The Master is here setting forth to a religious teacher of His day, who knew nothing about it, the conditions of the new birth. The new birth is one birth of two elements – the water and the Spirit. The water is a type of the Word, both in the Old Testament and the New. The Old Testament was Nicodemus’ Bible, as the New Testament had not been written then. Psalm 51, Ezekiel 36:25, 37:1-14, Isaiah 4:4, and other Old Testament passages make exceeding clear and plain that in salvation men are cleansed by the Word and renewed by the Holy Spirit. John 15:2, Ephesians 5:26, 1 Peter 1:22 also make it very clear that water is used as type of the Word.
What the Master said to Nicodemus was that except he be born of the Word and the Sprit, he could neither see nor enter the kingdom of God. To further clinch that argument, He said to Nicodemus, “Art thou a teacher in Israel and understandest not these things?” That question would have meant nothing to Nicodemus, unless “these things” had been things taught in the Old Testament Scriptures. If they referred to things taught in the Old Testament, then there could not possibly have been any reference to baptism, for that began with John the Baptist. There must have been a reference to what a teacher of the Old Testament ought to have understand. In the passages cited above from the Old Testament, Nicodemus ought to have known about the new birth and that it was a spiritual birth of the Word and of the Spirit. – H. Boyce Taylor (1870-1932), Pastor of First Baptist Church, Murray, KY