Water and the Spirit

As noted in the previous post about water in John 3, baptism doesn’t save anyone – it is, rather, the external sign of inner conversion by the Holy Spirit.

The Bible never teaches regeneration through baptism. Yet baptism is an external sign of regeneration once rebirth has taken place in a believer’s life.

In Mark 16:16, Jesus said, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”

When water is used figuratively in the OT, it always refers to renewal or spiritual cleansing, especially when used in conjunction with the word “spirit”. (Num. 19:17–19; Ps. 51:9, 10; Is. 32:15; 44:3–5; 55:1–3; Jer. 2:13; Joel 2:28, 29).

So, Jesus made reference to the spiritual washing or purification of the soul; it is accomplished by the Holy Spirit through the Word of God at the moment of salvation.

In two different ways, Jesus showed Nicodemus that the new birth is indispensable for seeing or entering His kingdom.

How can you enter and see the kingdom of God?

Jesus said, “You must be born again…” you must be born of water and the Spirit which is the cleansing that comes with regeneration. Do you believe that Jesus died in your place on the cross to pay for your sins; that He rose from the dead; ascended bodily into heaven and will return to judge the living and the dead?

Will you follow Him and obey Him, having trusted Him as your savior, your Lord, and your Treasure above all earthly treasures?

You desire or ability to do so is like His engraved invitation. God’s effectual call never comes apart from God’s enablement.

In the next blog, we’ll consider the difference between being born of the flesh and being born of the Spirit.

 Until then,
Pastor Kevin

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Salvation is God’s Work

Spiritual birth is something one undergoes, not something one produces. As our efforts and activities had nothing to do with our natural conception and birth, so in an analogous way but on a far higher plane, regeneration is not a work of ours.

As soon as Jesus said, “unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God,” Nicodemus knew there was a metaphor in what Jesus was saying to him about being born again.

Metaphorical language was common among Jewish rabbis like Nicodemus. Therefore, Nicodemus probed into the meaning of Jesus’ metaphor seeking its application to himself. “How can I do this?”

Jesus was talking in spiritual terms. The Master Teacher allows this tension to linger in order to draw him toward a correct understanding of regeneration as he ponders what it means to be born again.

In verse 4, the physical analogy of natural birth is stated by Nicodemus. He says, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” He’s asking for clarity.

Jesus doesn’t even answer his question about entering a second time into his mother’s womb. He continues to draw Nicodemus closer and closer to the truth.

He makes no attempt to simplify the matter, but He adds an allusion to the OT in verse 5.

Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”

In verse 3, Jesus said spiritual birth was necessary to “see” the kingdom of God; now verse 5 adds that spiritual birth is necessary to “enter” the kingdom of God.

Jesus is saying the same thing He said in verse 3 in a different way. Being “born again” and being “born of water and the Spirit” are talking about the same reality.

As a Pharisee, Nicodemus was responsible for interpreting the OT Scriptures with authority. He was considered a master teacher! That’s why it was expected that he would catch Jesus’ reference to Ezekiel 36:25-27.

Now, if you think that reference sounds obscure, then you’re underestimating the knowledge that even an average Pharisee had of the OT. But Nicodemus was no average Pharisee; he was considered the teacher of Israel… and he knew the OT.

Water and the Spirit were symbolic of what happens spiritually at conversion. It’s about cleansing from sin by the Spirit. He wasn’t referring to literal water or to baptism.

Baptism doesn’t save anyone – it is, rather, the external sign of inner conversion by the Holy Spirit. In Mark 16:16, Jesus said, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”

We’ll think more about the meaning of “born of water” in our next post.

Until then,
Pastor Kevin

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The Impossibility of Self-Regeneration

4 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?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. [ESV]

We’re learning from Jesus what it means to be born again. In this post, we’ll be considering verses 4-5.

This is where Jesus expresses the impossibility of self-regeneration; it is the work of God, not us.

One of the ways Jesus showed His love for sinners was in telling them truths about themselves which they didn’t necessarily want to hear. Nicodemus probably didn’t want to hear Jesus say that he must be born again to see the kingdom of God.

Religious people imagine that they’re very close to God already, even when they’re not. Many lost people imagine they’re saved by their own definition of salvation.

Nicodemus was one of the most religious citizens in Jerusalem. Religious people tend to be proud of their religious devotion and they tend to become defensive when someone tells them that their religious devotion is insufficient and misdirected.

This man was a Pharisee. He was a ruler of the Jews… meaning he was a member of the Sanhedrin. He was elderly and distinguished, while Jesus was regarded as a young teacher with new ideas who performed God-given signs.

We learn later that Nicodemus was also somewhat wealthy and he later used his resources to prepare Jesus’ body for burial. Nicodemus later came to true faith in Christ, according to John 7:50-52. But John 3 is about before he came to faith.

You see, Nicodemus is like all of us in that each of us must be born again.

 Jesus loves Nicodemus enough to tell him the truth… even when He knows that truth will bring offense and conviction. The truth of God often hurts before it heals.

If most church people heard someone say what Nicodemus said in verse 2, they would do back-flips and rejoice! They would assure him that he was saved already and would have hastily offered him the proverbial right hand of fellowship!

Listen to his confession in verse 2: “We know you’re a teacher come from God; no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.”

That’s all most people need to hear. They would say that Nicodemus is already going to heaven based on his confession alone, not to mention his morally upright lifestyle… most people would say that he’s already going to see the kingdom of God when he dies.

However, Jesus doesn’t say that; Jesus says the opposite. “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Meaning: “You, Nicodemus, cannot see the kingdom of God unless you are born again.”

We’ll pick it up here in our next blog post.

Until then,
Pastor Kevin

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