Are you Born Again by “Water and the Spirit”?

It seems that God is kind of predictable in a way 🙂 since He always starts new things in the same way — with “water and the Spirit“. Consider the following:

1) The first creation came from the the earth which was covered with WATER and the SPIRIT hovered over the waters and from the water emerged land and man and God’s first creation (Gen 1:1-2).

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2) A new humanity was started with Noah through WATER and SPIRIT. The ark went through the water and a dove (representing the Spirit) hovered overhead with an olive branch. Peter said this represents baptism which “now saves us” (1 Peter 3:18-21).

3) The nation of Israel was created through the WATER of the Red Sea (baptism) with the cloud and fire of the Holy SPIRIT overhead — my oh my, again we have water and Spirit (Ex 14; 1 Cor 10:1-4).

4) Ezekiel then describes what the New Covenant will look like and he said we will be sprinkled with clean WATER and his SPIRIT will be placed in us (Ez 36:25). Born again, I suspect.

5) Then Jesus, right before saying you must be born of “water and the Spirit” had just gone down into the WATER of the Jordan and the SPIRIT came down and landed on his head. Again, water and the Spirit (Mt 3:16; Jn 1:29).

6) Jesus teaches Nicodemus that he must be born again, or from above which is accomplished through “WATER and the SPIRIT.“

7) When Jesus finished these words what was the first thing he did? He went down and baptized people in the Jordan with his disciples (Jn 4:1-2).

8) At the first Holy Ghost Gospel Revival meeting 🙂 Peter stood up at Pentecost and said,  “Repent, and be baptized (WATER) every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy SPIRIT“ (Acts 2:38).

9) Peter also says “Baptism now saves you“ (1 Pet 3:18), and Paul is told “Rise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on his name” (Acts 22:16), and Paul writes that we are saved “by the washing of regeneration (WATER) and renewal in the Holy SPIRIT“ (Titus 3:5).


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Too bad many Evangelicals and Fundamentalists refuse to see it but the Bible is pretty clear about new birth through the sacrament of baptism. Jesus is not ambiguous in this matter and he is alluding quite clearly to new beginnings in the Old Testament. The Early Church is also very clear and so is the teaching of the Catholic Church today.

(Picture to right is the place in the Jordan River where Jesus was baptized. Click for larger image.)

St. Augustine said, “Who is so wicked as to want to exclude infants from the kingdom of heaven by prohibiting their being baptized and born again in Christ?”

When someone asks me “Have you been born again?“  I simply answer “Absolutely, but I’ve been born again the Bible Way!“


This Post Has 28 Comments

  1. Ggoose

    I think you meant Ez 36:25 🙂

    STEVE RAY HERE:  Opps, you're correct. I will fix it. Thanks.

  2. Mari

    Steve Ray has mis quoted I Peter 3:18 when he says that Baptism saves. According to the scriptures, Baptism is done as an act of obedince, but it does not save someone. Only Faith in Jesus Chist alone can save. Jesus is enough. Nothing more needs to be added to Faith. We are saved by grace alone. It is our blessed assurance.

    STEVE RAY HERE: Seems that there is a bit of confusion in this comment. Catholics agree that we are saved by grace alone [corrected] – in fact, we taught that long before Protestants were on the scene. But grace works in various ways. Even the writer of this comment would admit that one needs to "believe," to have "faith," to repent, etc. All of these are things we DO, enabled by the grace of God. Above it says nothing can be added to faith, yet Paul tells us to be saved we must "confess with our mouth' (Romans 10:9-10) which is certainly something we must DO, since confess is a verb.

    When one opens the Bible to 1 Peter 3:21 they find I did NOT misquote the verse. It says even in the most popular Protestant translation, the NIV "God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also." Noah was "saved through water" and the water of Noah symbolizes or pictures in advance (typology) that the waters of baptism will some day save us. As the King James Version says, "Baptism doth also now save us."

    Of course, if one is wearing Baptist glasses when they read this it is viewed or twisted to say something different. One might ask how our commenter would suggest that Peter "reword" this verse to fit their Fundamentalist Protestant theology?

    Of course we are saved by grace alone, through faith. Baptism is not done apart from faith, since it is the sacrament of faith. Jesus said that if we are not born of water and the Spirit we will never see the kingdom of God. I think what I've said above is clear enough.

  3. mitchell v kaminski md

    Dear Steve; My pastor (ret.) states from the pulpit that the process of John's baptism required crossing the Jordan from one side to another! I've searched here and there and have come up with a few concepts which are interesting but never this. What do you have on this crossing requirement. He said this process was prefigured by the Red Sea crossing and the Jews crossing the Jordan into the Promissed Land. Fellow Servent, Dr. K

    STEVE RAY HERE: In John 1:28, referring to Jesus' baptism, it says, "This took place in Bethany beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing." Jesus was baptized on the OTHER side of the Jordan and came back across into Israel itself. I will be there on that exact place with a group of pilgrims. You can actually see this spot on my recent blog on beign "Born Again."

  4. debra froat

    Wow! What a great article that you have written. I don’t have anything insightful to add except that I enjoyed reading this.

  5. doug sowter

    Steve, I have a question that catholics dont seem to want to answer or maybe cant answer. If the eucharist is the "real presence" and receiving the eucharist is the way to salvation then why does the catholic church refuse to serve communion to non-catholics John 6:37 says if any man comes to me I will in no wise cast him out. Also, show "soul and divinity" as part of the Lord's supper, I hear that said all the time on ewtn prgramming and as of yet have never seen that term anywhere in scripture, Thanks and God Bless your work.

    STEVE RAY HERE: Please post your question on my Message Board at for a more thorough reponse. Jesus does invite us to his flock. He has one flock and invites all to come and he will not turn them away. But Jesus didn't expect to have his sheep wandering all over the place in different groups. There is ONE flock. But the Church cannot let anyone come to communion — what about a murderer or an unbeliever? There has to be limitations who takes communion. There is only one Church and the Eucharist is a sign of that unity. To allow those who are outside to partake is to bear false witness to the "one Church." Everything does not have to be stated explicitly in Scripture. Jesus said, "This is My Body" and he meant it. We believe that if it is Him in sacramental form and if it is Him, it is all of him body, blood, soul and divinity.

  6. Deebs

    As a Catholic convert of 11 years, I was home for the holidays with my protestant inlaws. We were playing a game involving questions and the question asked,"What religious practice most baffles you?". My brother-in-law answered, "Catholic Christening". So, we were talking later and he told me that they (his church) do not see our infant baptism as a legitimate baptism. I was so shocked. I know that I have read in the bible that people were bringing their "households" to be baptized and have heard that they surely wouldn't have excluded their children. Any advice on how to follow up with this? I think I should follow up with some concrete information for them.

    STEVE RAY HERE: Please post your question on my Message Board at for a more thorough response. But, you can click here to visit my resources page — scroll down to "Infant Baptism". This document should help you very much.

  7. Luke

    Steve…I read doug sowter's question. Your response to doug's questions has brought up another question. Who is the 'one flock' and the 'one church' that you refer to. Is it the Catholic church. If so, do you beleive that only Catholics are going to heaven. If so, please give me a scripture reference to prove this point. Thank you. Luke

    STEVE RAY HERE: Why would you possibly ask if I thought only Catholics are going to heaven? That is a very uninformed question. If you want to continue this discussion, take it my Message Board at This blog is not for extended discussions — I don't have the time.

  8. Kevin

    Hi Steve, I heard you on Relevant Radio on Jan 14 and came here to see the information you referenced. I'm hoping to find a recording of that show to share with others. Thanks for your passion and enthusiasm!

    In a comment above you said "Catholics agree that we are saved by faith alone …". Did you mean "grace alone"?  YES, though in a certainly limited way, it could also be correct for Catholics to say "faith alone" as opposed to circumcision or self-righteous attempts to please God apart from his grace.

  9. Marvia

    7) When Jesus finished these words what was the first thing he did? He went down and baptized people in the Jordan with his disciples (Jn 4:1-2). Just to point out that Steve said of Jesus "He went down and baptized people in the Jordan with his disciples (Jn 4:1-2)." The author was explicit in saying " not that he himself (Jesus) baptized, it was his disciples who baptized. We need to be clear on that so that persons do not get the wrong impression. Thanks

    STEVE RAY HERE: The clarification is correct but I didn't think it necessary to add in such a short document. Jesus baptized "through" his disciples, in a way, not unlike him baptizing now "through" the clergy. Here is what the text says in John 4: "Now when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples)."

  10. Lee

    Hi Steve!

    I always visited your website and I learned a lot specially on the topic about
    images which is always used by born again in attacking catholics..
    And i got lots of biblical reffereces that would help me explain
    to my born again fri faith who does
    does not know yet what they believed.

    God bless you always and more power to your missionary


  11. Mark

    Hi Steve, In your reply to Mari, you said that "Catholics agree that we are saved by grace alone [corrected] – in fact, we taught that long before Protestants were on the scene." However, in an interview with Larry King, Father Michael Manning(Host, The Word In The World) believes, as a Catholic, that "one attains salvation by doing his best" even without believing in Christ. Ephesians 2:8-10 clearly explains that we are saved by God's grace only through our faith in Jesus Christ. Our salvation and even our faith are gifts from God. While no works on our part can help us obtain salvation, God's intention is that our salvation will result in "good works." We are His "masterpieces." And we are not saved for our own benefit but to serve Christ and build His Church.

    STEVE RAY HERE: It is not Catholic teaching, no matter who teaches it, that one is saved by their own efforts or by trying to do their best. My guess is this priest is being misquoted. Good works DO play a part in our final salvation which is very clear from Scripture. Even James 2:24 says that we are saved by works and not by faith alone. However, initial salvation and justification is 100% the free gift of God and can never be earned. Even our good works are a result of God's grace in our life. 

  12. Armando

    I got born again almost 1 year ago. I was born and grew up a catholic. I got married just last month in a catholic church. before the wedding, we had these series of seminars and during these seminars i have noticed that some of these catholics who facilitated the seminar are born again and they do not know it! I was blessed by your blog steve and i know for certain that you have been born again, not of the flesh but of the spirit. your are a new creature, old things are passed away, all things are become new. i don't intend to go into any debate, we will not profit from that. But i write here that i may bless you also by sharing with you what i have received from the Holy Spirit regarding this topic. Spiritual things are discerned spiritually. Do not break your minds trying by your own might to understand the Word of God. Rather, with prayer and supplication, ask for understanding from God. The Words of our Lord Jesus are Spirit. When He speaks, He does not speak concerning material things but rather spiritual things. But He makes us understand the heavenly things by speaking to us through earthly things. We are talking about 2 baptisms here. One by water and another by the Spirit. There are instances, both in Biblical times and (I have witnessed) at present times where the Spirit came first before water baptism. What this tells us is that "water baptism" is just a material representation of a person's being born of water. If you go to "water baptism" without a repentant heart, it does nothing. It is the repentant heart that counts. Being born of water simply means coming to God with a repentant heart, coming to Him with a pledge of a clear conscience. If you do that, then you can move forward to the second step which is the baptism of the Holy Spirit (receiving the Holy Spirit). Even Peter can do nothing but to do a physical "water baptism" after witnessing a group of people get baptized with the Holy Ghost.

    STEVE RAY HERE: Armando: I don't mean to be critical but you have some serious confusion here. I suggest you get back into the heart of the Catholic Church and avoid the confusion that comes when you go out into the chaos of Protestantism and the sects. 

  13. robert ian williams

    Briliant piece, Steve…however I wish you would change boring to predictable. I find it a little offensive, and it will only antagonise God fearing Protestants.No Trinitarian Christians before the sixteenth century denied baptismal regeneration. Even Luther accepted that doctrine…it was Calvin who denied it.

    STEVE RAY HERE: Hello my good friend! In deference to you and your good Welsh judgment, I changed it from "boring" to "predictable. Probably not a back change, though in America either would work just as well. Glad you liked the piece. 

  14. Rachel Baer

    Thank you, Steve, for the wonderful article. As a Christian, I’ve always found sacramentalism such a beautiful expression of God’s love, as the Incarnate! How else would a God, who is BOTH fully man and fully God, choose to CONTINUE to be in our midst? By the expression of His Endless Love, bestowed upon His Church, in a manner that is exactly like HIM… HIs ressurrection, He offers Himself to His Body, both physically and spiritually (using both modes in complete harmony) because He IS both physical and spiritual. Attempting to separate the water and the spirit, in order to stay within a Protestant tradition’s understanding, is very limiting…and would ony serve to offer a one-sided Jesus. It sort of reminds me of my brother-in-law (a non-denominational pastor), when, in an effort to describe Mary’s role in His Birth, called Him, “Jesus, the man”. This separation of His Divine nature from His Human nature, is incorrect theology. There’s only one Jesus. Therefore, it would make perfect sense that He would come to us, in His Church, as His perfect and complete self (one divine being with two inseparable natures)………reflected in the same physical and spiritual manner in the Sacraments of the Church.

  15. Mike Sweeney

    Was so glad to hear you on “Catholic Answers” last Friday, April 25th after having just had a very good conversation with my good Baptist friend as work. You referenced this discussion and it was spot on with what we had been talking about. Thanks for re-posting so I could have access to all you’ve put together on the topic of “Born Again?”, it was very helpful!

  16. Joe Aboumoussa

    Great article on Baptism…I was recently listening to an on-line lecture by Catholic professor Peter Kreeft on ecumenism at his website, and I think he really hit the nail on the head concering the divisions and circular arguments between Catholics and Non-Catholics. He said that Protestants are right in a sense when they demand the all sufficiency of “Christ alone”, but they fail to see the whole picture when they object to all these so-called Catholic “additions” like sacraments, saints, popes, etc. because they sometimes fail to see the Church as the body of Christ on earth. He is the head, the Church is His body, and His Spirit is the soul. The Church with all its sacraments doesn’t get in the way of a relationship with God, but rather brings us to Christ because it is an visible extension of Him in a different way. But another interesting thing he said was that when Catholics, including bishops, become saints then Protestants will take finally take notice. Only when we Catholics fully live out our Baptismal call to lead holy lives will people believe that we actually have access to the fullness of the faith. I think he made a good point on that. If we don’t live it, who would want what we have?

  17. Don

    In response to Mark,

    >>February 15, 2008 @ 11:55 pm

    STEVE RAY HERE: It is not Catholic teaching, no matter who teaches it, that one is saved by their own efforts or by trying to do their best. My guess is this priest is being misquoted. Good works DO play a part in our final salvation which is very clear from Scripture. Even James 2:24 says that we are saved by works and not by faith alone. However, initial salvation and justification is 100% the free gift of God and can never be earned. Even our good works are a result of God’s grace in our life.

  18. J.R. DePrisco

    Many are led astray by Acts 10:47-48 where the Spirit came to those who were not baptized yet. Two points: The Holy Spirit giving certain charismatic gifts to un-baptized people is not the same thing as the holy Spirit regenerating (“saving”) people in Christ. For example, the talking mule: “And the Lord opened the mouth of the ass, and she said: ‘What have I done to thee? Why strikest thou me, lo, now this third time (Numbers 22:28)?'” Clearly, the mule had a charismatic gift of the Holy Spirit (speech) but was not regenerated in Christ. Only Baptism gives the regeneration — what the Church calls Sanctifying Grace — of the Holy Spirit

    Second, we forget that the Holy Ghost is God. He is a person. He moves where He wills. Didn’t God the Father “send” certain armies against the Jews as punishment? Does this mean that those armies were “saved” because God was directing them? God was “in” them in a sense? God can act within His creation as He sees fit. But we must be careful to define and delineate what we mean by being “born again” or “saved” or given “Sanctifying Grace” or “initial justification” etc. as opposed to other actions of God on man. They are not the same.

  19. The Aesthetic Elevator

    Evangelical here, directed to your site by one Donna Ellis who read a comment of mine on Jimmy Akin’s blog . . . not that that’s entirely relevant to what I’m about to say though . . .

    Growing up in the Fundy churches I did my understanding of things like baptism and communion were predictable per your lament above. I don’t really agree with your understanding of the Scripture you cited, but I offer this:

    One George Patterson, missionary for many years to South America, suggested something that wholeheartedly resonates with me. After so many years in service to God, he’s come to a middle ground of sorts. He realized the mystery that lies with such a Holy God that is beyond our comprehension — something many old-school fundy churches seem to avoid like the plague. We can’t and won’t ever know everything about God, especially in our fallen, Earthly state of being. Thus, his opinion is that the reality of things like transubstantiation is somewhere in the middle of competing theological viewpoints. It’s not just bread and water, but it doesn’t actually become the body and blood either.

    On the issue of baptism, Patterson pointed out that the Evangelical belief that it’s mere a public proclamation flies in the face of Biblical example. The Ethiopian eunuch didn’t wait until he was in the city to be baptized. He did it along the road, in the middle of nowhere.

    With this in mind he formulated seven tenants he considered black and white to the Christian faith (he did this in the context of church planting while overseas, but I believe they apply “at home” as well):

    * Repent and believe (Mark 1:15)
    * Be baptized (and continue in the life it initiates; Matt 28:18-20; Acts 2:38)
    * Love God and neighbor in a practical way (Matt 22:37-40)
    * Celebrate the Lord’s supper (Luke 22:17-20)
    * Pray (Matt 6:5-15)
    * Give (Matt 6:19-21; Luke 6:38)
    * Disciple others (Matt 28:18-20)

    And that’s it. He didn’t go any further in describing how one is baptized or how one takes communion. There are limitations of course, dictated by other commands, that will come into play when participating in the above. But it’s important we admit that God hasn’t and won’t reveal EVERYTHING to us.

    And even if he did, we wouldn’t understand it.

  20. Matt

    How about Genesis 2 6-7 ?

    “But a stream was welling up out of the earth and was watering all the surface of the ground–
    2 the LORD God formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and so man became a living being”

    Water is there. The “Breath of Life” from our Lord seems to meet the Spirit criteria

  21. Matt

    How about 2 Maccabess chapter one?

    “When they informed us that they could not find any fire, but only muddy water, he ordered them to scoop some out and bring it. After the material for the sacrifices had been prepared, Nehemiah ordered the priests to sprinkle with the water the wood and what lay on it.
    When this was done and in time the sun, which had been clouded over, began to shine, a great fire blazed up,”

    It’s interesting considerning that the temple is considered a type of the body in the New Testament. In the passage, we see the temple being purified/rededicated and again water and spirit (fire) is present. The fire in the temple is lost for many years and again burns after the ceremony. Hmmm.

    It’s a more obscure example, I suppose. Maybe I’m getting a little too type-happy.

  22. Joe

    Hey Steve, to make this a top ten list you could also add that Mary’s name means “the sea”. So when the Holy Spirit overshadows her in Luke 1 a new creation comes forth- Christ himself. This parallels with Genesis where spirit hovering over water brings forth the old creation, and our own baptism makes us a new creation.


  23. Adrian Combe

    Thanks so much for this. Is it copyrighted? Can I use it for our parish Bible Study.

    Please feel free to use it.

  24. Tom

    Just stumbled onto this site. I am a former Catholic and ironically the last straw of why I left the Church (the second time) was because the parish priest could not tell me what it meant to be born again. He never even heard of it! My mom told me that he was a Bible expert and I had to tell him where it was in the Bible! I am so glad that you love the Bible and know so much about it. I was baptized(sprinkled) as an infant, went through all of the ritual sacraments but did not know Christ and left the Church at about 14 years old. I received Christ as Saviour and Lord at a Bible Church, after being invited by another former Catholic who even went to seminary, went back to the Catholic Church and found it very meaningful but just did not get answers to my questions so I left again. I was actually baptized (immersion) again in a Baptist Church. There are differences in Evangelical theology. The Church I now attend considers baptism (water) an essential part of salvation. Other churches I have attended do not. You make some very interesting points. . Thanks!

  25. De Maria

    STEVE RAY SAID: Seems that there is a bit of confusion in this comment. Catholics agree that we are saved by grace alone [corrected] – in fact, we taught that long before Protestants were on the scene….

    I see it a bit differently. The Catholic Church teaches we are saved by grace. The Catholic Church also teaches that all is grace. Every work we do is by the grace of God. We have nothing good which we did not receive from God.

    But I have seen no official Catholic Teaching regarding grace ALONE. A doctrine which infers irresistible grace. Both of which doctrines have been used by Protestants to deny the necessity of works to prove our saving faith in God. And to deny the Sacraments, which they see as men’s work but which are really God’s work in our soul. In fact, grace alone is one of the five solas, which to this day are a rallying cry for the Reformers against every doctrine of the Catholic Church.

    De Maria

  26. Gabriel

    Great stuff Steve. I like how Jesus heals the blind man in Johm 9. You know He could have said: open your eyes and see, but He didn’t, He “…spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. 7 “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing. “.
    How God loves to use water. Aren’t we all blind in a way? Unable to see the miracles that happen right before our eyes like the Eucharist. And here we have, Jesus using water to restore our sight, using water to gives us faith that allows us to see what the flesh can’t see. Our eyes were covered with mud, and in baptism, they were washed, and I’m sure the water wouldn’t have healed him because of itself, but it was because Jesus told him to wash it there that the water did what it did, just like baptism.

    Keep up the good work my friend, cheers! Only in heaven you’ll know all the fruit you’re bearing for the Lord.

  27. Bernadette

    Steve, do you know who started the Protestant understanding of being “born again”, which excluded the long held understanding of Baptism? Can it be traced back to an individual preacher or movement? Are there any sources to document this later understanding? Thank you! God Bless.

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