Water is essential to our existence. When I lived in California we were constantly made aware of the crucial and dire problems they continually encounter because of their lack of sufficient amounts of water.We need it to drink, bathe, wash our clothes, clean our homes, water our gardens...and we need moisture (water) in the air to breathe. Often the topic of how necessary water (immersion) baptism is to being saved comes up. I found this on Dr. Robert Luginbill's website....excerpt (find the entire discussion at link):
I'm not sure if you have answered this somewhere, but if you could give your interpretation. This deals with baptism, i am a firm believer that salvation is a gift given by GOD and that a baptism does not save. I find most people dis-agree with that view and it's easy to see why with many references if scripture that make it appear so. One such reference below makes it seem like a water baptism is required. I've heard some say that their tears shed in their acceptance of Jesus as savior is what they feel is sufficient to satisfy that verse. Can you elaborate. Thanks for your time in advance.
"Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God" (John 3:5)
Good to make your acquaintance. This is a very involved question and a topic which is somewhat "hot" at present. While there are some materials for this on the site (see the links below), not I everything I have written about the topic of water-baptism is yet posted. For example, it is only recently that it has come to my attention that there are some people out there who actually see water-baptism in Jesus' conversation with Nicodemus in John chapter three (your citation – I assume you are getting this from someone else). I don't believe any of the materials yet posted at Ichthys at present deal with this particular verse and chapter, though I have written some about it in the recent past. Simply put, neither the word, nor the action, nor the concept of water-baptism occurs anywhere in this conversation or context, and indeed the word "water" is to be found only in verse 5. It never occurred to me before (that is, before being confronted by some misguided water-baptism-necessary-for-salvation folks) that anyone would find water-baptism in this conversation. After all, Jesus never water-baptized to anyone (as John himself makes clear in the next chapter: Jn.4:2), never mentioned water-baptism elsewhere (including in Matthew 28:16-20 where He is referring to Spirit baptism), and never suggested anywhere that any such ritual was necessary to be saved. Indeed, this context, John chapter three, is one of the strongest expressions of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ alone to found anywhere in the entire Bible. Therefore to assume that the mention of the word "water" reverses all that is to put on a very heavy set of blinders purely for the purpose of advancing one's own (in this case false) doctrinal agenda.
Naturally, the word "water" in John 3:5 has to be explained, and that is very easy to do. Throughout scripture, "water" is an extremely common symbol for the Word of God (Is.55:1; Jn.3:5; 3:8 [Greek]; 4:10; 4:13-14; 7:37-39; 1Cor.10:4; Eph.5:26; Heb.10:22; 1Jn.5:8 [Trinity]; Rev.7:17; 21:6; 22:1; 22:17; cf. Ex 17:5-6; Num. 20:8; Ps.42:1-2; 63:1; 84:5-7; Is.41:17; 44:3).
And the Spirit and the bride say "Come!" And let the one who hears say, "Come!" And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost.
And this is precisely what we have here in John 3:5, with this use of the word "water" meaning the life-giving truth used by the Spirit to quicken those who believe (and often also for the Spirit who ministers the Word, making it understandable; cf. 1Cor.2:4-16). Moreover, this usage is certainly not unprecedented elsewhere in John's gospel:
(13) Jesus answered, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, (14) but whoever drinks the water I give him (i.e., who believes in the gospel of eternal life through faith in Me) will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."
John 4:13-14 NIVHe that believeth on me as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water (i.e., the truth will live in him, as a believer). But this spake he of the Spirit, [who ministers the Word received] which they that believe on him should receive.
John 7:38-39a KJV
Just as literal water is essential for life, so the Word of God is essential for spiritual life (with an initial "drink" necessary for initial regeneration). Thus, in John 3:5 our Lord's use of the word "water" represents the truth of the gospel to which the person in question responds in faith; the Spirit is then the Agent of regeneration for all who drink this water of truth (i.e., for all who believe the gospel message about Him). That interpretation is certainly affirmed everywhere else in this chapter where faith (i.e., in Jesus) is later very clearly expressed as the one single thing needful for salvation (and "water" is not repeated: i.e., Jn.3:10-12; 3:15-16; 3:18; 3:36).
Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water (i.e., the gospel which he believes) and the Spirit (i.e., the Agent of regeneration for all who believe and drink the "water of truth").
John 3:5 NIV
Just as in the communion ritual (the only authorized ritual for the Church Age) we drink the cup as a symbol of our faith in the work of Christ, so water in all these contexts represents our faith in what we drink, the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
It is true that there are instances of water-baptism in the gospels and in the book of Acts, but in my opinion the idea of any necessity to be baptized with water comes exclusively from tradition and not directly from any Bible verse – and how much more is that not the case for any false notion of water-baptism-necessary-for-salvation!?
It is well to start such considerations with three pertinent facts: 1) John said emphatically that while he himself was baptizing with water, that ministry was preparatory to the coming of the Messiah who would baptize with the Spirit (and fire) – as opposed to water (e.g., Mk.1:8); 2) Jesus never baptized anyone (Jn.4:2) and never even mentioned the ritual; 3) there is no water-baptism whatsoever in any of the New Testament epistles (including 1st Peter chapter three where the "baptism which saves" is Spirit baptism), only Spirit baptism – except in 1st Corinthians chapter one where Paul repents of ever having water-baptized anyone at all. From these critical points of emphasis throughout the New Testament, we can easily conclude that it is the baptism of the Spirit experienced by all true Christians at the point of salvation which is important, not the water ritual which looked forward to the coming of Christ.