Being born again is not our choice

Published 3:39 pm Thursday, June 17, 2021

In John 3, Nicodemus has come to Jesus for some answers.

Nicodemus is a good Pharisee, a good teacher. He’s had the right training. He’s read the right books.  But apparently, he’s not satisfied because he comes to Jesus, a new rabbi, one who hasn’t had the proper training, way off the usual beaten path.

He comes at night, so the others can’t see, so the others don’t know that those answers they’ve given are unsatisfactory, and he’s still looking for more.  Jesus tells him you need to be born again. You need to be born from above.

“How can this be?” Nicodemus cries.

Kenneth Bailey, middle eastern scholar and theologian, sees the Trinity in Jesus’ answers to Nicodemus.

First, God the Father is involved.  You must be born again.  Now of course for us this is a very familiar phrase, as familiar to us as it was unfamiliar to Nicodemus who sees it only physically. How do you get back into your mother’s womb? But it’s so familiar to us we may not really understand it.

For many of us it seems like our own personal challenge, our own choice, to be born again, I must make the personal choice to follow Jesus to believe in him.  But remember birth is not something we have any control in, it’s not our choice, it’s God’s and it’s God’s alone. And so it is with our second birth.

In Jesus’ second answer we see the spirit. Again, this is not something we can control, the powerful wind goes where it will, invisible, but yet visible by its results and its consequences, the leaves rustling, the lives changed.

Then in the third answer, the one to Nicodemus’ “How can this be?”  The answer is the son, you must believe in him. That is how this second birth happens, by believing in him.

It is in this context that we have this most familiar, most beloved verse for us in the whole Bible – John 3:16 – for God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whosoever shall believe in him shall be saved and have eternal life.

That’s what it means to be reborn, born from above, to believe in Christ, trust him with our lives, staking our lives on him in a faith not our own intellectual assent, but a faith given to us from above, given to us by God.

So how do you believe?  Have you staked your life on it? Can you say to others that God loved the world so much he gave his only son and believe it.

Then do it, and tell others about it.

Do it today.

REV. DALE BROWN is the pastor of Cumberland and Guinea Presbyterian churches. His email address is