangelicals. But then, over time, it seems to have become a trite and meaningless title that functions more as a label than a doctrinal reality. Yet, when John penned these words of Jesus they carried a note of surprise, even shock. Which is why Nicodemus responded as he did. The words, “born again” were not some hackneyed phrase that Nicodemus had heard repeatedly over his life. They were new and strange. He didn’t know what they meant. Which is clear in his response: “How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?” (Vs 4 NLT). He was confused. He didn’t know that Jesus was talking about spiritual birth. He didn’t even know it was a possibility.
Jesus was introducing to Nicodemus the doctrinal concept of regeneration. Jesus was telling this well-educated Pharisee about a need in his life that he was totally unaware of – the need for a regeneration or resurrection of his dead spiritual life. Regeneration deals with man’s condition of spiritual death and his need for spiritual life or new birth. By definition, it is the supernatural act of God whereby the spiritual and eternal life of the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, is imparted to the individual through faith in Jesus Christ. Why do we need it? Because man is spiritually dead and separated from God by his own sinfulness and God’s holiness. He is totally incapable of doing anything to solve the problem of his sin and God’s just responsibility to deal with that sin. He’s dead. So God came up with the plan of regeneration.
“…even while we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s special favor that you have been saved!)” – Ephesians 2:5 NLT
“For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it.” – John 5:21 NIV
“But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them are not Christians at all.)” – Romans 8:9 NLT
“We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” – Romans 6:4 NIV
We may live a new life. A Spirit-filled, Spirit-empowered new life that makes us not only right with God, but His children. We are born again into His family. Regeneration or new birth is just a part of what happens at salvation. And like the entire, incredible, miraculous salvation process, it is all the work of God. I bring nothing to the table. Neither did Nicodemus. Which was a shock to his pharisaical system. Over in Titus 3:5, Paul tells us “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit.” Nicodemus’ hope was not in himself, but in the only One who could do anything to give him new life. His hope was in new life, not a new-and-improved version of his old life. Nicodemus, like the rest of us, was dead in his trespasses and sins. Then along came Jesus with His offer of new life. Nicodemus could be born again. He could be give new life in Christ. What an amazing, miraculous idea. I was spiritually dead, but am now BORN AGAIN. May those words never become trite or overused in my life again. May they never lose their significance.
Father, You have given me new life and new hope through Jesus Christ. You have regenerated my once dead spiritual life and made me alive in Christ. I have Your Spirit living within me and that is an amazing, mind-blowing reality. Never let me take it lightly or for granted because it was all made possible through Your own Son’s sacrificial death in my place. Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men