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JOHN 3:5 THE ALLEGED ULTIMATE PROOF TEXT FOR WATER BAPTISM HAVING POWER TO SAVE SOULS DOES NOT SUPPORT THE DOCTRINE
 
Mark 10 shows there was a tradition for using the word baptism to mean other than just baptism in water. So it is possible that when Jesus said man needs water for salvation in John 3:5 he was not talking about real water.

5 Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.”
36 “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.
37 They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.”
38 “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?” The cup is usually taken to mean the suffering of the cross and the baptism refers also to immersion in suffering.
39 “We can,” they answered.

Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, 40 but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.” It is odd how Jesus just takes their word for it that they are willing to drink the cup and be baptised with his baptism when he just said they didn't know what they were asking for!

The reason the cup and baptism are thought to mean suffering is because Luke has Jesus saying, "I have come to cast fire upon the earth; and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is accomplished! Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather division." But that could be a different usage of the word baptism. Baptism here seems to mean engulfing the world in war. Curiously, the parallel text in Matthew mentions only a cup! Why did Matthew eliminate the reference to baptism? In Matthew the mother of James and John asks for special treatment for the two men. It is felt by many that the mother was Mary herself. The Pulpit Commentary says, "They had spoken ignorantly, perhaps fancying that some favour might be shown to them on the ground of their relationship to the Virgin Mary".
 
Jesus said you must be born again. The Church says it facilitates this new birth by administering baptism in water.
 
The Bible does not support - and even contradicts - the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church that you need water baptism to be united to God and to form his Church. As the human race is populated and created by birth, so the Church is created by baptising. The whole edifice of Roman Catholicism is built on this assumption. For example, if you are not baptised you are not a member of the Catholic Church, the one true Church, and you won't go to Heaven. The true Church is supposed to be infallible. If the Church is not properly baptised then it follows that the infallible decrees of bishops and popes are not infallible at all. It follows that the Church could be wrong about everything including what books should be in the Bible. It follows that we can laugh at Church teachings such as that contraception is always wrong and that Jesus is God and that the bread and wine of the Eucharist are his body and blood and so the whole thing collapses if it is wrong about baptism.
 
John 3:5. When having a chat with Nicodemus, Jesus claimed that only a person born of water and the Holy Spirit could go to Heaven, “Unless a man is born from above (or born again) of water and the Spirit, he cannot ever enter the Kingdom of God”.
 
The original Greek word, anothen means “born again” or “born from above”. John's gospel is fond of words with more than one meaning. He even uses pneuma which means both “wind” and “Spirit”. It is odd that Roman Catholicism loves John 3:5 when its author delighted in being unclear! Born from above would prove that the water is not literal. When the gospel makes it double-meaning, when it also means born again, it is a clear hint that the gospel does not mean water baptism saves. It denies it.
 
Jesus states it is a necessity not a command. Nobody seriously thinks that God had to save us by baptism.
 
People like to say there is no difference in born again or born from above. But there is a huge difference!  Born again of water and the spirit means the born from above is about the water and the spirit.  How does Heaven give you water?  The answer is it gives you rain and wind.  Water and spirit are water and wind so one good interpretation is that he means being born from Heaven.  The above and the water and the wind refer to the sky as an emblem of Heaven.
 
"Born again of water and even the Spirit" is a false translation. No Bible translation has the word even here. The even does not belong in the text at all. The Greek word “kai” means and and not even.
 
So did Jesus say you need water and the spirit to be born into the kingdom of God? It is best to link this to similar texts. The New Testament says that the saviour will baptise people with the Holy Spirit and with fire. The fire is taken as a sign of purification. Baptism with the Holy Spirit involves a painful purging of evil that makes you holy and born again. You have left sin behind if not totally then almost totally and are like you are remade. The water is best understood as a symbol of purification just like the fire is. So unless you are born again of purification and the Holy Spirit you cannot enter the kingdom of God. To be purified you must consent to it. So even if John 3:5 did mean baptism it cannot condone infant baptism. But there is no need to imagine it is saying you need real water to be saved.
 
The Roman Catholic Church used its supposed infallibility to decree that the meaning of this verse was that water baptism is necessary for salvation and forgives sins and unites one to God and the Church. So the Church thinks the verse means that unless you are born of baptism and the Holy Spirit you will not enter the kingdom of God. The text does not justify such an understanding at all for why didn't Jesus use the word baptism if that was what he meant?
 
To Catholics I write, EVEN THE CATHOLIC CHURCH SAYS THAT IT IS THE HOLY SPIRIT THAT MATTERS IN WATER BAPTISM. WATER HAS NO POWER IN ITSELF. IT SAYS THAT WATER BAPTISM IS HOW THE SPIRIT HAS CHOSEN TO ACT. HE COULD HAVE DECIDED NOT TO INVOLVE WATER AT ALL IF HE HAD WANTED. THAT IS CATHOLIC DOCTRINE. NOW CONSIDER HOW JESUS SAYS YOU MUST BE BORN OF WATER AND THE SPIRIT. WOULD HE REALLY PUT LITERAL WATER FIRST? WHY NOT SAY, YOU MUST BE BORN OF THE SPIRIT AND OF WATER?
 
The text does not speak of being born by water but born of water. The infallibility charade took place at the Council of Trent. The Council of Trent condemns the view that the water in John 3 is a metaphor. The verse is capable of many different interpretations. The Church says that infallibility means that research has to be done to find the right one. But to find the right one the Church would need a testimony from the gospel author that it was the right one. This it has not got. The Church just has to weakly argue that tradition always said the verse meant what the Church says it means. But the gospel writer himself mentioned a false tradition that went out in the early Church and among the apostles so that gets us nowhere.
 
There are other understandings of the verse.
 
The even as in “Unless a man is born of water and [even] the Spirit, he cannot [ever] enter the Kingdom of God” makes the Spirit sound like an extra. Even Catholicism says baptism would be useless if the spirit of God was not working in it. So is the solution that water itself is the Spirit? Is it a symbol? The Bible speaks of water being in the heavenly firmament so is water really an image of Heaven? You need to be born of Heaven before you can enter the kingdom of God.
 
Born of the Spirit implies the Spirit is being seen here in a female role as a kind of mother. The water then is the Spirit's breaking of the waters. It is a symbol. The Church objects that God is never described as any other than male. But the Spirit being depicted as female could be an image. It might not mean we should call the Spirit Mother or Her.
 
The water may be a symbol of washing from sin for the word Spirit may be really wind in the original Greek. The “Spirit” translation is just a guess (page 135, All One Body – Why Don’t We Agree? Or read the notes in the New American Bible for this passage. In its dictionary – look up SPIRIT – it says that the word pneuma means spirit and several other things.) Water and wind are emblems of the Holy Spirit so Jesus may be saying that we should be born of the Spirit and not of literal water plus the Spirit.
 
Shortly after what Jesus said to Nicodemus about the need to be born of water he told a Samaritan woman at a well that he could give her water to drink that will take away thirst and that will become a spring inside that will well up to eternal life. He uses water as a symbol of the activity of the Holy Spirit. The woman thinks he means real water and he does not correct her. He implies that she has no excuse for thinking that he means real water. It is like how people may not answer those who utter huge stupidity. Obviously, Jesus expected people to know that he did not mean real water by water in a spiritual context. Born of water means born of the purifying power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus was promising the power of the Spirit to the woman. Is the Samaritan story where John explains the meaning of water when Jesus told Nicodemus that we must be born of water?

The water may be the water in the womb. Jesus may be saying that unless we are born of this water and the Spirit we cannot enter into the kingdom of God.  The Christians object that that would be an odd thing to say. He was being poetic. He wanted to emphasise the importance of being begotten of the Spirit by saying it was as important as being born of a woman. John 3 is very poetic and much symbolism is incorporated into it.
 
"This is the one who came by water and blood--Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth." 1 John 5:6.
 
This verse is usually taken as referring to Jesus' baptism by John and the blood of the cross. John calls on the Spirit of God to witness this - he is swearing to its truth as if people were doubting it in his day. He goes as far as to say that it is not really his testimony but the Spirit's. That is a tactic used by those who do not expect you to take their word for it so they have to bring God into it to purloin some believability. It is intended to scare people who doubt by inferring that it is God who they are doubting and as God is the big guy that should be dangerous. Some link the text to the water and blood that supposedly gushed out of Jesus when he was stabbed on the cross. But that presumes this episode was given huge importance so that readers would have known right away what John meant. It was not that important. What was important to early Christians was the baptism and bloody death of Jesus. It was these that needed testimony. The stories about Jesus were based not on historical fact or evidence but on what some people said. Today, it is just like how the alleged presence of the Virgin at Medjugorje depends not on evidence or history but on the witness of the visionaries. Another possible meaning is that the water is the water of birth. It is more natural to say that Jesus came by the water of birth than by the water of baptism. Baptism was not about his coming but his starting of his ministry.
 
Born of water can be be a poetic way of saying born into this life. The baby at baptism is not born of water. What happens is that God decides to accept a child that the water is sprinkled on. The water does not cause the new birth of baptism but is the sign of it. Born of water cannot refer to baptism.

The Christian book, When Critics Ask (page 406), tells us that since Jesus when he said man must be born of water and the Spirit to be saved he was answering Nicodemus who asked if born again meant having to go back to your mother’s womb that Jesus by water was referring to the water of the womb. This is the right explanation and understanding for the context determines the meaning. So Jesus meant that unless you are born of the water inside your mother and then by the Holy Spirit you cannot be saved. Some might say that is strange because you don’t tell people they have to exist to be saved. You would if you wanted to poetically show that spiritual rebirth is as necessary for salvation as physical birth. There is a lot of poetry in the passage. Jesus would have said, “Unless you are born of baptism and the spirit,” if he had been thinking of baptism.
 
Let think more on this, “Unless a man is born of water and the spirit he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” If the water was required it does not follow that the water gives the Holy Spirit. We read in the Book of Acts that the early Church denied that baptism gave the Holy Spirit (Acts chapters 8 and 19). The Holy Spirit was received subsequent to baptism by the imposition of hands. The Roman Catholic doctrine that baptism gives the Holy Spirit and that one is reborn of the Spirit in baptism is totally unscriptural and also anti-scriptural. Even if John 3 requires baptism for salvation it does not say that baptism forgives sin or that it gives the Holy Spirit. The water might be like your ticket to receiving the Spirit. The dishonesty of the Roman Catholic Church in quoting that verse to get people to believe in its doctrine is deplorable. The Church gets away with it by making people so prejudiced that they imagine they see in verses what the Church wants them to see. It is obvious that the birth from the spirit is more important than the birth from water. Also, “Take John and get in the car and you will get to London,” does not necessarily mean that taking John is necessary. You could get to London without him. John then would correspond to the water in the verse while the car would correspond to the spirit.
 
Another excellent answer to the Catholic interpretation given in the same book takes note of the fact that Jesus was instructing a Jew who was probably intended to share the same instruction with other Jews. The born of water could then refer to the baptism of John which was a baptism of repentance and not a sacrament and the born of the Spirit could mean the baptism of the Holy Spirit which had to be received by faith alone. So Jesus was saying that unless you repent and accept God’s mercy by faith alone you will not be saved. He was not saying everybody has to be born of water and have John’s baptism but just fitting the plan of salvation into a Jewish context. In other words, he was asking that salvation by repentance and faith must be worked into Jewish tradition if people want to do it that way and the way to do the repentance is by being baptised in water in that case. In any case, it is clear that Jesus envisaged not babies being baptised but adults. If Jesus say recommended a prayer to say to get saved it would not matter if you changed that prayer or prayed by intention and not using words. It is the same thing here, the method of salvation does not change but the way you can exercise the method or express it can and that is okay.
 
Jehovah of the Watch-Tower tells us that Jesus was referring to a baptism of repentance when he said we have to be born of water and that we have to be born of the Spirit as well (page 151). The book correctly observes that there is no other water baptism but the baptism of repentance in the Bible. There is no baptism of regeneration. It is entirely possible that Jesus went through a baptism in the Jordan not for his own sins but for ours so he fulfilled the requirement of baptism for repentance for us meaning all we have to do now is to accept the Holy Spirit for regeneration. So when you receive the Holy Spirit you are vicariously born of water. The vicarious baptism of Jesus makes you born of water. You can be born of water without touching it just like Peter hints that Noah and co were born of the water of the flood when they were on the ark. Jesus never said we actually have to be washed in water to be born of it and he would have been clear that we need to be if he thought we needed to be. Catholics and
Protestants hold that circumcision which was a religious initiation rite for the Jews did what baptism does now and yet Jesus told Nicodemus, a circumcised Jew, that he needs to be born again of water. This indicates that Jesus did not want him to go through another rite to be born again but to accept the baptism of repentance that Jesus made for him as if it were his own which would involve repenting. What he was saying was this, unless you are born again of repentance and the Holy Spirit you will not be saved.
 
So we have to be born of water and the spirit. The water may be a symbol like the water mentioned in Isaiah 12:3; 55:1 and Jeremiah 2:13. Jesus told Nicodemus that he should understand these things being a teacher of the Old Testament which makes it likely that he was annoyed at him for not understanding what the water symbol stood for. This instruction is the key to understanding. The Old Testament never mentions salvation by literal water but only by symbolic water. It appears that had Jesus meant baptism, he would have said that a man is born again by baptism and the Holy Spirit for Nicodemus was a good Jewish scholar and Judaism did not practice baptism as an official cleansing of sin so Nicodemus had no reason to assume that water had to mean baptism and though Jesus took John’s baptism he never even baptised himself which he would have done had Nicodemus understood him to mean baptism. The apostles performed baptism later so Nicodemus had no reason to think that Jesus meant baptism or was into water baptism. And the gospel of John says that John said he only baptised Jesus as a sign that he was the one they were waiting for, the Lamb of God. Jesus later said that he washed people with the word of God (John 15:3).

Paul wrote in the New Testament (1 Corinthians 12:13) that we all drank from the same Holy Spirit indicating that water was an emblem of the Holy Spirit and was not literal water. The primitive Christians understood the Holy Spirit to be a cleanser from sin and predictably they took water as a symbol of the Spirit. Jesus could have meant unless one is born of the cleansing and the Spirit, etc.  

Water represented some kind of mystical experience and not water in the writings of John according to his First Epistle.
 
Rome does not really believe her interpretation of John 3:5 for Rome says that the people can be saved without water baptism. This salvation is done through the baptism of desire and the baptism of blood. Yet it cannot give a New Testament verse that says that these work. The places where salvation and forgiveness are spoken of as given without baptism do not relate to these other “baptisms”.
 
The fact that the Old Testament says people can be saved without baptism means nothing for things are different now that the saviour has come (Hebrews 9, 10). Even if the verse did say that the birth of water was required for salvation it would not make it a sacrament or a magic rite. God could make an ordinary rite necessary for salvation.

The Catholic dogma of baptism is based on this text for nothing else in the Bible can really justify the dogma. This makes it virtually certain that some understanding that is opposed to the Catholic one is correct.

The Catholic doctrine contradicts Jesus’ teaching that God is love for it claims that God holds babies and adults from him like filthy rags until the priest casts a spell on them with the rite. A truly perfect God would not be able to endure the wait. He would not put the needs of the spirit in the hands of a man. He’s the one that condemns procrastination. Jesus said that little children were not to be kept from him as the kingdom of God belongs to such as them. The kindest interpretation of this is that they did not need baptism to save them. Some claim the episode proves the need for baptism of children which is an insane interpretation. Jesus said the children were his friends and belonged to the kingdom and that is that. And nobody says they were baptised!

The Seventh-day Adventists say that we are born of the Spirit at conversion and born of water at baptism and deny that Jesus is saying that the birth in water is the same as birth of the Spirit. Yes, there is no reason to assume the two are identical. Jesus is promising that baptism will be administered to the person who is really converted and is a sign from him that the conversion is real. Of course fakes can be baptised but the important thing is the assurance of the Holy Spirit that Jesus agrees with the water baptism being performed. That makes the difference. So even if you accept that the water is baptism you still are not obligated to follow the Catholic interpretation. Jesus would have said, “Unless a man be born of water which is the same as being born of the spirit he cannot enter the Kingdom of God”, had he meant what Catholics hope he meant. The fake Christian may go through the rite but he or she is not really born of water into the kingdom because he or she is a phoney. Born of water means being born into the kingdom through water and you cannot enter the kingdom unless you are sincere and mean to do what God wants. This implies you have to be baptised again if the first baptism was just a performance.
 
The Way International is a major Bible movement in the United States which teaches salvation by faith alone. It teaches that Jesus Christ and the apostles never taught that water baptism forgives sin and unites you to God. They say that Jesus did command water baptism but his death did away with it so that Christians don't need it now. They think this doing away took place when the Holy Spirit came down at Pentecost on the apostles and the Church. Then water baptism was superseded by the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. They contend that what today's Christians need is the baptism of the Holy Spirit which is given directly by God when the person is ready and when the person accepts Jesus Christ and gets his sins forgiven.  
 
What we read in John 3:5 was said before Jesus died for our sins and rose again. If it was the law then that disciples of Jesus had to be baptised then we can take Jesus' meaning to be what the Way International would say it could be. It could be temporary and would pass away at the resurrection of Jesus.
 
One has to be born of water first to join Jesus' spiritual class ie baptised in water. In that class you get the gospel in its fulness. The gospels say that Jesus was keeping his most sacred teachings for closer disciples. The gospels indicate that there were indeed such classes. When you get the gospel and understand it, you can accept salvation and then be born of the Holy Spirit. Thus you see that the water is not saving anybody or forgiving anybody. It is what the baptised do afterwards that counts. But you can still say you are born of water and the spirit.
 
The Roman Church admits that sacramental baptism wasn't practiced then - the rite of baptism until after the resurrection had no power and was intended to be symbolic. Jesus said he expected Nicodemus to understand. How could he then? The Catholic interpretation is the worst interpretation of them all. The Mormon interpretation that the words refer to water baptism, born of water, and confirmation, born of the Spirit, is a better one!
 
Catholic priests have said, you must be baptised and confirmed to enter the kingdom of God. Baptism is of water and confirmation of the Holy Spirit. This parallels Jesus's words. They certainly did not mean to imply that confirmation is as necessary to salvation as baptism for they believe that baptism alone can be enough.
 
John 3:5. Jesus said, “Unless a man is born of water and [even] the Spirit, he cannot [ever] enter the kingdom of God.”

There is no reason to translate Spirit here for the word in the original also means wind. Water (Ezekiel 36:25-27) and wind are symbols for God's saving energy, the Holy Spirit, so Jesus may be asserting that we need to be saved by the Holy Spirit. This verse is no foundation for the notion that without water baptism there is no salvation. The Holy Spirit is said to be water you can drink in John 7:37-39 - a metaphor. It appears also in John 4 when Jesus told the Samaritan woman at a well about the water he can give. It shows that Jesus was using water to picture the Holy Spirit. Jesus then was saying that a man needs to be born of water and wind to enter the kingdom of God meaning a man needs to be born of the Holy Spirit. He talks later of one being born of the Spirit without mentioning the water. Besides, it doesn't make a lot of sense to be saying that one is born of water and the Spirit even if one believes that one receives the Spirit at water baptism. One is still born of the Spirit not water. The Church teaches there is no power in the water at all. Water pictures the saving action of the Holy Spirit but water does not save, the Spirit does. One is then begotten of the Holy Spirit.

Water and wind. Is this just an interpretation? Even if it is, it still proves that the verse can’t definitely prove baptismal salvation. But Jesus himself implied this interpretation. First he told Nicodemus that rebirth was necessary for salvation. Nick thought that he meant reincarnation so Jesus set him straight saying one needs to be born of water and the Spirit. Jesus then told Nick that he should know that being a teacher of Israel and if he could not understand earthly things how could he understand heavenly. Jesus therefore told him that the interpretation of the water and the wind/Spirit was in the Old Testament which never speaks of salvation by water baptism or such baptism thus it was symbolic. Nick could not understand earthly symbolism and Jesus tells him that he will not understand his new heavenly doctrines. Jesus went on to say that faith in Jesus saves and bestows everlasting life. Nick would have understood that for he believed that trust in God and obedience were necessary for salvation as the Law said. (Notice how this implies that faith alone without good works is what God requires for salvation.) The chapter must never be understood as saying that Nick did not understand what the spirit does for all Jewish teachers knew that it gives life and pardon and help to serve God.

An important clue regarding what Jesus meant is to be found when Jesus told Nick that Nick should understand him for he was a teacher too. Jesus said that he was telling him of earthly things and wondered how Nick could believe anything he would tell him of heavenly things when he could not believe his utterances about earthly things. So Jesus was saying this being born of the Spirit was an earthly thing. What Jesus meant was that Nick was unable to understand that the body is born of water and the mind is born of Spirit for flesh is born of flesh and spirit is born of spirit and that you need to be born again but by the power of God because the spirit and the flesh are in opposition for they are too different. So Jesus said that when a man needs to be born of water and the spirit to enter the kingdom of God he was talking about us coming into existence and not about water baptism at all. He does not say we need water to be born again which means to receive the power to become holy like God.

If we are born again of the Spirit when we are baptised then why did Jesus not say that we are born again of the Holy Spirit and of water and not water and the Holy Spirit? The order is wrong. The Holy Spirit should be mentioned first and foremost. This suggests that water is a symbol not real water. Even if baptism in water could save you, it would be because of the Holy Spirit. The order is a clear hint that the water is not real water and that Jesus is saying you have to be born of water and wind to be saved.

The doctrine of baptism being a sacrament cannot be traced in the Bible. The Bible claims to be the only religious authority for Christians so it is unchristian to teach that it is a sacrament. The Catholic Church leadership is well educated and has no excuse for teaching the same old errors that it taught in the past. The errors are deliberate.

The Church then has people thinking water baptism puts them right with God when it doesn't. This is a major error and shows that if Christianity is true, the Catholic Church at best unwittingly is opposing it and the truth that God wants to give us.
 
People who are baptised seem no better or worse then people who are not baptised. Yet they claim to be born again. There is no point in baptism if it is not going to make any difference. Bishop Spong says that born again means returning to dependency like a child - you are the child and God is the parent who knows it all so you cannot doubt him. He says that being born again is becoming newly a child once more. Baptism then is intrinsically evil if it is about becoming born again in the sense of taking on total dependency again.

But some say that born again is not talking about going back to a baby state but about being radically changed by the power of God. Again, if baptism is about being born again then it is intrinsically evil for it says you are ontologically different to and spiritually blessed unlike the unbaptised. That is twisted because there are unbaptised people who are ten times better than any baptised person.
 
Jesus told Nicodemus not to wonder or marvel that we need to be born again. So he was saying that it is obvious that human nature needs a radical fixing. His words exclude Catholic baptism which does nothing radical to anybody. The baptised are as bad or as good as the unbaptised.

The new birth of water and the Spirit does not involve real water. If it did, Jesus would have made that clear. In fact the New Testament elsewhere talks of water as a symbol and it promises a baptism in the Holy Spirit and in fire meaning purification. The fire is not fire but purification so the water is not water but purification. So there are grounds for denying it is real water.  

John 3 mentions faith so much that is is clear that whatever water and the spirit mean they are no good unless you are adult enough to believe and believe and believe.  Faith is seen as drink and as the spirit - is that what the text is getting at?  So not only does the text not authorise baptism in water but it says baby baptism is a disgrace for the new birth is for people who know what they are doing!  If it allows baptism it still effectively dismisses the vast majority of baptisms which are performed on babies.

APPENDIX

JOHN 3 NIV
 
1 Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council.
2 He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”
Jesus' reply, which follows, suggests God cannot be approached or learned from or his kingdom entered unless they are born again. Remember you must understand the next line in the context of what Nicodemus said. It is a reply.
3 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”
4 “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!”
5 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit.
Notice that instead of refuting reincarnation, Jesus simply paraphrases what he said previously. It is a case of Nicodemus asking if a man can go back to the womb to be reborn and Jesus saying you must be reborn. It is false that Jesus is correcting Nicodemus here for what he says is not clear enough to correct anything. It could even be read as saying, "Nicodemus you are right to take me to mean bodily rebirth and nobody gets into God's kingdom without natural birth and the Holy Spirit.
6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.
The flesh gives birth to flesh refers to the water part - the water means natural birth for there is water in the womb. The Spirit part refers to the spirit birth. Jesus is saying you need to be born into this life as much as you need to be born of the Spirit or vice versa in order to be saved. Remember this is poetry.
7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’
8 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.”
It is not surprising that he is on about the need for transformation by the power of the Holy Spirit. He takes it for granted that it is clear that nobody is really right with God unless God miraculously changes the person. He says that the wind goes where it wants and no man can tell where it comes from or where it is going. Wind and spirit are the same word. Wind is an emblem for the Holy Spirit. The notion that a man can be a channel for the Holy Spirit by giving it in baptism is rejected. It is Catholic doctrine that those who baptise you in water give you the Holy Spirit.
The Church responds that the notion that you don't know where the Spirit is from or where it is going does not exclude the notion that man is needed to give the spirit through sacraments. It says that Jesus said it is everyone who is born of the spirit who is like the wind not the Spirit.
9 “How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.
10 “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things?
11 Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony.
12 I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?
The earthly thing he means seems to be natural birth. That is what the "water" refers to. What is the earthly thing that Nicodemus fails to believe? Jesus is going to speak of heavenly things now.
13 No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man.
14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up,
15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.
He talks about how he saves sinners and those who believe get this salvation and salvation refers to living a fulfilled life forever.
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.
20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.
21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God."
Whoever does not come for the salvation does not want it. They don't want to be holy. The stress on choice in a sermon about water and Spirit excludes the notion that babies should be baptised if the water refers to the waters of baptism which according to Catholicism gives you the Holy Spirit and a new birth. For what is supposedly a sermon on baptism, it seems remarkably unconcerned with the water!
22 After this, Jesus and his disciples went out into the Judean countryside, where he spent some time with them, and baptized.