Discussion Forum

Did the early Christians understand being born again to be being baptised in water?

Consider these writings by the early Christian fathers:

Justin Martyr

“As many as are persuaded and believe that what we [Christians] teach and say is true, and undertake to be able to live accordingly, and instructed to pray and to entreat God with fasting, for the remission of their sins that are past, we pray and fast with them. Then they are brought by us where there is water and are regenerated in the same manner in which we were ourselves regenerated. For, in the name of God, the Father . . . and of our Savior Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit [Matt. 28:19], they then receive the washing with water. For Christ also said, ‘Unless you are born again, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven’ [John 3:3]” (First Apology 61 [A.D. 151]).

Irenaeus

“‘And [Naaman] dipped himself . . . seven times in the Jordan’ [2 Kgs. 5:14]. It was not for nothing that Naaman of old, when suffering from leprosy, was purified upon his being baptized, but [this served] as an indication to us. For as we are lepers in sin, we are made clean, by means of the sacred water and the invocation of the Lord, from our old transgressions, being spiritually regenerated as newborn babes, even as the Lord has declared: ‘Except a man be born again through water and the Spirit, he shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven’” (Fragment 34 [A.D. 190]).

Tertullian

“[N]o one can attain salvation without baptism, especially in view of the declaration of the Lord, who says, ‘Unless a man shall be born of water, he shall not have life’” (Baptism 12:1 [A.D. 203]).

Hippolytus

“The Father of immortality sent the immortal Son and Word into the world, who came to man in order to wash him with water and the Spirit; and he, begetting us again to incorruption of soul and body, breathed into us the Spirit of life, and endued us with an incorruptible panoply. If, therefore, man has become immortal, he will also be God. And if he is made God by water and the Holy Spirit after the regeneration of the laver he is found to be also joint-heir with Christ after the resurrection from the dead. Wherefore I preach to this effect: Come, all ye kindreds of the nations, to the immortality of the baptism” (Discourse on the Holy Theophany 8 [A.D. 217]).

The Recognitions of Clement

“But you will perhaps say, ‘What does the baptism of water contribute toward the worship of God?’ In the first place, because that which has pleased God is fulfilled. In the second place, because when you are regenerated and born again of water and of God, the frailty of your former birth, which you have through men, is cut off, and so . . . you shall be able to attain salvation; but otherwise it is impossible. For thus has the true prophet [Jesus] testified to us with an oath: ‘Verily, I say to you, that unless a man is born again of water . . . he shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven’” (The Recognitions of Clement 6:9 [A.D. 221]).

Testimonies Concerning the Jews

“That unless a man have been baptized and born again, he cannot attain unto the kingdom of God. In the Gospel according to John: ‘Except a man be born again of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God’ [John 3:5]. . . . Also in the same place: ‘Unless ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye shall not have life in you’ [John 6:53]. That it is of small account to be baptized and to receive the Eucharist, unless one profit by it both in deeds and works” (Testimonies Concerning the Jews 3:2:25)

Is there any early Christian writing that says being born again means reciting the sinner’s prayer? It is very clear that the fundies’ concept of being born again is heresy based on erroneous interpretation of Scripture.
To Truth.

Are you saying the early Christians were mistaken?
Are the fundies saying nobody understood Scripture until the 20th century when tele-evangelists like Billy Graham started preaching????
To Mountain man,

Are you saying the early Christians did not understand Paul?

10 Comments

  • Try reading Romans 6th chapter and you will find it is very important to be in Christ by being baptized.

    That is the way into the death of Jesus, but I know you can read for yourself.

  • Sure they did, even thru the reformation they understood this fact of the faith. It wasn’t until more recent times that the concept of baptism has been altered by more modern Christians who have changed the teachings of the early church to conform to their beliefs,

  • In the last quotation you provide “TC the Jews” John 3:5 is quoted.

    From that you see that the distinction is made. Baptism is necessary to receive the spirit.

    Still, this point will not be pleasing to all, but many in the first century at Paul’s time did not have a heavenly hope, but an earthly one.

    The proof is there but needs several scriptures:

    ##A kingdom of priest-kings reigning over Christian human kind on earth:

    Revelation 5:8-10, “the saints. 9And they sing a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open its seals; because thou hast been slain, and hast redeemed to God, by thy blood, out of every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation, 10and made them to our God kings and priests; and they shall reign over the earth. (Darby)

    ## Israel consists of these priest-kings and the commoner:
    Rev 7: 4 And I heard the number of the sealed, a hundred and forty-four thousand, sealed out of every tribe of the sons of Israel:

    ## In Paul’s time these two groups existed:

    I Corinthians 1:1 Paul, a called apostle of Jesus Christ, by God’s will, and Sosthenes the brother, 2 to the assembly of God which is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called saints, with all that in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both theirs and ours:

    Ephesians 1:1 Paul, apostle of Jesus Christ by God’s will, to the saints and faithful in Christ Jesus who are at Ephesus.

    ##
    There is more proof than this. But this is enough to demonstrate that there is a point.

    $$
    It should be noted that all Christians must be led by God spirit, “14 for as many as are led by the Spirit of God, *these* are sons of God. ”

    However, the heavenly class is led by the Paraclete (Christ spirit), and the other group by God’s holy spirit.

  • great post… i bookmarked it

    but i’m afraid its lost on evangelicals…. just like “the rapture” stuff, they think its that “old time religion” but its actually a modern invention …their doctrine doesnt come from early church fathers or even the bible…but from their pastors, or the southern baptist convention, or their assemblies of god youth pastor, etc

  • John 3:5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

    This verse has nothing to do with baptism. The water and the spirit are exactly the same as explained in the following ……Jeremiah 2:13 “For My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters. And also..John 4:24 Jesus said, “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship Him in spirit and in truth.” So we know by these two scriptures that God is both, “living water and spirit which applies to John 3:5.

    Baptism has nothing to do with your salvation as noted in these scriptures.
    Romans 10:9-10..(NIV) That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
    10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.

    Baptism is also a “work”, and the bible tells us that we are not saved by works but by the grace of God, through faith in Christ Jesus.

    So baptism is your public acclaim and confession of your acceptance of Jesus Christ and his sacrifice for your sins. This is just what Jesus said he wants us to do in Matthew 10:32 when he said…..Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven.

    Was the thief on the cross baptized ? no, but Jesus saved him because he, by faith, believed in Jesus and Jesus paid for his sins that very day.

    In chapter 2 of the book of Acts, all the people were filled with God’s Holy Spirit , BEFORE they were baptized. They believed and were saved by the indwelling Spirit of God and then they were baptized.

    In simple terms “born again”means when we were first born we had no sin but we did have the sin nature of Adam and would surely sin during our life time. In order to live in God’s kingdom we must have no sin just as the new born children do. When we accept the fact that Jesus died for our sins and cleansed us from our past sins, it was just like we were being “born again” without any sin.
    Jesus said in….Matthew 18:3
    Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, (belief in Christ Jesus )and become as little children, (without sin)Â ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.

  • That is quite a litany.
    What happens to a poor Chinese farmer who has struggled all his life to put food on his table. When he dies is he doomed because he was never baptized.
    Was Moses baptized? He was present at the Transfiguration
    God can save whoever he chooses; of this I’m shure.

  • you do not know the scriptures or the power of GOD!!!
    Go and see what it means when Paul talked of the washing of the word!

  • Since the time of the Apostles, being born again have been understood by Christians as being baptized. The heretical fundie concept of being born again was started only in the 20th century by tele-evangelists.

  • Mat 28:19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:

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