I understand this question can be approached from different denominational positions, depending on how one interprets John 3:3-5.

Jesus replied, "Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again." "How can someone be born when they are old?" Nicodemus asked. "Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother's womb to be born!" Jesus answered, "Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit." — Gospel of John, chapter 3, verses 3–5, NIV

  • In the nature of this website, and in the nature of present day Christianity (a wide spectrum of professions) we need a focal point. Being 'open to any and all answers' is too broad an enquiry. On this comparative website, you do need to specify which part of the very varied professions you require an answer from. Welcome to SE-C, please see the Tour and the Help (below, bottom right) as to the purpose and the functioning of the site.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Sep 22, 2020 at 6:44
  • 1
    Since every Christian (except for this present generation) who has been born again (since the sufferings, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ two thousand years ago) subsequently died and now lies in the grave, it surely must be the case (logically) that being born again is a spiritual matter and that the bodily resurrection at the return of Christ will complete redemption. But it is without doubt that - somewhere in 'christendom' - some will hold opinions which will completely contradict what I have just written.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Sep 22, 2020 at 7:36
  • 1
    I removed the last line. I'll look over the Tour and Help sections. Thanks!
    – Katechonic
    Commented Sep 24, 2020 at 18:09

4 Answers 4


What it means to be born again

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. (Joh 3:3-6)

Notice: born of water and Spirit. Nicodemus assumes a physical interpretation and Jesus clarifies that being born again is of water and Spirit. This doubtless is a reference to the great promise to Israel:

Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them. (Eze 36:25-27)

The traditional reformed position is that being born again is the work of God in cleansing us from sin (through justification by faith) and the regeneration of the Holy Ghost. It is absolutely a spiritual regeneration that produces a complete transformation, and here is why:

  1. Man is dead in sins and trespasses

And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: (Eph 2:

Notice this is a real spiritual death and awakening, not figurative and not physical

  • The death is not the physical death but a spiritual death through our own sin.
  • The quickening has already happened for the believer. (hath quickened)
  • Believers are said to be in heavenly places in Christ (a spiritual location).
  1. Man was born a slave to sin.

Adam, though given authority over creation subjected himself to the authority of Satan and became a slave of sin:

Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever. If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed. (Joh 8:34-36)

The children of a servant belongs to the Master of that servant:

If his master have given him a wife, and she have born him sons or daughters; the wife and her children shall be her master's, and he shall go out by himself. (Exo 21:4)

I got me servants and maidens, and had servants born in my house; also I had great possessions of great and small cattle above all that were in Jerusalem before me: (Ecc 2:7)

But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise. (Gal 4:23)

And so as descendants of Adam mankind are all slaves to sin (Here I differ from many traditional interpretations saying we are born sinful):

This means that sin rules over man because it rules in his flesh.

For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. (Rom 7:14-15)

The analogy of a servant is again not just an analogy but the actual spiritual condition of every human descendant of Adam.

Summary of the Problem

Therefor man has primarily two very big problems:

  1. His guilt before an infinitely holy and just God produced by Sin
  2. His slavery to that Sin that caused the guilt, and inability to free or redeem himself

God’s solution: Death and Resurrection

The death and resurrection of Christ as the substitution for our sin, vindicated by his resurrection as being Himself without sin and therefor a perfect sacrifice for sin, deals with our guilt. This is called justification: being declared innocent by the Judge of all the earth for our past sins.

To receive this imputation of righteousness as a free gift, one simply has to believe: \

For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. (Rom 3:23-26)

And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness. Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification. (Rom 4:22-25)

The solution is easy – believe, the problem is: “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Yes, how can someone dead in sins, believe? How can a slave of sin, do this good thing to believe on the Son of God? Unless his nature is changed… unless he is born from a new, free Spirit rather than the spirit of his father Adam.

And also that is not the end of the story because our guilt before God is a fruit of Sin in our flesh, and a declaration and imputation of righteousness does not deal with the sinful nature. Shall we continue to sin and remain guiltless before God after this imputed righteousness?

God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? (Rom 6:2-3)

Again the solution is death and resurrection, this time our death and resurrection.

Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. (Rom 6:4-6)

Dying with Christ deals with our sinful nature – it is put to death. A dead servant is not under obligation to his old master. But a dead person is still just dead and so it’s not just dying with Christ, but rather being made alive in Him that brings about new life.

This is called regeneration, where the believer is renewed into the Image of the Son, the image of God. The work is done by the indwelling of the Spirit of God.

There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. (Rom 8:1-4)

So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you. (Rom 8:8-11)

Notice here the fulfilment of both rpomises in Ezekiel 36:

Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you (Justification). A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. (regeneration) And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them. (Eze 36:25-27)

So how does this relate to being born again?

Use as Analogy, the conception of Jesus:

And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.(Luk 1:35)

Jesus is born by the Will of the Father, conceived by the Holy Ghost, and himself born as the Son of God, free from the bondage of the decendents of Adam.

Similarly God, the Father, predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, (Eph 1:5). And therefor everyone that receive Christ (that believe on his name – present tense) were born of the will of God (past tense)…

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. (Joh 1:12-13)


Whosoever believeth (present tense: Greek is present active) that Jesus is the Christ is born (perfect - Greek is perfect passive) of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him. (1Jn 5:1)

Being born of the will of God, preceeds faith. It is the work of the Holy Ghost in us: The Holy Ghost, “conceives” in us a new heart and a new Spirit. That Spirit is the Spirit of the Son of God:

But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ. (Gal 4:4-7)

As a result, I have a new Spirit, the Spirit of Christ, abiding in me – enabling me to see and enter into the Kingdom of God. The ability to see andunderstand enables me to believe (See Mat 13:11-16) which grants me repentance and faith for justification. But if I am justified by the death of the Son while yet a sinner, how much more shall I not be saved by his Life (Rom 5:6-9) – and so the New Life of the Spirit of Christ dwelling in me, enables me to walk in the Spirit, fulfilling the righteousness of the Law.

Therefor being born again is not the consequence of something that I have done, but what God the Father willed before the foundation of the World, the Holy Ghost conceives and the Son enabled through his death and life.

This is evident from the answer that Jesus gives Nicodemus about how to be born again:

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. (Joh 3:7-8)

It is absolutely the Work of God not induced by any person and whose origin and destination is as mysterious as the origin and destination of wind.

And so in the final answer: No, it is not the body or soul that is reborn - it is the spirit:

That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. (Joh 3:6)

The Spirit is the life of the body and soul, enabling the flesh to walk in the Spirit and the Soul to have the will, mind and heart of the Spirit:

for “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. (Gal 5:22-25)

  • Nice explanation. You have missed a few things that are part of this important facet of salvation. Do a study of the 'born again' references - you will find that 'begotten' is the state we are presently in - 'born again, or 'born from above', as Jesus puts it,' is when we are raised, as flesh and blood cannot inherit the K. We are begotten in this age, born in the next. Then you have all the references to the 'body' being transformed to be like Jesus body. Jesus was reborn when raised as explained in answer here.
    – steveowen
    Commented Sep 24, 2020 at 7:00
  • @user47952: Not sure I agree, but let me try to understand: Are you saying that the Born again Jesus is talking about in John 3 refers to the resurrection? And the regeneration experienced in this life is rather begotten? Commented Sep 29, 2020 at 19:35
  • yes, correct - that's what the sum of texts on the matter reveal - contrary to popular theology. We are not spiritually alive yet and made imperishable - we are still flesh with a 'deposit' only of H Spirit 2 Cor 1:21-2. Read what Jesus and Paul said and put it together. A father begets, not gives birth to; we are born of the spirit 1 Pet 1:23 when Jesus returns and we are raised or changed.
    – steveowen
    Commented Sep 29, 2020 at 22:35
  • @user47952: Okay, so I went and looked at every verse and not one is future tense: Most are Aorist tense, 1 Pet 1:23 is actually present tense and all in 1 John is perfect tense. I am absolutely open to theories that challenge my assumptions (how else do we know we have confidence that what we believe is true), but so far your theory is not convincing. Two questions: 1) Do you have a convincing text that being born again is a future event coinciding with the resurrection? 2) May I ask, how will you know if you are wrong? Commented Sep 30, 2020 at 6:55
  • What you say may well be true - however 'tense' is not the final trump! We have to manage the 'flesh' and the imperishibility aspects - According to what I see, if we are still flesh and blood - we haven't entered the kingdom, if we haven't we are not born again.
    – steveowen
    Commented Sep 30, 2020 at 7:00

As asked, your question will receive many answers, most of them will be personal opinions. I will not undertake to answer your question as asked. I will however, give you the scriptures concerning this subject as I know them. You may use them for your research in seeking truth. I also would like to suggest that you seek consultation with your Pastor or other trusted Christian.

Those Scriptures from the King James version are as follows:

Matthew 11:28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

Matthew 11:29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

Matthew 10:28 And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

Matthew 16:25 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.

Matthew _7:21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

Matthew _7:24 Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock:

Matthew_7:26 And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand:

John_15:15 Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.

Matthew 7:16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?

Matthew 7:17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.

Matthew 7:18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.

Matthew 7:19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.

Matthew 7:20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.

You will also find that some good commentaries will help in understanding not only these, but any other Scriptures.

There are several Bible study aids available for free downloads on the internet, I have found them very helpful. Two fine ones that I use are e-sword and the Word. Both are free and have the ability to download many Bible versions, commentaries, and many other useful things such as maps, and etc.

Good luck in your studies, they are invaluable to new Christians as well as elder Christians.


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.
That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
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 3:3,6,8

The next time you are with someone that claims to have been "born again" (in the Biblical sense), check whether they are composed of spirit and are capable of appearing and disappearing.

If they aren't, for them "born again" simply means that they feel like they have become a new person. This is a perfectly valid English expression, but it has nothing to do with Jesus's biblical use.

Birth is the result of conception and gestation:

no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit

At baptism (immersion in water symbolizes burial and resurrection), the human spirit combines with the holy spirit to form the beginnings of a new spiritual being (just as sperm and egg combine to form the beginnings of a new physical being). And just as an embryo/fœtus grows and matures as it is nourished by the parent, that combined spirit grows and matures as the Christian develops a God-like character. Finally, at Christ's return, that new spirit being (the essence of what we are) will be born as a perfect God-like being, a true child of God, and the old physical body will be abandoned.

In the biblical sense, no one will be born again until Christ returns:

In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. — 1 Corinthians 15:52–53

  • Which denomination's teachings does this post present? I've never heard of the idea of a combined spirit joined from the human spirit and holy spirit.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Oct 26, 2020 at 3:55
  • @curiousdannii, I'm not a member of this or any other similar related organizations, but they do explain their beliefs quite clearly and logically, based on the Bible, not on tradition or new revelation. A couple of examples of this particular belief: God's Own Literal Children | United Church of God and God's Seed | United Church of God Commented Oct 26, 2020 at 14:15
  • @curiousdannii, you might also find this of general interest: Fundamental Beliefs of the United Church of God (I'm not trying to convert anyone, but should you happen to deal with them, everything they offer is totally free of charge with no advertising or follow-up requests for money. Ditto for the other CoG organizations.) Commented Oct 27, 2020 at 13:18
  • @RayButterworth They're non-Trinitarian, so I'd fundamentally disagree with their theology unfortunately. However if they don't believe in the personhood of the Holy Spirit, it does make a sort of sense that they'd teach something like what you outlined in this answer.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Oct 27, 2020 at 13:23

Before we get to an answer, we must first show some details about being 'born again'

Jesus is the firstborn of 'many brethren' Believers are the 'many brethren'.

Rom 8:29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, He would be the firstborn among many brethren.

We follow Jesus in the pattern laid down by God for all to follow. Jesus becoming the firstborn happened at his resurrection.

For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit. 1 Pet 3:18

Jesus was 'made alive in the spirit'/reborn at his resurrection. Prior to that he was mortal and subject to death. Rom 6:9 This was his re-birth into the spirit realm. Ours will be the same. When resurrected we will be granted immortality as Jesus was. (Rom 6:9 again)

Prior to this, at baptism, we received the 'deposit' (Eph 1:14) of holy spirit (Jesus also at baptism) - we are not born again yet.

having been begotten again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, through the word of God, which liveth and abideth. ESV ASV 1 Pet 1:23

They have correctly used 'begotten' rather than born here. Notice it is the 'seed', the deposit that is placed within us as God's 'gift' of Holy Spirit to reorient our will with His until Jesus returns. Just as a 'seed' makes a new life in the womb, this is begotten, not yet born.

So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body; 43 it is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body 1 Cor 15:42-4

The 'raised from dead' Paul describes is when our 'humble body' is transformed as part of the re-birth process.

1 Cor 15:50 reminds us that 'flesh and blood cannot enter the kingdom'

John 3 informs that we must be born 'from above' to see the kingdom

If we are still flesh and blood, we are not yet born again or born from above.

So to your question, we know that the soul can die with this mortal body of flesh and blood - when raised, the body will be given new life of spirit. There is no mention of soul in the next life.

  • Jesus was not 'mortal and subject to death'. He did what no other human has ever done - he yielded his life voluntarily and released the spirit.. (John 10:18 and Matthew 27:50)
    – Nigel J
    Commented Sep 24, 2020 at 18:19
  • @NigelJ that can sound like he committed suicide. "l Iay it down', refers to the humble willingness to let it be taken by the process that had been in place for millennia, not to some ability he had to spontaneously die! Maybe, your comment wasn't intended to convey this concept...
    – steveowen
    Commented Oct 4, 2020 at 22:34
  • The original wording is 'he expired'. Jesus Christ was not mortal. Being without sin there was no righteous reason for him to be relieved of his life. He had done no wrong. He deserved to live. None could take his life away. John 10:18 No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father. But it was necessary for him to die, that his people might be delivered from sin, from death and from law. They died with him. They rose with him. 'Ye are dead with Christ'.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Oct 4, 2020 at 22:40
  • . . . . However I do take your point and His 'laying down' his life may well signal that it was a joint action (Son and Father). Laying down and taking. Your point is food for thought and is welcomed. Regards.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Oct 4, 2020 at 22:44

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