“Being called a “born-again Christian” can mean many things to many people,” wrote Matthew Barrett in a recent online post in Christianity Today.
“For some,” Barrett writes, “it means you are a Bible-thumping fundamentalist or a political conservative. For others, it means you were converted at a Billy Graham crusade. Countless stereotypes have created endless confusion.”
The article, entitled, “Even Among Some Well-Meaning Christians, ‘Born Again’ Is Often Misunderstood,” is subtitled “Recapturing the meaning of a much-stereotyped phrase”
Unfortunately, the post further perpetuates some Biblical misunderstandings in reviewing Steven Lawson’s book “New Life in Christ: What Really Happens When You’re Born Again and Why It Matters.’ Without reading the book, the review shows the author views The New Birth based on the Calvinist tenets of hereditary total depravity, unconditional election, and irresistible grace.
In our Bible reading today, Jesus provides insight into the need, nature, and basis for the New Birth
The Need for the New Brith
Jesus first introduced this concept to a Jewish religious leader, Nicodemus, when He said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
The New Birth is a divine imperative. A must. An absolute. For everyone. God doesn’t select a certain few to experience it. Nor is it denied to anyone. The Bible says, or all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). And we sin, when like Adam and Eve, we succumb to the temptations of the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life (Jn. 2:15-17).
Jesus’ affirmation is authoritative. If you desire to be a Kingdom citizen, you must be born again.
The Nature of the New Birth
Nicodemus was perplexed by the statement. He wondered how one could enter his mother’s womb and be born again.
Jesus replied,”Most assuredly, 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.”
The new birth is not physical, but a spiritual birth. It is something that effects a change in the life of the sinner. The idea of a “new birth” speaks to a new way of living. It means to begin again. It implies that there is a change from one’s past life.
The birth involves the work of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit descended on Jesus when he began His ministry (Matt. 3:16). The Spirit revealed God’s will to the apostles following Jesus’ ascension (John 14-16). The Spirit is responsible for the revelation of the Word that we call the Bible (1 Cor 2:9-16)). When we hear God’s Word, we are heeding the call of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 10:14-17; Eph. 3:3-5).
The New Birth requires baptism.
In many circles, baptism is denied as an essential element in the new birth. Yet, the idea of both “water” and “washing” fit Jesus’ command, “He who believes and is baptized shall be saved” (Mark 16;16). When the first gospel sermon was preached on Pentecost, Peter commanded those believing hearers “To repent and be baptized for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38).
And when Saul of Tarsus had his encounter with Christ on the Damascus road and fearfully cried, “Lord, what do you want me to do?” He was told to go into the city and there he would receive instruction. The Lord sent a preacher, Ananias, who taught Saul the gospel, then concluded his lesson with this exhortation: “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.’ (Acts 22:16)
The Basis of the New Birth
The New Birth is not based on the works of man’s righteousness but the works of God’s righteousness. John 3:16, one of the greatest verses in the Bible reminds us that the New Birth is possible because of God’s infinite love, immeasurable grace, and inexhaustible mercy.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
When we come to Christ and accept through faith His invitation for salvation, truly repent of our sins, and are washed in the blood (Rev. 1:5), we can enjoy all the spiritual benefits and blessings of the New Birth.
“You must be born again.”
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman