You must be born again
Devotional by David Niednagel, Pastor/Teacher, Evansville, IN. David uses the S.O.A.P. method for his morning study time (study, observe, apply, pray).
3:3 “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” ESV
Jesus responded to Nicodemus’ compliment in an unusual way that certainly surprised him. He said “Truly, truly, I say to you…” Literally He said “Amen!, Amen! I say to you …” Amen was a common word which meant “May it be” or “So be it” or like an emphatic “Yes!”. Normally it was said at the end of a prayer (by the one praying) or after a significant statement (by someone who heartily agreed with it). Here Jesus said it Himself, without waiting for Nicodemus to agree, and He said it before His statement, and He said it twice! His meaning was, “Pay attention, Nicodemus! I am going to say something very important”. And He spoke of the necessity of being “born again/from above.”
Nicodemus was obviously confused and wondered how an adult could be born again physically. Jesus corrected him by saying He was referring to a spiritual rebirth. There has been much discussion about what Jesus meant by being born of “water and the Spirit”, with many thinking it had some reference to baptism. I don’t think so. Nicodemus was thinking of physical birth, and I think that is what Jesus meant. When a woman is ready to give birth, her “water breaks”. So Jesus said “That which is born of flesh is flesh, and that which is born of spirit is spirit” Jesus is simply saying “Nicodemus, you were born fine physically, but now you need a spiritual birth, or you won’t enter God’s kingdom, because it is a spiritual kingdom. And you shouldn’t be surprised that I said you need a spiritual birth.
In :8 Jesus speaks of “the wind”, but he is not changing the subject. The word for spirit and wind are the same word “pneuma”, so Jesus is making a play on words to explain. “You can’t control the wind, but you can see the evidence of the wind, and in like manner you can’t control the Spirit, but you can see the evidence of the Spirit – and you, Nicodemus, don’t have the evidence of spiritual birth and life.” Nicodemus was probably confused and embarrassed.
Lord, until Your Spirit does His work in our hearts, this is foreign to our thinking and it makes us very uncomfortable. But we thank You for making it clear from the beginning how important this spiritual rebirth is to enter Your kingdom. It is not a matter or us becoming religious and beginning new practices, it is a matter of the supernatural work of Your Holy Spirit. Thank You for making those issues clear in my heart when I was 13, and for giving me greater understanding and gratitude over the years. More than ever I realize I could never become religious enough to be “born again”. I do desire to help make it clear to others, but I realize I cannot do it without the work of Your Holy Spirit. So, again, Thank You!!! Amen.