John 3: 3-6 NIV
3. In reply Jesus declared, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.
4. "How can a man be born when he is old ?" Nicodemus asked. "Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb to be born!"
5. Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. 6. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.7. You should not be surprised at my saying "You must be born again."
Nicodemus whispers in Jesus' ear, "Help me understand about salvation."
Once we have been "born again", aka "saved" we have some understanding of the Bible and spiritual things. The scriptures can be "opened up" to us, we can "get" some things that before we could not comprehend. We do not know "everything", but we have a partial understanding. This is how the "Holy Spirit" gives birth to our "spirit". Without salvation we cannot understand spiritual things, they are foreign to our thinking.
1 Corinthians 3:8
For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when "Perfection " comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child, When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror, then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known."
"Flesh gives birth to flesh" speaks of the fact that we are born physically and spiritually into a world that is "sin". We are not born "perfect" without sin, and then the world corrupts us. We are born into a life and world of sin. We do things in the natural way of men that have not yet met or known God.
So upon salvation the Holy Spirit gives life to our spirit in a miraculous way. We are given "new life", through the Holy Spirit. Things we did not understand as an unbeliever, are now opened up to our thinking.
In John 3:8, Jesus says that we must be born of water and of the Spirit. This is a fairly controversial scripture, and has been interpreted many ways. Some denominations and churches base a lot of their doctrine on this particular verse. I will tell you how I feel God has lead me to understand this passage:
In Matthew 3 Jesus asked John "the Baptist", His cousin and forerunner of His ministry, to baptise Him. This was a practice that indicated "repentance". At the time of Jesus' baptism the Holy Spirit descends on Him and He is filled with His power to enable Jesus to begin his earthly ministry. Jesus receives the act of baptism publicly to show us He is "fulfilling all righteousness", and as a picture of what we believers should do to "follow" Jesus.
Let's see what happens when we are baptised. Upon baptism we do not wash ourselves clean, but through our belief in Jesus Christ we have been washed clean with the "living water". ( The "living water that Jesus offered to the Samaritan woman in John 4.) It is the process of burying our old "self" with Jesus, symbolically, through His death and resurrection.
Baptism is a "picture" and symbol, of our burial to the old ways of our flesh and life, and then the "resurrection" of our new life in Christ. It symbolizes our coming up fresh and clean. We "wipe the slate clean" so to speak, and then we start fresh in our spiritual life.
In the Old Testament times there was a purification process that took place so the Jews would not be "defiled". Washing hands, feet, and face were necessary for cleanliness. Bathing as we know it today did not take place. Long hot soaks in a tub were unheard of for the common man. So daily washing was necessary, and "customary". When guests arrived at your home, you had someone wash their feet. It was a courtesy of hospitality. Then the Jews took it another step spiritually in "ceremonial washing". In Old Testament times there is a lot of teaching, especially concerning acts of worship in the Temple that are about "washing" and "purification" .
Jesus is saying that we must go further, and wash not only hands and feet, but our hearts. That is the "washing of the water of the Word." God's Word, the Bible washes us when we read and accept, and allow it to "cleanse" us. That act of spiritual washing cleanses our heart, mind, and spirit.
4. But when the kindness of God our Savior and [His] love for mankind appeared, 5. He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, 6. whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7. that being justified by His grace we might be made heirs according to [the] hope of eternal life.
Jesus chose to be baptised publicly in the Jordan River. He was submerged in the water for a more clear picture for us to follow. Different churches baptise in different ways. I was immersed as a child of six. I knew and understood what it was about. I had received Jesus as my Savior and knew Him in my heart. I went into a "baptistry" at my church and was "dunked".
Many churches "sprinkle", or pour water, to symbolize baptism. Must you be baptised before you can enter heaven? My thinking is that it is not a requirement, as Jesus turned to the thief while they were each on the cross and says "This day, you will be with me in Paradise". This man had not been "physically baptised", but he was "spiritually baptised".
As believers should we be baptised? Yes, we do that in our act of following Jesus. Will the act of "physical baptism" get us to heaven? No. Not unless the physical act accompanies the spiritual act of baptism.
So when Jesus says you must be born of water and the Spirit, He is saying to be born again we must have both the spiritual repentance and cleansing which is the symbol of water baptism and then the spiritual rebirth we receive from the Holy Spirit.
There have been periods in my life where I was out of the "habit" of reading the Bible. We all go through these times. Sometimes it's not even a conscious refusal; we are just busy, our "life" gets in the way. Sometimes we have so many problems that we feel hopeless and unable to hear what God is saying. Sometimes the sin in our lives seems to take on a life of it's own and reading the Word of God is about the last thing we want to do. If we open the Word, then we open our hearts. Conviction of our sin is something we sometimes don't want if we are "enjoying" our sin for the moment.
I have been in all these places. I have found that daily Bible reading is important for me to maintain my intimacy with God. There is something "supernatural" about opening God's Word, the Holy Bible and reading. I may not know what or where to read, but if I submit myself to this daily act, then it is much easier for God to lead me and speak to me than if I never open the book. The Bible, the Word of God "washes" us in our daily life. Just like we physically wash every day. I need to spiritually "wash" every day.
My prayer for today: "Father, thank you for salvation, for the act of grace on your part that saved me from a life of sin. Thank you that I can come to you to receive "cleansing", that your Word is available and life-giving. Thank you that Your Holy Spirit is with me, speaking and leading me in my daily life. Thank you Father, that you are writing this Bible study, not me. I would mess it up. You are kind and loving and refreshing. Thank you for the ones you bring to this place. Please touch their hearts and lives individually, through your wonderful life giving words.
In Jesus Name. Amen.
Thank you for coming by for a visit to my study time. This has been a long time dream of mine, to be sharing God's Word. Some of these posts are long. Thanks for sticking with me through them. I want to share the "meat" of the Word. It's not something that can be accomplished in a "quickie post", I want to give you something to think and pray about...something to "chew" on for a while that is nourishing.
Have a wonderful week.
I'll be back.