It is written:
“Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” (John 3:5)
Contextually, the phrase “born of water” is a reference to baptism (see John 3:23; 4:1-2). Indeed, when studying the writings of the second century Christians, we see that this text was constantly referred to in discussions about baptism.
“The most important text in John for Christian baptism is John 3: 3 and 5, “Except one is begotten from above [or, again, ἄνωθεν], that person cannot see the kingdom of God. . . . Except one is begotten of water and Spirit [ἐξ ὕδατoς καì πνεύματoς], that person cannot enter the kingdom of God.” 476 The usual translation is “born,” probably because of Nicodemus’s misunderstanding in verse 4. But if we take the ambiguous ἄνωθεν as “from above” (its meaning in 3: 31 and 19: 11) and follow the emphasis on the Spirit in verses 6-12 (esp. v. 😎, then Jesus’ statements concern primarily the divine begetting, not the human rebirth, although the latter would be implicit even if not explicit. 477 God gives new life through the Spirit (6: 63) in the water. 478 John 3: 5 became the most cited baptismal text in the second century and continued to be important afterward. Despite the overwhelming historical and majority contemporary consensus, there have been insistent efforts to remove John 3: 5 from the dossier of baptismal texts.” (Everett Ferguson, Baptism In The Early Church, 3137-3143 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; William B Eerdmans Publishing Company)
However, there are those in our day and age who claim that this passage references physical birth. In other words, they claim that the phrase “born of water” refers to someone who is physically born. What shall we say of this?
First, if this were a reference to physical birth, then why is it that no Christians understood this till the last hundred years?
Second, the passage uses a phrase to reference physical birth: “born of flesh.”
Third, the language of new birth was in common use among the Hebrews for reference to baptism.
“That baptism was absolutely necessary to make a proselyte is so frequently stated as not to be disputed (See Maimonides, u. s.; the tractate Massekheth Gerim in Kirchheim’s Septem Libri Talm. Parvi, pp. 38-44 [which, however, adds little to our knowledge]; Targum on Ex. 12: 44; Ber. 47 b; Kerith. 9 a; Jer. Yebam. p. 8d; Yebam. 45 b, 46 a and b, 48 b, 76 a; Ab. Sar. 57a, 59 a, and other passages). …The waters of baptism were to him in very truth, though in a far different from the Christian sense, the ‘bathof regeneration’ (Titus 3: 5). As he stepped out of these waters he was considered as ‘born anew’, in the language of the Rabbis, as if he were ‘a little child just born’ (Yeb. 22 a; 48 b, as ‘a child of one day’ (Mass. Ger. c. ii.). But this new birth was not ‘a birth from above’ in the sense of moral or spiritual renovation, but only as implying a new relationship to God, to Israel, and to his own past, present, and future. It was expressly enjoined that all the difficulties of his new citizenship should first be set before him, and if, after that, he took upon himself the yoke of the law, he should be told how all those sorrows and persecutions were intended to convey a greater blessing, and all those commandments to redound to greater merit. More especially was he to regard himself as a new man in reference to his past. Country, home, habits, friends, and relation were all changed. The past, with all that had belonged to it, was past, and he was a new, man the old, with its difilements, was burried in the waters of baptism.” (Alfred Edersheim, Life And Times Of Jesus The Messiah, 26919-26943 (Kindle Edition))
Fourth, consider this:
“Another proposal (mostly in popular literature) has been that “born of water” refers to physical birth, whether from the standpoint of water in the mother’s womb, or of water as a euphemism for the male sperm (compare 1 Jn 3:9)…. The difficulty, however, is that while “water” is a possible metaphor for physical birth, it is not an obvious one. The Gospel writer already used a number of expressions for physical birth and “born of water” was not among them (see 1:13). 43 He did this, moreover, in order to draw the sharpest possible contrast between physical and spiritual birth (“ not ” of blood lines, etc., “ but ” of God) rather than to point out analogies between them. In the present context Jesus himself will draw an equally sharp contrast between the two: “What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit” (v. 6). The incongruity of understanding water as physical birth can easily be seen by substituting “flesh” (which clearly does mean physical birth) for water, yielding a self-contradictory phrase, “born of flesh and Spirit” or “born of flesh, even Spirit.”” (J Ramsey Michaels, The Gospel Of John, 3562-3571 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; William B Eerdmans Publishing Company)
Friends, the new birth takes places when the believer repents of his sins and is baptized into Christ to have his sins forgiven (Acts 2:38; Romans 6:3-4).
Why not obey His Word today?