Christianease: Born Again Part 1


Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews; this man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs[1] that You do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born[2] again[3] he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born[4] when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born[5] of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born[6] of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born[7] of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind[8] blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:1-9)

One of the most ubiquitous and enigmatic Christian phrases is the phrase “born again”. It is as enigmatic now as it was when spoken to Nicodemus who asked the question of Jesus that sparked the answer that is now famous.

Nicodemus actually initiated the conversation by recognizing that Jesus was “from God” because of the signs (miracles) he performed which confirmed God’s authority in the message Jesus spoke.

Many people, by way, saw Jesus perform these same signs and didn’t believe He was from God, including most of the local Jewish leaders (of which Nicodemus was one). The setting of the conversation is at night, perhaps because Nicodemus didn’t want to be seen.

But, Nicodemus recognized the truth about Jesus, made an honest inquiry, and Jesus responded to his question with an answer that goes to the essence of the purpose for which Jesus came.

That “answer” is now the ubiquitous, enigmatic “born again” phrase that Christians toss around, sometimes seemingly like window dressing. Yet, when Jesus first spoke those words to Nicodemus, they were not just enigmatic, but utterly paradigm shifting. They were like the sun to a light bulb of a new idea.

First Century Jews were divided on the idea of life after death. Many (including the Sadducees) didn’t believe in life after death at all. Others (like the Pharisees) believed in the corporate life after death of the nation of Israel.[9]

Regardless of the variation of belief in life after death, life before death was viewed as static. Jesus basically said, “You’ve got it all wrong!” In fact, you can’t wait for life after death; you must be born again now! You must be born from above, born spiritually, to have any hope for the life after death that you seek.

John the Baptist, who came before Jesus, called people to repent for “the kingdom of God is at hand!”[10] Jesus gave His disciples the same message to pass on[11] because the kingdom wasn’t just at hand, it was in their midst![12] Jesus brought the kingdom of God from the far reaches of God’s habitation above and beyond our existence right into our midst!

Many of the parables Jesus told carried a warning against putting off the kingdom of God.[13] While John the Baptist came urging immediate repentance to prepare the way for the kingdom of God that was to come, Jesus brought the kingdom of God right into our midst and urged us to submit to it now. This is still the message for us.

This is the kingdom of God: that we would embrace Jesus and commit ourselves to Him. “[I]f you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved….”[14] Being “saved” is another Christian buzz word, of course, essentially meaning what Jesus spoke of when he spoke of being born again.

Repentance and acceptance of the message Jesus spoke, willingness to commit to that message and to God as revealed in the person of Jesus, precedes being born again, being born from above, being born of the Spirit. In repenting of our own way and genuinely committing to God in Christ, God ushers us into His kingdom by giving us His Spirit, and our new life begins.

In other words, the new life begins now! Not at some future time after death.

In the second installment of this two-part series, we will explore what the importance of being born again in the life of the believer.

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[1] 4592 Sēmeíon – a sign (typically miraculous) which confirms or corroborates (authenticates).  Sēmeíon (“sign”) then looks to the end-purpose of the one giving it – used dozens of times in the NT for what authenticates the Lord’s eternal purpose.  That is, pointing to what mere man cannot replicate or take credit for.

[2] 1080 Gennáō – literally, beget (procreate a descendant), produce offspring; (passive) be born, “begotten.” Gennaō (“born, birthed”) can refer literally to begetting (conceiving) a child, and figuratively (“spiritually begetting”) of a person finding new life when they are born-again.

[3] “Again” can be translated “from above”. The Greek sentence structure emphasizes contrasting ideas – born once and born again; born below and born from above; born naturally and born spiritually.

[4] The verb tense is different here. When Nicodemus asks how can a man be born when he is old, he is using the Greek aorist tense, which conveys the idea of an action completed at its first attainment – such as the natural birth of a person.

[5] Jesus uses the same tense as Nicodemus this time, conveying the idea of a once for all spiritual birth.

[6] Here Jesus uses the Greek perfect tense, focusing on the lingering effect of the action of being born in the flesh and the existing (lingering) result.

[7] Jesus uses the same perfect tense focusing on the lingering effect of being born of the Spirit.

[8] 4151 Pneúma – properly, spirit (Spirit), wind, or breath.  The most frequent meaning (translation) of Pneúma in the NT is “spirit” (“Spirit”).  Only the context however determines which sense(s) is meant.

[9] “Unlike the doctrine of the immortality of the soul, the belief in the resurrection was nationalistic rather than individualistic. It was the hope of national revival that came to the fore and this embraced the resurrection.” http://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/jewish-resurrection-of-the-dead/ (See also http://ntwrightpage.com/2016/07/12/jesus-resurrection-and-christian-origins/)

[10] Matthew 3:2 “At hand” is from 1448 Eggízō (from 1451/eggýs, “near”) – properly, has drawn close (come near).  Eggizō occurs 14 times in the Greek perfect tense (indicative mood) in the NT.  This expresses “extreme closeness, immediate imminence – even a presence (= ‘It is here’) because the moment of this coming happened (i.e. at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry)” (J. Schlosser). Eggízō, in the Gk perfect tense presents the kingdom of God as already coming near and hence requires immediate response.  Eggizō (“has come, drawn near”) conveys arrival, with the immediate obligation to respond to what has come (is now on the scene).

[11] Matthew 10:5-9

[12] Luke 17:20-21 (“Now having been questioned by the Pharisees as to when the kingdom of God was coming, He answered them and said, “.The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’ For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst.’”)

[13] See Luke 11:5-13 (Friend at Midnight); Luke 12:13-21 (the Rich Fool); Matthew 13:44 (Hidden Treasure); Matthew 13:45-46 (Pearl of Great Price); Luke 14:7-14 (Wedding Guests); Luke 16:19-31 (Rich Man & Lazarus); Matthew 22:1-14 & Luke 14:15-24 (Marriage Feast or Great Banquet); and Matthew 25:1-3 (The Ten Virgins).

[14] Romans 10:9

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One Comment on “Christianease: Born Again Part 1”


  1. […] A view of the world through the eyes of faith « Christianease: Born Again Part 1 […]

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