Water and Spirit
There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, Rabbi, we know You are a teacher come from God; For no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” 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.” 4 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?
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 of where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
Since Nicodemus is well familiar with the concept of baptism, which must occur for a gentile to be born again. He was also familiar with the teachings and actions of John the Baptizer, so he can readily understand Christ’s reference to being born of water. But, being born of the Spirit, was something different.
Oh Yes there is the reference John the Baptizer made concerning Jesus that when He would come, He would baptize not only of water, but also with the spirit.
Perhaps Nicodemus had been present when John the Baptizer called out, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Or perhaps Nicodemus had heard the account of John the Baptizer concerning the baptism of Jesus where John states. “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and he remained upon Him.”
But here is Christ now talking with Nicodemus saying that one must not only be baptized with water, but with the Spirit as well.
For a Jew this was a new concept. Oh, yes they certainly believed in God the Father, but Judaism is a true mono-theistic religion believing there is only one God. They somehow had missed the many teachings in the Old Testament that refer to the triune Godhead, which is so clearly presented in the New Testament.
So Jesus attempts to unfold before Nicodemus the role each member of the triune Godhead have in the plan of salvation. Starting with the working of the Holy Spirit Jesus begins to unfold before Nicodemus the truth concerning God.
Jesus spoke to Nicodemus saying, “You see Nicodemus, we are all born of the flesh and flesh remains flesh.” The flesh as Paul would later say is weak and subject to sin. “Therefore the flesh always remains flesh because of itself, it cannot change its nature. But, and Christ goes back to this concept of being born again as a little child with a teachable attitude, can only happen when one is born of the spirit. Therefore, do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’” Jesus continued speaking by drawing Nicodemus attention to the wind that gently blew that night as they sat and talked upon the mount of Olives.
“You see Nicodemus, the Spirit is like the wind. We cannot see it. The Spirit goes where it wishes and come from somewhere unknown to you and Me. Yet although we cannot see it, we can feel it and hear it and can see its effects when it pushes over a tree or topples a house. It is the same with the Spirit of God. we do not fully comprehend from where it came, and how it works, but we can see the result of the Spirit of God working upon the hearts and minds of those around us. For you see the process of conversion is different for you as it is different for me. For each of us the process is different because of the things that have previously shaped our lives, yet the result of the Holy Spirit working in our lives is visible to all, just like we can see the result of a strong wind that has blown through a grove of trees.”
So, Nicodemus and all of us Nicodemuses, the process of conversion must come about by our willingness to let go of self. Becoming humble and teachable as a little child, allowing the Holy Spirit to mold us and shape us, so that we are no longer weak in the flesh, but made strong in the Spirit.
You see the Pharisees, who affected a superior degree of righteousness, refused the baptism that John offered. They refused because John made baptism the symbol of repentance. Nicodemus had doubtless listened to John, and many have heard John statements about baptism with water and the Holy Spirit. But for Nicodemus and many of the Jews they anticipated admission into the kingdom of God as a natural-born, devout Jew, but Jesus declared that anything less than complete transformation of life by the power of the Holy Spirit was inadequate.
Being “born of water and of the Spirit” is equivalent to being “born again,” that is, ‘from above.” Those who are born from above have God as their Father and resemble him in character (see I John 3:1-3 and confer John 8:39, 44). Therefore the true Christian or follower of Christ who has been baptized by water and the Spirit will aspire by the grace of Christ to live above sin and not to yield their will to commit sin.
By natural birth we are all born into sin as sinners, but by being born again of the spirit, we can with the power of the Holy Spirit become victorious over sin.
Nicodemus still did not understand so in our next post we will examine his question and Jesus further response to Nicodemus.