John 3:5-6, a Discussion Regarding Baptism Regeneration                        by Jack Kettler


“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. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” (John 3:5-6)


In this study, we will look at word definitions, Greek words from a standard lexicon, commentary evidence, texts that seemingly support baptismal regeneration and a closing doctrinal statement from a confessional source. Like the Bereans of old, take your Bibles and see if these are so.


Definitions of Baptism:


An immersion or sprinkling of water that signifies one's identification with a belief or cause. In Christianity it is the believer's identification with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection (Romans 6:4-23). It is done in the name and authority (Acts 4:7) of Christ with the baptismal formula of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19). It does not save us (1 Peter 3:21). However, it is our obligation, as believers, to receive it. **


Westminster Shorter Catechism

Question 94


Q: What is baptism?
A: Baptism is a sacrament, wherein the washing with water, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost,1 doth signify and seal our ingrafting into Christ,2 and partaking of the benefits of the covenant of grace,3 and our engagement to be the Lord's.4

  1. Matthew 28:19. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
  2. 1 Corinthians 11:23. For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread... (see context)
  3. Galatians 3:27. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
  4. Romans 6:3. Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?
  5. Romans 6:4. Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

Definitions of Baptismal Regeneration:


The belief that baptism is necessary for salvation, and that the act of baptism causes regeneration; or the belief that baptism is the usual means of regeneration. *


The belief that baptism is essential to salvation, that it is the means where forgiveness of sins is made real to the believer. This is incorrect. Paul said that he came to preach the gospel, not to baptize (1 Corinthians 1:14-17). If baptism were essential to salvation, then Paul would have included it in his standard practice and preaching of the salvation message of Jesus, but he did not. (See also Colossians 2:10-11.) For more information on this see Is Baptism Necessary for Salvation? **


Digging deeper from Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words:


A-1      Noun   Strong's Number: g908           Greek: baptisma

Baptism, Baptist, Baptize:

“baptism,” consisting of the processes of immersion, submersion and emergence (from bapto, “to dip”), is used

(a) of John's “baptism,”

(b) of Christian “baptism,” see B. below;

(c) of the overwhelming afflictions and judgments to which the Lord voluntarily submitted on the Cross, e.g., Luke 12:50;

(d) of the sufferings His followers would experience, not of a vicarious character, but in fellowship with the sufferings of their Master. Some mss. have the word in Mat 20:22, 23; it is used in Mar 10:38, 39, with this meaning.

A-2      Noun   Strong's Number: g909           Greek: baptismos

Baptism, Baptist, Baptize:

as distinct from baptisma (the ordinance), is used of the “ceremonial washing of articles,” Mar 7:4, 8, in some texts; Hbr 9:10; once in a general sense, Hbr 6:2.


A-3      Noun   Strong's Number: g910           Greek: baptistes

Baptism, Baptist, Baptize:

“a baptist,” is used only of John the Baptist, and only in the Synoptists, 14 times.

B-1      Verb   Strong's Number: g907           Greek: baptizo

Baptism, Baptist, Baptize:

“to baptize,” primarily a frequentative form of bapto, “to dip,” was used among the Greeks to signify the dyeing of a garment, or the drawing of water by dipping a vessel into another, etc. Plutarchus uses it of the drawing of wine by dipping the cup into the bowl (Alexis, 67) and Plato, metaphorically, of being overwhelmed with questions (Euthydemus, 277 D).

It is used in the NT in Luk 11:38 of washing oneself (as in 2Ki 5:14, “dipped himself,” Sept.); see also Isa 21:4, lit., “lawlessness overwhelms me.” In the early chapters of the four Gospels and in Act 1:5; 11:16; 19:4, it is used of the rite performed by John the Baptist who called upon the people to repent that they might receive remission of sins. Those who obeyed came “confessing their sins,” thus acknowledging their unfitness to be in the Messiah's coming Kingdom. Distinct from this is the “baptism” enjoined by Christ, Mat 28:19, a “baptism” to be undergone by believers, thus witnessing to their identification with Him in death, burial and resurrection, e.g., Act 19:5; Rom 6:3, 4; 1Cr 1:13-17; 12:13; Gal 3:27; Col 2:12. The phrase in Mat 28:19, “baptizing them into the Name” (RV; cp. Act 8:16, RV), would indicate that the “baptized” person was closely bound to, or became the property of, the one into whose name he was “baptized.”

In Act 22:16 it is used in the Middle Voice, in the command given to Saul of Tarsus, “arise and be baptized,” the significance of the Middle Voice form being “get thyself baptized.” The experience of those who were in the ark at the time of the Flood was a figure or type of the facts of spiritual death, burial, and resurrection, Christian “baptism” being an antitupon, “a corresponding type,” a “like figure,” 1Pe 3:21. Likewise the nation of Israel was figuratively baptized when made to pass through the Red Sea under the cloud, 1Cr 10:2. The verb is used metaphorically also in two distinct senses: firstly, of “baptism” by the Holy Spirit, which took place on the Day of Pentecost; secondly, of the calamity which would come upon the nation of the Jews, a “baptism” of the fire of Divine judgment for rejection of the will and word of God, Mat 3:11; Luke 3:16. (1)


From the Pulpit Commentary a thorough analysis of the text John 3:5-6 :


Verse 5. - Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man (any one) have been born (out) of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. This memorable utterance has been the occasion of much controversy, arising from the contested sanction thus supposed to be given to the opus operatura of baptism, and to the identification of water baptism with Spirit baptism. Expositors have asserted that the rite of water baptism is not merely regarded as the expressive symbol and prophecy of the spiritual change which is declared to be indispensable to admission into the kingdom, but the veritable means by which that baptism of the Spirit is effected. Now, in the first place, we observe that the sentence is a reply to Nicodemus, who had just expressed his blank astonishment at the idea that a fundamental change must pass over a man, in any sense equivalent to a second birth, before he can see the kingdom of God. Our Lord modifies the last clause, and speaks of entering into the kingdom of God rather than perceiving or discerning the features of the kingdom. Some have urged that ἰδεῖν of ver. 3 is equivalent to εἰσελθεῖν εἰς of ver. 5. The vision, say they, is only possible to those who partake of the privileges of the kingdom. But the latter phrase does certainly express a further idea - a richer and fuller appreciation of the authority and glory of the King; just as the "birth of water and of the Spirit" conveys deeper and further thought to Nicodemus, than did the previously used expression, γεννηθῇ ἄνωθεν. The first expression was dark in the extreme; the latter pours light upon it. "Birth of water" points at once to the method so frequently adopted in Jewish ceremonial, by which a complete change of state and right before God was instituted by water. Thus, a man who had not gone through the appropriate and commanded lustrations was unfit to present his offering, to receive the benediction sought by his sacrificial presentment; the priest was not in a fit state to carry the blood of the covenant into the holy place without frequent washings, which indicated the extent and defilement of his birth stain. Nicodemus for probably thirty years had seen priests and men thus qualifying themselves for solemn functions. So great was the urgency of these ideas that, as he must have known, the Essenes had formed separate communities, with the view of carrying out to the full consummation the idea of ritual purity. More than this, it is not improbable that proselytes from heathen nations, when brought into covenant relation with the theocratic people, were, at the very time of this conversation, admitted by baptismal rites into this privilege. To the entire confusion of Pharisee and Sadducee, John the Baptist had demanded of every class of the holy people "repentance unto remission of sins," a demand which was accepted on the part of the multitudes by submitting to the rite of baptism. The vastly important question then arises' - Did John by this baptism, or by any power he wielded, give to the people repentance or remission of sins? Certainly not, if we may conclude from the repeated judgment pronounced by himself and by the apostles after him. Nothing but the blood and Spirit of Christ could convey either remission or repentance to the souls of men. John preached the baptism of repentance unto remission, but could confer neither. He taught the people to look to One who should come after him. He sharply discriminated the baptism with water from the baptism of the Spirit and fire. This discrimination has been repeatedly referred to already in this Gospel. Thus the Fathers of the Church saw distinctly that there was no regenerating efficacy in the water baptism of John, and the Council of Trent elevated this position into a canonical dogma. It is most melancholy that they did not also perceive that this judgment of theirs about the baptism of John applied to water baptism altogether. Christ's disciples baptized (not Christ himself, John 4:2) with water unto repentance and remission; but even up to the day of Pentecost there is no hint of this process being more than stimulus to that repentance which is the gift of God, and to the consequent pardon which was the condition of still further communication of the Holy Spirit. The great baptism which Christ would administer was the baptism of Spirit and fire. The references to the baptism of the early Church are not numerous in the New Testament, but they are given as if for the very purpose of showing that the water baptism was not a necessary or indispensable condition to the gift of the Holy Ghost. Cornelius and his friends received the sacred bestowment before baptism. The language of the Ethiopian ennuch shows that he had received the holy and best gift of Divine illumination and faith before baptism. Simon Magus was baptized with water by Philip, but was in the gall of bitterness and un-spirituality. There is no proof at all that the apostles of Christ (with the exception of Paul) wore ever baptized with water, unless it were at the hands of John. Consequently, we cannot believe, with this entire group of facts before us, that our Lord was making any ceremonial rite whatsoever indispensable to entrance into the kingdom. His own reception and forgiveness of the woman that was a sinner, of the paralytic, and of the dying brigand, his breathing over his disciples as symbolic of the great spiritual gift they were afterwards to receive, is the startling and impressive repudiation of the idea that Christian baptism in his own name, or, still less, that that ordinance treated as a supernaturally endowed and divinely enriched sacrament, was even so much as referred to in this great utterance. But the entire system of Jewish, proselyte, and Johannine baptisms was in the mind of both Nicodemus and Christ. These were all symbolic of the confession and repentance, which are the universal human conditions of pardon, and, as a ritual, were allowed to his disciples before and after Pentecost, as anticipatory of the great gift of the Holy Spirit. No baptism, no "birth out of water," can give repentance or enforce confession; but the familiar process may indicate the imperative necessity for both, and prove still more a prophecy of the vital, spiritual transformation which, in the following verse, is dissociated from the water altogether. Calvin, while admitting the general necessity for baptism, repudiates the idea that the rite is indispensable to salvation, and maintains that “water” here means nothing different or other than “the Spirit,” as descriptive of one of its great methods of operation, just as "Holy Spirit and fire" are elsewhere conjoined.

Verse 6. - That which hath been born of the flesh, is flesh. Σάρξ is not the physical as opposed to the spiritual or immaterial. nor is σάρξ necessarily sinful, as we see from John 1:14, but as it often appears in John's writing and Paul's, σάρξ is the constituent element of humanity as apart from grace - humanity (body, intellect, heart, conscience, soul, spirit) viewed on its own side and merits and capacity, without the Divine life, or the Divine supernatural inbreathing. The being born of the flesh is the being born into this world, with all the privations and depravations, evil tendencies and passions of a fallen humanity. Birth into the theocracy, birth into national or ecclesiastical privilege, birth that has no higher quality than flesh, no better germ or graft upon it. Simply produces flesh, humanity over again. When the Logos “became flesh,” something more than and different from ordinary traduction of humanity took place. Destitute of any higher birth than the birth of flesh, man is fleshly, psychical, earthly, σαρκικός ψυχικός χοι'κός (Romans 7:14-25), and, more than that, positively opposed to the will and grace of God, lashed with passions, defiled with debasing ideas, in enmity against God. Hence the birth “from the Spirit” is entirely antithetic to the birth from the flesh. That which hath been born of the Spirit, is spirit. There is a birth which supervenes on the flesh-be-gotten man, and it is supernaturally wrought by the Spirit of God. As in the first instance, at man's creation, God breathed into man the breath of life, and by that operation man became a living soul; so now the new birth of man is wrought in him by the Spirit, and there is a new life, a new mode of being, a new bias and predomimating impulse. “A spiritual mind which is life and peace” has taken the place of the old carnal mind. He is “spiritual,” no longer “psychical,” or “carnal,” but able to discern the things that are freely given to him. The eye of the spirit is opened, unsealed, the τὰ τοῦ πνεύματος are revealed to him (1 Corinthians 2:12-16; 1 Corinthians 3:1-5). The reference to “birth of water” is not repeated, because the birth from water is relatively unimportant, and of no value apart from the Spirit-change of which it may be a picture, or even a synonym. More than that, the Spirit-birth, the Divine operation, is the efficient cause of that which, under the form of a human experience, is called μετάνοια. The human metanoia, rather than the new birth, is the great burden of our Lord's public address, as recorded in the synoptic Gospels. In both representations the same fact, the same condition and state of the human consciousness, is referred to. In “repentance,” however, and in the moral characters which are the several preliminaries to the beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount, a change is declared necessary for the constitution and inauguration of the kingdom of heaven. This change is there viewed from the standpoint of human experience, and urged in the form of a direct appeal to conscience. In this discourse to Nicodcmus the same change is exhibited on its Divine side, and as one produced by the Spirit of God. In the Sermon on the Mount “meekness,” “poverty of spirit,” “mourning,” “hunger after righteousness,” “purity of heart,” the spirit of forgiveness and long suffering, are the moral conditions of those minds and hearts which would become the city of God and the light of the world (Matthew 5:1-12). On this occasion, when addressing the learned rabbi, Christ sums all up in the demand for a birth from the Spirit - a new and spiritual recommencement of life from the Spirit of God. The clause found in the Vetus Itala and the Syriac, quia Deus spiritus est, et de Deo natus est, is a gloss sustained by no Greek manuscript authority. Thorns here quotes two interesting passages from Philo, 1:533, 599, where the νοῦς is spoken of as given to man from above, and where the supremacy of the spiritual over the fleshly is made the only guarantee of admission into the world of spirit. But Philo obviously meant the intellectual rather than the moral element in human nature, and prized the ascetic process rather than the supernatural regeneration. (2)


Article on Baptismal Regeneration from the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia:


bap-tiz'-mal re-jen-er-a'-shun: As indicated in the general articles on BAPTISM and SACRAMENTS, the doctrine ordinarily held by Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Baptists, Methodists, and also by Low-Church Episcopalians, differs from that of the Roman and Greek churches, and of High-Church Anglicans, in its rejection of the idea that baptism is the instrumental cause of regeneration, and that the grace of regeneration is effectually conveyed through the administration of that rite wherever duly performed. The teaching of Scripture on this subject is held to be that salvation is immediately dependent on faith, which, as a fruit of the operation of the Spirit of God in the soul, already, in its reception of Christ, implies the regenerating action of that Spirit, and is itself one evidence of it. To faith in Christ is attached the promise of forgiveness, and of all other blessings. Baptism is administered to those who already possess (at least profess) this faith, and symbolizes the dying to sin and rising to righteousness implicit in the act of faith (Ro 6:1-23). It is the symbol of a cleansing from sin and renewal by God's Spirit, but not the agency effecting that renewal, even instrumentally. Baptism is not, indeed, to be regarded as a bare symbol. It may be expected that its believing reception will be accompanied by fresh measures of grace, strengthening and fitting for the new life. This, however, as the life is already there, has nothing to do with the idea of baptism as an opus operatum, working a spiritual change in virtue of its mere administration. In Scripture the agency with which regeneration is specially connected is the Divine "word" (compare 1Pe 1:23). Without living faith, in those capable of its exercise, the outward rite can avail nothing. The supposed "regeneration" may be received--in multitudes of instances is received--without the least apparent change in heart or life.


The above, naturally, applies to adults; the case of children, born and growing up within the Christian community, is on a different footing. Those who recognize the right of such to baptism hold that in the normal Christian development children of believing parents should be the subjects of Divine grace from the commencement (Eph 6:4); they therefore properly receive the initiatory rite of the Christian church. The faith of the parent, in presenting his child for baptism, lays hold on God's promise to be a God to him and to his children; and he is entitled to hope for that which baptism pledges to him. But this, again, has no relation to the idea of regeneration through baptism. James Orr (3)


Examination of Texts that seemingly support baptismal regeneration:


John 3:5: “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”


Calvin rejected a reference to baptism here, and proponents of baptismal regeneration are hard put to explain a reference to Christian baptism by Christ to Nicodemus long before Pentecost and the institution of the NT church. We may understand the expression “born of water and of the spirit” as a hendiadys. There is no article in the Greek text which reads simply "water and spirit." Hendiadys is a figure of speech in which two nouns connected by and are used instead of one noun and an adjective. The second noun has the force of a superlative or emphatic adjective. In John 3:5 the meaning is, therefore, “spiritual water.” This is essentially the same conclusion Calvin reached. He saw water and spirit as signifying the same thing.


Would “spiritual water” have conveyed anything to Nicodemus? Assuredly it would. He was well aware of the waters of separation (Num. 19) and the cleansing waters specifically associated with obtaining "a new heart" and receiving God's Spirit (Ezek. 36:25–27). The Lord Jesus was showing him that these had to be understood as references, not to sacramental ablutions, but to the activity of the Holy Spirit. Paul follows the same line of thought in Eph. 5:26, “the washing of water by the word.”


Mark 16:16: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.”


While the importance of baptism as the expected public acknowledgment of Christ as Saviour is clear here, it is obvious that the thing that is so essential to salvation that its absence invariably damns a man is faith. Those who trust Christ should not fail to be baptized and those who are baptized must ensure that they do indeed have saving faith. Without it their baptism can do nothing to save them.


Rom. 6:4–6: “Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.”


There is no reference to water baptism here. The reference is to real, not professed or sacramental, incorporation into Christ. The baptism is spiritual, as in 1 Cor. 12:13. It is the action of the Holy Spirit actually putting us into saving union with Christ.


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, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.”


The washing of regeneration is literally “the laver of regeneration” which is explained by the following phrase, the “renewing of the Holy Ghost.” There is no mention of baptism. The laver is to be spiritually understood. The OT tabernacle and temple had their lavers. Here we learn that their true import was that they pointed to the renewing work of the Holy Spirit. That is the laver of regeneration, not water baptism.


Acts 2:38: “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”


Campbellites are so confident that this text teaches their baptismal regeneration dogma that they at times style their gospel The Acts 2:38 Gospel. The entire argument hinges on the force of the preposition for. The Greek word is eis and it usually means “to, unto.” Therefore, we are told, baptism is “unto the remission of sins.” Remission follows baptism; it does not precede it.


That is the claim. But is it true? It is not The Greek preposition eis has a much wider meaning than “unto” in the sense of “with a view to.”


Matthew 3:11 is clearly a parallel passage. John the Baptist said, “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance.” Here again unto is eis. On the Campbellite interpretation of Acts 2:38 the repentance would have to follow the baptism. But did not those who came to be baptized by John receive baptism because they had already repented? The preposition eis here does not indicate the order the Campbellites infer in Acts 2:38, but the opposite.


Take another example. In Matt. 12:41 we read, “The men of Nineveh … repented at [eis] the preaching of Jonas.” If the Campbellite interpretation of Acts 2:38 here, Matt. 12:41 would be saying that the Ninevites repented in order to obtain the preaching of Jonah. Clearly that was not the case. They repented because they had already received it.


And that is the force of eis in Acts 2:38. Baptism for (eis) the remission of sins is baptism at, or in connection with the remission received through repentance and faith.


1 Peter 3:21: “The like figure whereunto even baptism doth now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”


It is almost universally asserted that this text plainly attributes some saving action to baptism (even if it is only symbolic or declarative). However there are serious objections to this view.


First, the Greek text has nothing corresponding to “the like figure whereunto even baptism doth now save us.”


Second, as the text now reads, baptism is the antitype of the waters of the flood. But Noah was not saved by water but from water. In what way then is his salvation from the flood typical of our salvation by Christ in baptism?


Let us consider these points.


The Greek of v. 21 reads, ho kai hemas antitupon nun sozei. The first question is, What is the antecedent of ho, “which”? Our translation practically ignores it, but really refers it to the hudatos, “water,” of v. 20. On this basis the literal rendering would be: “Which (water) even (or also) us the antitype now saves.”


Robert Nevin in Misunderstood Scriptures suggests that a better answer to the question of an antecedent to which would be “the Spirit,” v. 18, by which Christ preached to the sinners of Noah's day (v. 19). That would yield the translation, “Which (or who, the Holy Spirit) now saves us, the antitype (of Noah and his family) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ."


This is the natural force of the word order of the Greek text and so far makes perfect sense. If this is the correct translation then we must start a new sentence with, "Baptism is not the putting away of the filth of the flesh (i.e., of sin's defilement) but the seeking or appeal of a good conscience toward God.”


It is clear, whether we follow the common English version or this suggested translation, that baptism cannot cleanse away sin. It is a testimony or an appeal of a purified conscience to God on the merits of the work of Christ. In other words, baptism declares that our trust for salvation is not in baptism but in Christ who died and rose again.


Another possible view of 1 Pet. 3:21 makes water the antecedent of the relative which. In this view baptism is a reference to the death and judgment-bearing of Christ so that vv. 20–22 would then mean:


“The longsuffering of God waited, the ark having been prepared, in which few, that is eight souls were saved through and out of water (the instrument of God's judgment). Which (water shows us how) baptism (another emblem of the judgment of God on sin) now saves us the antitype (of those saved in the ark): it is not the putting away of the filth of the flesh (sin) but the appeal (or demand) of a good conscience (one cleared from guilt) through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who is now at the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers having been subjected unto Him.”


If we adopt this treatment, the reference to baptism is a reminder of Christ's bearing the wrath of God against our sin just as the ark bore it in the days of the flood.


1 Peter 3:21 cannot justly be made a witness for the theory of baptismal regeneration. As Nevin long ago remarked, “The doctrine of baptismal regeneration is not of Christian but of Pagan origin. It had a prominent place in the ancient Babylonian mysteries” (Nevin, p. 227). It has no place in Christian theology. (4)


From the New Testament Commentary by William Hendriksen on John 3:5-6:


5. Jesus answered, I most solemnly assure you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. The key to the interpretation of these words is found in 1:22. (See also 1:26, 31; cf. Matt. 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16) where water and Spirit are also found side by side, in connection with baptism. The evident meaning, therefore, is this: being baptized with water is not sufficient. The sign is valuable, indeed. It is of great importance both as a pictorial representation and as a seal. But the sign should be accompanied by the thing signified: the cleansing work of the Holy Spirit. It is the latter that is absolutely necessary if one is to be saved. Note, in this connection, that in verses 6 and 8 we no longer read about the birth of water but only about the birth of the Spirit, the one great essential.

  Now it is true that the cleansing work of the Holy Spirit is not finished until the believer enters heaven. In a sense, becoming a child of God is a life-long process (see 1:12), but in the present passage the initial cleansing implied in the implantation of new life in the heart of the sinner is meant, as is evident from the fact that we are taught here that unless one is born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot even enter the kingdom of God. (For the meaning of kingdom of God see on 3:3.)

6. Great stress, accordingly, is placed on the fact that physical birth (see on 1:13) does not give one any priority in the sphere of salvation. Hence, Jesus continues, That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. (For the various meanings of the term flesh in the Fourth Gospel, see on 1:14.) One could paraphrase as follows: sinful human nature produces sinful human nature (cf. Job 14:4, “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? Not one.” Cf. also Ps. 51:5). The Holy Spirit produces the sanctified human nature. (5)


In closing:


The Reformed view is concisely put by the Westminster Confession of Faith:


“Baptism is a sacrament of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus Christ, not only for the solemn admission of the parry baptized into the visible Church, but also to be unto him a sign and seal of the covenant of grace, of his ingrafting into Christ, of regeneration, of remission of sins, and of his giving up unto God, through Jesus Christ, to walk in newness of life: which sacrament is, by Christ's own appointment, to be continued in his Church until the end of the world.… Although it be a great sin to condemn or neglect this ordinance, yet grace and salvation are not so inseparably annexed unto it, as that no person can be regenerated or saved without it, or that all that are baptized are undoubtedly regenerated” (chap. 28, sec. 1, 4).


The goal of this study is to help us magnify the Lord God for his marvelous grace that made us children of God through no merit of our own. It is my prayer that this goal has been attained. 


“But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)



1.      W. E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, (Iowa Falls, Iowa, Riverside Book and Bible House), pp. 88-89.

2.      H. D. M. Spence and Joseph S. Exell, The Pulpit Commentary, John, Vol.17 , (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans Publishing Company reprint 1978), pp. 114-116.

3.      Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. “Definition for 'Baptismal Regeneration,'” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, (ISBE), (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans, 1915), p. 397.

4.      Cairns, Alan, Dictionary of Theological Terms (Greenville, SC: Ambassador Emerald International, 2002), pp. 58–62.

5.      William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary, John, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Baker Book House, 1984), p.134.

“To God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.” (Romans 16:27) and “heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:28, 29)


Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at:

For more study:


* For a great source of theological definitions go to Rebecca writes at Rebecca Writes:


** CARM theological dictionary





Baptism and John 3:5 by Matt Slick


Baptism by A. A. Hodge