In this month’s memory verse, we find ourselves reading Jesus’ response to Nicodemus. He visited Jesus in the night to admit that He is a teacher from God, because of the signs that Jesus did. In response to this confession, Jesus answered him, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” To which Nicodemus responded in bewilderment and ignorance. Jesus then repeated himself again with a parallel statement that is our memory verse for this month.
What did Jesus mean when He said that we must be ‘born of water and of the Spirit’? There have been several suggestions as to what ‘born of water’ means. Some have suggested natural birth, the rite of baptism, ceremonial laws and even the Torah. The key to understanding verse 5 is to look at verse 3, because both are parallel verses. Jesus was repeating His point twice using different words. Therefore, we should not see being ‘born of water and of the Spirit’ as two different births, but as the same thing as being ‘born again’.
When Nicodemus remained bewildered in verse 9, Jesus berated him for not understanding His words. Jesus expected him to understand what is said, because Nicodemus was supposed to be Israel’s teacher. He was supposed to be a master of the Scriptures. Therefore, the idea of both water and the Spirit should be familiar to the ears of someone who was thoroughly proficient in the Old Testament.
Although the full phrase ‘born of water and of the Spirit’ is not found in the Old Testament, the ingredients are there. The most important verse comes from Ezekiel 36:25–27.
God promised that He will initiate a cleansing process that is spiritual regeneration. This process is described with both water and spirit. He will perform a heart transplant that will remove our heart of stone and give us a heart of flesh! This process is describing what it means to be ‘born again’.
Nicodemus had not thought of the Old Testament passages this way. If he was like some other Pharisees, he was too confident of the quality of his own obedience to think he needed much repentance (Luke 7:30), let alone to have his whole life cleansed and his heart transformed, to be born again.
Have you been born again? Are you placing confidence in your own moral standing? May the Lord send His Spirit to transform your heart today.
Dn. Mervin Lin