John chapter 3 - Authorised Version
1 There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews:
2 The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.
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.
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?
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.
7 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.
8 The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.
9 Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be?
10 Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?
11 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness.
12 If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?
13 And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.
14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:
15 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.
16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
20 For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.
21 But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.
22 After these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judaea; and there he tarried with them, and baptized.
23 And John also was baptizing in Aenon near to Salim, because there was much water there: and they came, and were baptized.
24 For John was not yet cast into prison.
25 Then there arose a question between some of John's disciples and the Jews about purifying.
26 And they came unto John, and said unto him, Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou barest witness, behold, the same baptizeth, and all men come to him.
27 John answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven.
28 Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him.
29 He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom's voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled.
30 He must increase, but I must decrease.
31 He that cometh from above is above all: he that is of the earth is earthly, and speaketh of the earth: he that cometh from heaven is above all.
32 And what he hath seen and heard, that he testifieth; and no man receiveth his testimony.
33 He that hath received his testimony hath set to his seal that God is true.
34 For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him.
35 The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand.
Bring born again of the water [Verse 5] refers to baptism by immersion for the remission of sins. Being born again of the Spirit refers to the new birth brought to a baptised individual whose whole life changes as they walk away from their old lives and become born again in Jesus Christ by baptism and the regeneration brought to them by the Holy Ghost.
Some modern day Christians do not accept that Jesus' reference to the water actually means baptism by immersion. If this was not so, then why did his apostles teach that that was exactly what the Lord Jesus intended it to mean?
Meaning of βαπτιζο in the New Testament
In the Greek Scriptures, called the New Testament, the Greek word βαπτιζο is transliterated into English characters as ‘Baptizo,’ whose meaning is defined as:
- to dip repeatedly, to immerse, to submerge, for example, in reports of vessels sunk, where they are said to have been baptised, meaning they were totally under the sea.
- to cleanse by dipping or submerging, to wash, to make clean with water, to wash one's self, bath, as in a bath when the body is submerged.
- to overwhelm, as the waters of baptism overwhelm the person being baptised.
Not to be confused with βαπτο [bapto] which means only to ‘dip.’ The clearest example that shows the meaning of βαπτιζο is a text from the Greek poet and physician Nicander, who lived around 200 BC. It is a recipe for making pickles and is helpful because it uses both bapto and baptizo and delineates them precisely.
Nicander says that in order to make a pickle, the vegetable should first be 'dipped' (βαπτο bapto) into boiling water and then 'baptised' (βαπτιζο baptizo) in the vinegar solution.
Both verbs concern the immersing of vegetables in a solution. But the first is a temporary. The second, the act of baptising the vegetable produces a permanent change.
When used in the New Testament, βαπτιζο more often refers to our union and identification with Christ than it does to any union with the water used in Christian baptism.
'He that believes and is baptised shall be saved.' —Mark 16:16.
In these words, Jesus Christ is saying that mere intellectual assent to become his disciple is not enough. There must be a union with him, and the union must constitute an authentic change, as there is to the vegetable in that is pickled. As a lover of good traditional Yorkshire pickles I can vouch that the difference between raw vegetables and properly pickled, that is baptised, ones is tangible and real. The unbaptised believer is as far removed from the immersed Christian as a raw onion is to a pickled onion. [Contributing source and acknowledgements to ‘Bible Study Magazine,’ by James Montgomery Boice, May 1989.]
Keeping the meaning of βαπτιζο firmly at the forefront of our minds let us look at other passages of Holy Writ that confirm to us today what every Greek speaking person knew two thousand years ago in Palestine. The language spoken by those Judahites that returned from the Babylonian exile was no longer Hebrew. The exiles had adopted the custom of Babylon and spoke Aramaic, which is a cousin of Hebrew, but not the same. Another thing that had changed for the returned exiles and their descendants was that the written language of Palestine was now Greek. This change followed the Hellenisation of the area due to the conquests of Alexander the Great, son of Phillip, King of Macedonia, a Greek. His conquest and its simultaneous acculturalisation included Jews adopting the cultural traits or social patterns of into the language and habits of the Greeks, and every one of the New Testament documents was first written in Greek, but not in classical Greek, but in what is properly termed ‘street’ or ‘commercial’ Greek that is identified as Koine.
Before it was understood that Koine was a base form of Greek, it was believed by some Christians to be a specially revealed divine language from God especially for writing his inspired Christian writings. When its unexceptional characteristics were exposed, those that had believed it to be divinely inspired for the most part held their tongues.
The sacred rite of baptism to which even the Perfect One submitted ‘to fulfil all righteousness’ was a victim of the universal apostasy that altered the pristine Church of Jesus Christ from its original form into something so far removed from what it had been in the days of John the Immerser, Jesus Christ, and the Apostles that no longer did it represent what it was instituted to represent but by fundamental changes to its form and outcome it could no longer be claimed that it was authoritative nor that is was acceptable to God and Christ.
Baptism had a form and a purpose. Its form, understood from the name it was called, baptism, meant total immersion, and its purpose was, as Saint Paul so accurately defines was to symbolically bury the believer into the grave or tomb in which the dead body of Jesus was immured and from which he emerged in ‘newness of life.’ Dead bodies that are buried are totally enclosed within the tomb or grave. Sprinkling with bits of earth, or even pouring a containerful of earth on a cadaver does not constitute burial. Burial is an all-or-nothing thing. A body is either enclosed in the ground or else they are not buried. By the same token, a person on whom water is only sprinkled or poured has not been baptised in the manner of Christians.
Jesus spoke of baptism by immersion to Nicodemus who came to ask Jesus about securing eternal life.
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. 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? 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.
In his reply to Nicodemus, Jesus identified two essential steps necessary to secure eternal salvation. The first of these is being born again through baptism in water by immersion, and then followed by being born again of the Holy Spirit. Paul’s description of the first negates all other forms of baptism other than total immersion.
Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptised into his death? 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. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. –Romans 6:3-11 [AV]
Any baptism that does not symbolise burial is not baptism at all. Sprinkling is not baptism. Pouring is not baptism. Marking a forehead with a wet finger is not baptism. Even so, bpatisdm by immersion for the remission of sins must be performed by one having the authority to administer the ordinance. This is made clear by an incident involving the Apostles when they came across a dozen men that said they had been baptised, but it was made clear in the ensuing conversation that it was an imposter that had baptised them: an unauthorised person claiming to be John the Baptist, but the apostles had no difficulty showing he was not the Baptist, whereupon the apostles baptised the men correctly, with authjority, by immersion, and then laid their hands on them so that they could receive the Holy Ghost, and they were "born again of the water and of the Spirit" as Jesus required of those that would be his disicples and would be saved in the Kingdom of God.
Acts 19:1 And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus: and finding certain disciples,
2 He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost.
3 And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John's baptism.
4 Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.
5 When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
6 And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied.
Early in the third Christian century, the form and mode of baptism began to be changed. Some believe it happened earlier, but before this time baptism was performed only by immersion of a candidate’s whole body in the water, whether in river, lake, sea, or baptismal font. However, in the first half of the third century, Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage, during a controversy respecting the re-baptism of those who in times of persecution had denied the faith, decided that those whose weak state of health did not permit them to be immersed, were sufficiently baptised by being sprinkled.
The first case of this kind of baptism is related by Eusebius. The person to whom it was first so administered was Novatus, an heretic who founded the Novatian sect. He was among the number of pretended Christians who put off baptism as long as he dared in order to enjoy a life of sin and then through baptism, just before death, obtain forgiveness – a custom prevalent in those days. Novatus being attacked with an obstinate disease, and supposed to be at the point of death, was baptized by having water sprinkled upon him as he lay in bed; “if indeed,” declared Eusebius, “it be proper to say one like him did receive baptism.”
This innovation spread until now the general rule among Christians is to baptize by sprinkling or pouring. For this significant change there is no warrant through divine revelation or Bible teaching. Sprinkling destroys the symbolism of correct baptism as taught by Jesus Christ and his Apostles – which symbolism is that of burial and resurrection – symbolic of a death and rebirth – the new Christian dying to sin, and being newly reborn to righteousness. It is one of those innovations which changed an essential and fixed ordinance of the everlasting covenant into a practice for which there was neither precedence nor place, except as prophesied.
The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have:
1.transgressed the laws,
2.changed the ordinance,
3.broken the everlasting covenant. –Isaiah 24:5
About the same time that the form of baptism was changed, it began also to be misapplied, that is, it was administered to infants. Precisely when this custom was born is not easily determined, but it had no warrant for its existence in either the doctrine or practice of the Apostles or any other New Testament writer. No truth is more plainly taught by the Apostles than that baptism is for the remission of sins, and must be preceded by faith and repentance; and as infants are incapable of sin, and of exercising faith, or of repenting, they are not suitable subjects for baptism.
However, it became the custom in the latter part of the second century or early in the third to baptise infants. In the year 253 A. D., a council of sixty bishops, in Africa – at which Cyprian, bishop of Carthage, presided – considered the question whether infants should be baptised within two or three days after birth, or whether baptism should be deferred until the eighth day, as was the custom of the Jews in respect to circumcision. The council decided that they should be baptised at once, within a day or two after birth. It will be observed that the question was not as to whether infants should be baptised or not, but when they should be baptised, within a day or two after birth or not until they were eight days old.
The matter was treated in the council as if infant baptism was a custom of long standing. This proves, not that infant baptism is a correct doctrine, or that it was derived from the teachings of the apostles — as some aver – but that in a century or so after the introduction of the gospel, men began to pervert it by changing and misapplying its ordinances. The false doctrine of infant baptism is now practiced by nearly all so-called Christian churches, Catholic and Protestant. Thus was the simple Christian rite of baptism was burdened with useless ceremonies, changed in its form, misapplied, and forever distorted, except by some few churches that practiced it by immersion even as they declared it non-essential. Baptism has travelled a long way since Jesus established it as essential to rebirth and entrance into the kingdom of God.
Pædobaptism became the almost universal rule despite there being no biblical authority or teaching to support the practice. At worst it is unbiblical. At best, it is pessimistically Augustinian because of his teaching that every human being is born totally depraved, corrupted, and evil. Even Wesley could not rid himself of the view that children were tools of Satan.
Wesley advocated a strict, indeed, brutal approach to raising children. While reasonably liberal in matters religious, politically and socially he was ultra-conservative. Wesley spoke favourably of child labour and was opposed to educating them because it gave them ‘ideas above their stations.’ In this he was no different from others of the ruling classes, despite his call for personal holiness from Christians. Wesley held that unbelief was the natural condition of humanity, that children were born godless and had ‘a natural endowment to delight in and be fond of the natural world.’ Wesley charged ‘wise parents’ to break their young children of their natural affinity for the beauty of the world because it led them away from God and towards Satanically stimulated ‘desires of the flesh.’ He insisted that children not only actively lusted for earthly happiness, but grasped by every means possible such gratification of fleshly appetites as their parents were foolish enough to allow. A course that led inexorably to the damnation of their souls. [Bray, “Luddite Spring.”]
But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. –Matthew 19:14
And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. –Matthew 18:3
There had to be enough water to immerse the candidate for baptism. John the Baptist chose a place ‘because there was much water there.’ Sprinkling or pouring did not require ‘much water.’
And John also was baptizing in Ænon near to Salim, because there was much water there: and they came, and were baptized. –John 3:23
John chose this place, because there was much water there; or "many waters"; not little purling streams, and rivulets; but, as Nonnus renders it, abundance of water; or a multitude of it, as in the Arabic version; [Revelation 1:15] and the Septuagint [Psalm 78:16], and what was sufficient to immerse the whole body in, as Calvin, Aretius, Piscator, and Grotius, on the place, observe; and which was agreeable not only to: the practice of the Jews, who used dipping in their baptisms, and purifications, as Musculus and Lightfoot assert; but to John's method and practice elsewhere: “… and they came, and were baptized. The Ethiopic version renders it, "they came to him", that is, to John, "and he baptized them"; as the Persic version adds, "there", in Ænon, near Salim, in the much water there: it may be understood of the people coming both to John and Christ, and of their being baptized by them; though it seems rather to be said of John; and so Nonnus paraphrases it. Neither these nor the Apostles sprinkled or poured. As to the baptism of children:
Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. –Matthew 19:14
Jesus said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. –Matthew 18:3
These two profound sayings of Jesus do more than clever statements by misguided theologians to oppose their facile arguments to controvert Pædobaptism and expose it as an apostate dogma.
"The word ‘baptise’ means to immerse, and it is certain that immersion was the practice of the early church. -- John Calvin
The Greeks have a word for sprinkle, ραντιζο [rantizo]. Rantism [Ραντιζμο] never was and never will be Baptism!
"I was buried with Him in baptism," Romans 6 says, "and I have risen to walk in newness of life." Galatians 2:20, "I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live."
Galatians 3:27, "We were baptized into Christ." Colossians 2:12-13, same thing. Baptism pictures the fact that by the divine power of God when you come to faith in Christ, you are joined with Christ and you die in Him. Your old life dies in the font as at the cross with him, and you rise through his resurrection to walk in newness of life, and that is symbolised in immersion, obviously.
We are, then, as Christians, literally immersed with Christ into His death, into His burial, and into His resurrection, and then we are joined with Him in mystical union into his salvation.
That's why Jesus said, “Go and make disciples, baptising them,” because baptising was synonymous with evangelising, synonymous with saving faith. They were inseparable. ‘One Lord, one faith, and one baptism.’
Baptism became the term used to define salvation. They were inseparable. We know what New Testament baptism is, it's a person repenting, believing, embracing Christ. Spiritually they are therefore united with Christ and that is symbolized as we go down into the water and rise. Our old life dies, or, we die to our old way of life, and we rise in newness of life with Christ.
In New Testament times, immersion is the only form of baptism known to have been used. Roman Catholics have at times maintained that the Apostles must have baptised [immersed] by sprinkling or pouring, arguing that this was the only way they could have baptised three thousand people on the Day of Pentecost because Jerusalem was short of water. But an eminent Roman Catholic scholar says:
“About three thousand persons were baptised; it is not said that it was done on the same day or in the same place, or whether they were baptized by peter alone. It has been objected that it would have been very difficult to baptize three thousand persons, even in a certain lapse of time, considering the form, immersion, in which baptism was administered in this period of time, and the scarcity of water in Jerusalem. The public authorities would have been aroused by this demonstration.
“But all around Jerusalem there was a sufficient number of pools (piscines) to enable them to baptize a large number of persons without even attracting attention.” –E Jacquier, Lest Actres des Apôtres, p. 85. [This is the scholarly Catholic translation and commentary of the Acts of the Apostles.]
In the early Church, baptism was administered on profession of faith and evidence of repentance, and was performed by immersion at the hands of one invested with the requisite authority of priesthood. There was no delay in administering the ordinance after the eligibility of the candidate had been shown. As instances we may cite the promptness with which baptism was administered to the believers on that eventful day of Pentecost;-- (Acts 2:37-41) the baptism administered by Philip to the Ethiopian convert immediately following due profession of faith;--(Acts 8:26-39) the undelayed baptism of devout Cornelius and his family;--(Acts 10:47, 48) and the speedy baptism of the converted jailer by Paul, his prisoner.--(Acts 16:31-33.)
In the second century, however, priestly mandate had restricted the baptismal ordinance to the times of the two Church festivals, Easter and Whitsuntide, the first being the anniversary of Christ's resurrection, and the second the time of Pentecostal celebration. A long and tedious course of preparation was required of the candidate before his eligibility was admitted; during this time he was known as a catechumen, or novice in training. According to some authorities a three years' course of preparation was required in all but exceptional cases.--(Schlegel, Book VIII, ch. 32.)
During the second century the baptismal symbolism of a new birth was emphasized by many additions to the ordinance; thus the newly baptized were treated as infants and were fed milk and honey in token of their immaturity. As baptism was construed to be a ceremony of liberation from the slavery of Satan, certain formulas used in the freeing of slaves were added. Anointing with oil was also made a part of the ceremony. In the third century the simple ordinance of baptism was further encumbered and perverted by the ministrations of an exorcist. This official indulged in "menacing and formidable shouts and declamation" whereby the demons or evil spirits with which the candidate was supposed to be afflicted were to be driven away.
"The driving out of this demon was now considered as an essential preparation for baptism, after the administration of which the candidates returned home, adorned with crowns, and arrayed in white garments, as sacred emblems,--the former of their victory over sin and the world; the latter of their inward purity and innocence."(Mosheim, "Eccl. Hist.," Cent. III, part II, ch. 4:4.)
It is not difficult to see in this superstitious ceremony the evidence of pagan adulteration of the Christian religion. In the fourth century it became the practice to place salt in the mouth of the newly baptized member, as a symbol of purification, and the actual baptism was both preceded and followed by an anointing with oil.
The form or mode of baptism also underwent a radical change during the first half of the third century,--a change whereby its essential symbolism was destroyed. Immersion, typifying death followed by resurrection, was no longer deemed an essential feature, and sprinkling with water was allowed in place thereof. No less an authority than Cyprian, the learned bishop of Carthage, advocated the propriety of sprinkling in lieu of immersion in cases of physical weakness; and the practice thus started, later became general. The first instance of record is that of Novatus, a heretic who requested baptism when he thought death was near.
Not only was the form of the baptismal rite radically changed, but the application of the ordinance was perverted. The practice of administering baptism to infants was recognized as orthodox in the third century, and was doubtless of earlier origin. In a prolonged disputation as to whether it was safe to postpone the baptism of infants until the eighth day after birth--in deference to the Jewish custom of performing circumcision on that day--it was gravely decided that such delay would be dangerous, as jeopardizing the future well-being of the child should it die before attaining the age of eight days, and that baptism ought to be administered as soon after birth as possible.--(See Milner, "Church History," Cent. III; ch. 13.)
A more infamous doctrine than that of the condemnation of unbaptized infants can scarcely be imagined, and a stronger proof of the heresies that had invaded and corrupted the early Church need not be sought.
Such a doctrine is foreign to the gospel and to the Church of Christ, and its adoption as an essential tenet is proof of apostasy