The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Godhead. He exercises the power of the Father and the Son in creation and redemption. He is the power by which believers come to know Christ as Lord and Savior. He is the teacher of all truth in all heavenly and earthly languages (Acts 2:3-11). Through the teaching of truth He is the unifier of all the kindred in the body of Christ, the Church. He is the water that washes by the word; and He is the fire that purifies the soul. He is the eye of the believer through which the Father and the Son are seen in all their glory. To know the Holy Spirit is to know the Father and the Son.
Like the eyes of the body through which we see physical things, the Holy Spirit is seldom in focus to be seen directly because He is the one through who all else is seen. Through the eyes of the Lord Jesus He is brought into focus that we might know of His presence and His work.
“Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5 NASU).
When the Holy Spirit convicts a person of sin, through repentance, he becomes a candidate for baptism by water (Acts 2:38); but the water that is used on the occasion is only symbolic of the work of the Holy Spirit in teaching and guiding the candidate in the ways of righteousness; as “by the washing of water with the word (Ephesians 5:26 NASU);” without the baptism in the word the “washing of water” means nothing. Although a person is cleansed of sin through the sacrificial work of Christ the soul is considered as in a state of defilement, because of past sin: now, by the Holy Spirit teaching the word, the soul is to be purified from its defilement, and strengthened to walk in the way of holiness. Our Lord, the Living Word of God, washing the feet of His disciples cleansing them of where they had been walking, typifies this (John 13:1-17).
When John the Baptist came baptizing with water, he gave the Jews the plainest indication that this would not suffice; that it was only typical of that baptism of the Holy Spirit, under the likeness of being purified by fire, which they must all receive from Jesus Christ (Matt 3:11). Therefore, our Lord asserts that a man must be born of water and the Spirit; as “by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:6 NASU),” which cleanses, refreshes, and purifies the soul.
[Unless one is born of water and the Spirit]
Our Lord is using the word “water” symbolically as being baptized into the word of God by the Holy Spirit. This is also typified by water baptism; signifying the believer being baptized into Christ, the Word of God, being buried with Him and also being raised up with Him in the newness of life (Romans 6:3-11). This is all the work of the Holy Spirit performing the word of God in the work of regeneration (new birth) of the believer.
We also see the use of the word “water” symbolically as the “word;” as in: one must be born of the word and the Spirit. This can best be illustrated by the event of the angel Gabriel bringing the word of God to Mary (Luke 1:26-38). As Gabriel spoke the word of God, Mary heard and believed and submitted to the will of God, and the Holy Spirit brought into being the Christ Child in Mary’s womb. In the same manner when a person hears the anointed word of God and is convicted of sin (believes), repents and summits to the will of God, by faith he has received the seed (word) of God and a new life is conceived in the womb of his/her soul by the power of the Holy Spirit; thus he/she is brought into a new life of love and fellowship with God by the word and the Spirit; as in “born again.” This new life in the womb of the soul is likened unto leaven hidden in a lump of dough; by the work of the Holy Spirit the new life soon leavens the whole lump.
James C Sanford