TO aid ignorant Nicodemus (John 3:4), the Lord broke down the experience of being born again into its two constituent parts, i.e.; “being born of water and of the Spirit (John 3:5,6). He further explained and illustrated the experience (John 3:6,8), but Nicodemus would not understand (John 3:9). The situation is unfortunately the same today. Part of the problem today is the mention of water. Many have therefore been taught that they are born again because they have been baptized in water either at infancy, or at adulthood. To clear the sky of the clouds, and aid our understanding, let us note the following:-
In Scriptures, this experience is called some other names, e.g; “being born of God” (John 1:13; 1 John 3:9; 4:7; 5:1); “being quickened” (resurrected from spiritual death) (Ezekiel 37:10; Luke 15:24; John 5:21,25; 6:63; Ephesians 2:1,6; Colossians 2:13; 3:1); “being regenerated” (Titus 3:5); “being in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).
The water mentioned as one of the instruments of “being born again” is not the water of baptism in view of the following truth:- (I) All Old Testament saints were born again and saved without water baptism (Hebrews 11; 9:15; James 2:23; Psalm 32:5; 103:3; Luke 1:70; Acts 3:21; Deuteronomy 32:18; 2 Peter 1:21). (ii) They all had the Holy Spirit, gifts and many other blessings without baptism (Psalm 51:12; 1 Kings 3:12; 4:29-34; Numbers 11:17-29; Acts 3:21; Luke 1:15-17,41,46,67; 2:25-38; Hebrews 11). (iii) Many in Christ’s ministry were forgiven and born again without water baptism (Matthew 9:1-7; Luke 7:48; 18:9-14; 19:1-9; 23:43; John 4:49-53; John 7:31; 8:30-31; 11:45; 12:11,42). (iv) Men have been baptized in the Holy Spirit before water baptism (Acts 9:17; 10:44-48; 11:14-18; 15:7-11). (v) Christ was baptized in water without (need of) forgiveness of sins (Matthew 3:15-17). (iv) Baptism in water is a mere figure (1 Peter 3:21); but not held as essential to salvation (1 Corinthians 1:13-24; 15:1-5; Romans 1:16; 10:9-14; Ephesians 2:8-9; Acts 10:43; 13:38-39; 16:31; John 3:14-18,36; 5:24; 1 John 5:24). (vii) Baptism in water is only for men who have repented (Matthew 3:2-6; 28:19; Acts 2:38; 8:12,37; 10:43-48; 18:8; 19:4).
In the Scriptures, water is used in a symbolic sense of salvation (John 4:14; Isaiah 12:3); of the Spirit’s baptism (John 7:37-39) and of cleansing by the Word of God (John 15:3; Ephesians 5:26). Since men are cleansed and born-again by the Word of God (James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:23), it is clear that being born again of water means being born again by the water of the Word of God.
Further to the above, the Lord Jesus came an embodiment of the Word of God (John 1:1 & 14; 7:17; 8:26,28,38; 12:49-50) and of the Spirit of God (John 3:34; Matthew 3:16), therefore the Word and the Spirit quickened whosoever that received them (John 5:21,25; 6:63).
Besides, being born again is a spiritual exercise (not involving the flesh). “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, but that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6). The beneficiary is the spirit of man. The man does not know how it happened, but sees the result of what has happened, as in Christ’s illustration (John 3:8), unlike in water baptism. Hence, there are many, who, on being exposed to the truth of God’s Word and the Holy Spirit get born again without realizing when it actually took place.
Again, “whosoever is born of God (born again) doth not commit sin” (1 John 3:9) is true only of those who have been quickened by His Word and Spirit, and not those who have just had water baptism. Therefore it is conclusive that the instruments of being born-again/born of God/quickened/regenerated/being in Christ, are the water of the Word and the Spirit of God.
The question from the Lord to Nicodemus was, “art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?” (John 3:10). Today, the Lord is posing the same question to all the categories of people who engage in this or that (as listed before in this study), but have not bought the ticket to heaven. This question can be stretched to those who have been born-again, but know not about restitution, sanctification, baptism with the Holy Spirit, tithes and offerings, evangelism, service to the Lord, testifying to the goodness and glory of God.
The Lord’s thought-provoking (not insolent) question made Nicodemus re-think his standing before God; His actions later proved that he became born again after the encounter with Christ the Lord (consider John 7:47-51; 19:39-40). This is a good example for anyone whom the Lord is asking some questions today.
Again, if such questions are asked those within the visible Church, what is the position of those without and those who have entirely different religious persuasions they are following?