Baptism and John 3

Nicodemus comes to talk to Jesus at night, curious about Jesus’ teaching and miracles.

Jesus seems to cut him off in mid curiosity and throws this at him, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”

Nicodemus seems shocked by this statement, wonders how you can enter yo momma again and be rebirthed. So, Jesus responds:

“Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit.  Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.”

Many make the leap right over to baptism here. I understand why, but part of me wonders if we’re not jumping the gun a bit.

Some think born by water and the Spirit is the same event and refers to baptism.

Others, myself included, think being born by water is flesh giving birth to flesh—babies reside in a sack of water, the water breaks upon birth, etc. In order to reside in the eternal, spiritual kingdom you need a spiritual body granted by the Spirit not physical birth.

Nicodemus is confused by all this, too, which is nice for us, at least we’re not the only ones! Jesus asks him how he can be a teacher of Israel and not know this. I always feel bad for Nicodemus here!

But according to Jesus, if you know the Scriptures, what we call the Old Testament, you’d be thinking people should be born again.

“No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man” says Jesus.

He then goes on to talk about faith in John 3:16. He doesn’t say, “Therefore you should be baptized.” But whosoever believes in Him gets eternal life. Faith is the issue.

I don’t think baptism is what rebirths you. Some have taken it that way. If you read commentaries on John 3 many will just assume baptism here and go into all manner of arguments about baptism and skip what Jesus is saying.

I think Jesus is talking about spiritual birth to inherit the spiritual, eternal kingdom that flesh and blood birth doesn’t equip you for because the flesh dies.

Receiving this new birth is done by believing the Gospel, looking to the Son being lifted up like the snake on the pole in the wilderness.

Forcing baptism into this passage seems a stretch to me. It may have something to do with the picture at some point, but it’s certainly not Jesus’ point I don’t think.

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