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 Vol. 3, No. 3 

Page 17

March, 2001

Whole Counsel/Whole World Icon Whole Counsel of God

For the Whole World


How Are We Born
 of Water and the Spirit?

By Basil Overton

Probably, there has never been a time when proper insights to fundamental and elementary matters that pertain to the salvation of souls were more need than now, both by Christians and those not Christians. Christians need to grow in their grasp of these fundamental matters so they can help those who are not Christians to understand them.

We talk about "mission work" considerably, and generally, we mean work to spread the Gospel in foreign lands or in places in our own land where the New Testament order of things is little known or not know at all. However, one of the truly great challenges of mission work is the challenge for every Christian to become so well acquainted with the way of the Lord that he can tell those about it who are all around him who are not the children of God.

How are we born of water and the Spirit? Jesus said that in order to enter the kingdom of heaven, we must be born of water and the Spirit (John 3:5).

The New Birth

Being born of water and the Spirit is called by many "the new birth." One does not get the new birth, but one is born again or experiences the new birth by exercising his will in response to the will of God.

Does Water Mean Water?

Some deny that water in John 3:5 means water. When asked what it does mean, these say it means the Spirit. But, this would mean Jesus was saying, "Except a man be born of the Spirit and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God." Obviously, water in John 3:5 does not mean the Spirit.

Others say water in John 3:5 does mean water, but if refers to the water of physical birth, and that born of the Spirit in the passage refers to the spiritual birth or new birth. This is another obvious error and misunderstanding because this interpretation would mean Jesus was saying, "Except a man is born the first time and the second time, he cannot enter the kingdom of God." Obviously, if one is not born the first time, he cannot enter the kingdom!

Those who say water in John 3:5 refers to the water of the physical birth make it obvious they are overlooking the question Nicodemus asked. In John 3:3, it is recorded that Jesus told Nicodemus, "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." Nicodemus naturally responded, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter the second time into his mother's womb and be born?"

Jesus answered this question Nicodemus asked by saying that being born again involves water and the Spirit! Whatever water means in John 3:5, we know it is involved in being born again!

Jesus answered the question, "How is one born again?" by saying that being born again involved both water and the Spirit! He was not answering the question, "How is one born the first time?" Instead, he was answering the question, "How is one born the second time?" And, he said one must be born the second time by being born of water and the Spirit!

Luther on John 3:5

I read the following interesting comment on John 3:5 in one of Martin Luther's books.

It is true that the word water does often symbolize temptation in Holy Writ, especially in the Psalms. (Psalms 18:16; 69:1-3.) But here (John 3:5) it cannot be interpreted that way; for here Christ is speaking of baptism, of real and natural water such as a cow may drink, the baptism about which you hear in the sermons on this subject. Therefore, the word water does not designate affliction here; it means real, natural water, which is connected with God's word and becomes a very spiritual bath through the Holy Spirit or through the entire Trinity. Here Christ also speaks of the Holy Spirit as present and active, in fact, the entire Holy Trinity is there. And thus the person who has been baptized is said to be born anew. In Titus 3:3 Paul terms baptism "a washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit." In the last chapter of Mark we read that "he who believes and is baptized will be saved." (Mark 16:16.) And in this passage Christ declares that whoever is not born anew of the water and the Holy Spirit cannot come into the kingdom of God. Therefore, God's words dare not be tampered with. (Martin Luther's Sermons on the Gospel of Saint John, Vol. 22, p. 283.)

Copyright 2001 Louis Rushmore. All Rights Reserved.
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