A Study in What Calvary is and what Baptism really is about and what does being a Born Again Christian mean.
Please pay attention and try to understand what I’m writing here as I am trying to help you understand these concepts and knowledge in the Bible that are vital to your salvation!
The term “born again” is one of the most used phrases among present-day Christians. Yet, if asked what the term born again means, most church members could not give a clear explanation. The importance of this subject is shown in what Jesus said, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). Jesus is saying that to be born again is to be saved. Being born again is the plan of salvation that Jesus authored at Calvary. It is imperative that we understand what is required for us to be born again!
All agree that when Jesus went to the cross, He brought in the means of salvation for everyone who will accept it. But what really happened at Calvary? What can it do for me? How do I accept what was done there in my own personal life?
At Calvary, there were three steps to the work of Christ: death, burial, and resurrection (I Corinthians 15:1-4).
The fact that Jesus purchased a plan of salvation for us is the greatest news the world has ever received. The thing we must understand is that not only was it necessary for Jesus to do what he did for us, but also it is absolutely essential for us to act upon what He did. Jesus told Nicodemus, “Ye must be born again” (John 3:7).
Now the astonishing thing is that Nicodemus was a religious leader of his day; yet, he had no concept of what it meant to be born again! We find that the very same thing is true in the day in which we live. Many men and women who fill positions of spiritual leadership in our world have no real understanding of the born again experience. Nicodemus inquired of Jesus in John 3:4, “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.” You can’t be born again of a woman. The second birth is a spiritual birth.
Notice that Jesus said without being born again we cannot see or enter the kingdom of God. In other words, we cannot be saved. On the day of Pentecost when Peter preached the first message after Calvary, the men cried out, “What must we do?”
“Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:38). Peter was giving them the plan of salvation: repentance, baptism, and the infilling of the Holy Ghost. If being born again is to be saved, Peter was talking to them about being saved.
Remember, there were three steps to Calvary: death, burial, and resurrection. The way to accept Calvary in our individual life is to accept the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. We don’t have to literally die, be buried, and rise again. Jesus was our substitute and did this for us. All we must do is accept what He did by spiritually dying, symbolically being buried, and spiritually rising again.
Death – Repentance
We take on His death by repentance, which is spiritual death. When a person truly repents, he dies out to his own will, renounces it forever, and vows to live from that time on according to the will of Jesus Christ. This is the act of being born again.
Burial – Baptism
We take on His burial by baptism in water, by immersion into His name. Romans 6:4 says, “Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death”. Baptism must be done by immersion; for something cannot be buried by sprinkling a little dirt on top of it. That burial, after a few days, would certainly prove to be insufficient! Furthermore, every baptism of which we have biblical record was administered by immersion. That alone should determine our course of action on this matter.
Resurrection – Infilling of the Holy Ghost
Finally, we partake of the resurrection of Jesus Christ by the infilling of the Holy Ghost. This is the new life that enables us to live, as a Christian should.
We see then that being born again means to spiritually die—repent; symbolically be buried—baptism; and spiritually rise again—receive the Holy Ghost. Thus, in plain language an individual must repent of his sins, be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ by immersion, and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. It says in I John 5:8, “And there are three that bear witness in the earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.” What is the one thing in which the spirit, water, and blood agree? Is it not the new birth? Blood covers our sins at repentance; the waters of baptism wash them away, thus making us clean for the Spirit to come into our lives to dwell. When the Roman soldiers thrust the spear into Jesus’ side after He died, the scripture tells us that there came forth blood and water (John 19:34). This was for cleansing of the nations. It takes blood and water to eradicate sin. Blood is the cleansing agent, and water is the flushing agent. Blood and water are necessary to cleanse the human soul so that it may receive the Spirit of Christ, which is the Holy Ghost. This teaching was verified by Peter when he said, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38). Repentance and baptism are both absolutely essential for the remission of sins!
Paul taught that the three steps of Calvary is the gospel that we should preach. In I Corinthians 15:1-4 he tells us,
“Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.”
Paul went on to say in II Thessalonians 1:7-8, “And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Paul told us that the gospel is the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. How can we obey the death, burial, and resurrection? We obey by repentance, baptism, and receiving the Holy Ghost as we have previously explained. Notice that the Lord Jesus Christ is to appear “in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel.” It is absolutely necessary for every human being to obey the gospel in all things, especially the Lords own words about being born again. Jesus told Nicodemus, “Ye must be born again.” (John 3:7).
Here let us look at being born again in the way The Old Testament Speaks of the Born Again Plan.
Let us consider another biblical lesson given to us concerning this subject. The Bible teaches us that the things of the Old Testament were types and shadows of the things to come. When the priests of the law ministered by offering sacrifices, there were three major steps to their duties.
First they slew the animal to be offered on the brazen altar. The blood here was shed and caught into a container for use in the Holy Place. The flesh of the animal was to be consumed by fire. This teaches us the first step of salvation—repentance. When we repent, we present our bodies a living sacrifice, and the blood of Jesus covers our sins.
After the shedding of blood, the priests were ordered to wash at the laver and to cleanse themselves with water in preparation for entering the Holy Place. The laver, a round fountain-like structure, was overlaid in the bottom with a looking glass. When the priest bent over to wash, he was able to see himself so that he could be sure that he was clean. When an individual is baptized, he should examine himself to be sure that he is leaving the world behind once and for all with no sin.
We see then that the second step of the tabernacle ministry plainly teaches us of water baptism. Blood and water were used to cleanse and prepare them for entry into the Holy Place, even as blood and water cleanses us in preparation of receiving the Holy One into our lives!
After cleansing, the priest would take the fire from the brazen altar and enter through the veil into the Holy Place. The Holy Place had no doors or windows through which light could come. The only light would come from the golden candlesticks. These candlesticks consisted of seven wicks fed by oil from seven bowls. The wicks had to be lit with the fire brought by the priest from the brazen altar. The uniting of the oil and fire at the candlesticks to produce light is a perfect example of the Holy Ghost and fire promised to New Testament believers (Matthew 3:11). (I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier that I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire:) This verse is telling us that John’s baptism in water was not Christian baptism. The death and resurrection of Christ had not yet occurred in order to be depicted by this baptism. John’s baptism was similar to the Old Testament offering (washings) that symbolized a cleansing of personal repentance on the part of the believer. Notice that Jesus submitted to this baptism to “fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15). He shall baptize with the Holy Ghost refers to the spiritual rebirth of the regenerate who shall receive the baptism of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13). This experience began at Pentecost (Acts 1) and was repeated upon every new group of converts (Samaritans, Gentiles, John’s disciples) until it became the norm for all Christian believers. The Immediate context indicates that to be baptized with fire is the result of judgment (Matthew 3:12) The threshing fan (refers to a wooden shovel used for tossing grain into the wind in order to blow away the lighter chaff, leaving the good grain to settle in a pile. The chaff would then be swept up and burned; the unquenchable fire in this verse refers to the eternal punishment of hell or the lake of fire.
God spoke of His great plan of redemption in the Old Testament in types and shadows; and then in the New Testament He spoke plainly to us so that we would have no doubt of His will! Once again we recall the words of 1 John 5:8, “And there are three that bear witness in earth, the spirit, and the water, and the blood; and these three agree in one.” This Old Testament lesson beautifully reaffirms to us the absolute necessity of the full born again plan in each life for salvation!
The “Baptismal Regeneration” Heresy Explained!
Baptismal Regeneration is a wrong teaching that a person MUST be water baptized in order to go to Heaven. In other words “to be “regenerated means to be born anew from above by the Holy Spirit of God” Nothing could be further from the truth!
As stated earlier Burial – Baptism
We take on His burial by baptism in water, by immersion into His name. Romans 6:4 says, “Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death”. Baptism must be done by immersion; for something cannot be buried by sprinkling a little dirt on top of it. That burial, after a few days, would certainly prove to be insufficient!
All we must do is accept what Christ did by spiritually dying, symbolically being buried, and spiritually rising again. That is what baptism is to us nothing more or less.
Here’s what it’s not!
Baptism is NOT a sacrament, i.e., there is no mystical power (efficacy) by being dunked in water. No grace is bestowed. Apart from water baptism’s spiritual meaning, you are only getting wet. Being baptized doesn’t make someone a believer. As mentioned, water baptism is symbolic of the Lord’s death, burial, and resurrection (Romans 6:4-5). In water baptism, we are identifying ourselves with our Savior, signifying that we have already believed on Him. Nowhere in the Bible was anyone ever baptized until AFTER they were saved (Born Again).
Religious Sacraments are not Biblical
Water baptism is an ordinance, like the Lord’s Supper. Those are the only 2 ordinances that the Lord ordained to be carried out by the New Testament Church. They are NOT “sacraments,” a term not even found in the Word of God. Sacraments are not Biblical. Catholics teach 7 sacraments; and Protestants, such as Presbyterians and Lutherans, teach 2 sacraments: Holy Baptism and Holy Communion. Neither of these terms is found in the Bible. There is no such thing as “Holy” Baptism (which is their term for water baptism). Nor is there such a thing as “Holy” Communion. There’s the Holy Spirit and the Holy Bible. Even the Church is not called “holy.” There are no perfect churches. There are no perfect Christians. The only way that we can be “holy” is by abiding in the Holy Scriptures through the Holy Spirit Who indwells every born-again believer (1st Corinthians 3:16-17; Romans 8:9). Only our holy God can make men holy (1st Peter 1:15-16).
Common Misconceptions About Salvation
Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ
Acts 16:30-31 reads this way, “And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.” Many have taken this scripture to teach that all that is required for salvation is to believe that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world; and from that point on the individual is saved. It is definitely true that an individual must believe that Jesus is the Savior in order to be saved. However, Paul, who spoke these words in Acts 16, has some further teaching on the subject in Romans 10:13-15.
Let’s consider the text: “For whosoever shall call upon the Name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear, without a preacher?” If we wanted to be absurd, we could take this thirteenth verse to teach that all an individual must do for salvation is to call out the name of Jesus one time and he has received salvation. Paul tells us they can’t call on him in whom they have not believed. Furthermore, he said that they couldn’t believe in him of whom they have not heard. We cannot merely believe. We must believe something about Christ. When Paul told the jailer in Acts 16 to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, he went on to speak unto him the word of the Lord (verse 32). The word that Paul spoke was apparently the gospel; for the result in verse 33 was that the jailer and all in his house were baptized at midnight. That’s how essential baptism is for salvation. Paul took all these people out at midnight and baptized them!
Some would object here by saying that we are saved by faith alone. It is true that we are saved by faith, but it is also true that true faith always produces action on the part of the believer. Let’s study from James 2:14-22 to verify this point.
“What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him? If a brother or a sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works; show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?”
When an individual believes on the Lord Jesus Christ, what do they believe about Him? They believe the gospel, which is the death, burial, and resurrection (I Corinthians 15:1-4). James teaches us that faith without action is dead, or it is not really faith at all. When a sinner hears the true gospel and truly believes, he will obey the gospel. An individual obeys the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ by repentance, baptism in Jesus’ name, and the infilling of the Holy Ghost. This is the salvation of Calvary! “Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?” (Made complete).
If you are still having trouble conceding to this teaching because of the element of works involved, let’s reason concerning one more point. Being born again —repentance, baptism, and receiving the Holy Ghost is not considered by God to be a work. In Titus 3:5 we are taught, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost”. This scripture tells us that regeneration, which is being born again, is not a work of righteousness.
Concluding this matter, we will cite a familiar biblical example. In the great revival at Samaria in Acts 8:5-23, a sorcerer named Simon heard the preaching of Philip. He believed and was baptized and continued with Philip beholding the signs and miracles that were done. Many people would say that because Simon believed, he was saved. Yet the Apostle Peter said of him in Acts 8:23, “For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity.”
It is impossible for anyone in the bond of iniquity to be saved; for the scriptures tell us, “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:36). Simon believed and was baptized, but he had not received the Holy Ghost; therefore, he was not born again. We cannot be half-born and survive. The entire work of Calvary is necessary for our salvation.
The Thief on the Cross
Many have asked, “If an individual must repent, be baptized, and receive the Holy Ghost for salvation, how was the thief on the cross with Jesus saved?” (Luke 23:38-43). First of all, it was impossible for anyone to be born again at that time, for the born again plan was not yet complete. Jesus had not died, been buried, and risen again. God has always had a plan of salvation for each dispensation of time. In Noah’s day the only way of salvation was to get into the ark. In Moses’ day the only plan was the law. In the church dispensation, the only way to be saved is to be born again. Jesus told Nicodemus, “Ye MUST be born again.”
May we point out as we conclude this study that we have been given the first church and the Apostles after which to pattern our teaching and practices. In each recorded account of conversions under the Apostles’ ministries, the three steps of being born again are evident. In Acts 2:38 it was repentance, baptism, and the Holy Ghost. In Acts 8:12, Acts 10:44-48, and Acts 19:1-6, we find the born again experience taught and received. Why should we vary from this practice when we are to be built on the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the Chief Cornerstone?
Do not allow anything to turn you aside from this truth: you must be born again. If you haven’t as yet, you should do so today!