What is it that happens in the story? How does this conversion of the woman take place? It happens in exactly the same way Jesus was proceeding when he was talking to Nicodemus. Now what does Jesus do with the woman? He begins to teach her. What did Jesus do with Nicodemus? He began to teach him. In last week’s study of Nicodemus I mentioned the doctrines that Jesus covered, and said that what John records is only a summary, and that this conversation probably went on at some length.

As we make our way through these studies of characters from John’s Gospel, we recognize, of course, that John is not just telling stories. What John is doing is teaching Christian theology through these very stories that we can in some way relate to. John is a great theological Gospel, and although we haven't exhausted all of the theology that we find in these stories, we have begun to see some important things as we've studied them.

The importance of teaching for regeneration no doubt explains why so much teaching is found in this chapter of John’s Gospel. In addition to the doctrine of the new birth and the Holy Spirit, Jesus also talks about the Incarnation when he refers to himself as the One who came from heaven. He mentions the crucifixion when he uses the story of Moses and the bronze serpent to show how he himself is going to be lifted up, and that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. 

That leads us to ask what water does stand for in this verse. I would suggest that what it stands for is the Word of God. There are a number of verses that make that clear. Let me give you a few of them. In Ephesians 5:26, Paul is writing to the church at Ephesus, and he is describing what Jesus did for his Church. He died for it in order that he might sanctify and cleanse it by washing with the Word. So there you have, in Paul's writings, an equivalent of the use of the word to provide the cleansing associated with water.

Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, unless a man is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” Well, that's a parallel statement with what Jesus just said. Nicodemus has to be born again, and he has to be born of water and the Spirit. It’s this second part in verse 5 that carries the first part in verse 3 a little bit further. It's a way of saying that being born of water and the Spirit is how you're born again. Now, how are we to understand that? What does that mean, “to be born of water and of the Spirit”?