The fundamental passage of the New Testament on Jesus' teaching about being born again is John's Gospel, chapter three. In this chapter there are several very critical facts that we need to keep in mind. The first of these critical facts is that Jesus made His comments to a man who was one of the leaders of the people of God, the nation of Israel. (060) To this man, Jesus said, "You must be born again." The significance of this is that Jesus completely set aside the argument that is well abused today that God will keep His Church leadership from deep errors of heresy. People who rest their eternal salvation on the teachings of men who claim this immunity from heresy are in serious danger of being rejected by God in the day of judgment. The point is this: each one of us will stand before God on his own. In that day, the critical issue will be whether we were born again or not.
That raises the question of how a person is born again. It is interesting that this question is raised twice in John 3:4 and 9. When Jesus told Nicodemus that he had to be born again, He caught him as off-guard as many people are today when faced with this issue. This is the second critical fact that the text establishes. Nicodemus didn't have the foggiest notion of what Jesus was getting at. That's why he twice asked Jesus How?.
This ought to send the sirens of warning off in the minds of those who think that the new birth occurs when a person is baptized.
Because Nicodemus knew all about baptism. He was a highly educated Jewish teacher. He knew the Scriptures. If he knew all about baptism, but didn't know what Jesus meant, it should be more than obvious to all of us that there was not one single link in the Scriptures between water baptism and a new birth. There was no such link in the days of Nicodemus and there still isn't today--in spite of the fact that untold numbers of religious groups claim that the new birth occurs at baptism.
This means that baptism isn't the answer to the question: How is a person born again?.
But, if that isn't how it happens, then what is it that brings it about? The answer to that question is given by Jesus twice in this text. After all, Nicodemus asked the question twice, so Jesus gave the answer twice.
In the first answer, recorded in verses 5-8, Jesus rejects Nicodemus' possible explanation of a second physical birth (v. 4) and explains that it is a birth by the Spirit of God. Then, in verses 10-21, Jesus explains that it is a birth that occurs when the truth of the Gospel is clearly understood and believed in.
Let me urge you to take down your Bible and open it to John 3:1-21. Read the words of Jesus in this conversation and ask Him to open your understanding to the truth of what He told Nicodemus.