Baptism: Merely symbolic?


Man. Eucharist - merely symbolic. And, what now? Of course! Many Protestants also believe Bapitsm to be symbolic - a sign of committment.

** I’d like to comment on how and why Jesus would intend His “church” to be a scrambled bunch of sects. claiming to be Christian, and, at the same time, holding different interpretations and beliefs on the Word. His only Church is the one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic Church. :dancing: ] **

If Baptism were merely sybolic, and if it has no means of transferring God’s grace, then why does Peter say:

“God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 3:20–21).

In Acts 2:38, Peter tells us, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the** forgiveness of your sins**; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

When Paul was converted, he was told, “And now why do you wait? Rise and be** baptized**, and wash away your sins, calling on his name” (Acts 22:16).


It is symbolic also, but it contains that which it signifies. It symbolizes being “buried with Christ”. We are not literally laid to rest, but are “buried” in the water.

Rom 6:3-4
3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life."

I agree with you, this seems to me to describe an actual spiritual event. I am mystified why it is called an “ordinance”. I think that means it is something that believers are supposed to do because Jesus commanded it, and not because it has any value in and of itself.


1 Peter 3 teaches baptism saves. We are often told that this is not “water baptism”.

Romans 4 teaches baptism is regenerative. We are often told it is not “water baptism”.

Titus 3:5 He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. We are often told this is not baptism.

John 3:5 no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. We are often told this water is not physical water. Or is amniotic fluid.

Acts 2:38*,“Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”* We are told that either this is not “water baptism”, or - if it is - the effects of remission and receiving the Spirit come just from repenting, and nothing at all from getting baptized into water.

It seems we can only see either a non-water regenerative baptism,
or a non-regenerative water baptism. :slight_smile: It looks like Jesus and the Apostles would preach these two completely distinct kinds of baptisms.
Never, ever should we understand they would teach regenerative baptism with physical water.

This said, let us see what around 150 was Justin’s understanding of the teaching.

*As many as are persuaded and believe that what we teach and say is true, and undertake to be able to live accordingly, are instructed to pray and to entreat God with fasting, for the remission of their sins that are past, we praying and fasting with them. 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, Unless you be born again, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. * ( First Apology, Chapter 61)


Read Romans 6:4. :slight_smile:


Waiting for observations about Justin’s words, we can note that if conceiving the Christian baptism as a water regenerative baptism was only a grave misunderstanding (regenerative baptism being without any water, and water baptism having nothing to do with regeneration), it did happen very very early indeed. Even before Justin’s time.

*Let us further inquire whether the Lord took any care to foreshadow the water …] and the cross. Concerning the water], indeed, it is written, in reference to the Israelites, that they should not receive that baptism which leads to the remission of sins ( Epistle of Barnabas, Chapter 11) *


“For we are buried together with him by baptism into death: that, as Christ is risen from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we also may walk in newness of life.”

-Romans 6:4

Not very symbolic to me!


What is interesting to note is that scripture never uses Baptism to mean a baptism other than water baptism. There is an artificial separation forced into the text by Baptists and other symbolic Protestants. Every promise that is attached to baptism in scripture is given ONLY through water baptism.

Our Catechism, the Small Catechism, says thus:


What is Baptism?–Answer.

Baptism is not simple water only, but it is the water comprehended in God’s command and connected with God’s Word.

Which is that word of God?–Answer.

Christ, our Lord, says in the last chapter of Matthew: Go ye into all the world and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.


What does Baptism give or profit?–Answer.

It works forgiveness of sins, delivers from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare.

Which are such words and promises of God? Answer.

Christ, our Lord, says in the last chapter of Mark: He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.


How can water do such great things?–Answer.

It is not the water indeed that does them, but the word of God which is in and with the water, and faith, which trusts such word of God in the water. For without the word of God the water is simple water and no baptism. But with the word of God it is a baptism, that is, a gracious water of life and a washing of regeneration in the Holy Ghost, as St. Paul says, Titus, chapter three: By the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost, which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ, our Savior, that, being justified by His grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a faithful saying.

What does such baptizing with water signify?–Answer.

It signifies that the old Adam in us should, by daily contrition and repentance, be drowned and die with all sins and evil lusts, and, again, a new man daily come forth and arise; who shall live before God in righteousness and purity forever.

Where is this written?–Answer.

St. Paul says Romans, chapter 6: We are buried with Christ by Baptism into death, that, like as He was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.


Regeneration & “Born Again”

Regeneration (being “born again”) is the transformation from death to life that occurs in our souls when we first come to God and are justified. He washes us clean of our sins and gives us a new nature, breaking the power of sin over us so that we will no longer be its slaves, but its enemies, who must fight it as part of the Christian life (cf. Rom. 6:1–22; Eph. 6:11–17). To understand the biblical teaching of being born again, we must understand the terms it uses to refer to this event.

When referring to something that occurs in the life of an individual believer, it only appears in Titus 3:5. In other passages, the new birth phenomenon is also described as receiving new life (Rom. 6:4), receiving the circumcision of the heart (Rom. 2:29; Col. 2:11–12), and becoming a “new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 6:15).

[FONT=“Courier New”]Regeneration in John 3

These different ways of talking about being “born again” describe effects of baptism, which Christ speaks of in John 3:5 as being “born of water and the Spirit.” In Greek, this phrase is, literally, “born of water and Spirit,” indicating one birth of water-and-Spirit, rather than “born of water and of the Spirit,” as though it meant two different births—one birth of water and one birth of the Spirit.

In the water-and-Spirit rebirth that takes place at baptism, the repentant sinner is transformed from a state of sin to the state of grace.

The context of Jesus’ statements in John 3 makes it clear that he was referring to water baptism. Shortly before Jesus teaches Nicodemus about the necessity and regenerating effect of baptism, he himself was baptized by John the Baptist, and the circumstances are striking: Jesus goes down into the water, and he is baptized. This scene gives us a graphic depiction of what happens at baptism: **We are baptized with water, symbolizing our dying with Christ (Rom. 6:3) and our rising with Christ to the newness of life (Rom. 6:4–5); we receive the gift of sanctifying grace and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:27); and we are adopted as God’s sons (Rom. 8:15–17). **

After our Lord’s teaching that it is necessary for salvation to be born from above by water and the Spirit (John 3:1–21), “Jesus and his disciples went into the land of Judea; there he remained with them and baptized” (John 3:22). [/FONT]

sources: here


Early Church Fathers and Baptism

Then we have the witness of the early Church that John 3:5 refers to baptismal regeneration. This was universally recognized by the early Christians. The Church Fathers were unanimous in teaching this:

In A.D. 151, Justin Martyr wrote, “As many as are persuaded and believe that what we [Christians] teach and say is true . . . 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 of our Savior Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit [Matt. 28:19], they then receive the washing with water. For Christ also said, ‘Unless you are born again, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven’ [John 3:3]” (First Apology 61).

Around 190, Irenaeus, the bishop of Lyons, wrote, “And [Naaman] dipped himself . . . seven times in the Jordan’ [2 Kgs. 5:14]. It was not for nothing that Naaman of old, when suffering from leprosy, was purified upon his being baptized, but [this served] as an indication to us. For as we are lepers in sin, we are made clean, by means of the sacred water and the invocation of the Lord, from our old transgressions, being spiritually regenerated as newborn babes, even as the Lord has declared: ‘Except a man be born again through water and the Spirit, he shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven’ [John 3:5]” (Fragment 34).

In the year 252, Cyprian, the bishop of Carthage, said that when those becoming Christians “receive also the baptism of the Church . . . then finally can they be fully sanctified and be the sons of God . . . since it is written, ‘Except a man be born again of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God’ [John 3:5]” (Letters 71[72]:1).

click here for
Church Fathers & Baptism


The truth that regeneration comes through baptism is confirmed elsewhere in other places in the Bible. See, us Catholics see the big picture of the bible and not just pick certain verses that go along with a certain belief.

Regeneration in the N.T.

Paul reminds us in Titus 3:5 that God “saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit.”

Paul also said, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:3–4).

This teaching—that baptism unites us with Christ’s death and resurrection so that we might die to sin and receive new life—is a key part of Paul’s theology. In Colossians 2:11–13, he tells us, “In [Christ] you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision [of] Christ, having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ” (NIV).

For more on
Baptism see the following:


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