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“Which comes first, being born again or being baptised?”

ED: Jesus explained to Nicodemus, the Jewish ruler, what it means to be born again:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God (John 3:3–5).

In order to be a follower of Christ you need to be born of both water and the spirit. What does that mean? ‘Born of water’ is clear, it means baptism. But what does it mean to be born of the spirit?

The Apostle Paul explains how baptism works. When you’re dipped into the water, you show that you want to share in Christ’s sacrifice and his resurrection. ‘Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life’ (Romans 6:3–4). When you’re baptised, it needs to be the result of belief and repentance, and it needs to be the beginning of a new life with God. If it’s not, then your baptism is just a bath.

Paul goes on to explain about this new life. He contrasts the new life with the old life; life as a follower of God, versus life without God. He calls the two mindsets ‘spirit’ and ‘flesh’.

Those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you (Romans 8:5–9).

To be born of water and the spirit is to be baptised and to change your life around so you’re following Christ. To be born again is not a single identifiable experience, it’s a process of transformation which centres on your baptism.

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