Does Water Baptism Save?


A Biblical Refutation of Baptismal Regeneration


8.    Passages That Seem to Teach that Water Baptism Saves (continued)

John 3:5


“Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5).

This passage is talking about how a person is born again or how a person is regenerated. Those who believe in baptismal regeneration believe that the “water” mentioned in this verse refers to water baptism. But is this really the case?

First, we should remember that when Jesus said these words, Christian baptism had not yet been instituted. Christian baptism was first mentioned by Christ in Matthew 28:19-20 and it was not practiced until Acts chapter 2 (the day of Pentecost, see especially verse 41). That there was a clear difference between the baptism of John and Christian baptism is obvious from Acts 19:1-7 (compare also Acts 18:25). So Jesus in John 3:5 could not have been referring to Christian baptism because such did not exist at that time.

If He was not referring to baptism, then what was our Lord referring to when He taught that a person must be “born of water”? The main point that Jesus was making is this: You cannot enter God’s kingdom unless you are CLEAN. Filthy disciples (those who are unclean, unforgiven, uncleansed) will not be allowed to enter. Our Lord was not talking about physical water which can only cleanse a person on the outside. In John 3:5 Jesus was talking about SPIRITUAL CLEANSING (something that must happen on the inside of a person). To be clean on the outside a person must take a bath and use soap and water! To be clean on the inside there is another kind of bath that is needed. Soap and water can never remove the filth of sin! God must do something on the inside of a person. Let us now see what the Bible says about being born of water and of the Spirit.


John 3:3 says that if a person is going to see the kingdom he must be born again. John 3:5 says that if a person is going to enter the kingdom he must be born of water and of the Spirit. Therefore, being born again means the same thing as being born of water and of the Spirit. If a person has been born again, then this person has been born of water and of the Spirit.

[Note: Some think that “water” refers to our natural birth when we were born as a baby and “Spirit” refers to our spiritual birth when we are born again. But this view does not fit the context. Since every person has been born physically, it would be stating the obvious to say that to enter the kingdom a person must be born of water. This would be like saying, A person cannot enter the kingdom unless he is a person.]

Water is the one thing we use whenever we wash something. Water is the universal cleansing agent. If you wash your car, water is used. If you wash your face, water is used. To make your clothes bright and clean, you use water. To make your teeth clean, you not only use toothpaste, but water as well. Whatever we wash, water is somehow involved. It is easy to see how WATER can be symbolic of CLEANSING (making something clean)!

Sinners need to be washed and made clean. Jesus wanted Nicodemus to know something very important: No unclean person can enter God's kingdom! Paul says it this way: “For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God” (Ephesians 5:5 and see also Galatians 5:21 and Revelation 21:27). To enter the kingdom a person must be CLEAN and WASHED on the inside (sins forgiven!). No unwashed people will be admitted! No unclean person will enter the kingdom of God. Only cleansed sinners will be allowed! Compare Psalm 24:3-4. You must be born of water! You must be washed!

Consider 1 Corinthians 6:9-10. Will any unclean or unrighteous people inherit the kingdom? Will washed sinners enter the kingdom (1 Corinthians 6:11)? There is hope for the filthy, but only if they get washed, and this washing does not refer to water baptism. It refers to an inner work that only God can do. In verse 11 we have the two ingredients of John 3:5 mentioned: the WATER (“washed”) and the SPIRIT (“by the Spirit of our God”).

Whenever you think of John 3:5 you should also think of Titus 3:5. The latter explains the former. Both of these verses are found in chapter 3 verse 5, so they are easy to remember! Both of these verses talk about being BORN AGAIN (the word "REGENERATION" in Titus 3:5 means "born again"). Both of these verses talk about the WATER and the SPIRIT. Look at Titus 3:5: "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration (the WATER) and renewing of the Holy Spirit (the SPIRIT)." The born again person is the person who has been thoroughly cleansed and renewed by the Spirit of God!

All of these verses are talking about that wonderful work which God does on the inside of a person, making it possible for him to enter God's kingdom!

Notice the water in John 13:5. Jesus was using this water to be a symbolic picture of an important spiritual truth. Was Peter a "washed" disciple? Was Peter CLEAN on the inside (see John 13:9-10)? Who was the disciple who was never born of water? Judas was the disciple who was unwashed and unclean and who had never been born again (John 13:10-11 and compare John 13:2)? This man would never enter the kingdom.


The WATER is also mentioned in Ephesians 5:25-26: "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word” (Eph. 5:25-26). How is a person washed? BY THE WORD! The WORD OF GOD is an essential part of the cleansing process. The WORD OF GOD is the mirror that shows us how dirty we really are (because of sin). Not only does the Bible show us our sin, but it also points out the only Saviour and His many promises to save those who truly believe on Him. Without the Word of God a person could never be saved and could never be born again. The following verses show how important God's Word is when it comes to salvation and regeneration and cleansing:

1) Psalm 119:9 -"Wherewithal (how) shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word.”

2) John 15:3 - "Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.”

3) 1 Peter 1:23-25 - "Being born again (regeneration!) not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God which liveth and abideth for ever."

4) James 1:18 - "Of His own will begat He us with the word of truth." “Begat” is another term that relates to regeneration.

God's Word does two things: 1) It shows man how great a sinner he is (Romans 3:10-23) and 2) It show man how great a Saviour Christ is (Romans 3:24-26)!

Nicodemus was a Jew who should have been familiar with the Old Testament. In John 3:9 we see that Nicodemus still did not understand what Jesus was talking about. In John 3:10 Jesus told Nicodemus that he should have known these things! He should have understood about the WATER and the SPIRIT! He should have been familiar with EZEKIEL 36:25-29. Does this passage talk about the WATER? Does this passage talk about being CLEAN and being CLEANSED? Does this passage talk about the SPIRIT? In this passage God promised to do a wonderful work ON THE INSIDE (see Ezekiel 36:26-27)! See also Jeremiah 4:14 and Isaiah 1:16.

My friend, based on these many passages, if God has not cleansed you on the inside, then you will not enter the kingdom. You must be born again! Water baptism is not the answer. You need to be cleansed before you ever get baptized in water. You need to have your heart purified by faith (Acts 15:9).


Note on Titus 3:5

What does the "renewing of the Holy Spirit" mean?  Most Bible students would understand this as the renewing that is produced by the Holy Spirit.   In similar manner, what does "the washing of regeneration" refer to?  If the "renewing of the Holy Spirit" refers to the renewing that is produced by the Holy Spirit, then "the washing of regeneration" would refer to the washing (cleansing from sin) that is produced by regeneration.   Notice that it does not say that the washing produces the regeneration.   Those who hold to baptismal regeneration wrongly teach the washing (which they identify as water baptism) produces regeneration.  That is, they teach that water baptism is a condition for being born of God or regenerated.  However, the verse is actually teaching that the regeneration (God's supernatural work of giving a person new life) produces the washing (the cleansing from sin). This same "washing" is mentioned in 1 Corinthians 6:11 and has nothing to do with water baptism. It is an inner washing that is accomplished by the supernatural working of the Spirit of God.


Does Water Baptism Save?

A Biblical Refutation of Baptismal Regeneration

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