The importance of teaching for regeneration no doubt explains why so much teaching is found in this chapter of John’s Gospel. In addition to the doctrine of the new birth and the Holy Spirit, Jesus also talks about the Incarnation when he refers to himself as the One who came from heaven. He mentions the crucifixion when he uses the story of Moses and the bronze serpent to show how he himself is going to be lifted up, and that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. 

That leads us to ask what water does stand for in this verse. I would suggest that what it stands for is the Word of God. There are a number of verses that make that clear. Let me give you a few of them. In Ephesians 5:26, Paul is writing to the church at Ephesus, and he is describing what Jesus did for his Church. He died for it in order that he might sanctify and cleanse it by washing with the Word. So there you have, in Paul's writings, an equivalent of the use of the word to provide the cleansing associated with water.

Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, unless a man is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” Well, that's a parallel statement with what Jesus just said. Nicodemus has to be born again, and he has to be born of water and the Spirit. It’s this second part in verse 5 that carries the first part in verse 3 a little bit further. It's a way of saying that being born of water and the Spirit is how you're born again. Now, how are we to understand that? What does that mean, “to be born of water and of the Spirit”?

Nicodemus comes and he tries to begin this religious discussion by saying to Jesus, “Rabbi, we know you're a teacher who has come from God, and the way we know it is this: Nobody could perform all these miracles that you're doing if God weren't with him.” But you notice that Jesus does not interact with Nicodemus on that point. Rather, he responds, “I tell you the truth, unless a man is born again, he can't even see the kingdom of God.”

In John 3, we come to the second main character, whose name is Nicodemus. It is with this encounter that Jesus has that great teaching about the necessity of being born again. I want to show how this conversation with Nicodemus adds to what we saw with John the Baptist. We noted in the last study how essential John the Baptist’s witness was to point people to the Lord Jesus Christ. But because we're all spiritually blind, we remain in spiritual darkness and are unable to see that which is spiritual light. On our own we cannot understand the true significance of the witness that is being given. What is necessary in addition to the witness is the work of God by the new birth in which those who hear the witness are brought to spiritual life.