Sermon: What is the meaning of being born again?


A commonly used phrase is “born again Christian” often in the context of distinguishing between Christians who are “born again” and those not. Which is a really an incorrect distinction, for all true Christians have been “born again” But what does it mean to be “born again”?

The Bible uses the expression “born again” only a few times. Jesus in His conversation with Nicodemus, (John 3:3; 5-7); Peter in his first epistle, (1 Peter 1:3, 23) although the idea of being “born” of God is used many times, (John 1:13; 1 John 5:1).

In His discussion with Nicodemus, Jesus reveals much about being “born again.” His comments as the basis of our study, let’s examine what the Bible reveals about “The New Birth”.  After we are introduced to Nicodemus (cf. also John 7:50; 19:39). We observe Jesus emphasizing,

1. The necessity of the New Birth

Read John 3:1-3

A. To see the Kingdom of God: The kingdom of God, in brief, is the rule and reign of God in the person of Christ, (Matthew 28:18; Acts 2:36; Revelation 1:4). It’s a spiritual kingdom not of this world, (John 18:36; Luke 17:20-21), made up of faithful subjects (i.e., the church) – (Colossians 1:13; Revelation 1:6-9).

B. A kingdom both present and future, (Matthew 13:41-43; 1 Corinthians 15:24-26). Do you wish to be in the kingdom now and hereafter?  You must be born again!

C. Necessary to be saved: Because to be in the kingdom is to be saved from the powers of darkness, (Colossians 1:13). This salvation requires a rebirth, regeneration, (Titus 3:5). Do you wish to be saved from your sins?  You must be born again!

2. The nature of the New Birth

Read John 3:4-5

A. Involves both Water and the Spirit: Note carefully:  one birth involving two elements – water and the Spirit. Not two births (Born of water and born of the Spirit). But one birth (born of water and the Spirit)

B. Compare Paul’s description, (Titus 3:5). Washing of regeneration (water). And renewing of the Holy Spirit (Spirit). An obvious reference to baptism.

C. The new birth occurs when one is baptized, for in that simple act of faith they are born not only of the water out of which they arise, but also born of the Spirit (regenerated) by the working of God at that moment, (Colossians 2:12-13).

3. Involves the Word of God

A. One is born again by the Word, (1 Peter 1:23); the incorruptible Word that is preached, (1Peter 1:25). It is the instrument through which the Spirit convicts the sinner, (John 16:7; Ephesians 6:17)

B. His word includes the command to be baptized, (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16). Jesus sanctifies and cleanses His church by the washing of water by the word, (Ephesians 5:26). The “washing of water” is another allusion to baptism – Jamieson, Fausset, Brown.

C. Yet baptism must be administered in conjunction with the Word of God to be of benefit. The new birth involves several elements (water, Spirit, Word of God), all coming together when one responds to the gospel in baptism, (e.g: Acts 2:37-39).

4. The evidence of the New Birth

Read John 3:6-8

A. While there is evidence that one is born of water as they rise from the watery grave of baptism, the evidence of their being born of the Spirit comes later. A. Seen by the effect of the Spirit. We should expect that what the Spirit produces is spirit (i.e., spiritual) – John 3:6. Like the wind (the same Greek word as Spirit), we do not see the Spirit itself but the effect that it produces.

B. Has one been truly born of the Spirit (i.e., born again)?  With time there should be clear evidence that a change has occurred, (1 John 3:14). We call these evidence the fruit of the Spirit, (Galatians 5:22-23).

C. Which comes not only being born of the Spirit but walking in the Spirit, (Galatians 5:16; 25). Where the fruit does not appear, either there was never any rebirth or one is walking after the flesh, not the Spirit! (Galatians 5:17)

5. The basis for the New Birth

Read John 3:14-18

A. The sacrifice of Christ: As the discussion continues (John 3:9-13), it soon turns into a discourse (John 3:14-21), the latter in which Jesus describes his sacrifice. Jesus compares His eventual crucifixion to Moses’ lifting up of the serpent, (John 3:14; Numbers 21:4-9). So people would be saved from perishing by believing in Jesus, (John 3:15). Without redemption from sin, regeneration would be meaningless; the new birth provides both! (Acts 22:16; Titus 3:5).

B. The love of God: God’s love for man is what makes Christ’s sacrifice and the new birth possible! (John 3:16, 1 John 4:9-10).

C. The faith of man: Those who believe in Jesus will not perish, but have everlasting life, (John 3:15-16). They will not be condemned, unlike those who do not believe, (John 3:18). The new birth requires faith in Jesus; without faith, being born of water is meaningless, and impossible to be born of the Spirit, (Mark 16:16; John 8:24; Acts 8:36-37).

6. The rejection of the New Birth

Read John 3:19-21

A. Christ’s sacrifice and God’s love, in cooperation with man’s faith, makes the new birth possible. Yet many remain condemned for lack of faith in Jesus. Why? Jesus offers one reason for. Many love darkness more than light: Light (Jesus) has come into the world, (John 3:19a; 1:5-9; 8:12).

B. There are those who love the darkness instead, because of their evil deeds, John 3:19b). Their love for things of the world causes them to reject the light of Jesus, (Luke 16:14).

C. Many do not want to be exposed by the light: They know that coming to Jesus will expose their evil deeds, (John 3:20; Ephesians 5:13). But those willing to obey (does the truth), do not fear the light, (John 3:21). Unwilling to give up their evil deeds, they are unwilling to submit to the new birth which acknowledges one’s sinfulness and requires repentance, (Acts 2:36-38)


In His conversation with Nicodemus, Jesus reveals much about being born again. What about you?  Have you been born again of water and the Spirit (i.e., a washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit)?

Image: Mars Hill Church Seattle
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