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The New Testament Commentary Vol Iii John by B.W. Johnson

Commentaries and Standards on the Birth of Water and Spirit.

Inasmuch as there is some tendency, in the interest of a modern view of baptism, to reject the interpretation that the church, in all ages, has placed on John 3:5, |Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God,| I have taken pains to collate the views of a large number of authorities upon the meaning to be attached to the phrase, |Birth of water.| I have quoted, in each instance, the words bearing on that feature.

Except he experience the great inward change of the Spirit, and be baptized (wherever baptism can be had) as the outward sign and means of it. -- Wesley's Notes.

Governing ourselves by the cardinal canon, that we are to understand Christ as Christ expected his auditor to understand him, it cannot be difficult to understand this declaration. . . . Nicodemus would then have certainly understood by Christ's expression, |born of water,| a reference to baptism. -- Lyman Abbott's Commentary on John.

Water signifies the baptism of John with Jesus Christ; by omitting this baptism, the colleagues of Nicodemus despised the counsel of God. -- The Critical English Testament.

John himself declared that his baptism was incomplete, -- it was only with water. One was coming who should baptize with the Holy Ghost. That declaration of his is the key to the understanding of this verse. Baptism, complete, with water and the Spirit, is the admission into the kingdom of God. -- Alford's Greek Testament.

The preposition used (ek -- out of), recalls the phrase |baptize,| -- plunge -- in water, in Spirit . . Hence all interpretations which treat the term water as here simply figurative and descriptive of the cleansing power of the Spirit are essentially defective, as they are opposed to all ancient tradition. -- Canon Westcott in the Bible Commentary.

The reference of the expression to baptism (especially according to Titus 3:5) certainly is clear. -- Olshausen's Commentary.

The mention of water was intended to assist Nicodemus in understanding the phrase, and to indicate its reference to baptism. -- Tholuck.

This regeneration, which our church in so many places ascribes to baptism, is more than being admitted into the church. . . . This is grounded on the plain words of our Lord in John 3:5. By water, then, as a means, the water of baptism, we are regenerated or born again; whence it is called by the apostle, the washing of Regeneration. -- Doctrinal Tracts, M. E. Church Edition of 1825.

The efficacy of baptism is not tied to that moment of time wherein it is administered; |Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.| John 3:5. -- Westminster Confession of Faith, Art. Baptism.

Forasmuch as our Savior Christ saith, None can enter into the kingdom of God except he be regenerated and born anew of Water and of the Holy Ghost; I beseech you to call upon God the Father, through our Lord Jesus Christ, that of his bounteous goodness he will grant to these persons that which by nature they cannot have; that they may be baptized with Water and the Holy Ghost, and received into Christ's Holy Church, and be made lively members of the same. -- Book of Common Prayer, Art. Baptism.

|John said: I baptize with water; the One coming after baptizes with Spirit; but Christ says: The baptism of both is necessary. One must be born of water and the Spirit.| -- International Revision Commentary, Edited by Dr. Schaff.

As really, then, as salvation comprehends two facts, pardon and regeneration, so really did Jesus sum in two words, Water and Spirit, the whole of salvation, and consequently, man's entrance into the kingdom. -- Godet.

Then Jesus to explain his former meaning, answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, and again repeat it, that unless a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God, or in plain terms, whoever would become a member of it must not only be baptized, but as ever he desires to share in its spiritual and eternal blessings, he must experience the renewing and sanctifying influences of the Holy Spirit on his soul. -- Family Expositor by Dr. Philip Doddridge.

That our Lord here speaks of baptismal regeneration, the whole Christian Church from the beginning hath always taught, and that with very good reason, for, 1st. Though water is sometimes put to signify or represent the purifying operations of the Holy Spirit, yet to be born of water is a phrase never used in Scripture for being born of the Spirit; but very properly it is used of that baptism which is the laver of regeneration and was by all the ancients called paligenesia or regeneration. See Titus 3:5. -- Commentary on New Testament by Dr. Daniel Whitby.

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