Born From Above

Christian believers use a lot of terms and expressions foreign to nonbelievers. Even many who attend church regularly don't know the meaning of some of these terms.

A common one is born again. Believers will ask people, "Are you born again?" as if the person would know what they're talking about. Sometimes believers approach a person and tell them, "You need to be born again!" But unless it's explained, the term doesn't mean much to them.

Nicodemus, a Jewish leader well-trained in the Scriptures, discreetly approached Jesus one night. Jesus knew what he was seeking and told Nicodemus of his need to be born again to see or enter the Kingdom of God.

But Nicodemus didn't understand what Jesus meant. What Nicodemus heard was that he needed to be born from above—this is the literal meaning of the term born again. But he still didn't understand what Jesus meant.


Nicodemus was a Pharisee and a member of the Jewish council. He came to Jesus one night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that God has sent you as a teacher. No one can perform the miracles you perform unless God is with him.”

Jesus replied to Nicodemus, “I can guarantee this truth: No one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.”

Nicodemus asked him, “How can anyone be born when he’s an old man? He can’t go back inside his mother a second time to be born, can he?” [vss 1-4]

Jesus answered Nicodemus, “I can guarantee this truth: No one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. Flesh and blood give birth to flesh and blood, but the Spirit gives birth to things that are spiritual.

Don’t be surprised when I tell you that all of you must be born from above. The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you don’t know where the wind comes from or where it’s going. That’s the way it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” [vss 5-8]

Nicodemus replied, “How can that be?” Jesus told Nicodemus, “You’re a well-known teacher of Israel. Can’t you understand this?

I can guarantee this truth: We know what we’re talking about, and we confirm what we’ve seen. Yet, you don’t accept our message. If you don’t believe me when I tell you about things on earth, how will you believe me when I tell you about things in heaven? [vss 9-12]

(John 3:1-12 GW)


Key phrase—

Don’t be surprised when I tell you that all of you must be born from above

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • Who approaches Jesus and when does this happen? How does their discussion start?

  • What does Jesus tell this man? What is this man's response?

  • How does Jesus answer this man's question? What specific things does Jesus tell him?

  • Do you think this man understood Jesus? Do you think Jesus explained Himself clearly?


Many English translations of the Bible use the term born again instead of the literal expression—born from above. This distinction is important! This birth "from above" is spiritual and different than natural birth (John 1:12-13) and tied to having a relationship with God.

When Jesus tells Nicodemus he can't see or enter the Kingdom of God without this new birth "from above" it didn't make sense to him. As a Jewish man descended from Abraham, Nicodemus assumed it was his right and privilege to be included in God's kingdom.

This is one reason Jesus tried to explain to Nicodemus that to be included in God's kingdom required a change—a change of nature. No one inherits this privilege and it can't be earned with good deeds or good morals—a spiritual rebirth from God must take place.

Much of what Jesus says to Nicodemus is in figurative language but it's not obscure or too hard to understand. Jesus is speaking of a spiritual process or work that God does in us. The Spirit of God is likened to the wind—we can't see Him but we can see and experience the effect or work of the Spirit of God in our lives.

Taking it to heart...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

  • Why do you think Nicodemus doesn't understand what Jesus tells him?

  • Do you understand what Jesus said and meant?

  • Have you experienced this birth "from above"? If not, would you like to?

  • If you understand what Jesus meant, how would you share this with a nonbeliever in your own words (IYOW)?

Personalize it...

Meditate On This— What Jesus told Nicodemus about being "born from above" is true for anyone. It is a spiritual work of God in a person. It is a personal and experiential rebirth that takes place when God's Spirit regenerates a person's inner spirit—their spiritual heart.

Prayer Focus— If you have not experienced being "born from above," simply ask God for it. It does require a willingness of heart and faith, that is, trust in Jesus—God's Son. It is a relationship that is spiritual in nature and needs to be nurtured by God's Spirit and truth.

If you have received this new birth, ask God to help you see how to grow in your relationship with Him. He will guide you by His Spirit in you and through His written word—the Bible.