What does "born of water and the Spirit" mean?

This question comes from John 3:5 and is asked in response to those who twist this passage to be in harmony with man-made false doctrine. Does this passage teach the necessity of water baptism or is “born of water” talking about a physical birth? We answer that question in this Bible Q-n-A video.


  1. Wordpreacher91 says:

    Norm, I appreacite the insight, and the video you have posted. I also appreciate the time behind your studies despite how misguided they may be. Norm, you are quoted as saying " When a persons main concern is defending his preconceived notions intead of humbly accepting the Word of God then he will find lots of places that need to be twisted to make the Bible fit his false doctrine." – Norm Fields.

    Now, noone would know this better than yourself of course as a "gospel preacher." I have been to Church of Christ congregations on several several several occasions, and not a single time have I heard a message on LOVE, BROTHERHOOD, WITNESSING. It has always been "Is the Baptist Church in the Bible?" "Why water baptism is essential." accapella worship and why it's used." …. and etc …. Norm, you guys are the one always being forced to keep the wool pulled over your already few in number followers by constantly cramming this in their throat. I have honestly NEVER heard anything preached unless it is in crticism of others! even from your pulpit as I listen online. So, who is always having to defend their preconceived notions …? ….. I think its the false denomination of Church of Christ. Now, in dealing with this scripture I will be brief and hope someone coming along will see that you have again distorted the view of this verse.

    Now, when first considering this passage, it is important to note that nowhere in the context of the passage is baptism even mentioned. While baptism is mentioned later in this chapter (John 3:22-30), that is in a totally different setting (Judea instead of Jerusalem) and at a different time from the discussion with Nicodemus. This is not to say Nicodemus was unfamiliar with baptism, either from the Jewish practice of baptizing Gentile converts to Judaism, or from John the Baptist’s ministry. However, simply reading these verses in context would give one no reason to assume Jesus was speaking of baptism, unless one was looking to read into the passage a preconceived idea or theology. To automatically read baptism into this verse simply because it mentions “water” is unwarranted.Those who hold baptism to be required for salvation point to “born of water” as evidence. As one person has put it, “Jesus describes it and tells him plainly how—by being born of water and the Spirit. This is a perfect description of baptism! Jesus could not have given a more detailed and accurate explanation of baptism.” However, had Jesus actually wanted to say that one must be baptized to be saved, He clearly could have simply stated, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is baptized and born of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” Further, if Jesus had made such a statement, He would have contradicted numerous other Bible passages that make it clear that salvation is by faith (John 3:16; John 3:36; Ephesians 2:8-9: Titus 3:5).

    We should also not lose sight of the fact that when Jesus was speaking to Nicodemus, the ordinance of Christian baptism was not yet in effect. This important inconsistency in interpreting Scripture is seen when one asks those who believe baptism is required for salvation why the thief on the cross did not need to be baptized to be saved. A common reply to that question is: “The thief on the cross was still under the Old Covenant and therefore not subject to this baptism. He was saved just like anyone else under the Old Covenant.” So, in essence, the same people who say the thief did not need to be baptized because he was “under the Old Covenant” will use John 3:5 as “proof” that baptism is necessary for salvation. They insist that Jesus is telling Nicodemus that he must be baptized to be saved, even though he too was under the Old Covenant. If the thief on the cross was saved without being baptized (because he was under the Old Covenant), why would Jesus tell Nicodemus (who was also under the Old Covenant) that he needed to be baptized? So, what is this water I believe ..? “born of water and the Spirit” are both describing different aspects of the same spiritual birth, or of what it means to be “born again” or “born from above.” So, when Jesus told Nicodemus that he must “be born of water and the Spirit,” He was not referring to literal water (i.e. baptism or the amniotic fluid in the womb), but was referring to the need for spiritual cleansing or renewal. Throughout the Old Testament (Psalm 51:2,7; Ezekiel 36:25) and the New Testament (John 13:10; 15:3; 1 Corinthians 6:11; Hebrews 10:22), water is often used figuratively of spiritual cleansing or regeneration that is brought forth by the Holy Spirit, through the Word of God, at the moment of salvation (Ephesians 5:26; Titus 3:5). Anyway, this is a great study point and I appreciate any thoughts!

    • First of all, I can't speak to what you might have heard in congregation where you have attended before. All I know is what I preach where I am. If you attended where I preach with any consistency at all, you would most certainly hear me preaching on brotherly love, fellowship, the love and grace of God, the family of Christ, the body of Christ, etc., etc., with a great deal of frequency. Please don't presume to know what my preaching schedule is like because on the few occasions you have attended other congregations the preacher delivered a lesson that you didn't feel to be worthy of your time.

      I'm really intrigued by this statement you made:

      However, had Jesus actually wanted to say that one must be baptized to be saved, He clearly could have simply stated, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is baptized and born of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” Further, if Jesus had made such a statement, He would have contradicted numerous other Bible passages that make it clear that salvation is by faith (John 3:16; John 3:36; Ephesians 2:8-9: Titus 3:5).

      So, say Jesus had made a comment like, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned." I guess he would have contradicted himself with such a statement, right? Oh, wait. He did say that!!! – Mark 16:16. You use Ephesians 2:8-9, among others, as a passage teaching that baptism is not necessary to salvation. However, that is a letter written to people who had been baptized twice! (cf. Acts 19:1-7). Notice also that Paul asked them if they received the Holy Spirit since they believed (Acts 19:2). He doesn't say anything about baptism in that verse, just belief (cf. Jn. 3:16). But when they said they never even heard about the Holy Spirit, he knew there was something wrong with their baptism (Acts 19:3). Paul didn't ask them had they been baptized. He knew if they were believers that they had been baptized. Why is that? Because one is not a believer in the biblical sense unless they have been baptized. It is because biblical faith is an obedient faith (Rom. 1:5; 16:26). One does not have an obedient faith until they have obeyed the commands of Scripture! How can a person say they have an obedient faith if they are actually arguing against something that Jesus explicitly stated to be necessary for salvation? (Mark 16:16; 1 Pet. 3:15; Acts 22:16; Rev. 1:5).

      You say that "water" in Jn. 3:5 cannot be baptism because they were still under the Old Testament and baptism wasn't required as yet. However, you must have overlooked the fact that John was preaching a baptism for remission of sins (Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3). Whether the thief on the cross received this baptism or not, though I believe he did, is irrelevant because Jesus had power on earth to forgive sins (Matt. 9:6; Mark 2:10; Luke 5:24).

      You say "water" is often used to refer to a "spiritual cleansing" that has nothing to do with actual water. However, I read in my Bible were Philip took the Ethiopian eunuch "down into the water" to baptize him (Acts 8:38). I guess that means they both "went down into" some kind of spiritual experience that cleansed the eunuch of his sins (cf. Acts 22:16).

      I know it doesn't really matter to you what I write here, and how ridiculous I make your feeble attempts at twisting the word of God look. But, I pray, it will be helpful to the readers in steering clear of false teachers, like you, who try to convince them the Bible doesn't really mean what it says. I would say "nice try," but it wasn't.

  2. Wordpreacher91 says:

    Norm, I may have not heard you in your congregation. However, I can see on here that you are big into debates and much the like. Regardless of what you teach I can see it is false, and intend to iron out a few of your interpretations. And please note that it was not just a lesson, but every single time the gathered. Thank God I was able to help one into the truth away from such a teaching.

    Now, as in regards to the Ephesians, no matter the amoutn of times they were baptized it was not upon an account of remission of sins. Even when Paul administered. Also, let us make note that it was not the baptism which brought forth the Holy Ghost with signs, but the laying of hands as was of the Apostolic time. Also, in regards to Christ I believe that He is as able and strong today as he was 2,000 years ago and has power to forgive sins. Now, Norm … be honest with your self … is every single mention of water in the Bible literal? …. I don't believe so. There are spiritual metaphors of it which reflect that of it quenching thirst, or washing. You can't simply take the Ethiopian Eunich in that manner and apply it across the board. Listen, my point is that man is not and cannot be saved by keeping commands. However, I am reading yours with an open mind and study. God Bless.

    • PreacherNorm says:

      Of course there are passages that use the word “water” in a figurative manner. For example, John 4:10 in reference to the word of Christ that brings everlasting life as “living water.” And there are figurative uses of “baptism,” which literally means immersion. Like in 1 Cor. 10:2 where “baptized info Moses” is used figuratively in reference to Israel’s complete immersion into the leadership of Moses in administering the law of God. However, when it comes to Great Commission baptism for the remission of sins, water is never used figuratively. Where would be an example of one being baptized in figurative water for salvation? As I said above, the baptism of John and Jesus prior to the establishment of the church was a water baptism for the remission of sins (Mark 1:4; Jn. 3:22-26; Jn. 4:1-3; et. al.). That’s not figurative water, its H2o water. And, when it comes to Great Commission baptism (Matt. 28:18-20), when we find examples of it being carried out, like with the eunuch (Acts 8:38), it is clearly not figurative water but literal, H2o water.

      The is nothing more clearly taught in the New Testament of Christ than the necessity of water baptism to be born again and added to the body of Christ! (Acts 22:16; Rom. 6:3-4, 17; Gal. 3:26-27; Col. 2:12; 1 Pet. 3:21; Mark 16:16; etc., etc., etc.).

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