He was a prominent religious leader, a member of the ruling class called the Pharisees. His name was Nicodemus. He was used to people approaching him for answers, usually regarding questions of religious importance. He was supposed to have all the answers, and yet he felt compelled to approach this itinerant preacher from Galilee, who was really a carpenter by trade. And, as Nicodemus was to learn, being a religious authority did not always mean he knew all the answers. But he had found someone who did. His name was Jesus.
Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.”
In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”
“How can a man be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!”
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 3:1-7, NIV 1978)
But Nicodemus was surprised, and perhaps a bit confused. So are many today, some 2000 or so years later. To Nicodemus, the confusion was about a “new” teaching, although the prophets had been foretelling it for centuries. For us today, the teaching is not new, although our perception of what Jesus taught has been clouded by the myths that surround it. So much so, that at best many understand “born again Christians” to be merely a well-meaning but overly zealous sect of Christianity at large. At worst, “born again” is understood as a term of ridicule describing a misguided fringe group of fanatics that call themselves Christians. Through misrepresentation or misunderstanding, these myths persist.
And yet to its founder, that carpenter, turned preacher, turned Savior, born again was meant neither as an adjective appended to some sects of Christianity nor as a term of ridicule. To Him, being born again meant the same thing as being a Christian. It is important to Him that its real meaning not be obscured by the myths, for in His own words: “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”
This study is intended to clear up some of the confusion you might have as it answers three vital questions:
- What does it mean to be born again?
- Why must we be born again?
- How can we be born again?
There is no real secret or mystery. God recorded the answers for us in the Bible a long time ago. Yet too often we let others provide their own answers for us. Maybe we expect and trust them to know the answers, just like many expected and trusted Nicodemus to know the answers. But it was Jesus who coined the phrase. Discover His answers for yourself. It very well could be an experience that changes your life forever.
Material in the study to follow has been adapted from THE BRIDGE TO LIFE, copyright 1969 by The Navigators. To purchase convenient pocket sized booklets of this tract contact NavPress at http://www.navpress.com. All rights reserved.
Bill Bright, Four Spiritual Laws, (Campus Crusade For Christ, Inc., 1965).