To Be “Born Again”

As with many Scriptural doctrines, it seems believers are divided on what it means to be “born again.” There are those that believe a person experiences a new birth upon accepting Yeshua the Messiah as their Savior. Then there are those that believe a person can only be born again when they are resurrected from the dead. This study is written to give you a balanced understanding of the who, what, when and why of being born again.

Let’s begin with the first mention of being born again in the New Testament, John 3:3.

“Yeshua answered and said unto him, ‘Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of Elohim.”

Yeshua spoke these words to Nicodemus, a Pharisee and ruler of the Jews. By Nicodemus’ reply it is obvious that he misunderstood Yeshua in that he was thinking an adult could somehow enter his mother’s womb a second time and be born a second time.

Yeshua then clarifies further in verse 5;

“Yeshua answered, ‘Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of Elohim.”

Yeshua is explaining only one aspect of being born again, the literal meaning. There is a second aspect, the spiritual meaning, which will be dealt with later. To be “born of water” refers to one’s physical birth. The unborn child is encased in “water” for the majority of his life in the womb. Once that encasement breaks and the “water” is released the birth begins. Yeshua was responding to Nicodemus’ question about entering his mother’s womb a second time. So, in essence, Yeshua was saying, “Except a man be born of the womb and of the Spirit . . .”

Many have concluded that Yeshua was referring to baptism in water and the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Based on the context that follows, that is not true. Verse 6 reads,

“That which is born of flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”

Yeshua is drawing a parallel to what he just said in verse 5. To be “born of the flesh” equals to be “born of water.” To be “born . . . of the Spirit” equals to be “born of the Spirit.” When a person is born of water he is born a flesh and blood being. However, when a person is born of the Spirit he is spirit. He becomes a spirit being. This can only happen to a person upon his resurrection from the dead. That is what happened to our Savior Yeshua upon his resurrection from the dead. Ps. 2:7 reads,

“I will declare the decree: Yahweh hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.”

Its fulfillment is found is found in Acts 13:33;

“Elohim has fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he has raised up Yeshua again; as it is also written in the second Psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee.”

Yeshua’s resurrection from the dead was the point in time that he was “begotten” or “born again.” He was “born of the flesh” or “born of water” when his mother Miriam gave birth to him. “And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. . .” (Jn 1:14)

Yeshua is said to be the “firstborn from the dead” (Col 1:18). He was the first person to be resurrected unto eternal life or the first to be “born” via resurrection. Rom 8:29 says,

“For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.”

Therefore, all those that believe in the Son (his brethren) will also be resurrected or literally born again as he was.

The Apostle Paul wrote,

“It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body and there is a spiritual body” (1 Cor 15:44).

The “natural body” means our flesh and blood body that was born of water or of the flesh. The “spiritual body” means the new body that is reserved in heaven for each saint that will be resurrected. In 2 Cor 5:1-4, Paul speaks of this spiritual body as our future “house.”

“For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of Elohim, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven.”

Notice, also, in 1 Cor 15:44, that Paul says the natural body is “sown.” Just as a seed is sown in the ground and gives birth to a new plant, so must we be sown in death before we are literally born again at our resurrection as spirit beings. We will literally experience a new birth into a different kind of being, one that is not subject to sickness or death or hindered by the physical barriers of life in the flesh such as walls. This latter ability of a spirit being is very important in understanding what Yeshua meant in Jn 3:8.

“The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.”

Yeshua is saying, if you are a person who is born of the Spirit, you will be able to come and go without detection because spirit beings are invisible. We all know that angels, who are spirit beings, are invisible until made manifest to human eyes for some reason as was the case with Elisha and his servant in 2 Kings 6:17. The same is true of Yeshua now that he has been resurrected or born again, born of the Spirit. In Luke 24:31, Yeshua vanished out of the sight of Cleopas and his traveling companion. Later, in Luke 24:36, Yeshua suddenly appeared in the midst of his disciples as they spoke to one another. His appearance was so sudden and unexpected that they thought they were seeing a spirit. Jn 20:19 tells on that occasion the disciples were hiding in a room in fear with the door shut. It is not too great an assumption to believe the door was locked as well, yet Yeshua, as a spirit being, was not hindered by the physical world. He passed through the door or wall, undetected as the wind, to speak to his disciples.

All this simply confirms what Paul said in 1 Cor 15:50;

“Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of Elohim; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.”

This is another way of saying, ” Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of Elohim” and “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of Elohim.” The kingdom of Yahweh is closed to all that are flesh and blood. Its doors will open when the flesh is made spirit at a persons resurrection. When the earth gives birth to a dead saint their entrance into the kingdom is permitted. (For an explanation of the erroneous belief that Enoch and Eliyah went to heaven in their earthly bodies, click here).

What about this concept of the earth giving birth? Is it Scriptural? Most certainly. Consider Is 26:19;

“Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in the dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead.”

It is the earth that is going to “cast out” the dead via resurrection when dead bodies shall arise. “Cast out” is #5307 in Strong’s Concordance. A root of it is #5309 which means an “untimely birth.” Consider, also, Is 66:8;

“Who hath heard such a thing? Who hath seen such things? Shall the earth be made to bring forth in one day? or shall a nation be born at once? for as soon as Zion travailed she brought forth her children.”

Zion will give birth to her “children,” but it is the earth that is actually made to “bring forth” or give birth to these children. This refers to the resurrection of believers. The resurrection of Yeshua is referred to in verse 7. For a deeper understanding of this passage click here.

In Jn 3:9, Nicodemus says, “How can these things be?” Yeshua replies, “Art thou a master [teacher] of Israel and knowest not these things?” In other words, Nicodemus should have known from the Old Testament what Yeshua was talking about. Nowhere in the Old Testament, that I am aware of, is the concept of being born again while in the flesh taught. However, the resurrection of the dead is taught and that is what Yeshua was referring to by being “born again” and “born of the Spirit.”

What Yeshua taught in Jn 3:3-12 is the literal act of being born again. Now it is time to study the spiritual aspect of being born again which is far more important. Without being born again spiritually we cannot expect to be born again literally at our resurrection.

We begin in 1 Pe 1:23 which reads,

“Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the Word of Elohim, which liveth and abideth forever.”

When the incorruptible seed of the Word of Yahweh is planted in the fertile heart of an unbeliever (Mt 13:18-23) via the preaching of the good news (1 Pe 1:25) it begins a transformation process that eventually leads to repentance of sin and acceptance of Yeshua as one’s Savior. It is culminated in baptism, total immersion under water, which symbolizes the death, burial and resurrection of Yeshua. When we submit to baptism we agree to die to self and live for Yahweh. We determine in our hearts to put to death our “old man” or old nature and walk in newness of life through the Holy Spirit that will be given us.

When we are submerged under water it symbolizes the burial of our old self. Finally, we emerge out of the water symbolizing our resurrection from the dead, for before Yeshua came we were dead in our sins (Eph 2:1,5; Col 2:13). It is at that point (emerging from the water of baptism) that we are spiritually born again. We are spiritually born of water (Rom 6:3-11).

At this point you are probably saying I contradicted myself since I said being “born of water” in Jn 3:5 did not refer to water baptism. It is, however, not a contradiction. The phrase “born of water” in Jn 3:5 cannot refer to baptism since “born of spirit” refers to one’s resurrection into spirit. Jn 3:5 deals with the literal aspect, not the spiritual aspect. In either case, if we are not born again, we will not see or enter the kingdom of Elohim. It is this fact that places major emphasis on this doctrine. Therefore, it is important for us to explore fully what it means to be “born again.”

James 1:18 also speaks of the Word in relation to the process of being born again. It reads,

“Of His own will begat He us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.”

The word “begat” means “to be pregnant.” When the word of truth is preached to an unbeliever with a fertile heart, the seed is planted, a spiritual conception takes place, and a new birth is imminent. But this conception and birth cannot occur if the word of truth is not preached. If we are taught error it will not lead to a new birth. Millions of people embrace false religions and false teachings throughout the world. There is no life in these religions because they are not founded on the preaching of Yeshua as Messiah. He is “the way, the truth and the life” (Jn 14:6).

John 1:12,13 also speaks of the new birth;

“But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of Elohim, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of Elohim.”

Those that receive Yeshua as their Savior become sons of Elohim. They are spoken of as being “born.” This birth, however, is not the result of a man and woman uniting, but is the direct result of Yahweh’s intervention and power.

The Apostle John speaks of believers as being “born of Elohim” seven times throughout his first epistle. For brevity, I will list them all with a brief comment or two.

  • 1 Jn 2:29 – Those that do righteousness are born again.
  • 1 Jn 3:9 – Those that are born of Elohim, born again, do not practice sin.
  • 1 Jn 4:7 – Those that are born of Elohim truly love the brethren.
  • 1 Jn 5:1 – Those that are born of Elohim believe Yeshua is the Messiah.
  • 1 Jn 5:4 – Those that are born of Elohim overcome the world through their faith.
  • 1 Jn 5:18 – Those that are born of Elohim do not practice sin and are untouched by the wicked one.

When this new spiritual birth takes place the believer is spoken of as being a “babe” in Messiah (1 Cor 3:1; Heb 5:13; 1 Pe 2:2). Eventually the “babe” matures as he feeds first upon the milk of the Word (the elementary teachings of Scripture) and then upon “strong meat” (the deeper truths of Scripture) (Heb 5:12-14).

The most important aspect of this new birth is a change in one’s thinking and in one’s very nature. Eph 2:2,3 read;

“Wherein in times past you walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lust of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.”

Before a person is born again in a spiritual sense he walks in a way that is contrary to his Creator’s will because his very nature is corrupt. As a result of Adam’s sin, “death passed upon all men for that all have sinned” (Rom 5:12). Sin caused man to have a fallen, corrupt nature which Paul calls “the old man.”

In Eph 4:22-24, he admonishes the new believer in Messiah to

“. . . put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after Elohim is created in righteousness and true holiness.”

Without this taking place a person is still corrupt, still partaking of the old nature rather than partaking of the divine nature as 2 Pe 1:4 teaches;

“Whereby are given unto us exceeding and great promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.”

Paul says this conflict or war between the old man or old nature and the new man or the new nature will continue to take place until the new believer yields his mind and will to the guidance of the Holy Spirit rather than to the flesh.

For brevity’s sake I will not go into detail concerning this battle and how to win it, but will recommend a thorough reading of the following verses; Rom 7:14-8:17; Gal 5:16-25; Eph 4:17-5:33; Col 3:5-17; 1 Pe 4:1-6.

The Scriptures presented in this study are not ambiguous or difficult to understand. They are quite clear that a new birth must take place while we are yet alive in our flesh and blood bodies. This is what I call being “spiritually born again.” They are also quite clear that another new birth occurs upon the resurrection of someone whose faith is in Yeshua the Messiah for salvation. This is what I call being “literally born again.” Without first being born in a spiritual sense a literal new birth cannot occur. And without being born again in a literal sense at one’s resurrection we cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. It would, therefore, behoove us all to examine ourselves carefully to determine whether or not we are born again in a spiritual sense. Has our old man or old nature died? Are we now walking in the Spirit as partakers of the divine nature? Have we experienced a change in behavior from doing the works of the flesh as described in the previous Scriptures to bearing the fruit of the Spirit as described in Galatians 5?

Finally, there are many professing believers who claim to be born again, but are yet in their sins because they have sought salvation the wrong way. They believe they are saved because they obey a set of rules; because they keep the Sabbath; because they have been baptized a certain way; because they are members of a certain denomination, etc.

There is only one way to become born again or saved and that is through accepting Yeshua the Messiah as our personal Savior. He is the way, the truth and the life. No man comes to the Father (Yahweh) except through Yeshua and his righteousness. It does not matter how many laws we keep, etc. Salvation (and, by extension, the born again experience) are by grace through faith and not of works lest any man should boast” (Eph 2:8,9).

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