Born Again!


‘Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.’ Jesus replied, ‘Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.’ ‘How can someone be born when they are old?’ Nicodemus asked. ‘Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!’ Jesus answered, ‘Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit.’ John 3:1-5

Here we see the supernatural knowledge possessed by Jesus to see what was is in man, and His refusal to recognise as His true disciples, any who didn’t feel the need for the radical change in human nature which He came into the world to effect, are clearly brought out in His interview with Nicodemus.

Nicodemus was genuinely impressed by what Jesus said and did, he at least didn’t attribute Jesus’ extraordinary powers to Satanic influence, as some of the other Pharisees did. On the contrary, he recognised Jesus as a teacher who has come from God, and he is anxious to know more about Him, but he also seems anxious to avoid giving the impression he wants to become a committed disciple.

Nicodemus was a member of the ruling council, a Sanhedrin. Most of the Sanhedrin were Sadducees of the Priestly families, but some were of the Pharisee sect, Nicodemus was one of these, and his acceptance on the Sanhedrin council was quite an honour.

‘At night’

Why he came at night is a matter of opinion and must be treated as so, here are a couple of possibilities.

1. The fact that Nicodemus came at ‘night’ is an indication that he didn’t want to be seen, however, it may just have been that he was too busy to see Jesus during the day, in which case it’s unlikely that the night would have been mentioned.

2. It could also have been that he wanted to see Jesus by himself to be able to ask Him questions without interruptions and Jesus was so busy during the day with the crowds that the only time Nicodemus knew that he would get peace and quiet with Jesus was at night.

The word, ‘Rabbi’ is an indication of respect, so Nicodemus is being polite and cautious in this opening conversation implying that he must have been at least a bit impressed by Jesus. He acknowledges Jesus but doesn’t declare his faith.

By using the word, ‘we’, he is referring to the people, in general, he had discussed Jesus with, a group sympathetic with his cause, not necessarily people on the Sanhedrin. Nicodemus would have been looking forward to the establishment of God’s kingdom and also a greater reward because of his adherence to the Pharisaic traditions.

As soon as Nicodemus has paid his compliments, John 3:3, Jesus cuts away from under his feet all grounds for self-satisfaction. Jesus’ reply isn’t as reserved, He gets right to the heart of the matter. ‘I tell you the truth’ is a method of emphasising a point, directly translated, it would read ‘Amen, Amen’, and it is often translated as ‘Truly, Truly’ or ‘Verily, Verily’.

‘Born Again’

The idea of being ‘born again’ confuses Nicodemus, it holds the idea that a distinct change has taken place and results in his following question. The kingdom of God is for those who have received this total change, Jesus states it in the negative.

The Kingdom of God refers to more than the church, it was before the church and will be after it, before creation, patriarchs, mosaic age church, but the entire heavenly realm of God. God is present in all things.

Cannot ‘see’ means ‘perceive’, ‘enter,’ it doesn’t mean see as in physical sight but it’s talking about personal experience, it’s talking about the capacity to understand. Nicodemus asks for clarification regarding the question of being born again, remember Nicodemus would have to be quite old to be in the Sanhedrin so his question seems almost comical.

The baptism of John was well known by this time, no matter how much the Pharisees wanted to ignore it. The answer Jesus gives confirms the doctrine of baptism and shows that it refers to the baptism of a penitent believer.

The new birth is demonstrated by people becoming citizens of the kingdom on the day of Pentecost. Jesus here at the start of His doctrinal message begins with a similar statement to Peters in Acts 2:38, ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’

‘Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So, it is with everyone born of the Spirit.’ ‘How can this be?’ Nicodemus asked. ‘You are Israel’s teacher,’ said Jesus, ‘and do you not understand these things? Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.’ John 3:6-13

These verses tell us that the Spirit confirms the need to receive the post resurrection baptism because it’s only that baptism that gives the Holy Spirit, Acts 2:38. A play on words is made here, the Spirit and the wind both are the same words in Greek ‘pneumatos’.

Wind illustrates the fact that the Holy Spirit is inexplicable to man. The Holy Spirit uses His sword, the word of God, to produce conviction of faith which leads to the conviction of sin which leads to the waters of obedience, and baptism.

‘But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment.’ John 16:7-8

‘Therefore, let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.’ When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’ Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’ Acts 2:36-38

‘Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.’ Ephesians 6:17

The message of the Spirit, Acts 2:36-41, includes conception, Acts 2:37, and delivery, Acts 2:41. As the wind, cannot be prevented from going where it wishes nor can the Spirit. He enters at will but must be allowed to enter at baptism to replace the removed sin.

‘Born of the Spirit’ is a name given to all who are Christians. The point is that God isn’t restricted by human or physical boundaries, man can only reproduce human life, but the Holy Spirit can give life from above.

In John 3:9 Nicodemus again asks for clarification, ‘how can this be’ or ‘how can this come about.’

Like the Jews generally, he fails to appreciate the meaning of the spiritual nature of the Kingdom, Matthew 18:1 / John 20:21 / John 6:15 / Acts 1:6.

Jesus’ reply seems almost rude again, He seems disappointed that the teacher of the Law, those who ought first to understand, cannot, it is an apparent rebuke. The ‘we’ in John 3:11 is Jesus and the Father, or the apostles, John 4:22 or John the Baptiser. The Pharisees had rejected the baptism of John, Luke 7:29-31.

The ‘you’ both here and in John 3:12 to paraphrase, ‘I solemnly tell you that we are reliable witnesses, but you reject our witness or testimony’. He is very straightforward, Jesus must have seen something that He liked about Nicodemus, as He revealed Himself to him, and gave him a good explanation of what the Christ was all about.

‘If you disbelieve me when I tell you about things on earth, how will you believe me when I tell you about heaven’?

Jesus asserts His heavenly origin, ‘No one, but me?’ He tells him that he is the Son of man, an expression used in Psalms 8:4 and Daniel 7:13. Jesus seems to get to the heart of the matter very quickly, indicating that He may have considered Nicodemus a spiritual man.

‘Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.’ John 3:14-15

The snake, mentioned here is taken from Numbers 21 where the bronze snake gave salvation of a physical sort to those bitten by snakes.

‘They travelled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea, to go around Edom. But the people grew impatient on the way; they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, ‘Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!’ Then the LORD sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, ‘We sinned when we spoke against the LORD and against you. Pray that the LORD will take the snakes away from us.’ So, Moses prayed for the people. The LORD said to Moses, ‘Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.’ So, Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, they lived.’ Numbers 21:4-9

As this snake, later called ‘nehustan’, was lifted up, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, on the cross. In the first instance so people could see and receive physical healing, and in the second case lifting Jesus up on the cross gave all salvation from spiritual death. After lifting up the Son, all who believe in Him may have eternal life, rather than eternal death without Him. We must look up to Jesus to live.

The word, ‘believes’ is ‘pisteuo’ and means to place one’s trust or confidence in, to rely upon by faith. Remember many years ago when Blondin crossed Niagara Falls with a wheelbarrow?

True faith is jumping in the wheelbarrow, whilst allowing Someone else to push you. Eternal life has more to do with quality than quantity, hell is eternal in time too, the quality in heaven is better because it’s life with the Eternal One, it’s more than just endless living, it’s a sharing in the life of God.

‘For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself.’ John 5:26

‘Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.’ John 17:3

‘And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.’ 1 John 5:11-12

These verses make it very clear that eternal life is a dimension which means life in full fellowship and unity with God.

It’s a sad situation today where many people claim they have been ‘born again’ because they believe they have God’s Spirit and, yet they miss out the ‘water’ part of Jesus’ teaching, they miss out being baptised.

Read Acts 2:38 very slowly and notice it at baptism our sins are forgiven and it’s at our baptism that we receive the ‘gift’ of the Holy Spirit Himself, not ‘gifts’.

‘Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’ Acts 2:38



"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness."