John 3:5 — Our Thoughts

Question from a Site Viewer
John 3:5- what is meant by the “water”? Is the Spirit the Holy Spirit doing a working in your life?

Tim’s Answer
There are a few different interpretations for John 3:5 held by the church. Perhaps, none of us will know for sure what is meant until we get to heaven. However, I hold that the reference to water is a reference to physical birth. The other views are that the water is a reference to baptism or a reference to the Word of God.

The reason I hold it as a reference to physical birth is because of the context. Jesus in verse 3 has told Nicodemus that a person must be born again in order to see the kingdom of God. This puzzles Nicodemus and he asks how can an old man be born. Jesus then says: “unless a person is born out of water and out of spirit, that person is not able to enter the kingdom of God.” Clearly, in Nicodemus’ mind, he is struggling with the concept of a second physical birth. Jesus then shows that He also has a physical birth in mind that He is using as a prop to teach the need for a spiritual birth. In the very next verse, Jesus says: “The one who has born of the flesh is flesh, and the one who has been born of the Spirit is spirit.” Thereafter, Jesus in verse 8 teaches about the spirit’s regeneration and never again references either water or the physical birth.

The fact that the birth in verse 8 is linked solely to the Spirit and is not tied to water leads me to believe that Jesus is not saying that something other than the Spirit’s birth is needed for humans to have eternal life. There is no need for a second water birth. The fact that in verse 6 Jesus talks of both the physical birth and the spiritual birth in terms of flesh and spirit, and also does not link water to the spirit’s new birth leads me to the same conclusion. The Spirit’s birth is sufficient of itself for us to enter the kingdom of God. There is no need for a second water birth. The fact that verse 6 seems to be closely parallel and in the immediate context of verse 5 seems to call for a view that the references to water and the Spirit are a reference to two separate births. The water is the physical birth, the Spirit is the new birth.

Thus, to be saved, we need both a physical birth and a spiritual birth. I believe this is what Jesus is saying throughout this passage. We must be born and we must be born again. I do not see any reference to baptism, nor do I think that Nicodemus would have understood the passage as referencing baptism, nor would most readers who first read the passage. The passage is talking about two births, not two things necessary for the second birth. All that is necessary for the second birth is the Spirit’s regeneration. And that, of course, is a gift of God that He freely gives to all who place their trust in the risen Jesus who died for our sins and rose again to deliver us from this present evil world.

May Jesus bless you as you continue to seek Him.


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