How Many Times Have You Been Born?

       If you have been born only once, you will die twice.  However, if you have been born twice, you will not die more than once.  Keep reading and you'll understand.

        When Jimmy Carter was running for president in 1976, he made a startling statement.  He said that he was born again.  Across the nation people were asking, "What is he talking about?"

        Since then the term "born again" has become a common expression.  Now it is not uncommon for presidential candidates to be asked, "Have you been born again?"  Before Jimmy Carter it is doubtful that anyone aspiring for the presidential office was asked that question.

        Charles Colson became a nationally known figure because of Watergate.  He was born again while in prison, and he wrote a best-seller titled Born Again.

        Ronald Reagan was asked, "Have you been born again?"  He replied, "It depends on what you mean by born again."  What does it mean to be born again?  For the answer to that question we must look at the third chapter of John's gospel.



       "There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews."  John 3:1.  He was first and foremost a Pharisee, a religious man devoted to the law of Moses.  The outstanding characteristic of a Pharisee was his self-righteous attitude.

        Jesus described a Pharisee in the following parable.  "And He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: 'Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, "God, I thank You that I am not like other men--- extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector.  I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess."'"  Luke 18:9-12.

        Since Nicodemus was a Pharisee, he believed in God.  He was a participant in temple worship, standing and praying (with himself).  Striving to establish his own righteousness, he was a moral man, who did not indulge in the gross sins of the day.  He fasted at least twice a week, and was generous, being a tither.

        According to John 3:10 he was "the teacher of Israel."  It's believed that Nicodemus was a teacher of the law.  In the eyes of others he appeared to be an ideal Jew, educated, moral, and wealthy.  And yet he is the one to whom Jesus said, "You must be born again."


The Necessity of the New Birth

       Nicodemus was aware of the miracles performed by Jesus.  He came to Jesus in the darkness of night and said, "Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him."  John 3:2.  What a nice guy!  He addressed the lowly carpenter as "Rabbi."  He acknowledged that Jesus was a good teacher on God's side.  He respected the Lord Jesus.

        "Jesus answered and said to him, 'Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.'  Nicodemus said to Him, 'How can a man be born again when he is old?  Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?'  Jesus answered, 'Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.'"  John 3:3-5.

        Obviously, this elderly teacher of Israel did not understand what Jesus was talking about.  "The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned."  1 Corinthians 2:14.

        One thing was clear: if Nicodemus was not born again he would neither see nor enter the kingdom of God.  It is difficult to find a better unregenerate person than this Pharisee.  If anyone would go to heaven on the basis of belief in God and good works and morals, the most likely candidate to enter would be someone like Nicodemus.  But he needed to be born again.


Born of Water

       What did Jesus mean when He mentioned being "born of water"?  A difference of interpretation exists among Bible teachers.  The most outrageous interpretation is sweat.  If you want to go to heaven, you must work really hard for God.  You must work up a sweat for the kingdom of God.  If we applied this teaching to Nicodemus, he would have been qualified to enter God's kingdom.

        Second, some think that the water is baptism.  If this is true, then baptism is a condition of salvation.  There are those who use this verse to teach baptismal regeneration.  If their interpretation is correct (and it isn't), then John needs to rewrite the promises of eternal salvation in his gospel.  John 3:16, 36; 5:24; 6:47.

        Third, a popular belief is that the water is the Word of God.  If we are to compare Scripture with Scripture, that interpretation makes sense.  "Having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever."  1 Peter 1:23.  Undoubtedly we are born again through the Word of God.  No one can be born again apart from His Word.  In Ephesians 5:26 we read about "the washing of water by the word."  This is a strong argument, but here there is respectful disagreement.

        Jesus explained the meaning of John 3:5 in John 3:6.  "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit."  The water should be interpreted in its context.  Nicodemus was talking about a mother's womb in John 3:4.  The water is water, the amniotic fluid in which babies are born.  During pregnancy the human embryo is surrounded with water.  That which is "born of water" (verse 5) is "born of the flesh" (verse 6).  Every newborn babe is born of water.  It speaks of our physical birth.

        Everyone was born wrong the first time, being born in sin.  "Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me."  Psalm 51:5.  We need to be born right, born of the Spirit.


Born of the Spirit

        Those who are born of the Spirit are born again, born from above, born of God.  This is clearly something that God does, something that fleshly human beings cannot do.

        Jesus explained the second birth to Nicodemus in telling an Old Testament story with which he was familiar.  "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life."  John 3:14, 15. 

        The children of Israel had sinned in the wilderness.  God sent poisonous snakes among them.  Some were bitten and died.  At God's direction Moses made a brass snake, and put it up on a pole.  Anyone who looked at the snake lived; anyone who didn't look died.  There was life for a look of faith.

        Jesus Christ, the Son of Man, was lifted up on the cross, where He died for our sins.  Those who turn to Him for life, and believe in Him will live forever in the kingdom of God.  Believers are born again the moment that they look to Him.

        Some Christians will never die.  Jesus is coming again to receive those who believe in Him.  They will be changed at the glorious meeting in the air.

        But what about those who have not been born again?  They will experience both physical death and the second death in the lake of fire.  "Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire.  This is the second death."  Revelation 20:14.  Born once, die twice; born twice, die once...maybe.

        You must be born again.  The good news is that you can be born again by believing in the Lord Jesus as your Savior.  You can become a new creation in Christ.


All About God

Scripture taken from the
New King James Version.
Copyright ©
1979, 1980, 1982
by Thomas Nelson, Inc.
Used by Permission.
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