“I tell you the truth”. I always sit up and listen a little more closely when Jesus prefaces a teaching with the phrase, “I tell you the truth”. I smile when I read it, for it is my personal favorite. It is like Jesus is saying, “Hey, listen up!”. He happened to say it twice in this scripture, and later on again in verse 11. In total, Jesus said it 75 times in the four Gospels! (Click here for a list.)
You Must be Born Again
When a person uses the phrase “born again”, they mean someone who believes Christ died to pay the price for their sins, has repented, and in faith receives Christ as their Savior. When you are born again, you die to “self” and in faith rise to new life as a disciple of Christ. A person is born once physically, into a human family. A Christian has been “born again”, this time born spiritually into the family of God, as God’s own son or daughter. What a position of honor, privilege, and love; that we should be called children of God! (See 1 John 3:1).
See the Kingdom
In verse 3 of this scripture, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” We cannot even see the Kingdom of God, unless we are born again (as in, born of water and the Spirit; see verse 5). This is echoed by Paul in 1 Corinthians 1:18 and 1 Corinthians 2:14 when he said that those without the Spirit do not accept the things of the Spirit because it is like foolishness to them, and they cannot understand it. When we are born again, we get a new life, a new perspective, a new understanding. We finally “get it”, meaning we finally get what Jesus did for us!
Jesus likened the Kingdom of God to a mustard seed that, when planted, flourishes and takes over the garden; or, a bit of yeast that works its way through the whole dough (Matthew 13:31-33). When a person is born again, God takes over his or her life, and God’s Kingdom priorities take over, too.
What about the lost? Jesus is saying that they will never “get” the gospel and what Jesus did for all of us unless the Holy Spirit enables them to understand. To keep us all humble, those of us who are Christ’s disciples and can spiritually see the Kingdom are able to do so only by the grace of God’s Holy Spirit. In this respect, both the saved and unsaved are the same: helpless and foolish without the Holy Spirit.
Enter the Kingdom
In John 3:5 Jesus went on to say, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.” We cannot enter the Kingdom of God unless we are born of water and the Spirit. Water baptism symbolizes being born into a new life. Think of:
- Moses leading the Israelites through the Red Sea to set them free from the Egyptians (Exodus 14:29-31)
- Paul immediately being water baptized when he repented and became a disciple (Acts 9:17-19)
- Jesus being baptized in water by John the Baptist, right before He began his earthly ministry (Matthew 3:13-17)
What about born of the Spirit? Some say you receive the Holy Spirit at baptism, others that it is a separate baptism. Some say it is received by a laying on of the hands. Others that it is the rebirth we will receive when Jesus comes back. Honestly, when I start to go off “in the weeds”, reading doctrine and theology that different groups and people have come up with, it makes my head hurt!! Instead of sifting through what others have said about the Holy Spirit, I come back to the point of this blog: What did Jesus say?
In this verse, Jesus said that the Spirit is like the wind (verse 8), that it blows where it pleases, you cannot exactly pin point where it comes from or where it is going, but you hear it. While this does sound a bit mysterious, that is part of what makes it so beautiful! Doctrine and theology can be so cut and dried, so “know it all”, but the mystery of what Jesus said has a profound pull on the heart that no man’s writings can touch, no matter how eloquent or well intended.
What Else Did Jesus Say About the Holy Spirit?
In the next post, Born Again of Water and Spirit // Part II we’ll explore additional verses to see what else Jesus said about the Holy Spirit. Together, we will explore the beauty and mystery of what Jesus saidMatthew 5:18, Matthew 5:26, Matthew 6:2, Matthew 6:5, Matthew 6:16, Matthew 8:10, Matthew 10:15, Matthew 10:23, Matthew 10:42, Matthew 11:11, Matthew 13:17, Matthew 16:28, Matthew 17:20, Matthew 18:3, Matthew 18:13, Matthew 18:18, Matthew 19:23, Matthew 19:28, Matthew 21:21, Matthew 21:31, Matthew 23:36, Matthew 24:2, Matthew 24:34, Matthew 24:47, Matthew 25:12, Matthew 25:40, Matthew 25:45, Matthew 26:13, Matthew 26:21, Matthew 26:34
John 1:51, John 3:3, John 3:5, John 3:11, John 5:19, John 5:24, John 5:25, John 6:26, John 6:32, John 6:47, John 6:53, John 8:34, John 8:58, John 10:1, John 10:7, John 13:16, John 13:20, John 13:21, John 13:38, John 14:12, John 16:7, John 16:20, John 16:23, John 21:18