Born of Water and Spirit
June 28th, 1970 @ 10:50 AM
BORN OF WATER AND OF THE SPIRIT
Dr. W.A. Criswell
John 3: 5
6-28-70 10:50 a.m.
If you are listening on radio and if you are looking at television, you are sharing with us the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the morning message entitled Born of Water and of Spirit. In these immediate days past, Sunday morning I have been preaching from the Book of Daniel, and Sunday night, at the seven thirty service, from the Book of John. I have finished the sermons for the second volume on the Book of Daniel. They are being polished, and prepared, and grammatically reconstructed, and the manuscript will be mailed into the Zondervan Publishing Company this week. So I will begin preaching in Daniel again in the fall, and those sermons will comprise the third volume of expository messages on the prophet Daniel.
And in this interim I am going to preach morning and night from the Gospel of John. As I preach at night, I will preach in the morning from the Fourth Gospel. And that is why the message today from the third chapter of the Gospel of John entitled Born of Water and Spirit. “There was a man of the Pharisees,” John writes in the third chapter, “named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: He came to Jesus by night, and said unto Him, Rabbi, Teacher, we know that Thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these sēmeion, signs”—he never uses the word miracles, the translator just put that word miracle there—no man can do these signs that Thou doest, except God be with him. Jesus answered and said unto him, Truly, truly I say unto thee, Except one be born again—anōthen, from above—he cannot see the kingdom of God [John 3:1-3]. Nicodemus saith unto Him, “How could such a thing be?” It is fantastic. “How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?” [John 3:4]—Such language is unimaginable. Then Jesus repeated it: “Truly, truly, I say unto thee”—amēn, amēn, that’s the Greek; amēn, amēn, verily, verily—”Truly, truly, I say unto thee, Except a man be born,” ek hudatos kai pneumatos , “out of water and 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” [John 3:5-6].
Had the Lord said, “You must be born of the Spirit,” we would have thought nothing of it. For to be born one time, He teaches us, is not enough. By nature we are depraved, and sinful, and fallen. And every experience we have in life confirms that. So had the Lord said we must be born of the Spirit, we must be regenerated, God must give us a new heart, we could understand that. But when He says, “Truly, truly; amen, amen, I say unto thee except one be born ek hudatos – your word hydrant, hydromatic, hydrous, hydrous, hudatos – except one be born of water and pneumatos, pneumatos, Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” [John 3:5]. Oh, what a different turn and what an astonishing thing to add. You don’t find it anywhere else in the Bible. You don’t find anything that approaches it in the gospel. It is just peculiarly and uniquely here, just here: “Except one be born of water and Spirit” [John 3:5].
Well, to begin with, as I study it and as I look at it, I am in a gospel message which is written by a man who says overtly that what Jesus did was as much as revelation of the truth of God as what Jesus said [John 20:30-31]. And he does not call what Jesus did miracles as all the other people do, miracles. He never uses the word, he doesn’t use the word a time, not once, but always that word sēmeion, “sign, sign.” It is a revelation of truth from God, and what Jesus did in His life and the things that happened to Him are in themselves as much an unfolding of the mind of God as the spoken word that fell from the lips of our Lord.
Now that word “water”: in the nineteenth chapter John writes, “But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced His side, and forthwith came there out blood and water. And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true” [John 19:34-35]. Nobody else mentions that, just John. There poured out of His side that was riven, opened by that enthrusting spear, there poured out blood and water. Now when I turn to the fifth chapter, the last chapter of John’s first epistle, I meet that same thing again. “Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God? This is He that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by blood and water” [1 John 5:5-6]. Water: “Except a man be born of water and of Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” [John 3:5].
Now as you study and read, oh, how many different opinions and interpretations do you find among scholars and commentators and preachers? How many varying interpretations of this, “Except a man be born of water and of Spirit”? [John 3:5]. Well, here’s one. There are those who say that this refers to the natural birth. A man born one time must also be born again. He must be twice born to enter the kingdom of God. To be born of the flesh one time is not enough; he must be born of the Spirit a second time. And they use that word water to refer to the fleshly birth.
Now there are two things that I can see that would make that truthful. One is there is no doubt but that water is a vital, significant, concomitant corollary of any birth. When God made the growth of the child possible in the mother’s womb, to protect the infant growing, He surrounded it with cushions of water. And when the child is born, of course, the water pours out. So they refer, these interpreters, that water to the fleshly birth, and it has positive substantiation. For the next verse says, the Lord adds, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” [John 3:6]. Now I can understand why people would say that, and I think it is true. That is true. The Scriptures are so deep and unfathomable that no one man would ever empty it of its meaning, but it has depths of meaning, and I can understand that. I think that is true.
Now there are learned interpreters who, in a second presentation, say that this refers to—that a man cannot be saved except, beside that regenerating power of the Holy Spirit in his heart, he must also make a public confession of that faith in the Lord. And that this being born of water and of Spirit refers to the open public committal of your life to Christ, without which no man can enter into the kingdom of God [John 3:5]. Now, I can understand that. I can easily see that. You see, one, Nicodemus came to Jesus by night [John 3:1-2]. And almost certainly he came because he belonged to a proud race. He belonged to an elite of that chosen race.
Nicodemus was a Pharisee. Now to us that’s hypocrite, but that’s because of the twenty-third chapter of Matthew [Matthew 23:1-36]. We have so identified Pharisee—hypocrite. Actually the Pharisees were the pristine glory of Israel. They were the doctors of the law. They were the scholars of the day; Gamaliel the great Rabban with his school, and Saul of Tarsus learned in the law, the Pharisee. This man was a Pharisee, a scholar, a doctor of the faith. This man was a ruler [John 3:1]. He belonged to the Sanhedrin. He was a member of the Supreme Court of all Jewry of the whole civilized world [John 3:1]. And to be found in the presence of this despised and lowly Nazarene, and to seek from Him, a carpenter’s son [Matthew 13:55], the way of life, was somewhat more than poor human nature could sustain. It would tarnish the luster of his reputation. It would be beneath his dignity as a ruler among the people. So he came by night [John 3:2]. He came furtively, secretly, clandestinely in the shades and shadows of the setting sun.
All right, second: the Pharisees refused the baptism of John. John the Baptist, as you know, came, the forerunner from God, to announce the coming kingdom—it was at hand [Matthew 3:1-3]—and to announce the Messiah of God—there He goes by, and he pointed Him out [John 1:26-29]. That was the great commission of God’s forerunner; to point out Jesus, and to prepare for the coming of the Lord, and to get ready a people for His name [John 1:19-23]. So John the Baptist took his stand down there on the banks of the Jordan River and lifted up his voice and heralded, kerussō, heralded the coming kingdom and the King at hand [John 1:22-29]. And in preparation for that glorious messianic day, he called all Israel to repentance [Matthew 3:1-2], and the sign of their purification, their preparation for the King that was coming, was His baptism in water [Matthew 3:1-2]. Now in the seventh chapter of the Book of Luke, it says, “Among those that are born of woman,” the Lord is saying, “there is not a greater than John the Baptist. And all the people that heard John, and even the publicans, justified God, being baptized with the baptism of John” [Luke 7: 28-29], openly, publicly where the whole world could see. They were baptized in the Jordan River by John the Baptist, confessing their sins, purifying their hearts and lives, getting ready for the coming King.
Now the next verse: “But the Pharisees rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him” [Luke 7:30]. The Pharisees said, “We will have nothing of it. We will not be baptized, nor will we openly confess our sins. Nor will we take our place among the ranks of those who believe that the kingdom of heaven is at hand and that the Messiah is here.” And Nicodemus is a Pharisee [John 3:1]. And these interpreters say that when Jesus said to him, “Except a man be born of water” [John 3:5], that is, except a man openly, and publicly, and unashamedly take his place among those who believe in God, and believe in the Messiah, and believe in the kingdom—in other words, the same thing that the people did when they were publicly, openly baptized by John—except a man take that open public committal in the name of Christ, he cannot enter into the kingdom.
And substantiation for that interpretation is found when the Lord says to Nicodemus, “Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?” [John 3:10]. That is, that had been God’s way of saving souls from the beginning, an open public avowal of your faith in the Lord, without which open and public avowal a man cannot be saved. And the Lord calls Nicodemus’ attention to the fact, “That you being a doctor of the law and a student of the Scriptures know that through the endless ages God has never saved men any other way but through that open confession of faith and commitment of life to Him.”
Now I’m going to take a minute just to show that to you; how God’s unchanging way has been just that of saving men. Do you remember the story, and you do, of the Passover in Egypt? And God said to Moses, and to the children of Israel, “You are to take the blood, you are to take the blood, and you are to place it on the front of the house in the form of a cross at the top on the lintels and on either side of the doorposts. You are to take the blood, and you are to place it openly and publicly outside on the house” [Exodus 12:7, 13, 22-23]. Now, I can easily imagine somebody saying, “Ah, ah, openly, publicly on the outside, on the front of my house? Oh, no. No! I will take the blood, and I will sprinkle it on the back door. I will take the blood, and I will sprinkle it inside the closet. Or, I will take the blood and put it somewhere in the house, but as for being outside where everyone can see, no!” But God says, “Yes! The blood is to be openly, publicly, unashamedly displayed outside where the whole world can see it!” And anybody passing down any street, any highway, when they saw a house with the blood on it in the form of a cross on the lintel and either side on the doorposts, that was God’s advertisement to the world that this is a family that belongs to the Lord. And those who were not under the blood were not delivered [Exodus 12:23,27]. Openly. Publicly.
Well, think again. And Moses stood in the midst of the camp and lifted up his voice and said, “Who is on the Lord’s side? let him come and stand by me” [Exodus 32:26]. Open. Public. Or again, Joshua after he described the gods the people worshipped on the other side of the river—and the word “Hebrew” means one who crosses over leaving that old, godless, pagan idolatrous life, crossing over the great river Euphrates into the Promise Land—”Whether you worship them,” he said, “or Jehovah God, Choose ye this day whom ye will worship; but as for me and my house, we will worship the Lord God Jehovah” [Joshua 24:14-15]. Or again, Elijah on Mt. Carmel; “How long halt ye between two opinions? If Baal be God, worship Baal, but if Jehovah God be God, worship Him” [1 Kings 18:21]: always that same way to be saved.
And that is what the interpreters say that Jesus is calling Nicodemus to hear tonight [John 3:1-2]. A man cannot be saved clandestinely, furtively, secretly as the Lord said in the last verse of the eighth chapter of Mark, “He that is ashamed of Me and of My words before this evil generation; of him shall the Son of Man be ashamed, when He comes in the glory of the Father with His holy angels” [Mark 8:38]. You can’t be saved and be ashamed of the Lord Jesus. And you can’t be saved and not take your stand openly and publicly for the Lord. If it costs you your life, if it costs you your head, if it means imprisonment or banishment, to be a Christian is to be an openly, avowedly, publicly, a declared disciple of the Lord Jesus. They say that’s what this means; a man born of water, like the baptism of John, a man who publicly, and unashamedly, and unreservedly, and openly takes his place standing among those who believe in the Lord.
You know, I have time here. Lee Roy was good to me today. I have time here to expatiate on something, you don’t mind. You want to turn in your Bibles to the last chapter of Mark. We’re going to expatiate a little here. We’re going to see what happens here in God’s Word, the last chapter of Mark, Mark chapter 16, Mark chapter 16. Now when you follow the Gospel of Mark, when you come down to verse 8, Mark’s Gospel ends [Mark 16:8]. The last page in Mark’s Gospel was lost from the beginning. There is no record even in Matthew or [Luke], who almost copied every word in Mark; there is no record of the last page of Mark. It was lost from the beginning. We know all of these things by textual criticism, because God, God may have left in this world just one copy of the great, great dramatist Aeschylus and maybe just one copy of some of the tremendous poems and epics of the ancient world, but God saw to it that there were thousands and thousands and thousands of manuscripts of His Holy Word. And by comparing those many manuscripts, we can know exactly what that original Word was. And that’s why we know that the last leaf of Mark’s Gospel was lost from the beginning.
Now, there were many, many attempts to close Mark’s Gospel, one of them I have here in the King James Version of the Bible starting at verse 9 [Mark 16:9]. If you have a Revised Version, you’ll find another one in there. There were many, many attempts to close Mark’s Gospel, men just trying to close them. Now, I want you to look at the man who was writing, we don’t know who he was, just a man uninspired, but there was a man who took up his pen, and he tried to close the last chapter of the Book of Mark. He tried to write a conclusion for it. And in that conclusion this is what he wrote. “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, he that believeth not shall be damned. And these signs shall follow them that believe: They shall cast out demons; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them” [Luke 16:16-18]. I hear that quoted so many times by tongues-speaking groups.
I want these tongues-speaking groups to drink a little strychnine for me, because it’s the same thing here. Why do you speak out speaking in tongues? Why do you pick that out? Again, you think that I am stupid, and that that jargon you say is some kind of a God-given language. That’s what you think, I believe. I want you to take up the other one here: not only speak with tongues, I want you to take up a few cobras and a few rattlesnakes and then I want to see, “and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them.” I’d like to see you take a lot of arsenic and just let me watch you, or strychnine. “Oh, I couldn’t do it.” Because you’d die! Yeah, yeah, because whoever wrote that was in the twilight of sheer unadulterated superstition; that’s all that is. That is not even the beginning of the Word of God. That is sheer, unadulterated, blatant superstition. You might as well be a snake handler.
All right, that same author wrote this. “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved” [Mark 16:16]. Well, I can see that. All over the Roman Empire there were men who were saying, “Oh, we have a new religion. We have a new religion. Well, we will put Him in the Pantheon, the temple of all religions. Here’s Jupiter, and here’s Venus, and here’s Adonis, and here’s Isis, and here’s Osiris, and here’s Demeter, here’s Juno and ah, wonderful, we have a new Oriental religion. We’ve got Jesus. We’ll put Him in this niche here.” And they offered to do it. “We’ll just add Jesus to the group.” And they would listen to the gospel and say, “Oh, my, my. How wonderful. I am a devotee of Mithra.” I haven’t got time to tell you all about Mithra, but it looked as though at one time that Mithra would take the entire civilized world. Mithraism, it would be a new religion of Mithra, worshipping the god Mithra. “I believe in Mithra, and I believe in Jove, and I believe in all of the other religions, and you’ve got a new religion, Jesus, I’ll believe in Him, too. I believe in Him, too.” That’s what the Oriental does today. “I’m a Buddhist, yes! I am a Shintoist, yes! I am a Taoist, yes! I just believe in all of them.”
But the early Christians said, “No!” And that’s why they were persecuted. The Roman Empire was the most lenient of all of the empires in the world concerning religion, but they persecuted the Christians unto death because the Christians said, “You’re not going to take Jesus and put Him in anybody’s pantheon. It is Jesus alone, and nobody else!” And they said about your being a Mithraite, and being a Jovite, and being a Neptunite, and being a Osirisite, and accepting all of these others, “No. You must accept Jesus alone! “There is one true God and one Mediator between man and God, the Man Christ Jesus” [1 Timothy 2:5], and “there is no salvation in any other but He” [Acts 4:12]. You can’t be saved except you take Jesus alone.” And the sign of it was baptism [Acts 2:38].
And all over the Roman Empire, now I’m just reading this in secular history, all over the Roman Empire there were thousands and millions of people who were perfectly willing to accept the Lord Jesus, along with all the other philosophical approaches they made to religion and life, and all the other gods they’re worshipping. “We’re willing to accept Jesus, but we’re not going to be baptized.” And that’s why that man wrote there, whoever he was, don’t know who he was, that’s why he wrote there, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved” [Mark 16:16]. That was just his way of saying that a man to be saved must come out openly and publicly for the Lord Jesus, and if he doesn’t do it, he can’t be saved. You can’t be saved and believe in all these other gods. It is Jesus alone.
Well, same kind of a thing as the Lord said in the tenth chapter of Matthew and verses 32 and 33, “He that shall confess Me before men, him will I confess also before My Father in heaven.” And then the obverse, very plain, “He that shall deny Me before men, him will I deny before My Father which is in heaven” [Matthew 10:32-33]. Very plain and the apostle Paul preached that kind of a gospel, made it very plain. “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus is Lord, and believe in thine heart that God raised Him from the dead, that He lives, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness, a God kind; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” [Romans 10:9-10]. There’s no other way to be saved but through an open, public commitment of your life to God, and there are those who say that that’s what that means; by water [John 3:5], by an open avowal such as this Pharisee had refused when he refused to be baptized by John the Baptist [Luke 7:30].
Well, and we must hasten, there are those who say that that word “of water” refers to repentance. As you find when Mark introduces the gospel, “John came preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins” [Mark 1:4]. And I can understand that. I can see the truth in that. Without repentance, we cannot enter into the kingdom of God [Matthew 18:3]. Got to take your sins to Jesus; you have to ask God to forgive your sins [1 John 1:9]. You’ve got to repent of your sins. You’ve got to confess your sins, as Paul preached in Acts 20:21; “Preaching repentance toward God, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.” The baptism of repentance for the remission of sins [Mark 1:4], I can understand that.
Now I’m going to show you one interpretation that I know is wrong as I read the Word of God. Most of Christendom believes that that water refers to baptismal regeneration. Practically all of Christendom believes that in baptism, and usually it’s in infancy, it’s sprinkling, they say that in baptism we are rid of our human depravity, original sin they call it. Well, why is it that I don’t believe in baptismal regeneration? I call it coetaneous religion, religion of the washing of the skin. You could wash yourself with lye soap, and it would never avail to the cleansing of the soul, to the washing of the stain of transgression out of the heart. And the Scriptures are so explicit about that. When the evangelist Philip preached the gospel to the Ethiopian eunuch [Acts 8:30-35], the eunuch said, “Look here, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest” [Acts 8:36-37]. First, you’ve got to be saved before you can be baptized. You’ve got to trust in the Lord, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved. First you must trust in the Lord then you can be baptized [Acts 8:36-38].
Or look again. Aren’t these strange words to a man who believed you had to be baptized in order to be saved? Listen to these words. In the first chapter of the first Corinthian letter, the apostle Paul says, “I am glad that I baptized none of you, except maybe Crispus and Gaius” [1 Corinthians 1:14]. Then he says, “For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel” [1 Corinthians 1:17]. Isn’t that strange words for a man who believes in baptismal regeneration? No, there is no such thing as baptismal regeneration. There’s not anything a man on the outside can do for you to change your soul and heart, and there’s not anything you can do for yourself! You can’t! You can’t! You can just be baptized every hour on the hour every day of your life, and you haven’t done anything to wash your sins away. And I can baptize you every hour on the hour all the rest of my life, and I can’t wash your sins away!
All right, one other thing before we leave this. God expressly said in 1 John 1:7, “The blood of Jesus Christ God’s Son cleanseth us from all sin.” The blood; we’re saved from sin by the washing of the blood. The blood of Jesus Christ God’s Son washes us from all sin, cleanses us from all sin. It’s something God does for us. It’s a spiritual thing. It’s the atoning grace and mercy of Jesus that washes our sins away.
Well, hastily, “Pastor, what does that mean? When the Lord said, ‘Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born ek hudatos, out of water, kai pneumatos , out of Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven?’” [John 3:5]. All right, I read last night a great scholar, and he said what I’m going to tell you just now. He said, “That is ridiculous!” Exclamation point and he put an exclamation point. “It is ridiculous! It is silly!” But I believe it, what I’m going to say to you right now. I accept those other things except baptismal regeneration. I think there’s truth in all of them, but to me, as I read the Word of God, this is what that means to me. It refers to the cleansing; it refers to the cleansing, washing, purifying, saving grace that God has placed in the mediation of His Word, His Holy Word. “Why do you say that?”
All right, just reading the Bible, will you listen to me? Will you listen to me? These are just a few now, listen to me: 1 Peter 1:23, 25, “We are born again by the word of God.” Ah, what an unusual and fantastic, and this scholar said, “ridiculous” thing to say. But God says it! Now listen again; 1 Peter 1:23, 25, “We are born again by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.” All right, listen again. James 1:18, “Of His own will begat He us, born He us by the word of God.” Listen again. John, this Gospel of John 15:3, “Now ye are clean through the word which I have preached unto you, which I have given into you.” We are clean by the word, washed by the word “which I have spoken unto you.” Or again, Ephesians 5:26, “Now we are washed, we are cleansed, we are sanctified with the washing of water by the word” —water, cleansing, a picture, a symbol, a semeion of the cleansing, washing, purifying power of the word of God.
“Thy word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against thee” [Psalm 119:11]. Second Timothy 3:15, “The Scriptures, the Holy Scriptures are able to make thee wise unto salvation.” They introduce us to God. They are cleansing, purifying, healing words. We are cleaned through the Word which Christ hath spoken unto us [John 15:3]. And that’s why, and oh, dear me, that’s why the great tragedy of our modern life is that as a people, as a nation, even as churches we’re being alienated from the Word of God. It’s strange in our land. And I’m going to quote from the New Yorker. I don’t want you all to think that I get my sermons out of the New Yorker, oh dear, dear, dear. Doesn’t hurt to see what the infidels are saying though, does it? You listen to this. Here’s a paragraph out of the New Yorker.
A television writer has written us that he wanted one of his characters to say, “Man does not live by bread alone” [Matthew 4:4], and another character to reply, “Oh, yes, Genesis,” or whatever the correct Biblical attribution is. Not knowing what it is or whether he had the quote exactly right, he referred the matter to the research department of Columbia Broadcasting System television, the network broadcasting his show. Back came the reply via telephone, “Man does not live by bread alone, not even pre-tested bread,” from the book, The American Character by Dennis William Brogan.
You don’t need any diatribe about that, or any polemical sermon about that. In Deuteronomy 8:3 the Lord God said, “Man shall not live by bread alone,” talking about the manna that came from heaven. It was a gift from God. And in the fourth chapter of Matthew and the fourth verse when Satan tempted Jesus, saying, “Turn these stones into bread” [Matthew 4:3], the Lord replied, quoting Deuteronomy 8:3, “It is written; man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” [Matthew 4:4]. Yet, Columbia Broadcasting System research department, when they are asked by an author who’s going to put on a show where does that quote come from, he researches, and he writes back, “That word, ‘Man does not live by bread alone,’ is a quotation that originated from a book called The American Character by Dennis William Brogan.”
Something has happened to the soul of America. Something has happened to our culture. Dr. Estes, something has happened to our educational processes. We have forgot the Word of God. We are strangers to the revelation of the Almighty. The Bible increasingly, increasingly, increasingly is a strange and unknown Book to us. Yet, the Book says that we are born again by the Word of God [1 Peter 1:23], the cleansing, saving, washing, purifying power of the Word of God. I think of that prophecy in Amos, “There is coming a time, saith the Lord, when there will be a famine in the land, not a famine for bread, not a famine for water, but a famine for the words of God” [Amos 8:11]. We won’t know it anymore. We won’t hear it anymore. And yet no man is ever saved apart from that Word [Romans 10:14].
When the Lord God Jesus appeared to the apostle Paul on the road to Damascus [Acts 9:1-5], and Paul fell at His feet and said, “Master, what will Thou have me to do?” And the Lord said, “Go into the city, and there it will be told thee what thou must do” [Acts 9:6]. And when the angel appeared to Cornelius at Caesarea and said, “Go down there to Joppa and ask for one Simon who is in the house of the tanner who will come and bring thee words whereby thou and thy house may be saved” [Acts 10:5-6, 11:13-14]. Why didn’t the Lord tell him those words? Why didn’t the angel tell him those words? Because no man’s ever saved apart from the mediation of that Holy Book. He just isn’t. In the tenth chapter of the Book of Romans; “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. But how shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent?” [Romans 10:13-15] There’s no salvation apart from the mediation of the Word of God and the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit that accompanies it [John 3:5].
I must close. That’s why, that’s why it is incumbent upon us, and the burden and responsibility of heaven itself lies upon us; we are to teach and to preach this Word [Romans 10:13-15]. That’s what we’re to do. That’s what this Sunday school is to do. And beginning today and I’ve just made a recommitment of my life all over again to the great, to the great, great truth. We’re going to try to pour into this Sunday school more Bible content and more Bible content. If that means the remaking of all our teaching ministries, fine. That’s fine. But we’re going to pour into this teaching content more of the Word of God, and more of the Word of God all the way through it. And God help me as I try to mediate the mind and heart of the Lord, as it is revealed to us in that holy and blessed Book. That’s the way that we are saved. We listen to the gospel, and the Holy Spirit brings the words of the saving message to our heart, and we’re regenerated, and we’re saved [John 16:13-15; Titus 3:5]. O Lord, grant us power and grace in doing that in this dear church, and in these teaching ministries, and in these holy hours of worship and appeal.
And now, is somebody you, is it you, and God has opened your heart to the truth? And “I receive the Lord, and I open my heart to the blessed Jesus. His Word has found lodgment in my soul, and like seed on good ground, let God make it blossom and fruit to a hundredfold” [Matthew 13:8, 23]—you come and stand by me. A family you this morning putting your life in the circle and orbit of this dear church, “Here I am, pastor, and here I come,” do it now, in the balcony round, on this lower floor, down here to the front. I can’t make the appeal. The Spirit of God has to press the appeal to your heart, but God does it, and if you’ll listen to the mind of the Lord, listen to the wooing of the Holy Spirit, you’ll be right down here, and God will see you through. “But I’ve got lots of problems and lots of trials.” He knows all about it, like the song we sing. He knows all about it. And He has got grace to see us through [Hebrews 4:16]. You just trust Him and come. Trust Him and come. “In my heart I believe and with my mouth openly, publicly, I confess it” [Romans 10:9-10]. Do it now. Make the decision now, and in a moment when we stand to sing, stand up coming. If you’re on the back seat up there in the balcony, there’s a stairway on either side at the front and back, and there’s time and to spare. Do it now. Come now. Make that decision now, and when you stand up in a moment to sing, stand up coming. “Here I am, preacher. I make it today.” God bless you and attend you in the way as you come, while we stand and while we sing.
BORN OF WATER AND OF SPIRIT
Dr. W. A. Criswell
A. Jesus turns conversation in keeping with experience and background of one to whom He speaks (Matthew 11:16-30, Luke 19:5, 9, Mark 10:31, John 3:3, 5, 4:5-23, 6:27)
B. John was a mystic (John 15:5)
1. Uses symbolism of water to refer to some great spiritual reality
a. Heart of Jesus pierced (John 19:33-35)
b. Christ came by blood and water (1 John 5:6)II. Four interpretations
A. Refers to physical birth (John 3:6)
1. Nature’s way of protecting unborn child
2. Fleshly birth not enough
B. Refers to open confession
1. Nicodemus came by night
2. Baptism a way of openly confessing our faith (Romans 10:9-10, Mark 16:16, Matthew 10:32-33)
C. Refers to repentance (Mark 1:4)
D. Refers to baptismal regeneration
1. Practically all Christendom believes saved by baptism
2. No such thing in Word of God (1 John 1:7)III. Baptism a picture of burial and resurrection of our Lord
A. Water is “cleansing” (Ephesians 5:25-26)
B. The Word of God (1 Peter 1:23-25, James 1:17-18, John 15:3, Romans 10:17)