How Can We Be Born of Water And the Spirit?
The Gospels tell us that Jesus Christ was baptized by John in the
Jordan. As soon as Jesus came up out of the water, He saw the
heavens parting and the Spirit descending like a dove.
In the Old Testament, water and the Spirit were often linked. The
Book of Ezekiel tells us, "I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you
will be clean ... I will put my Spirit in you ..." Early Christians heard
this as a prophecy about baptism.
At Pentecost, Peter said to the Jews, "Repent, and let every one of
you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of your
sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." (Acts 3:38)
Jesus told Nicodemus, "Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he
cannot enter the Kingdom of God." (John 3:5) He spoke of the fullness
of Christian baptism.
Baptism In The Early Church
The Book of Acts records several incidents when the Apostles found
people who had not received a full baptism. These people had been
washed clean from sin, but they had not received the Holy Spirit. The
Apostles laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit -
completing Christian baptism.
In the 1st. Century, baptism was given by immersing a person three
times under the water,"in the name of the Father, and of the Son and
of the Holy Spirit." (This is recorded in a document called "The
Teaching Of The Lord".)
By the 2nd. Century, a person was washed three times, in the name
of the Trinity. Then he was anointed with oil which had been blessed.
The name "Christ" means "The Anointed One". Each new convert was
anointed to become a Christian. (We know this from the writings of
Justin Martyr, 165 A.D., and Theophilus of Antioch.)
From about 200 A.D. we have several detailed descriptions of
baptism. It was normal to baptize children as well as adults. First, the
convert renounced Satan, then he was anointed with ordinary oil. He
made a statement of his Christian faith - a "Creed". Next, prayers
were said over the water, and the convert was immersed three times
in the name of the Trinity. His body was spiritually cleansed and his
soul was physically washed. As soon as he came up out of the water,
he was anointed with blessed oil. Then the presbyter (or bishop) laid
his hands on the person to call down the Holy Spirit. The new
Christian could now go into the Eucharist service and receive
Communion. (The writings of Tertullian, 200 A.D., and Hippolytus of
Rome, 215 A.D., describe these things.)
Many early Christian writings still survive. You can read them in
translation as the "Early Christian Fathers". They show you what the
Church really believed and did in those early centuries
What Is A Born Again Christian?
In the Gospels, Jesus was baptized with water and received the Holy
Spirit. This showed He was "The Anointed One", the Christ. In the
early Church, people followed this pattern. They were baptized in
water and anointed with oil. They became anointed people - or
Christians - and received the Holy Spirit. They were all "born again"
The New Testament shows us this as the general pattern in Apostolic
times. There are also a few rare cases of people who received the
Spirit without baptism - just as the Old Testament prophets did. The
Spirit will come and go where it wishes. However, there is a modern
idea that you should become a "born again" Christian some time after
baptism. This does not come from the early Church. All Christians in
the early centuries were "born again" through water and the Spirit,
through baptism, anointing and the laying on of hands. Christians
today should consider this before adding to the teaching of the early
Baptism Today In The Orthodox Church
The convert (or Godparent for a child) renounces Satan, and there are
prayers of exorcism. Then the convert recites the Nicene Creed, and
receives his name. At the font there are prayers for the Holy Spirit to
descend on the water. The convert is stripped, then anointed
thoroughly with olive oil. He is immersed three times in the water,
then puts on a new white garment. Immediately afterwards, the newly
baptized person is Chrismated - anointed with the holy chrism. The
priest prays for the Holy Spirit to come down, and repeats the words:"
The seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit," as he makes the sign of the
cross a number of times on the person. The newly baptized Christian
is now a full member of the Church, and may receive Communion.
The Orthodox baptism service follows the pattern of the New
Testament, and keeps the traditions of the earliest Christian
communities. It is both unchanging and Spirit filled. This is how you
are "born again", by baptism in water and the Spirit.