“I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.” – John 3:3 (NLT)
“I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit.” – John 3:5
This interaction that Jesus has with Nicodemus is probably one of my favorites to read! I have a lot of favorite moments honestly, but this conversation carries such substance. It is one of the only times that we see Jesus speak to a Pharisee plainly, and it is because of the hunger that Nicodemus conveys to Jesus in his conversation with Him.
Yet Nicodemus, in all his wisdom, knowledge, and hunger, could not grasp the concept of being born again. He was a renowned teacher in Israel, flowing in wisdom and knowledge. And Jesus was not speaking in parables to him. Despite these things, Nicodemus did not understand. And I believe that there are many today who fall into this same category as Nicodemus. We have so much knowledge, and there are many who have “wisdom,” yet they lack one of the most important keys in being a follower of Christ: understanding.
So, what does it mean to be born again? What is it to be born of water and the Spirit?
Born of water – Born of water is in reference to baptism. We are born again in the waters of baptism. Paul describes it as we are crucified and buried with Christ through the waters of baptism. Then, emerging from the water, we are rising from the crucifixion of our old, sinful selves as a new creature. We are newly born, having washed away the filth and impurities of our sinful nature. Through this new birth, we have shed off everything from our past lives and we have made room for the new.
Born of the Spirit – Emerging from the waters of baptism where we buried our old selves, we now have made room for the newness of life in Christ. Because of this room, what was emptied needs to be filled. This is where the Holy Spirit enters in. He inhabits our very being. Where sin and death once thrived and fed on our very being, the Spirit comes in and breathes life and truth. He replaces our wickedness with righteousness, guiding us into all truth.
Many believe that the act of baptism is simply a symbol of what God does in our lives. It does act as a symbolic gesture, yes, but that is the basic explanation of it. Baptism in water is so much more than simply a symbol. We in our earthly minds may not be able to fully grasp the fact that God works a miracle through the baptism, but there is power in the waters when the Lord is involved. It is quite literally the first act of faith of every believer (at least, it should be).
We already discussed the Holy Spirit the other day, but I want to reiterate something so that there is no confusion or misunderstanding. The Holy Spirit is not optional for a believer. You cannot be a follower of Christ without the Holy Spirit being present in your life. Because if you do not have the Holy Spirit, then everything you do is done through the flesh, which is not how God operates. A life lacking the Spirit is a life lacking God Himself. There is no true life outside of Him.
This is basic Christianity. These are fundamental things that we should not need to even discuss outside of new believers, yet here we are. We lack so much understanding and Godly wisdom that we have to continue to reiterate the basics. As Paul describes it, we should be eating spiritual meat, yet we are still drinking milk as if we are infants. Let us put away our childish ways, doing away with spiritual milk, and let us chew on the deeper things of the Spirit.
I will end today with this very clear and concise warning from John the Baptizer himself when he is speaking to his own disciples concerning Jesus.
“And anyone who believes in God’s Son has eternal life. Anyone who doesn’t obey the Son will never experience eternal life but remains under God’s angry judgement.” – John 3:36