"Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."
Now Nicodemus, in spite of all his human understanding, questions Jesus as to how a man could be born again when he is old, so Jesus elaborates,
"Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God."(John 3:5)
According to the teaching of the Lord Jesus, which is the absolute highest authority, both water and the Spirit constitute the new birth of which He was speaking. He requires both aspects of this new birth for admission into God's kingdom, which is where we receive eternal life. Today we commonly refer to this experience as 'salvation.'To be saved from the wages of sin, which is death, is to inherit life in the kingdom of heaven forever. Remember that the Lord Himself requires a rebirth of both water and the holy Spirit in order to be saved, and although both aspects are of vital importance, it is the water that will be the topic this study.
What is the water to which Jesus was referring? Is it the natural first birth of a child, or is actual water used in the new birth experience? It cannot be child birth as some would argue. Though water is involved when a mother gives birth to her child (water is also a part of everything that lives or gives life), Jesus was not speaking of the first birth, but rather He taught that we must be "born again."It's absurd to think that Jesus was teaching that we must be born a first time into the flesh in order to be born a second time. It is obvious that a man cannot be saved without being born into this world. He would not need to be saved; he would not exist. Can you imagine someone trying to preach a sermon on the fact that no one can be born again unless he has been born once as a baby? That would be ridiculous! Yet some would have us to believe that this is what the all-knowing Son of God meant by saying that one must be born of the water. Nowhere else in Scripture does Jesus or anyone else teach this. Therefore, since
"By the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established,"(Deuteronomy 19:15, Matthew 18:16)
we cannot interpret John 3:5 to mean physical birth.
Even though it is true that one must be born a first time in order to be born a second time, however elementary, Jesus was not speaking of our first birth. Everyone is born once, but He tells us we must be "born again."In this passage of Scripture, Jesus is explaining to Nicodemus how a grown man can be reborn. The true meaning of the water to which Jesus was referring must agree with the rest of Scripture. Throughout the New Testament we can see one basic theme. Every time a new convert is "born again,"or saved, that person is always baptized in water and filled with the holy Spirit. Therefore, since all of Scripture is true, being "born of water" can only be interpreted to mean Christian baptism.
We do not add to the word of God by including baptism in the plan of salvation. On the contrary, the New Testament Scriptures establish Christian water baptism as the point of contact in which one is stripped of his sins and clothed with Christ. This means that a person comes to Christ through baptism. In other words, it is the place where one exits the old life of sin and enters a new life in Christ Jesus. The apostle Paul mentions this in his letter to the Galatians. Chapter 3 verses 26-27 say,
"For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ."
Paul tells the Galatians that they who have been baptized into Christ are sons of God and that through baptism they have "put on Christ." Paul illustrates this truth further in the 6th chapter of Romans. In verses 3 and 4 he states,
"Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we are buried with Him through baptism into death (remember that), that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life."
This passage of Scripture also tells us that we are baptized into Christ, but here Paul goes on to compare our Christian baptism with the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Here we see that one must die in order to "walk in newness of life." Now pay close attention as we examine this passage further. Again, remember that "we are buried with Him through baptism into death." Now look at verses 5-7. The comments in parentheses are mine.
"For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection," (*when we receive the holy Spirit) "knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him," (*through repentance) "that the body of sin might be done away with," (*water baptism for the remission of sins) "that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For He who has died has been freed from sin." (**born again) (*see Acts 2:38) (**see John 3:3-8)
According to Paul, how is one freed from sin? It is by dying to sin. Verse 10 says,
"For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all."
So how does one die to sin and therefore be freed? Is it not by receiving the death that Jesus died for us all when He died to sin? How then can we take part? How can we participate in the death which Jesus died for us? Did you remember verse 4?
"Therefore we are buried with Him through baptism into death."
We see then that we must die to sin before we can be born again to God through the holy Spirit. Furthermore we see that it is Christ's death that we must die with Him in order to be freed from sin and receive a new life from God. This is accomplished as we share in his death, burial, and resurrection through water baptism. Outwardly these things are symbolic, but in our spirits we truly identify with Christ's sacrifice, claiming our share in the redemption which was purchased. The change occurs as we put off sin and put on the new life in Christ Jesus.
Once we have received His death through baptism, we can then receive eternal life through His Spirit. This is the new birth. This is what Jesus meant by saying,
"Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God."(John 3:5)
This same truth is also declared in Titus 3:5. It reads,
"Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the holy Spirit."
Therefore we can conclude from the holy Scriptures that we are born again when we are regenerated through the washing of water and renewed by God's holy Spirit.