Church “fathers” on Baptismal Regeneration

The following compilations below are from the work of Jason Engwer (who is not me, though I supplement his work at the end of this page, and by minute additions seen in [brackets]), and is offered here for non-commercial “fair use.” Any copying of his work should be attributed to him, and used for the glory of God.

Br. Engwer has moved on to blogging and his old web sites (www.ntrmin.org, http://members.aol.com/jasonte) are no longer operative (2011), and the conclusions of Engwer (provided as part of his compilation) are his, and I myself am not familiar with all counter arguments (church "father" sometimes may seem to contradict themselves, and can be open to some interpretation), but Engwer can be reached through his blogger page. Br. Engwers is sometimes active on blogs as Triablogue, and also see such resources as those of the Beggars All blog, William Webster's site, Reformation500 site, James White's sites; both Vintage (which has more on Roman Catholicism) and the current one. Some of Jason's former work can be found on the Internet Archive file here, and at this site (no formal affiliation). Dates after sources in bracket are added, from Wikipedia.

For the index to more compilations from Engwer as (or if) I complete them (with perhaps some additions of mine own, distinctive at bottom) see here. My own home page is here.

My home page is here.

For a custom Google search engine of these and other selected sites, see here. Please note however that this work or offered links cannot mean I may affirm all that is on a site, with all its conclusions, but that they are some of the best evangelical sites at least on the subject and hand, and contend for “repentance towards God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ,” (Acts 20:21) by His grace through faith, and to His glory.

Engwer's compilations are from what are wrongly termed early “church fathers,” as in truth the church began and greatly grew before them, and its “fathers” are essentially only those who are found in Scripture, and which is the judge of all.

See page on church “fathers” and Scripture for more in regards to this.

Table of Contents. To return here, click on TOC

Baptismal Regeneration

Heretical Baptism

Infant Baptism

Clement of Rome

Mathetes

Polycarp

Tertullian

Apostolic Constitutions

Athanasius

Basil

Clement of Alexandria

Council of Constantinople

Council of Laodicea

Cyprian

Cyril of Jerusalem

Firmilian

Tertullian

Gregory Nazianzen

Justin Martyr

Tertullian

Supplementary

Baptismal Regeneration

Clement of Rome [96 AD]

Clement, a first century Roman bishop, wrote that we're saved through faith, apart from works. He excludes all works, even "works that we have done in holiness of heart" (First Clement, 32). Just after excluding works from the gospel, he goes on to encourage Christians to do those works he had just excluded. Thus, it can't be argued that he was only excluding bad works, graceless works, faithless works, etc. He was excluding all works, including good works:

"And we who through his will have been called in Christ Jesus are justified, not by ourselves, or through our wisdom or understanding or godliness, or the works that we have done in holiness of heart, but by faith, by which all men from the beginning have been justified by Almighty God, to whom be glory world without end. Amen. What, then, shall we do, brethren? Shall we cease from well-doing, and abandon charity? May the Master never allow that this should happen to us! but let us rather with diligence and zeal hasten to fulfil every good work. For the Maker and Lord of all things rejoiceth in his works. By his supreme power he founded the heavens, and by his incomprehensible understanding he ordered them. The earth he separated from the water that surrounded it, and fixed it on the firm foundation of his own will. The animals which inhabit therein he commanded to be by his ordinance. Having made beforehand the sea and the animals that are therein, he shut them in by his own power. Man, the most excellent of all animals, infinite in faculty, he moulded with his holy and faultless hands, in the impress of his likeness. For thus saith God: Let us make man in our own image, and after our own likeness. And God made man. Male and female made he them. When, therefore, he had finished all things, he praised and blessed them, and said, Be fruitful, and multiply. Let us see, therefore, how all the just have been adorned with good works. Yea, the Lord himself rejoiced when he had adorned himself with his works. Having, therefore, this example, let us come in without shrinking to his will; let us work with all our strength the work of righteousness." (32-33)

For a Roman bishop to advocate salvation through faith alone has devastating implications for Roman Catholicism. Thus, Roman Catholics have put forward various arguments in an attempt to prove that Clement didn't advocate the doctrine.

For example, it's sometimes argued that Clement was only excluding works we do in our own strength, not works God empowers us to do. But notice the closing words in the quote above. Clement encourages people to do works "with all our strength". In the previous chapter, he had excluded from the gospel works "done in holiness of heart", which can only be good works. Therefore, this popular argument used to reconcile Clement with Roman Catholicism fails.

Often, Catholics will ignore what Clement said in chapters 32-33 and quote what he said elsewhere. But that doesn't explain chapters 32-33. And what they quote from other parts of the letter doesn't necessarily contradict what Clement wrote in chapters 32-33. For example, Catholics often cite the following:

"justified by our deeds, and not by our words" (30)

That *sounds* like a rejection of sola fide, until you read the context. Here are the same words, but with the surrounding context included:

"Let us clothe ourselves with concord, being humble, temperate, keeping ourselves far from all whispering and evil speaking, justified by our deeds, and not by our words. For he saith, He who saith many things shall, in return, hear many things. Doth he that is eloquent think himself to be just? -- doth he that is born of woman and liveth but for a short time think himself to be blessed? Be not abundant in speech. Let our praise be in God, and not for ourselves, for God hateth the self-praisers. Let the testimony of right actions be given us from others, even as it was given to our fathers who were just. Audacity, self-will, and boldness belong to them who are accursed of God; but moderation, humility, and meekness, to them that are blessed of God." (30)

Clement is addressing justification in the sense of *vindication*, such as we see in Luke 7:35, not in the sense of attaining eternal life. He says, "Let the testimony of right actions be given us from others", which is a reference to vindication, not a reference to the attaining of eternal life. Roman Catholics often single out the phrase "justified by our deeds", but the context doesn't support the meaning they pour into that phrase.

Some Catholics cite the following:

"Through faith and hospitality Rahab the harlot was saved" (12)

But, again, we should read the context. Clement is addressing salvation in the sense of safety from the Israeli invasion, not the attaining of eternal life. Clement goes on to quote Rahab saying to the Israeli spies, "save me and the house of my father" (12). Clement then quotes the spies saying, "When, therefore, thou hast perceived that we are coming, thou shalt gather together all thy household under thy roof, and they shall be saved" (12). The salvation in question is physical, not spiritual. Rahab wasn't asking the spies to give her eternal life.

Clement does say some things that suggest that he may have held to something closer to the Methodist view of salvation than the Calvinist view. For example:

"For as God liveth, and as the Lord Jesus Christ liveth, and the Holy Spirit, the confidence and hope of the elect, he who observeth in humility with earnest obedience, and repining not, the ordinances and commands given by God, he shall be reckoned and counted in the number of them that are saved by Jesus Christ" (58)

Clement could be referring to the possibility of loss of salvation. Or he could be referring to the fact that saving faith produces a life of good works, which is a concept that the Protestant reformers taught. Even if we assume that Clement rejected eternal security, his view of salvation was still contradictory to that of Roman Catholicism. He said nothing of baptismal regeneration, but instead referred to us being saved the same way people were saved prior to the institution of baptism. Clement believed that people are saved today the way they always have been, through faith and apart from works, including good works. Thus, the earliest church father, who was a Roman bishop, agreed with the Reformation doctrine of salvation through faith alone. TOC

Mathetes [“a disciple,” late 2nd century]

Mathetes wrote the following about the substitutionary nature of Christ's righteousness. Notice the reference to Christ's righteousness *covering* our sins, which is like the dunghill analogy Roman Catholics often criticize Martin Luther for:

"As long then as the former time endured, He permitted us to be borne along by unruly impulses, being drawn away by the desire of pleasure and various lusts. This was not that He at all delighted in our sins, but that He simply endured them; nor that He approved the time of working iniquity which then was, but that He sought to form a mind conscious of righteousness, so that being convinced in that time of our unworthiness of attaining life through our own works, it should now, through the kindness of God, be vouchsafed to us; and having made it manifest that in ourselves we were unable to enter into the kingdom of God, we might through the power of God be made able. But when our wickedness had reached its height, and it had been clearly shown that its reward, punishment and death, was impending over us; and when the time had come which God had before appointed for manifesting His own kindness and power, how the one love of God, through exceeding regard for men, did not regard us with hatred, nor thrust us away, nor remember our iniquity against us, but showed great long-suffering, and bore with us, He Himself took on Him the burden of our iniquities, He gave His own Son as a ransom for us, the holy One for transgressors, the blameless One for the wicked, the righteous One for the unrighteous, the incorruptible One for the corruptible, the immortal One for them that are mortal. For what other thing was capable of covering our sins than His righteousness? By what other one was it possible that we, the wicked and ungodly, could be justified, than by the only Son of God? O sweet exchange! O unsearchable operation! O benefits surpassing all expectation! that the wickedness of many should be hid in a single righteous One, and that the righteousness of One should justify many transgressors!" (The Epistle to Diognetus, 9) TOC

Polycarp [69 – 155 AD]

Polycarp seems to have held a Protestant view of salvation, combining the freeness of eternal life with the necessity of a resulting life of good works. Notice his exclusion of works, without any qualification, his reference to those who "only believe" (faith alone), and his references to the substitutionary nature of Christ's life and death:

"'by grace ye are saved, not of works,' but by the will of God through Jesus Christ....If we please Him in this present world, we shall receive also the future world, according as He has promised to us that He will raise us again from the dead, and that if we live worthily of Him, 'we shall also reign together with Him,' provided only we believe....Let us then continually persevere in our hope, and the earnest of our righteousness, which is Jesus Christ, 'who bore our sins in His own body on the tree,' 'who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth,' but endured all things for us, that we might live in Him." (Epistle to the Philippians, 1, 5, 8) TOC

Tertullian [160 – c. 220 AD]

Roman Catholic apologists, such as Robert Sungenis, often cite James 2:21-24 as evidence that Abraham was saved through works. The church father Tertullian believed that baptismal regeneration came into effect after the resurrection of Christ, but he acknowledged that justification was through faith alone prior to that time:

"And so they say, 'Baptism is not necessary for them to whom faith is sufficient; for withal, Abraham pleased God by a sacrament of no water, but of faith.' But in all cases it is the later things which have a conclusive force, and the subsequent which prevail over the antecedent. Grant that, in days gone by, there was salvation by means of bare faith, before the passion and resurrection of the Lord. But now that faith has been enlarged, and is become a faith which believes in His nativity, passion, and resurrection, there has been an amplification added...For the law of baptizing has been imposed" (On Baptism, 13)

Tertullian acknowledges that Abraham was saved through faith alone, but he dismisses Abraham as an exception to the rule. The apostle Paul, however, says that Abraham *is* the rule (Romans 4:13-16). Paul also denies that Christians are under a "law of baptizing" or *any* law of works (Romans 3:27, Galatians 3:21-25). As we might expect, Tertullian goes on, later in his treatise, to add other works to the gospel. He says that people preparing for baptism should "pray with repeated prayers, fasts, and bendings of the knee, and vigils all the night through, and with the confession of all by gone sins" (20). Do Roman Catholics do these works before being baptized? Do they agree with Tertullian that people were justified through faith alone prior to the resurrection of Christ? TOC

Heretical Baptism

Apostolic Constitutions [dated from 375 to 380]

"Be ye likewise contented with one baptism alone, that which is into the death of the Lord; not that which is conferred by wicked heretics, but that which is conferred by unblameable priests, 'in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:' and let not that which comes from the ungodly be received by you, nor let that which is done by the godly be disannulled by a second. For as there is one God, one Christ, and one Comforter, and one death of the Lord in the body, so let that baptism which is unto Him be but one. But those that receive polluted baptism from the ungodly will become partners in their opinions. For they are not priests. For God says to them: 'Because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee from the office of a priest to me.' Nor indeed are those that are baptized by them initiated, but are polluted, not receiving the remission of sins, but the bond of impiety." - Apostolic Constitutions (6:15) TOC

Athanasius [296-298]

"If any one saith, that the baptism which is even given by heretics in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, with the intention of doing what the Church doth, is not true baptism; let him be anathema." (Council of Trent, session 7, "On Baptism", canon 4)

"And as a creature is other than the Son, so the Baptism, which is supposed to be given by them [the Arians], is other than the truth, though they pretend to name the Name of the Father and the Son, because of the words of Scripture, For not he who simply says, 'O Lord,' gives Baptism; but he who with the Name has also the right faith. On this account therefore our Saviour also did not simply command to baptize, but first says, 'Teach;' then thus: 'Baptize into the Name of Father, and Son, and Holy Ghost;' that the right faith might follow upon learning, and together with faith might come the consecration of Baptism. There are many other heresies too, which use the words only, but not in a right sense, as I have said, nor with sound faith, and in consequence the water which they administer is unprofitable, as deficient in piety, so that he who is sprinkled by them is rather polluted by irreligion than redeemed." - Athanasius (Four Discourses Against the Arians, 2:42-43) TOC

Basil [of Caesarea, [330 – January 1, 379]

"If any one saith, that the baptism which is even given by heretics in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, with the intention of doing what the Church doth, is not true baptism; let him be anathema." (Council of Trent, session 7, "On Baptism", canon 4)

"But the baptism of the Pepuzeni seems to me to have no authority; and I am astonished how this can have escaped Dionysius, acquainted as he was with the canons. The old authorities decided to accept that baptism which in no wise errs from the faith....So it seemed good to the ancient authorities to reject the baptism of heretics altogether, but to admit that of schismatics, on the ground that they still belonged to the Church." - Basil (Letter 188:1) TOC

Clement of Alexandria, [150 – 215]

Then He subjoins: 'For so shalt thou pass through the water of another;' reckoning heretical baptism not proper and true water." - Clement of Alexandria (The Stromata, 1:19) TOC

Council of Constantinople [360?]

"If any one saith, that the baptism which is even given by heretics in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, with the intention of doing what the Church doth, is not true baptism; let him be anathema." (Council of Trent, session 7, "On Baptism", canon 4)

"Those who from heresy turn to orthodoxy, and to the portion of those who are being saved, we receive according to the following method and custom: Arians, and Macedonians, and Sabbatians, and Novatians, who call themselves Cathari or Aristori, and Quarto-decimans or Tetradites, and Apollinarians, we receive, upon their giving a written renunciation of their errors and anathematize every heresy which is not in accordance with the Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church of God. Thereupon, they are first sealed or anointed with the holy oil upon the forehead, eyes, nostrils, mouth, and ears; and when we seal them, we say, 'The Seal of the gift of the Holy Ghost.' But Eunomians, who are baptized with only one immersion, and Montanists, who are here called Phrygians, and Sabellians, who teach the identity of Father and Son, and do sundry other mischievous things, and the partisans of all other heresies-for there are many such here, particularly among those who come from the country of the Galatians:-all these, when they desire to turn to orthodoxy, we receive as heathen. On the first day we make them Christians; on the second, catechumens; on the third, we exorcise them by breathing thrice in their face and ears; and thus we instruct them and oblige them to spend some time in the Church, and to hear the Scriptures; and then we baptize them." (Council of Constantinople, canon 7) TOC

Council of Laodicea [363–364]

"Persons converted from the heresy of those who are called Phrygians, even should they be among those reputed by them as clergymen, and even should they be called the very chiefest, are with all care to be both instructed and baptized by the bishops and presbyters of the Church." (Council of Laodicea, 8) TOC

Cyprian [d. 258]

"Lucian, our co-presbyter, has reported to me, dearest brother, that you have wished me to declare to you what I think concerning those who seem to have been baptized by heretics and schismatics; of which matter, that you may know what several of us fellow-bishops, with the brother presbyters who were present, lately determined in council, I have sent you a copy of the same epistle. For I know not by what presumption some of our colleagues are led to think that they who have been dipped by heretics ought not to be baptized when they come to us, for the reason that they say that there is one baptism which indeed is therefore one, because the Church is one, and there cannot be any baptism out of the Church. For since there cannot be two baptisms, if heretics truly baptize, they themselves have this baptism. And he who of his own authority grants this advantage to them yields and consents to them, that the enemy and adversary of Christ should seem to have the power of washing, and purifying, and sanctifying a man. But we say that those who come thence are not re-baptized among us, but are baptized. For indeed they do not receive anything there, where there is nothing; but they come to us, that here they may receive where there is both grace and all truth, because both grace and truth are one." - Cyprian (Letter 70:1) TOC

Cyril of Jerusalem [313 – 386]

"We may not receive Baptism twice or thrice; else it might be said, Though I have failed once, I shall set it right a second time: whereas if thou fail once, the thing cannot be set right; for there is one Lord, and one faith, and one baptism: for only the heretics are re-baptized, because the former was no baptism." - Cyril of Jerusalem (Catechetical Lectures, Procatechesis, 7) TOC

Dionysius of Alexandria [d. 265]

Dionysius of Alexandria wrote the following about how he and many other bishops, along with numerous councils, opposed the validity of baptism by heretics:

"He [Stephen, bishop of Rome] therefore had written previously concerning Helenus and Firmilianus, and all those in Cilicia and Cappadocia and Galatia and the neighboring nations, saying that he would not commune with them for this same cause; namely, that they re-baptized heretics. But consider the importance of the matter. For truly in the largest synods of the bishops, as I learn, decrees have been passed on this subject, that those coming over from heresies should be instructed, and then should be washed and cleansed from the filth of the old and impure leaven. And I wrote entreating him concerning all these things." (cited in Eusebius, Church History, 7:5:4-5) TOC

Firmilian [d. 269]

Firmilian, writing in opposition to the Roman bishop Stephen, explains that heretical baptism is invalid:

"But that they who are at Rome do not observe those things in all cases which are handed down from the beginning, and vainly pretend the authority of the apostles...Whence it appears that this tradition is of men which maintains heretics, and asserts that they have baptism, which belongs to the Church alone....For as a heretic may not lawfully ordain nor lay on hands, so neither may he baptize, nor do any thing holily or spiritually, since he is an alien from spiritual and deifying sanctity....And this indeed you Africans are able to say against Stephen [bishop of Rome], that when you knew the truth you forsook the error of custom. But we join custom to truth, and to the Romans' custom we oppose custom, but the custom of truth; holding from the beginning that which was delivered by Christ and the apostles." (in Cyprian's Letter 74:6-7, 74:19)

"If any one saith, that in the Roman church, which is the mother and mistress of all churches, there is not the true doctrine concerning the sacrament of baptism; let him be anathema." (Council of Trent, session 7, "On Baptism", canon 3) TOC

Tertullian

The RCC teaches that baptisms performed by heretics are valid. Those converting from heresy to true doctrine don't need to be rebaptized:

"If any one saith, that the baptism which is even given by heretics in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, with the intention of doing what the Church doth, is not true baptism; let him be anathema." (Council of Trent, session 7, "On Baptism", canon 4)

But some of the church fathers disagreed. Tertullian, for example, wrote:

"There is to us one, and but one, baptism; as well according to the Lord's gospel as according to the apostle's letters, inasmuch as he says, 'One God, and one baptism, and one church in the heavens.' But it must be admitted that the question, 'What rules are to be observed with regard to heretics?' is worthy of being treated. For it is to us that that assertion refers. Heretics, however, have no fellowship in our discipline, whom the mere fact of their excommunication testifies to be outsiders. I am not bound to recognize in them a thing which is enjoined on me, because they and we have not the same God, nor one-that is, the same-Christ. And therefore their baptism is not one with ours either, because it is not the same; a baptism which, since they have it not duly, doubtless they have not at all; nor is that capable of being counted which is not had. Thus they cannot receive it either, because they have it not." (On Baptism, 15) TOC

Infant Baptism

Gregory Nazianzen [329 – 390]

The status of infant baptism in the patristic age was in some ways similar to its status today. It was practiced by the majority of professing Christians, but it wasn't practiced universally. And there were disagreements over the purpose and mode of it. The Protestant historian Philip Schaff, though he argues for the apostolicity of the practice, nevertheless acknowledges:

"Constantine sat among the fathers at the great Council of Nicaea, and gave legal effect to its decrees, and yet put off his baptism to his deathbed. The cases of Gregory of Nazianzum, St. Chrysostom, and St. Augustin, who had mothers of exemplary piety, and yet were not baptized before early manhood, show sufficiently that considerable freedom prevailed in this respect even in the Nicene and post-Nicene ages").

Compare this freedom to what the RCC teaches on this subject:

"The Church and the parents would deny a child the priceless grace of becoming a child of God were they not to confer Baptism shortly after birth....All the more urgent is the Church's call not to prevent little children coming to Christ through the gift of holy Baptism....With respect to children who have died without Baptism, the liturgy of the Church invites us to trust in God's mercy and to pray for their salvation." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1250, 1261, 1283)

In other words, the RCC accuses people who delay baptism of children of depriving them of "priceless grace", neglecting an "urgent" situation, and risking the possibility that the child won't be saved if he dies. According to the RCC, the salvation of unbaptized children is questionable, and can be altered after death through prayer.

Compare the RCC's claims on this subject to what the church father Gregory Nazianzen taught:

"Be it so, some will say, in the case of those who ask for Baptism; what have you to say about those who are still children, and conscious neither of the loss nor of the grace? Are we to baptize them too? Certainly, if any danger presses. For it is better that they should be unconsciously sanctified than that they should depart unsealed and uninitiated. A proof of this is found in the Circumcision on the eighth day, which was a sort of typical seal, and was conferred on children before they had the use of reason. And so is the anointing of the doorposts, which preserved the firstborn, though applied to things which had no consciousness. But in respect of others I give my advice to wait till the end of the third year, or a little more or less, when they may be able to listen and to answer something about the Sacrament; that, even though they do not perfectly understand it, yet at any rate they may know the outlines; and then to sanctify them in soul and body with the great sacrament of our consecration. For this is how the matter stands; at that time they begin to be responsible for their lives, when reason is matured, and they learn the mystery of life (for of sins of ignorance owing to their tender years they have no account to give), and it is far more profitable on all accounts to be fortified by the Font, because of the sudden assaults of danger that befall us, stronger than our helpers." (Orations, 40:28) TOC

Justin Martyr [103–165]

Justin Martyr apparently didn't believe in infant baptism. He mentions infants, then contrasts them with the recipients of baptism, who have committed sin, have knowledge of Christian doctrine, and exercise choice:

"Since at our birth we were born without our own knowledge or choice, by our parents coming together, and were brought up in bad habits and wicked training; in order that we may not remain the children of necessity and of ignorance, but may become the children of choice and knowledge, and may obtain in the water the remission of sins formerly committed, there is pronounced over him who chooses to be born again, and has repented of his sins, the name of God the Father and Lord of the universe; he who leads to the laver the person that is to be washed calling him by this name alone. For no one can utter the name of the ineffable God; and if any one dare to say that there is a name, he raves with a hopeless madness. And this washing is called illumination, because they who learn these things are illuminated in their understandings. And in the name of Jesus Christ, who was crucified under Pontius Pilate, and in the name of the Holy Ghost, who through the prophets foretold all things about Jesus, he who is illuminated is washed." (First Apology, 61)

Roman Catholic Catechism

"The Church and the parents would deny a child the priceless grace of becoming a child of God were they not to confer Baptism shortly after birth....All the more urgent is the Church's call not to prevent little children coming to Christ through the gift of holy Baptism....With respect to children who have died without Baptism, the liturgy of the Church invites us to trust in God's mercy and to pray for their salvation." - Catechism of the Catholic Church (1250, 1261, 1283) TOC

Tertullian

"And so, according to the circumstances and disposition, and even age, of each individual, the delay of baptism is preferable; principally, however, in the case of little children. For why is it necessary-if baptism itself is not so necessary -that the sponsors likewise should be thrust into danger? Who both themselves, by reason of mortality, may fail to fulfil their promises, and may be disappointed by the development of an evil disposition, in those for whom they stood? The Lord does indeed say, 'Forbid them not to come unto me.' Let them 'come,' then, while they are growing up; let them 'come' while they are learning, while they are learning whither to come; let them become Christians when they have become able to know Christ." - Tertullian (On Baptism, 18) TOC

Supplement A

Also informative by Engwer: Baptism In The Bible And Church History

Jn. 3:3-7

It is argued by those that baptism is necessary for regeneration that Jn. 3:5 refers to water baptism, while those like myself see Jesus referring to two “birthdays,” one of the flesh which corresponds to the understanding of Nicodemus (Jn. 3:4) and represented by water in Jn. 3:5, and one of the Spirit, (Jn. 3:6) that being like the wind, (Jn. 3:8) and not dependent upon ritual.

As a Pharisaic ceremonialist and one who baptized converts, a physical ritual would not be a strange thing to Nicodemus as part of conversion, but Jesus requires of Nicodemus not simply something he did not do, but something he cannot effect by reliance upon rituals or works-merit, that of being born again. As in Jn. 6:52, the response of this earthly-minded religionist to the enigmatic statement of the Lord from Heaven is to suppose that He means something physical, and as in Jn. 6:57,63 (cf. Mt. 4:4; Jn. 4:34), Jesus responds that it is spiritual.

The words of the Master in v. 5 and 6 "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit," are in response to the introduction of physical birth by Nicodemus in v. 4. Gn. 1:20 refers to water bringing forth living creatures, and water also relates to physical birth in Ezek. 16:4, but which washing is spiritual in the N.T., that of forgiveness with the indwelling of the Spirit being one event, and which can occur before water baptism. (Acts 10:43-47; 15:7-9) In 1Cor. 6:11 the Holy Spirit states that believers were washed, sanctified, and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God. Thank God.

After illustrating the Spirit-led character of those who are born again, (v. 8) the illustration Jesus uses in explaining how one gains eternal life is that of “look and live,” (vs. 14,15; cf. Num. 21:7-9) which again is consistent with John's emphasis upon faith and the spiritual, not the physical. It is true that “after these things” baptism is mentioned is vs. 22, 23, though it is clarified that Jesus Himself did not baptize, but His disciples did, (Jn. 4:1,2) while the baptism that Jesus does is that with the Holy Spirit, (Acts 11:16) and which as mentioned before,occurred prior to water baptism in Acts 10. And after 4:2 John never mentions baptism again, yet he proceeds to describe a conversion in Jn. 4 in which only believing was necessary, though it was manifestly a faith which confessed Christ as Lord. However, in Scripture baptism is normally concomitant with conversion, (Acts 2:38; 8:36,37) and the reference point for it, (Gal. 3:27) as the initial official formal act of confessing faith in the Lord Jesus, though confession by mouth (Mt. 10:32; Rm. 10:9) and life is important as well, while baptism also typically serves to formally make one part of a church.

Yet while baptism is mentioned in the larger context of Jn. 3, and while obedience to the command to be baptized is previously established, yet to make a physical ritual absolutely necessary for salvation is inconsistent with John, who equates it to looking and believing, though (again) salvific faith is confessional in nature, and so follows the Lamb, (Jn. 10:27,28; Rev. 14:4) loving God and His brethren and keeping His commandments, (1Jn. 2:3; 5:2,3) and repenting when he is convicted of not doing so. (Ps. 141:5; Prov. 17:10; 2Cor. 7:11)

If Jn. 3:5 is referring to baptism, then either no exception can be made, so that the reception of the Holy Spirit by Cornelius and household did not happened before their baptism, and and aborted infants must go to Hell, or one must militate against the imperative import of this passage, and make Acts 10 a unique exception. However, the necessity of being washed and sanctioned and justified does apply to all, and no physical aspects limit morally accountable souls from obeying the command to repent and believe. I do not see infant as being cubpab for Adam's sin, but that judgment and eternal damnation is based upon what souls themselves did. (Dt. 24:16; Rv. 20:12)

A linguistical argument that “born of water and of the spirit” denotes one birth argues that the word translated as “again” (anōthen: G509) means “above.” Regarding this, Robertson states,

"Except a man be born anew (ean mē tis gennēthēi anōthen). Another condition of the third class, undetermined but with prospect of determination. First aorist passive subjunctive of gennaō. Anōthen. Originally “from above” (Mark 15:38), then “from heaven” (Jn. 3:31), then “from the first” (Luke 1:3), and then “again” (palin anōthen, Gal. 4:9). Which is the meaning here? The puzzle of Nicodemus shows (deuteron, John 3:4) that he took it as “again,” a second birth from the womb.

The Vulgate translates it by renatus fuerit denuo. But the misapprehension of Nicodemus does not prove the meaning of Jesus. In the other passages in John (Jn. 3:31; Jn. 19:11, Jn. 19:23) the meaning is “from above” (desuper) and usually so in the Synoptics. It is a second birth, to be sure, regeneration, but a birth from above by the Spirit.

If anōthen is so precise as to preclude "again," then it is incongruous that Nicodemus would have thought Jesus was referring to a second natural birth in Jn. 3:3 , versus another physical birth, but which Jesus referred to was another but of a different kind of birth, from a different realm.

And unless my software is wrong, then i see anōthen in Gal. 4:9 obviously meaning “again.”

"Above" would be fitting in in Jn. 3:6,7, as it speaks of 2 different kinds of births, that of the flesh, and that of the Spirit, which is the reality. One is either simply from below, or is from above, but which constitutes a second birth. (cf. Gal. 4:29)

If anōthen can be used either way, then this is another instance of the many examples in John in which the Lord uses words which can denote two things as regarding type, or origin. (Jn. 2:18-21 18; 4:9-14, 31-34; 6:32-35, 51-52; 7:2-8, 34-35; 8:18-19; 23-25; 8:31-33; 11:11-14; 14:1-6) But which second birth is still another (again) birth.

Moreover, always requiring that a word be restricted from having a secondary meaning because the word anōthen (G509) was derived from (anō: G507) is not used that way, is not sound, as this would prevent anō from meaning "top," as it comes from G473, which denotes "opposite, that is, instead or because of, (rarely in addition to): - for, in the room of. Often used in composition to denote contrast, requital, substitution, correspondence, etc." - Strong's

Anōthen also denotes "beginning" in Acts 26:5 which anō is not used for.

I am not however, contending that "above" is wrong, that being the primary meaning of anōthen, but that "again" can also be allowed as denoting another birth but of a different type, and is best required by the context, at least in Jn. 3:3.

But again, the main thing is one has the second birth.

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead." (1Pt. 1:3; cf. 1:23)

Robertson states here: "Begat us again (anagennēsas hēmās). First aorist active articular (ho, who) participle of anagennaō, late, and rare word to beget again, in Aleph for Sirach (Prol. 20), in Philo, in Hermetic writings..."

"...not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever." (1Pt. 1:23; cf. Ja. 1:18; Eph. 1:3)

Another argument that “born of water and of the spirit” mean one birth asserts that the Greek word “ek” (G1537), translated “of,” cannot refer to two different births, and its second occurrence in Jn. 3:5 in the KJV is a supplied word (indicated by being in italics and or brackets), and that if Jesus had meant two births then He would have said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born [out] of water and [out] the Spirit..." The KJV reads, “Except a man be born of (ek: G1537) water and (kai: G2532) of the Spirit...

Ek” is translated “out” in such places as Mt. 2:6; 7:5; 8:28, and it need not be rendered “out” in order to express someone being born of a source, as seen by Mat.1:6, while one could argue that if Jesus had meant one birth being obtained baptism through then He could have said, “unless one is born of the Spirit through the water..."

As for the singular use of “ek” disallowing “of water” and “the Spirit” from being two births, what they have in common is that they are both births, and while i am not any kind of Greek scholar, i do not see the absence of “ek” precluding a difference being made. Moreover, the context seems to best indicate that Jn. 3:5 refers to the distinction between flesh and Spirit the Lord made in Jn. 3:6, and defining what Jn. 3:3 referred to, in correcting the conception of Nicodemus who supposed the second birth was another physical one: “Except a man be born again,” “of water and of the Spirit,” “that which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” "But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now. " (Galatians 4:29)

Acts 2:38:

Peter's command has been used by some to teach that baptism is necessary for regeneration, and that the only time one can call upon the LORD Jesus for salvation is in baptism, an error which also results in charges of adding works to salvation, and linguistical attempts aimed at rendering the command to be baptized in Acts 2:38 as resulting from their conversion having already taken place. However, it is both seen that conversion can take place before baptism, as Cornelius and household manifested, (Acts 10:43-47; 15:7-9) and that being baptized is no more of a work which merits justification than confession with the lips is. While the latter confesses the crucified and risen LORD Jesus with the mouth, the former does so in body language, thus fulfilling Rm. 10:9,10. This refers to a volitional response of both belief in the heart and confession with the mouth, (cf. Mt. 10:32) though the latter cannot be limited to those who can speak, but the key aspect is that of an outward confession of an inward reality of salvific faith. It is also possible for water to be the occasion in which one effectually comes to faith, and for baptism can serve as a catalyst which brings forth faith, much as an “altar call” might do.

However, conversion, regeneration and baptism call for a volitional response by the person themselves, and infants are not proper subjects for baptism, as they cannot fulfill the stated requirements for it, that of seeking, receiving and believing the word with repentance and wholehearted faith (Is. 55:6,7; Acts 2:28,41; 8:12,36,37) Nor do i see infants as needing regeneration, as they are innocent, and to damn souls due to Adam's sin would seem to be contrary to texts such as Dt. 24:16; 2Chron. 25:4; Jer. 31:29-30; Ezek. 18:20; Rev. 20:12. Nor does the Holy Spirit ever provide even one example of infants being baptized, though this would surely be a critical need for a necessary practice, if it were. Although Scripture records that whole household were baptized, nothing describes infants, and as can be inferred in the case of Acts 16:32, it can be presumed that those baptized had the ability to hear the word and comprehend it, and which can extend to children very young children. And indeed, they are the more likely to believe the gospel with the simplicity that is in Christ. (2Cor. 11:3)

Nor are souls saved by proxy faith. The attempt to use Mt. 9:2-7 for such is countered by the fact that the man's only inability was physical, not cognitive as it is with an infant, and thus the palsied man would have been able to have been seeking forgiveness (and sickness was then understood, sometimes rightly as here, to be caused by personal sin) and to have believed Jesus words, “Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee.” That Jesus granted this in response to his friend's faith testifies that God can grant a soul repentance and faith (Acts 11:8) in response to our prayer of faith. (cf. Ja. 5:14,15)

While the realization of forgiveness presupposes that the recipient is disposed to repentance, (Prov. 28:13; 1Jn. 1:9) things can hinder that, and an inability to pray through may be involved as part of God's judgment, (Job. 20:30; Ps. 22:2; 80:4; Lam. 3:8,44) but the intercessions of others may bring God's mercy. And as forgiveness means that God drops the charges against us, to be forgiven would take away the chastising punishment. Thanks be to God.

However, as regards salvation, even if one is called to make a a volitional faith response — the “if” in Rm. 10:9 and so many other verses — to be saved, this does not render this or any response of faith as meriting salvation, of accounting them worthy of eternal life, nor does it otherwise militate against salvation being solely by the grace of God. Rather, it is the God-given faith which is behind the response that is what appropriates justification, this faith being counted for righteousness. (Gn. 15:6; Rm. 3:8 – 5:1; Eph. 2:8,9; Titus 3:5)

But if true faith, then it will effect “the obedience of faith,” (Rm. 16:26) manifesting “works meet for repentance,” (Acts 26:20) “things which accompany salvation., (Heb. 6:9) this being a complete faith,

It is God who draws men to Christ, (Jn. 6:44; 12:32) and who makes souls who are dead in sins and trespasses (Eph. 2:1) both able and willing to repent and believe on the God of the Bible, that they both need salvation and that the God of Abraham is both willing and able to save them through faith in Christ. (Rm. 4:21-25) While as in the case of Abraham (Gn. 15:6) and Cornelius and household, God sees true faith in the heart and imputes righteousness, yet if such faith is one that is effectual to salvation, then it will effect “the obedience of faith,” (Rm. 16:26) manifesting “works meet for repentance,” (Acts 26:20) “things which accompany salvation,” (Heb. 6:9) having your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. (Rm. 6:22) This exercised faith constitutes a complete faith, (Ja. 2) and which is needed to consider a faith to be salvific. And in this sense it can be said that a soul is justified by faith and works, versus a faith that is inert, (Ja. 2:21-24) though again, it is the faith that justifies and the works themselves do not earn eternal life, and most souls have faith in their works to save them, along with an ambiguous idea of God;'s mercy, but which does not abased the soul as one damned and destitute of any merit whereby hell may be escaped and heaven gained, and thus trust the risen Lord Jesus to save by His sinless shed blood. (Rm. 3:9 — 5:1)

Back to Acts 2:38, Peter called souls to repentance and faith, shown in baptism, and here we have two sides of the same coin, as one repents in coming to faith, turning from unbelief, while faith effects repentance, as one would not turn from unbelief to faith unless he believed truths which call him to faith, though it is faith in the gospel message, and not the reasons why one must, that is salvific.

But the repentance of faith in the Lord Jesus is not simply believing the facts of the gospel, nor is it simply faith in a promise of God that is removed from who God is, but as the gospel message reveals God's hatred of sin and His holy, just yet sacrificially merciful response to it, then the one who believes on the Lord Jesus of the gospel to save him, rightly presented as in Acts, will also be moved to obey His will.

In Acts 2, Peter has shown the Jesus that they are culpable in the death of Christ, “by wicked hands have crucified and slain,” “whom ye have crucified” (Acts 2:23,36; cf. 3:15) but whom God raised up, making Him Lord and Savior, and who will make enemies of God His footstool. (Acts 2:34-36) Thus sin was in rejecting and slaying the Christ, righteous was what Christ is, and judgment is what they will face for so doing. Because of this conviction (cf. Jn. 16:9) thus they cried, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?”

To reiterate, what is conveyed then in gospel preaching is that sin and sinners are contrary to God who loves righteousness and will also judge them, and thus faith in Christ, who promises eternal life to those who believe, is necessary. But one cannot separate what Jesus is from what He promised, and idolatry is the mother of sin, as what you choose to obey is your god, (Rm. 6:16; 14:4) and thus in so turning to Christ one is making a fundamental change from one master to another, and to a life that reflects that. (Acts 3:26) The Bible does not show souls being called to examine every know sinful practice and stop doing it in order to be saved, but what the preaching of the gospel in the Bible calls for and effects is a basic, foundational turning from darkness to light, “to turn from these vanities unto the living God,” (Acts 14:15) and from unbelief in the LORD Jesus to faith in Him as LORD and Savior, (Acts 3:17) resulting in a life which corresponds to that — according to the light they have. Though the sinner cannot live the Christian life except through regeneration, yet if they love darkness over light, which is then they will not effectually come to Christ (Jn. 3:19-21; 7:7)

Therefore, while faith saves, the manner of faith which is salvific is one that will result in a life characterized by practicing righteousness, especially love for the brethren, (1Jn., all) and repentance when convicted of failure to do so. (2Cor. 7:11) And which repentance is necessary if such will not be condemned with the rest of the world. (1Cor. 11:32) It is thus that John describes the true Christian in his epistles, that souls who do believe may know that they have eternal life, and continue therein. (1Jn. 5:13; cf. Jn. 3:36) To God be the glory.



Acts 10:36-47: Despite the attempt to make Acts 10 conform to a desired soteriology, what Peter was saying was what the Holy Spirit wanted Him to say, and Cornelius and household did in fact receive the Holy Spirit right after the promise of v. 43 was given, and before the command to be baptized.

This faith=reception is confirmed in Peter's account of Acts 15, in which we see that all the cleansing and regeneration they received was experienced prior to baptism."And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. " (Acts 15:7-9)

Moreover, that the Gentiles received the Holy Spirit prior to baptism may have compelled Peter to do so, but it was not necessary that these Gentiles receive the Holy Spirit before Peter would baptize them, if he was going to follow the pattern he showed in Acts 2, for as far as Peter was concerned the issue of whether God was opening up the Gospel to the Gentiles had already been settled, as he himself expresses. (Acts 10:34,35) But unlike Acts 2:38, what the Lord tells us is that Peter promised forgiveness upon believing, and the Gentiles did, and were born again in an evidentiary manner.

But while it is true that that the pre-baptismal regeneration of the Gentiles did serve to convince the Jewish Christians that accompanied Peter that God was opening up the Gospel to the Gentiles, yet the Jews did baptize proselytes, and it is not likely their opposite would have stopped Peter from offering baptism to these Gentiles, as Phillip did in Acts 8:36,37. And the speaking in tongues as the apostles did in Acts 2 could have occurred after baptism, and if the necessity of being baptized in order for regeneration to occur was to be established, then a post-baptismal would better serve this. But by regenerating these pious souls prior to baptism, I see that God was revealing something more than simply that He is no respecter of persons, but that He is not bound to formal acts, even if He has commanded them, and that regeneration can precede confessing the Lord Jesus in baptism. Yet this profession is to follow, and should not be delayed if conversion is manifestly real, and normatively in Scripture it is part of the conversion event, a “sinner's prayer” in “body language.” To the glory of God who grants repentance (Acts 11:18) and faith. (Eph. 2:8) TOC