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 of the Day

One night, the Lord Jesus was visited by an important teacher of the Jews called Nicodemus. He had come earnestly seeking answers to important questions which he and other Jewish rulers 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. However, He did not fit in with the Jew's perception of God's Messiah and Nicodemus wanted answers to important, spiritual questions.

Days earlier, Jesus had cleansed the Temple of God, overturned the tables of the money-changers, and demonstrated great authority. His words and actions raised many questions in the hearts of the Jewish rulers. And as the Lord Jesus looked into this man's searching heart, He read the question that was lodged there... Nicodemus wanted to know how to enter the kingdom of God. And so Jesus answered this silent, heart-searching question with the words, "Truly, truly I tell you.. that unless a person is born from above, he cannot see the kingdom of God."

Jesus was telling Nicodemus that unless a person is SAVED by GRACE through FAITH in HIM, he will not see the kingdom of God. Faith in Christ is the criteria for becoming a citizen in God's kingdom. But this great Jewish leader needed further clarification. Nicodemus did not appear to understand the need for spiritual birth... and so he sought illumination. "How can this happen?"  he asked. "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?"

Despite being a teacher of the Law, this man lacked understanding and Jesus explained clearly, yet emphatically, that unless a person is born of water AND born of the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. Being born of the Spirit is understood to be a supernatural happening within the heart of a man or woman who has trusted Christ for salvation. One who is 'born again' believes in Jesus for the forgiveness of sin and life everlasting. But there has been much confusion about being born of water.

Many people agree that being, 'born of water', simply refers to the natural process of child-birth in the human realm - born of water, as opposed to the supernatural, spiritual birth into the family of God, when one is, 'born of the Spirit'. Over the years there have been many alternative views of what it means to be 'born of water', which has caused much confusion in the Church, while all agree that being 'born of the Spirit' is the work the Holy Ghost in the heart of a man or woman at the point of salvation.

Certain Christians 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."  Still others suggest that being born of water is the same as spiritual birth. They even quote Jesus Who said, "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 indwelling Spirit of God.

Others consider that being born of water refers to water baptism, which is often argued as being a vital part of spiritual regeneration. But claiming that baptism in water is necessary for salvation contradicts many Bible passages... all of which insist that salvation is by GRACE alone through FAITH alone in CHRIST alone. To claim water baptism is required for salvation is a 'works-based gospel', which should be rejected as it adds a human act to Christ's full and finished redemptive work at Calvary.

Perhaps it was simply that Nicodemus held the customary belief that his Jewish ancestry gave him automatic entry into God's kingdom and the Holy Spirit was stirring his heart to search out the truth, "that unless one is born of water AND the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." Jesus had to lead this searching man into a deeper understanding of salvation and the kingdom of heaven - and using the TRUTH of God's WORD, Jesus gently led this man into a deeper understanding of Who HE was - the Light of the World, in Whom are the words of eternal life.

Jesus explained that as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so HE would one day have to be lifted up on a Cross and be made sin for our sakes so that, like Nicodemus' disease-ridden ancestors in the wilderness who had to look and live, so ALL who would look to JESUS in faith would not perish but have LIFE. All who believe in Him would be born-again of the Spirit, enter the kingdom of God, and LIVE eternally.

Like all of us, Nicodemus had to learn that God loved the world so much that He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. Like us, Nicodemus had to come to an understanding that God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved, by God's grace through faith in Him. He had to realise that Jews are not automatically credited with righteousness because of their ancestry.  Jews and Gentiles alike, have to look to Christ to live.

Nicodemus had to learn that whosoever believes in JESUS is not condemned, but anyone who does not believe is already condemned because he has not believed in the name of the One and Only Son of God. He had to see that his natural birth into the world as a descendent of Abraham was not sufficient to enter the kingdom - he had to be born again. He had to be born of the Spirit and washed in Christ's redeeming blood. 

I wonder, when Nicodemus accompanied Joseph of Arimathea to take down the bruised and bloodied body of the Lord Jesus from that cruel Roman cross, if his mind fled back to that life-changing interview, in the middle of the night, when he came to see the Lord and started to understand that unless he was born of water AND born of the Spirit, he could not enter into the kingdom of God. 

Sometimes, we spend so much time chasing after something that we find difficult to understand, that we miss the most important truth. Whatever the real meaning of 'being born of water' is... let us make sure that we fully understand that salvation is by GRACE through FAITH in Christ - ALONE. Whatever is born of the flesh is flesh, Jew and Gentile alike, and everyman faces the consequences of of their sin - eternal condemnation, but whatever is born of the Spirit i.e. born again into the family of God, becomes a new creation in Christ who will enter the kingdom of God.

My Prayer

Heavenly Father, thank You for my life and for all that it means to be born into the human race. But more than that, I thank You, Father, that Your Holy Spirit convicted me of my sin, of Christ's righteousness, and of the terrible condemnation that will befall all who have not believed in the Son of God for the forgiveness of sin and life everlasting. Thank You that I have been born of the Spirit and washed clean by Christ's precious blood. Thank You for sending Jesus to be the propitiation for my sin. Look down in pity on all whose hearts are crying out for the truth - just as Nicodemus did when he came to Jesus by night and discovered that it is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, that we can enter the kingdom of heaven and live with You in the eternal ages to come. Praise His holy name, AMEN.

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