What Does John 3:5 Mean?

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.

John 3:5(NASB)

Verse Thoughts

One night, the Lord Jesus was visited by an important teacher of Jewish law called Nicodemus. He had come earnestly seeking answers to important questions, which he and other rulers of the Jews had.. regarding Jesus, His teachings and His miracles. They all acknowledged that no one could do the mighty miracles that Jesus performed, unless God was with Him.

The Lord Jesus looked into this man's searching heart and read the question that was lodged there, which was about salvation and entering the kingdom of God. And so Jesus answered this silent, heart-searching question with the words: Truly, I tell you.. that unless a person is born from above he cannot see the kingdom of God. God knows the man or woman whose heart is truly seeking Him.. and He is ready and willing to answer our silent pleas - before we even ask the question.

But this great Jewish leader needed further clarification, for he was unable to differentiate between physical birth and spiritual birth, and so he sought illumination: How can this happen? he argued. How can anyone be born when he is an old man?' Can a man enter his mother's womb a second time and be born? Jesus explained emphatically that unless a person is 1) born of water and 2) born of the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

Over the years there have been many alternative views of what it actually means to be 'born of water', while agreeing that being 'born of the spirit' is the work of the Holy Spirit at the point of salvation. Being born of the Spirit is understood to be a supernatural happening in a man or woman who has trusted Christ for salvation - the forgiveness of their sins and life everlasting.

Some people consider that Jesus was referring to the natural process of child-birth in the human realm (being born of water) as opposed to the spiritual, supernatural birth into the family of God (being born of the Spirit). Others consider that being born of water refers to water baptism, which is often argued as being a vital part of spiritual regeneration.. But this contradicts many Bible passages.. all of which insist that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone - arguing that this view is adding to Christ's full and finished redemptive work at Calvary.

Certain people use Ephesians 5:26 to suggest that being born of water refers to the Word of God.. where Paul says that Christ.. sanctifies the Church, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the Word.. and still others view this reference to water in connection with the Holy Spirit, where Jesus says: He that believes on me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.. in which Christ was making a direct reference to the Spirit of God.

Remembering that this visit of Nicodemus was early in Christ's ministry and that the Father had only sent Jesus to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.. a further suggestion appears to be the most likely interpretation - where WATER was connected with repentance and turning away from sin.

For centuries Israel had been called upon to repent of their sins and to return to faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and full dependence on Him. Indeed the baptism of John the Baptist was called: a baptism of repentance.. We read that John appeared baptising in the desert and preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.

True repentance of heart was what the prophets of old and John the Baptist were calling for.. for Scripture reminds us that the sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart - a repentant heart that has turned away from sin and turned back to God. We read that a repentant heart will not be despised or ignored by the Lord. Indeed to merit salvation we must first recognise that we are a sinner, who has sinned against God and is under His condemnation - and that the wages of sin is death.

A truly repentant heart, mixed with faith in Christ for the forgiveness of sin, is what God is seeking from fallen man. One can turn from one sin to another sin without a heart that is truly repentant before the Lord. Similarly one can believe on historical facts about Jesus without trusting in Him for the forgiveness of sin.. Repentance for the remission of sin and believing on Christ for the forgiveness of sin are not two separate actions but combine into one act of faith in the Person of Christ together with His work on the cross.

Although it is wonderful when water baptism becomes the outwards evidence of inner heart repentance.. water baptism must never become an 'add-on' to faith in the finished work of Christ for the forgiveness of sins. We are saved by grace through faith in Christ not by any works that we do.. in case we boast.

A truly repentant and contrite heart who trusts in Christ for the forgiveness of their sins is the one who is born of water and of the Spirit..

My Prayer

Heavenly Father, thank You for sending Jesus to be the sacrifice for my sin. Lord, I know my salvation does not rely on anything that I have done but on the finished work of Christ on the cross. Thank You that while I was still a sinner Christ died for me and thank You for the convicting work of the Holy Spirit in me.. so that by grace through faith in Christ I have been born again - of water and the Spirit - praise Your holy name, AMEN

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