John 3:5 (NKJV)

Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.

Does "born of water" means baptism i.e., water being used in that or Jesus mean something else?


There are two common interpretations of this phrase. One is that "born of water" refers to baptism. This view is typically held by those who adhere to baptismal regeneration.

The other view, which I will argue for here, is that it refers to actual physical birth. In this view, the water might allude to amniotic fluid. This view seems far more likely to me as we view the passage in its context:

Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”

“How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”

Jesus answered, “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. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” John 3:3-8 (NIV)

Notice that after Jesus says that we must be born of "water and the Spirit", he immediately contrasts flesh and Spirit. In the context, Jesus is answering Nicodemus's concern that he must be born "again". In one sentence, he mentions two births: water and Spirit. And in the next sentence, he again mentions two births: flesh and Spirit. The most natural interpretation is that flesh and water are referring to the same birth.

In addition, notice that Jesus says "So it is with everyone born of the Spirit". If he were intending to say that everyone must be born of flesh, water (baptism), and Spirit, then it seems that he would have said "So it is with everyone born of water and of Spirit". Water is painted here as the already accomplished (physical) birth.

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    The "water = baptism" is something that the Orthodox teach and that Catholics will allude to. – cwallenpoole Mar 12 '12 at 4:23
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    Note, I have one concern about the viability of my interpretation, and have asked a question about it here: hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/q/1335/474 – Eric Mar 14 '12 at 14:43
  • If water = birth, then why does he even mention water? It seems redundant. – Ignatius Theophorus Oct 8 '12 at 4:34
  • I believe water refers to the amniotic fluid. @Ignatius Theophorus - it's not redundant. It would therefore exclude angels from salvation since they are not born of water. – Matt Jun 11 '13 at 1:53
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    I just don't think that Greek ὕδωρ can refer to the amniotic fluid at all. Is this meaning noted at all in any lexicon or any work in Greek? If a physical birth were what is intended here, σάρξ (‘flesh’) would be much more apropos. – John Peyton Sep 9 '13 at 14:28

It is referring to Amniotic fluid, at least according to the sermons we hear in our Baptist Church.

Being born of water refers to natural birth, which everyone goes through and being born of the spirit refers to the gift of the Holy Spirit imparted at the time of salvation.

While this isn't explicitly stated in Scripture, it makes sense in context, where Nicodemus had just asked how he could re-enter is mother's womb to be born again. The idea of natural birth was clearly in the context of the current conversation. And of course, labor begins with the water breaking.

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    Exactly. There's a physical birth and a spiritual birth. Nicodemus didn't realize that even though he was alive physically, spiritually, he was dead, and needed to born again! – Affable Geek Mar 11 '12 at 18:01
  • Which means fallen angels (being not born of water) cannot be saved. This salvation is clearly meant for people - made in the image of God. – Matt Jun 11 '13 at 1:54

Speaking of "born of water and of the Spirit" in John 3:5, D.A. Carson writes,

"Most important of all is Ezekiel 36:25-27, where water and spirit come together so forcefully, the first to signify cleansing from impurity, and the second to depict the transformation of heart that will enable people to follow God wholly. And it is no accident that the account of the valley of dry bones, where Ezekiel preaches and the Spirit brings life to dry bones, follows hard after Ezekiel’s water/spirit passage (cf. Ezk. 37; and notes on 3:8, below). The language is reminiscent of the ‘new heart’ expressions that revolve around the promise of the new covenant (Je. 31:29ff.). Similar themes were sometimes picked up in later Judaism (e.g. Jubilees 1:23-25)." (The Gospel According to John: An Introduction and Commentary, see 191-196; see larger excerpt)

Jesus rebuked Nicodemus because he should have been familiar with this kind of thing in the Old Testament.

On the view that "water" in John 3:5 refers to some kind of bodily fluid, Carson writes:

"there are no ancient sources that picture natural birth as ‘from water’, and the few that use ‘drops’ to stand for semen are rare and late. It is true that in sources relevant to the Fourth Gospel water can be associated with fecundity and procreation in a general way (e.g. Song 4:12-13; Pr. 5:15-18),1 but none is tied quite so clearly to semen or to amniotic fluid as to make the connection here an obvious one. The Greek construction does not favour two births here. Moreover the entire expression ‘of water and the Spirit’ cries out to be read as the equivalent of anōthen, ‘from above’, if there is genuine parallelism between v. 3 and v. 5, and this too argues that the expression should be taken as a reference to but one birth, not two."

  1. For a defense of this first option, cf. Ben Witherington III, NTS 35, 1989, pp. 155-160; Morris, JC, pp. 150-151.
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KJV Ephesians 5:26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,

This verse explains what meaning Jesus had in mind in his use of the term, "born out of water", if you understand this verse; Romans 10:17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word/message of God. Hebrews 11:6 But without faith/trust it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe/come to trust, that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. How back to John, the one who into Immerses into God's message, "Repent/turn from your missing the 'Mark'/sin, back to God's righteous path, so that you can enter the Kingdom of God which is now at hand for you to enter! John spoke words/ God's message which washes away the lies of darkness with the message from God Himself. Did John use water as a sign, YES! It was what he, John was told to do by God Himself. Jesus followed with the same message, Repent/"turn from" and "turn to", and Jesus' disciples baptize into water(the liquid), but Jesus, himself did not baptize this way, for his' would be in the Spirit which is of God, The Father. This immersion had to do with past sins and not the new birth, which Jesus began to proclaim the promise that God had made to HIS people, speaking of it into the mouths of HIS prophets. Ezekiel 36:24 For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land. Ezekiel 36:25 Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. Ezekiel 36:26 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. Ezekiel 36:27 And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.

Psalm 12:6 The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Psalm 51:10 Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Romans 2:8 But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, Romans 6:16 Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? It is a cycle of events, that is the immersion, which must take place in you until you trust and obey the message and HE GOD put the spirit of HIS SON into your heart!

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Being born of Spirit and water John 3:5. The water here doesn't refer to aminiotic fluid because that is of the flesh,Jesus clearly explained that born again is not the flesh but the Spirit .If this just qualifies you to see how much more the one that qualifies you to enter the kingdom of God. The water is the Word of God because in Ephesians 5:26 it says "that He might sanctify her (the church), having cleansed her by the washing of water by the Word. The Word has the cleansing effect of water as the person meditates and act on it continually, washing out your bad habits. While being born born of the Spirit is the regeneration that is brought about by the Holy Spirit.

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  • Welcome to the site! This answer could be greatly improved by adding references and/or links to established teachings to back this up. – David Stratton Oct 7 '12 at 20:27
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    As set out by the community in What makes a good supported answer?, answers are expected to have references and support. I encourage you to edit in references/support or it may be deleted. – El'endia Starman Oct 8 '12 at 3:55

Being born of water is accepting the word of God into your heart and totally depending on God's word daily for constant cleansing until you become spiritually matured, conforming to the image of Christ. Our Lord Jesus Christ said,

"You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you" - John 15:3.

See also Ephesians 5:26. Our Lord Jesus Christ is the word of God (John 1:1, 14) and Hebrews 4:12 says,

"For the word of God is living and powerful..."

Eternal life is in the word of God and the life of the word (Jesus) is in the blood (John 6:47-58). The word (Jesus) is described as the bread of life, and to eat the bread of life means "to receive Him into your heart and continue in fellowship with Him daily through the help of the Holy Spirit".

This is what it means to be born of "water and Spirit". If you are not washed with the water of the word you are still in your sin and dead, totally separated from God eternally. Titus 3:5 says,

"...but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit."

You see? The Holy Spirit uses the word of God (Jesus) to wash you constantly until you are regenerated and conform to the image of Christ (Ephesians 4:13) see also John 14:26,16:13-15, this is the actual meaning of salvation - to accept the word of God (Jesus Christ) into your heart and continue in fellowship with Him in the word through the help of the Holy Spirit on daily basis. In this manner you can be sure that you are born of water and the Spirit, thereby saved and able to see and enter the kingdom of God.

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  • Welcome to Christianity Stack Exchange! We really appreciate the earnestness in your answer, but it comes off just a tad preachy, and this is not a Christian site. In general we like to be a little more reserved and present answers from a certain point of view, instead of as an objective "one right answer." Maybe try to rework your answer with that in mind - otherwise it looks good! – Thomas Shields Jun 9 '13 at 5:44
  • Water is been referred to as the word of God in the New Testament – Caleb Tolu May 16 '18 at 17:19

If Water in John 3:5 is referring to amniotic fluid then one would have to be born natural to be saved. Hence aborted babies, miscarried children would be lost. Notice the text unless one is born of water AND the spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom. Also the same word ( water ) is used later in the chapter John was baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was much amniotic fluid there.

Where does the Bible the word of God ever tell you to accept Christ into your heart? I have heard this a lot but still unable to locate it in the Bible, but there is a lot I don't know. Luke 7:30 But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, not having been baptized by him. I just wouldn't want to reject God's counsel, but that's me. I'll stand before God and be judged for my actions or lack thereof. Not trying to offend anyone.

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    Welcome to C.SE. This is an interesting answer, although, I'll admit, it is unclear to me if you are being sarcastic or not. I'd invite you to see how we are different. – Affable Geek Jul 22 '13 at 14:06
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    Hello and welcome to the site. We are always happy to have new participants. This post is not really an answer to the question (as we would like to see answers go, that is). Please see the help center and tour pages to learn how to use the site. Then see How we are different. It is also unusual to make two answers for the same post. – 3961 Jul 23 '13 at 3:57

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