Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. John 3:5
I’ve seen several thoughts about this passage, as it pertains to the “water.” My mentor used to tell me it was the water in the womb, which I thought made sense. Then, there are those who think it means water baptism, which Peter discounts in 1 Peter 3:21. Also, Paul almost bragged about only baptizing a few. This means, he would have left many unsaved, because he never baptized them.
Well, I never bought into the water baptism as anything more than symbolic of our salvation in Christ. There were too many in Acts who received the Holy Spirit without water baptism, including those in the upper room.
Recently, I read something by John MacArthur that finally gave me some additional clarification about this verse. I had been leaning this way, but I never found anything definitive until I read his comment on this scripture.
We know, when we come to Christ, we become new creations in Christ Jesus. We are no longer the same. Our attitude changes. Our desires change. Our love for God and the Lord become a priority. We read the Bible and actually receive understanding. And we know we have passed from death unto life.
I know the Spirit in me preserves me for all eternity. Jesus tells us the Spirit will never leave us. The Spirit guides into all truth; prays when we do not know how to pray; condemns sin in us. But what causes us to become new creations.
We can find this in the water and Christ’s work in and through us. You see when Jesus spoke to Nicodemus, He would have spoken to Him in a language Nicodemus understood. What did Nicodemus understand? God’s Holy Word. Yes, Nicodemus understood the Old Testament and the Law. And so Jesus, knowing this, spoke to Nicodemus about the water in a way that Nicodemus would have understood. When Jesus said we must be born of the water and the Spirit, Jesus referred to Ezekiel 36:25-26. It reads, “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”
Do you see what I see? This verse says, our salvation includes a new heart, a new spirit and a cleansing with water. What did the water cleanse? Our mind, through forgiveness of sin. In other words, we received a cleansed conscience, through a washing of the water and renewal of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5). Who is that water? It’s Christ, the Living Water. You see, Jesus told Nicodemus, about the water and He implied to Nicodemus that He, Jesus was that water.
In 1 Peter 3:1, the Word tells us the water that cleanses the flesh did not save us, but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. Our faith in Christ and a good conscience that comes by the water’s cleansing, makes it possible for us to put our past behind and move on with Christ.
1 John 1:9 tells us when we seek forgiveness, God cleanses or purifies our conscience. You see, the cleansing continues. It’s not a one time thing. We continue to receive cleansing in our conscience, because Christ made it possible through His death and resurrection.
Jesus is the Living Water. He is the cleansing water. When we sin and seek forgiveness, He cleanses our conscience and allows us to move forward. This cleansing began with our new birth and it continues to work in us.
Look at Hebrews 9:14-15. It says, “The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death so that we may serve the living God.”
So you see…the Living Water is really Christ’s blood that cleanses our conscience. The animal sacrifices in the Old Testament could not cleanse the conscience any more than water baptism can. The animal sacrifices were symbolic. They were the foretelling of Christ’s sacrifice. Likewise, water baptism is symbolic of our death and resurrection in Christ. However, neither of these contain the power to cleanse. Only Christ’s blood can wash away the sins. Only He can cleanse our conscience of dead works.
So, the Lord cleansed our conscience, took out our old stony heart; a rebellious heart toward God and gave us a new heart of flesh. A fleshly heart that God can mold and break and mend. Try that with a stony heart. Then there is the new Spirit in us. This is the Holy Sprit in us. Thus, the new birth took water and Spirit. It took the blood’s cleansing power and the Spirit in us to allow us to experience a total rebirth.
I hope this article sheds some light on what it took to save you and me. God’s plan was to make us a new creation. He never planned to repair us, but to remake us so we may reflect Christ and His righteousness, rather than the worldly and their unrighteousness.
November 12, 2009
Posted by: Lynn E. Sheldon
Author writes and distributes discipleship material and articles to train believers in the Word.