Summary: Did you ever wonder about this reference to water and the Spirit?
John 3:1 There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “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.”3 Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
Did you ever wonder about this reference to water and the Spirit? We all talk about the Spirit...and we all know that we have to have God’s Spirit...but what did Jesus mean here when He mentioned water? Was He talking about water baptism? Is that important? Let’s look at the context of what Jesus was dealing with here and find what He meant when He said "unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God."
We can see that Jesus was talking to Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This means that he was a very learned man in Biblical matters. It is said that the one had to commit the Old Testament to memory to become a Pharisee, or leader of the Jewish religion. It doesn’t tell us, but I am sure that we can deduce that Nicodemus had at least heard of John the Baptist, even though I’m sure he would not have been baptised by him. So I think we can safely assume that Jesus was talking about a different type of water here than the water involved in water baptism. If we look closer, we see that Jesus instead is talking about being "born-again". He says so in vs 7.....
We have all talked about being "born-again" for years....it’s the first thing we all learn as baby christians...but what does it really mean to be born of water and the Spirit? I thought about this for a long time. I studied it. I mulled it over. I asked God for revelation on this subject. Here’s what God gave me to tell you.
Water is largely used in the Bible to signify cleansing. In LEV 1 you will find that the priests were commanded by God to wash the animal sacrifices before they could offer them. It was to purify the sacrifice before offering it to God. It was also used to symbolize innocence...Psalms 26:6 I will wash my hands in innocence; So I will go about Your altar, O LORD. Remember even Pontius Pilate tried to wash his hands of any involvement with the death of Christ. We still use the term today, don’t we? "I’ve just washed my hands of it".....
We certainly need to wash our hands of sin, don’t we? How do we do that? Nothing but the blood of Jesus! Then we truly do become innocent and without blame whenever we have repented of our sins. That is how we must come to God; having washed our hands of sin. We can do nothing to recieve salvation except turn from sin and let Jesus wash us in His blood...Titus 3:4 But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, 5 not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit. We can’t become "good" and then go to God for salvation. It is only by the washing of the blood and the regeneration or rebirth (born-again) of our spirit and the renewing of the Holy Spirit.