The reason why it is necessary


Jesus Christ spoke of the new birth to Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews, who came to Jesus by night. Here is what we read in the Gospel according to John: “There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him. 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. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit” (John 3:1-8).

Therefore, according to the words of Jesus, one must be born again to enter and see the Kingdom of God; in other words, the new birth is indispensable. The following expressions: “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God ….. Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God …. Ye must be born again” show the necessity of the new birth. Therefore, all those who want to enter the kingdom of God, which is in heaven, must be born again, otherwise they will remain outside it.

But why is the new birth indispensable to enter the Kingdom of God? Because men are dead in their trespasses and sins and they are without the life of God. In other words, they are spiritually dead in the sight of God. Their spiritual death is caused by sin, of which they are slaves and whose wages is death (Romans 6:23). And the new birth allows those who are spiritually dead to rise again spiritually, to become spiritually alive, and to be fit to enter the kingdom of God.


How it is experienced


How can a man be born again? According to the words that Jesus spoke to the Jews - bearing in mind that when Jesus said to Nicodemus ‘Ye must be born again’ He meant that not only Nicodemus but also all the other Jews had to be born again - , in order to be born again, a man must repent and believe in the Gospel. For Jesus said to the Jews: “Repent ye, and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15). Isn’t water baptism necessary, then, to be born again? No, it is not indispensable, because the new birth is experienced when one repents and believes in the Son of God and not when one is immersed in water in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ or when he comes out of the water. Water baptism represents what a believer has already experienced through faith in the Christ of God, that is, the new birth: the immersion in water is the burial with Christ, while the coming out of the water is the resurrection with Christ.

Someone may ask: ‘Is it not written that one must be born of water? Yes, that’s what is written, but the water Jesus spoke of is not water baptism but the Word of God, which in the Scripture is symbolized by the water, as it is written in the epistle to the Ephesians that Christ “loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word” (Ephesians 5:25-26), and in the book of Isaiah: “For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it” (Isaiah 55:10-11). Please, notice how the Word of God is compared to the water which comes down from heaven. Now, John says that “he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God” (John 3:34), for Jesus, who was sent by God, came down from heaven and spoke to us the things which He had heard from His Father, that is, the Good News of the Kingdom of God. And we who were dead in our sins, have been regenerated (or we have been born again) by the Word which by the Gospel was preached to us by Christ (Ephesians 2:17), as it is written: “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever. For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you” (1 Peter 1:23-25) and: “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures” (James 1:18). The Word of God preached to us by Christ, therefore, is the regenerating power. That’s why one day Jesus said: “The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63). Is it not true that the Gospel of the grace of God made us alive, giving us that life we didn’t possess before? Yes, this is the truth: we have been born again by the Word of God.

However, as Jesus said, one must be born again by the Spirit of God as well. Let us therefore speak of what the Holy Spirit has done in order to regenerate us.

When we heard the Word of Grace, the Spirit convicted us of sin, of righteousness and of judgement because, according to what Jesus said before He was glorified, the Holy Spirit was sent to do also this work of conviction: “And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: Of sin, because they believe not on me; Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged” (John 16:8-11). Brethren, it was the Holy Spirit who convicted us that we were sinners and unbelievers; before the new birth we thought (leaning on our own understanding) that we were not sinners, who deserved to go into the everlasting fire, because we also were slaves of sin; we did not speak as we should have done because we also were children of disobedience. Some of us said: “What evil have I done to deserve God’s judgement?’, some others said: “I have not killed anybody, I don’t steal, I don’t blaspheme, what should I repent of, since I have no sin?’, while the Word of God stated and still states: “What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin; As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: Their feet are swift to shed blood: Destruction and misery are in their ways: And the way of peace have they not known: There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Romans 3:9-18; cf. Psalms 14::1-3; 5:9; 140:3; 10:7; Isaiah 59:7-8; Psalm 36:1). But God was patient with us and waited for us to recognize that we were sinners in His sight, to repent of our sins and to call upon Him, so that He might have mercy on us.

How many of us, before believing in the Lord, did say that we were believers? Many, yet we were not believers but unbelievers because we had not yet believed with our heart in the Gospel. Actually, when we said: ‘I believe’ we meant: ‘I also have heard of it’. In our judgement, to hear of the Gospel and to believe in the Gospel were the same thing, while there is a great difference between hearing of Christ (without believing in Him), and hearing of Him and believing in Him with one’s heart; in the former case one is still lost, while in the latter case one is saved and he is sure he has eternal life. Before our new birth, we were rebels and wicked, but thanks be to God who, through His Spirit, convicted us of sin first, and then He made us alive. “The Spirit is life” (Romans 8:10 – NKJV) and He made us alive, as it is written: “It is the Spirit who gives life” (John 6:63 - NKJV).

Many say that all men are children of God, which means that all men are born of God, but this statement is false because the Scripture states that only those who are on the way of salvation are children of God; all men were created by God, but not all men have been regenerated by God.

Jesus said: “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matthew 7:13-14). Now, we know that Christ is the door, for Jesus Himself said: “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved” (John 10:9), and that Christ is also the way which leads to life, for He said: “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6), and we know also that those who find the way which leads to life are only a few, which means that those who are born of God and are on the way of salvation are few in comparison with those who believe not and walk along the way which leads to destruction. The Scripture teaches that only those who have received Jesus Christ are children of God, as it is written: “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” (John 1:12-13), and also: “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26). It is by faith in Jesus Christ that a man becomes a child of God, therefore unbelievers are not children of God but they are children of the devil because they don’t believe in the name of the Son of God and to confirm this I remind you of the following things.

Jesus said to those Jews who did not believe in Him and wanted to kill Him: “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do” (John 8:44).

When Jesus explained to His disciples the parable of the tares He said to them: “He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man; The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one; The enemy that sowed them is the devil” (Matthew 13:37-39). As you can see, according to the words of Jesus, in this world there are also the children of the devil, so we can’t say that all men are children of God.

The apostle Paul called that false Jewish prophet who was on the isle of Cyprus, whose name was Bar-Jesus (who sought to turn the proconsul Sergius Paulus away from the faith), ‘child of the devil’ (Acts 13:10). We know that the false prophets are children of the devil because they don’t believe in the Son of God and they try to turn believers away from the faith.


The new birth is a real experience, of which one is perfectly aware when it occurs and he is sure he has experienced it, even though we can’t explain exactly how it took place in our life because it is an impenetrable work accomplished by God through His Word and His Holy Spirit. We can compare it to a dead person’s coming out of the tomb where he had been buried; to a prisoner’s coming out of a prison; to a person’s coming out of a very dark room where he was kept for years; to the recovery of sight experienced by a man born blind; to the deliverance from strong and heavy chains. In other words, we mean that those who have experienced it know very well what they felt when they were regenerated, because it was an experience that has changed radically their life. What a man experiences through the new birth is salvation, the forgiveness of all his sins, the disappearance of the sense of guilt, which torments those who are without God. For this reason whoever is born again is sure he has been saved, he has been washed from all his sins, and his conscience doesn’t accuse him any longer. And all this produces in him a great joy immediately, a great joy which gushes out of Christ, who has come to him and made His home with him (in his heart); as well as a great and true peace which comes from Christ too. So he becomes a child of God; how? We have already said how, that is, through repentance and faith in Christ. But is he sure he has become a child of God? Of course. On what basis can he say that he is a child of God? Because the Word of God says: “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” (John 1:12), and also: “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not” (1 John 3:1); and because of the witness of the Holy Spirit who dwells in his heart, as it is written: “For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Romans 8:15-16 – NKJV). Therefore, he is sure he is an heir of God and joint heir with Christ; he is sure he has eternal life because he has in his heart Him who is the eternal life (1 John 5:20), and as a result he knows that when he dies he will go to heaven to be with Christ and the departed saints and there he will be waiting for the resurrection. Furthermore, we say that all those who believe, being born again, are God’s priests, for Peter, after saying at the beginning of his first epistle: “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, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:3-4), says: “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood” (1 Peter 2:9). Do you understand? All those who have been born again are priests of God. And therefore, all those who believe in the Son of God are priests. And, still according to the Scripture, all those who believe have been made kings and will reign with Christ on the earth, as it is written that Christ “has made us kings and priests to His God” (Revelation 1:6 – NKJV) and “we shall reign on the earth” (Revelation 5:10 – NKJV).


How many people can be born again


At this point you may ask: ‘How many people can be born again?’ All those who wish to be regenerated. We would like to make it clear, however, that by this expression we don’t mean that those who are born again have experienced the new birth because it was they who determined to be regenerated; not at all, because those who are born again were born of the will of God, as it is written: “Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:13), and also: “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures” (James 1:18).

By that expression we simply mean that we don’t know the number of those whom God predestined to be regenerated through His Word, and thus we proclaim to all men that they must be born again in order to enter the kingdom of God.


How born again people are known


Now, how are the children of God known in this world? How can we know whether one is born of God or not?


Those who are born of God are new creatures, in whose life the old things (that is, the old and wicked habits) have passed away and all things have become new, as it is written: “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Therefore, if one says that he is a Christian, but he is not a new creature (or creation), he is not born of God. Many people claim they are Christians, but they are not new creatures at all because their licentious and wicked conduct shows that they are still children of disobedience and slaves of all kinds of lusts; among them are those who worship idols – which they call ‘sacred statues and images’ - and go into ecstasies over their idols. John says: “ He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning” (1 John 3:8), and also: “In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother” (1 John 3:10), and again: “He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1 John 2:4). Therefore, all those who refuse to obey the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ are not born of God and thus are not children of God.


Those who are born of God believe that Jesus is the Christ, for it is written: “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him” (1 John 5:1) – the term Christ derives from the Greek christos which means ‘Anointed one’ – therefore, all those who don’t believe that Jesus is the Christ (or the Messiah, a term which derives from a Hebrew word meaning ‘Anointed one’) are not born of God and thus are not children of God.


Those who are born of God loves God and the brethren because it is written: “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God” (1 John 4:7). Those who love the brethren in deed and in truth are born of God and know God because God is love, but “he that loveth not his brother abideth in death … knoweth not God; for God is love” (1 John 3:14; 4:8). This means that those who hate us, even though they say they are Christians, are not born of God. John says: “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren” (1 John 3:14). Before knowing God, we did not love the brethren, we did not like them, we did not like to talk with them, to visit and help them, because we abode in death; we who were dead wished to stay and talk with those who were dead like us, we were proud to be friends with sinners and we loved their perverse way of life and their way of talking. But thanks be to God who has regenerated us; the day on which we were born again our mind was renewed by the Holy Spirit and we began to love the saints, through the love of God which was poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. Why then, even in this country, do many people, who say they are Christians, hate us, despise us, look unfavourably on us, detest to stay with us and to talk with us, and call us ‘a sect’ as if we were the followers of an impostor? The reason why they behave in this way is that they abide in darkness, even though they say they are in the light; they belong to this world and hate us because we are not of the world, for Jesus said: “If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you” (John 15:19). Brethren, Christ has rescued us from this evil world, that’s why those who are of this dark world hate us; they say, ‘We also are Christians like you and God is our Father also, so we have the same Father,’ but they are not of God but of the devil.


Those who are born of God are sure all their sins have been forgiven them and they have eternal life, because they have believed in the Son of God, as it is written: “All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name” (Acts 10:43 – NIV) and also: “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace” (Ephesians 1:7). Therefore, those who are of God have been washed from their sins because they were forgiven them through faith in Christ. All those who say that when they die they will go to a place called purgatory in order to be purified from their sins (or rather, to discharge their debts of temporal punishment) are not of God and thus are not members of the Body of Christ, for the Scripture says: “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). Purgatory doesn’t exist and those who believe in it deceive themselves. All those who go to the priest to confess their sins because they think that in this way their sins are forgiven are not of God and deceive themselves because the priest can’t forgive any man the sins he has committed against God. The Scripture teaches that God alone can forgive a man his sins, as it is written that He is the One “who forgives all your iniquities” (Psalm 103:3 – NKJV). Those who go to confess their sins to a priest are not purified from their sins at all, for they still have consciousness of sins, because a man must confess his sins to God in order to be forgiven and regenerated, as it is written: “I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD’ And You forgave the iniquity of my sin” (Psalm 32:5 – NKJV). Those who are of God have eternal life because they have believed in the Son of God; as Jesus said: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life” (John 6:47), and John wrote to us: “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God” (1 John 5:13). If anyone says that he is a Christian, but he says that he doesn’t have eternal life, he is not of God; many people think we are presumptuous because we say that we have eternal life; however, what we say is the truth, for it is written: “And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son” (1 John 5:11). Those who say that they are Christians, but in the meantime they say that they don’t have eternal life because they are doing their best in order to deserve it (or to buy it) are not of God; eternal life cannot be deserved by doing good works because it is not on sale; eternal life is not the wages that God gives to the sinner who makes every effort to gain it, but it is His gift that He gives freely to all those who repent and believe in Jesus Christ, as it is written: “The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23).