Repentance & Transformation
Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Festival, many people saw the signs he was performing and believed in his name. But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people. He did not need any testimony about mankind, for he knew what was in each person. (John 2:23-25)
Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”
Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”
“How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”
Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. (John 3:1-5)
After the public commotion Jesus created while clearing the Temple Court, he performed many miraculous signs during the week long Passover Festival. Many people believed in Jesus as a result of these signs.
If the goal was to gain popularity and garner people who believe in him, Jesus could have accomplished that easily. This was Jerusalem; many of the people who believed him now would later be the ones who want him dead. Jesus’ job wasn’t done at all and thus he “would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people.”
Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council, approached Jesus at night acknowledging, “we know that you are a teacher who has come from God.” He certainly respected and was curious about Jesus. But he wouldn’t have come to ask Jesus how he could see the Kingdom of God, as the Jews already believed they were saved through obeying the laws.
Jesus’ statement to him that one must be born again to see the Kingdom of God would have intrigued and even shaken Nicodemus. He was a learned and well-respected spiritual teacher, but that statement would have caused him to re-evaluate his own place with God.
Believing in Jesus is merely the first step. According to Jesus, one must be born again, and he reiterated, be “born of water and the Spirit”.
John the Baptist had testified, “... but the one who sent me to baptise with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptise with the Holy Spirit.’” (John 1:32-33)
So what was John’s baptism about? And how was it different from Jesus’ baptism?
While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”
They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”
So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?”
“John’s baptism,” they replied.
Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus. (Acts 19:1-5)
John’s baptism and Jesus’ baptism are clearly distinct. That was why even though John had already baptised his followers, Paul still baptised them in the name of Jesus after explaining to them the difference. They had to be baptised in the name of Jesus to receive the Holy Spirit.
John’s baptism was only about repentance. It was what he got his followers to do when they committed to repentance. He was only preparing people for the coming of Jesus. To be baptised in the name of Jesus (“born of water and the Spirit”), we will need to repent first too.
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever – the Spirit of truth... But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. (John 14:16-17a, 26 NIV)
To see the Kingdom of God, one must be born of water and Spirit. We must repent from our sins and be baptised to receive the Holy Spirit. We can then transform our lives through the Spirit. We must die to sin and be raised to a new life.
Andy is the head of compliance for an international bank and is happily married, with three daughters. He became a disciple of Christ three decades ago, and studies God's Word passionately. He desires to be constantly led by the Spirit.