The necessity and implications of being Born-Again
It is often interesting to notice a confusion about something that is clearly explained! Such is the case with the topic of being born again. And disagreements are often the by-products.Yet this subject is of critical importance, for our salvation is totally depended upon it. In this article, I will define what being “Born-Again” means, and I will end by giving seven facts about this important subject as we get our heads around it.
To be Born Again is to be “born from above”, “fathered by God”, “born of God”, we can also say to be “born of the Spirit”. It is the idea of spiritual rebirth, of spiritual new birth. This is when God makes a person new spiritually; when God completely renews a person. When he makes them to be Born of the Spirit. It is when the Holy Spirit gives us spiritual new life.
Grudem defines it this way, “It is the secret act of God in which he imparts new spiritual life to us” (1999:300).
God is the one who causes people to be Born-Again, it is the work of God alone and we contribute nothing to it. The Bible is very clear about this.
The Bible also talks about being Born-Again as The New Birth, Born of God, Regeneration or Made Alive.
In order to understand the necessity and the implications of being born again, let us consider the following seven facts about being born again.
1. Being Religious will not make you to be Born Again
Read John 3:1-3, 10
Let’s look at Nicodemus; the passage introduces him with a purpose, so we can know what kind of person he is. He is a Pharisee and ruler of the Jews, and down in verse 10 we also notice that he is being referred to as the teacher of Israel.
A Pharisee: The Pharisees knew the word of God very well, they memorized the whole Torah (1st 5 Books of the Bible). They knew a lot about the Bible. They were respected and looked up to, they were very serious about keeping the Law and maintaining purity.
Ruler of the Jews: He is the ruler of the Jews, he was part of the Jewish ruling council, which is the same the same as the parliament. If he was a Namibian he would be Kameeta, who was a religious and national leader. Thus, he was a very influential men in Israel. Not only that.
The teacher of Israel: If you have any question about the Bible, just go to Nicodemus, and he will give a proper answer. He was a great teacher, he was one of the most influential, well known, respected, preacher of his day. He is more like a much demanded Conference speaker; people buy his books, and they even ask him to sign them at the conferences.
Nicodemus was all this and yet he was not born Again. That is why Jesus tells him he must be Born Again. Nicodemus’ life serves as an example which shows us that being religious does make you to be born again. Nothing you do makes you to be Born Again. Not by praying, not by reading, going to church, being with Christians, being a youth leader, being Born in to a Christian home, having good manners, never drinking beer, never swearing, not even being a pastor, or a priest, a bishop, a men of God, even being the most famous preacher in Africa, even being the most poor person, or being the richest person. Nothing, only God makes you to be Born Again, only God makes you spiritually alive.
2. You must be Born Again to enter God’s Kingdom
Read John 3:3, 5
You must be Born Again: from these verses we see here that it is of critical importance to be Born Again. It must happen, Jesus emphatically tells Nicodemus that he must be Born Again, that is the only way he can enter God’s Kingdom.
The Kingdom of God:
William Hendrikson says “The Kingdom of God is the realm in which God’s rule is recognized and obeyed and in which his grace prevails” (1959:133). In addition, we can also say that the kingdom of God is the sphere of God’s salvation, where his people are under sovereign rule, under his dominion, his kingship, his authority. When we are Born Again we willingly submit ourselves to his rule and authority. We get to have the benefits of enjoying his kingship, his rulership and also the benefits of his salvation such as the forgiveness of sins and eternal life.
The importance of being Born Again cannot be overemphasized, because it is a must if we are to enter God’s Kingdom. If we are to enjoy the privileges of being under God’s rule there is only one way which is that we must be Born Again.
3. Being Born Again is the Work of the Holy Spirit
Read John 3:5, 6, 8
Water and Spirit: Notice verse 5 says “born of water and spirit”. Now there are many ways in which people interpret this verse. Firstly, some people interpret this to mean that one must be baptized and be Born of the Spirit to enter God’s Kingdom. Secondly, some interpret it to mean that Jesus is using this Phrase to contrast between physical birth and spiritual birth. The water being physical and the spirit being spiritual. Thirdly, some say that Jesus here is talking only about spiritual birth and the water is a picture signifying the cleansing and Purifying work of the Holy Spirit, which is used throughout the whole Bible.
I think that the third option is the most likely, we see in Ezekiel 36:25-27, that the water analogy is being used to refer to the cleansing work of the Holy Spirit.This passage is definitely not talking about baptism, we know that Christian baptism was instructed by the Lord Jesus after his resurrection when he gave the great commission. We also know from the whole Bible that baptism does not save us nor causes us to be Born Again.1 Peter 1:23, Titus 3:5, Ephesians 2:8-9.
Steven J Lawson says, “No amount of water can wash the foul pollution of your soul”, he further says, “God here is telling Nicodemus, that you need to be Born Again and you need to have that filthy, stinking, foul, rotten heart and soul of yours cleansed and purified by the Holy Spirit.
Wind: Here in verse 8, the work of the Holy Spirit is being described as the same of the wind. The point made here is that, the work of the Holy Spirit is a mystery, that we cannot fully understand how he works or when he causes people to be Born Again. But we will hear the sound of the wind, which means that when he saves someone we will notice it. But we can never fully understand how he does it. Today the wind was blowing in the afternoon and leafs were moving, I could feel it on my face, clothes that were hanged outside were moving. But if you ask me where it was coming from I won’t be able to tell you. However, I will just tell you I saw it moving due to the movement of the clothes and trees.
We cannot fully understand how the Spirit works to cause people to be Born Again we cannot say he works on Sunday during the service to save people, we cannot say that he moves when we play nice music, or put on the lights or when we repeatedly sing a nice worship song or when we do alter calls. He works on his own terms. But we will see from their lives when someone is born again.
4. Being Born Again is a Spiritual (or Second ) Birth
Read John 3:3-4, 5-7
Notice that it says you must be Born Again and in verse 4, Nicodemus asked whether Jesus meant that he was to enter his mother’s womb and be born again a second time. In other words, must I be Born Again physically? In verse 5 Jesus talks about being Born of the Spirit and cleansed by him. In verse 6 he says that which is Born of the Flesh is flesh that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
Physical (or first) Birth: We are all born physically (or flesh), by our physical parents. We are born into this world; we live our lives, and we grow up. We talk; we eat, and we enjoy life. But there is also bad news to being born physically, we are born in sin. David in Psalm 51:5 put it this way, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” But why are we born as sinners? Read Romans 5:12. Therefore our first (or physical) birth brings us condemnation, sin and death.
Spiritual (or second) Birth: But we have to be Born Again; we need to be Born spiritually in order to enter the Kingdom of God. We need to be cleansed by the Holy Spirit from our sin and be made spiritually new. The second birth must happen, we must be Born Again! Or we will never enter the Kingdom of God. our first (or physical) Birth is not enough for us to enter the Kingdom of God, is our second (or spiritual) birth that causes us to enter the kingdom of God. John 1:12-13.
No one is born a Christian, everyone needs to be Born Again if you are to enter God’s kingdom. Even if your parents are both Christian, even if your first word was Jesus, even if you started preaching at the age of 3, even if you where baptized as a child, even if you were dedicated as a child, even if you are a the nicest person on earth. You have to be Born the second time, “You must be Born Again, because that’s the only way you can enter God’s kingdom.
5. We are Born Again through the word of God
Read James 1:18, 1 Peter 1:23
The word of God is the means by which one becomes born again. The word of God is presented in two ways, publicly through proclamation, and privately through personal one-on-one or a small group. When we hear God’s word, the Holy Spirit uses that to bring the new birth. We are born again through word of God. And so as the word is preached to us or as we read it on our own the Holy Spirit uses that to open our hearts and makes us spiritually alive.
6. Being Born Again is the free Gift of God
In Ephesians 2:1-5, notice that we were dead in our sins, we were in a hopeless situation, we lived according to our flesh, the world, and the Devil…In verse 5: But God because his great love, who is rich in mercy made us alive with Christ…it is by grace we have been saved…so we see here clearly that to be made spiritually alive is by the grace of God. God through his free grace granted us the new birth; he makes us alive, not because we deserve it or did something to earn it.
All I can do is to cry out to God and ask him to have mercy on me a wicked sinner, Lord make me new spiritually, Lord cause me to be Born Again, Lord give me grace to believe in Christ, Lord make me a new creature, Lord make me your child, give me spiritual birth.
7. Being Born Again brings Radical Transformation
If someone is Born Again, they have experienced spiritual New birth. And because one is born of the Spirit their lives are inevitably transformed. One cannot be born Again and there is no radical transformation. When you are born Again you become a completely new person.
Kevin DeYoung in his blog post on first John says that there are three test that John puts in order for us to see if we are born again. The first one is theological (what you believe about Jesus), the second is moral (whether you live a righteous life or not) and the third one is social (whether you love other Christians or not). Let’s look at some passages in first John.
1 John 2:29 – if you practice righteousness than you are born of God
3:9 – if you continue sinning or living in sin you are not born of God, this does not mean that Christians cannot sin, but it means that sin is not what characterizes them.
4:7 – if you love other Christians it is evidence that you are born again.
5:1 – if you believe that Jesus is the Christ or the Messiah, that he is God’s chosen savior who fulfills the Old Testament, you are born of God.”
We cannot claim to be Born Again and we live a lifestyle of sin, stealing money at work buying things illegally every time, living immorally, living in fornication and adulatory, in hate, in gossip, and slander, unforgiveness, crazy youth lifestyles, in pride, in slothfulness (laziness), I can’t mention everything. Our lives must be radically transformed, if not than it is simple you are not born again. If you say you are born Again, than show me with your life.
Being Born-Again is necessary and has implications for us, and our seven facts pointed out that clearly. We need to understand this subject well and teach it well, because if people misunderstand it, the consequences are eternal.
1. DeYoung, K (2015) The Gospel Coalition. Available at: http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevin-deyoung/so-how-do-i-really-know-iam-a-christian/
2. Hendrikson, W. (1959) John. The Banner of Truth: Edinburgh.
3. Grudem, W. (1999) Bible Doctrine. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
4. Lawson, S. J (2016) Sermon audio. Available at: media-cloud.sermonaudio.com