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.
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.’"
Tertullian (AD 155-222) - "It has assuredly been ordained that no one can attain knowledge of salvation without baptism. This comes especially from the pronouncement of the Lord, Who says, ’Except one be born of water, he does not have life.’"
Irenaeus (AD 180) - "(water) baptism is the seal of eternal life and is rebirth unto God, that we be no more children of mortal men, but of the eternal and everlasting God. The Holy Spirit... is given by Him in baptism."
Cyril of Jerusalem (AD 348-386) - "For as he who plunges into the waters and is baptized is surrounded on all sides by the waters, so were they also baptized completely by the Spirit. The water, however, flows around the outside, but the Spirit baptizes also the soul within completely."
V. ENTRANCE INTO THE KINGDOM.
John 3:5, "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.’"
Origen (AD 183-255) - "[Explaining the reason why people] are baptized. For ’Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of Heaven’.... In all persons the natural stains of sin which must be washed away by the water and the Spirit."
ACTS 8:12, "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."
VI. ADDS ONE TO THE BODY OF CHRIST (CHURCH)
1 Corinthians 12:13, 27, "For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body,... Now you are Christ’s Body, and individually members of it."