A friend was telling me that Jesus in John 3, speaking of being born of water and the Spirit, was referring to the womb (amniotic fluid), representing natural birth, and the Spirit, representing spiritual birth without baptism. Then he asked me if all the accounts where the baptism occurs refer to water. I have found scriptures like Luke 12:50 where Jesus says he has to partake in a baptism, obviously referring to the cross. This does not mean water. I know he is trying to sidetrack me, because he does not believe one needs to be baptized in order to be saved. And he downplays all the scriptures where the Bible does teach this (Acts 2:38, Mark 16:16, Acts 22:16...). If you could comment or assist I would appreciate it. -- Nick Winn (Bahrain)

Your friend is confusing literal and metaphorical language. Many words can be used in two ways, but that doesn't mean you can play fast and loose with interpretation. E.g., in English we say "blue." That is a color. That is the natural meaning, just as immersion is the natural meaning of baptisma (Greek). Yet we can also use blue metaphorically: "I'm feeling a bit blue." That doesn't mean that blue color does not literally exist, or that the short wavelength end of the spectrum is somehow less real or important than the red end of the spectrum!

The overwhelming consensus of New Testament scholarship is that baptism involves water, despite the occasional metaphorical use of the word. I wonder, does your friend believe that you have to repent in order to be saved? John 3:5 is often ignored via the "amniotic theory" (rejected by most scholars), in favor of "faith only" salvation (John 3:16). But this famous chapter contains a third challenging requirement: repentance (3:19-21). Thus, to be fair as we read and apply the word of God, we should acknowledge that Jesus expects faith, repentance, and baptism. His teaching completely matches that of Peter (Acts 2) and Paul (Colossians 2).

You are on solid ground. Do not let yourself be deflected by people playing games with language.

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