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Does the birth of the water mentioned by Jesus in John 3:5 refer to natural birth of to water baptism? This question has divided Christiandom for centuries. Unger's Bible Dictionary classes the two viewpoints as a Baptist view and a non-Baptist view. The early church regarded baptism to be of such importance that some such as the emperor Constantine ignorantly delayed baptism until their deathbed, in fear that they might sin after their baptism.
If Jesus had been referring to natural birth as the birth of the water, Nicodemus would have had a valid question when he asked, "How can a man be born when he is old, can he enter a second time into his mother's womb? When Jesus said, "that which is born of flesh is flesh and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit, He is telling Nicodemus that he has been reasoning on a fleshly level, so don't be surprised when I, speaking of spiritual things, tell you that you must be born of the water and the Spirit to enter the kingdom of God.
It is very doubtful that Nicodemus, being a Pharisee and a ruler of the Jews, had submitted to John's baptism. Jesus started in Luke 7:39 that the Pharisees had rejected the counsel of God against themselves by not being baptised of John.
The Pharisees considered themselves pure and holy. Their own baptism was sufficient and they had no sins to be remitted by John's baptism. Jesus is telling Nicodemus that he must indeed confess his sins and have them remitted in water to be a part of the coming kingdom which was fully instituted at Pentecost by the out pouring of the Spirit.
John's baptism received the approval of Jesus (Luke 7:39). John preached confession, repentance, baptism in water for the remission of sin, with the promise of being baptised in the Spirit by the One who was yet to come.
The apostles doctrine follows the same pattern (Acts 2:38-39). Throughout the book of Acts we see water and Spirit baptism. At Pentecost and Samaria, the household of Cornelius, the Ephesian brethren and the baptism of the Apostle Paul.
Jesus said in Mark 16:16, "He that believeth and is baptised shall be saved. He that believeth not shall be damned." He stated in Luke 24:47 that repentance and remission of sins would be preached in His name, beginning at Jerusalem."
In Matthew 28:19 Jesus commanded baptism in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The apostle Peter, who had been given the keys to the kingdom (Matthew 16:19) and had spent forty days listening to the risen Christ speak of things pertaining to the kingdom of God (Acts 1:3) was the first to apply this commandment in the New Testament church.
On the day of Pentecost, the assembled crowd was pricked in their hearts as Peter preached that Jesus had been made both Lord and Christ by His resurrection from the dead. They simply cried out, "What shall we do?" Peter with the agreement of the other eleven apostles commanded water baptism in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sin with the promise of the in filling of the Holy Ghost. Those who gladly received his word were baptised and added to the church. Acts 5:32 tells us that the Holy Ghost had been given to all who had obeyed Christ. Thus we see the baptism of water and of Spirit in the early church.
Acts 2:37 Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?
38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
39 For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.
Peter again used the keys to the kingdom at Samaria. The people here had obeyed Phillip by being baptised in the name of Jesus, but they had not received the Holy Ghost (Note the distinction betweeen water and Spirit baptism). Peter and John laid hands on them and they received the Holy Ghost. In Acts 10, Peter again used the keys, after the Holy Ghost had descended on the household of Cornelius. He baptised them in the name of the Lord Jesus.
The apostle Paul told the Romans (Romans 6:3-5) that they had been baptised into the death of Christ, and had risen to walk in newness of life. He then praised them in verse 17 for obeying from the heart, the form of doctrine that had been delivered unto them. Obviously, water baptism was a big part of doctrine of the early church.
Romans 6:3 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?
4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
5 For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:
Is this not the baptism of the water and the Spirit? Perhaps Paul was thinking of his own conversion. In Acts 9;17 Ananias told Paul that he had been sent that Paul might receive his sight and be filled with the Holy Ghost. He obeyed the urging of Ananais to arise and be baptised, washing away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord (Acts 22:16). This certainly fits the concept of water and Spirit.
Many modern day preachers have abandoned the views of their particular denominations in an effort to gain easy converts. It is one thing to have someone claim salvation after praying a prescribed sinner's prayer and something else again to have the convert obey God's word in water baptism and have the Spirit bear witness that he is indeed a son of God.
We are accused of preaching that the water saves. The water does not save in and of itself, but faith and obedience to God's word does!
Some say that we are preaching salvation by works. Jesus said that a man must believe and be baptised. Does not believing constitute work also? Others claim that baptism is only the answer of a good conscience towards God. Would one desire it to be otherwise?
Both John the baptist and Jesus preached, "The kingdom of heaven is at hand, repent and believe the gospel.(Matthew 3:1-2; Mark 1:15)" John preached repentance and water baptism with the promise of the Holy Ghost yet to come. The apostles preached the same thing, except that the Holy Ghost confirmed their message as the converts were baptised. The book of Acts surely shows the pattern that Jesus announced. One must be born of the water and the Spirit to enter the kingdom of God. This is indeed the gospel that we must believe!
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Last modified: 02-02-2017
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