What is Spiritual Rebirth?
“Being born of water” in John 3:5 refers to baptism. Lord Jesus is referring to the spiritual rebirth here.
The Bible uses water as a symbol for the Holy Spirit (e.g. Jn 7:37-39). But to claim that the water in John 3:5 and the washing in Tit 3:5 as only referring to the Holy Spirit would be forced because water and Spirit are mentioned together in Jn 3:5 and washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit are mentioned together in Tit 3:5. The reason Jn 3:6-8 emphasizes Spirit rather than water is that Jesus was speaking of a spiritual rebirth, not a physical one (Jn 3:6). In fact, baptism and receiving of the Holy Spirit are closely related and together they comprise the spiritual rebirth of which Jesus was speaking. To be born of the Spirit, we need to accept baptism and live a new life according to the Spirit.
The Bible clearly teaches spiritual rebirth through baptism.
Rebirth involves receiving a new life. This new life is given to a person when his old self has died and been buried during baptism (Rom 6:3-4; Col 2:12). So considering the use of the words “water” and “washing,” it would be correct to interpret Jn 3:5 and Tit 3:5 as referring to the specific event of baptism.
The word of truth and baptism are not mutually exclusive but are closely related (cf. Eph 5:23). The word of truth includes the command of baptism, and baptism is effective because God’s word has promised salvation through it (Mk 16:16; 1Pet 3:21). It would be a mistake to refer to the birth through the word of truth in order to deny the rebirth through baptism.
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