John 3:5 says "Amen, amen I say to you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit.”

The WATER in this passage, according to the constant 2,000-year teaching of the Catholic Church, and according to St. Augustine and all the Church Fathers who dealt with this passage was:


  1. symbolic water
  2. the real water of Baptism
  3. amniotic fluid



THE ANSWER IS…..B….the water of Baptism.


Not surprisingly, the Early Christians understood the phrase “born again of water and Holy Ghost” to be the literal definition of Baptism. Therefore, they understood the verse to mean Baptism was necessary for salvation. They believed in a regenerative Baptism, i.e. that Baptism was the means by which God infused saving grace into his children. This has been the teaching of the Catholic Church since the first centuries. Many Protestants continue to teach this, but not evangelical Protestants.


St. Augustine was one of the strictest on this teaching, writing that even unbaptized babies would go to hell if they died. The Catholic Church says we simply don’t know about these babies, who are not yet able to understand God’s command to be baptized. Should an unbaptized baby die, we should entrust them to the mercy of the Church, knowing that we have a just God, who hopefully would find another way to bring these children into his fold. But because Jesus did not specifically preach regarding a possible exception for babies, the Church rightly urges parents to have their babies baptized as soon as possible after birth.


Now, for anyone who still isn’t sure that John 3:5 is referring to Baptism, take out your Bibles, and turn to John 3:5 (“Unless a man be born of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” If you read the rest of John 3, you’ll see that after Jesus instructs Nicodemus about the necessity of Baptism, Jesus goes out with his disciples and starts baptizing (John 3:22)! Then, in John 3:23, John also baptizes. Convinced yet?


So, why in the world in the 16th century would some people all of a sudden say John 3:5 was not referring to Baptism, thereby contradicting all previous Christian teaching? That is a good question. I can only imagine that it was for the same reason hundreds of other Bible verses were also assigned new meanings by 16th century Reformers,  contradicting 1500-year-old Christian doctrines.


When Protestants began approaching the Bible with Luther’s new theory that no works of love or charity were necessary for salvation, they needed to reinterpret all Bible verses that stated that works were necessary for salvation in order to be consistent. (please note the word “necessary” here. Both Catholics and Protestants believe works are the fruits of true salvation, and that they are from God, but whether they are necessary is where opinions diverge)


Therefore, they could no longer accept the traditional Christian teaching that John 3:5 , Mark 16:16, 1 Pet 3:21, Rom 6:4, Acts 2:37 meant that Baptism saves


Likewise, James 2:24 became a stumbling block to the point Luther wanted to eliminate the Book of James from the Bible.


Neither could they continue accepting Jesus’ literal words in John 6, despite the fact that these lines were interpreted literally since the first centuries by all Christians, including St. Augustine and every other Church Father: "I assure you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his Blood, you cannot have eternal life within you. But those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is true food and my blood is the true drink. All who drink my blood and eat my flesh remain in my and I remain in them."


The new 16th century concept of infallible assurance of salvation, which, as you may know, also contradicted all previous Christian teaching, meant that they could no longer accept the traditional Christian interpretations of Bible verses such as the ones below, referring to the possibility (however remote) of Christians falling out of salvation/grace.

Rom 11:22  “See then the kindness and severity of God: severity toward those who fell, but God’s kindness to you, provided you remain in his kindness; otherwise, you too will be cut off.”

1 Cor 9:27 “No, I drive my body and train it, for fear that, after having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified.” (Here, St. Paul says even his own salvation is not assured!!!)

2 Tim 2:11-13 “If we have died with him, we shall also live with him; if we persevere, we shall also reign with him…” (Notice it says “if” we persevere, not that we are assured of persevering)

Hebrews 6:4-6 “For it is impossible in the case of those who have once been enlightened and tasted the heavenly gift and shared in the holy Spirit and tasted the good world of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to bring them to repentance again….”

Heb 10:26-27 “If we sin deliberately after receiving knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains sacrifice for sins but a fearful prospect of judgment and a 

Mt 24:13  “But the one who perseveres until the end will be saved.”

1 Cor 10:12 “Therefore, whoever thinks he is standing secure should take care not to fall.”



Also, with the new belief that works of love were not necessary, Protestants could no longer accept that it was necessary to confess sins to God through a priest for forgiveness despite the traditional Christian teaching that Jesus established the sacrament of Confession (Reconciliation). In John 20:23, Jesus told his apostles: “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven. Whose sins you retain are retained.”


Most Evangelical Protestant churches have also done away with the Anointing of the Sick (James 5:14-15.)

Why? Because the Bible verse states that when the sick person is anointed with oil by an elder (priest) in the name of the Lord, the person’s sins will be forgiven. Of course, this goes against the Reformed concept that grace-inspired actions and works cannot play the slightest role in forgiveness or salvation.


For more info on the regenerative role of Baptism, see



http://www.bringyou.to/apologetics/a25.htm   or




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