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3 1-8 What Does It Mean To Be Born Again

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                                                  liberty bible church          12/16/07 a.M.

By Tom Zobrist

“what does it mean to be born again?”

John 3:1-8


Illus. of Marshall Mathers claims to have been born again. (No relation to Jerry Mathers…the Beaver) How many know who Marshall Mathers is? Marshall Mathers, aka, Eminem, a hardcore rapper, claims to have had a spiritual experience with God. He even wrote some rap songs based on Scripture. After doing some research, I read an interview about his born again experience and read some of his lyrics based on OT passages and found the interview and the lyrics to have enough swear words to make a sailor blush. The term born again is frequently used and more frequently abused in our world. Over the next few weeks, we want to try and understand this term and also try to identify the ones who have truly been born again. This will help us to distinguish between the true and false professors of Christianity. So, what does it mean to be born again?

OPEN to passage.                                       

Prop. In this passage, we see the meaning of being born again.   

Open in PRAYER.

PREVIEW the passage. Jesus has a personal encounter with one of the top religious leaders in the nation. From a human perspective, He has a real opportunity to promote His agenda, His platform to put it in political terms. But, what He does is draw a clear line of demarcation between man’s way and God’s way. Man’s religious ways bring one result and God’s relating personally with man bring a distinctly different effect. So, in relation to being born again, man has two choices that we see here in relating to Jesus. The first is…

 i. lip service brings confusion vs. 1-3

Illus. of this is the year of “nice guy” and “woman” politics. No one once to be painted as being negative or “playing dirty.” So, this past week, we saw accusations of drug abuse and religions being cultish being played up by the media and both incidents were quickly followed with apologies. Probably this year, more than any other, you will get more “lip service” from politicians than ever before. They want everyone to vote for them, liberal or conservative.” “Lip service” refers to insincere or hypocritical words or speech. Jesus receives some of that here from a politician in Israel.   

a. lip service from the sanhedrin

V 1      1. Nicodemus was one of the top leaders in Israel. He was a religious teacher, a Pharisee, and a member of the ruling council, the Sanhedrin. There were 70 of them and they were responsible for religious rule and civil rule, under the Romans of course.

V 2a     2. Why he came at this time, John doesn’t say. It could have been for secrecy or privacy or for convenience.

V 2b    3. Nicodemus begins with some, what he thought were, compliments. “We” probably refers to the ruling council, at least those that were favorable toward Him at this time. He calls Him “Rabbi” and “Teacher”, both of which Nicodemus would have thought were compliments. But, he has yet fully understood who Jesus was. “from God” are in an emphatic position indicating that Nicodemus wanted Jesus to know that he at least wanted to appear to believe in Him at this time.

V 2c     4. Like others, he could believe the signs. Cf. 2:23-25 So all this pointed to the fact that Nicodemus wanted to know more. The signs were there, the following, the impact, etc. But how does it all work. He wanted to speak with Jesus man to man, rabbi to rabbi; on the same level.

b. The truth from jesus

V 3a     1. This phrase makes this statement one of emphasis and importance for Nicodemus to understand. Jesus was not giving lip service, He was sharing some truths that needed to be grasped. What was so important?

V 3b    2. “again” can be translated “from above.” Cf. John 19:11; Gal. 4:9 To be born again is to be born from above. One has a spiritual transformation that takes them from the kingdom of darkness to the Kingdom of God. Cf. Col. 1:13 The Kingdom of God is invisible and not of this earth, but someday will be. Cf. Matt. 6:10 makes this request part of the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus’ whole point here is that Nicodemus was not yet ready to commune with Christ with the understanding that he desired. He needed to be born from above. To be born again. Jesus was from above and Nicodemus needed to be if he wanted to part of the Kingdom and that’s what Israel was looking for. Real understanding only comes when one is born from above.   

Trans. LIP SERVICE BRINGS CONFUSION. Many pay lip service to God; many claim to be born again, but they’ve never been born from above. So, part of being born is being born from above. What else do we need to know?

ii. lord service brings conversion vs. 4-8

Illus. of does this mean that we have to do some works to be saved? Let’s see what Jesus says.  

a. Being born again cannot be physical

       Illus. of how traumatic the first birth is. It’s good that we can’t remember it.

V 4      1. Certainly Nicodemus knew that it could not be physical, but he couldn’t grasp what Jesus was talking about.

            2. Could Jesus be talking about reincarnation?

b. being born again is spiritual

V 5a     1. This is another guaranteed truth that needs to be understood.

V 5b    2. What does this phrase mean? Nicodemus had to understand or he would not see the kingdom and that’s what he was there for. There are several views for the meaning of “born of water and spirit.”

                 a. water refers to the natural birth and spirit refers to the birth from above, whenever one is saved.

                 b. A variant of the first view is that the spiritual birth is after death. We take spirit form and are ready for the kingdom, which is not here. So, we aren’t born again until after we die.

                 c. The water refers to the Word of God. Cf. Eph. 5:26

                 d. The water refers to baptism as being necessary to salvation. Of course, this violates many other passages that teach that we are saved by faith alone.

                 e. The water is a symbol of the HS. Cf. John 7:37-39

                 f. The water refers to the repentance ministry of John the Baptist and Spirit refers to the baptism of the Spirit by God when one places their faith in Jesus Christ, hence the new spiritual birth. The old is gone, the new has come. Given the context of this chapter and what we see after this conversation, this is the best interpretation. John had stressed repentance and no doubt Nicodemus would have understood this ministry of ceremonial washings. To see the kingdom, Nicodemus needed to repent and believe in God’s Son so that he could be born from above…born again. Cf. John 3:16 To repent is to change one’s mind…about God, Jesus, sin, etc.

V 6      3. There two distinct realms in the world. We’re all born of the flesh, but not all are born of the Spirit. The flesh cannot save itself. It can only be saved by God. Cf. John 1:13

V 7      4. People should not balk at this truth. It is absolute and for all. No one is exempt. Cf. John 14:6 This makes salvation a black and white issue. There is no fence sitting in spiritual birth, just as there is none in physical birth. You’re either born or not. You’re either born again or not. So, we can all claim it. How can we tell if we are really born again?

c. Truly being born again brings change

V 8a     1. This is an illustration of how you can tell if the Spirit is working and it’s a wordplay. The Greek word for wind and spirit are the same. Pneuma. The spirit is like the wind. It’s mysterious. We don’t know it’s origin and we don’t know for sure where it is going. It’s invisible to our physical eyes and uncontrollable by our means. But, we can see its effects. We can see leaves blowing, trees leaning, our hats leaving our heads, our breath taken away, flags waving, or perhaps homes blowing over.

V 8b    2. So it is with the Spiritual rebirth. It is mysterious, invisible, unpredictable and uncontrollable. But, it affects are highly visible. Lives are changed, attitudes, marriages, language, motives, goals, etc. Its affects are far-reaching and inconceivable to the natural man. He tries to explain it away. But, it can’t be explained. It is an act of God. The new birth brings a new life. Cf. 2 Cor. 5:17


Many pay lip service to this new birth, but LIP SERVICE BRINGS CONFUSION. Claiming to be born again does not bring conversion. LORD SERVICE BRINGS CONVERSION. This means that Jesus is savior and Lord. You can’t separate the two. The new birth should bring change or we can doubt the claims of the individual. How does this affect us?

1.      It affects our perception of salvation. Easy believism is a trap we can fall into. Don’t give anyone the impression that salvation is easy. It cost Jesus and its costs us. GOSPEL

2.      Watch for signs of life in those claiming to be new believers.

3.      Help them grow to maturity in their new life. They need to be fed, encouraged, challenged and maybe even disciplined. They need people who care enough to give them what they need, not what they want. If they don’t respond, it could be that they are not born again.    

Illus. of the signs of life we look for when a baby is born. We love to hear that first cry and as they grow, we check to make sure they are breathing. We feed them, pray for them, take them to the doctor, teach them, etc.

We should do no less for those that we lead to Christ. Are there signs of life? What can we do to help them mature and grow into healthy disciples of Jesus. Being born again is more than words…it’s a new life in Christ. It’s a work of God, by the Spirit of God, because of the Son of God, and it’s for the glory of God. That’s being truly born again. We’ll talk more of the specifics of the new birth next week.


“what does it mean to be born again?”

John 3:1-8


The term born again is frequently used and more frequently abused in our world. What does it mean to be born again?

 i.                  service brings                                            vs. 1-3

a. ______________ service from the sanhedrin

b. The ____________________ from jesus

                Cf. John 19:11; Gal. 4:9; Col. 1:13; Matt. 6:10

ii.                service brings                                               vs. 4-8

a. Being born again cannot be ___________________


b. being born again is ________________________

                      Cf. Eph. 5:26; John 7:37-39; 3:16; 1:13; 14:6


c. Truly being born again brings _______________

                Cf. 2 Cor. 5:17


How does this affect us?




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