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5 Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.


Jesus interrupted Nicodemus and went straight to his spiritual issue. This religionist thought that he was entitled to the kingdom. But, to his shock, he could not enter that kingdom without spiritual birth.

5 Jesus answered,

Jesus replied to Nicodemus’ confusion about spiritual birth in verses 5-8. Nicodemus’ misunderstanding gave Jesus an opportunity to explain more fully what being born again meant. This time He gave a more precise statement as to what it means to be born from above or again.

Most assuredly,

For the second time in Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus, He made a statement of certainty. The literal words for “most assuredly” (amen, amen) always alert us to something very important that is about to be said. Jesus wanted Nicodemus’ undivided attention for the subject He was about to announce.

I say to you [singular],

Jesus now elaborated on what it means to be “born again.” His emphasis was on the need for spiritual birth as over against physical birth.

unless one is born of water and the Spirit,

The phrase “born of water and the Spirit” is difficult to interpret, no matter which viewpoint one holds. It seems to me the best way to take this phrase in context is to interpret “water” to mean natural or physical birth. “The Spirit” would be spiritual birth.

Another possibility is to take “water” as an allusion to the ministry of John the Baptist to repent about the Messiah. “Spirit” would be the Holy Spirit’s work on the individual. However, in light of the fact that Jesus was attempting to explain to Nicodemus the nature of spiritual regeneration in the light of his misunderstanding of how could a man be born physically the second time, “water” would be better applied to the first option. First a person is born physically and, second, he is born spiritually.

Some people make the assumption that Jesus referred to water baptism (an unbiblical concept) by the term “water.” However, there is nothing to indicate in the immediate context about water baptism. Nicodemus would not have understood Christian baptism at this point in his experience. Comparison to physical birth is clearly set forth in the next verse (Jn 3:6).

The word “and” can be taken as translated this way—”even the Spirit.” In other words, water and the Spirit are one entity.

The upshot of “water and the Spirit” is that they mean “eternal life.” This is what one receives when he is born from above or born again.

he cannot enter the kingdom of God.

A person must have a spiritual birth to enter eternal life.


Some interpretations of Scripture should not be taken dogmatically.


No one can be dogmatic about the interpretation of the phrase “water and the Spirit” because the text does not give enough specificity. The only way to determine its meaning is from contextual relationships. Solid interpretation requires that we take meaning from clear passages over the unclear and the majority of passages over the minority. This phrase is both unclear and there are not any parallels that could clarify meaning. It would be best to hold humility when it comes to the interpretation of this verse.