Thursday, June 07, 2007

Born Again Baptism

And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses
(Colossians 2:13 – ESV)

Notice our title, born again baptism; it is not born again in baptism. You were morally dead and out of relationship with God in the spiritual sense. The uncircumcision of your flesh was in Paul’s time, of course, symbolic of alienation with God (Ephesians 4:11-13). Circumcision didn’t save back then, and baptism doesn’t save now. You were raised with Him through faith.

As Christians we have been born again (Ephesians 2:1,5). Before we had new life, we were not sick people who needed a doctor; we were dead people who needed a savior. We were dead in sin and we were dead to God but now we are dead to sin and we are alive in God.

A primary work of the Spirit in this age is to regenerate the believer, what we call the “born again” experience. Some say that this regeneration happens before faith, and that faith is the evidence of conversion. Others contend that this regeneration, or birth happens because of faith, and as a result of conversion. The order may matter, but no matter the order, it is virtually simultaneous. Our concern today is with this matter of baptism.

John 3:5 – the phrase born of water and of the Spirit has been debated vigorously over the years. Some believe this to mean that born of water is natural birth, and born of the Spirit is regeneration. Verse 6 would seem to validate this viewpoint. It does no harm to the fact of Spiritual rebirth.

Others believe that born of water is the act of baptism, and that then one is regenerated, or born again by the Spirit. This view doesn’t “hold water”, because many, the house of Cornelius being an example (Acts 10:44-48), were converted before being baptized. Paul mentions that he came not to baptize, but to preach the Gospel (1 Corinthians 1:17). This does not demean the importance of baptism, only that this passage doesn’t refer to born of water as that ordinance.

Still others hold that born of water and the Spirit refer to the same process, the washing of the water by the Word (Ephesians 5:26); also the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Ghost (Titus 3:5). Many scholars and teachers, and a great deal of believers throughout church history ascribe to this view. In this scenario the Gospel, the preached Word, is given power by the Holy Spirit, which causes the sinner to believe the message, whereby he repents, and is born again, regenerated by the Spirit. Water baptism represents this change as an outward sign.

This fits with 1 Peter 1:23 – Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the Word of God, which liveth and abideth forever. It also squares with James 1:18 – Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.

For now realize that no Christian can deny the absolute necessity of the Spirit in regeneration. Being born again of the Spirit is a non-negotiable for salvation. This is the heart of Christianity, the sacrifice of Jesus made real to our hearts, and our entrance into the kingdom of God. By being born again we are delivered from the power of darkness and translated in to the kingdom of Christ (Colossians 1:13). We have passed from death to life (John 5:24). We are baptized, not to be born again, but because we are born again.


Anonymous said...

I think I'm beginning to "see the light"! I dug out my John MacArthur tape on baptism...which I got when I still had (in my beliefs) baptism tied to salvation. I now more fully understand what he said....and you are saying.

It's that "word thing" of yours..not to "be" born again but "because" we are born again. If I remember correctly, MacArthur said something like "Our water baptism isn't "from" obedience, it enables/helps us to "be" obedient.

You might be questioning why this is such an important topic for me. I strongly believed that water immersion and salvation "fit together" and one's eternal destination was at stake....guess I was a "jerk" for Jesus cause I sure irritated a lot of people!

donsands said...

" ..the house of Cornelius being an example (Acts 10:44-48), were converted before being baptized"

Cornelius is strong evidence for this doctrine.
He was baptized in the Spirit by Jesus (Acts 11:16) and then baptized in water by the Apsotle Peter.
[But was he immersed, or sprinkled?]

Anonymous said...

MacArthur said NT water baptism was "always" immersion and he compared it to Jesus' baptism-death, burial and resurrection. I hope I'm not misquoting.

donsands said...

You're right on the money with Pastor McArthur.
But I don't want to take this down a long and winding "rabbit path".
Maybe JD will adress baptism mode in a later post?

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I understand about the "rabbit path". I guess I'm just glad that I'm finally understanding this. I think a lot of my problem is the foundation of my belief has been built on false information. For instance the word baptism......I was taught that referred to water. So with that foundation it wasn't hard to tie baptism to salvation.

I hope JD does have a "mode" post. Is the "mode" important? I would think so.

Thanks for allowing me to "rabbit".

Even So... said...

Let us just say that since baptism is a means of worship and a means of obedience and a means of public pofesssion, and not a means of (justifying, or even, well, I won't open that can o' worms right now) grace, then the mode becomes less important. That being said, and without delving into all the reasons why, it is by immersion...Now THAT being said, I baptized an old lady on her death bed in a nursing home a few weeks ago, and I sprinkle/poured on her; she was unable to get out of bed. Her son had been witnessing to her, and she asked to be baptized, and was unable to get out of bed. She died two weeks ago, in Jesus arms....

Anonymous said...

"We are baptized, not to be born again, but because we are born again."
This would seem to, "hold water"!

Anonymous said...

Those of us who consider baptism to be symbolization should consider what we are symbolizing.

To me, sprinkling symbolizes an anointing from another human being & this is why those who hold baptism to a greater meaning often sanction sprinkling as a proper form.

But immersion denotes an actual death, burial, & resurrection to new life- this is “born again” in a nutshell.

Anonymous said...

Those who say you aren't saved unless you've been water baptised err on the side of law.

Those who say it (baptism)is not necessary err on the side of grace. (paraphrase from my John MacArthur tape).

Baptism should be such a simple thing to understand. How has it gotten so messed up?

Even So... said...

Control issues...

Anonymous said...

Interesting...MacArthur used that terminology as well. Kinda scares me for us "regular" (in the pew) folks!

Even So... said...

Interesting, I hadn't read his take on that yet...