Is John 3:5 about cloning, human birth, or the Holy Spirit? What is necessary to enter the kingdom of God?
Nicodemus was one of the Pharisees and a member of the ruling Sanhedrin of the Jews (John 3:1). He was a master-teacher of the people (John 3:10). He was apparently afraid the other leaders would rebuke him for coming to Jesus, so he came to Jesus at night. Nicoemdus opens the conversation with, “I know that you are a teacher from God . . .”
So Jesus gives him something to think about,
. . . unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God. (NASB) John 3:3
Nicodemus was confused. He wanted to know how one could be born twice. There is a previous question entitled, “What does born again mean?” which you might be interested in. I am sure Nicodemus thought that Jesus was talking in riddles. I believe that Jesus said it this way to capture his attention.
Meaning of the Water
So Jesus explains in John 3:5 how one can be born again.
Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. (NASB) John 3:5-6
What did Jesus mean by “water” and the “Spirit.” There are three different common views about the meaning of “water.”
The first view says that Jesus was referring to the amniotic fluid, the “baby water,” which is released at the time a woman gives birth to a child. This would mean that Jesus is saying that a person must have a human birth first and then the spiritual birth. That would be an obvious statement. But Jesus is trying to explain the meaning of the phrase “born again” to Nicodemus. Why would He include human birth when He is talking about spiritual birth?
The second view says that the “water” Jesus was referring to is water baptism. This view says that baptism is necessary for salvation. But John 3:6-8 indicates that one does not become spiritual by any human act, not washing, not by physical birth, nor by anyone you know. Jesus’ message to Nicodemus is that he must be spiritually born by the Holy Spirit. If baptism is so important, why did Jesus not include the act of physical baptism in John 3:8 and in John 3:16? Why did He only refer to the Holy Spirit? Why is baptism left out of so many New Testament passages? Water baptism does not have any saving power.
The last view says Jesus appealed to Nicodemus’ knowledge of Ezekiel 36:25-27 where God promised Israel that in the last days He would cleanse their hearts with clean water, remove their stone heart, and send the Holy Spirit. Nicodemus would have been very, very familiar with Ezekiel 36:25-27 since he was a master-teacher of Israel. The Jews ritualistic cleansing (John 2:6; 3:25) was done with water. The concept of water and cleansing was commonplace. John the Baptist baptized people only after they repented of their sins, and not before. Baptism did not forgive. Baptism was an outward act of an inner heart felt repentance. When we come to Jesus, our sins are washed away (Isa. 1:18; John 3:5) and at the same time we are given His Holy Spirit. In fact, none will really come to Jesus to have their sins forgiven unless they are repentant of their sins.
What is necessary to enter the kingdom of God? The answer is believing or depending on Jesus to forgive your sins. Repentance over your sins will lead you there. Without it, there is no real desire to want God’s forgiveness.