How can one be born again?

Text: John 3:1-12

Nicodemus did not understand. He had a positive attitude toward Jesus. He believed that Jesus was sent by God and he called him ‘rabbi’. He knew the Scriptures since Jesus refers to him as a ‘teacher of Israel’ (John 3:10). Why was it difficult for him to understand what Jesus said?

What do we know about Nicodemus? “There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, ‘Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him’” (John 3:1, 2).

Although many, if not most, of the Jewish leaders were against Jesus, Nicodemus believed that He was from God. Later he defended Jesus: “Nicodemus (he who came to Jesus by night, being one of them) said to them, ‘Does our law judge a man before it hears him and knows what he is doing?’” (John 7:50, 51). Later, Nicodemus helped to bury Jesus: “After this, Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took the body of Jesus. And Nicodemus, who at first came to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds” (John 19:38, 39).

Nicodemus was an upright man who wanted to do the will of God. Yet, it was difficult for him to understand what Jesus said: “‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.’ Nicodemus said to Him, ‘How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?’” (John 3:3, 4).

A religious man like Nicodemus tends to think he is already acceptable to God. Jesus indicated to Nicodemus, however, that he was not fit for God’s kingdom, as he was! On another occasion Jesus taught that one must repent and become humble like a little child to enter God’s kingdom (Matthew 18:1-5). Now He says one must be born anew!

There are many religious people today who do not know how one can be born again or what this means. Many even who call themselves ‘born-again Christians’ reject what the Bible says about the rebirth.

Jesus clarifies how one can be born again: “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:5).

Jesus refers to baptism.

Paul wrote: “Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4). After baptism we walk ‘in newness of life’.

Baptism is ‘the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit’: “But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:4-7).

Baptism is not a meritorious work, but a gift of God’s grace. By the power of the Holy Spirit we are regenerated, we are renewed, when we are immersed into the body of Christ: “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body” (1 Corinthians 12:13). “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Baptism must be based on faith and repentance. Jesus promised: “He who believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16:16). Peter commanded: “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).

Many religious people are outside the kingdom because they have never been born again. They think they are acceptable to God because they are religious. They may depend on some superficial form of baptism, different from the baptism we read about in the New Testament.

We all should carefully consider whether we have been born of water and the Spirit because otherwise we have no part in the kingdom of God.

How can any form of baptism be valid if it differs from the baptism Jesus commanded? We will discuss two examples.

If your alleged baptism occurred when you were a baby, you have not been born of water and the Spirit. You are still outside the kingdom.

How do I know? Because you were not baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (even if those words were pronounced) because ‘in the name of’ means ‘by the authority of’ and nothing in the Scriptures authorizes infant baptism.

At the time of the ritual, you did not believe, and you had not repented. You did not even know what was happening. It was not your decision, it was the decision of your parents. How could something so different from New Testament baptism be valid?

It was an empty, worthless ritual based on the traditions of men, rather than on the word of God. What Jesus says applies to your denomination: “In vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:9).

If your alleged baptism was an immersion that was viewed as separate from the rebirth, you have not been born of water and the Spirit. You are outside the kingdom.

How do I know? Because you were not baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit because ‘in the name of’ means ‘by the authority of’ and nothing in the Scriptures authorizes a baptism in water separate from the rebirth.

If your denomination practices a ‘water baptism’ separate from ‘spiritual baptism,’ you have not been born again because according to Ephesians 4:5 there is “one baptism” and Jesus defines that one baptism as a rebirth, a birth by water and Spirit.

Denominations that immerse merely ‘as an outward sign’ (as they call it) do not baptize ‘for the remission of sins’ as commanded by the Holy Spirit through Peter in Acts 2:38.

They do not baptize in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit because their form of baptism has not been authorized by God in the Scriptures.

If you thought your immersion in water was separate from your spiritual rebirth, you have not been born of water and the Spirit as commanded by Christ. You have not been born again and are outside the kingdom.

It was an empty, worthless ritual based on the commandments of men, rather than on the word of God. The words of Jesus apply to your denomination: “In vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:9).

Jesus said: “You must be born again” (John 3:7). How can one be born anew? How can one be born of water and the Spirit? Jesus and His apostles give the answer: “He who believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16:16). “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).

Roy Davison

The Scripture quotations in this article are from
The New King James Version. ©1979,1980,1982, Thomas Nelson Inc., Publishers.
Permission for reference use has been granted.

Published in The Old Paths Archive
(http://www.oldpaths.com)