The term "born-again" was first spoken by the Lord Jesus Christ very early in his earthly ministry as it is recorded in John's Gospel chapter 3.
"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." (John 3:3)
By the way, the kingdom of God is bigger than Heaven, but includes Heaven. So, Jesus was saying, that except you are born again you are not going to Heaven. There have been so many opinions as to what the Lord Jesus meant here, as to make people tired of the whole thing. A drunk finally gets sick of booze and kicks the bottle, cleans himself up, and becomes more reliable and hard working; some would say he was 'born-again.' Some cults relate being born-again to water baptism. There are a significant number of people in 'church' circles that claim to be born-again but their lives show no essential difference from before they made that claim. Is being born-again just religious speak with no real substance? From all the talk and different opinions one might think that the Lord Jesus left us all hanging as to what he meant and no one really knows.
That could not be further from the truth. When you set aside all the commentators and go directly to the source, The Bible, Jesus explained himself very clearly. And from there, Jesus' Apostles gave us more explanation.
Go and read the full conversation in which Jesus first speaks of being born-again--John 3:1-21. The man Jesus was speaking to did not understand, asking, "How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?" The Lord then gives a two-part answer. (1) Jesus says, "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." (2) And then, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit."
I would like to take the second statement first since it is the clarifying statement of the first statement. "That which is born of flesh is flesh..."--here you are. You are flesh and your were born of your mother, as everyone is. This is physical birth brought about by physical generation of life. Then Jesus says, "...and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." These are parallel statements. Notice, "the Spirit," is a proper name and that is the name for God the Holy Spirit. Therefore, to be born again is an act of God whereby he makes a man something he was not before--God generates spiritual life in a person; obviously, not having possessed that spiritual life before. You say, I have a lot of questions about that. Nothing wrong with honest questions.
Notice, being born-again is not something you can do for yourself. Who ever heard of a baby conceiving and birthing itself? Being born-again is a supernatural event effected by God in a person. The Apostle Paul, writing by the Holy Spirit describes it in these words, "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." (2Corinthains 5:17) This new birth makes a person different on the inside--in their soul.
Now, on to the first statement Jesus made to answer Nicodemus's question. Jesus said, "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit..." What is this "born of water"? Is that a reference to baptism? There is no verse in the Bible that calls baptism a birth. But there is James 1:18, which says, "Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures." Then, again the Apostle Peter says, "Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever." (1Peter 1:23) According to the Bible the Word of God is the "seed" by which we are born-again by the Spirit of God.
This is because the Word of God genders faith in the hearts of men who will receive it. It is simple, you could never know what God requires you to believe except from the Word of God. Consider the following Scriptures...
"So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God."
"But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him."
"For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it."
The New Birth is only effected in those that believe the Word of God, including the Gospel which is in the Word of God--"For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek." (Romans 1:16)
Therefore, God the Holy Spirit effects the new birth upon the repentant believer in the person and redemptive work of Jesus Christ. This is exactly what Jesus told Nicodemus as recorded in John 3. Nicodemus asked, :How can these things be?" How is this possible? Jesus explained, "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life." (John 3:14-15) Moses lifting up a serpent (made of brass) on a stick is a reference to an event in Israel's history. See Numbers 21. There are many truths taught in this historic event; but, for time, note the obvious, that the brass snake was lifted up on a stick and any bitten by the poisonous snakes were saved by God through the act of faith (they believed and then obeyed)--look and live. Jesus said, "so must the Son of man be lifted up." The Lord spoke of being "lifted up" two other times. In John 8:28, "Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he..." And then, finally, in John 12:32-33, "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. This he said, signifying what death he should die." That is, lifted up on a Roman cross--crucified. Jesus was telling Nicodemus that which made the new birth possible was Him being lifted up in death. Therefore, you can neither be born-again by your own power, or because you deserve to be. The basis by which God gives the new birth to men is the sacrificial work of Christ Jesus for you.
This all begs the question(s), Why do I need to be born-again? Am I not good enough as I am?
"And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;..."
"Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)"
"And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;"
The Bible describes man before being born-again (quickened--made alive) as dead in trespasses and sin. In fact, you and I were born with a sinful nature.
"Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:"
The first man, Adam, willfully sinned against God, and all his children (you and me) are born with a nature completely at odds with our Holy Creator God.
"Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me."
King David testified about his sinful heart; that he was conceived with it.
"Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God."
The Apostle Paul said that just as men and women who are saved by the Lord Jesus Christ, so the rest of creation "also shall be delivered" from the bondage of corruption. Meaning, the sinful condition into which each of us is born is also called "the bondage of corruption."
God cannot leave you in your sin and bring you to live with Him. Your sin is not just a few acts you do. Certainly you do sin, and that is offensive to God. You need to be forgiven. But the reason you commit acts of sin is because you are a sinner by nature. If God were to forgive you, but leave your nature as is, you could never be allowed into God's presence.
"Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption."
God is amazing. He sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, who humbly became a man, sinless, and Jesus willing took your death and the wrath of God belonging to you upon Himself and died and shed His precious life blood to pay your sin debt before God. He calls sinners to repentance and wants to forgive you based upon His shed blood; but, he does so much more to fit you for eternity with God; he will, by His Spirit, make you a new creature on the inside, and then one day in the future, at the resurrection unto life, give you an immortal body.
I hope you will read more from this blog, compare what I am saying from the Bible yourself. All Bible quotes are out of the King James Authorized Bible, which is the pure unaltered Word of God in the English language.