by Shawn Brasseaux
For years, I flippantly used the term “born again,” but I never stopped to realize I had no idea what that word even meant. All around the world, missionaries, preachers, and evangelists today emphasize that people need to be “born again” if they are to see heaven. I know some people who claim to be “born again” Christians, and even some non-Christians who claim to be “born again” (whatever that means!).
“Born again” means much more than “saved.” “Born again” is a Bible term that is oftentimes used incorrectly. People, either deliberately or innocently, ignore the Bible context of that term. According to the Bible, what does “born again” mean? Does it apply to us? We want to answer those questions in this Bible study.
The Apostle Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 2:15 KJV: “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” If we want to learn the definition of “born again,” we need to study God’s Word using dispensational Bible study. Because people refuse to study the Bible God’s way, the Bible makes little to no sense to them. Vain religious tradition will always profit nothing in eternity because tradition does not have the power of God. Bible literacy and proper Bible study is rare these days, but I am glad you are reading this, showing an interest in learning something solid and trustworthy. Thank you.
We will now look at God’s Word, free from denominationalism and confusion. I hope we can be of help to you regarding this topic. The term in question is found in John chapter 3, a very familiar passage to many. In this chapter, the Lord Jesus is speaking to a Jewish religious leader, Nicodemus. The Bible says:
“1 There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews:
2 The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.
3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
4 Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?
5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
7 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.
8 The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.”
So, here we have the Lord Jesus telling Nicodemus that in order for a man to see the kingdom of God, he must be “born again.” Now, Nicodemus is thinking of the physical delivery of a child from the mother’s womb, but that is not what Jesus is speaking of: Christ is referring to a spiritual birth. Combine verses 3 and 5. Unless a Jew was born-again (born of water and of the Spirit, believing in Jesus as King and Messiah, and then water baptized), he would be purged out and destroyed in the Tribulation with all the other unbelieving Jews.
In the King James Bible, this word “ye” in verse 7 is the plural form of “you” (“thee” is a single person, such as in verse 3). Looking at the big picture, however, Christ is not talking about a specific individual being born again; “ye” is Israel, the entire nation—God wants every Jew to be born-again, so that the whole nation will be “born again,” and they can be the vessel God can use to minister to the lost Gentile world.
We never read of this term “born again” until the little book of 1 Peter, this being the last time it is used in the Bible. The Apostle Peter, writing to believing Jews from Christ’s earthly ministry 30 years before (1 Peter 1:23 KJV): “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.” These believing Jews are “born again;” they have had a spiritual rebirth, unlike those unbelieving Jews who rejected Jesus Christ. How did they get a spiritual rebirth, though? What was the first birth, that enabled them to be “born again?”
Recall John the Baptist’s ministry and Christ’s earthly ministry. Those Jews who accepted Jesus as their Messiah and King were water baptized as the outward profession that God commanded (Matthew 3:2-11; Luke 7:29,30; John 1:30,31). If the Jews wanted to see that kingdom, they would have to be believers, ensuring they would survive the Tribulation. Their faith in Christ and obedience in that water baptism would bring them through the Tribulation (see 1 Peter 3:21). This remnant of believers in Israel was called the “little flock” in Luke 12:32, the portion of the nation Israel that would make it to the kingdom (the unbelieving Jews would be destroyed during the Tribulation and at Christ’s Second Coming; 2 Thessalonians 1:8,9; cf. Zechariah 13:8,9).
Why did those need to be “born again?” The first birth refers to a physical birth, being born a Jew, a physical descendent of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and one of his twelve sons. However, the problem is that Jews were also sons of Adam, and like the pagan Gentiles then, and us today, they had a sin nature. In order for God to use the nation Israel to fulfill His purposes, He had to set them apart from mankind with the first birth (the physical birth from Abraham), and then the spiritual birth (being born again, fit to serve Him and fellowship with Him in their promised kingdom spoken of in verse 5).
These believing Jews who Peter is addressing were born again because they had placed their faith in the Gospel of the Kingdom (Jesus is Israel’s King-Messiah, as Matthew 16:16 and John 11:27 say; this is “the word of God” of 1 Peter 1:23). They had first been set aside physically by virtue of the circumcision, but now they were set aside spiritually because of their salvation in Jesus as their Messiah. Let me emphasize it again. Those believing Jews were born twice—the physical circumcision was the sign of the first birth (Romans 4:11) and the water baptism was the visible sign that had been rejuvenated spiritually by the Holy Spirit (cf. John 3:5).
According to Jesus in John chapter 3, the person who was not born-again would not see the kingdom: Israel was promised a kingdom on earth, and “born again” is clearly a Jewish term that has no place in the Dispensation of Grace today. Paul is “the apostle of the Gentiles,” the spokesman through which God is speaking to us in the Dispensation of Grace (Romans 11:13), and never does Paul use that term “born again.” This leads us to conclude that the word cannot and does not apply to us as members of the Church the Body of Christ. We are not Jews, spiritually or physically. We are separate and distinct from the nation Israel of times past. The term “born again” applies to believing Israel, not to us. The “ye” in John 3 is the nation Israel; it has nothing to do with you, me, or anyone else reading this article because God has set Israel aside for a time period.
Now, keep in mind that just like unbelieving Jews went to hellfire, the unbelievers today are headed to the same place. Like Israel, we still need salvation from our sins, but it is impossible today for anyone to be “born again” as the Bible speaks of it. What must we be today, as opposed to being “born again?” Today, you must be “in Christ” (notice, Paul did not say, “if any man be born again…;” see 2 Corinthians 5:17). In our dispensation, God is not looking to make Israel “born again.” God is seeking out people to become a part of a new creature, the Church Body of Christ (something that has nothing to do with Israel).
How do you get “in Christ?” The Lord Jesus Christ went to a Roman cross, to shed His blood for your sins. He literally died, but rose again the third day in victory and majesty to give you justification (Romans 4:25). That is Paul’s Gospel of Grace, plain and simple, without works, free from the clutter of legalism. Your faith in this Gospel of Grace will cause the Holy Spirit to take you out of Adam, and place you into the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13). The Gospel of the Grace of God of 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 KJV:
“1 Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;
2 By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.
3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;
4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:”
Remember, ye must be IN CHRIST if you want to see heaven!