by Jeffrey W. Hamilton
Text: John 3:1-22
I. I had a fellow ask me if I had been born again.
A. In particular, he wanted to know how I came to believe such a thing.
B. When I replied with I John 2:3-6; 4:6; 5:2-3, he became quite upset
C. He wanted to know how I was born again because he did not believe that baptism was a birth.
D. I found this interesting because he had separated in his mind being born again from being saved.
1. The passages I showed him discuss how we know we have a relationship with God.
2. In his view, being born again was separate from having God in your life.
II. Why must we be born again?
A. You cannot see the kingdom of God without it - John 3:3, 5
1. What is the kingdom?
a. The phrase “kingdom of heaven” and “kingdom of God” refers to the same kingdom - Matthew 19:23-24
b. The kingdom was close to arriving at the time of John the Baptist and Jesus - Matthew 4:17; Mark 1:14-15
c. Jesus used the terms “church” and “kingdom of heaven” interchangeably - Matthew 16:18-19
d. The church / kingdom had arrived by the time Hebrews was written - Hebrews 12:22-24, 28
2. We know that Jesus was referring to something on this world.
a. When Nicodemus had difficulty believing in the new birth, Jesus gave answer - John 3:10-12
b. The new birth and the kingdom were earthly things.
c. Jesus is saying that if Nicodemus cannot grasp these concepts, how will he ever be able to grasp spiritual concepts of heaven?
B. Even though the new birth is of this world, it is not something seen - John 3:6-8
1. Jesus draws a parallel to the wind. It is a play on words as the word “spirit” means “wind.”
a. You can hear the effects of the wind, but you cannot see the wind.
b. You cannot look at the wind and tell where it came from and where it is going.
2. So it is with being born of the Spirit.
a. The spiritual rebirth is not something seen directly
b. Yet we can see the effect of that rebirth
C. Jesus stressed that importance of the new birth by stating several times “Verily, verily” or “Most assuredly” – the concept was an absolute truth.
1. You cannot enter the kingdom (or the church) without it
a. You must be born again. It is not optional.
b. Just as faith is not optional - Hebrews 11:6
c. Just as worship is not optional - John 4:24
2. The kingdom contains those rescued from sin - Colossians 1:13-14
a. You cannot be saved without being in the kingdom - Matthew 19:23-25
b. Jesus is the Savior of the church - Ephesians 5:23
c. He purchased the church with His own blood - Acts 20:28
3. The church is also known as the family of God - I Timothy 3:15
a. Without the new birth, he cannot be in God’s family
b. In other words, he cannot be a child of God.
c. If he is not a child of God, then he remains a child of Satan - I John 3:10
D. In other words, you cannot be saved without being born again
1. Parallel Matthew 18:3 and John 3:3
a. Being born again and being converted are the same
III. How is one born again?
A. One must be born of water and Spirit - John 3:5
1. There are two elements which produces one new birth
2. We are not speaking of two births, one of water and other of Spirit, else Jesus would have said one needed to be born again twice.
B. Being born of the Spirit
1. We are born by the will of God - John 1:12-13
2. We are begotten by the truth - James 1:18
a. It takes knowledge of the word of God to become born again - I Corinthians 4:15
b. I Peter 1:23 - Born again by the word of God
c. That word is the work of the Spirit - I Corinthians 2:12-13
d. It is the gospel which saves - Romans 1:16
e. Because it is from the gospel that faith is produced - Romans 10:17
3. Belief in Jesus is required to be born of God - 1 John 5:1
a. Belief gives us the right to become children of God - John 1:11-13
(1) We do not become what we already are.
(2) A marriage license gives the right to become married. But it doesn’t make a person married.
(3) Faith gives us to the right to become a child of God.
C. Being born of water
1. Notice that there is no article. Whatever water refers to, it doesn’t matter what kind of water is used.
2. Baptism does the same thing as being born again
a. Being born again makes us children of God and puts us into the kingdom of God (the church).
b. Galatians 3:26-27 - It does not say that faith made us children and then we were baptized. Faith made us children through the medium of baptism which put us in Christ.
c. Parallel John 3:3 and Mark 16:16
(1) Being in the kingdom and being saved are the same (Matthew 19:23-25)
(2) What stands between a man and the kingdom is the same that stands between a man and being saved.
(3) Being born again is the equivalent to believing and being baptized.
3. Baptism allows us to walk in a new life - Romans 6:3-4
a. When a child is born, it begins a new life.
b. So it is with a child of God
4. The baptism practiced by the early church was in water
a. Just after Jesus told Nicodemus about the new birth, he and his disciples were baptizing people in water - John 3:22-23; 4:1-2
b. Acts 8:35-39 - The eunuch was clearly baptized in water.
c. Acts 10:47-48 - Peter commanded that water be used to baptize Cornelius.
D. It is not baptism alone, but water combined with Spirit.
1. The combination of a change in heart (spirit) with the water - I Peter 3:21
2. Washing of regeneration and renewal by the Spirit - Titus 3:5
a. Regeneration comes from a Greek word meaning “new birth or rebirth”
b. Baptism is a washing - Acts 22:16
c. Renewal refers to a change or a transformation - see Romans 12:2
IV. Handling some objections
A. Some argue that “water” refers to a physical birth and “spirit” refers to the new birth
1. Jesus was speaking to Nicodemus, an adult and not an embryo, when he said “you must be born again.”
2. Nicodemus realized he was speaking of an adult when he asked “How can a man be born when he is old?”
a. The answer to this question was that he must be born of water and the Spirit.
b. The born of water comes after a man has grown up.
B. Some argue that “water” refers to “living water” as in John 7:38-39
1. In John 3, water is used without an article meaning there isn’t a specific type of water in mind. Jesus did not say we are to be born in living water, but just plain water.
2. If “water” refers to the Spirit, then we have Jesus repeating himself. One must be born of the Spirit and the Spirit.
3. If we can substitute Spirit for water here, we can do it everywhere water is mentioned, such as the baptism of the eunuch - Acts 8:36-39 (read using “spirit” instead of “water).
4. Water is something in addition to spirit and not just another form of it.
C. Some argue that if “water” refers to baptism in water, then “spirit” refers to baptism in the Spirit.
1. Jesus only mentions one rebirth, not two.
2. The single rebirth is accomplished by two elements: water and spirit
3. Ephesians 4:5 says there is only one baptism.
V. Parallel passages
I Corinthians 12:13
born of water
washing of water
washing of regeneration
and the Spirit
by one Sprit
by the word
renewing of the Holy Spirit
enter into the kingdom of God
into one body
sanctify and cleanse her
He saved us
VI. Babies need to grow
A. I Peter 1:22-2:3 - After being born again by the word, we must grow up in it.
B. Grow to be teachers and able to distinguish good from evil - Hebrews 5:12-14
C. Will you become a child of God?