The New Birth, Born-Again, Regeneration
Pastor David L. Brown, Ph.D.
Sermon Delivered 1/30/05
Text: John 3:1-21
The new birth is a Biblical imperative found in the words of the Lord Jesus Christ. Our Lord said, "Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again [new birth]." John 3:7.
There is nothing more important that an individual must do than to be born again! Without it, you have no hope of escaping the terrors of Hell or enjoying the glories of Heaven. Since this is so important, it is a priority to know what being born again is and is not. Now, as we begin you need to understand that the new birth, being born-again and regeneration are all referring to the same thing.
Let’s begin by considering what the New Birth is not. First, it is attained neither by religious participation, being a particular religious affiliation nor religious observances. That is clear from the text. Nicodemus was a Pharisee. Pharisees were the strict sect of the Jews. They taught that Jews could achieve holiness through the study and application of the Torah. However, they had made the Old Testament law into an unreasonable and unscriptural system of legalism and ignored the true spiritual meaning God had intended them to receive. They went to such extremes as forbidding people to spit on the Sabbath! Their human laws took precedence over God’s laws. As for Nicodemus, he celebrated the Passover, paid tithes, said prayers, brought sacrifices, and tried to keep the Law. If the New Birth were brought about by religious observances, Nicodemus certainly would have been born again. However, that is NOT the case. Our Lord said to Nicodemus, "Ye must be born again." As we apply that to our day, it is obvious that neither law keeping, joining a church, being baptized, religious observances, nor living up to a religious creed will bring about the New Birth. There will be many in Hell who did all of these things, to no avail. As our Lord said, "Ye MUST be born again." Second, being born again is not achieved through living a good life. Do you realize that the Lord Jesus Christ spoke these words on the new birth to a man who was doing his best to gain heaven? No doubt Nicodemus was a moral man, a faithful husband, a good father and as we have seen he was certainly religious. So was Saul of Tarsus. We read of him, "Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; 6 Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless." Philippians 3:5-6. You must know that though you may try to keep the golden rule, the Ten Commandments, pay your bills, be a good neighbor, and live a clean moral life, these things do not bring about New Birth! Third, reformation does not bring about New Birth. I like the way the late Evangelist Paul Levin put it: "Even if you would quit all your meanness, that would not be the new birth. Your trouble is not on the outside, but on the inside. You don’t need exterior decoration but interior regeneration. Satan wants you to rest in a false peace. We warn you in Jesus' name, don't be satisfied unless you have been born again."
Since being born again is neither attained through religious observance, living a good life, nor personal reformation, the pressing question is…
Sinners are regenerated or born again when they trust Jesus Christ (Tit. 3:5). Regeneration is the spiritual change produced in man or woman by the Holy Spirit, by which he or she becomes the possessor of a new life. It is to be distinguished from justification, because justification is a change in our relationship to God, while regeneration is a change in our moral and spiritual nature. They coincide in point of time and are alike instantaneous, and thus are both covered by the general term conversion, as that term is popularly and loosely applied. Still they are distinct in that the one (justification) is the removal of guilt by divine forgiveness, and the other (regeneration) is the change from the state of depravity, or spiritual death, to that of spiritual life."
Before we answer the question I need to point out that the phrase "born again" occurs four times in the New Testament. Two of the occurrences are in John 3:3 & 7 "Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. 7 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again." Next, turn to 1 Peter 1:3 "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…" Finally, 1 Peter 1:23 "Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever."
The Greek words behind John 3:3 & 7 are, born is from the Greek word gennaw gennao (ghen-nah’-o), which means to bring forth, bear or be born and again is the translation of the Greek word anwyen anothen (an’-o-then) which means from above or anew. 1 Peter 1:3 & 23 use the word anagennaw anagennao an-ag-en-nah’-o, which means to beget again.
Finally, we must consider the companion word regeneration. Turn to Titus 3:5 "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;" The word translated regeneration is the Greek word paliggenesia paliggenesia (pal-ing-ghen-es-ee’-ah). In this compound word pali means anew and genesia means nativity or birth. Hence you once again we see the reference is to being born again. Clearly, all these Greek words have nearly the same definitions and there is a good reason for that. Each of these Greek words is derived from or built around the same root word – genus or genesis: John 3:3 & 7 we see born is gennao. Then in 1 Peter 1:3 & 23 we see the word born again is anagennao. Finally, have the word paliggenesia. Clearly, these words contain the root word that means to be born and are integrated with words that mean again.
So, back to the question – How is a person born again? Turn in you Bibles to John 1:11-13 "He came unto His own, and His own received Him not. But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, 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 God" This passage gives us some interesting insights into being born again.
Let me remind you, you do not receive Christ by taking
communion, or by being baptized, or by joining a church, or by any other
human effort. You receive Christ by faith and trust alone
in His finished work on the cross. Remember our Lord’s admonition – Ye
MUST be born again. Are you born again? If not, why not take a moment
and call upon the name of the Lord in prayer and receive Him!