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Being Born Again in the Church Fathers

Jimmy Akin

DAY 287

CHALLENGE

“The idea we’re born again or regenerated in baptism is an invention of men that the early Christians would never have heard of.”

DEFENSE

The writings of the Church Fathers reveal that they believed in baptismal regeneration.

We elsewhere cover the scriptural basis for this teaching (see Day 286), and the writings of the Church Fathers confirm that they believed it too. In fact, despite searching, I have been unable to discover any Fa- ther who denied that Jesus’ statements regarding being “born again” and “born of water and Spirit” (John 3:3, 5) referred to baptism.

For example, around A.D. 151, St. Justin Martyr wrote:

As many as are persuaded and believe that what we teach and say is true, and undertake to be able to live accordingly . . . are brought by us where there is water, and are regenerated in the same way we were ourselves regenerated. For, in the name of God, the Father and Lord of the universe, and of our Savior Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit, they receive the washing with water. For Christ also said, “Unless you be born again, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” [John 3:3] (First Apology 61).

Around A.D. 190, St. Irenaeus of Lyons wrote:

It was not for nothing that Naaman, when suffering from leprosy, was purified upon being baptized [2 Kings 5:14], but as an indication to us. For as we are lepers in sin, we are made clean of our old transgressions by means of the sacred water and the invocation of the Lord; we are 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).

And around A.D. 203, Tertullian wrote:

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 has not life” (Baptism 12).

These are just three examples among many.

TIP

For more, see Jimmy Akin, The Fathers Know Best, chapter 37.

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