Thursday, February 7, 2008

John 3: Birth versus Baptism


The third chapter of the gospel of St. John brings us into a thorny theological question--is baptism required for salvation? Candy doesn't bring the question up specifically, but her interpretation of the verses leaves no doubts as to her position.

Let's look at the verses:

3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.

Candy notes: Jesus says point blank, that you have to be born again to see the kingdom of God. Thus, you must become a born again Christian in order to go to heaven.

I think she is jumping ahead a bit. Jesus says that a man must be born again, but He doesn't specify what "born again" means.

4 Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born?

Nicodemus asks Jesus to clarify for us.

5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

Candy notes: Born of the water is mentioned before born of the Spirit, because born of the water is our flesh birth - being physcially born. Being born of the Spirit is being born again, as a new Creature in Christ. Verse 6 supports that born of the water in verse 5 means born of the flesh, where verse 6 says "that which is born of flesh is flesh."

I think that if Candy takes such a literal interpretation of this verse, then she must rule out the possibility of salvation for those who are never physically born, i.e., those who are miscarried or aborted. Jesus does put being born of water as one of the two conditions for entering the kingdom of God.

It can also be a danger to put a significance on the order in which something is placed in scripture. One obvious case would be that Peter's name is always listed first in the lists of the apostles. Would Candy say that this is significant?

This verse supports that baptism and being born in Spirit through belief in Jesus is linked. This is found throughout the entire New Testament.

The first thing that Jesus does after speaking with Nicodemus is to begin baptizing in 3:22.

Acts 8:12-13 But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women

Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done.

Acts: 10:47 Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?

The eunuch in Acts 8 needs to be baptized after believing in Jesus. Paul, who was made an apostle by Jesus Himself, was baptized immediately in Acts 9:18.

In Matt 28:19 Jesus commands "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost" linking teaching and baptism.

Also, Acts 2:38: Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Peter was following Jesus' command in Mark 16: 16 where He says "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned."

Why would Jesus say in John 3 that we should be born and believe, when He says everywhere else that we should be baptized and believe? Clearly, when unless you take the verse out of context of other verses, you should conclude that by "born of water" Jesus meant baptism.

You really can't get more clear than 1 Peter 3:21, which states "The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ."

For a more in depth study of baptism in Scripture, I suggest (as always!) reading through the Scripture Catholic site.

We can also look to see how the early Christians interpreted these verses. Although many fundamentalists feel that the early Church fell into error, most people feel that this didn't occur until after the Council of Nicea in 325. All of the early Church Fathers interpret John 3:5 as referring to water baptism. You can read a sample of their words here.

In Candy's article on the Trinity, she pointed to Cyprian of Carthage as support for her point. On the point of baptism he wrote "[When] they receive also the baptism of the Church . . . then finally can they be fully sanctified and be the sons of God . . . since it is written, ‘Except a man be born again of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God’" (Letters 71[72]:1 [A.D. 253]).

Catholic Catechism paragraph 1257:
The Lord himself affirms that Baptism is necessary for salvation. He also commands his disciples to proclaim the Gospel to all nations and to baptize them. Baptism is necessary for salvation for those to whom the Gospel has been proclaimed and who have had the possibility of asking for this sacrament. The Church does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude; this is why she takes care not to neglect the mission she has received from the Lord to see that all who can be baptized are "reborn of water and the Spirit." God has bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism, but he himself is not bound by his sacraments.
Perhaps some of our non-Catholic readers would like to share the view of their denomination on the relationship between baptism and salvation?

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Elena said...

Kelly, I am so glad you are tackling this. I do want to make one comment:

"I think that if Candy takes such a literal interpretation of this verse, then she must rule out the possibility of salvation for those who are never physically born"

I wonder why Candy takes such a literal interpretation of this verse in this chapter, but not of John 6? It's another example of picking and choosing which parts of the scriptures agree with her perspective and ignoring the rest!

Good job Kelly!

Tracy said...

oh Kelly, I am sooooo thrilled you are doing this and this post is excellent!!! Great job Kelly!! Blessing to you!

Tracy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tracy said...

ok, I copy and pasted this as someone wrote this in the comment section and this is also Candy's reply:

If you take such a literal interpretation of John 3:5, then wouldn't you rule out the possibility of salvation for those who die before they are born, ie, miscarriage or abortion?

If Jesus says EXCEPT that a man be born of water AND of the Spirit, and born of water means physical birth, then those who were not born a physical birth would not be able to enter into the kingdom of God.
Sue | 02.07.08 - 1:08 pm | #


Jesus said "a man," not a child. There is an age of accountability, that if a child dies before that age, then they automatically go to heaven.

I'll be getting into some of those scriptures in the future.

So... what do ya think??

Elena said...

Well this is apparently where my question ticked her off.

"Jesus said a man, not a child..."

My question, "what about women."

I'm trying to determine exactly how consistent or inconsistent Candy is in her interpretations.

Kelly said...

I noticed that too. Obviously, she chooses to use the definition of man that is a a synonym for "humankind." The problem with that, is that it would also include children.

1. an adult male person, as distinguished from a boy or a woman.
2. a member of the species Homo sapiens or all the members of this species collectively, without regard to sex

If you use definition 1 to exclude children, then you must also exclude women. If you use definition 2 to be able to include women, then you must also include children.

I suppose the Greek might be helpful here, but I'm sure it would come down on the #2 side. I only had 6 weeks of Greek, but I remember the professor saying that man didn't imply gender in greek, the way it did English, and would be more like our word "people."

Tracy said...

Thanks for the explanations Elena and Kelly!