Sunday, November 7, 2010

What does it mean by "Born of Water and the Spirit"?

Q: What does it mean of the following verse that Jesus said "No one will enter in to the kingdom, If he is not born of Spirit and water". Does this water refer to baptism or some other thing?

A: The verse you are referring is in John 3:5, "Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God." Understading the context is very very important to understand this great scrictural passage which is an answer to the question that the cheif rabbi of the whole nation of Israel asked in the previous verses to Jesus.

Nicodemus was a man of the Pharisees [i.e. religious gurus of Jesus' time] and a ruler of the Jews. This man was so afraid of being identified with the greatest radical teacher and miracle worker of His times because of his own religious standing in the sight of the people of Israel. So he came by night and wanted to meet this man who was the greatest revolutinary teacher and a miracle worker to him. The Pharisees were always jealous and angry against Jesus because Jesus always spoke against their wrong attitude and practices, inspite of all these things Nicodemus himself being a Pharisee of the highest order, knew that Jesus teaching was right and accurate because it was from God, and the signs, miracles and wonders that he did were a direct working of the power and person of God who is with Him. This small light of revelation he had because he was indeed a sincere seeker of truth and at the same time had fear of people which kept him in religious bondage.

Hear what happened next, "This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.”" (John 3:2). First of all he came by night because he did not want people to see him with Jesus who was the radical who stood against his own Pharisaical practices. Just when he wanted to tell Jesus how genuine He is, Jesus changed the subject and spoke directly to the need this great teacher of the law was in. This man had not yet realised that he was a sinner in need of a Saviour but he was feeling empty inside his heart because of his rigorous religious lifestyle. 

"3 Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”" (John  3:3). Here we see that Jesus was emphasizing a spiritual rebirth as the basic qualification to enter God's kingdom. So the context of the dialog between Jesus and Nicodemus is spiritual vs natural religious life of tradition. Jesus was the true spiritual life giver, but Nicodemus was the great religious teacher who always walked in a traditional law based outward physical life.

So Nicodemus answers based on the natural religious mindset. "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?”" (John 3:4). The natural man cannot understand the things of the Spirit (1 Cor 2:14), so Nicodemus was thinking on the lines of natural birth.

Here again Jesus shifts in to the spiritual arena which Nicodemus could not understand because he was not still born again and answers him in a spiritual context. The whole of the answer of Jesus is in spiritual context and so it should not be equated with any natural physical meaning. One must not take a part of it and spiritualise it, and then take the other part or word of it and naturalise it. If it is done like that, then the whole intrepretation will be wrong totally. Ok, agree.

"5 Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”" (John 3:5-7). Here Jesus again insist of the need to be born spiritually and expains deeply to the natural man Nicodemus of what it means to be born again. Jesus says, to be born again [i.e. literally born from above] means one should be spiritually born of the water which is the word of God (Eph 5:26; John 13:10; 15:3). Even in the Old Testament, the word of the new covenant promise was considered to be the water that will cleanse the Israelites in the future from all their filthiness and idolatry (Eze 36:25; Jer 33:8; Zec 13:1; John 17:14, 17, 19). Just like the word of the Old Testament purified people temporarily (Heb 9:13, 19), Jesus promised to purify people permanently by the word of the promise of the new covenant (Heb 10:22). The external soul will be washed by believing the word of God and the conscience of spirit-man will be cleansed by the confession of our sins to Jesus and thereby becoming cleansed by the power of the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus through spiritual angelic agency of God (Heb 10:22-23; 9:14; 1 John 1:9; Heb 1:14). This is what Apostle Peter has explained in 1 Peter 1:22-25 as the eternal word which makes us born again and purifies our soul when we obey the truth and love our brethren. Then Jesus says that we must be born spiritually by the supernatural renewing work of the Holy Spirit in our spirit-man and also get sealed by the Spirit of God as a gurantee of our eternal inheritance (Titus 3:5-6; Eph 1:13-14). Then Jesus said that a natural man can only beget natural man and only the Spirit can beget a new spirit-man inside you. In other words only through the Holy Spirit's miraculous work of conception, the new creation spirit-man can be brought in to existence (2 Cor 5:17). No amount of physical or religious work can make it happen. God the Holy Spirit will decide in to whom the life of God must enter and conceive God's life in their spirit man. Just like the wind chooses to blow where it want to and no one can influence its direction or speed (John 6:63), God decides to save those who believe in the new covenant word of Jesus' message of forgiveness (John 3:16). We can only hear the voice of God's wind which is the Holy Spirit giving us assurance that we have become the child of God and are indeed born again, but we cannot understand how this has happened just like we who can experience the sound of wind cannot know where it has come from or where it has gone in a moment of time (Rom 8:16; 1 John 4:13; 3:24).

This shows that the phrase "born of water" that Jesus spoke about was not water baptism but is His new covenant word which is the gospel of forgiveness and cleansing. Then the phrase "born of the Spirit" means to be spiritually awakened by the life of God through the Holy Spirit inside our dead spirit man, which gets filled with the life of God through the spiritual agency of the Holy Spirit's executive work once we believe and receive Jesus as our Lord and Saviour. God Bless You!                      


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