Some time back I received (or picked up) a tract by pastor Paul J. Levin; it was a tract the Central Baptist Church of Decatur passed out. The topic of the tract is the new birth.
The Scripture says with regard to the new birth: “Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 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?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:3-5, ESV).
The Baptist preacher begins by telling us what the new birth is not. It is not religion, morality, or reformation. Second, he tells us what it is. It is a mystery one can’t explain and it is the work of God. Third, he tells us why the new birth is necessary: Jesus said so, we have a sinful nature, and one cannot save himself. Fourth (and last), he tells us how to be born again. He begins by saying it is not of blood, of the will of the flesh, of the will of man, but of God (John 1:11-13). He begins to bring his thoughts to a close by telling us: “The Lord Jesus said you must be born ‘of the SPIRIT.’ It is God’s work, not yours. It is a miracle.”
In order to receive the new birth he tells us we must receive Christ by faith, praying what is known as the “sinner’s prayer,” read Romans 10:13, and call on the Lord’s name. He closes by saying if one does this: “[t]hen He says you have eternal life!”
I find it interesting that in the whole tract there is not one mention of what Jesus said about “water.” He had a good deal to say about “Spirit”, but not water. He did not say anything for or against it.
Nicodemus may not have understood exactly what the Lord knew he should have, but he did understand enough to ask Him about it. I would like to ask the Baptist preacher about what Jesus meant with the use of the word “water.”
John the Baptist was preaching a baptism of repentance and people less educated than Nicodemus understood him clearly. When Peter and the apostles preached on Pentecost they preached the same message of John 3:3-5; the people understood when Peter answered the question they asked. “ Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.’ Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’ And Peter said to them, ‘Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’” (Acts 2:36-38, ESV).
In these biblical illustrations we have biblical examples of what people did to be saved; there is no biblical teaching on the “sinner’s prayer” for salvation, much less an example. The correct doctrine relative to how a person is saved and the proper meaning of John 3:3-5 is an eternally important point, and one not to be missed. If one is wrong on that, then questions like that which Nicodemus had can’t be answered. Fortunately, the Lord did answer the question and for that I am grateful. (Bulletin article for HCC, 11.18.2012)