Born Again Into The Kingdom
The church is the people who are "a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light" (1 Pet. 2:9). The kingdom includes only those who are "delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son" (Col. 1:13). One enters the kingdom by the birth of water and of the Spirit and not by a physical birth (John 3:5).
Among religious people it is almost universally accepted that one must be "born again" in order to enter the kingdom of heaven. It is the means by which one gets into the kingdom of God. Nicodemus came to Jesus by night and acknowledged him to be a great teacher from God. Jesus came directly to the point by saying unto him, "...Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3). That is explicit! He further said, "...Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God" (vs. 5). This language is plain and to the point. The word "Except" is used in both verses and it allows no alternative if one enters into the kingdom of God. He MUST be "born again" or "born of water and the Spirit" in order to SEE or ENTER into the kingdom of God.
The context of John 3:3-13 shows that Jesus was speaking of entering the kingdom of God upon this earth, and Nicodemus so understood that. He did not understand the nature of the birth of water and the Spirit, but he understood that Jesus was talking about entering the kingdom here upon earth while man lives. Jesus distinguished this from a physical birth and that is what confused Nicodemus.
One must be born again to enter the kingdom. "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost" (Titus 3:5). "Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever" (1 Pet. 1:23).
The inspired John said that Jesus came to his own and they received him not, but as many as received him, to them he gave power to become the sons of God. "...Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God" (John 1:12-13). Jesus spoke of ONE birth, not two. One birth of water and the Spirit, not a physical birth.
Other expressions in the New Testament help us understand the significance of the birth of water and the Spirit into the kingdom of God. The germ of life is in the seed. Jesus said, "...the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life" (John 6:63). Peter said, "Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever" (1 Pet. 1:23). The seed is the word of God (Luke 8:11). "Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures" (James 1:18). Paul said to the Corinthians, "...I have begotten you through the gospel" (1 Cor. 4:15).
There are parallel passages to John 3:3-5 which make the meaning clear. Christ loved the church and gave himself for it, "That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word" (Eph. 5:26). That statement is equal to "birth of water and of the Spirit." In the New Testament there is no cleansing or sanctifying by washing of water except by baptism of a penitent believer.
Another is Titus 3:5, "not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost." The washing of regeneration is the washing of rebirth. The renewing of the Holy Spirit is the effect of the work of the Spirit through the word. "Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind..." (Rom. 12:2). The renewing of the mind comes from the teaching of the Spirit by the word. Stating it plainly: "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned" (Mark 16:16). The word is the work of the Spirit which produces faith (Rom. 10:17), and baptism is the only washing of water authorized in the New Testament for cleansing anyone. "And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord" (Acts 22:16). The new birth which inducts one into the kingdom of God is exactly the same as that which brings one to be added to the church. It all occurs in the same way and brings the individual to the same place in relation to Christ and the remission of sins (Acts 2:38,47; 16:31-34; Rom. 6:3-6; Col. 2:12,13). These conditions reconcile one to God through Christ in one body (Eph. 2:15,16). We get into one body by baptism as directed by one Spirit (1 Cor. 12:13). Since there is only one Spirit, one baptism and one body (Eph. 4:3,4), the only way to get into that one body is by baptism as directed by that one Spirit through the word of God. That equals "he that believeth and is baptized" (Mark 16:16), and "born again of water and of the Spirit" (John 3:5).
-- Via Searching the Scriptures, February 1992, Volume 33, Number 2
By H.E. Phillips
From Expository Files 17.1; January 2010