What does, “Born of water and of the Spirit,” mean?


by Shawn Brasseaux

We read in John 3:5: “Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” Some say to be “born of water” here means to be water baptized. In groups that teach “baptismal regeneration,” the idea that water baptism grants eternal life, you will find people carelessly quoting John 3:5. Roman Catholicism heavily depends on this verse to support its water baptism. They say that, without water baptism, a person cannot enter heaven. Friends, this is not what John 3:5 is talking about. Just read the context!

The Bible says in John 3:5-8: “[5] Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. [6] That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. [7] Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. [8 The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.”

Verse 6 explains there is a birth “of the flesh,” and there is a birth “of the Spirit.” The fleshly birth is talking about a Jew being a physical descendent of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Jacob’s 12 sons. This special bloodline separates the nation Israel from the rest of mankind. But, the Abrahamic Covenant is not simply given to all descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. That is, only the Jewish believers in Abraham’s God are the heirs of the Abrahamic Covenant. Please refer to Romans chapter 9 for more info.

The Jews of Jesus’ day believed they needed nothing more than Abraham’s physical bloodline to be declared righteous before God. Jesus had to correct that thinking. Without having the faith of Abraham, a Jew was just as hell-bound as a Gentile idolater. Israel needed to be “born-again.” They needed a physical birth from God (which they got through Abraham) and a spiritual birth from God (which they got through Jesus Christ). They needed the inward spiritual circumcision that their outward physical circumcision was to represent.

Romans 4:11 says: “And he [Abraham] received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also:” Also, Romans 2:28-29: “[28] For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: [29] But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.”

When these Jews in Israel’s kingdom program come to recognize and trust Jesus as their Messiah, God takes them out of Adam and puts them into Jesus Christ. Israel shall be saved “in the Lord” (Isaiah 45:25). They will then function as a kingdom of priests, ministering to the Gentiles.

Also see:
» Must I be water baptized—for a testimony, for salvation, or not at all?
» What does the Bible mean, “Jesus Christ came by water and blood?”
» Who were the people who followed Jesus before Paul?