you must be born again

You Must Be Born Again Meaning

The New Birth

In John 3:1-21, we find the account of Jesus and Nicodemus (a prominent Pharisee and member of the Sanhedrin, the ruling body of Jews), who came to Jesus at night with some questions. We are made aware of how very important the new birth is. Nicodemus confessed that they, (whoever they were, we are not told) knew Jesus was a teacher who was sent by God because of the many miraculous signs and wonders He performed (evidence). We can only surmise that the “they” he referred to were likely some of his “colleagues” on the Sanhedrin and others he associated with. You know, the “religious” folks of that day who carried an “air” of superiority about themselves. (The Pharisees were known for such an attitude.) In our day and time, it might be those who are highly respected, either because of some great achievement in a particular field or status in society they have accomplished, such as in business, entertainment (of different sorts), dare I even say politics, etc. We would also probably think of those who from an outward appearance are admired and held in high esteem, people of good, clean morals, etc. 

So, it should not come as a surprise when we look at this account between Nicodemus and Jesus, that Nicodemus was astounded when Jesus said to him in verse 3 that unless he (and by extension we) was “born again”, he could not “see” the kingdom of God. Nicodemus obviously knew he needed something else in his life to be “made” right with God, or else he would not have come to Jesus privately to inquire what that something was. Nicodemus’ response to Jesus’ statement is almost comical if the thought he actually spoke, i.e., going back a second time into his mother’s womb wasn’t so ridiculous. In verse 5, Jesus even reinforced His statement by adding he (we) cannot “enter” the kingdom of God unless this condition is met.   

Jesus explains in verses 5 and 6, particularly in verse 6, what He meant by being “born again.” He let Nicodemus and us know that there is a definite distinct difference between the flesh (physical) and the spirit. The English word “again” in verse 3 is more accurately translated as “from above”, in the Greek (the language the New Testament was translated from). This is clearly confirmed as we read Jesus’ words further down to verse 12. He is basically explaining in verse 6, “humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life.” To be clear, in the Greek it is saying, what is born of the Spirit (Holy) is spirit.

The Necessity of Being Born Again

But some will argue, I am a “Good” person.  Why do I need to be born again or “born from above?”

Well, the real important question that should arise is, good compared to what, or more accurately, compared to who?

If we compare ourselves to others around us, we will likely realize we may be better than some, or worse than others, morally speaking. But the problem with that reasoning is, other people are not the standard by which God will “judge” us in the end.

We know there are some people who are nicer than other, and some people who are not so nice at all. In fact, they may be downright mean.

The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 10:12, that it is not wise to compare ourselves to other people.

The standard by which we will be judged, is Jesus. He and he alone is the example and model of absolute perfection, who fulfilled and kept the law in every aspect, in thought, word and deed.

Well, some will say, I don’t believe He was perfect in every respect.

To that I would say, we better hope He was, because if He wasn’t, you and I will have to stand before God at the end of the day in our own “goodness” and “righteousness.” And, if absolute perfection is God’s standard (which it is), then it is clear in looking at ourselves, no one can attain to that on their own. (All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” – Romans 3:23). [emphasis mine]

We are also told, all of us were at sometime “dead in our trespasses and sins.” – Ephesians 2:1 (Before being born again in Christ.)

Nobody is born a “Christian.” We have heard people say they have been a Christian “all their life.” That implies they came out of their mother’s womb a Christian. According to the Bible, that is not possible.     

Jesus used the word “must.” He didn’t say it would be a good idea, or a nice thing to do. He gave no option or wiggle room. Must is an imperative necessity.


The birth “from above” is necessary because we humans are totally incapable and unable to please God or meet His standard on our own. Period. No person in all of human history would dare stand before a crowd of people and declare he or she had never, ever did anything wrong nor committed a sin. If they did, they would either be greatly deceived or a liar.

It is stated in Romans 3:4, “let God be true but every man (person) a liar.”      

All scripture is given by inspiration of God (literally, God breathed), and is profitable for doctrine (teaching), for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” (2 Timothy 3:16) [emphasis mine]      

Take a look at what God spoke through the prophet Jeremiah in Jeremiah 17:9, “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?” [emphasis mine]

This is not talking about the blood pump heart. It is talking about the human spirit (the real part of us along with our soul), which is used interchangeably with the word heart in many scriptures.

God is absolutely pure and totally holy.  We, as humans, do not really understand what that fully means. We can only try to imagine. But because of this flesh, which is not changed in the new birth, and the soul (the mind and emotions), we cannot comprehend His total, complete and utter purity and holiness.

Here are a couple of scriptures that give us an idea though:

“…God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5) [emphasis mine]

“God inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy.” (Isaiah 57:15) [emphasis mine]

In Revelation 4:8 we get a truly awesome (not the way the word is used today for ordinary things here on earth) glimpse of what is going on in heaven right now with respect to God’s greatness and holiness. It describes just some of the creatures and activity going on around the throne of God as follows:

“The four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night saying: ‘Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come.’”       

The true holiness of God requires a fundamental and extreme change within us. We cannot do or perform that on our own. The new birth, or being born again, is not about turning over “a new leaf.” It is the greatest exchange in the history of the world.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he (she) is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things (spiritually) have become new.” (2 Cor. 5:17) [emphasis mine]

“For He (God) made Him (Jesus, the God man) who knew no sin, to be sin for us, so that we could be made right with God through Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21) [emphasis mine] 

Being Born Again Meaning

But how does it happen and what is being born again? It is the greatest miracle God performs on a person who humbly turns to Him in belief and receives by faith what Jesus has already done on their behalf. It is literally a gift. But like any gift, it can be freely received or rejected.

Perhaps the biggest misconception and misunderstanding about God in regards to us humans is the belief that we are all children of God by birth. This isn’t true according to the Bible.  

We are all His creation, for sure, but not automatically His “children” as it is commonly said on national platforms by apparently secular minded individuals.    

In John 1:12, it clearly states, “But as many as RECEIVED Him, to them He gave the right, TO BECOME children of God, to those who believe in His name.” [emphasis mine]

A person would not have TO BECOME, something or someone they already were. That is pretty clear and simple to see and understand. 

So, what exactly is the essence of this new birth? Well, in some ways it is hard to explain because it is a work of God. But essentially, it is an act performed by God Himself on the human heart/spirit. You could actually think of it as God performing heart (spiritually) surgery on a person.

Ephesians 2:8-9“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boost.” [emphasis mine]

Even as far back as in the Old Testament, God prophesied what He would do in the coming church age, which we are now in, and have been for the past approximately two thousand years.

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”Ezekiel 36:26 [emphasis mine]

It is an inner moral transformation performed by God.

In John 1:13, after telling us about receiving Him (Christ), it is put this way, “who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. [emphasis mine]

There is more that could be said from scripture about being born again and the new birth, but we will leave it here for now.

You Must Be Born Again: An Invitation

God is inviting you today, right now where you are, to repent (a change of mind and heart), turn to Him and receive the free gift of salvation.

His gift is free to us, but it did cost Him everything. The very life of the God man He became to shed His blood and die an excruciating death on the cross on our behalf and in our place. Then He was resurrected and is alive right now and at the right hand of the Father.

“that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart (not just in the mind) one believes to righteousness and with the mouth confession is made to salvation.” Romans 10:9-10 [emphasis mine]

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *