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What does it mean to be born of water and spirit?

What does it mean to be born of Water and Spirit?

Sometimes we hear about “born again Christians” and some believers describe themselves as being “born again.” Where did this phrase “born again” come from and what does it mean? In the book of John, chapter 3, the words “born again” come from Jesus Himself when He is explaining to Nicodemus, a Jewish religious leader, what you need to do to see the kingdom of God:

Jesus replied [to Nicodemus], “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.

How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!

Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (John 3:3-8)

Physical birth

In Jesus’ explanation of “born again”, He talks about two types of birth: born of water and born of the Spirit. Although some people think Jesus is referring to baptism because He mentions water, Jesus is actually talking about physical birth and spiritual birth.

In verse 6, Jesus says “Flesh gives birth to flesh”, implying that we are all born physically. At least 60 % of the human body is made of water, so it makes sense for Jesus to say that water gives birth to water. A human mother gives birth to a human baby, both of whom are mostly water. So if you want to see the kingdom of God, the first thing you need to do is be born physically. If you are reading this, you’ve already met the first requirement!

Spiritual birth

Everyone born of the Spirit seeks light and truth and comes to Christ.

The second type of birth that Jesus talks about is birth from the Spirit, or spiritual birth. Not everyone who is born physically is necessarily born spiritually. In Jesus’ reasoning, spiritual birth is like being “born again” since it comes after physical birth. Nicodemus understood about trying to obey God’s laws but he didn’t know that he needed a spiritual transformation of his heart – to be born again – something that only the Spirit of God could do. How does the Holy Spirit cause people to be born again? We don’t know. Jesus says the Spirit is like the wind. We can’t see Him and don’t know where he is coming or where He is going. But we know the effect the Spirit has! Like the wind, we can feel the difference between Spirit and no Spirit! Everyone born of the Spirit (spiritually alive) seeks light and truth and comes to Christ:

Whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.” (John 3:21)

Spiritual death

However, those not born of the Spirit (spiritually dead) don’t come to Christ because they are afraid that Christ will expose the bad things they’ve done: “Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.” (John 3:20)

Do you want to see the kingdom of God? You’ve already been born of water, but are you born of the Spirit? Do you see signs of the Spirit working in your life?

Also read How to grow spiritually?

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Karl Dahlfred

Karl Dahlfred has served as a missionary in Thailand with OMF International since 2006. From 2012-2016, he taught church history and missions at Bangkok Bible Seminary, assisted in editing and translation of Thai Christian books at OMF Publishers Thailand, and was a founding elder of Grace City Church, Bangkok. In 2017, he began a Ph.D in World Christianity at the University of Edinburgh. Karl earned a Masters of Divinity (M.Div) at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and a Master of Theology (Th.M) at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University. He is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). Karl is married and has three children.

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