John 3:5-8 The New Birth

Today, we frequently hear the term “born again” used of any radical change in philosophy or belief. For example, politicians will say that someone has been “born again” who has moved converted from one view to another. Thus, in this instance, the world has adopted the language of Jesus.

When Jesus was meeting with Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews, He spoke about being born again. Here is what Jesus said:

‘Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit”’
– John 3:5-8, New International Version

Here, we will examine each verse briefly. We will state the key points that will help us apply this text to our lives. Several points stand out.

One: To enter the kingdom of God, every person must be born of the Spirit.

Jesus says “born of water and the Spirit.” Scholars debate what He meant by water. See the full discussion of this text. My own view is that Jesus meant “born of water, even the Spirit.” In other words water was a figure of speech for the Spirit.

According to the apostle Paul, all persons are sinners (Romans 3:23). Therefore, all persons have to be radically changed. This transforming work can be done only by the Holy Spirit. When you believe in Christ, the Holy Spirit does His life-changing work.

Two: Each person, who would enter the kingdom of God, must have a new heredity.

Jesus said, “that which is born of the flesh is flesh and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” Our flesh is our natural person. When we were conceived, our human heredity began. As we live, we are further shaped by our environment.

Our spiritual man, however, cannot be derived from the natural man. Through faith in Christ, we become a new creature. The new heredity begins. We are born of the Spirit and are sons of God. Naturally, we should further shape our spiritual lives by a new spiritual environment. We do this through reading the Word, attending church, and praying.

Three: Don’t be amazed that Jesus said, “You must be born again.”

Even though Nicodemus was a spiritual leader in the Jewish community, he was amazed at what Jesus said. Perhaps he thought that Jesus was referring to a new physical birth. A more likely view is that he knew Jesus was speaking in a figurative way. If so, he understood that Jesus was talking about a great spiritual change. Even on a figurative basis, Nicodemus was bound by natural thinking. How could an old person, shaped by heredity and environment, change his ways?

The change that Jesus was talking about could happen only through the Spirit. Christ’s comments to Nicodemus apply to us. We should not be amazed that a new spiritual birth can take place. Let us open our minds to the spiritual realm and new spiritual understandings. Through the Spirit, we can be born again!

Four: When the Spirit changes us, we see the result!

Jesus explained to Nicodemus that when the wind blows, we hear the sound of it. We may not know from whence it comes or where it goes, but we see the result. The stronger the wind, the more dramatic are the results.

With regard to our spiritual lives, the same thing is true. When a person is born of the Spirit, we can see the result. Millions of people testify to transformed lives. People around them see the results. Often these results are radical. Our faith is strengthened by what has happened to us.


Jesus Christ died for every person. Every single one of us has the grand privilege of believing in Jesus. The moment we do, the Holy Spirit does a profound work in us. We are “born again.” We become sons of God and citizens of the kingdom of God. The world is astonished at what takes place in us.


Copyright © George M. Flattery

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