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Born of Water

Updated on September 23, 2014

Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born? 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. - John 3:3-5

I have a variety of commentaries sitting on my bookshelf. From time to time they can be helpful; however I believe that most of the time, the Bible is its own best commentary. That is the case as I study through these verses on baptism. Actually there are three sections of scripture I want to look at that are so often misrepresented by religious groups and denominations.

The main teaching of these groups is that baptism is an essential act for salvation. Ephesians 2:8 and 9 make it clear that there is nothing we can do to earn our salvation - "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works . . . ." Obviously baptism is something that man performs putting it in the works category and has no saving merit in itself.

Acts 4:12 gives us this important information - " Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." Do you see that salvation is a free gift from God by his grace. We do not deserve it, but He gives to us anyway if we come to Him through faith. He [Jesus] is the only name whereby salvation can be experienced.

Shall we not stop there? Consider Titus 3:5 - "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us . . . " Baptism simply is not an essential for salvation. By adding baptism as a requirement for salvation cheapens the sacrifice of Christ. His work was complete. There is nothing we can add to it. It is done.

Ye Must Be Born Again

Born of Water (John 3:5)

So what are we to do then with John 3:3-5? Clearly this scripture teaches that we need to be born again, Also, the scripture clearly teaches that we must be born of water and of the Spirit. But contrary to some beliefs, baptism is not even mentioned in these verses as they claim. We must be born of water, not baptism. We cannot read into scripture what is not there so let scripture be its own best commentary. Jesus tells us exactly what He means in verse 6 of John chapter 3. "That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

That which is born of water is born of the flesh. Every baby that comes into the world enters by water. Just prior to birth that water is shed either by a gush or a trickle, but the water must be shed before the flesh of a newborn can enter the world. Likewise, Jesus explains that the spirit of man (small s) is born of His Spirit (capital S). In absolutely no way can we substitute the work of baptism for the concept of being born of water in John 3.We absolutely must be true to the Scriptures by taking them at face value. We cannot force what is not clearly there.

I Peter 3:21

Here is another verse that often is quoted out of context. "The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us . . ." What I mean in this instance concerning context is that when this verse is quoted to justify baptism for salvation, the whole verse is never used. Again, if we just allow scripture to speak for itself - ". . . (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:" Baptism does not wash us of the filth of the flesh, but rather when we obey Christ in baptism we have a conscience free of offense toward God. There is nothing complicated about it.

There is nothing in this verse that comes close to suggesting that baptism is necessary for salvation. We are called upon to obey Christ. He gives us this command in Matthew 28:19 - "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost."

If the church is to baptize, then obviously there must be individuals to baptize. But baptism is that outward identification with Christ. We are obedient to Him as we fulfill the command to be baptized. We are walking with Him when we are in obedience to Him. The purpose of baptism is to identify ourselves with Christ. As we obey our conscience is cleansed. Baptism is an outward testimony of an inward change. God looks on the heart, but man looks on the outward appearance (I Samuel 16:7).

Acts 2:38

Surely Acts 2:38 is teaching that we must be baptized to be saved."Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost." Repentance is necessary for salvation. There must be a change of mind about who Jesus is, about His work on the cross, and about our own rebellious nature. Because of repentance we are told to be baptized as a public witness and testimony to our salvation. God looks on the heart, but remember man looks on the outward appearance ( Samuel 16:7).

Have you been scripturally baptized?

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We are told to be baptized for the remission of sins. Or in other words because of the remission of sins. The best way I can explain this is to use two Old Testament verses In I Kings 19:10, Elijah is running from Jezebel when God stops him in his tracks. Elijah offers his excuse - "And he said, I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away." In verse 14 Elijah repeats himself with the exception of one word change. Read the two verses closely. "And he said, I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts:because the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away. "

Did you catch it? The second time Elijah substitutes the word because for the word for (". . .for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant . . ."; :". . .because the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant . . .") For and because are used interchangeably. We are to be baptized because of the remission of sin as a means for repentance.

We must take the whole of the Word of God in context and allow scripture to be its own commentary. Works have no place in salvation completely eliminating baptism as a means of salvation. Let me be quick to add that a "sinner's prayer" never saved anyone. A prayer is a work as well. The repentant heart that fully trusts in Christ is what saves. Perhaps that heart is best expressed in prayer or by baptism, but neither were ever meant to be the Way. That belongs only to Jesus.


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    • lifegate profile imageAUTHOR

      William Kovacic 

      4 years ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

      Hi JL,

      Welcome to the community. No offense taken, but the Scripture is clear, and that's where I stand. Thanks for taking the time to stop by and read.

    • Bishop J L Hayes profile image

      Jerry Lynn Hayes Sr 

      4 years ago from Texas City, Texas

      Lifegate, I am finding you article late because I have just arrived on HP. Within the last 6days I have been able to publish 19 hud. I am very happy to have found your article on Water Baptism. I hope you will not take offense at my disagreement with your occlusion that WB has no salvific value. In all due respect it seems that you have gone out of the way to explain the salvific nature of WB away. While I have not yet posted an article on the subject please permit me to link to a short video on the subject. I am open for further discussion on this topic if you would like.

      Peace to your house.

    • lifegate profile imageAUTHOR

      William Kovacic 

      5 years ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

      Amen Pool! We miss so much by disobedience. Salvation is all of God. Our need is to repent and believe.

    • Pool Of Thoughts profile image

      David Steffy 

      5 years ago from Southern Ohio

      God bless you brother. I really like the way you balance the scriptures on this point. Water doesn't save us, nor does a simple confession. Yet, in obedience to the Word we must do these. We can receive the Holy Ghost without doing either as the scripture so points out. "While Peter yet spake these words the Holy Ghost fell on all them heard the Word..." Then Peter commanded them to be baptized even after they had received Eternal Life. Obedience is a wonderful thing.

    • lifegate profile imageAUTHOR

      William Kovacic 

      5 years ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

      Hi Cristina,

      Glad you could stop by. It seems these days it doesn't take much to bring confusion to the church. Baptism is just one of many as people like to try to make God's word fit what they want rather than just taking it for for is said. Thanks again for dropping by and commenting.

    • cristina327 profile image

      Maria Cristina Aquino Santander 

      5 years ago from Manila

      Great hub which gives much illumination on baptism. Many christian cults consider baptism as necessary act for salvation. I believe firmly that adding baptism to salvation is an erroneous doctrine it contradicts Martin Luther's "Sola Fides". We are saved by grace alone through faith alone. Thank you for sharing this hub which gives a sound exposition on some issues which bring confusion to the church. Many blessings to you and to your family. Best regards.

    • lifegate profile imageAUTHOR

      William Kovacic 

      5 years ago from Pleasant Gap, PA


      Thanks for the visit and the comment. You're absolutely right. Ephesians 2:8, 9 tell us that salvation is by grace through faith and not of works, but verse 10 tells us that good works is the reason we were created. God sees the heart, but man looks on the outward appearance. Our works should glorify the God who saved us. Thanks again for stopping by.

    • Oscarlites profile image

      Oscar Jones 

      5 years ago from Monroeville, Alabama

      I was in one church momentarily that taught that repentance was also a "work" so thereby not necessary either. Jesus gave all and Did all, but he can't make up your mind for you, or say "I'm sorry I sinned" for you. It requires participation. appreciate the scriptures that give light to new testament faith and salvation. Acts 2:39 and this promise is for you and your children and all those afar off even as many as the Lord thy God shall call. What we do in obedience is not a "work" , for grace and Calvary is the work that saves us.. but believing and obedience still is the way.. ie.. some say just church attendance is the way, with no comprehension to the change within the heart.. After many years of following Christ, I'm not sure people understand that salvation is the gift of God and what we do shows our belief. fruits of repentance always follow. Individual life change occur as the Lord leads us into his fulness and to understand his word. But its not our job to dictate those changes.. Its the word that works in us and gives life.

    • tlpoague profile image


      5 years ago from USA

      Thanks, I will have to check it out!

    • lifegate profile imageAUTHOR

      William Kovacic 

      5 years ago from Pleasant Gap, PA


      Glad to have you stop by! I do believe the Bible is clear and speaks for itself. A while back I wrote a series on how we can know that the Bible is really the word of God. I've posted the link just in case you're interested. Have a wonderful weekend!

    • tlpoague profile image


      5 years ago from USA

      Terrific explanation on baptism. I have seen division in some of the churches I have gone to because of different interpretations of the bible. I have even had a guy ask me how I can believe in the bible. He question could I be certain it was the word of God and not the interpretations of man?

      One of my favorite verses is Proverbs 3:5 - Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.

      Great job! Voted up!

    • lifegate profile imageAUTHOR

      William Kovacic 

      5 years ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

      Thanks for the visit and the vote LS. The lack of proper interpretation surely has caused much division in the church. Like you, I don't always get it right, but if I'm not sure I'll admit it. I think you may have just inspired me to write a hub or two on interpretations.

      Most of the errant interpretation we have today is from , as you say, those trying to force the Bible into a preconceived viewpoint rather than just letting the Bible answer for Itself. Have a wonderful weekend.

    • lambservant profile image

      Lori Colbo 

      5 years ago from Pacific Northwest

      Great hub LG. It is so often the case that people take verses out of context to make it fit into their own way of looking at things. Then there are those who just misunderstand a verse or passage (Surely includes me at times). A good Bible student will always look for the context before discerning what the text is saying. Great job. Voted up and across the board.

    • lifegate profile imageAUTHOR

      William Kovacic 

      5 years ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

      Absolutely. Amen! But we are still commanded to show our commitment through baptism. It is not the commitment, but it does show it. Thanks for the input and for the visit. Glad to have you along, teacherjoe52

    • teacherjoe52 profile image


      5 years ago

      Hi lifegate.

      Babtisim in that day was a means of physically showing your act of commitment.

      We need to be babtized in the Holy Spirit.

      God bless you.

    • lifegate profile imageAUTHOR

      William Kovacic 

      5 years ago from Pleasant Gap, PA


      Thanks for the visit and for making my point. The context will reveal if symbolism is being used or if should be taken for what it says. We see metaphores, hyperbole, and other figures of speech that we make sense of by reading it in context. As you mentioned, the history, tradition and cultural elements are all part of the context.

      By using the context one can tell the meaning. We must start with the context being the whole Bible, then the book, then the chapter and verse. Certainly we can know the mind of God if we truly want to as we are told many times to seek Him and we shall find Him. That's what makes the Bible such a beautiful, supernatural book. Thanks for commenting.

    • Wakerra profile image


      5 years ago

      "We cannot read into scripture what is not there so let scripture be its own best commentary." You really can't take the scriptures literally. There is WAY too much symbolism, history, tradition and cultural elements in play. Yes, there are some verses that should be taken literally, but especially with parables and such, you can't do that.

      Example: Fire. fire is often spoken of throughout the scriptures, whether they be chariots, pillars, or eyes. Most of the time Fire is used symbolically to represent Godly power/Glory, light, or the Spirit. sometimes its even used to denote the feeling of the spirit: "Burning in your bosom". Sometimes it actually is fire, like the pillar of fire that came down before the Egyptians as Moses parted the red sea

    • lifegate profile imageAUTHOR

      William Kovacic 

      5 years ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

      Hi Karen,

      Acts 2:39 is one of my favorite verses - not sure why I didn't include it. I do believe that the Bible is true to itself thus eliminating any contradictions. All teaching must be brought before the scriptures to see if they line up. Heresies always contradict in some way the plain teaching of scripture therefore we can know the truth and be made free. Thanks for checking Sister. It's always a blessing to hear from you.

    • shofarcall profile image


      5 years ago

      Amen Bill. I heard a truly wonderful sermon in 2012 on the sunday after Pentecost in a Bible College church by an elderly man in his late 70's, who was a guest speaker for that Sunday saying precisely this.

      We are called to Repent and it is a repentant heart and an acceptance of Jesus into our hearts that brings about the remission of sins and the baptism is a physical sign of that same 'remission of sins'

      I love the next verse Acts 2: 39

      For the promise is unto you and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.

      And I agree, that most of the time, the Bible is its own best commentary. If we ask, the Holy Spirit will show us all we need to know.

      Thank you for tackling this subject. God Bless


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