—"The one reading, be understanding!" (Mk. 13.14; Mt. 24.15)

Brief studies and devotionals designed to elucidate the meaning of Scripture, increase our faith, and enable us to draw closer to God. To learn more about this column, see: "01—The Bible Was Written To Be Understood."

Born of Water (1) — John 3.5


Sometimes, individuals fail to think through the implications of what they believe. Take, for example, what some believe Jesus meant when he said: “unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (Jn. 3.5). 


Some, who deny the essentiality of water baptism for salvation (cf. Mk. 16.16; Acts 2.38; 22.16; etc.), believe that the term, water, here, ought to be understood figuratively, as a reference to physical birth. Supposedly, Jesus, by metonymy, is alluding to the breaking of a mother’s “water” (i.e., amniotic sac) and the child’s subsequent birth. In effect, then, he would be saying: “unless one is physically born and spiritually born, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”


Naturally, this poses a significant problem for the billions of innocent unborn babies, who, through the ages, for one reason or another, have perished in their mother’s womb. Is Jesus really arguing that unless a baby is physically born he cannot enter the kingdom of God? If so, that is inconsistent with the Bible’s repeated teaching that babies are “innocent” (Jer. 2.34; 19.4; Ps. 106.38) and “blessed” (Lk. 1.42). It is also inconsistent with Jesus’ own argument that it is not God’s will that little children should perish spiritually (Mt. 18.14; cf. vv. 2-5, 10-11). He also rigorously maintained that innocent children already belong to the kingdom of heaven, and should not be rejected (Mt. 19.14). The physically unborn not only cansee the kingdom of God,” they do see it, according to Jesus. Clearly, then, “born of water” cannot refer to physical birth. 


The text reveals that Nicodemus, like many today, also misunderstood the Lord as referring to physical birth (Jn. 3.4). In his ignorance, Nicodemus “marveled” at the Lord’s assertion (Jn. 3.7), a term which denotes: “unintelligent wonder." But Jesus was not referring to a second birth (a birth again), but to a new birth (i.e., one not yet experienced). The term, “born again” (Jn. 3.3, KJV), depending upon the context, signifies either, born anew, or even, born from above. In other words, a sinner must experience a new kind of birth if he wishes to see the kingdom of God; and the Lord wanted Nicodemus to differentiate between the old fleshly birth and the new, spiritual birth (Jn. 3.6).


Part of this new kind of birth involves being “born of water.” Since being physically born is not a new kind of birth, being “born of water” cannot refer to physical birth. Rather, this new kind of birth, which the unsaved sinner has not yet experienced, involves being “buried” in water, after which he emerges out of the water—like a birth—to walk in “newness of life” (Rm. 6.3-4). Indeed, the connection between water baptism and newness of life is abundantly maintained in the New Testament (cf. Acts 8.36-39; Rm. 6.3-4; Col. 2.12-13; 1 Pt. 3.20-21; Titus 3.5).


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