Jesus answered him, “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 – Scripture of the Day (March 28, 2014)
Being “born again.” That’s a term heard a lot in the religious world, always in reference to being saved. And rightly so, because Jesus makes it very clear in today’s Scripture of the Day that one cannot see or enter the kingdom of God without being born again. So it stands to reason that when one is “born again,” one is saved.
But what does it really mean to be “born again?” Nicodemus certainly wondered, and I can’t say that I blame him for asking the question that he asked. Without elaboration, it certainly seemed like Jesus was talking about the impossible: a PHYSICAL rebirth.
But of course, upon elaboration Jesus was talking about a SPIRITUAL rebirth. That is made clear in his words, “…unless one is born of water AND THE SPIRIT, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (3:5).
What exactly does this spiritual rebirth mean, though? What does it consist of? Here’s where the majority of folks in Christendom who talk about being born again usually get vague in their answers.
“It means I asked Jesus into my heart…”
“It means that I put Jesus first…”
“It means that I dedicated my life to Christ…”
Okay…but here’s what I want to know. What did JESUS say that the spiritual rebirth consisted of? What does GOD’S WORD say that it means?
I ask only because it is God’s Word, the words of Christ, that will judge my eternal destiny in the end, not the feelings, theories, and musings of my fellow man (John 12:48; Jer. 10:23; Prov. 14:12; Matt. 7:13). So what does the BIBLE say?
Elsewhere in the New Testament, very similar, almost identical imagery to John 3:5 is used. In John, Jesus talked about being “born again” and then clarified that it meant being “born of water and the Spirit.” Read that, and then turn over to what Paul said to Titus: “(God) saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, BY THE WASHING OF REGENERATION AND RENEWAL OF THE HOLY SPIRIT” (Tit. 3:5).
“Born again…of water and the Spirit.”
“The washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.”
“Regeneration” is another way of describing being “born again.” “Washing” immediately brings “water” to mind. “The Holy Spirit” and “the Spirit” are obviously referring to the same Being.
So whatever this spiritual rebirth is, it has something to do with being washed with water. It also has something to do with the Holy Spirit.
The New Testament talks more about “washing” and “water.” Paul told Christians at Corinth that they were “washed,” and immediately correlated that with them being “sanctified” and “justified”…and then said that all this was done “by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:11). Interesting…
Paul also talked about how Christ loves the church, and while doing so said that Jesus gave himself up for the church for a specific purpose: “that he might sanctify her, HAVING CLEANSED HER BY THE WASHING OF WATER WITH THE WORD…” (Eph. 5:25-26). So that means that people who are in the church are cleansed not only by the Word of God (which came from the Spirit, by the way – 2 Pet. 1:19-21), but also by “the washing of water.” Interesting…
Look at yesterday’s Scripture of the Day, Acts 22:16. Here the Christian Ananias told Saul of Tarsus (Paul) at his conversion, “And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized AND WASH AWAY YOUR SINS, calling on his name.” So we see here that baptism is correlated with being washed, more specifically being spiritually washed, washing away your sins. Interesting…
On the day of Pentecost when his listeners asked him what to do, Peter told them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive THE GIFT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT” (Acts 2:38). So we see here that baptism is talked about right alongside of receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit. Baptism and the Holy Spirit have something to do with each other. Interesting…
Is this some sort of spiritual, metaphorical baptism? Let’s examine further. In the New Testament, time and time again people were baptized WITH WATER. John the Baptist chose to baptize at a particular spot because there was a lot of water there (John 3:23). Philip baptized the Ethiopian in water (Acts 8:35-38). Peter talked about water in correlation with baptizing Cornelius and his household (Acts 10:47-48).
And Jesus talked about being born again “of water and the Spirit” (John 3:5). What’s the obvious conclusion? Let’s sum up…
- Jesus talked about being born again of water and the Spirit in order to enter the kingdom of heaven. An obvious spiritual rebirth, but water is involved.
- Paul talked about a washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit in reference to being saved. Another way of saying to be born again by the Spirit, but washing is involved…which implies water.
- Paul told Christians that they had been sanctified and justified by the Holy Spirit…but also washed as well. Another implication that water is involved.
- Paul talked about how Jesus set the church apart after having cleansed her via the washing of water and the Word. Obviously a spiritual cleansing via God’s Word…but water is involved.
- Peter told his listeners that they needed to repent and be baptized in order to have their sins forgiven and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Baptism is mentioned alongside of the Spirit when talking about how to be forgiven of one’s sins, or saved.
- Paul was told that he needed to be baptized in order to wash his sins away. That baptism involved water, as seen in several other instances in the New Testament.
Therefore, being born again of water and the Spirit in order to be saved and enter heaven means that one is baptized. There’s no other conclusion one can come to that takes into account all of the biblical data.
Have you TRULY been born again? Have you been baptized in the name of Jesus Christ?