What Does it Mean to be Born Again?

By Sean Cole

What does it mean to be “born again”? The Bible teaches that no one is a Christian who has not been born again. So in essence, everyone who claims to be a Christian must have experienced the new birth that Jesus spoke about in John 3.

In John 3:3-6, we find these poignant words of Jesus: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 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?”  Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

Jesus makes it very clear that two things in fact cannot happen unless a sinner has been born again. First of all, he or she cannot see the kingdom of heaven. Sinners have been blinded by Satan from seeing the glory of Christ in the gospel and thereby cannot see their need of salvation. 2 Corinthians 4:4 states, “ In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” Unless a person experiences this supernatural birth through the power of the Holy Spirit, he or she cannot even see heaven or understand their need for God.

Secondly, Jesus makes it very clear that people cannot enter the kingdom of heaven unless they have been born again. So not only do sinners lack the ability to see their need for salvation due to spiritual blindness, but they also lack any inherent power or ability to come to Christ and enter eternal life. So why do sinners lack this ability and why the desperate need for the new birth?

Paul paints this devastating picture of the effects of sin in Ephesians 2:1-3: “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience–among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”

Every single person is born into this world spiritually dead, in bondage to Satan, enslaved to his or her own sinful flesh, and under God’s condemnation.  None of us can get ourselves out of this terrible situation. We cannot cause ourselves to be born again. We cannot make ourselves go from spiritual death to spiritual life? We cannot open our blind eyes to see our need for Jesus.

That is why we need the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit to cause us to be born again. Jesus tells us that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.  So how do spiritually blind eyes receive sight? 2 Corinthians 4:6 tells us: For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” God must sovereignly overcome our blindness and open our eyes to the glory and beauty of Jesus as the only way of salvation.

How do spiritually dead people get raised to life? Ephesians 2:4-5 tells us: “ But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved.” Again, He must sovereignly make us alive.

As sinners, we cannot open our own blind eyes. Neither can we make ourselves alive. We cannot produce this new birth. Only the sovereign power of the Holy Spirit can reach down from heaven and penetrate the dark recesses of our evil hearts and give us new life. And once the Holy Spirit does that wonderful work of grace, we as sinners freely respond in repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

If you are a Christian today, it is solely because God made you a Christian. He gave you the new birth. He opened your blind eyes. He raised you from deadness to life. He gave you a new identity. So in reality there is no such thing as a Christian who is NOT “born again”.

1 Peter 1:3 says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” Have you received this great mercy from God? Has He caused you to be born again? Do you have this living hope? If not, would you call upon the name of Jesus to be saved. Ask God in His grace to open your eyes and raise you to life. Ask Him to grant you the gift of the new birth!

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