"Nicode'mus said to him, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?" Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God" (John 3:3*4).
The sanctifying effects of
water baptism to remove original sin were clearly foreshadowed
under the Old Covenant
The Flood was used as a cleansing instrument to cleanse the world of sin: "The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually...'For in seven days I will send rain upon the earth forty days and forty nights; and every living thing that I have made I will blot out from theface of the ground.'" (Genesis 6:5, 7:4). With baptism, we are cleansed of the effects of original sin which is the separation from God (Cf. Romans 6:3*4).
Crossing of the Red Sea shows the liberation from slavery: "And Moses said to the people, "Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will work for you today; for the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again." (Exodus 14:13). With baptism, we are liberated in Christ Jesus from the slavery of sin. We infused with the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity to help us consumate our obedience to Christ and zealously proclaim the Gospel (Cf. Acts 9:18).
Crossing of the Jordan river shows deliverance: "So, when the people set out from their tents, to pass over the Jordan with the priests bearing the ark of the covenant before the people, and when those who borethe ark had come to the Jordan, and the feet of the priests bearing the ark were dipped in the brink of the water, the waters coming down from above stood and rose up in a heap far off, at Adam, the city that is beside Zar'ethan, and those flowing down toward the sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, werewholly cut off; and the people passed over opposite Jericho. And while all Israel were passing over on dry ground, the priests who bore the ark of the covenant of the LORD stood on dry ground in the midst of the Jordan, until all the nation finished passing over the Jordan." (Joshua 3:14*17). The crossing of the Jordan river was the beginning of the fulfillment of God's vow to deliver Israel into the promised land. Not only does Baptism liberate us from original sin, therefore, it also prepares us for the entrance into the Church, the New Israel. It delivers us from the kingdom of Satan (Cf. 1 Cor. 5:7*8), and moves us into the kingdom of light (Cf. Luke 3:21*22, John 1:31*33, Matthew 3:16).
Entrance into the promised land signfies the inheritance of the Promise: "And you went over the Jordan and came to Jericho, andthe men of Jericho fought against you, and also the Amorites, the Per'izzites, the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Gir'gashites, the Hivites, and the Jeb'usites; and I gave them into your hand. And I sent the hornet before you, which drove them out before you, the two kings of the Amorites; it was not by your sword or by your bow. I gave you a land on which you had not labored, and cities which you had not built, and you dwell therein; you eat the fruit of vineyards and olive yards which you did not plant.'" (Joshua 24:11*13). Water Baptism incorporates us into the mystical Body of Christ, the Church. She is the new Israel, and symbolizes the real 'land of milk and honey' in heaven. We are heirs to the promise and our inheritance awaits us in heaven (Cf. Galatians 3:27*29). For I will take you from the nations, and gather you from all the countries, and bring you into your own land.
Direct prophesy of the sanctifying effects of water baptism: "I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. Anew heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances" (Ezekiel 36:24*27).
Objections to Baptism Rebutted
"Baptism is not a means of forgiveness". Answer: Sure it is because baptism washes away sin: "And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on his name." (Acts 22:16). See also 1 Corinthians 6:11*1, Titus 3:5*7, Hebrews 10:22. Baptism as a means for forgiveness of sins: "And Peter said to them, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38). Baptism is the solution to the problem of original sin: "and you were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised withhim through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead" (Colossians 2:12). See also Romans 5:12*19, Romans 6:2*4.
"Baptism is only a symbol." Answer: The bible gives clear indication that baptism is much, much more than an empty symbol. It is necessary for salvation and intrinsic to the Gospel - "Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this scripture he told him the good news of Jesus. And as they went along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, "See, here is water! What is to prevent my being baptized?" (Acts 8:35*36). See also Acts 10:47. Jesus commands to baptize just before His Ascension (very significant): "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Matthew 28:19). Baptism is used to identify God's elect and therefore is a real incorporation into the Mystical Body of Christ - "There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all, who is above all and through all and in all (Ephesians 4:4*6). See also 1 Corinthians 10:2, 12:27; Galatians 3:27.
"Baptism will not save you." Answer: Sure it will. You just have to read your bible without your anti*sacramental prejudices: "Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 3:21). "And he said to them, 'Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned'" (Mark 16:15*16). It follows that those who do not believe (when presented with the Gospel) will not be baptized and will be condemned. Being 'Born Again' the Biblical Way: "Jesus answered him, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born a new, he cannot see the kingdom of God.' Nicode'mus said to him, 'How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?' Jesus answered, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God'" (John 3:3*5). The Evangelical often interprets the phrase 'born of water and the spirit' to mean two separate events - water (physical birth) and spirit (spiritual birth). This interpretation, however, is not the Lord's intent since the birth that Jesus is speaking about is not two births but one. He does not say that we must be born of 'water and then the spirit.' Furthermore, all people are already physically born so why didn't Jesus just say 'born of the Spirit' alone? And finally, Scripture refutes this view since Ephesians 4:4*6 clearly states that there is ONE Baptism NOT TWO. Another point that must be stressed is the choice of Jesus' words 'born again'. One may ask: Why did Jesus use these particular words? The answer lies in the loss of holiness after the Fall. In our physical birth, we were born into a state that Adam and Eve passed down. That is why we must be 'born again.' 'Born again' implies a complete transformation from the STATE that we currently exist in. Therefore, to TRANSFORM the state, we must return to a condition before our first birth when we were clean. Hence, when Jesus speaks of 'being born again,' or 'being born from above', He is trying to take us back to the beginning of creation when we were born in a state of original justice and holiness before the original sin which prevented anyone from entering heaven. THAT IS THE SIGNIFICANCE OF JESUS SAYING THAT NO ONE CAN ENTER THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN WITHOUT BEING BORN AGAIN.
Prefigurement of the purifying waters of baptism: Numbers 8:5*7, 19:9*13, Exodus 29, Leviticus 8. This is perhaps the reason Jesus expresses His 'astonishment' at Nicodemus' question, 'How can these things be?' (Cf. John 3:9). Jesus is expressing His 'surprise' at Nicodemus when He asks, 'You area teacher of Israel and do not understand?' Jesus was not chiding Nicodemus for not understanding something novel - far from it. By asking the question, Our Lord was pointing out what Nicodemus should have known very well, namely, the instrumentality of water in purifying. Even after His discourse with Nicodemus in John 3:5, Jesus and the disciples engage in water baptism (Cf. John 3:22, 4:1-2). How then can the Protestant conclude that the context of John 3:5 supports any type of baptism other than what the passage clearly says, and which the passages before in Chapters 1 and 2 and later in Chapters 3 and 4 clearly demonstrate, namely, water baptism? And if water does not purify, then why did John's disciples enter into a discussion with a Jew about 'purification' (Cf. John 3:25) when the context clearly points to the purifying effects of water?
The Sign of Covenant Initiation always included children: Genesis 8:16, Genesis 17:10*12, Exodus 12:3, 2 Samuel 7:12*16. Baptisms of whole households - Stephanus' household (Cf. 1 Corinthians 1:16), Lydia's household (Cf. Acts 16:15), the Jailer's household (Cf. Acts 16:33), and Crispus' household (Cf. Acts 18:8). aptismal Promise is for children as well - Acts 2:39, Galatians 3:27. Can receive grace without asking for it: Matthew 19:15; Luke 7:2*8, 12*15; Matthew 15:21*28, Mark 2:4*12.
The Early Christian Fathers on Infant Baptism St. Irenaeus: "He [Jesus] came to save all through himself; all, I say, who through him are reborn in God: infants, and children, and youths, and old men. Therefore he passed through every age, becoming an infant for infants, sanctifying infants; a child for children, sanctifying those who are of that age" (St. Irenaeus, Against Heresies 2:22:4, 180 A.D.). Hippolytus: Where there is no scarcity of water the stream shall flow through the baptismal font or pour into it from above; but if water is scarce, whether on a constant condition or on occasion, then use whatever water is available. Let them remove their clothing. Baptize first the children, and if they can speak for themselves let them do so. Otherwise, let their parents speak for them." (Hippolytus, The ApostolicTradition, 21:16, 215 A.D.) Origen: "Every soul that is born into the flesh is soiled by the filth of wickedness and sin. In the Church baptism is given for theremission of sins, and, accordingly to the usage of the Church, baptism is given even to infants. If there were nothing in infants which required the remission of sins and nothing in them pertinent to forgiveness, the grace of baptism would seem superfluous." (Origen, Homilies on Leviticus,8:3, 244 A.D.)
The Catholic Legate
January 1, 2002