written by Jason Pancheau
What does it mean to be born again? After all, Jesus very explicitly states in John 3 that if one is not born again, they cannot see the kingdom of God. Therefore, if one wants to be a part of the kingdom of God, one thing is for sure in this passage, one must be born again. However, this makes us cycle back to the original question, what does it mean to be born again, and how does is happen?
John 3 starts out with Nicodemus approaching Jesus, and interestingly, Nicodemus doesn’t actually ask a question, but there very well could be one implied in his statement, and Jesus picks up on this. Knowing what Nicodemus needs to hear, Jesus responds with a statement, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the kingdom of God.”(John 3:3) The response of Jesus confuses Nicodemus, and his reply is telling of that confusion.
However, Jesus responds again using the language of birth, except this time, he connects it with something else. He says there is a very specific means by which one must be born again. You must be born of water and spirit. What does it mean to be born of water and spirit? This is referring to a spiritual birth, one that cleanses from the sin that stains human hearts. This is a spiritual birth that transforms, renews, and restores the heart. This, of course, is no new idea. In fact Ezekiel 36:25-27 speaks of something strikingly similar, “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations.”
Jesus even goes on to explain himself even more in the next verse. He tells Nicodemus that this new birth of water and spirit is not in the grasp of human production. A human giving birth to a human is flesh giving birth to flesh, and sin giving birth to sin. It is the Holy Spirit, not us, that gives new birth, and not only that, but we are incapable of bringing the new spiritual birth to ourselves.
Now you might be wondering how is it the Spirit decides to come and affect people. The clear answer in this text is that a knowledge of such information is simply not your prerogative to know, but it is the Spirits. Just like the wind blows as it wishes, so does the Spirit. The Spirit blows where it wants to blow and we do not know where it comes from or where it is going.
So, what does this mean for us? Well, to be sure, the act of the Spirit filling people and affecting new birth is not an act we have a hand in. We don’t save people, we don’t restore people, and we don’t clean the sinner’s filthy heart… God does. However, we do have a hand in speaking the truth of God’s word and sharing and declaring the gospel so that people know the truth of the gospel. It is God who gives the new heart, God who gives the new birth, God who cleanses from sin, and God who will redeem his church. And by his grace, He has commanded us to be messengers, declaring the death, burial, and resurrection of his Son so that the truth is ready to affect people’s lives if the Spirit decides to blow in their direction.