As an Evangelical, I believed that baptism was symbolic, and that receiving the Holy Spirit was simply a matter of asking Him into your heart. I also believed that being born again and entering the kingdom of God was as easy as believing in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. I now believe that the Bible proves me wrong on all counts.
Is being born again and entering the kingdom of God as easy as believing in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior? Let’s ask Him.
Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again… no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.” ~ John 3:3-5
Water And The Spirit
So, Jesus says that being born again and entering the kingdom of God requires being born of water and the Spirit, not simply believing in Him as Lord and Savior. The question now becomes how does one get born of water and the Spirit? Let’s think about that for a moment. All of us have already been born once. Was that birth simply an event between God and us, or was there another human being involved? In other words, God created Adam and Eve directly, but after them, human birth required the participation of a third party, the mother. One does not simply decide to be born, and receive birth directly from God with no third-party involvement. It is exactly this way with water and Spirit birth too, which is why Jesus called it being “born again.”
A Third Party Is Necessary
Let’s equate Adam and Eve with the first baptizers (such as John the Baptist), and the first people who received the Holy Spirit (such as those Jesus breathed on in John 20:22, and those gathered on the day of Pentecost in the Book of Acts). Just as Adam and Eve received life directly from God, without the participation of third party, so those first baptizers and receivers of the Holy Spirit received those gifts directly from God, without the participation of a third party. But after them, it is a different story altogether.
The Evangelical model of being born again involves only two parties– the person being born again, and God. There is no involvement from a third party. A person simply believes Jesus Christ to be their Lord and Savior, and then is born again. But this is not the Biblical method. The Biblical method of being born again involves water and the Spirit (as Jesus Christ Himself told us in John 3:5), and looks a lot like the method the Catholic Church practices to this day.
Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord-Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here — has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized… ~ Acts 9:17-18
Ananias was the third party. Paul did not receive the Holy Spirit by simply asking the Holy Spirit into his heart. Paul received the Holy Spirit because Ananias (who already had the Holy Spirit) laid hands upon Paul and transmitted the Holy Spirit to Paul. And what happened next? Did Ananias suggest that Paul be baptized some time down the line as a merely symbolic outward sign of an inward conversion? No. Ananias ordered Paul to get baptized right then and there for the remission of sins.
Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.’ ~ Acts 22:16
Sacraments Of Baptism And Confirmation
Baptism is not symbolic. It is regenerative. It washes away sin, and gives the new Christian a fresh start with a clean slate. Receiving the Holy Spirit is not simply a matter of asking the Holy Spirit into your heart. The Holy Spirit is transmitted by the laying on of hands. These two precious methods of being born again (regenerative baptism, and transmission of the Holy Spirit) are the Catholic Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation.
He [Paul] told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them… ~ Acts 19:4-6
Ananias transmitted the Holy Spirit to Paul, and Paul transmitted the Holy Spirit to others, who undoubtedly transmitted it as well. To this day, the Catholic Sacrament of Confirmation involves a bishop making the sign of the cross in a physical touch on the forehead of the person being confirmed, and saying “be sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit.”
The Catholic Church traces its roots back 2,000 years in an unbroken line to Jesus Christ, and has transmitted the Holy Spirit faithfully through all these centuries. The word “Sacrament” comes from the Latin “sacramentum,” which means “a sign of the sacred.” Are the methods prescribed by Jesus Christ Himself for salvation not sacred?
Don’t Be Too Hasty
Now, in the Evangelical model, anyone at any time can ask the Holy Spirit into their heart and “receive” Him. But the Catholic model is not so easy. In order to receive Confirmation, one must receive some training and instruction and preliminary steps. So who is right, the Evangelical or the Catholic? Let’s ask the Bible.
Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands. ~ 1 Timothy 5:22
Once again, we see that the Bible supports the Catholic view, and not the Evangelical view. I hope this article (and every article) to be a gracious but honest dialogue with my Protestant brothers and sisters.
The Bible is always proven true.