Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Early Church Fathers believed in Baptismal Regeneration not Symbolic Baptism

Below is an excerpt from an excellent article on Baptism, entitled "Baptism Texts", by Dr. John Bombaro, Lutheran pastor, Grace Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA:

Copyright, John J. Bombaro, PhD. 2011

Early Church witness from within the first two centuries of Christianity, showing continuity with apostolic teaching concerning the efficacy of God’s saving Word spoken purposefully and specifically during holy baptism. As the apostles taught in Scripture, so too their immediate successors taught:

Didache: 9:5
"And let none eat or drink of your Eucharist but such as have been baptized into the name of the Lord, for of a truth the Lord hath said concerning this, Give not that which is holy unto dogs." (circa 80-100)

"He was born and baptized so that by His passion He could purify the water." St Ignatius (c. 105)

"There is no other repentance than that which takes place, when we descended into the water and received the remission of our former sins." Hermas (circa 150)

"Before a man bears the name of the Son of God, he is dead. But when he receives the seal, he lays aside his deadness and obtains life. The seal, then, is water. They descend into water dead, and they arise alive." Hermas (circa 150)

"This washing of repentance and knowledge of God has been ordained on account of the transgression of God’s people, as Isaiah cries. Accordingly, we have believed and testify that the very baptism which he announced is alone able to purify those who have repented. And this is the water of life. For what is the use of that baptism which cleanses only the flesh and body? Baptize the soul from wrath and from covetousness, from envy, and from hatred." St Justin Martyr (circa 160)

"We who have approached God through His Son have received, not carnal, but spiritual circumcision, which Enoch and those like him observed. And we have received it through baptism by God’s mercy, since we were sinners." Justin Martyr (circa 160)

"But there is no other way than this: to become acquainted with this Christ; to be washed in the fountain spoken of by Isaiah for the remission of sins." St Justin Martyr (circa 160)

"Christ has redeemed us by being crucified on the tree and by purifying us with water." St Justin Martyr (circa 160)

"The things proceeding from the waters were blessed by God, that this also could be a sign of men being destined to receive repentance and remission of sins, through the water and bath of regeneration- as many as come to the truth and are born again." Theophilus (circa 180)

"When we come to refute them [the Gnostics], we will show in its proper place that this class of men have been instigated by Satan to a denial of that baptism which is regeneration to God. Thus, they have renounced the whole faith. For the baptism instituted by the visible Jesus was for the remission of sins." St Irenaeus (circa 180)

"But there are some of them [Gnostics] who assert that it is unnecessary to bring persons to the water. Rather, they mix oil and water together, and they place its mixture on the heads of those who are to be initiated . . . This they maintain to be the redemption. Other heretics, however, reject all these practices, and maintain that the mystery of the unspeakable and invisible power should not be performed by visible and corruptible creatures . . . These claim that the knowledge of the unspeakable Greatness is itself prefect redemption." St Irenaeus (circa 180)

"Man, with respect to that formation which was after Adam, having fallen into transgression, needed the bath of regeneration. Therefore, the Lord said of [the blind man] after He had smeared his eyes with the clay, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ By this means, He restored to him both confirmation and regeneration that takes place by means of the bath." St Irenaeus (circa 180)

"Scripture says, ‘And he dipped himself seven times in the Jordan.’ It was not for nothing that Naaman of old, when suffering from leprosy, was a symbol for us. For as we are lepers in sin, we are made clean from our old transgressions by means of the sacred water and the invocation of the Lord. We are spiritually regenerated as new-born babes, just as the Lord has declared: ‘Unless a man is born again through water and the Spirit, he will not enter into the kingdom of heaven.’" Irenaeus (circa 180)

"Being baptized, we are illuminated. Illuminated, we become sons. This work is variously called grace, illumination, perfection, and washing. Washing, by which we cleanse away our sins. Grace, by which the penalties accruing to the transgressions are remitted. Illumination, by which that holy light of salvation is beheld, that is, by which we see God clearly." Clement of Alexandria (circa 195)

© John J. Bombaro, PhD, 2011 

"And he who has just been regenerated- as the name necessarily indicates- and has been enlightened, is immediately delivered from darkness, and instantly receives the light… Thus, also, we who are baptized, having wiped off the sins that obscure the light of the Divine Spirit, have the eyes of the spirit free, unimpeded, and full of light, by which alone we contemplate the Divine, the Holy Spirit flowing down to us from above." Clement of Alexandria (circa 195)

"John prophesied up until the baptism of salvation." Clement of Alexandria (circa 195)

"Happy is our sacrament of water, in that, by washing away sins of our early blindness, we are set free and admitted into eternal life . . . We, like little fishes, after the example of our Ichthus, Jesus Christ, are born in water." Tertullian (circa 198)

"Oh, miserable unbelief that denies to God His own properties, simplicity, and power! What then? Is it too wonderful that death should be washed away by washing?" Tertullian (circa 198)

St Irenaeus (d. 202) remarks, "For He came to save all through means of Himself all, I say, who through Him are born again to God, infants, and children, and boys, and youths, and old men" (Against Heresies, Book 1, Ch. 22.4).

In his commentary on Romans, Origin (d. 254) writes, "The Church has received from the apostles the custom of administering baptism even to infants. For those who have been entrusted with the secrets of divine mysteries, knew very well that all are tainted with the stain of original sin, which must be washed off by water and spirit" (Romans Commentary, 5.9).

St Cyprian (d. 258) writes, "In respect of the case of infants, which you say ought not to be baptized within the second or third day after birth, and that the law of ancient circumcision should be regarded, so that you think that one who is just born should not be baptized and sanctified within the eighth day, we all thought very differently in our council. For in this course which you thought was to be taken, no one agreed; but we all rather judge that the mercy and grace of God is not to be refused to any one born of man . . . Spiritual circumcision ought not to be hindered by carnal circumcision . . . we ought to shrink from hindering an infant, who, being lately born, has not sinned, except in that, being born after the flesh according to Adam, he has contracted the contagion of the ancient death at its earliest birth, who approaches the more easily on this very account to the reception of the forgiveness of sins - that to him are remitted, not his own sins, but the sins of another" (Letter 58 to Fidus).

And in his Enchiridion, St Augustine (d. 430) declares, "For from the infant newly born to the old man bent with age, as there is none shut out from baptism, so there is none who in baptism does not die to sin" (Enchiridion, ch. 43).

If you would like to read the full article "Baptism Texts" by Pastor Bombaro, which in addition to the above historical quotes, reviews many of the passages of Scripture that discuss Baptism, click below:


  1. Replies
    1. It may seem absurd to you...but can you prove that any early Christian believed otherwise?

    2. If I can't "prove" the existence of God, how could I possibly prove the existence of early "Christians". Before I can know who is a Christian and who is not, I must know what Christianity is. I cannot determine what Christianity is by surveying those who claimed to be Christians in earlier times. Claiming the name Christian is no guarantee that the beliefs held by the one claiming the name are orthodox. We must know what Christianity is in order to determine who is Christian. There are many more people claiming the name Christian than there are Christians.

      Steve M

    3. I'm not asking Baptists and evangelicals to prove who was and who was not a true Christian in the first three centuries after Christ.

      I'm asking for just one historical record that ANYONE in those first three centuries believed that baptism is ONLY a public profession of faith/act of obedience and not an act where God forgives sins and saves sinners.

      If the true Faith/Church died out immediately with the death of the Apostles (not even their own disciples carried on with the true Gospel) then that would make God a liar. He said he would preserve his Word and his Church.

      Where is the evidence that this "true Word" and "true Church", as believed by Baptists and evangelicals, EVER existed except for in their sixteenth century, western European interpretation of the Bible???

    4. Gary

      Your question was, "can you prove that any early Christian believed otherwise?"

      You said, "If the true Faith/Church died out immediately with the death of the Apostles (not even their own disciples carried on with the true Gospel) then that would make God a liar. He said he would preserve his Word and his Church."

      Please quote the Scriptures in which you believe God (who is truth itself) said this. Then we may engage in a fruitful discussion of those passages.

      God has preserved His Word, but I am not aware of any promise by God to preserve the non-inspired words of his people. Did God preserve His Church in the form of Roman Catholicism through the dark ages? Or is it possible that there were remnants of orthodoxy during those times of which we have little or no record?

      Even your quotes above are unconvincing of the conclusion you try to draw from them, but do you hold that the Bible is insufficient?

      Steve M

    5. I grew up the son of a Baptist preacher and later on I was an evangelical, so I understand where you are coming from. I hope you will agree that God said in the Bible that he would preserve his Word. I hope that you will also agree that God said that the gates of Hell would not prevail against his Church. If you need chapter and verse I will look them up and post them.

      I was taught as a Baptist that the reason there is no historical evidence for Baptist-like believers in the early Church is that the "catholics" destroyed all such evidence. I was also taught that these true Christians, these Baptistic believers, hid out in caves until the Waldenians, Albigensians, Ana-Baptists and Baptists appeared 1,000 to 1,500 years later.

      The problem is...there is ZERO evidence of these things having occurred. Zero. There is zero evidence that any early Christian believed in a symbolic baptism, that in baptism God does not forgive sins.

      So Baptists have made these stories up to fill in the holes of their history and doctrine. They are groundless. They are old wives tales.

      God said he would preserve his Word. His Word is the Gospel. And the Gospel is the free gift of salvation given by God to man. I know that this is going to be hard for you to believe but, yes, the Catholic Church has always believed that God gives salvation as a gift. ALWAYS. Even to this very day. You can look it up in Catholic documents: Eastern Orthodox Catholics, Lutheran Catholics, Anglo-Catholics, and Roman Catholics.

      All Catholics believe that God gives salvation freely in two situations:

      1. When an adult pagan hears the Word, God quickens him and gives him the gift of faith, and he believes. If that new convert dies, he is saved, he will go to heaven, even if he did not have the chance to be baptized.

      2. God saves the infants of converts and Christian parents in Baptism by the power of his spoken Word. That is not a work. A work is something you do to earn God's favor. Baptism is a command. You show up...and God does the saving.

      So the Gospel never died in the Church Catholic. Yes, false teachings have been added, such as the Roman and Eastern Orthodox beliefs that a Christian must do good works to sustain/complete his salvation, but they still have always believed that the gift itself is given by God freely.

      The Gospel, the Word, never died in the Church Catholic, and God's Church never died. It has always existed, sometimes with much corruption, but it has always existed.

      The Baptist notion that true Baptistic believers have existed since the time of the Apostle is based on nothing more than wishful thinking.

    6. Gary

      I ask again, "do you hold that the Bible is insufficient?"

      Paul summarizes the Gospel in Corinthians 15:1-4 and in the first chapter of Romans He tells us this Gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.

      Steve M

    7. Dear brother,

      My response to your comment was too long for this space. Google has a word limit.

      Click here to see my response. I responded to you as a new post:

    8. Please see free book online The Trail of Blood by Dr.B.H.Carol

    9. I think you meant, Dr. JM Carol, his brother. JM Carol was the author of "The Trail of Blood:...which he later recanted as being FALSE. See below:

      "Extensive graduate study and independent investigation of church history has, however, convinced [the author] that the view he once held so dear has not been, and cannot be, verified. On the contrary, surviving primary documents render the successionist view untenable. . . . Although free church groups in ancient and medieval times sometimes promoted doctrines and practices agreeable to modern Baptists, when judged by standards now acknowledged as baptistic, not one of them merits recognition as a Baptist church. Baptists arose in the 17th century in Holland and England. They are Protestants, heirs of the reformers." (Baptist Successionism: A Crucial Question in Baptist History [1994], 1–2)

      Baptist professor/historian James Edward McGoldrick adds, "Perhaps no other body of professing Christians has had as much difficulty in discerning its historical roots as have the Baptists. A survey of conflicting opinions might lead a perceptive observer to conclude that Baptists suffer from an identity crisis" (Baptist Successionism, 1).

      Another author noted: Baptist secessionism is dangerous mostly because those Baptists who come to discover it is false often end up becoming agnostic. The "lie" they were taught led them, once they discovered that lie, to become antagonistic to religion and in particular any revealed religion.

  2. Anonymous asks pertinent questions. This blog seems to need "the traditions of men" outside of Scripture condemned by Christ Himself in Mark 7:7, 8 & 13 to support the Scriptural doctrine of Baptism. This is a blatant example of what 1 Cor. 3:21 condemns when it says "So let no one boast in men." This is Roman Catholicism, adding "tradition" to Scripture, and a rejection of the Formal Principle of the Lutheran Church: Sola Scriptura. THIS is current LCMS "confessional Lutheranism"??? What a joke!

    1. Are you saying that the writings of the Early Church Fathers have NO authoritative value? Are you saying that the ONLY authority on Christian doctrine is the Bible?

      Luther taught that the Bible is the only SUPREME/FINAL authority. He, nor the Lutheran Confessions, teach that the Bible is the only authority... period. Luther was confronting the FALSE Catholic teaching that the Pope and Church Councils had EQUAL authority to the Scriptures.

      Luther DID NOT throw the writings of the Early Church Fathers and the statements of the early Church Councils into the trash as worthless, as have the Baptists and evangelicals.

      You are talking like a fundamentalist Baptist!

      If you want to be in league with the Ana-Baptists and Baptists, you go right ahead. I intend to remain LUTHERAN!

  3. Here we have it folks: This "Lutheran" forum ADDS tradition to Scripture and DENIES "Scripture Alone" as the source of Christian doctrine. This forum promotes ROMAN CATHOLICISM!

    Just listen to this statement "Are you saying that the ONLY authority on Christian doctrine is the Bible?" YES, that is what I am saying to this "Lutheran"! The orthodox Lutheran Church treats the Lutheran Confessions and any private theological opinions of Luther and other Lutheran theologians as "witnesses" to Scripture, but NOT as sources of Christian doctrine. Try reading the Formula of Concord, Epitome, "Of the Summary Content, Rule and Standard," 1-2.

    You aren't a Lutheran. I really have to wonder now if you are even an orthodox Christian.

    1. A reply from a confessional Lutheran pastor on this issue:

      The Constitution of the LCMS mandates that the synod have discussions with other church bodies in this statement: “work through its official structure toward fellowship with other Christian church bodies.” (LCMS Constitution III, 1; 2010 Handbook, p. 13).

      Notice that it doesn’t even say that they need to be “Lutheran.” Toward this purpose, the LCMS President has a Church Relations officer (Dr. Al Collver III) and the CTCR (Dr. Joel Lehenbauer, Exec. Dir). Their job is to have discussions to find out where congregations and church-bodies are in their doctrine and practice TODAY, not merely historically or formally by their confessions.

      E.g., the Polish Catholics, at least some of them, have renounced the papacy–this since the acceptance of papal infallibility by the Roman church (ca. 1870). They are now called “Old Catholics.” Lutherans are, in some sense, old Catholics too. How do we know that the Polish Old Catholics are not Lutheran? What if they adopted the theology of Saint Augustine when they severed ties with the pope? How do we know, unless the President of the LCMS and his team investigate these things in a friendly way?

      How do we know that some church like this might be persuaded to move in a Lutheran way? In the case of the Ethiopian church, how do we know that what the Ethiopians call female “pastors” may in fact be deaconesses? Or that such “pastors” might be willing to stop doing uniquely pastoral functions, and be called “deaconesses? How do we know that they only accepted female “pastors” in order to receive financial support from the LWF state churches–and now they are willing to stop that practice? If they are not willing to stop ordaining females as pastors, we may still want to cooperate with them in “external” matters, i.e., not in matters of altar and/or pulpit fellowship.

      If we condemn the Ethiopians out-of-hand, without talking to them in a friendly and Christian manner, we may miss a golden opportunity to steer a Lutheran church toward more biblical practice. And it might take a generation or two before we could be in fellowship with them.

      You, Carl, of all people should know the early history of the WELS. It was a typical Pietistic Lutheran church-body, until it had contact with the LCMS. Then due to our friendly discussions with them, they came to accept the Book of Concord as a mandatory authority for their pastors, theology, and practice. If the LCMS had not had those friendly discussions with the early WELS, it would not be Lutheran today–I guarantee you!

      This sort of friendly discussion, leading to more confessional doctrine and practice, is part of why God has put the LCMS here on this earth. We can talk to anyone (i.e., any Christian church), as long as we limit altar and pulpit fellowship to those churches that agree with our confessional statement (Constitution Article II), both formally and in actual practice.

      All such discussions, according to the Constitution, should be done through and under the supervision of the President’s office. President Harrison has been doing his job in this area, and doing it well. Dr. Collver also must be given much credit for long months “on the road” in compliance with Const. III.1.

      Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  4. Gary can't answer me from Scripture, so he steals posts from other blogs, which in this case has absolutely NOTHING to do with the subject of the thread. Is THIS the BEST that you can do, Gary?

    1. Titus 3:10-11

      As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, 11 knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.

  5. YOUR synod is the "divisive" one, Gary! YOUR synod repudiated Scripture, leading directly to pseudo-Lutherans like YOU!

    You simply CAN'T answer me, can you Gary? All you can do is throw Scripture quotes attacking me at the wall and hope that they will stick.

    WHY should an "Evangelical" become an LCMS Lutheran when YOU'RE still an "Evangelical"?

  6. "...after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, "

    1. Thank you, Gary, for your excellent article on the significance of baptism. I attend a Church of Christ, and believe as you do, about baptism, but so many other churches feel it is symbolic (outward sign of an inward grace).

    2. Thank you for your comment!

  7. Since when do we trust the uninspired church fathers to teach us doctrine? It was predicted by the inspired apostles that false doctrine would 'creep'(Gk.) into the church over time. Jude predicts that certain men have/would slide in [Gk.] in church teaching false doctrine.v.4
    Peter stated there were 'false prophets among the people' and there will be 'false teachers among you' or the churches. He says in Greek these false teachers(who Jesus taught outwardly were like sheep but inwardly ravening wolves-this part of their true character is not seen by those whom they deceive) will 'quietly' start "SECTS of destruction" as it says in his original Greek writing.
    Paul says in the last days some will depart('will stand away' literally) from the true faith as laid down by the apostles- not church fathers-and 'teach things that demonic inspired' .l Timothy 4:1-5
    Paul says people would, 'accumulate teachers to themselves'(Gk.) in the church as these people will 'not put up with sound teaching,'and will 'turn their minds away from the truth.' llTimothy 4:3-4

    If one is going to prove scriptural teaching using uninspired men is not the way to go!!!

    So our next step is to only seek out the truth and facts from the original Greek language then diagram that sentence and explore the grammer,ect.,then come to a conclusion.

    My firm base is that Jesus Christ is the Savour of the world and that He and He alone is fully capable to save all souls who come to him.

    1. So why does the interpretation of the "original Greek" by Baptist and evangelical Greek scholars differ so greatly from all other Greek scholars...including the Greeks themselves?

      Ask the Greeks in the Greek Orthodox Church if they believe that Baptism is simply an act of obedience that has nothing to do with salvation, and the accuracy of many other Baptist/evangelical interpretations of the Greek in the New Testament.

      Baptists and evangelicals are the only ones who believe these Baptist "Greek scholars". Doesn't that tell you that something is wrong? Either Baptists/evangelicals are wrong...or the entirety of the rest of Christendom is involved in a vast conspiracy to hide "truth".

  8. Jesus is the outward sign of the inward grace!!!

  9. I have learned you can never win an argument with a Baptist. After all, "we trace our church back to John the BAPTIST". yeah.........sure............ ANATHEMA!


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