These words of Jesus to Nicodemus, the Jewish teacher who came to him by night, challenge our thinking and understanding. We need to understand them in the context of the words of Jesus. Many Christians like to say they are “born again,” but what did Jesus mean? Nicodemus admitted, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him” (John 3:2). Jesus responds, “unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (verse 3). Our rebirth is essential if we are to experience God’s coming kingdom.
God responds to what He sees in the heart of those seeking to be re-born. In Isaiah God says, “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him (or her) who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite” (57:15). Thus there is a rebirth in the heart of one who is genuinely “born again” because of the action of He who is above. The person then creates the visible evidence of this in being ‘born of water’, as happened on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:37,38).
John the Baptist’s disciples comment on how “all are going to him” (Jesus) and “look he is baptising” (verses 26,22; 4:1,2 – the disciples of Jesus were doing the baptising). However, it was ‘whoever receives his testimony” (verse 32) that was the vital factor; the man (or woman) who did so “sets his seal to this, that God is true” (verse 33). When you set a seal to a document you were locking yourself into a decision you have made! Being “born of water” is one stage, being born of “the spirit” – having a new way of thinking – is a vital part to being “born again” in the way Jesus meant it. The opposite is in verse 31, “He who is of the earth, belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way”.
We must ask ourselves – in what way do we speak (and write)? This is evidence before God as to whether we have been born of water and of the spirit? The last verse of chapter 3 spells it out, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; who ever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him”.