Born Again – What’s that About?


born again Christian salvation

Born Again – What’s that About?

19 September 2012 Hits:7859

“Born again!” It’s a familiar term that’s been done to death in recent times.  If you google it you come up with all sorts of things from movies to songs, albums to books, and of course the Abba tribute band Bjorn Again.  “Born again” is a hair product, a beauty mask, a motorbike restoration business and a fashion show.  It’s an American activist group and a comic book. Right here in Melbourne, you can even cover your concrete slab with “Born again floors.”  Born again is an Elvis impersonator in Sydney, and rapper Snoop Dog said he was born again after visiting a Rastafarian Temple in Jamaica earlier this year where a High Priest told him, ‘You are the light; you are the lion.’  He now refers to himself as “Snoop Lion”. I kid you not.

But when you mention “born again”, most people think of the Christian term – and it’s not always positive. In research that Bayside Church conducted last year, those that don’t attend church saw the term as fanatical, cultish, brainwashed, the vocal minority, a crutch or as referring to the American Bible belt.

Those that were in the church saw it as somewhat more positive:  renewed in Jesus,

Jesus as Saviour, saved, life-changing, forgiven/redeemed, freedom/new start and restored.  Some in the church viewed “born again” less positively as meaning: I’ve arrived, powerfully divisive, misunderstood, polarising, confusing, confronting, severing ties, isolating, segmenting, or a 70s and 80s term.

So, what is being born again really all about?  It’s first found in the third chapter of the book of John in the Bible where Jesus is having a discussion with a senior Jewish leader, Nicodemus, who recognises Jesus as “a teacher who has come from God.”  Jesus ignores the flattery and tells Nicodemus, “no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” Nicodemus understands the term because it was well known in the Hebrew culture of his day, but he was confused by Jesus’ use of it because Nicodemus had already been born again four times.

There were six ways a person was considered born again in Jesus’ day:

1. When a gentile converted to Judaism

2. Being crowned king

3. At the Bar Mitzvah (coming of age ceremony) at age 13

4. Being married

5. Being ordained as a Rabbi (at age 30)

6. Becoming the head of a Rabbinic academy (at age 50)

“Born again” referred to all of these major life stages after which one would never be the same again.  The first two of these didn’t apply to Nicodemus but the last four did.  There was no other way, in his thinking, that he could be born again and so he asks Jesus, “How can a man be born when he is old? Surely he cannot enter a second time when his mother’s womb to be born!” (John 3:4)(NIV).  In other words, the only way I could be born again was if I entered my mother’s womb and started the process all over.

It’s at this point that Jesus starts to help Nicodemus with his confusion: “Jesus answered, ” I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the 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” (John 3:5-7) (NIV).

Jesus refers here to the two births – natural birth and spiritual birth.  “Born of water” (referring to when a woman’s waters break) is the same as being “born of the flesh,” that is, natural birth that makes us a part of a natural family.  When your parents conceived you, you became part of their family. You became their son or daughter.  But Jesus goes one step further and says there’s a second birth, a spiritual birth where “Spirit gives birth to spirit.” At that time you are adopted into the family of God and become His son or daughter (see Ephesians 1:5).  God becomes your Father and Jesus is your older brother.  That’s why Jesus taught us to pray, “Our Father in heaven” – He included us in the family of God.  What an honour. What a privilege.

The apostle Paul reflected on this amazing truth in his letter to the Galatian church, “But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son … that we might receive the full rights of sons. Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir” (Gal 4:6-7) (NIV).

When you accept God’s Son, Jesus, as your Saviour, you are born (again) into God’s family, you receive the full rights of a son or daughter, you call him father (“Abba” is an Aramaic word which denotes warmth and relaxed familiarity), and you also become an heir inheriting all that God has for you in this life as well as the life to come.

I hope by reading this you realise that Jesus’ use of the term “born again” was intensely positive. If you have accepted Jesus as your Saviour, then delight afresh in who you are as a child of your Father God. If you aren’t born again, what’s stopping you?



Rob Buckingham

Senior Minister

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5 replies on “Born Again – What’s that About?”

Carmel Donaldsays:

That is truly a clear and scripturally accurate (in context) explanation of being ‘born again’. I feel very privilleged to be in a church that teaches so well what our faith means in all the different contexts of scripture as well as what the spiritual aspects are so that I can fully accept all that Jesus has done for me as a ‘born again’ believer and follower of our one true living God, the Lord Jesus Christ.


At last alright. This explanation is clear. Thank you for writing this in easy to understand words. Im blessed jesus is my old er brother.
Thank you.


Well written, as it is easier to retain and understand….. And exciting!
I enjoy the practical use of language when rob writes…. Wonderful


I disagree with your reasoning on John 3:5. The “born of water” is speaking of water baptism and the “born of spirit” is speaking of the infilling of the Spirit.

Remember Peter had the keys to the kingdom – we should look very carefully as to the message that Peter preached. Acts 2:38 is one scripture…..

Understand what has happened to this point….
-They are at the right place — Jerusalem
-The had the right man — Peter
-Unbelievers are saying — “what shall we do”.

Peter — keys to the kingdom – tells them ACTS 2:38 – and it lines up with what Jesus had already said.
-Repent (Luke 24:47) – And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.
-Be Baptised in Jesus Name for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16) — believeth and is baptised
-Receiving the Holy Ghost (John 7:38-39) – 38 He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. 39 (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)

Here are four scriptures that tell us the importance of baptism (water birth) and the infilling of the Holy Ghost (spirit birth).

Acts 8:14-17
-They had been baptized, but not receive the Holy Ghost yet.
-Lost people that believed Phillips preaching — obeyed Phillip’s preaching and were baptized and received the Holy Ghost.

Acts 9:1-6
-The conversion of Paul. God stops him on the way to Damascus and tell him to go into the city where he will be told what he must do.
-V17 says that Ananias went into Paul’s house….and prayed for him to receive the Holy Ghost.
-V18 he gets his sight back (healing) and is then baptized.

Acts 10 tells about Cornelius — a devout man and one who fear God.
-God has Cornelius send for Peter so that he may know what he has to do to be saved.
-Acts 10:44-48 tells us what happens when Peter visits Cornelius.
-Cornelius and his household receive the Holy Ghost and are baptized.

Acts 19:1-6 – we see Paul focusing on two things.
-These scriptures record Paul “finding certain disciples” and he asks only two questions.
1.Have ye received the Holy Ghost (born of Spirit)?
2.How were you baptized (born of water)? — obviously it matter!
-Why these two questions? Because Paul understood that Jesus had put two things into motion that were absolutely essential — we must be BORN OF WATER AND OF SPIRIT!

There is a common theme running through these four portions of scripture: the need to be baptized (born of water) and filled with the Spirit (born of spirit) — thus fulfilling John 3:5.

Acts2:38 When they asked Peter “what must we do” – Peter replied “repent and be baptised in Jesus name for the remission of sins and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost”.

Your thoughts?

Rob Buckinghamsays:

Thank you for your comment. There are a number of different beliefs on
the passage in John’s Gospel. One of them is that the waters Jesus
referred to are the waters of baptism. I understand why some people
hold this view and it certainly doesn’t contradict the New Testament
emphasis on water baptism as part of the Great Commission. However,
the context of John chapter 3 is Jesus’ comparison between natural and spiritual birth.
Therefore, in keeping with the context, I believe the waters spoken of
here are the waters that accompany natural birth.

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