This is why you are stumped on this verse, because “belief” IS!! all that Jesus requires to be eternally saved. This is what the gospel of John repeats over and over and over again very consistently. Truly truly I say to you unless one is born again, (from above) he cannot SEE the kingdom of God. (to see spiritually) This was a rebuke to Nicodemus.
Jesus was implying that Nicodemus couldn’t see the kingdom of God. But he was a ruler in Israel! Yes he was. But not for God’s business. He was spiritually blind like all the other Pharisees.
The only difference was, Nicodemus had a divine curiosity about who Jesus was. It was enough to make him seek Jesus out.
"… unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot ENTER the kingdom of God. Verse 6 is a small interpretation… That which is (born) of the flesh, (born of water is suggested here) is flesh, and that which is (born) of the Spirit, (the holy Spirit) is Spirit.
New birth is a regeneration of our human spirit. This birth causes us to “see” spiritually, and “enter in” to God’s ways spiritually.
He finishes His thought in verse 7 and following, but does not return to the water birth analogy. "… you must be born again,
His point was all about spiritual birth, not water-birth, water baptism, water anything. It was an analogy to simply drive home His point.
I read Ianman87’s quote on baptism. he is right on.
The baptism of Jesus is important to understand. and Yes, I agree that it isn’t really about the water itself. These are natural means to a spiritual goal.
When we go under the water, we proclaim to the public that we have died with Christ spiritually. When we come up out of the water, we proclaim to the public we have now risen (spiritually) from the dead and are declared alive! with Christ!
It is here that the Spirit descended upon Jesus and rested upon his shoulders. I would argue that this event was not an indwelling of the Spirit experience. Others in my circle may differ. The fact that the Holy Spirit rested “upon Him” is an expression signifying the manifestation of the Spirit of God.
You find this expression in the book of Acts and in many Old Testament passages. In a sense He was empowered to a degree. He was getting ready to face his pre-ministry test. The desert. Secondly, a voice from heaven came where the Father gave His seal of approval.
It was here that Jesus, who was filled in the holy Spirit and had the Father’s approval, went into the desert to be tested BEFORE He could actually do ministry. Lastly, Luke 4 tells us that after 40 days and nights of testing, He came out of the wilderness in the POWER of the Spirit. This was an increased manifestation of the Spirit to do miracles and healings as the resurrected Christ.
All of it was a pattern given to us for our benefit.