As followers of God, we need to be reborn in the Spirit.
John 3: The New Birth: 1 There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” 3 Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
There is a big difference when we are simply following Christ and being reborn by the Spirit of God. When we are born physically, we inherit certain genes from our parents. The segments of DNA that contain the instructions for making specific body proteins are called genes. Each gene may be thought of as a “recipe” you’d find in a cookbook. Some are recipes for creating physical features. Others are recipes to tell the body how to produce important chemicals called enzymes (which help control the chemical reactions in the body). Parents pass on traits or characteristics, such as eye color and blood type, to their children through their genes. Some health conditions and diseases can be passed on genetically too.
In simple terms, we are born in the image of our parents because of genes, DNA, and chromosomes. In the animal kingdom, whatever is born is born in the image of the parent. It is that simple. It says in “Genesis 1:27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” Yes, we are have been birthed into the world in the image of God, but through the process of the spiritual rebirth, we are reborn to resemble and to walk in the ways of our Creator on a spiritual level as well. Thus, we need to be reborn by the Spirit of God. Thus, the phrase “born again” literally means “born from above.” We need to be born again so that we may ‘look’ and even ‘act’ like our heavenly Father.
In verse 7 thus Jesus explains that the need for rebirth should not surprise Nicodemus. After all flesh and Spirit are opposed to each other, so the only way for a person to take on a new nature is by being “born again.” The exact reasons why this happens, and how it happens, will always be a mystery to us. It is the same as the mystery of the Trinity.
Just as we inherit certain traits and characteristics from our parents because of genes, just so by our spiritual rebirth we now adopt and take on the characteristics of God. We know behave as true adopted sons and daughters of our heavenly Father, and this is only possible through a rebirth. Let us understand, one of the great works of the Holy Spirit in the process of making us “alive”, for ultimately the Gospel is about being wakened up from our state of spiritual deadness and slumber into a new life where the Spirit leads and guides us all day. Before we come to Him, we are dead in the spirit, and if we are dead in the spirit, then the spiritual world from which the natural is born becomes alienated and a strange concept.
In John 3 we read that Nicodemus was a religious man. It shows us that we can be religious and appear so pious without even truly knowing God. At least he realized he needed a change of his heart—a spiritual transformation. New birth, or being born again, is an act of God whereby eternal life is imparted to the person who believes (2 Corinthians 5:17; Titus 3:5; 1 Peter 1:3; 1 John 2:29; 3:9; 4:7; 5:1-4, 18). John 1:12, 13 indicates that being “born again” also carries the idea of “becoming children of God” through trust in the name of Jesus Christ.
To be born again is when we truly allow God to renew us so that we may receive the new wine in new wineskins (Mark 2:21-22). It doesn’t help we can quote Scripture and declare we are a Christian unless we are truly and utterly abandoned unto God and we have yielded our lives unto Him. And to yield implies we submit in obedience, and through submission we allow God to take hold of us. To be taken hold of us is the process of allowing God to reside in us through the Holy Spirit, so that the Holy Spirit can lead us, guide us and be the captain of the ship. To be reborn implies a process of yielding, abiding, and seeking God above all else.
In 1 John 5:11, John says, “God gave us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.” So the life we get in the new birth from the Spirit, we get because the Spirit unites us to the Son of God who is life. And in 1 John 5:1, he says, “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God.” In other words, we know we have been born of God — born again by the Spirit in union with Jesus — if we are now believing. When the Holy Spirit creates new spiritual life in us, the simultaneous effect is seeing Jesus as beautiful, receiving him for who he is, and believing on him for his promises. To confirm this in John’s Gospel, look back at John 1:12–13: “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born [this is the new birth], not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” In other words, God causes us to be born again with new spiritual life, and the simultaneous effect is that we see and receive Jesus for who he is and trust him with our lives.
The apostle Paul in Ephesians 2:1 says, “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins” (NKJV). To the Romans, he wrote, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). We are thus all dead for we are all born into this sinful world. So we need to be made spiritually alive. We need to be reconnected with Life itself – God. So when someone receives spiritual life through faith in Christ, the Bible likens it to a rebirth. Only those who are born again have their sins forgiven and have a relationship with God.
Ephesians 2:8-9 states, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” When one is saved, he/she has been born again, spiritually renewed, and is now a child of God by right of new birth. Trusting in Jesus Christ, the One who paid the penalty of sin when He died on the cross, is the means to be “born again.” “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation: the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17).