“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”’” (John 3:5–7).
Jesus answered Nicodemus’s objection by elaborating on the truth He introduced in verse 3: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” “Water” and “Spirit” often refer symbolically in the Old Testament to spiritual renewal and cleansing.
It was surely Ezekiel 36:24–27 that Jesus had in mind, which shows regeneration to be an Old Testament truth with which Nicodemus should have been acquainted. Christ’s point was unmistakable: Without the spiritual washing of the soul, a cleansing accomplished only by the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5) through the Word of God (Eph. 5:26), no one can enter God’s kingdom.
Jesus continued by further emphasizing that this spiritual cleansing is wholly a work of God and not the result of human effort: “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” Just as only human nature can beget human nature, so also only the Holy Spirit can effect spiritual transformation.
Even if a physical rebirth were possible, it would produce only flesh. Thus only the Spirit can produce the spiritual birth required for entrance into God’s kingdom. Regeneration is entirely His work, unaided by any human effort (cf. Rom. 3:25).
What have you needed washing from your heart in the last several days or weeks? How have you gone about seeking the Lord’s cleansing and renewal? How have you experienced the reality of His refreshment?
From Daily Readings from the Life of Christ, Vol. 1, John MacArthur. Copyright © 2008. Used by permission of Moody Publishers, Chicago, IL 60610