Summary: This is an examination of the various spiritual blessings that the New Testament associates with water baptism. In addition, we consider how the early Church viewed this rite.
In the ’Great Commission’, Jesus instructed His apostles to make disciples of all the nations "baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit." Why did our Lord emphasize the need for baptism? What ’benefits’ does the person receive when they are baptized?
We wish to look at the Scriptures to answer those questions. In addition, we will look at what the early Church believed about the purpose and benefits of water baptism.
MARK 16:16, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved;"
ACTS 11:13-14, 10:48, "Peter... shall tell thee words, whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved.... And he (Peter) commanded them to be baptized in the Name of the Lord."
1 PETER 3:21, "Baptism doth also now save us."
II. REMISSION or FORGIVENESS OF SINS
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..."
We find that early Christians understood that remission or forgiveness of sins was obtained through water baptism:
Barnabas (AD 130) - "Baptism which brings forgiveness of sins... We descend into the water full of sins and uncleanness, and we ascend bearing reverence in our heart and having hope in Jesus in our spirit."
Hermas (AD 135) - "We descended into the water and received forgiveness of our former sins."
Justin (AD 140) - "... obtain in the water the forgiveness of past sins"
Clement of Alexandria (AD 174) - "It is the washing through which we are cleansed of our sins... We who have repented of our sins, renounced our faults, and are purified by baptism run back to the eternal light."
Irenaeus (AD 180) - "we have received baptism for the remission of sins"
Tertullian (AD 155-222) - "Baptism itself is a bodily act, because we are immersed in water, but it has a spiritual effect, because we are set free from sins."
Origen (AD 183-255) - "You descend into the water and... having washed away the filth of sin, you come up a ’new man’.... the baptism of the church is given for the remission of sins."
III. PUTS ONE IN CHRIST.
Galatians 3:26-27, "For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ."
Verse 27 is a commentary on verse 26. It explains how faith works to make sinners the children of God. People truly become children of God by faith, but not faith only, but by faith expressed in obedience to baptism. How do people get into Christ? Through faith-motivated water baptism.
ROMANS 6:3-4, "Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death? Therefore, we are buried with Him by baptism into death; that like as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life."
IV. CONSTITUTES POINT OF SPIRITUAL RE-BIRTH or REGENERATION.
2 CORINTHIANS 5:17 , "Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new."
JOHN 3:7, 5, "Marvel not that I said unto thee, ’Ye must be born again.... born of water and of the Spirit."
TITUS 3:5, "According to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Spirit."
The language of the ’new birth’ or ’regeneration’ (same Greek word) appears to have been the favorite conception of the second-century Church about water baptism. There seems to have been no doubt that the texts - John 3 & Titus 3 - referred to water baptism:
Hermas (AD 135) - "Therefore those also who have fallen asleep (died spiritually through sin) received the seal of the Son of God... For, He said, before a man bears the Name of the Son of God he is dead, but whenever he receives the seal, he puts away mortality and receives life. The seal then is the water. They descend then into the water dead and they ascend alive."
Justin (AD 140) - "[Speaking of those who are baptized are] washed with the washing for the remission of sins and for regeneration.... Then they [converts] are led by us to where there is water, and in the manner of the regeneration by which we ourselves were regenerated they are regenerated. For at that time they obtain for themselves the washing in water in the Name of God the Master of all and Father, and of our Savior Jesus Christ and of the Holy Spirit. For Christ also said, ’Unless you are regenerated, you cannot enter the kingdom of Heaven.’"