Scripture speaks about being born from above in several passages. The best known is John 3, which records the Lord’s dialog with the Pharisee, Nicodemus. The other is 1 Peter 1:3. Peter’s discussion comes in the context of praise to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Here, he uses the word “born again,” which is a Greek word made up of two parts– “again” and “beget” or “be born.”
Peter connects this with the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and our certain living hope of being raised up with him. This seems to be Peter’s commentary on Jesus’ discussion with Nicodemus. Here, Jesus actually uses a term with a double meaning that can either mean “born from above” or “be born a second time.”
Nicodemus did not understand what Jesus was saying and thought he had to re-enter his mother’s womb to be born a second time (John 3:4). Jesus gently corrected him as a “teacher of Israel” and went on to explain that he meant being born from above by the Spirit of the living God. Nicodemus should have connected the Messiah with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit promised in several places in the prophets, such as Ezekiel 36:25-27 and the vision of the resurrection of the dry bones in Ezekiel 37.
Brought from Death to Life
Jesus was saying that every person without the outpoured Spirit from above is spiritually dead like the dry bones and cannot even see the Kingdom of God. In other words, a person without God’s Holy Spirit is purely “flesh” and has no spiritual eyes, ears or heart to see, hear and comprehend the message that Jesus came to bring. The Lord told Nicodemus unequivocally, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6). Only the Spirit of the living God can take dry bones, dead in trespasses and rebellion against God, and make them spiritually alive (Ephesians 2:1-5). The Spirit is like the wind that blows wherever he wishes (John 3:8), so we are absolutely dependent on the Holy Spirit to blow upon dead people to make them alive.
Absolute Importance of Being Born Again
Scripture is very clear that the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit comes only through the hearing of the Gospel promises (Romans 10:17). Only in the Gospel does the Spirit move to open up a person’s eyes, ears and heart through the Father’s gift of faith (Ephesians 3:8-9). The result is what Paul terms “the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5 NASB). Overall, a person must be radically born again by the wind of the Holy Spirit and raised up from the dead in their inner person, like the dry bones in Ezekiel’s vision. Without this radical transformation lived out until death, no one can enter the eternal Kingdom of God.
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