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What Is the True Meaning of “Being Born Again Through Baptism”?
By Cedric, Canada
When I was young, my father explained baptism to me. He said, “When someone is being baptized, they are fully submerged in water. That means they have ‘died’ with the Lord Jesus. After being pulled from the water, they are reborn, and they have completely broken away from the sins of the past, starting to have a new life. They will live for the Lord Jesus until they die. The Lord, ‘He that believes and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believes not shall be damned’ (Mark 16:16). The Lord Jesus was crucified for mankind as a sin offering. Only after we are baptized can our sins be forgiven by the Lord Jesus and are we under the name of the Lord Jesus with a new life. So, Christians must get baptized.” From then on, I believed that through baptism, Christians can be completely changed, reborn, saved, and be compatible with Christ.
However, I found that the people around me were baptized when they were young, but what was strange to me was that they had not cast off their old life and they still lived like unbelievers. Like my father, he was baptized in a Catholic church when he was still a baby, and he was baptized again when he converted to Christianity, but he still couldn’t get rid of the bondage of sin. For example: When my little brother forgot to place his things in the right place, he would scold him; if anyone in the family did things he didn’t like, he would lose his temper. Although he often fasted and prayed until late at night for family harmony, he couldn’t control his anger. He didn’t act like a person who was reborn. Looking at those people who still lived in sin after baptism, I thought, “I should only get baptized when I’ll sin less.”
Many years passed, but I still often sinned. In real life, I couldn’t adhere to the Lord’s words. I only picked at others but I didn’t reflect on my actions and see that the biggest problem actually lay within myself. When my father raged at me, I would have hatred toward him and start to argue with him, showing no patience or forbearance. I also often competed with others, wanting to be the best. I would even look down upon those inferior to me, and when I saw people that were better than me, I would get jealous. Furthermore, I liked to show myself off, I wanted others to think highly of me, and I would become very proud when others praised me. I remembered watching a Christian movie during a meeting. The pastor in the movie often brought up the verse, “And whoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted” (Matthew 23:12). I kept this verse firmly in mind, because I wanted to practice according to the Lord’s words, learn to be humble and not show myself off or be proud. However, in real life, I still wanted to be the best among skateboard players, so I trained for 8 hours a day, trying to become the best as soon as possible, and be looked upon by others; during a church camp, I performed on stage not for glorifying God but for fame. Although I knew my behaviors were at odds with God’s will, and I tried fasting and praying, I still sinned uncontrollably.
Afterward, I saw these verses in a Christian movie, “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14). “For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remains no more sacrifice for sins” (Hebrews 10:26). “Jesus answered them, Truly, truly, I say to you, Whoever commits sin is the servant of sin. And the servant stays not in the house for ever: but the Son stays ever” (John 8:34–35). Pondering these verses, I came to know that God is holy and that those who live in sin cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven. I reflected on my actions and realized that I couldn’t get along with others. For instance, I would argue with my relatives over trifling matters; when others hurt me, I would have hatred toward them, and although outwardly I forgave them after praying to the Lord Jesus, in my heart, I still hated them. I also thought of how my father had been baptized twice, believed in God for many years, organized many meetings, and preached the gospel, but he could still rage over trifling matters. He even sincerely told us that he knew he shouldn’t rage and also wanted to turn over a new leaf, but he just couldn’t control his temper. Actually, my father and I knew the Lord’s requirements, but we just couldn’t help sinning. Thinking of this, I was at a loss. I thought, “God is holy, and so filthy and corrupt people are unfit to see God. Although we have been baptized, if we still often sin and can’t put God’s words into practice, can we see the Lord? Nevertheless, doesn’t the Bible say, ‘He that believes and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believes not shall be damned’ (Mark 16:16)? So why do we still sin after being baptized and not gain new life?” I couldn’t find the answers to these questions.
By chance, I got to know some brothers and sisters in the Lord on the internet. They had unique insights into the Bible and also helped me solve my confusions. They also recommended me some gospel websites. Once, I saw a passage of words in a gospel movie, “A sinner such as you, who has just been redeemed, and has not been changed, or been perfected by God, can you be after God’s heart? For you, you who are still of your old self, it is true that you were saved by Jesus, and that you are not counted as a sinner because of the salvation of God, but this does not prove that you are not sinful, and are not impure. How can you be saintly if you have not been changed? Within, you are beset by impurity, selfish and mean, yet you still wish to descend with Jesus—you should be so lucky! You have missed a step in your belief in God: You have merely been redeemed, but have not been changed. For you to be after God’s heart, God must personally do the work of changing and cleansing you; if you are only redeemed, you will be incapable of attaining sanctity. In this way you will be unqualified to share in the good blessings of God, for you have missed out a step in God’s work of managing man, which is the key step of changing and perfecting. And so you, a sinner who has just been redeemed, are incapable of directly inheriting God’s inheritance.”
After reading these words, I felt enlightened. I came to know that our being reborn through baptism only means that we were redeemed. As long as we prayed to the Lord to confess and repent, we would gain grace and blessings from the Lord, our sins would be forgiven by Him, and we would no longer be convicted by laws; this is only being saved. However, we are still filthy and corrupt. Even if outwardly we strive to restrain ourselves, fast and pray, and we don’t commit serious sins through our behaviors, our sinful nature is still deeply rooted in us. That’s why we still live in a state of sinning and confessing. Aren’t all of us like this? As for myself, when someone said things that harmed my interests, I would get angry, and sometimes even though I didn’t lose my temper on the outside, I still had grievance against them in my heart; when I was together with my family or classmates, I always wanted all of them to listen to me and think highly of me; although I tried hard to put myself aside and be humble, in my heart I still thought I was better and I even looked down on those inferior to me. I knew I was committing sins, and I also often came before the Lord to pray and repent, but afterward I didn’t change. My father and other brothers and sisters were all like this as well. We lived in a vicious cycle of sinning in the day and confessing at night. Living a life like this showed that I was not truly reborn and saved, nor did I gain a new life. I once thought that I would be reborn and saved through baptism. Only now did I understand that only after our rebellion and resistance toward God have been eliminated, can we truly gain new life and be truly reborn.
Later, I recalled some verses I studied during a Bible study session, “I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth” (John 16:12–13). He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Revelation 2:29). “And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. He that rejects me, and receives not my words, has one that judges him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day” (John 12:47–48). Pondering these verses, I felt that the Lord would come in the last days to speak His words, and tell us the truths we have never heard before, judging and cleansing us. 1 Peter 4:17 says, “For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God.” This shows that the Lord will return to do the work of judgment and cleansing. Through this work, we can get rid of our corrupt dispositions, gain new life, and be truly reborn.
Thinking of this, I was overjoyed. Thank the Lord for His enlightenment! It turns out that if we want to gain new life and be truly reborn, we need the Lord to do the work of judgment. Only then can we get rid of our sinful nature, become newly-created mankind, and be brought into the kingdom of heaven.
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