|Orthodox Outlet for Dogmatic Enquiries||Protestantism and Salvational issues|
First and second resurrection || God’s “breathing upon” Adam was the Holy Spirit
Rebirth “by water and Spirit”
Although we have dealt with the matter of Rebirth in other studies, we thought it would be useful to focus somewhat more on one of its characteristics: its two limbs.
The reason for this, is the persistence of the “Pentecostals” and the “Evangelicals” of our country in warping the words of the Lord and “twisting” every semblance of logic, in their attempt to support their cacodoxy regarding the supposed “rebirth prior to baptism” (!!!).
Indeed, these people are often heard saying that: “As soon as I became acquainted with the Lord, I was reborn and was afterwards baptized”. It is as though they have never read the perfectly clear words of our Lord, when He was speaking to Nicodemus:
“….if one is not born above, (=again), he cannot see the kingdom of God….. if one is not born of water and Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God…… That which is born of the Spirit, is a spirit.” (John 3: 3,5,6.)
When one is born “above” - in other words, “again” - God makes him His child. So, rebirth is achieved, through water and the Holy Spirit. Not with water only, nor with the Holy Spirit only. This is the Christian rebirth, and this is the clear-cut, Christian position and faith, from that moment to this day.
These were the clear-cut words of the Apostles also, on the day of the Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit descended over the heads of the disciples in the likeness of tongues of flame. They said that the “Baptism of the Holy Spirit” was not only for the apostles. That gift could be received by any of them and by their children, after being baptized in water:
“…May each of you be baptized... for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is towards you and your children, and to everyone further away, whomsoever the Lord our God may invite”. (Acts 2: 38,39)
However, all those who have lost the Orthodox understanding of the Holy Bible have inherited a multitude of cacodoxies from their Protestant ancestors of the Western Reform, and not only are they not convinced by the simple and clear-cut words of Jesus Christ, but they actually resort to a further warping of the Gospel.
They therefore invoke a certain argument, in order to prove the improvable. They say:
“But if water and Holy Spirit is required, then why did God give Cornelius Holy Spirit, when he had not yet been baptized?”
They don’t realize however, that Cornelius was also baptized in water, after his baptism in the Holy Spirit!
We would like to remind you that, in those times, only the Israelites received the Holy Spirit, whereas the Gentiles (=those belonging to other nations) had not yet been received into the Church. Not only that, but the first Christians who were accustomed to the practices of the Israelites and the Mosaic Law, didn’t even enter the homes of the Gentiles, believing that they were “unclean”.
Thus, when the year 36 A.D. came around, God showed Peter in a vision that the Gentiles should now be considered “clean”, so that they too could be embodied in the Church.
It was during that period that Peter received Cornelius’ invitation, and, having seen the vision, could not refuse going to his home. In fact, knowing Peter’s prejudices, God arranged so that Peter would be the one to baptize Cornelius in the Holy Spirit, before he could even consider baptizing him in water. This buckled Peter’s resistance, and he agreed to baptize Cornelius, saying: “if God has given the same gift to the Gentiles that He gave to us, then who am I to obstruct their baptism?” “The Holy Spirit descended… and the gift of the Holy Spirit is poured forth into the nations…those speaking in tongues and magnifying the Lord…they have received the Holy Spirit, as we did..” (Acts 10: 44-47)
“…The Holy Spirit descended upon them, as it also had descended upon us, at the beginning (Acts 11: 15-17)
The reason therefore for this ‘reversion’ in rebirth, was for the apostles to be convinced that God was going to accept the Gentiles into His Church from then onwards.
Thus, rebirth once again took place with water and the Holy Spirit, except in reverse order. First by the Spirit, then with water. But it was still “rebirth, by water and Spirit”.
The change of their order does not abolish the fact that rebirth is accomplished by these two elements: Water and Holy Spirit.
Given that the ingenuity of the Gospel warpers has no end, see what they have concocted, in order to avoid revising their cacodoxies!
They say that: “the water that Jesus Christ mentioned was not the actual water of baptism, but…the word of God” (!!!)
In order to support this joke of an argument, they resort to the following passage of the Holy Bible:
“…just as Christ also loved the Church and surrendered Himself for her sake, in order to sanctify her by cleansing her, bathing her in water, by the word.” (Ephesians 5: 25,26)
They maintain that in this passage, the “water” and the “word” are related. But this passage says nothing of the sort; it clearly distinguishes between the “water” of the baptism from the “word”. If the Apostle Paul had meant that the water is the word, he would have said: “…by bathing her in the word...” or “…by bathing her in the water of the word…” or something to that effect. Here, however, the “water” and the “word” are mentioned alongside each other, as separate entities, which are nevertheless linked during the cleansing ritual of the Church, hence, the bath is “of water” and not “of the word”.
Christians have always attributed the following meanings to the term “word”:
“In the word that is given to those being baptized” (Zigavinos)
“What word? In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Chrysostom).
The passage therefore says “water”, and it means “water”! It is the baptismal water, which becomes, “by the word”: In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” .
But even if it was the “word of salvation that was preached and believed” according to Cremer, it by no means signifies that the word and the water are the same thing. The baptismal water continues to be water, and the word of the Gospel continues to be the word! (Memorandum to the epistles of the New Testament, Vol.II, pages 148, 149 – by P.N.Trembelas)
This argument is therefore both unfounded and unsupported.
A second passage that is cited for this cacodoxy, is the one with the parabolic words spoken by the Lord Jesus Christ to the woman of Samaria, as seen in John’s Gospel (John 4: 7 – 26)
You may recall, while the disciples had gone off to bring supplies, the Lord Jesus Christ sat alone by a well, and when the Samaritan woman approached the well to draw water, He asked her to give Him some to drink. Surprised, she asked Him how –as a Judean- He came to ask something like that from a woman, and a Samaritan at that.
He replied, saying that: “if you knew of God’s gift, and who it is that is speaking to you, you would be asking Him to give you of the living water, and He would give it to you.”
Jesus then clarifies things even more:
“Every one who drinks of this water (=the well’s) shall thirst again; but, whomsoever shall drink of the water that I shall give him, shall never thirst again for all eternity, instead, the water that I shall give him, shall become in him a fount of living water, for everlasting life”. (John 4: 13,14)
This is the passage that is used, to convince us that water is not….water, but the word of God! However, this passage not only doesn’t refer to the “word of God”; it refers to the Holy Spirit, which God gives to baptized Christians. This is apparent, from the words of the Lord, regarding “God’s gift” – which is a term always used in reference to the Holy Spirit.
Furthermore, not only do the subsequent words refer to the Holy Spirit, when He says to the Samaritan woman that “all true votaries shall bow before God in spirit and in truth”, but also the expression “living water” points towards Revelation 22: 1, where, “from the throne of God and the Lamb the water of life proceeds forth”, i.e., the grace of the Holy Spirit.
In a parallel passage, in John 7: 38,39 something similar to what the Lord said to the Samaritan woman is mentioned. It says the following there:
“Whomsoever shall believe in me, as the scripture says, rivers of living water shall pour forth from his abdomen. He said this, in reference to the Spirit, which would be received by those who would later believe in Him; for the Holy Spirit was not yet inside them, as Jesus had not yet been glorified.”
We believe it is obvious that the living water is the Holy Spirit, and not the word, as some people want to believe.
And why would the Holy Spirit be compared to water? Isn’t it evidence of its connection to the baptismal water? We shouldn’t forget that the Lord had spoken of the baptism of the Holy Spirit!
Thus, the Apostle Paul wrote in his epistle to Corinthians I, 12:13: “for, all of us have been baptized by one spirit into one body, whether Jews or Hellenes, whether slaves or free men; we have all been permeated by one Spirit.”
The linking of baptism with the Holy Spirit is not something that the Apostles did by chance, neither is the correlation of the Holy Spirit with baptismal water (and not the “word”), the reason being, that rebirth takes place “by water and by the Spirit”.
The old and the new person
Finally, let’s examine one more misinterpretation that is cited, in order to avoid admitting the Gospel’s truth regarding rebirth.
In the word of the Gospel, it is clear that when someone is baptized, the old, sinful person dies when submerged into the baptismal water, and a new person rises up from it.
“...having divested ourselves of the old self, along with its acts, and garbing ourselves with the new self, being aware that it is renovated in the image of the One who created him.” (Colossians 3: 9,10)
“In whom (Christ) you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by hand, by divesting yourselves of the body of carnal sins through Christ’s circumcision; being buried along with Him during baptism, whereupon you were resurrected along with Him, through faith in the working of God, Who raised Him from the dead.” (Colossians 2: 11-12)
“Or are you unaware that whomsoever of us was baptized in Jesus Christ, was baptized unto His death? We were therefore buried along with Him through baptism unto the death, so that, just as Christ was risen from the dead through the glory of the Father, thus shall we walk in a newness of life. Having become congenital to the likeness of His death, so shall we also become congenital to the resurrection. Knowing this, that our old self was co-crucified in order to abolish the body of sin, in order that we never again be subjugated to sin… so, if we die along with Christ, we believe that we shall live along with Him..” (Romans 6: 3 – 8)
Unfortunately, even this obvious detail has been misinterpreted, in order to avoid the truth of the Gospel, that rebirth takes place “by water and the Spirit”. Quite simply: if rebirth took place before baptism, then who would be the one that “dies along with Christ through baptism”? The reborn?
To escape therefore from this simple truth of the Gospel, they maintain that the “the old self continues to live, even after rebirth, thus making each one of us….two persons!”
We can see how, from one misinterpretation, a multitude of improprieties commence, leading them into even bigger mix-ups and conflicts with the Christian faith. Because, if –as they say- two people exist after rebirth or baptism, then neither is the old self buried during baptism (according to the preceding passages), nor does baptism resurrect the new self, since he already exists, prior to baptism! Then the Apostle Paul had no idea what he was saying!
Our invitation to these people is for them to accept the simplicity of the Gospel, as preserved unadulterated by the Orthodox Church of the Lord, and to abandon the heresy that their ignorance of the Orthodox dogma has led them into.
It may seem amusing, but, yes, we felt obliged to preoccupy ourselves with this subject, so that we may reassure the Evangelicals and the Pentecostals who lost their Orthodox faith, that water….is water!
Text: N. M.
Translation by A.N.
Article published in English on: 19-10-2005.
Last update: 19-10-2005.