Why You Can’t Be Born Again

Justin Johnson

Ever since Chuck Colson’s popular biography, being “born again” has been a mainstream euphemism for a salvation experience.

Some have used “born again” as a way to separate the devout from the nominal Christian. Unfortunately, many believe they are saved because they have a “born again” feeling, changed life, or emotional experience and have no testimony of trusting Christ’s finished work on the cross.

When studied from the Bible rightly divided, “born again” is something that only Israel could do. No Gentile could be born again.

Israel’s First Birth

To understand why only Israel could be born again, we must know how they were born the first time.

In Exodus the nation of Israel was born the first time when God delivered them out of Egypt. The LORD calls the nation his firstborn son.

“And thou shalt say unto Pharaoh, Thus saith the LORD, Israel is my son, even my firstborn: And I say unto thee, Let my son go, that he may serve me…” – Exodus 4:22-23

Having been delivered and redeemed from Egypt, Israel was given the law, the Mosaic covenant, that sanctified them as a people.

Israel’s Need for a Second Birth

Over time Israel became disobedient and where the law was sin abounded. They were no longer bound by Egypt, but they were bound by the covenant to their sins with no way out.

As Israel’s sins grew it was clear that merely being born a Jew into the promises and covenants of God was not able to cause them to serve the Lord.

The prophets spoke of a better covenant that would replace the old for the house of Israel (Jer 31:31). This new covenant would include the impartation of God’s Spirit to cause them to walk in his statutes (Eze 36:27).

It was this new covenant that was necessary for God to fulfill his kingdom promises to Israel.

Nicodemus and Born Again

That the prophets already spoke about Israel’s new covenant is why when Jesus spoke to Nicodemus about being born again he said:

“Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?” – John 3:10

Nicodemus should have known that Israel had a great need, and that the need was for their nation to be redeemed from their old covenant bondage to enter the kingdom God had promised them.

“Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” – John 3:3

Jesus made it clear to Nicodemus that the nation had to be born again when he said “Ye must be born again.” (John 3:7 -We know that “ye” is the plural pronoun; and “thee” the singular.)

Jesus came to Israel ministering their need for being born again through a better covenant. No longer would Israel be identified by the old covenant but by the new.

People who think they are born again must also think they are in some way Israel.

A New Creature

Only Israel could be born again, because only Israel was born unto God a first time (Exo 4:22). You can’t be born again, because you are not saved by being Israel or by Israel’s covenants.

Gentiles were strangers of the covenants and without God (Eph 2:12). Gentiles were not born into God’s covenants. Our salvation would not be a second time opportunity for us. It would be the first time salvation was offered directly to us without Israel.

Our salvation by grace is not consequent to a changed life, a Spirit unction, or a better way to obey God’s statutes.

Our salvation is not described as being born again into a second covenant, but being made alive into a new creature (Eph 2:15). This new creature, called the Body of Christ, is neither Jewish nor Gentile, and operates not under the law (Rom 6:14; Gal 3:28).

The new creature is the subject of the mystery of Christ and could not have been known by Nicodemus, the prophets, nor any of the apostles in John 3.

Herein is the Problem…

When people use “born again” language to describe their salvation today, it hides the preaching of the cross, which is unique to the formation of the new creature by God’s grace.

“Born again” language takes us back to before the cross in John 3 and replaces the gospel of Christ with Israel’s new covenant.

Born again language is a denial of the mystery of Christ revealed to the apostle Paul.

People who think they are born again must also think they are in some way Israel.


Being born again is something for Israel to partake. Since Israel is fallen, you couldn’t be born again if you wanted to.

What you can be is saved by God’s grace through faith in his finished work on the cross. At the moment you believe, the Holy Spirit seals you in Christ making you part of a new creature.

Trusting the cross of Christ is what will save you today. Trusting your experience, devotion, or changed life will not. Being saved is far better than being born again.

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Published: October 1, 2016
Last Modified: April 30, 2019
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