I had a question about John 3:5 & the “water” Jesus is referring to:
"Unless one is born of water & the Spirit he cannot enter the kingdom of God."
When I was being raised Catholic, I was taught that the water refers to the waters of baptism, which means that John 3:5 could just as easily be read:
"Unless one is baptized in water & the Spirit he cannot enter the kingdom of God."
This seems to be Cardinal Arinze’s understanding in this video (starting about 01:15):
I was also taught those who didn’t have the opportunity to be baptized, but who would had the desire, but died before they could, were exempt from this & could enter Heaven, like those “baptized by desire” (like the thief on the cross) & those “baptized of blood” (like martyrs). I was also taught that this exemption would also apply to those “invincibly ignorant” (like those in foreign countries who never heard of Jesus or baptism, & therefore couldn’t be baptized).
My question is if these people can get into Heaven without being baptized in water, then wouldn’t that contradict the belief that the water in John 3:5 refers to the waters of baptism?
"Unless one is born of water (baptized in water) & the Spirit he cannot enter the kingdom of God"
I was told that Jesus isn’t bound by the same commands He gives us. But upon reading John Ch.3, Jesus isn’t making a “command,” but rather answering Nicodemus question (“How can one be born again?”) from Jesus’ previous statement (“Unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”) Jesus seems to be making a statement on “how” a person “enters the kingdom of God” - being “born again,” or being “born of water & the Spirit.” He’s not actually giving a command. So, since Jesus is making a statement, not giving a command, then “how” can Jesus allow these three groups of people mentioned above (including the thief on the cross) into Heaven without being baptized in water, & without contradicting Himself in John 3:5, 'if" the water refers to the waters of baptism?
Don’t worry, I’m not looking for a debate. I’m just looking for an answer to my question. I even asked this question to the former bishop of the diocese of my former church, & after going back & forth, he said that he couldn’t really give me an answer, & to “just have faith.” That reply didn’t really sit well with me, so I thought I’d ask it here. Hopefully, I’ll get an answer that is based on the specific question I’m asking. Because so far, I’ve gotten nothing, & would really appreciate a satisfying answer, particularly since this verse has to do with salvation.
In the meantime, Merry Christmas to all, & remember the reason for the season - JESUS!