What is Water?

I was reading the Gospel of John this morning and it led me to John’s first letter. Can anybody help me to understand what is meant by water in John 3:5 when Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of heaven”.
Again John bewilders me in 1 John 5:6 where he again is referring to water in connection to Holy Spirit. “This is he who came by water and blood - Jesus Christ; not by water only but by water and the blood”.
I would very much appreciate learning what John means here again when he refers to water.


@brianlalor Here are some thoughts I hope you find helpful brother :slight_smile:

John 3:5

Since Jesus was talking to Nicodemus, it would be natural for Christ to pull in references from the OT that a scholar of the Scriptures would understand. Both water and spirit referred to the coming of the Spirit of God and the giving of a new heart within the OT.

tn Or “born of water and wind” (the same Greek word, πνεύματος [ pneumatos ], may be translated either “spirit/Spirit” or “wind”).

sn Jesus’ somewhat enigmatic statement points to the necessity of being born “from above,” because water and wind/spirit/Spirit come from above. [Isaiah 44:3-5](javascript:{}) and [Ezek 37:9-10](javascript:{}) are pertinent examples of water and wind as life-giving symbols of the Spirit of God in his work among people. Both occur in contexts that deal with the future restoration of Israel as a nation prior to the establishment of the messianic kingdom. It is therefore particularly appropriate that Jesus should introduce them in a conversation about entering the kingdom of God. Note that the Greek word πνεύματος is anarthrous (has no article) in v. 5. This does not mean that spirit in the verse should be read as a direct reference to the Holy Spirit, but that both water and wind are figures (based on passages in the OT, which Nicodemus, the teacher of Israel should have known) that represent the regenerating work of the Spirit in the lives of men and women.

Ezekiel 36:24-27 - “‘For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. 25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. 26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.

1 John 5:7-8

It looks like John’s main point here is to assert that Christ was truly both God and man in refutation of some form of Gnostic teaching, though there are several ways of understanding the actual meaning of the verse.

Today’s passage teaches us that Jesus came by water and the blood and that the Spirit testifies with them concerning the person of Jesus. Most modern commentators believe John’s reference to the water and the blood is a reference to the historical facts of Jesus’ baptism and death. This understanding assumes John is refuting the heretic Cerinthus who said the “spirit of Christ” descended upon Jesus at His baptism and left just before His death. By asserting Jesus came by water and blood (v. 6), John would thus be saying Jesus remained the God-man even in His death and thus had a true incarnation.

A second interpretation says the blood and water refer to the wound in Jesus’ side that confirmed the reality of His death and resurrection (John 19:34; 20:25). This understanding has the advantage of referring to events described in John’s gospel and by stating that the Spirit testifies with this wound (1 John 5:7–8), John demonstrates believers must confess the death of a truly incarnate Savior.


Thank you @SeanO

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Thanks for these great references, Sean. It is puzzling, glad you asked this question @brianlalor.

Since this kind of metaphorical language often points to multiple meanings, I’m wondering if there’s any validity to the idea of it also being a reference to Christ’s being born of woman (Mary), another key aspect of the incarnation. Birth always involving both water and blood.