“Jesus answered, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I said to you, “You must be born again.” The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.’”
Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus is one of the most well known sections of the entire Bible. His statement in John 3:16 is perhaps the most famous verse in Scripture, but verses 3 and 5 of chapter 3 are also well known, seen on numerous billboards across the country.
John 3:3’s record of Jesus’ command that we must be “born again” in order to see God’s kingdom is very revealing, especially when one recognizes its figurative nature. Nicodemus didn’t; thinking that Jesus was speaking literally, he asked how a man could enter his mother’s womb a second time (v. 4). Jesus clarified by telling him that one could not enter God’s kingdom unless they were “born of water and the Spirit” (v. 5).
Christ’s reference to water is a clear allusion to baptism, a term which in the literal Greek literally refers to immersion, specifically immersion in water (John 3:23; Acts 10:47-48) in order to obtain salvation (Mark 16:16; 1 Peter 3:21), forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38; 22:16) and entrance into Christ (Romans 6:4; Galatians 3:27) and His body which is His church (1 Corinthians 12:13; Colossians 1:18). Christ’s church is His kingdom, as we see when we read that Paul and John, while writing to the church (Colossians 1:2; Revelation 1:4), would state that God had placed the members of the church into His kingdom (Colossians 1:13; Revelations 1:6, 9). Since Jesus’ church is His kingdom and when one is baptized they are added to the church, we see why Jesus would require being “born of water” before entering His kingdom.
His mention of water “and the Spirit” is a reference to the Holy Spirit, specifically the Spirit’s involvement in the work of saving mankind from our sins. Paul said that the gospel is the power God uses to save us (Romans 1:16). The gospel is found in the Word of God, which James says is what saves our souls (James 1:21). The Word of God, which we also call the Bible, is a collection of writings made by men who were inspired by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:20-21). Thus, whenever you read your Bibles you are both reading one of the major instruments God uses to offer you salvation as well as a message from the Holy Spirit.
The written Word basically contains the voice of the Spirit in a figurative sense, something Jesus alludes to in John 3:8. The term “the wind” in that verse comes from the same Greek word that is translated “Spirit,” and “blows” would be better translated as “breathes.” In other words, what Jesus is literally saying in verse 8 is, “The Spirit breathes where He wishes…” What He is talking about is the voice of the Holy Spirit as conveyed through the Scriptures.
It is through the voice of the Spirit as shown through the Word of God that we learn of our need and duty to be “born again.” Friends, if you believe God’s Word then you will respond to it through obedience as the Holy Spirit inspired James to teach us (James 2:14-26). You will submit to penitent immersion in water and thereby enter the kingdom of God which is the church of His dear Son, Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit teaches us through God’s Word that when that happens, you will be a new creation due to your repentance of sins (2 Corinthians 5:17; Acts 3:19). You will be a new person, different from how you had been before (Colossians 3:1-14). You will have been truly “born again” through the power and message of the Holy Spirit, God’s Word.