Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. He came to Jesus at night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God, for no one can do these signs that you are doing unless God is with him.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a person once grown old be born again? Surely he cannot reenter his mother’s womb and be born again, can he?” Jesus answered, “Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit(Jn 3:1-5).
In yesterday’s segment of our Biblical journey to the one, true Church, we looked at the Great Commission, when Jesus directed the Apostles to make disciples of all the nations through baptism and teaching. I discussed the fact that we’re now looking for a Church that baptizes its members. While many churches fall into that category, it is often treated as a symbolic act and not deemed necessary for salvation. Looking at the discussion between Jesus and Nicodemus, however, makes it very difficult to draw that conclusion. Based on our evidence so far, it really appears that the Church established by Christ will view baptism as a requirement for salvation.
How did the first Christians feel about this? When we look at the writings of the early Church Fathers, we see much support for the necessity of baptism:
“Without baptism, salvation is attainable by none.” (Tertullian)
“If any man does not receive baptism, he does not have salvation.” (St. Cyril of Jerusalem)
“[According to] apostolic tradition . . . the churches of Christ hold inherently that without baptism and participation at the table of the Lord it is impossible for any man to attain either to the kingdom of God or to salvation and life eternal. This is the witness of Scripture too” (St. Augustine)
So far, the Catholic Church is very much in the running and her position will grow stronger as we look at the next few passages. In my next post, we’ll discuss one of Jesus’ most difficult teachings which is also one of His greatest gifts.
Tomorrow: The Bread of Life Discourse (John 6:48-66)