Thursday, April 4, 2013

Begotten of Water and Spirit

In John 3, Jesus tells Nicodemus that he must be begotten from above. Nicodemus asks how he's supposed to get back inside of his mommy's tummy. Jesus tells Nicodemus that he doesn't have to have some sort of strange surgical operation to be inserted back inside of his poor mommy's tummy but instead must be begotten of water and Spirit. Up until relatively recently this has been understood by all Christians as a reference to baptism. On many issues you can find a diversity of teaching among the church fathers but on this issue there is what appears to be a unanimous consensus--Jesus is talking about baptism. The Shepherd of Hermas was regarded by many early Christians as sacred Scripture and says:

 ...to come up through the water, so that they might be made alive; for they could not otherwise enter into the kingdom of God (John 3:5), except by putting away the mortality of their former life...they go down into the water dead, and come out alive." (9, 16, 2).
Among modern commentators the dominant position is still that Jesus is talking about baptism here. But there are some dissenters in recent years who say that we should not read water baptism into the text. There is no strong consensus as to the actual meaning of the text among the dissenters but they are united in their belief that it's not talking about baptism.

But if you keep in mind that the Gospel of John was not originally divided into chapters and verses the meaning of the text seems pretty clear. In John 1:26, John the Baptizer says he baptizes with water but a greater one is coming. In 1:29-34, John the Baptizer says that the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus at the baptism of Jesus and that this indicates that Jesus is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit. In John 2 Jesus changes water into wine. Then in John 3, Jesus says you must be begotten of water and the Spirit. It's really difficult to escape the idea that Jesus' is speaking of a baptism of water and Spirit. The Greek itself suggests that the water and Spirit are tied to a singular event. In Greek, if they were separate it would more likely say "the water and the Spirit" rather than just "water and Spirit."

John 3:6 says that which is born of the flesh is flesh and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Jesus is saying that Nicodemus does not need to go back inside of his mommy's tummy but rather needs to receive this water baptism which through Christ's Words is joined with the Holy Spirit.

There are a variety of ways that people try to get around the plain and traditional meaning of these words. Some will refuse to give a positive explanation but just insist that it cannot mean baptism. The most common explanation that I've come across recently is that "water" refers to the amniotic fluid and birthing process--that which is born of the flesh, while the Spirit refers to the spiritual rebirth. This is problematic and actually rather silly when you start thinking about it. First of all, there is no evidence that Jews thought of the birthing process in terms of water. Second of all, this would seem to imply that Nicodemus was right and he really did need to crawl back inside of his mommy's tummy. The question is about how to be born again. Nicodemus had already gone through physical birth, so if this is part of what needs to happen in order for Nicodemus to be born again then he has to go back inside his mommy's tummy. If Jesus had said, "You do not need to be born of water, you need to be born of the Spirit" there might be a possibility that this interpretation is correct but that's the opposite of what Jesus says. Trying to create an artificial parallelism between verses 5 and six just isn't very helpful.

Right after the conversation with Nicodemus, we learn that Jesus is baptizing people (3:22-30). We know from the other Gospel narratives that Jesus Himself did not baptize but baptized people through His disciples. If what Jesus said to Nicodemus had nothing to do with baptism, why would he then start baptizing people?

Lastly, I don't think anyone who believes that baptism is just some symbolic act would ever say what Jesus says when someone asks about what it means to be born again. They wouldn't mention water at all. I think we should be suspicious of anyone who explains a text in such a way that you know that that person would never say what the Biblical authors said.

Baptismal regeneration is not some doctrine of demons. To confess baptismal regeneration is to cling to Christ's very Words. If clinging to Christ's words is Satanic, what does that make Christ? Those who deny Christ's words are not "bible-believing" Christians, they are following the traditions of men. Christ promises the forgiveness of sins and the Holy Spirit in baptism. He promises to make us begotten from above. What wonderful news!

3 comments:

Andrew said...

Question:

How would you respond to the folks arguing that since Christian baptism had not yet been instituted, and Jesus expected Nicodemus to know what he was talking about, that the passage therefore cannot be about baptism?

Chuck Wiese said...

Andrew:

John's intention isn't to give a chronological account of what took place to make some theological points for the Christian community that he is writing it for who would know what Christian baptism is. Also, I would point out that if you simply read the Gospel, earlier on you find John saying he baptizes with water but one coming after him will baptize with the Holy Spirit. Then Jesus says you must be born of water and Spirit. Then Jesus sends his Apostles out to baptize.

Steve Finnell said...

WHAT IS THE WASHING OF REGENERATION?

Most people who believe that men are saved by faith alone simply disregard the Scriptures that express water baptism as being essential to forgiveness of sins.

What is the washing of regeneration?

Titus 3:5 not by works of righteousness which we have done , but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit,(NKJV)

God saved us through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit. What is is washing of regeneration?

Titus 3:5 he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.(New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition)

He saved us through the water of rebirth, not because we were born of water the first time. No one can be reborn of amniotic fluid, that would be the first birth.

Titus 3:5 he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.(New Revised Standard Version)

You cannot take the water out of washing of regeneration.

Titus 3:5 he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. (New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised)

Being reborn of water and the Spirit cannot be separated.

John 3:3-5 ...unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." 5. ....unless one is born of water and the Spirit , he cannot enter the kingdom of God. (NKJV)

You must be again of water and the Spirit. Born of the Spirit alone cannot saved you.

THE WASHING OF REGENERATION.


Ephesians 5:25-27....as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it, 26 that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,.... (NKJV)

Christ sanctified and cleansed the body of Christ with the washing of water. The washing of regeneration.

Ephesians 5:26 He did this to make her holy by washing her in a bath of water with the word. (Common English Bible)

There is no rebirth without water baptism.

Ephesians 5:26 He made the church holy by the power of his word, and he made it pure by washing it with water.(Contemporary English Version)

There is no dry washing of regeneration.

THE WASHING OF REGENERATION.

Acts 22:16 'And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord." (NKJV)

No sins (under the New Covenant) are wash away without water baptism.

Acts 22:16 Now, don't wait any longer. Get up, be baptized andwash away your sins, trusting in Jesus to save you.' (Easy-to-Read Version)

The washing of regeneration.

THE WASHING OF REGENERATION.

1. Titus 3:5 not by works of righteous which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit. (NKJV)

WATER AND SPIRIT.

2. John 3:5 Jesus answered, "Most assuredly, I say, unless one isborn of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.(NKJV)

WATER AND SPIRIT.

Acts 2:38 The Peter said to them, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (NKJV)

WATER AND SPIRIT.


There is no salvation without the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.

THERE IS NO DRY-CLEANING, FOR SALVATION, UNDER THE NEW COVENANT TERMS OF PARDON!


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