The Real Versus the Un-real | Real Baptism

Roman Catholic Claim

Because of original sin, we are born without grace in our souls, so there is no way for us to have fellowship with God. Jesus became man to bring us into union with his Father. He said no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is first born of 'water and the Spirit' (John 3:5)-this refers to baptism.

Through baptism we are born again, but this time on a spiritual level instead of a physical level. We are washed in the bath of rebirth (Titus 3:5). We are baptized into Christ's death and therefore share in his Resurrection (Rom. 6:3-7).

Baptism cleanses us of sins and brings the Holy Spirit and his grace into our souls (Acts 2:38, 22:16). And the apostle Peter is perhaps the most blunt of all: 'Baptism now saves you' (1 Pet. 3:21). Baptism is the gateway into the Church.
Christian Response

First, Rome's axiom that the word "baptism" must always refer to the sacramental application of water in Christian baptism must be refuted. If the axiom falls, the Roman argument loses all its force. Let us begin with John 3:5. Was Jesus referring to Christian baptism when He said, "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God" (John 3:5, KJV)? The answer is No, for a very simple reason:

Jesus was addressing Nicodemus in the context of what Nicodemus should have known from the Old Testament. "Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?" (John 3:10, KJV). Where in the Old Testament could Nicodemus have learned about a Trinitarian baptism? Jesus could not have been chiding Nicodemus for not knowing something that Jesus would institute after His resurrection. He was appealing to something Nicodemus should have already known, i.e., from the Old Testament scriptures. The meaning of "water" in v. 5 must therefore be derived from them.

We note from Isaiah 44:3 that God promises to pour out water and His Spirit; Ezekiel 36:25-26 speaks of sprinkling water in the context of giving a new heart and placing God's Spirit in the believer; Jeremiah 4:14 commands Jerusalem to "wash thine heart from wickedness, that thou mayest be saved," not "wash thy bodies" but "wash thine heart"; and Psalms 51:2,7,10 speaks of washing from sin in the context of creating a clean heart, and renewing a right spirit "within me." Because the Old Testament overwhelmingly associates "cleansing of the heart" with water and spirit, the allegory in John 3:5 must speak of rebirth, and not Trinitarian Christian baptism. As can be seen, with this the testimony of the New Testament overwhelmingly agrees.

1 Peter 3:21
Peter wrote, "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" (1 Peter 3:21, KJV.) Rome uses this to prove that baptism saves. We agree with the statement, but not Rome's definition of "baptism." In fact, Peter rules out water baptism entirely: "not the putting away of the filth of the flesh." Of what, precisely, is Peter speaking if not water baptism? He is speaking of "the answer of a good conscience toward God," and that is regeneration. Consider the weighty scriptural testimony that it is a "sprinkled heart" and not a "sprinkled body," a "pure heart and mind" not a "pure body" that results in the answer of a good conscience: "Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water." (Hebrews 10:22, KJV). "Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned:" (1 Timothy 1:5, KJV). "Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled" (Titus 1:15, KJV). In that light, and given Peter's explicit denial that he is speaking of water baptism in 1 Peter 3:21, what else can "the answer of a good conscience" be but regeneration by "hearts sprinkled" (Heb 10:22) rather than by "bodies sprinkled"? Thus, 1 Peter 3:21 maintains a "wall of separation" between the figure or the sign, and what the sign signifies. The water of the flood is the sign/figure of baptism (v. 20), but the baptism that saves is what the water signifies: regeneration.
Colossians 2:12
The context of this verse is quite telling. The two preceding verses make clear that Paul is not going to be talking about water baptism: "And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power: In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ:" (Colossians 2:10,11, KJV). What, precisely, is the circumcision made without hands, and what are its fruits? Circumcision without hands is "circumcision of the foreskin of the heart" as in Deuteronomy 10:16, and the result is that we are "no more stiffnecked." That is the context of what Paul is about to say next-he appeals to the Old Testament as preface to the recent regeneration of the believers in Collossae, and he cites their "being no more stiffnecked" as evidence of rebirth (cf. Col 1:6). Paul in vv. 10-12 was saying we are complete in Him though circumcision of the foreskin of the heart which, making us alive, leads to "putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ." The "circumcision of Christ" is "the circumcision made without hands" which is circumcision of the heart, or rebirth. The two are co-identified as rebirth. He continues, and having already twice clarified that he is speaking of a transformation of the heart, then clarifies three more times that he is writing of an inner transformation of rebirth and not something done with human hands or even by water: "Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses" (Colossians 2:12,13, KJV).

Baptism in Colossians 2:12 is therefore clearly identified with the Old Testament practice of circumcision. But Paul is clearly speaking of "hearts baptized" just as Moses had been speaking of "hearts circumcised" (Deuteronomy 10:16) and as Jeremiah had been speaking of "hearts washed" (Jeremiah 4:14).
Romans 6:4 and Titus 3:5
Likewise, Paul, in his letter to Titus spoke of the "washing of regeneration" (3:5) not the "regeneration of washing." This is none other than that of which Jeremiah had been speaking, namely "washed hearts." And finally, in Romans 6:4, Paul speaks of baptism in precisely the same way he did in Colossians 2:12, specifically as rebirth to newness of life. Compare:
"Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead." (Colossians 2:12, KJV).

"Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life." (Romans 6:4, KJV).
We note in both cases that Paul is writing of walking in newness of life due to "circumcision made without hands" (Colossians 2:11) and "circumcision of the heart" (Romans 2:29).

This renewal of the heart, according to the consistent testimony of David, Ezekiel and Isaiah, is an operation of the Spirit of God, which is rebirth or regeneration. And since Paul identifies the baptism of the Spirit as the means of entry into the Body of Christ.
"For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit." (1 Corinthians 12:13, KJV).
We therefore conclude with him that rebirth "is the gateway into the Church," not "water baptism," and rebirth is precisely what Jesus was speaking of in John 3:5, as was Peter in 1 Peter 3:21, Paul in Titus 3:5, Colossians 2:12 and Romans 6:4.

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