New Testament Church Proliferation Digest

Spreading the Gospel via House Churches

NT Church Proliferation Digest Friday, October 25 2002 Volume 02 : Number 188
RE: [NTCP]: Question -- What's the Water?
Re: [NTCP]: Question -- What's the Water?
[NTCP] (fwd): Question -- What's the Water?
[NTCP]: Question -- What's the Water?
Re: [NTCP]: Question -- What's the Water?
Re: [NTCP] His walk, our walk

Date: Thu, 24 Oct 2002 09:51:39 -0500
From: "Scott Dowlen" <scott * dowlen>
Subject: RE: [NTCP]: Question -- What's the Water?

> -----Original Message-----
> To sum up, what they all are saying is that Jn. 3:5
> does not mean:
> "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of (water)
> + born of (the
> Spirit), he cannot enter the kingdom of God" (NKJV).
> But rather:
> "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of (water +
> the Spirit),
> he cannot enter the kingdom of God" (NKJV).
> Water and Spirit are regarded together in John's Gospel as a
> conceptual
> unity; both are facets of one single prerequisite for
> entrance into God's
> kingdom. In other words, Jn. 3:5 is simply a restatement and
> elaboration of
> Jn. 3:3 and the need to be born again. Therefore, "born of
> water" CANNOT be
> referring to physical birth. Sorry brother Scott.

No need to be sorry. It is this mutual study and exploration of the Word
that uncovers truth. I am not prepared to return to a 'baptismal
regeneration' view based on this evidence alone, but I will continue to dig
and study with my mind as open as possible.

Broaching this topic is often like throwing raw meat to the bulldog -- a lot
of carnage ensues. I hope we can continue searching for the Truth without
getting too worked up. I hope to have time to study and pray over this
topic later on. In the meantime, add whatever other insight you have,
- --Born of water (and/or flesh) and of Spirit--

------- <><><> -------

Date: 24 Oct 2002 14:14:20 -0400
From: Mike Sangrey <msangrey * BlueFeltHat>
Subject: Re: [NTCP]: Question -- What's the Water?

Just a quick comment:

I go with the natural birth and spiritual birth interpretation.


John 3:1-21 forms a cohesive unit of text--it hangs together. And it's
a story (true story!) of an exchange between Jesus and this Jewish
leader named Nicodemus. Jesus says a few things and Nicodemus replies
with various kinds of "huh?" expressions.

Now, as I read this whole passage, it appears to me Jesus pretty clearly
answers the question of what does this spiritual birth thing mean. That
is, John 3:11-21 explains spiritual birth. Which brings me to the
question: If "born of water" refers to "baptism", then how come Jesus
never talks about how that fits in? If, however, it refers to natural
birth, then one would expect Nicodemus to understand what THAT means and
indeed, John even shows THAT to be the case by Nicodemus' question in
3:4. So, there's no reason to further explain natural birth.

On the other hand, Nicodemus, a teacher of Israel, should have
understood what spiritual birth meant. This probably surprises a few of
you, but that's what Jesus says in 3:10! Since Nicodemus doesn't
understand it and should have, the natural thing for Jesus to do after
that is to say (I'll paraphrase):
Quite frankly, Nick, this is pretty clear to us. And we've been
telling you all about this all along. But you just don't get it.
I've spoken of earthly things and you miss the point, how much more
are you not going to be able to get the REAL point, the heavenly
point. Let me illustrate this for you right out of the book you
should know real well. ...

Jesus then goes on to present the gospel to Nicodemus starting with an
OT illustration and then finally driving the point home by saying, "you
guys just don't want to believe it 'cause you don't want those evil
deeds you do brought out in the open. But, the one who DOES want to be
completely open shows by what he does that the good he does is done
through God!" (BTW, I tend to think this last sentence is actually a
reference to Jesus himself. He is the completely open one.)

The bottom line for me is that no where in this whole text is baptism
explained or how baptism fits in. The only way to explain how baptism
fits is to go outside this text and bring THAT explanation TO the text.
And I'm not comfortable doing that.

Hope that helps in some way.
Your servant.

Mike Sangrey
msangrey * BlueFeltHat
Landisburg, Pa.
"The first one last wins."
"A net of highly cohesive details reveals the truth."

------- <><><> -------

Date: Fri, 25 Oct 2002 08:11:02 +0200
From: "Deborah" <deborah.millier * juccampus>
Subject: [NTCP] (fwd): Question -- What's the Water?

John Henneberger wrote:

> I think there is a good case for
> interpreting this verse to mean
> baptism -- a case I can't fully
> develop at the moment. So for
> now, I'll just close by saying
> that it is often the case with
> scripture that we aren't given
> complete clarity on some topics.
> But there is still something noble
> about the pursuit. It's the glory of
> God to hide a matter...the glory of
> kings to search it out!

Ahhhh, ... a dose of sanity. Oh, I forgot to whom I was referring.
Folks, this is my good friend and brother in Christ, John Henneberger (extra
credit if you can spell his name after this first post). Welcome aboard
bro! May you find some clues toward where God might lead you in your quest
for Christian community.

John F. wrote:

> But in the first parable, verses 1-6,
> he refers to one who does not enter
> into the sheepfold (the earth) by
> the door (human birth), but climbs
> in another way (satan and his
> deception of Eve) is not the shepherd.
> In this parable there is a watchman
> who lets the shepherd into the
> sheepfold...perhaps the Holy Spirit
> who 'opened the door' for Jesus to
> come into the earth by legal means
> ...born of a woman.

Pardon my aversion to subjective allegorical interpretation, but where
am I told in the Bible that "the sheepfold" = "the earth"? Or that "the
door" = "human birth"? I naively thought that Joh. 10:1-6 was directed
against some of the Pharisees (9:40), as the context demands. Oh well, ...
live 'n learn. :-)

Like the grammatical evidence states, Joh. 3:5 is nevertheless not
contrasting physical birth with spiritual birth. Both the "water" and the
"Spirit" are linked by one preposition alone (Gk. EX "out of") and should
better be conceived of as a conceptual unity. In other words, "water" and
"Spirit" should be thought of as two components of one thing/idea/concept.
The new birth. Not as being in contrast to each other-- despite the
contrast between other items in the following verses. At least that's how
3:5 should be read according to the Greek language of John's Gospel.


------- <><><> -------

Date: Fri, 25 Oct 2002 08:11:54 +0200
From: "Deborah" <deborah.millier * juccampus>
Subject: [NTCP]: Question -- What's the Water?

Jim, that "goodword" guy (what's your full name, bro?) wrote:

> I'm wondering now, though, if we should
> understand Jesus to be saying (in this
> passage) that without water baptism, one
> cannot be regenerated, or born again?
> Is that what He is telling Nicodemus?

We might ask first, what did Nicodemus himself hear Jesus saying?
From my understanding, Nicodemus heard that he was still impure, though a
Jew. Though still a Sanhedrin member, though still "the teacher of Israel,"
though still head of a rabbinic academy, though married, etc. ... that he
too needed to enter the waters of purification and become as a new gentile
convert, who once leaving the waters was considered "as a newborn baby"
(Alfred Edersheim. THE LIFE AND TIMES OF JESUS THE MESSIAH. Christian E-Text
Library edition, chap. 7, 2001. See also Craig S. Keener. THE IVP BIBLE
BACKGROUND COMMENTARY-- NEW TESTAMENT. Downers Grove IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993, pp. 269-70). That's what I understand Nicodemus to have heard.

What I think Jesus was telling "the teacher of Israel" was all the
above *PLUS* that Nicodemus needed an actual supernatural rebirth that
resulted in a "new heart"-- that he needed to become part of a brand new
creation (Gen. 1:1-3; Eze. 36:24-27) ... via the Spirit's work, accessed
through ritual water immersion done with faith in the person of Christ.
Still chewing on the grammatical evidence, trying to determine
implications? I can understand. It is a major paradigm shift for many
coming from a standard Evangelical worldview, with it's reflexive aversion
to rituals and continuing reaction to Roman Catholic baptismal regeneration.
Something I am NOT advocating here. It took me almost two years to finally
submit to where the Joh. 3:5 (plus other) evidence was taking me. We'll
take it in increments. So let's please explore what I mentioned in my last
post about *EVERY* Ante-Nicene witness to Joh. 3:5 writing about "water"
referring to baptism:

The Ante-Nicene writers were church leaders from one generation after
the Apostles (a couple almost certainly heard the Apostle John or one of his
direct disciples speak) until the Nicene Council of 325 A.D. which pretty
much solidified the major tenets of historical Christianity. Of the 17
times (from 12 different people) Jn. 3:5 is cited or alluded to in the
comprehensive 10 volume set ANTE-NICENE FATHERS (eds. Roberts and Donaldson,
Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1979), EVERY ONE was in a baptismal
context. Most citations are mainstream. A couple were from heretics,
lending evidence that this interpretation was common even among the fringe,
despite whatever other doctrinal modifications they might have attempted to
introduce. It could be argued from one of the heretic citations (#7) that
the allusion to baptism is unclear. I won't dispute it as it is immaterial
to the crux of my argument. The unnamed schismatic was not, after all, a
Church Father. However, judging from the imagery he used ("... the great
Jordan ... flowing..."), it is not much of a leap to see that he too had
baptism in mind when he referred to Jn. 3:5. The parentheses in some of the
following quotes are not added by me, but are either side-statements by the
original authors, or were supplied by the editors who were cognizant of some
of the background issues being discussed. The following is a breakdown of
the material according to dates:

1. Justin Martyr (wrote this about 135 A.D.): "Then they are brought by us
where there is water, and are regenerated in the same manner in which we
were ourselves regenerated. For, in the name of God, the Father and Lord of
the universe, and of our Saviour Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit, they
then receive the washing with water. For Christ also said, "Except ye be
born again, ye shall not enter the kingdom of heaven." (1st Apology, 183).

2. Ireneaus (between 177-200 A.D.): "'And he dipped himself,' says [the
Scripture], 'seven times in the Jordan.' It was not for nothing that Naaman
of old, when suffering from leprosy, was purified upon his being baptised
.... even as the Lord has declared: 'Except a man be born again through the
water and the Spirit ... '" (Fragments from the Lost Writings, 574).

3. Unknown Author (192 A.D.?): " ... until He shall again look upon you,
and in pity shall take you to Himself through faith and water." (The
Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs, 16).

4. Tertullian (219-220 A.D.): " ... by the prerogative of the (Christian)
seed as by the discipline of the institution (by baptism and Christian
education) .... Besides, he had certainly not forgotten what the Lord had
so definitively stated: 'Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit
... '" (A Treatise on the Soul, 220).

5. Tertullian: "When, however, the prescript is laid down that without
baptism, salvation is attainable by none' (chiefly on the ground of that
declaration of the Lord, who says, 'Unless one be born of water, he hath not
life'), there arise immediately scrupulous, nay, rather audacious, doubts on
the part of some ... " (On Baptism, 675).

6. Author Unknown (220 A.D.?):
"His heavenly Master's words; who gave the name
Of His own honour to men born from Him
Through water, and from His own Spirit poured ....
To peoples not yet from His fount re-born
Still with their ancient sordid rainment clad ....
From Spirit, life and that the body washed ..."
(part of a poem from Five Books in Reply to Marcion, 150).

7. Hippolytus (before 239 A.D.): (citing a heretic he is refuting) "For
mortal, he says, is every generation below, but immortal that which is
begotten above, for it is born of water only, and of spirit, being
spiritual, not carnal. But what (is born) below is carnal, that is, he
says, what is written. 'That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and what
is born of the spirit is spirit.' This according to them, is the spiritual
generation. This, he says, is the great Jordan which flowing on here below
... " (The Refutation of All Heresies, 52).

8. Hippolytus: (citing another heretic he is refuting) "(In this way the
soul) would triumph by means of this (body) over the principalities and
powers, and would not be found naked, but would, instead of that flesh,
assume the (other) body, which had been represented in the water when he was
being baptised. This is, says (the Docetic), what the Saviour affirms:
'Except a man be born of water and spirit ...'" (Ibid, 120).

9. Cyprian (some time after 248 A.D.): " ... they receive also the baptism
of the Church. For then finally can they be fully sanctified, and be sons
of God, if they be born of each sacrament; since it is written, 'Except a
man be born again of water, and of the Spirit ... '" (Epistles of Cyprian,

10. Cyprian (in another letter): " ... and only baptism of the holy Church,
by divine regeneration, for the kingdom of God, may be born of both
sacraments, because it is written, 'Except a man be born of water and of the
Spirit ... '" (Ibid, 385).

11. Cyprian (in a treatise): "12. That the old baptism should cease, and a
new one should begin .... Also according to John: 'Except a man be born of
water, and of the Spirit ... '" (The Treatises of Cyprian, 511).

12. Cyprian (in another treatise): "25. That unless a man have been
baptised and born again, he cannot attain unto the kingdom of God .... In
the Gospel according to John: "Except a man be born again of water and the
Spirit ... '" (Ibid, 542).

13. Cyprian (at a Church council): "That the baptism which heretics and
schismatics bestow is not the true one .... And in the Gospel our Lord
Jesus Christ spoke with His divine voice, saying, 'Except a man be born
again of water and the Spirit ... '" (The Seventh Council of Carthage, 566).

14. Anonymous (some time shortly after 248 A.D.-- likely against Cyprian):
"Moreover, they are so no less in the baptism of the Spirit and of water
.... 'Except a man be born again of water and of the Spirit ... '".
(Treatise on Re-Baptism, 668). Also in this same treatise is a quote from
Jn. 3:8 in a discussion [he takes the opposing view] that the Spirit is
necessarily conferred in baptism (676).

15. Disputed Author (cut-off date is before 250 A.D.because this work is
quoted in part by Origen): "But when you have come to the Father, you will
learn that this is His will, that you be born anew by means of waters, which
were first created .... And do you suppose that you can have hope towards
God, even if you cultivate all piety and all righteousness, but do not
receive baptism? .... In the second place, because when you are regenerated
and born again of water and of God, the frailty of your former birth, which
you have through men, is cut off, and so at length you will be able to
attain salvation; but otherwise it is impossible. For thus hath the true
prophet testified to us with an oath: 'Verily I say to you, That unless a
man is born again of water, he shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven'"
(Recognitions of Clement, 154-55).

16. Disputed Author (cut-off date is before 250 A.D.because this work too is
quoted in part by Origen): "And now from inferior things learn the cause of
all, reasoning that water makes all things, and water receives the
production of its movement from spirit, and the spirit has its beginning
from the God of all. And thus you ought to have reasoned, in order that by
reason you might attain to God, that knowing your origin, and being born
again by the first-born water, you may be constituted heir of the parents
who have begotten you to incorruption .... What does it contribute to piety
to be baptised with water? ... and in the second place, being born again to
God of water, by reason of fear you change your first generation, which is
of lust, and thus you are able to obtain salvation. But otherwise it is
impossible. For thus the prophet has sworn to us, saying, 'Verily I say to
you, Unless you be regenerated by living water into the name of the Father,
Son, and Holy Spirit, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven' .... and
show by well-doing your likeness to the Father, who begetteth you of water."
(The Clementine Homilies, 289-90).

17. Various Sources (compiled over a period of centuries before 325 A.D.):
"That we ought not to rebaptise, nor to receive that baptism which is given
by the ungodly, which is not baptism, but a pollution .... For the Lord
says, 'Except a man be baptised of water and of the Spirit ... '"
(Constitutions of the Holy Apostles, 456-57).

What are the chances of 100% agreement among the ancient Christian
commentators that Joh. 3:5 is referring to baptism? If you're interested,
there could be more evidence to come ...


------- <><><> -------

Date: Fri, 25 Oct 2002 08:10:41 -0400
From: jferris <jferris154 * mac>
Subject: Re: [NTCP]: Question -- What's the Water?

Deborah wrote:

>What are the chances of 100% agreement among the ancient Christian
>commentators that Joh. 3:5 is referring to baptism? If you're interested,
>there could be more evidence to come ...
Dear Michael,

Not to make light of the early unanimity, I thought perhaps I could
share my present 2 cents worth. Thank you so much for all your research,
and faithfulness to put down and send along what you have found
concerning these things.

In Ephesians Paul writes: "That he might sanctify and cleanse it with
the washing of water by the word," Ephesians 5:26

Your noting the close connection between "water and Spirit", seems well
supported by the context of the whole of Scripture right from Genesis 1:2

Peter tells us: "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

This to say that baptism may be the figure of it, but the reality is the
"pledge of a good conscience toward God".

Over the deep of the darkness of my own soul, God said, "Light be", and
Light was, and is, but not without the hovering Spirit. Both were
necessary for my regeneration.

I'd like to stay a little longer, but, as they say here in the Bible
belt, I'm a little "covered up" in these past couple of weeks, and there
are several more days of captivity remaining.

Yours in Christ,


------- <><><> -------

Date: Fri, 25 Oct 2002 12:26:56 -0400
From: David Anderson <david * housechurch>
Subject: Re: [NTCP] His walk, our walk

So many interesting posts, so little time.

Wrote I to my brother in Jerusalem:

>> My point, and I stand by it for now, is that
>> the Jews - those to whom He came, yet
>> received him not - are not always reliable
>> guides for belief and practice.
> I'm afraid that here your mistrust extends too far. Jewish culture is
>jam-packed full of customs and perspectives that will shed light for you on
>so many difficult-to-understand verses in the NT. Don't throw the baby out
>with the bath water, bro. You will be the lesser for it.

Hi brother,

Far be it from me to deny the Jewish foundations of the church in every
dispensation. To understand God's revelation apart from the knowledge of
the Jewish history and culture is not very possible, imo.

"Deut. 7:6-8 For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God: the LORD
thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all
people that are upon the face of the earth. The LORD did not set his love
upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people;
for ye were the fewest of all people: But because the LORD loved you, and
because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath
the LORD brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the
house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Deut. 7:14
Thou shalt be blessed above all people..."

Nevertheless, both Testaments sadly remind us that the Jewish nation did
not live up to their part of the covenant(s). See how the Jews "outdo the
neighbors" in just two texts alone, quoted below. Surely, to model
ourselves after such conduct would be to our own shame and peril.

God is never surprised by he is disappointed when he saw his chosen
people imitating the worst attributes of the Godless societies which
surrounded Israel. I also recall things like mixed marriages and
participation in the worship of other gods. Oh, and that ridiculous
golden calf...

- ----- Eze 5:6 And she hath changed my judgments into wickedness more than
the nations, and my statutes more than the countries that are round about
her: for they have refused my judgments and my statutes, they have not
walked in them.

- ----- Matt 11: 20-24 Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of
his mighty works were done, because they repented not: Woe unto thee,
Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were
done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented
long ago in sackcloth and ashes.But I say unto you, It shall be more
tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you. And
thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to
hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been
done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say unto you,
That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of
judgment, than for thee.

Jewish life is, imo, symbolized by the Priest and Levite who bypassed the
injured, leaving him behind to be discovered by a merciful outsider
Samaritan. Think of it... the Master is having to go to another culture
to demonstrate what a virtuous Jew should look like. Ouch!

Surely, there were/are many virtuous Jews. Many of the Jews believed on
him in his own day! Like most other nations, they tended to esteem
themselves too highly. Jesus dealt with this inordinate national pride
when he declared: Say not that Abraham is your father, I can make
children of Abraham out of these stones.

It appears to me, Mike, that God designs to maximize his own glory by
making the covenant-breaking, God-forsaking Jews central to his
past/present/future redemptive plans for our planet. I can only conclude
that much of their culture is jam-packed with evil and evil inventions.
To report it isn't anti-Semitism, just history. None of my remarks are to suggest
that Jews are somehow morrally inferior to other races. Certainly not -
they, like several western nations, have had great Gospel opportunity,
light and privieldge which they sold for a bowl of soup.

Yet, "all Israel shall be saved." How unsearchable are his ways. They,
who formerly had "no King but Ceaser" shall soon "look upon him and
mourn" and bow.

David Anderson

End of New Testament Church Planting Digest V2 #188

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