Nicodemus was a top Jewish teacher, not an ordinary teacher, and he came to Jesus by night for a private audience. His conversation with Christ is in John 3, and it presents challenges. Jesus said, “…unless one is born of water and the spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God”. We need to understand this within the context of the conversation. 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). His words lead Jesus to respond, “unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (verse 3). This rebirth, we believe, involves the action of God in responding to what He sees in the heart of the one seeking to be re-born. We recall God’s words through Isaiah, “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; see also 66:2).
Thus there is a ‘rebirth’ in the heart of one who is genuinely “born again” because of divine action from above. A relationship is established, that is ongoing from the time the person themselves in ‘born of water’. Jesus makes the comment, “Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true” (3:33). This reaction to Jesus’ teaching is the evidence that one is also born of the spirit and has a real personal relationship with God. The opposite to this is, “He who is of the earth, belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way” (verse 31). There is no middle path!
We must ask ourselves – in what way do we speak? Is God’s word daily feeding our minds? This is the ‘food’ that alone can create evidence that we have been truly born of both water and of the spirit. Those who have not taken and digested this food “cannot see the kingdom of God?” (verse 3). Surely the kingdom is now near – what a devastating experience it will be for those who fail to see it.