The phrase born again is first mentioned by Jesus in his ministry to the circumcision in John 3:3. By this time Israel had a long history with God. They were already God’s people for centuries.
In fact, they were born unto God when they were delivered from Egypt as God’s nation. They even had a covenant with God to prove they were God’s people.
“Thus saith the LORD, Israel is my son, even my firstborn:” – Exodus 4:22
Yet, after years of breaking the covenant with God, Israel was in no shape to enter their covenanted kingdom. Being born a Jew in the flesh was not sufficient:
“And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.” – Matthew 3:9
Israel needed to be born a second time with the Spirit to fulfill their covenants.
“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 ye shall keep my judgments…and ye shall dwell in the land…” – Ezekiel 36:24-28
The first covenant could not provide what the new covenant would through the Spirit. All who received the Spirit of the new covenant at Pentecost would be part of that born again nation of Israel.
A Renewing Spirit to Gentiles
Then, a mystery was revealed. A new ministry was dispensed from the Lord to Paul. He was sent to minister to Gentiles an unknown dominion in heavenly places.
Like the covenanted earthly kingdom, the Gentiles needed to receive the Spirit to partake in this inheritance. However, Gentiles were never born unto God in the flesh. The Gentiles had no history as God’s people. They could not be born a second time as the nation Israel.
While Israel had been born of God for thousands of years and was required to be born again, the Gentiles in Paul’s ministry were taking part in an entirely new creature (2 Cor 5:17).
For this reason the apostle to the Gentiles never mentions the phrase “born again” which speaks to Israel’s second birth of the Spirit into the new covenant. Instead, the same Spirit created an entirely new creature to fulfill God’s will in heavenly places.
“That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:” – Ephesians 1:10