Blog – 01/14/2015

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I received this picture today of John 3:5 along with a question:  Do you have to be baptized to go to heaven?

John 3:5 (NLT):

Jesus replied, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit.

Jesus had just said (John 3:3) and later (in John 3:7) that you must be “born again” (which means “from above”) – but here in John 3:5 (smack in the middle) He says you must be born of the water and the Spirit.  The Pharisee (group of Jewish religious leaders who were very legalistic and questioned Jesus at every turn) Nicodemus was asking Jesus lots of questions (unlike so many of the others, he appeared to be genuinely interested in learning from Jesus) and specifically asked Jesus about being saved (born again).  So Jesus takes it deeper and in one verse specifically says you must be born of the water and the Spirit.  We naturally understand what the Spirit is – it means the Holy Spirit of God. But what about the water?  Why did Jesus add ex hudatos which means “of water?”

It may have something to do with Luke 7:30 where the Pharisees had rejected God’s plan and refused baptism.  I suspect Jesus isn’t trying to connect baptism as an ingredient in salvation as much as He is connecting it to the evidence of one’s salvation.  It is a public profession of faith.  It is an outward expression of an inward change.  It is symbolic of crucifying our old lives (the ‘old man’) with Christ on the cross, buried, and resurrected (‘born again’) to the newness of life we have through Jesus.

Another possibility:  some scholars believe that the phrase “being born of water and the Spirit” are contrasting the initial physical birth we have on earth (born of water) and connecting it to being born again (born of the Spirit).  It’s thought Jesus may have done this because Nicodemus could not understand the language of being “born again.”  So Jesus connected the physical birth (something Nicodemus clearly understood) with the spiritual birth (hoping He would understand what Jesus was trying to teach him).

This one verse is debated on by many, that’s why it makes such a great discussion question.  It also makes for a great opportunity to share a Bible study principle that we must follow to adequate interpret and apply Scripture.  We can’t take one verse and try to develop a whole belief system around it.  Looking at this one verse makes it clear why we can’t (and shouldn’t do that.  We must look at the “whole” of Scripture – cover to cover – Genesis to Revelation.  When we do this, we know that Jesus never connected water baptism to salvation in any other way than to make it a public profession of faith and symbolically follow in His great example for us.  When looking at the whole of Scripture, either application above (whether He is talking about John 3:5 being water baptism or contrasting physical birth to spiritual birth) would be theologically accurate.

This reminds us now more than ever that the Bible is alive!