Updated: Mar 10, 2020
Are you born again? Jesus, explicitly, said that one cannot see or enter the kingdom of God unless one is born again, of 'water' and the 'spirit.' What exactly did Jesus mean by this incredible statement? To find out, let's dive into scripture and this amazing picture of salvation!
Imagine your birth. Did you get to choose your height? Did you get to choose your weight? How about your facial features? The color of your eyes? How about how tall you are? The answer is 'no,' of course you didn't get to choose who you are, you simply came to be upon your birth; your birth was the result of a seed planted by your father who existed before you, while your mother, effectively, watered the seed through dietary nutrition; throughout this process, God gave growth to that seed, and you were born. One planted, another watered, and God gave the growth. Sound familiar? (see 1 Corinthians 3:5-9). Your physical birth had nothing to do with your works, but was rather, the result of the labor of people before you, and (ultimately) it was God's will for you to grow, and be born into this world: the same can be said with your spiritual birth!
Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. John 3:3
Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. John 3:7
To understand what Jesus is referring to, when we read the words 'water' and 'spirit,' we have to consider context. Jesus is referring to everlasting/eternal life, when he speaks of being born again; Jesus is talking about salvation; stated plainly, if someone is born again, they are saved: if someone is saved, they are born again. Taking into consideration that Jesus is referring to salvation, being born of 'water' becomes more specific, this water doesn't come from any work of man, this water is divine, in nature. We do not have to look very far, to find the water that Jesus is referring to, as we move into the next chapter, we discover Jesus describing this divine water.
Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou newest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water. John 4:10
But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. John 4:14
This water, comes from Jesus! Jesus is the one who gives this water that springs up to eternal life. Every word that Jesus spoke was truth - cleansing, purifying - truth. His every word washed over those within earshot. Jesus' word, the very word of God, lead those who would hear, to believe in the only begotten Son of God, granting eternal/everlasting life, washing away sin & transgression: saving those who would receive His word from the wrath of God, which abides upon all flesh; this water is the starting point for new life: Jesus said one must be born of water and the spirit, to see and enter the kingdom of God; to top it off, this water that Jesus spoke of, leads to eternal life! We must gather then, that this water MUST take away our sin; we know that the the gospel is the '...power of God for salvation to everyone who believes...' Romans 1:16. It is the gospel of Christ, which takes away our sin. The water which a believer is born from, is the gospel of Christ contained in God's word, which is central to the new birth: leading to eternal life, and allowing one to see and enter the kingdom of God; the water that Jesus cleanses us with, is his prophetic word: that He would die on the cross for our sins, that he would be buried and resurrected, according to the scriptures, which he came to fulfill: Jesus is the Christ, and this is the water that leads to eternal life.
He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.) John 7:38-39
Establishing that "water" is the gospel contained in God's Word, expressed through Jesus Christ - our great God and Savior - helps us to understand that drawing this water which springs up to eternal life, is not a work of man; receiving this water, is a work of God. When we believe the gospel, we receive His Holy Spirit: we are born of water and the Spirit. This, however, doesn't quite reveal why Jesus used birth as a primary metaphor in describing salvation; key biblical text in understanding why birth is used as a means to communicate salvation, is the parable of the sower.
The word of God is a seed, sown by faithful believers, to those who would listen; the soil which the sower sows God's word, is within the heart: the womb of spirituality, if you will. The mechanism of sowing God's word is through preaching; some hearts reject the word, some hearts superficially believe the word, some hearts twisted the word for personal/worldly gain, and some hearts receive the word, truly believe, and multiply. The hearts that truly believe and multiply, are the individuals who are born again. In the scenarios outlined above, which represent the soils in the parable of the sower (hard, rocky, thorny, and good), it is ultimately God who gives the growth to the seed: it is God who has prepared one's heart to believe. The word of God is a seed, and is planted in a person's heart; as to whether or not the seed grows, this is entirely up to God, because God gives the growth, and when He does: He is glorified!
Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever. 1 Peter 1:23
But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you. 1 Peter 1:25
When an individual believes, it is because God has sovereignly chosen to allow a person to repent, and believe: it is a super-natural occurrence, for the one born of the flesh, with a mind that is inherently hostile toward God to make peace with God, through Jesus Christ; that is why the Bible says:
Jesus answered them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent. John 6:29
To believe in Jesus is the work of God: not the work of man. If one truly believes, it is a reflection of the new birth, it is evidence that they are born again, through the gospel preserved in God's word: it is evidence that at one point, through the mechanism of preaching - through hearing God's word - their heart was prepared (by God) to receive Jesus: and ultimately were cleansed by the living water of God's word, and given eternal life.
The picture of birth, is the perfect analogy to describe our spiritual birth. Being born of water and the spirit, means that we have heard the gospel of Christ, and believed: God's word is water, God's word is a seed: our heart is the womb, in which new life grows: and it is God who gives the growth: just like our physical birth. There will be faithful preachers who sow the seeds of God's word, but ultimately it is up to God to prepare the heart, and to give the growth. Our spiritual birth, had nothing to do with our own works, but everything to do, with God's word, and His will for our lives: that we, who are chosen, may believe in His only begotten Son: Jesus Christ.