What does born again mean?
How is a man born again?
The translation of John 3:3, 7 as "born again" followed the Latin Vulgate, translated into English in the Douay-Rheims, and for 400 years has been the translation found in the KJV, so it has become the best known, the traditional translation. Yet as far back as the 16th century there have been 2 other ways to translate that Greek phrase as seen in the 1535 Coverdale Bible as "borne a new" and the 1539 Great Bible as "borne from aboue", which was also prepared by Myles Coverdale. There is no variation in the Greek manuscripts of the NT, so it is a translation choice, from Greek, not from Latin.
Words usually have several meanings and the context will determine the meaning to be understood. There are three choices, two of which are "born again" or "born anew" in John 3:3, 7. Both are based on the misunderstanding of Nicodemus in the context. The traditional translation of anothen
as "again" has less support in John than "born from above" as seen in the following three verses from John.
"He that cometh from above is above all: he that is of the earth is earthly, and speaketh of the earth: he that cometh from heaven is above all." (John 3:31)
"Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin." (John 19:11)
"Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took his garments, and made four parts, to every soldier a part; and also his coat: now the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout." (John 19:23)
The translation "born from above" is based on the Apostle John's usage of the Greek under Holy Spirit inspiration. In the first chapter of John is a statement that seems to clinch the meaning of "born from above", which is from God.
"But as many as received Him, to them He gave authority to become children of God, to the ones believing into His name, who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but were born of God." (Joh 1:12-13) ["believing" is a present participle denoting belief present and continuing]
Man's believing is not initiated or caused by or from the will of man, but from the will of God, the sole author of being born from above. God's act of giving spiritual birth to man is prerequisite to his being able to believe and receive Jesus. The Holy Spirit gives the believer his faith.
Jesus speaks of the continuing belief and life as indication of having had a true spiritual birth from above, "Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, 'If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples;'" (John 8:31)
Luke describes briefly a birth from above and the response or attending action, "One of those listening was called Lydia, a dealer in purple fabric, who came from the city of Thyatira; she was a worshipper of God, and the Lord opened her heart to respond to what Paul said." (Acts 16:14)
The Apostle Peter also speaks upon this idea of being regenerated coming from the initial birth from above, "Having purified your souls in the obedience of the truth through the Spirit to unpretended brotherly love, love one another fervently out of a pure heart, being regenerated, not by corruptible seed, but incorruptible, through the living Word of God, and remaining forever. Because "all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of men as the flower of grass; the grass was dried, and its flower fell out, but the Word of the Lord remains forever." And this is the Word announced as gospel to you." (1Pe 1:22-25) See the gospel from Isaiah 40:6-8
To "regenerate" is to change radically and for the better and this is by the word of God.
"Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth." (John 17:17)
About the "water" in John 3:5, "Jesus answered, 'Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit.'" (John 3:5-6)
"If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things?" (John 3:12)
In context Jesus' words about "being born of water and Spirit" compared to flesh and spirit clearly indicates he is saying that not only is one born physically, he must be born by the Spirit. There in nothing in the context referring to baptism.