What does it mean to be born again?

Last updated on November 5, 2021


Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?’ Jesus answered, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.’” (John 3:4-5)

Nicodemus is a religious expert and “the teacher of Israel”, but he does not understand what Jesus is saying here about “being born again”. After all, it’s impossible for an adult to enter a second time into his mother’s womb, isn’t it? Nicodemus surely is not the only one who does not understand this. Let’s see what Jesus’ answer is.

Jesus explains the phrase “being born again” by using an expression from the book of Ezekiel: being born of water and the Spirit. Nicodemus must have known this book, where God promises: “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses […] And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes” (Ezekiel 36:25-27).

The imagery of cleansing with water is given as a symbol of spiritual cleansing. So, being born of water and the Spirit means being cleansed from sin and being renewed by God’s Spirit so that your will is transformed in accordance with God’s will. We need both aspects of this spiritual rebirth: to be washed clean from our sins and to be cured from our sinfulness.

Are you born again?

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