“You must be born again.”(emphasis added)
These words from the lips of the Savior still ring true today as when He first uttered them to Nicodemus. Like a clarion call, Jesus makes it unequivocally clear that one must be born again in order to enter the kingdom of heaven(John 3:5). This is not a suggestion. Jesus did not say you “ought” to be born again. This is not just a good idea. This is an absolute necessity. You must be born again!
Unlike many have erroneously thought, this is not a command to be obeyed. Jesus did not give an imperative, “Be born again.” Rather it is a statement of fact, a declaration of divine truth.
“Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (emphasis added)
There is no possibility of entering the kingdom of God without being born again. Without regeneration, entering the kingdom of God is an utter impossibility. Jesus emphatically said that one cannot enter the kingdom of God unless he is born again.
Christ’s statement is of epic proportions. If for no other reason than the fact that the Jews of His day thought that they had every right to enter the kingdom of God simply because of their spiritual heritage and lineage.(John 8:36, 39).
The Greek term for born “again”, ἄνωθεν, literally means “from above.” Jesus is saying you must be born from above. It is something done to you, not something you do. There is no “how to” be born again for the simple reason that in regeneration man is passive, while the Spirit of God is active. After all Jesus said it is to be born of the Spirit, not to be born of the flesh(John 3:5-6).
“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”
Regeneration then is a work of God the Holy Spirit(Titus 3:5).
That night when Nicodemus the teacher of Israel approached Jesus, the beloved disciple John was there. He is the one under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit(2 Timothy 3:16) who recorded the account. And I’m sure it was this encounter John was thinking back on when he penned the following words.
“Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God,…”
1 John 5:1a
The perfect tense of the verb “has been born” indicates action that was completed in the past with continuing results in the present. What’s the point? One must be born again first in order to then believe in Christ. I know this goes contrary to many statements of faith and what many have grown up wrongly thinking, namely that an unregenerate person can believe in Christ.
Whomever the Holy Spirit regenerates will believe in Christ. There is no such thing as a believer in Christ who has not been regenerated.
If you are a believer in Christ, it was not your faith that caused you to be born again, but it was God that caused you to be born again, and that according to His great mercy(1 Peter 1:3). It was God, being rich in mercy, who made us alive, even when we were dead in transgressions(Ephesians 2:4-5).
The one who has been born of God, the apostle John says, literally “is believing” that Jesus is the Christ. The verb is in the present tense signifying continuous, habitual action; a way of life. What’s the point? Genuine Christians will never stop believing! After all, how can they since rebirth is a divine work.
This of course has major implications to assurance of salvation and the perseverance of the saints. We can be assured that we will persevere in the faith because persevering faith is the result of being born of God. We can be confident that God who began His good work in us will complete it(Philippians 1:6) because of the divine miracle of regeneration, giving life to the spiritually dead.
Why are you a Christian? Is it because YOU have decided to follow Jesus? If that’s what you think, then you ought to be singing the self-exalting hymn “I Have Decided To Follow Jesus”. But if it is as the Bible declares because God caused you to be born again, then sing to the glory of God.
Long my imprisoned spirit lay
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quick’ning ray,
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free;
I rose, went forth and followed Thee.
And Can It Be, That I Should Gain?