Born Again?

I want to challenge a commonly held view concerning baptism and salvation. I will use the Word of God and a few varying commentaries. Go to the Word and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the necessity of baptism, and what its purpose is. Baptism is not a symbol, it is a miracle by which we enter into the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ by faith.

“Jesus answered him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God’” (John 3:3).

How is a man “born again?”

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3).

We receive new birth from God and through the resurrection of Christ. Practically speaking, how do we enter into His death and resurrection?

“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 good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 3:21).

Yes, baptism saves you. This is not a hard saying unless you hold fast to the tradition that baptism has nothing to do with salvation. If you understand that you are saved by Jesus Christ alone, and understand that there is always an action required when entering into a covenant (in this case, the New Covenant) then baptism makes perfect sense. It is not a work but a surrender. Jesus ratified the New Covenant with His own blood. You enter the New Covenant through His shed blood by entering into His death and resurrection when you are baptized. Jesus said you must enter through the narrow gate. Jesus is the gate. To enter through Jesus, we must enter into His death, and this, according to the apostle Peter, is accomplished through baptism.

“It [baptism] brings salvation through the resurrection of Jesus Christ’). Understood in this manner, baptism is clearly not the agent but the instrument of salvation (for example, NEB ‘water of baptism through which you are now brought to safety’), and the implicit agent of salvation is God (compare 1:3–5).”

Daniel C. Arichea and Eugene Albert Nida, A Handbook on the First Letter from Peter, UBS Handbook Series (New York: United Bible Societies, 1980), 121.

What does baptism do? Why does it save us?

“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:3–4).

“In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead” (Colossians 2:11–12).

How are my sins removed by Christ?

“He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5).

How am I clothed in the righteousness of Christ?

“For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Galatians 3:27).

Did Jesus say we needed baptism to be saved?

“Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16).

“‘He who believes and is baptized’: the single definite article governing both participles joins the two verbs together in describing the man who will be saved; the clause could be translated, ‘the baptized believer.’”

Robert G. Bratcher and Eugene Albert Nida, A Handbook on the Gospel of Mark, UBS Handbook Series (New York: United Bible Societies, 1993), 511.

Paul thought baptism into Jesus Christ was important; important enough to baptize twelve men again. Paul uses baptism synonymously with belief; “when you believed,” “then into what were you baptized?”

“And he said to them, ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?’ And they said, ‘No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.’ And he said, ‘Into what then were you baptized?’ They said, ‘Into John’s baptism.’ And Paul said, ‘John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.’ On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying” (Acts 19:2–6).

“The believers are willing, and so they permit themselves to be baptized. It is doubtful this is referred to as a rebaptism, since from the point of view of Luke these people were never really baptized in the Christian sense up to this time.”

Barclay Moon Newman and Eugene Albert Nida, A Handbook on the Acts of the Apostles, UBS Handbook Series (New York: United Bible Societies, 1972), 363.

This story indicates that the apostles saw belief, repentance, baptism, and the reception of the Holy Spirit as the entire process for becoming a Christian; all are necessary.

“Does Paul’s first question about receiving the Holy Spirit indicate that he sees none of the Spirit’s fruit or giftings in their lives? The combination of questions certainly tells us that Paul assumes that saving faith, the reception of the Spirit and Christian baptism converge at conversion.”

William J. Larkin Jr., Acts, vol. 5, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series (Downers, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1995), Ac 18:23.

How did Paul remedy their lack of salvation?

“Paul’s corrective is to preach the gospel to the twelve by pointing out the preparatory and therefore partial nature of the baptism of repentance and of John’s message pointing to the Messiah who was to come. Though the Gospels never explicitly state that John called for faith in Christ, the status and role he gave to Jesus certainly imply it (Lk 3:16–17; Jn 1:27; 3:23–30). Paul makes the point that Jesus is this ‘coming one.’ To receive the gospel qualifies one to be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus, and this is what the twelve do (Acts 2:38–39). This is no ‘rebaptism,’ for after the triumph of Easter and the provision of full salvation blessings at Pentecost, a preparatory baptism of repentance is more than incomplete—it is obsolete (Lk 16:16; Eph 4:5).”

William J. Larkin Jr., Acts, vol. 5, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series (Downers, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1995), Ac 18:23.

In the Great Commission does Jesus say for us to go into the nations and lead people to Him through prayer? He says make them disciples; this is accomplished by preaching the gospel; and when they respond in belief to baptize them. Through this baptism, they will receive remission of their sins, will enter into the death and resurrection of Christ and rise out of the water a new creation. They will also receive the gift of the Holy Spirit as promised by Christ.

What is the response of one who comes to believe in Christ? What must they do to enter the narrow gate?”

“So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:41).

“But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women” (Acts 8:12).

We know not what Philip told the eunuch, but we know his response,

“See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?” (Acts 8:36).

“‘Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’ And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized” (Acts 9:17–18).

From Paul’s own testimony we see exactly what response is expected and correct according to the Word,

“And he said, ‘The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear a voice from his mouth; for you will be a witness for him to everyone of what you have seen and heard. And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name’” (Acts 22:14–16).

There are too many verses describing the importance and immediacy of baptism as the only response to list here. There is not one single case in which someone came to salvation by praying a prayer asking Jesus to enter their heart. There is only baptism into Christ Jesus while calling on His name as your Lord. Repent, be baptized for the remission of your sins, and you enter the long and difficult road to salvation receiving the Holy Spirit of Christ to empower you for the journey. As Jesus said,

“the one who endures to the end will be saved” (Matthew 24:13).

The truth does not need to be harmonized, nor does it require you to ignore the rest of Scripture. Jesus said the Scriptures cannot be broken; meaning the Word does not contradict or nullify itself. Therefore, salvation is found in Jesus Christ alone. We receive it by believing  in our hearts (not an intellectual belief), repenting and turning from sin toward God, being baptized so that our sins are removed through our entering into the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus, putting on Christ and becoming clothed in His righteousness. Then we receive the Holy Spirit, promised of God. The Holy Spirit fulfills the prophecy of God found in Jeremiah 31:33,

“I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts.”

and in Ezekiel 36:26-27,

“And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh 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 obey my rules.”

Do not be deceived.

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