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Last night I attended a Bible study hosted by my baptist church.  I’d never really gone to one before and yes, I felt kind of out of place among all the adults.  Thankfully there were two younger people, in their mid-twenties, so the age gap wasn’t too large!

We studied John 3:1-21.  It’s the story of the Pharisee Nicodemus and his meeting with Jesus.  Well, we were plodding along through this story, talking about stuff everyone already knew and I was wishing I hadn’t gone.  Then we read verse 5.

Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.

Whoa.  Now, I had always been taught, being baptist, that baptism did not save you.  I was baptized when I was about 11 or 12.  But this verse confused me.  Even though it took us off-topic, I spoke up.

“Can I ask a question?” I asked.  “Does water mean baptism?”

“That’s a good question.”  The leader responded.

We then got into a discussion about it, but a lot of it was beat around the bush, not definite answers.  Then FINALLY we got somewhere and my question was answered!  But basically, I know of two theories for this verse.

1) It does mean baptism.  Just as Jesus was baptized and then the Spirit descended on Him, this verse places water first, then Spirit.

2) Water represents our physical birth; the water from the womb.  Because Jesus is discussing being “born-again”, he is speaking here of our first birth, followed by being born-again in the Spirit.

That second idea is interpreted by verse 6.  Here are the two together:

5. Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”

They say verse six explains five.  The flesh part comes first (physical birth) and the Spirit comes second (born-again). 

So tell me, is that latter idea a stretch?? 

Or is it opposite?  Can we just claim that because it says “water”, it must mean baptism??  Because read John 3:16, just a few verses later.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever BELIEVES in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

It says “believe”.  Not belief and baptism to be saved.  And you can argue the exact interpretation of belief, but I think we all agree that it doesn’t mean baptism.

So, the reason I’m writing this post is because I sincerely want comments.  This is the first time I’ve looked at these verses from this angle.  I’ve never believed baptism saves us, but this second theory is new to me.  I don’t know if my denomination has stretched the Bible or not.  I haven’t decided what I believe yet.  This is where YOU come in.

Please tell me your thoughts. Maybe you have other theories about this verse, even?  LET ME KNOW!!




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