There are people who seemed to follow the way of faith in the guidance of the Spirit for a while, but with their attachment to the world they revert to their former way of life and commit sins. Then, the Spirit in their hearts laments with groanings, so they feel distressed. If they don’t turn back from the way they are taking, even through the Spirit’s enlightening them, the voice of the Spirit gets faint and the Spirit ends up being quenched. When this happens it means being saved becomes impossible. For this reason the Bible also gives us a warning in 1 Thessalonians 5:19, saying, “Do not quench the Spirit.” To enter the kingdom of heaven, we must not quench the Spirit. Then, let’s examine how we can be born again of water and the Spirit.
- Spiritually being born again
In the book of John chapter 3 a Jewish leader named Nicodemus appears. He was a Pharisee. In those days, Pharisees strictly kept the Law of the Moses, believed that the Messiah would come, and thought in confidence that they had a proper belief in God.
But Jesus rebuked them severely in Luke 11:39-43, saying, “꿓ow you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and of the platter; but inside of you, you are full of robbery and wickedness꿞oe to you Pharisees!” They looked holy on the outside, but their inner hearts were full of robbery and self-indulgence, so they were like whitewashed tombs.
The Pharisees taught people the Word of God, but they couldn’t understand the truth Jesus preached. They even opposed to Him and tried to kill Him. But Nicodemus was different. He could go to Jesus because he witnessed signs and wonders that Jesus performed. He believed that Jesus came from God. So, He came by night to avoid the eyes of the public.
He was a member of the Sanhedrin that was the supreme judicial, ecclesiastical, and administrative council of the Jews. In a fleshly sense, he seemed to have nothing to envy. But he had spiritual thirst for the truth. That’s why he came to Jesus.
As recorded in John 3:2, Nicodemus said, “Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.”
In His reply to Nicodemus Jesus spoke about being born again. Nicodemus was spiritually ignorant although he knew the Law inside out and he even taught it to other people. Jesus wanted Nicodemus to be free of any deception. Jesus knew his inner heart and that he had a thirst for the truth and He said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). But Nicodemus couldn’t understand the spiritual meaning of what was said and asked Jesus, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?”
Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and 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. Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit” (John 3:5-8).
Jesus talked about spiritual rebirth. It is the occasion of those who dwelled in untruth, being changed and coming to live in the truth. Through spiritual rebirth, a habitual liar is changed into a man of honesty. A hot-tempered person with hatred for others becomes a kind person. Some people come to have a different mental attitude due to a thankful heart for the grace of God after they met God and were healed of incurable diseases. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean we can be spiritually born again in a brief period of time.
God prepared the way for the revival of men’s dead spirits and allowing for them to enter Heaven. The way is through accepting Jesus Christ and being born again of water and the Spirit. As mentioned above, spiritual regeneration of the human spirit is a far more amazing occurrence than physically being ‘born-again’. The human physical body is a mere container for the spirit, and the spirit in the body is the true master of the man. Thus, the spirit being spiritually born again is the true essence in the meaning of being ‘born-again’.
When men die, their flesh becomes rotten and eventually will no longer exist but their spirit is immortal. Men who have been born again of water and the Spirit can enter Heaven, but for those who haven’t, there is no other way than the way to Hell. So, all men should be spiritually born again and blessed to enjoy eternal life in Heaven.
- The meaning of ‘Being born again of water’
We become eligible to receive salvation the moment the dead spirit in us is revived, and we are born again as a new creature. However, we still need to maintain the eligibility to reach full, complete and perfect salvation. For this, the water that is the Word of God, is requisite.
1 Peter 1:23 reads, “For you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God.”
‘Being born again of water’ indicates that we wash away filthy and dirty sin and evil from our hearts with the Word of God. Through the Word, we can realize sins, evilness, and what we should cast off. When we cast them off one by one, we can be born again as a man of the truth.
But, if we don’t wash ourselves, even if we have water, we can’t be clean. By the same token, if we don’t use the Word of God, even though we know it; if we do not practice it, it is of no use. When we cast away the untruth such as hatred, jealousy, enviousness, judgment, and condemnation that the Bible tells us not to do and to cast away, our hearts will be cleansed.
Furthermore, if we love, serve, and seek others’ benefits as the Bible tells us to do; and if we keep and hold fast to the things that we are to keep, then our hearts become filled with the truth. This is the meaning of ‘being born again of water’. It is the way of casting off the untruth and filling our hearts with the truth.
- The meaning of ‘Being born again of the Spirit’
Then, what does it mean to be born again of the Spirit? To receive salvation we need to be born again not only of water that is the Word of God, but also of the Spirit. This is because only when we receive the Spirit can our dead spirits be revived.
After coming into our hearts, the Spirit revives our spirits that had remained dead and gives us grace and strength so that we can live according to the Word of God. Through this help of the Holy Spirit, we can practice the Word and become men of the truth. This is the ‘being born again of the Spirit’.
Romans 8:26 explains about the Spirit, “In the same way the Spirit also helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”
Unless we receive the Spirit, a dead spirit can’t be revived and we can’t gain realization concerning spiritual meanings included in the Word of God. Then, the Word can’t be planted in the hearts and give faith either. It is natural that there is no strength given to us that enables us to practice the Word. No matter how much we know the Word of God, without receiving the Spirit, we can’t receive strength to practice the Word. We cannot be led to salvation. Only with the help of the Spirit, can we receive spiritual realization, believe from the heart, and be provided with strength to pray. Through this help, we can ‘dwell in the Word of God’.
As stated, the Word of God and the Spirit together regenerate us and guide us to Heaven. That is why it is said that we can be saved only when we are born again of water and the Spirit. To the extent that we are transformed through the Word and achieve the true heart, God gives us spiritual faith from above together with answers and blessings (Hebrews 10:22).
Ephesians 4:13 says, “Until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.” In order to reach the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ, we should attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of Jesus Christ. It means that we should not only know and understand the Word but also carry it out in action. I hope you will practice the Word completely by the help of the Spirit, and by doing so you will reach the mature level of faith which belongs to the fullness of Christ.