Born of Water and of the Spirit

By on August 11, 2016

Born of Water and of the Spirit – Bible Research Tools 

In the gospel of John it is written that Nicodemus was a “ruler of the Jews”[John 3:1] which the Orthodox Jewish Bible identifies as a member of the Sanhedrin council. Jesus referred to him as “a master [teacher] of Israel”. Therefore it can be assumed he was well-versed in the Holy Scriptures. Yet, Nicodemus did not understand the words, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” [John 3:2].

He attempted to relate being “born again” to a second physical birth [John 3:4], to which Jesus responded:

“Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” — John 3:5-8 KJV

The term “born of the spirit” is generally understood to be “born of the Word”. For example, in the parable of the Sower, Jesus explained that when the “sower soweth the word”, some fell on “good ground, took root, and produced fruit” [Mar 4:14-20]. And he specifically declared His words to be “spirit”:

“. . . the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” — John 6:63 KJV

Peter stated being born again was being “born by the Word of God”:

“Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently: Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.” — 1Pet 1:22-23 KJV

Paul and John wrote of the power of the Word in this manner:

“. . . take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:” — Eph 6:17 KJV

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life;” — 1Joh 1:1 KJV

Paul also wrote that hearing the Word is a precursor to faith and salvation:

“So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” — Rom 10:17 KJV

“For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? ” — Rom 10:13-15 KJV

But what about water? Is Jesus referring to a birth from the womb, or to water baptism? Maybe neither. Ezekiel mentioned both water and spirit in this passage about the return of Israel from Babylonian captivity:

“Also, thou son of man, prophesy unto the mountains of Israel, and say, Ye mountains of Israel, hear the word of the Lord . . . Therefore thus saith the Lord God; Surely in the fire of my jealousy have I spoken against the residue of the heathen, and against all Idumea, which have appointed my land into their possession with the joy of all their heart, with despiteful minds, to cast it out for a prey . . . For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land. Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them. And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God . . . Then shall ye remember your own evil ways, and your doings that were not good, and shall lothe yourselves in your own sight for your iniquities and for your abominations . . . Then the heathen that are left round about you shall know that I the Lord build the ruined places, and plant that that was desolate: I the Lord have spoken it, and I will do it.” — Eze 36:1, 5, 24-28, 31, 36 KJV

Isaiah also mentioned both water and spirit in this passage about the return from Babylon:

“For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring: And they shall spring up as among the grass, as willows by the water courses . . . That confirmeth the word of his servant, and performeth the counsel of his messengers; that saith to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be inhabited; and to the cities of Judah, Ye shall be built, and I will raise up the decayed places thereof . . . That saith of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure: even saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid.” — Isa 44:3-4, 26, 28 KJV

When the wall of Jerusalem was finally completed (“in troublous times”: Dan 9:25), Ezra read the Word of God to the children of Israel:

“So the wall was finished in the twenty and fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty and two days . . . And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people; (for he was above all the people;) and when he opened it, all the people stood up: And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God. And all the people answered, Amen, Amen, with lifting up their hands: and they bowed their heads, and worshipped the Lord with their faces to the ground . . . And Nehemiah, which is the Tirshatha, and Ezra the priest the scribe, and the Levites that taught the people, said unto all the people, This day is holy unto the Lord your God; mourn not, nor weep. For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the law . . . Now in the twenty and fourth day of this month the children of Israel were assembled with fasting, and with sackclothes, and earth upon them. And the seed of Israel separated themselves from all strangers, and stood and confessed their sins, and the iniquities of their fathers.” — Neh 6:15; 8:5-6, 9; 9:1-2 KJV

Were the prophets referring to the reading of the Word by Ezra as the “pouring out of the water and the spirit”? Jesus related the “pouring out of living water” to the spreading of the Word by those who received the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost:

“In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)” — John 7:37-39 KJV

“And it shall be in that day, that living waters shall go out from Jerusalem; half of them toward the former sea, and half of them toward the hinder sea: in summer and in winter shall it be.” — Zec 14:8 KJV

Jesus himself is called the fountain of living waters, whose water quenches all thirst:

“O Lord, the hope of Israel, all that forsake thee shall be ashamed, and they that depart from me shall be written in the earth, because they have forsaken the Lord, the fountain of living waters.” — Jer 17:13 KJV

“Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” — John 4:13-14 KJV

And in the Revelation the water of life is free to all who will partake:

“And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” — Rev 22:17 KJV

Therefore, it appears that being “born of water and of the spirit” is hearing the word of God until it takes root as faith in Christ. John explained it in the simplest form:

“Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God” — 1Joh 5:1 KJV


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