Free In Christ

Finding Freedom in the Churches of Christ

Experiential Baptism: John

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John 3:3-6

Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?”  Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.  That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

This verse isn’t really about water baptism at all, but since so many people think that it is, I clearly need to cover it.

“Kingdom of God” here (as always) means the Church, not heaven.  Many have taken this to say “you cannot go to heaven unless you are born again”.  This may be true (and I think it is), but it is not the whole point of the passage.  The point of the passage is that you will never experience the true reality that God intended for you unless you are born again. Nicodemus wanted this, so he asked how he can be born again without going into his mother’s womb (which he knows he cannot do).

“…unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.  That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”  This is what is called a parallelism.  This is where you use two words (or sets of words) that have the same meaning to clarify your point.  This means “that which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” explains being “born of water and the Spirit”.

Many have thought that “born of water” must indicate baptism because John’s baptism is discussed before this but we have no reason to believe that Nicodemus would have taken it that way.  There is no other point in Scripture where baptism is paralleled with being born.  Also, if baptism is the meaning, than the next sentence doesn’t make any sense. Why would Jesus tell someone that they had to have water baptism and Spirit baptism to enter the Church and than tell them that what is born of flesh is flesh and that of Spirit is spirit?  That isn’t logical.  The second sentence is supposed to provide a REASON for the first sentence.  The reason that you have to be born again is because your water birth (first birth) was physical so your Spirit birth (second birth) has to be Spiritual.  You have to have both in order to enter the Kingdom because the Kingdom is a Spiritual one (heaven is also a Spiritual reality so it makes sense that you would have to be born of the Spirit to go there, but this verse doesn’t specifically say so).

It takes nothing biblical away from the need to be baptized to interpret this verse this way and it makes a whole lot more sense in the scheme of the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus.

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Written by freeinchrist

June 15, 2009 at 8:00 am

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