Is One Born Again at Baptism?

Are you a born again Christian? The phrase “born again Christian” originates in the words of Jesus calling for those who follow Him to be born again. What does it mean to be born again? Some have muddied the answer for some time. Beware of those who muddy the water for a little confusion. They use doubt to push people to believe that God will accept any form of godliness even without the power (1 Tim 3:1–5). This study will consider Jesus’s interpretation of what it means to be born again.

Jesus revealed in John 3:5, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” Being born again is essential to salvation. Titus 3:4–5 parallels being born of the water and the Spirit in John 3:5. Paul noted in Titus 3:4–5, “But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.

The Greek for “regeneration” literally means “born again.” In this passage, believers are saved “through the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Spirit.” The washing is the same as being born of water. Likewise, the apostle Paul revealed in 1 Corinthians 6:11, “And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.” Again, the washing of water is the state of the Christians at Corinth. At this birth in water, believers are sanctified meaning they are made holy by the Holy Spirit. This washing in water is “in the name of the Lord Jesus.”

Another defining passage is also Ephesians 5:25b–26, which says, “Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word.” In this scripture, the Holy Spirit is certainly still involved specifically through the word, which is a little further described as “the sword of the Spirit” (Eph 6:17). Christ demonstrates His love because He washes His church by water to cleanse and make her holy. This is the point where sins are forgiven and believers are saved.

Another passage that brings these points together is 1 Peter 1:22–23. In 1 Peter 1:22–23, Peter revealed, “Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever.” The rebirth is through the Spirit and through the Word of God. The Spirit works upon believers through God’s Word. Remember that this is a rebirth, and Christians are born again through the Gospel (1 Cor 4:15). The Gospel is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. There is no other way but to be born again. This regeneration is a purification done by “obeying” for which people purify their souls, and yet “not by works of righteousness which we have done” (Titus 3:5). For the truth is that salvation is given to believers by God’s grace, and obedience is necessary to come into God’s gracious favor. However, obedience does not earn that grace, because grace is a gift. For Christ’s words teach that Jesus is the source of salvation to those who obey Him (Heb 5:8–9; cf. Matt 7:21). This rebirth is of water and the Spirit is that it is a washing by Christ in water and in Jesus’s name by which the Spirit sanctifies believers through the Word of God.

How is a believer born of the water and the Spirit as a washing in water and in the name of Jesus Christ? Ephesians 2:4–6 shows that the believer is made alive with Christ when one is raised with Christ and thus saved by grace. One is raised with Christ from being buried with Christ in baptism (Rom 6:3-7; Col 2:12–13). Being that Christians are saved by the Gospel, which is the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, then believers must die, be buried, and resurrected with Christ to be saved (1 Cor 15:1–4). First Peter 1:3 shows that believers are born again through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the death, and 1 Peter 3:21 affirms that “Baptism now saves you” “through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

There is only one practice instituted by Christ that is a regeneration in Jesus’s name. Where do water and Jesus’s name come together? Peter proclaimed in Acts 10:47–48, “‘Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?’ And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord” (cf. 10:43). Although Cornelius received the Holy Spirit, he had to be born of the water as well as the Spirit. Baptism in Jesus’s name is the washing. Ananias addressed Paul in Acts 22:16, “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” This is the exact moment of salvation for the forgiveness of sins. Peter preached in Acts 2:38, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ unto the forgiveness of sins” (cf. Matt 26:28). In Jesus’s resurrection, Jesus revealed in Mark 16:16, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.” This is baptism in the Spirit’s name and to be born of the Spirit in Jesus’s name. Jesus commanded in Matthew 28:19, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”  This baptism is in the name of the Holy Spirit. “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body [the Church]” (1 Cor 12:13).  Therefore, to be born of the water and the Spirit is to be born again by baptism in Jesus’s name. Baptism in Jesus’s name is moment when one is born again.

How to Be Saved

Also see the article, “The Water and the Blood”.

About Scott J Shifferd

Minister, church of Christ in Jacksonville, FL. Husband and father of four. Email: ScottJon82[at]
This entry was posted in Baptism, Christianity and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to Is One Born Again at Baptism?

  1. I think Marc made some very good points here. I have often wondered why John 3:5 is used for Christian baptism when Nicodemus would have not understood it that way at all. I’ve read points from various sides on John 3:5 and not convinced that Jesus was telling Nicodemus he must be baptized as one OBEYING the gospel. Jesus had not yet died nor risen so it’s very possible John 3:5 is referencing something else when Jesus says water. Marc points this out as well. Perhaps Nicodemus would have understood Jesus’ words through the lenses of the Old Testament.


  2. Marc Taylor says:

    If water means Christian water baptism in the name of the Lord then you have the Lord Jesus mildly rebuking Nicodemus for something that he would not have even known about (John 3:10). Unlike this anachronistic interpretation water is better understood to be referring to the Holy Spirit and His regenerative power. Elsewhere in his Gospel John uses water emblematically for the Holy Spirit (John 4:10; 14; 7:37-39). Perhaps even more compelling is the fact that Nicodemus would have Old Testament texts to make this association (Isaiah 32:15; 44:3; Ezekiel 36:25, 26).


    • You are right that the water that Jesus gives us to drink is the Holy Spirit (John 7:37-39, cf. Isa. 44:3, Ezek. 36:25-27). I find that we can all drink of this water, the Spirit, who was poured out on us, and yet I see that the baptism of the Spirit was not for everyone, but just one way among others in which the Spirit was poured out. I just don’t see that that we are baptized in this spiritual water, but in actual water like Jesus did and established in His resurrection.

      As for Nicodemus, I don’t see Jesus correcting him for not understand the Spirit, but rather not understanding how there could be new revelation from the Christ. Nicodemus appears to be overlooking the authority of a prophet of God who does sign as Nicodemus confessed of Jesus. I don’t recall an explicit verbal reference to being born again of the Spirit (or the water) in the OT.

      I think of Isaiah 2:2-3, “Now it shall come to pass in the latter days That the mountain of the LORD’s house Shall be established on the top of the mountains, And shall be exalted above the hills; And all nations shall flow to it. Many people shall come and say, ‘Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, To the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, And we shall walk in His paths.’ For out of Zion shall go forth the law, And the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.”


      • Marc Taylor says:

        There is nothing in the Old Covenant that ever speaks of water baptism in the name of the Lord for the forgiveness of sins.
        I have supplied several texts that point to the Spirit that will be the sign of the new heart/covenant.


  3. Marc Taylor says:

    Why can’t “water” refer to the Holy Spirit in John 3:5?


    • Scott says:

      What scripture do you refer to about water meaning the Holy Spirit?

      I find John 3:5 and Titus 3:5 parallels to the work of the Spirit in baptism, which baptism I see in 1 Cor. 1:11-13, 6:11, and 10:1-2 (cf. 1 Cor. 12:13).


  4. Baptism is in the death as much as the burial (Rom. 6:3-7). One is saved being raising from the dead to newness of life with Christ. One must be buried to be resurrected. Also, a person baptized into Christ’s death where He shed His blood and both water and blood came from Christ’s side. See my article on the water and the blood. Sins are washed by the blood in baptism (Acts 22:16). Also for one to enter the church, the sacrifice and washing were essential. When the priests washed, they washed before the sacrifice and after to enter the temple. Remember that these types foreshadow the Gospel and do not set the Truth.

    The Bible never calls baptism a sign. It is the initial moment of submission. Repentance is nothing without Christ and submission.

    Confession of faith in Jesus as the resurrected Lord is essential to salvation (Rom. 10:9-10). Confession of sins comes after baptism when one is walking in the light (1 John 1:7-9).


    • Phil says:

      You said, “The Bible never calls baptism a sign….”

      Not in those words but 1 Peter 3:21, And this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ…”

      Water does not save but is a symbol by which we are saved by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. You are still giving value to water that was never intended. In a wedding the ring represents the love that connects the man and woman. Likewise, baptism represents the relationship that has already been created by faith. I think you have put water baptism in the realm it was never intended. Water does not create the relationship that it represents. So what’s more important, the relationship or that which represents relationship? In my mind and understanding of the entire essence on NT Truth it is the Spiritual relationship (using grace via faith) that creates the salvation. Again, the new covenant is of the Spirit and not the letter. The letter (law) represents the “physical” and the Spirit/spirit represents the “invisible.” In your theory the letter trumps the Spirit as that which defines a NT Christian. This is false and puts the superficial action as that which is hyper important.

      Water baptism is ceremonial and is an outward sign of an inner conviction. Everyone knows this. It is an effect, not a cause. It cannot be anything but an effect because it does not create the relationship that it represents.

      Faith is Spiritual, water baptism is physical. How can physical water be that which places one into a Spiritual Kingdom. Under spiritual principles it cannot. You’ve simply put the cart ahead of the horse. You’ve placed the physical in the position of “cause,” and it just doesn’t work that way in the NT.


      • First, you lie applying assertions of things I’ve never said.

        You say that baptism is an anti-type of salvation, and yet 1 Peter 3:20-21 say something else. An anti-type, antitupos, is anti meaning corresponding tupos meaning form, model, example, or pattern (type). Within context, 1 Peter 3:21 speaks of the anti-type, not “symbol”, of eight persons being saved by the waters of the flood having a corresponding example (etc.) being our baptism that saves us. Baptism is not a symbol or anti-type of salvation. Baptism is a anti-type of Noah’s salvation by water to our salvation by baptism in Jesus’ name.

        First Peter 3:21 specifically says in Greek that our baptism saves us. We are purified by our obedience (1 Pet. 1:22-23) and therefore we are born again (1 Pet. 1:3). This is when we died to our sins (1 Pet. 2:24). Baptism is the point of resurrection (1 Pet. 3:21). Baptism is the corresponding model of the Gospel in us, which is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Pet. 3:18, cf. 1 Cor. 15:1-4).

        “Now the anti-type also saves us being baptism”, which is a direct transliteration of the Greek text.


        • Phil says:

          Your approach to the scriptures is not Spiritual, it is analytical, and leads you to conclusions that are false. You don’t seem to understand the spiritual aspects of Truth but instead concentrate of word de-coding and processing and this is where you miss the Spiritual truth.

          I have read many theories on this subject, most being by Bible Scholars, and the fact is that most Bible Scholars disagree with your understanding of baptism. It depends on how you approach the subject of baptism. If you approach baptism from a literal sense then your argument could have some merit, but approaching a Spiritual covenant from a literal mindset will lead you into a conclusions that are a erroneous.

          I have had discussions with many preachers in many different religions on this subject and yours and other coC preachers conclusions are by and far in the minority. The ironic thing is that The physical baptism would seem like something the Jews would embrace since they also put most emphasis on the outer more than the inner. Look at how they embraced circumcision and Paul strongly corrected them on this subject. You are putting the same emphasis on water baptism that the Jews put on circumcision. Your hype-focus on literal word processing of the NT causes you to miss this fact. The fact is that the essence of the NT is about the inner aspects of Christianity as being that which is puts one into Christ since Christ reside within the inner consciousness of Man. I don’t know how you can miss this point.


          • Phil says:

            I also find it telling about your ethics and you as a person that you remove posts that you don’t like. My response your post about me lying about my involvement in the coC was removed while yours remains. Is this why you have a site like this….so you can control everything and take your ball and go home when you don’t like the way the game is going?

            you have my email address and can contact me anytime you want regarding personal issues that you don’t want on this forum. Please don’t refer to me as lying on a public site and then refuse to post my response. That breaks every human relation principle known to civil man.


      • Water baptism is part of conforming to the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Water baptism is obedience that comes from an inner conviction.


      • Phil,

        Again, which congregation do you assemble with and do they hold your beliefs?

        Don’t forget what I said,


        Were the Samaritan converts in Acts 8:12 saved when they believed and were baptized in water or until the new got the Apostles to go down and lay hands on them to receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:14-18)?

        I have to be blunt with you. Your “Spirit” is your ego, Phil. I plead with you in the name of Chris to test the Spirits to see the spirit of truth and error according the to the APOSTLES (1 John 4:1, 6).

        Clearly, you did not grow up in the church of Christ. You don’t know what we believe! The fact that you admit living in fear, guilt, and shame shows that you were practicing sin when left that church. Or do you not have your own conscience? All you do is come on here, dispute, and argue obscurity and ambiguity. Where do you assemble now and do they hold your beliefs?

        “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us” (1 John 2:19, cf. 2:29).”


        • Phil says:

          You said, “Again, which congregation do you assemble with and do they hold your beliefs?” Of course they do. Why would I assemble with those who oppose my belief? And even if I didn’t, should I conform to the belief of the masses? If so then I guess I should become Catholic or Mormon because there are tons of them. They must be right, huh?


  5. RJ Dawson says:

    This is a very good study, Scott. The entire NT clearly speaks of water baptism in the Name of our Lord Jesus. However, I have some additional points to make. In studying the application of blood in the Old Testament sacrificial system, one notices clearly that blood was never applied to the bronze laver, which is symbolic of NT water baptism. The blood of Jesus is therefore applied at repentance, not water baptism. It is the blood of Jesus that saves us and cleanses our souls. Without shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness, which essentially means one cannot be forgiven until one confesses his or her sins and admits to being a sinner and in need of salvation. Water baptism should immediately follow, of course, and did in the early community. But the act of baptism is actually a sign for the community and for one’s own conscience, in that he or she chooses to reveal him or herself as a full-fledged follower of the Lord Jesus, since he or she invoked the Name. Repentance is indicative of sacrificial death, and baptism of burial. What follows is a resurrection to new life, or being born again. The baptism issue has become confused in the centuries since, and has even appropriated mere titles instead of the glorious Name above all names. This is a sad reality. Even a study of Acts rarely changes the minds of those who insist on title baptism. I believe God’s grace covers those who are walking in all the light they have. It is for those who see and still insist on error who sin. Thank you. Keep up the good work.



  6. Pingback: Bible Answer: How Could Hell Exist and Be Just? | Seeing God's Breath

  7. Suzanne says:

    We need a personal relationship with God, our heavenly Father, who’s the universal creator because we are his creation. In this present world it’s comforting to know who we are in God, as there shouldn’t be doubt or confusion, as given in ‘I Corinthians 14:10: There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification’. We know this to be true because it also states in ‘I Corinthians 14:33: For god is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.’

    Suzanne McMillen-Fallon, Published Author’s Writings – Mommy, would you like a sandwich?


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