What Does It Mean to be ‘Born Again?’

When Jesus died for our sins, He did not do so simply to bring us forgiveness and eternal life. Christ’s death and resurrection also connect us to God in an intimate and life-changing way. This inner spiritual renewal is something so wonderful and deeply life-changing that the Bible likens it to being “born again.” Do you understand the critical importance of this matchless gift from God? Let’s take an in-depth look at it.


(A) Many people have heard the term “born again,” but aren’t certain what it means. For starters, it is not some type of modern Christian “lingo” applying only to people from certain churches or denominations.

Rather, the term born again (sometimes referred to as being “saved”; I will use the terms interchangeably) refers to a marvelous and essential spiritual blessing which God wants every person to experience – one which allows them to know Him in a personal and living way. In fact, it is Jesus’ definition of the true Christian experience. Listen to what He once said about this:

“I assure you and most solemnly say to you, unless a person is born again [reborn from above—spiritually transformed, renewed, sanctified], he cannot [ever] see and experience the kingdom of God’” (John 3:3, Amplified Bible).

(B) It was Jesus who first used the term “born again.” Rather than being a modern invention, these words came directly from the lips of Jesus 2,000 years ago when He was speaking with a Jewish priest named Nicodemus. Nicodemus was a faithful practitioner of the Jewish religion, but Jesus knew that there was something vital missing from his life: A direct spiritual connection with God. Here is how this famous conversation went:

“This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, ‘Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.’ Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God’” (John 3:2-3, NASB).

Nicodemus then questioned how a man could possibly be born a second time, and Jesus explained:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again’” (John 3:5b-7, NASB).

(C) What Nicodemus needed (and what we all need) is salvation—a spiritual rebirth that can only be obtained through Jesus Christ. Being “born of the Spirit” refers to a miraculous action performed by the Holy Spirit when a person accepts Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord, acknowledges that He died and rose again, and asks for his or her sins to be forgiven. Titus 3:5b (NLT) says: “He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit.” This impartation of new spiritual life happens concomitantly with the born-again experience and is its direct and intended result.

Nicodemus was a faithful practitioner of the Jewish religion, but Jesus knew that there was something vital missing from his life— a direct spiritual connection with God.


(A) Jesus died on the Cross to fix mankind’s two greatest problems. They are: (1) the sin problem; and (2) the life problem. We will discuss these two problems separately, although they are directly related.

(1) The sin problem. The Bible makes it clear that every person has sinned (Romans 3:23) and that none of us is good enough to go to Heaven based upon our own actions (Romans 3:10). Without being born again, no sinner can be in right relationship with a holy and just God.

(2) The life problem. Because of our sins, human beings who have not put our faith in Christ are separated from God, and are unable to experience His holy and divine life. Ephesians 4:18 (ESV) says that unsaved persons are “alienated from the life of God.” Other translations say that unsaved persons are “estranged” or “separated” from God. What this means, practically speaking, is that while unsaved persons are physically alive, they are spiritually dead until they receive Christ. Ephesians 2:1a (Expanded Bible) describes the pre-salvation condition as follows: “In the past you were spiritually dead because of your sins.” Without faith in Jesus, the result of sin is separation from God in this world and eternal punishment in the afterlife.

(B) Because of the fall of man, the salvation of Jesus Christ is necessary to raise people out of spiritual death and into spiritual life.

(1) Very early in the Bible, in the story of Adam and Eve, we first encounter the concepts of spiritual life and spiritual death. Adam and Eve were given a chance to live in a close fellowship with God, but were warned by God that if they rebelled against Him, they would “surely die” (Genesis 2:17, KJV).

(2) When they chose to disobey God and go their own way, Adam and Eve did die. The death that they experienced was not just a physical death (they lived on for many years after the Fall); it was a spiritual one as well.

(3) We can see the results of this falling away from God in the present world, which is filled with people who are separated from God and do not know Him in a living way. Separated from the life and power of God, people find themselves: (a) empty and dissatisfied; (b) looking for satisfaction in the wrong places; (c) saddled with a nature that easily gravitates toward sin; and (d) unable to fulfill God’s purpose, which is to bring Him glory by reflecting His image and nature through their lives (Genesis 1:27).

(4) The Bible describes this great spiritual tragedy as follows: “Therefore, as sin came into the world through one man, and death as the result of sin, so death spread to all men, [no one being able to stop it or to escape its power] because all men sinned” (Romans 5:12, Amplified Bible). Like Adam and Eve, every person has sinned by living independently from God and by disobeying His Word and His will in countless ways. This sin barrier keeps us from having fellowship with God and experiencing His wonderful divine life.

(C) The good news is that Jesus came into this world for the purpose of bringing people into a life-giving relationship with God. In John 10:10b (KJV), Jesus explained this mission by saying: “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” It is obvious that He is speaking about spiritual life here and not physical life, because the people to whom he was speaking were already physically alive.

(D) The salvation of Jesus Christ provides two unfathomably great spiritual solutions for fallen human beings that cannot be accessed in any other way.

(1) Being born again provides a means of total forgiveness and reconciliation with God. Because of our sin, every person needs a Savior. In His great mercy, God sent His Son, Jesus, into the world to be that Savior. Jesus lived a sinless life on this Earth, experienced a horrific death on the Cross, and rose from the dead on the third day in fulfillment of the Scriptures. Jesus took on Himself the punishment for our sin so that each person who believes in Him can be born again. There is no way for any person to be in right relationship with God except by putting his or her faith in Jesus (John 14:6).

Being born again allows even the worst of sinners to become members of God’s family who are headed for a glorious home in Heaven after their lives on Earth have ended. When Jesus offered His perfect and sinless life on the cross, He became a sacrifice capable of purchasing for us forgiveness for every sin which we have ever committed. I Peter 1:18-19 says: “For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And the ransom he paid was not mere gold or silver. It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God.”

(a) Christ’s sacrifice was sufficient to pay for the sins of the whole human race for all of time (I John 2:2).

(b) It is important to understand that salvation comes 100% from Jesus Christ and His perfect sacrifice—not from anything which we have done or ever could do. Ephesians 2:8-9 (ESV) says: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Galatians 2:16a plainly states, “Know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ.”

(2) Being born again allows us to experience the very life of God by reconnecting us to Him in a living way. What Jesus meant in telling Nicodemus “that which is born of the flesh is flesh” is that we all have a natural human (or fleshly) birth. To become a genuine child of God, walking with God and ready for Heaven, each person needs a second birth which is spiritual. Once we receive Christ’s forgiveness, God’s Holy Spirit comes to dwell in our hearts and imparts to us His life – His love, joy, peace and other divine qualities. Ezekiel 36:26-27 says: “A new heart will I give you and a new spirit will I will I put within you…And I will put my Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes.”

It is important to understand that salvation comes 100% from Jesus Christ and His perfect sacrifice—not from anything which we have done or ever could do.

(a) Through being born again (or, literally, “born from above”), a person is forgiven for his or her sins and is given the power to overcome those sins and live a new life that truly reflects the image and glory of God.

(b) When a person is born again, he or she comes to know a God in a personal way. God is not an impersonal force who is “out there somewhere;” rather, He lives within each Christian, imparting His life and strength to us on a daily basis. It is this experience of receiving Christ as Savior and being raised to life by His Holy Spirit that makes us His spiritual children—“born of God” (I John 5:4 NIV). And through this new birth, we become members of God’s spiritual family and citizens of God’s everlasting Kingdom.

(c) Christians know that we belong to Christ and that we are going to Heaven after we pass away because Christ said so, and because we have the very life of Heaven in us. In John 14:2-3, Jesus said, “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” I John 4:13 (NASB) says, “By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.”

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