One of the basic tenets of Christianity is the concept of a second birth or being “born again.”
Natural Birth~Initially each human being is “born of a woman” as a baby. This natural birth is also known as “born of flesh.” This first birth is outside the realm of individual choice; however, the second birth is a direct result of individual choice (to make no choice is to choose).
Spiritual Birth~The choice to be born a second time or “born again” results in salvation and eternal life with God. This is only possible because of the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ as the penalty for our sin. This supernatural birth is also known as “born of the Spirit.” But individuals must make this personal choice for themselves.
For many it may be helpful to realize the term “born again” has its roots in Judaism. The term was used in reference to a Gentile who was formally converted to Judaism. The Talmud, or oral law, states, “One who has become a proselyte is like a child newly born” (Yevamot 48b).
Nicodemus was genuinely confused as he interacted with Jesus. Since Nicodemus knew Jesus was not only a Jew but a Master Teacher of Israel, he understood that Jesus was not asking him to convert to Judaism.
Understanding the second birth in Judaism helps explain later verses. “Nicodemus answered and said to Him, ‘How can these things be?’ Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things?’” ( John 3:9-11).
Jesus was telling Nicodemus he must be born again. His underlying confusion was, “How can I convert to Judaism if I am already a Jew?” Therefore he replies to Jesus, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?” (John 3:4).
Remember what Jesus, the Messiah, answered, “A man must be born of water and Spirit” (John 3:5). Natural man understands that natural birth is accompanied by the breaking of the water. The man with spiritual understanding knows that the second birth is accompanied by the Spirit of God breaking through their spiritual blindness.
Jesus was explaining to Nicodemus that he could not rely on his Jewish heritage as a means of entering into the kingdom of heaven. In a similar way we cannot rely on being born in a Christian nation, church attendance, or any other factor, as a means of gaining salvation. The bottom line is the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ sacrificed for you. Individual conversion of theheart is necessary for salvation.
The Bottom Line~“Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spiritin sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever, because ‘All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of manas the flower of the grass. The grass withers, and its flower falls away, but the word of the Lord endures forever.’Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you” (1 Peter 1:22-25).