What does it mean to be “born again?”
Jesus tells Nicodemus he must be “born again” of “water and the Spirit,” but again, how does one do that? Nicodemus doesn’t understand – though Jesus thought he should understand it – and we have trouble with it too.
In Ezekiel 36, God promised a time of new birth. He would give his people a new heart and a new spirit – His Spirit! The result of this would be that Israel would be faithful to God’s decrees and laws. It would involve the cleansing of water and bestowal of Spirit. It is interesting that hot on the heels of Jesus’ words to Nicodemus, John mentions baptism.
But do not make the mistake of thinking that the “new birth” is “getting baptized.”
There are elements here often missed.
The first is that “flesh gives birth to flesh” and spirit gives birth to spirit.” The new birth changes us and gives us God’s DNA (so to speak). The reborn person does not hate the light (which exposes the darkness) but enters it willingly so that what he does is seen to be by the power of God (verse 21).
Basically, being born again gives a life a new nature and a new direction. This may begin at baptism, but if baptism is all it is, there has really been no new birth. Life must be different and that difference is seen in holiness. This, really, is the eternal life; not just one that goes on forever, but shares in the very nature and action of God.