The words “born again” are first seen in Scripture in John 3:3 where Jesus told a very religious Jewish leader named Nicodemus, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is BORN AGAIN, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (NKJV). The Lord was teaching Nicodemus (and us!) that he needed a “new birth,” one that was vastly different from his first birth. Instead of a “natural birth” that introduced him into this world, a “spiritual birth” was needed to fit him for being introduced into another world, “the kingdom of God.” We read in verse 1 that Nicodemus was “a man of the Pharisees…a ruler of the Jews.” He was very religious and he was a highly esteemed ruler over the Jews, yet his religion and character was not enough to fit him for the kingdom of God. He needed to be born again!

Nicodemus failed to grasp the spiritual truth that was being presented to him so he asked the Lord Jesus (in verse 4), “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”  In order to correct his thinking Jesus went on to say, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is BORN OF WATER AND THE SPIRIT, he cannot enter 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 marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again’” (verses 5-7). Jesus was clearly contrasting the “natural birth” and the “spiritual birth.” In the natural birth Nicodemus was “born of flesh”; that is, he was born of TWO HUMAN PARENTS. That birth resulted in him being “born in sin,” for the sin nature (which is often called “the FLESH” in Scripture…see Romans 7:17-17 & 8:8) of his parents was transmitted to him. King David spoke of this in Psalm 51:5, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.” David was confessing, “When I was born into this world I was born a sinner with a sinful nature.” The Lord Jesus was teaching Nicodemus (and us!) that in his natural birth he was born a sinner with a sinful nature and that nothing could change that nature. It wouldn’t do him any good to have another natural birth from two human parents, for that would still result in him being born in sin. The only solution was a “spiritual birth,” for being born of the Spirit would result in a “new spiritual nature” being imparted to him and that “new nature” would give him the right to enter into God’s kingdom.

Now we need to go back to verse 5 to see exactly HOW one is “born of the Spirit.” We saw that there are TWO PARENTS for our natural birth; in verse 5 we learn there are TWO AGENTS for the spiritual birth. Jesus said one must be “born of WATER and the SPIRIT.” It seems clear that the “Spirit” is speaking of “the Holy Spirit,” but what is the “water” speaking of? I believe the word “water” symbolizes “the Word of God.” In John 15:3 Jesus said, “Now ye are CLEAN THROUGH THE WORD which I have spoken unto you” (KJV). Just as literal water cleanses the body, the word of God cleanses us morally by producing a new nature in us! We see this truth also in Ephesians 5:25-26, “Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and CLEANSE HER WITH THE WASHING OF WATER BY THE WORD” (NKJV). The word of God is used by the Spirit of God to bring about this miracle of cleansing that Jesus calls being “born again.” The Apostle Peter confirms that the Word of God is one of the two agents in the New Birth with these words, “Having been BORN AGAIN, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, THROUGH THE WORD OF GOD which lives and abides forever” (1st Peter 1:23).

In closing, Jesus went on to tell Nicodemus that in order for God to offer this new “spiritual birth” (through the Word and the Spirit) to us two things had to happen. The first thing is seen in verse 14, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up.” If you read Numbers 21:4-8a you will see that Israelites were being bitten by snakes and killed and Moses was told to make a serpent of brass and put it on a pole. This is a picture of the Lord Jesus Christ being lifted up on the cross to be judged for our sin. The second thing is seen in verse 15-16, “That whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life, For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” In Numbers 21:8b we read, “And it shall be that everyone who is bitten, when he LOOKS AT IT, SHALL LIVE.” Just as the children of Israel looked, in faith, to the serpent on the pole and were healed, so the sinner must look, in faith, to the Lord Jesus being judged for their sin and if they do they will receive EVERLASTING LIFE. In others words, the moment a sinner (who has been “bitten by sin”) looks to Christ crucified as their Savior from sin, they are BORN AGAIN. This is the gospel of Jesus Christ, which is the Word of God that the Spirit of God uses to produce the New Birth in us.  (393.1)  (DO)