John’s Gospel is more elaborate in his presentation of the office and work of the Holy Spirit than the other three Gospels combined. After John the Baptist’s testimony of the Spirit descending upon Jesus at His baptism, John begins his discourse regarding the ministry of the Holy Spirit with his description of this statement by Jesus to Nicodemus. “Jesus answered, ‘I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit’” (John 3:5).
Jesus’ use of the expression, “except one be born of water and the Spirit,” is explanatory of the term “born again.” And yet, there are two different schools of thought as to the Lord’s words. Either, Jesus was saying that the action of the Spirit of God (directly) must be accompanied by water baptism (indirectly) for the salvation experience to be complete, or that a person must be born naturally (of water) and spiritually (of the Spirit).
In the light of other New Testament teachings, however, we do not teach that salvation occurs at or as a result of water baptism. The “birth,” in so far as it relates to baptism, is of a symbolic and legal nature, not actual.
Water baptism is an outward legal act that speaks to the order of the Kingdom of God. One must die and be buried as a “son of Adam” before they can be raised to newness of life as a “son of God.” The legal symbolism and spiritual fact move on parallel lines.
Our entrance into the Kingdom of God happens when the Holy Spirit executes our “new birth.” Being “born again” is definitely an act planned by the Heavenly Father, purchased by death, resurrection and ascension of the Son and performed by the Holy Spirit.
John’s second reference to the life changing power of the Holy Spirit takes place during the message of Jesus in John 6:63. Jesus said, “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit (or Spirit) and they are life.”
It is the spirit within a person that quickens that person. When God breathed into Adam, he became a living soul; for the body, without the spirit, is dead. In an even greater way, it is the Spirit of God that quickens those who are dead in sin. When the Holy Spirit enters into a person He is the Spirit of life causing them to live spiritually. In a spiritual sense, the Holy Spirit raises men from death to life. Just as Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead the Holy Spirit raises the person who believes on the Lord Jesus Christ and they are saved.1
The Holy Spirit quickens, refreshes, and changes the heart of the new believer. He is the same Spirit that quickened and raised Christ from the dead, and now quickens our mortal bodies.2 The life that the Spirit gives is arousing, invigorating, quickening, producing and like the nature of seed; springing up, growing, productive and abundant.3 The life of the Spirit overflows the heart of the believer with righteousness, peace and joy.4 Within the words of Jesus are the breath of God as well as the life of God. Never man spoke like Jesus (John 7:46). There is life in His Words today because the Spirit is in His Words.5
The next mention of the Spirit in John’s Gospel is found in John 7:37-39 which says, “On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Who-ever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.’ By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.”
Jesus came to Jerusalem with His disciples. They were there to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles or Booths.
On the last day of the feast Jesus spoke making reference to the Scripture in Isaiah 55:1 “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.” Jesus spoke concerning the Word of God because it was the supreme authority for His life and teaching. Both of which included the ministry of the Holy Spirit. He also wanted His hearers to know that the Old Testament was full of descriptive prose concerning “water.”
Water is used throughout the Scriptures as an allegory and metaphor of the Spirit. Some of the Scriptures are:
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. Psalm 46:4
I will make rivers flow on barren heights, and springs within the valleys. I will turn the desert into pools of water, and the parched ground into springs. Isaiah 41:18
For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants. Isaiah 44:3
The words of Jesus concerning the ministry of the Holy Spirit were confirmed to John after the resurrection. Prior to the coming of the Spirit the Lord Jesus was speaking prophetically, but when John wrote his Gospel, the prophecy had become John’s reality.
John’s words were the apostle’s way of giving his audience the teaching of Jesus and not his own theory of Jesus. The words, “whom those who believed in him were later to receive,” is a clear reference to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.6 For the Spirit was not yet given (oupô gar ên pneuma). The reference is not to the existence of the Spirit, but to the activity of the Spirit. John inserts this comment and interpretation of the words of Jesus in reference to the coming of the Holy Spirit as The Comforter.7
Every fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit brings revival to the earth. I have no doubt that given our current world situation we stand on the precipice of either revival or destruction. As believers we must remember the promise given by the LORD to Solomon. He said, “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
Join us in praying today for revival!
1. Romans 10:10-13
2. Romans 8:11
3. Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance Entry 2227
4. Romans 14:17
5. Robertson’s Word Pictures Entry John 6:63 and International Standard Bible Encyclopedia Entry 4385
6. Acts 2
7. Robertson’s Word Pictures Entry John 7:39