“Born from above” is a more accurate translation of the expression “born again” that can be found in the following verse:
“Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” John 3: 3.
This answer was given by our Lord to Nicodemus, a Pharisee who had recognised in the Lord Jesus Christ, a teacher sent by God but yet could not freely confess it, surely out of fear of other people.
What is striking in this verse is that the condition that goes with it, literally means “no birth from above, no salvation” thus no access to the kingdom of God. What is this “birth” that is crucial in such a way that the God of the Bible tells us clearly that without it we do not belong to Him?
What is the Birth from Above?
If we were to define the “birth from above” from the biblical point of view, it shall be by what the Lord explained it by saying “…Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3: 5). In that sentence, the term “water” simply refers to the Word of God without which, no one can be saved for it is through the Word of God that we are taught the Truth and the way of the Lord. Also, the Word of God is the Lord Jesus Himself as seen in the following verses:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” John 1: 1.
“He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God” Revelation 19: 13.
In other terms, the Word of God is God Himself. The term “Spirit” mentioned above simply refers to the Holy Spirit without Whom no real repentance can happen for it is the Spirit of God Who convicts us of sin.
How do we receive the birth from above? How do we become “born again”?
Contrary to most thinking, being born again is neither something one receives by repeating a certain type of prayer that a certain pastor or “man of God” says as we commonly see today, nor something that one obtains by attending classes of catechism for two to three years and get baptised and “confirmed” as some do. Being “born again” is the Work of God Himself in a human life and NO ONE ELSE EXCEPT GOD HIMSELF CAN GIVE THE BIRTH FROM ABOVE as it is written, “…Salvation is of the Lord” Jonah 2: 10.
Confession and Repentance
As human beings, we were born and raised for some in the street, some in a comfortable home and some in “local assemblies”. Whatever the case might be, we were educated and thus acquired some habits through which our minds have been set and obliged to adhere to.
As a result of their various backgrounds and education, some people find it normal to either smoke, steal, lie, prostitute themselves, commit adultery, fornication (sleeping with a man or a woman before marriage) or be homosexuals.
And in the midst of all this, God one day decides to lead us to repentance and to use many different ways to reach that end. Therefore, it might be that one day you hear someone preaching and suddenly whatever the person is preaching seems to be talking to you and you feel so convinced in your soul that indeed, what the person is saying is the truth. It can also be that you have a very strong thought perhaps coming from a voice within yourself, simply telling you that the life you are currently living is wrong. Some fight such thoughts by avoiding staying alone and always hanging around with friends, drinking a lot and subjecting their mind to many things in order to shut that voice down. Or again it might be that one day you cheated death and that after such incident you asked yourself what would have happened had you died and thus you start seeking for an answer and find God in the end.
The God of the Bible is so good and so wise (in fact He is the Wisdom Himself) that His ways cannot be preconceived. But whatever the way He uses, the person concerned will suddenly feel extremely ashamed in his soul. The person will start realising that indeed he/she has lived a life that didn’t please His/Her creator and will often feel remorse and even cry so badly over whatever he/she has done in the past. The person will start confessing all the wrongdoings that he/she committed and will start crying to God for change. This phenomenon is called “repentance” which means “radically changing direction”. For example, someone was going towards the south direction and then changes to the opposite north direction. We have the example of Zacchaeus in the Bible in Luke 19: 1-10. Zacchaeus was a chief publican which means that he was a man established by the state to collect tax from the people. Zacchaeus while doing his job was abusing his powers to become increasingly richer. And one day after Christ passed by and decided to abide by Zacchaeus’s house, who repented from all his wrongdoings and in the end, the fruit of His repentance was manifested:
“Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham” Luke 19: 8-9
The interest of Zacchaeus had shifted from a man who used to rob people in the past to be richer and more powerful to suddenly, a man who decided to completely give up what he was doing wrong. He confessed somehow that he had falsely accused people in the past and had taken things from them, he then repented, he changed direction.
I would like to compare the life of Zacchaeus with the life of many of us. Some people could be police officers, abusing their powers on poor people for a wrongful gain, some could be traffic officer cops, some quality controllers who often lie about the quality of a product to get some money. Some working at the driver vehicle licensing department could insist on receiving money before allowing a driver learner to pass his test, the examples are endless… That was the case of Zacchaeus, he was abusing his powers on the people just to become increasingly rich. And one day such a person meets Christ who is passing by and suddenly the person realises that the life he/she is living is wrong, and starts confessing his/her wrongdoings and repents.
A real repentance always comes with visible fruits:
“But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance” Matthew 3: 7-8.
When someone truly repents, the person will produce acts and behaviour which will show that he/she has really changed. If the person had hurt someone in the past for instance, somehow you will see the person going and asking for forgiveness. If the person had been living a lie, you will see them suddenly telling the truth about who he/she really is. That is the work of the Holy Spirit in the person.
2. Baptism and receiving the Holy Spirit
Baptism comes from “baptizo” in Greek, which means “to immerse in a substance for the purpose of being saturated by it”. From such definition, we straight away realise that the baptism offered by some churches where water is just sprinkled on people is not biblical at all. For according to the definition, one needs to be completely immersed inside water in order to be baptised.
We are baptised in the water because the Lord Jesus Christ commended us to do so:
“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” Matthew 28: 19.
After the Lord Jesus Christ ascended to heaven, we can also see in the Bible that the first disciples and the apostles, were baptising:
“Then those who gladly received his word were baptized […]” Acts 2: 41 .
And they were doing so in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.
“When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus” Acts 19: 5.
After we have repented and have finally decided to follow Christ, God seals us with His Spirit and we become therefore children of God.
“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” John 1: 12-13.
The Spirit of God who is God Himself (God is Spirit, John 4: 24) comes and lives in us, and makes us heirs of God. Is not that beautiful? God lives in us! It is through that Spirit that we are identified as children of God:
“The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” Romans 8: 16
“And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” Galatians 4: 6
Just as much that your identity card shows that you are South African, the Spirit of God in you is the proof that you are a citizen of God’s Kingdom for “…Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His” (Romans 8: 9). Let us bear in mind that whenever we mention the word kingdom, there must be a king and his people. In the Kingdom of God, Christ is thus the King and all those who are marked by the seal are His children, belonging to the Kingdom.
Brothers and sisters, are we part of this kingdom? It is nowhere written in the Bible that all people who go to a building/place to pray on Sundays are automatically part of this kingdom. Or that because you repeated some prayers, are baptised, sing in a choir, always do what “your pastor” asks you to do, or belong to any local church or even do whatever you think is right to do, that you are part of that kingdom. Only those who have the Spirit of Christ in them are His and are really born from above. And the proof that we now have the Spirit of God in us is that “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.” Romans 8: 16.
You might be a well-known great “man of God”, so-called and recognised prophet or doctor in Scriptures by the people surrounding you; or simply be called “a good man/woman” by people around you, always in your local assembly praying, fasting, singing in a choir every Sunday with a very beautiful voice. But the question is: are you part of the Kingdom of Christ? Does the Spirit of God in you testify to your spirit that you are a child of God? Do you see any fruits within you that effectively show you that God has started His work in you? Do you see any fruit of repentance? Or are you a Pharisee who just adhere to a group of people for many reasons?
You may be a very rich, wealthy and powerful man/woman in this world, someone whom everyone admires and envy. But the question is: are you part of the Kingdom of Christ? For your riches shall pass and you will not be buried with them, in fact even if you were, people will dig up your coffin that very same night to steal them without you being able to do anything. Yet only the Kingdom of Christ will remain when all has passed away. Are you part of that kingdom?
God is Holy and His first deeds in the lives of His children is that He starts separating you from all the things He does not like, which are sins.
So as brother Paul once said to the church in Corinth, “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? —unless indeed you are disqualified” (2 Corinthians 13: 5), so everyone needs to do still every day. When you look at your life in all honesty and truth, do you have the Spirit of God in you? Are you “born again”? For “UNLESS ONE IS BORN OF WATER AND THE SPIRIT, HE CANNOT ENTER THE KINGDOM OF GOD” John 3: 5.
Personally, I am so glad that I am part of that kingdom today. I have never deserved it but the Lord had mercy on me and today I am so thankful to Him for showing me the consequences of the way I had taken previously, and leading me to the way He is.
I invite you to do the same.
“While it is said: “Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion. […]” Hebrews 3:15.
If within you, you hear His voice, repent from your evil ways and let the Lord Jesus Christ take control of your life. The breadth of life He has given you today is a proof of His patience, waiting for people to repent; but one day just as in the days of Noah, the time of His Grace will end and the doors of the arch will be closed.
TO THE ONE AND ONLY GOD AND KING ABOVE ALL, JESUS CHRIST WHO MADE HIMSELF MAN AND GAVE HIS OWN LIFE AS A MAN THAT WE MAY HAVE HIS LIFE TODAY, TO HIM ONLY BE ALL HONOUR AND ALL THE PRAISE NOW AND FOREVER. AMEN.
A disciple of Jesus Christ