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 within the context of the unfolding 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 v.2] His words lead Jesus to respond, “unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” [v.3]. Our rebirth is essential if we are to experience God’s coming kingdom.
God responds 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 v.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 visible evidence of this is then created by the person themselves in being ‘born of water’ as happened on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2 v.37,38).
Later in today’s chapter John Baptist’s disciples comment on how “all are going to him” (Jesus) and “look he is baptising” [v.26,22; 4 v.1,2 – the disciples of Jesus were doing the baptising]
However, it was ‘whoever receives his testimony” [v.32] that was the vital factor; the man (or woman) who did so “sets his seal to this, that God is true” [v.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 to this is in v.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? Today we could add, and write! This is evidence before God as to whether we have been born of water and of the spirit? The last verse of ch. 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.”