How does Jesus define “born again”?
Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”
Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water [Baptism] and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” ~ John 3:3-5
Catholicism Affirms The Physical
Water is physical. It is matter. It is not emotion. It is not intellectual understanding. The idea that God prescribed anything physical in the process of our salvation was offensive to my ears as an anti-Catholic. Among much of non-Catholic and non-Orthodox Christianity, the inherent physicality of the Christian Faith is scrubbed clean.
As an anti-Catholic, I denied as unreal and symbolic those sacred rites of Christianity that the Bible defines as real and physical.
- I denied Christ’s presence in the Eucharist, and denied that the host becomes the Real Presence of Jesus Christ.
- I denied Christ’s presence in the wine, and denied that the wine becomes the Real Presence of Jesus Christ.
- I denied Christ’s edict that physical water physically touching one’s physical head in physical Baptism was part of Christ’s plan of salvation, and I replaced salvational Baptism, with symbolic Baptism.
Baptism For Salvation, Not Symbolism
Peter states that the waters of Noah’s Flood (which saved Noah and his family) were a foreshadowing of New Testament baptism.
…the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water. There is also an antitype which now SAVES US — baptism… ~ 1 Peter 3:20-21 [Peter writes of baptism as being salvational, not symbolic.]
antitype. /ˈæntɪˌtaɪp/ noun. … a character or event in the New Testament prefigured in the Old Testament. ~ Dictionary.com
And what does the Bible say about John the Baptist’s work?
John came baptizing in the wilderness and preaching a baptism of
symbolic outward expression of our faith repentance for the remission of sins. ~ Mark 1:4
Repentance: Greek “metanoia” (met-an’-oy-ah); compunction (for guilt, including reformation); by implication reversal (of [another’s] decision) [Reversal of Adam’s decision to sin, the decision by which Adam imparted original sin to all humankind. Baptism reverses Adam’s decision. Adam did not merely bite the fruit “symbolically.” Adam bit the fruit physically. Neither do we reverse his decision “symbolically.” We reverse it physically.] ~ Exhaustive Strong’s Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright © 1994, 2003
We Must Get This Right
Comparing what the Bible states, with how the earliest Christians lived out what the Bible states, I saw a terrifying chasm between how those earliest Christians interpreted the Bible, and how I interpreted the Bible as an anti-Catholic. Those earliest Christians had the priceless benefit of learning at the feet of the Apostles, or from those to whom that teaching was passed on in the infancy of Christianity.
If one could use a time machine to go back to the infancy of Christianity, one would see it to look Catholic.
Baptism: The Bible & The Early Church Agree
The earliest Christians knew exactly what Jesus meant when he said that no one can enter the kingdom of god unless he born of water. Likewise, they knew exactly what Peter meant when he said that Baptism saves us.
But before we look at those early Christian writings, let’s remember from the Bible that the Ethiopian eunuch, after being taught the Bible by Philip, immediately asked to be baptized. Likewise, Jesus sent his disciples to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…” ~ Matthew 28:19. The Bible and the early Church agree.
Then they are brought by us where there is water, and are regenerated [Regeneration, not a mere outward expression of faith.]… For, in the name of God, the Father and Lord of the universe, and of our Saviour Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit, they then receive the washing with water. For Christ also said, Unless you be born again, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. ~ The First Apology, Chapter 61 – Christian Baptism, by Justin Martyr, written 151 A.D.
It was not for nothing that Naaman of old, when suffering from leprosy, was purified upon his being baptized, but [it 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 [Regeneration, not a mere outward expression of faith.] as new-born babes, even as the Lord has declared: Unless a man be born again through water and the Spirit, he shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. ~ Fragments from the Lost Writings of Irenaeus, 34, by Iraneus of Lyon, written 190 A.D.
But you will perhaps say, What does the baptism of water contribute towards 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 [original sin], which you have through men, is cut off, and so at length you shall be able to attain salvation; but otherwise it is impossible [Wow.]. For thus has the true prophet 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.’ …Betake yourselves therefore to these waters, for they alone can quench the violence of the future fire; and he who delays to approach to them, it is evident that the idol of unbelief remains in him, and by it he is prevented from hastening to the waters which confer salvation. …Therefore all should hasten to be born again to God without delay, because the end of every one’s life is uncertain. ~ Recognitions, Book 6, Chapter 9, by Clement of Rome, written 221 A.D.
For He [Jesus] came to save all through means of Himself— all, I say, who through Him are born again to God — infants, and children, and boys, and youths, and old men. ~ Against Heresies, Book 2, Chapter 22, by Iraneus of Lyon, written 189 A.D.
Wow, infant baptism! Is that Biblical?
Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul. And when she and her household [which would include infants] were baptized, she begged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” So she persuaded us. ~ Acts 16:14-15
And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family [which would include infants] were baptized. ~ Acts 16:33
And I baptized also the household [which would include infants] of Stephanas… ~ 1 Corinthians 1:16
The Bible is always proven true.