Born of Water rewritten

BaptismofJesus2Back in 2002, I taught a Bible class on whether those not properly baptized are damned. I survived.

I wrote up my notes and gave copies to the students. I survived that, too.

By 2005, I’d turned the notes into a book — but never published it.

In 2007, when I started this blog, I posted the book as a free ebook download in .pdf. I’ve not looked at it seriously since. Until now. (I figure books get the greatest circulation if they’re free.)

In preparing to teach on baptism at the Pepperdine Lectures, I thought I should re-read and edit the book. I wound up heavily re-writing it based on the countless conversations I’ve had with the readers here in the posts and in the comments. I mean, over 9 years of daily blogging means I’ve learned a lot from the readers — or in response to the readers’ questions. In either case, because of the readers. It’s now a much deeper, richer, better book. Thank you.

(And I could use some help proofing it. Please let me know if you find any mistakes.)

Download Born of Water 042416. Free (cheap)!

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About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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15 Responses to Born of Water rewritten

  1. David Himes says:

    I’ve skimmed thru the new book, Jay. But I have one more questions about Baptism, which I don’t think you’ve addressed. Of course, it could be argued, my question is pointless, but still it’s my question:

    Why would God choose baptism as part of the pathway to salvation?

    My own answer to this questions relates to primarily to the concept of submission. Baptism is a simple act. Almost silly in a sense. Why would God choose such a silly, simple act to be part of our salvation — even if it is only a symbol?

    For me it is part of demonstrating our submission. It lowers us, rather than exalts us. It even runs counter to our human nature. In the congregation where I worship, we often give a standing ovation when someone is baptized. Overtly giving praise and attention, at the very moment someone is providing evidence of their utter submission to the lordship of God in their life.

    It’s a significant contrast to our human nature — and part of what separates us from our human nature and turns towards to god.

  2. David Himes says:

    A second observation, which I think lends support to baptism role in our salvation. There is a scientific concept called Occam’s razor — essentially simpler theories are preferable to more complex ones.

    A simple reading of the NT Text leads to the obvious conclusion that baptism has some inseparable role with salvation.

    Theologians have created an argument about its essentiality. Give the Text to someone who has never read it before and then ask whether they should be baptized. Examine the conversion stories in the NT, and the presents of baptism is inescapable.

    So, why do we work so hard to rationalize the unessentialness of baptism.

    Now, frankly and personally, I come down on the side of faith in God and in the role Jesus played in our forgiveness as the essentials of salvation. I’ve been baptized and being baptized was important for me. I believe most people must be taught that baptism is unnecessary.

    But I will rejoice with anyone who proclaims Jesus is Lord, and let God be the judge. Because only God judges the heart knowingly.

    I try not to judge others harshly, because I want God to judge me as leniently as possible. My responsibility to love them the way Jesus loved me — I’ll choose to focus on that problem.

  3. Christopher says:

    I perused your book, Jay, and agree with much of what you say. This is a subject I have thought about for decades. If you want to turn it into something suitable for the masses (as opposed to those just in the CoC), I will take some time to carefully mark it up and send it to you.

    Here’s a thought that occured to me one day with regard to this subject: Jesus said to his religious critics, just as He was about to heal the paralytic lowered through a roof, that his miraculous healing would show that He had authority to (verbally) forgive sins on earth. So why do we imagine He cannot do the same now, or in paradise? He forgave the paralytic because of the faith he demonstrated. He forgave the thief on the cross the same way. We must not presume God will exempt anyone (as a kind of rule), but neither should we exclude the possibility of Him doing so, in this age or another.

  4. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:


    Very kind of you. It seems to me that the Churches of Christ are nearly unique in seeing baptism as a salvation issue as we do. Most denominations recognize baptisms performed contrary to their teachings. Calvinists and Baptists don’t even see baptism as salvific.

    There are those who insist that the rite be performed by someone ordained via apostolic succession. Hence, some will not recognize a baptism performed outside the Catholic/Orthodox/Anglican/Methodist episcopacies or some subset. So I’m not sure that the masses would give a rip about this question – which is why I write very specifically to a CHurch of Christ audience.

    But I’m more than open to suggestions. In fact, I’m very interested to hear your thoughts.

  5. Christopher says:


    I understand your rationale, but baptism is an essential part of the gospel and that’s what you (and I) are to preach. If someone cannot have faith unless someone preaches to him (according to Paul), how can one likewise believe in the importance of baptism?

    Here are other thoughts I’ve had over the years:

    The scriptures have to be pieced together to arrive at a clear and proper understanding in many instances. For someone coming from a denominational background, that can make it hard to see what might be obvious to the unitiated. One of the things that convinced me that baptism was an essential part of salvation was the descent of the HS upon Jesus as He came up out of the water. That cannot be some kind of accidental symbolism.

    The Greek word for immersion is transliterated, not translated. There are only a dozen or score of such words in English translations. That, likewise, cannot be accidental. And the reason seems obvious: why translate it in such a way that might evoke questions about current practices? By transliterating it, the true meaning is obscured.

    Acts provides us with three accounts of Paul’s conversion. These provide a useful way to test out various beliefs with respect to salvation. If, as many believe, one is saved upon coming to faith, then Paul should have been saved when Jesus appeared to him on the road to Damascus. Or if one is saved upon believing and repenting, then Paul should have been saved when he fasted for three days (an obvious Jewish sign of repentance). Yet we know he was not in either case. How do we know? Because he is later told to get baptized and wash away his sins.

    The rite of baptism is meaningful in a theological sense, but it has a very practical import for fallible human beings (who are want to doubt and question most anything over time and circumstances): it is like a stone of remembrance, a tangible point in time in which the promise of God was fulfilled. One can doubt his faith, his repentance, his sincerity, but he can never doubt he was immersed.

    Since baptism is for the remission of sins, I am not sure how one can call it a mere symbol and not be teaching a different gospel. If God says it is to remit sins, then who are we to say otherwise? Those who are told that and disregard it may not find mercy from God. But for those who didn’t know better? They may not be guilty of sin in this regard.

    It may all boil down to repentance. Those who come to truly understand they are lost and subject to God’s justice and, as a result, are willing to submit themselves from henceforth to God’s rule, typically have no problem getting baptized. And, had Billy Graham taught that through the years, we might not be having this discussion. But he didn’t and now the resistance in many of those “converts” is religious pride. You see none of that in the Ethiopian eunuch, Cornelius or the Bereans. You don’t see it in the disciples of John met by Paul. You don’t see it in David in response to Naman’s charges. That’s what I had to overcome. That’s what Naaman had to overcome. It’s what King Agrippa needed to overcome. One has to be willing to admit the possibility he might be wrong, to humble oneself.

  6. Larry Cheek says:

    I have not read very far yet but, if I see what I believe to be a clerical error, I thought you may look at it. I probably should be the last person on earth to notice this because I am not very proficient in proofreading. But, this is what I questioned. Page 29 next to the last paragraph, “The oldest eldest who’d”
    So far very good article.

  7. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:


    Much appreciated. No need to apologize. I found three typos in that paragraph! And I’d much rather be told about them so I can fix them than leave them out there for thousands to see. PLEASE note any errors you find. I’m pretty OCD and I truly appreciate the corrections.

  8. Christopher says:


    That is a proper contraction of “who had”, so no problem there. Keep looking though, brother! Nice of you to offer help.

  9. Ray Downen says:

    Jay, good for you. But you quote one passage which is obviously wrongly translated just as if the translation made good sense. It doesn’t. (1 Cor 12:13 NIV) For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body – whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free – and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. (Gal 3:26 NIV)

    The Spirit baptizes no one. The baptism which brings seekers INTO CHRIST is plainly spoken of as the baptism commanded by Jesus to be performed by human hands. The verse should be PROPERLY understood as “For we were all baptized in one spirit (we all repented and turned to Jesus as LORD) which brought us into the one body (the church), and we received God’s Spirit AS A RESULT of our being baptized INTO CHRIST.”

    The ESV is no better than the NIV in that it also capitalizes “spirit” when the apostolic reference is to the HUMAN spirit in this verse.

  10. Christopher says:

    Ray wrote:

    The Spirit baptizes no one.

    Then how do you explain the baptism of the Holy Spirit described in various NT passages?

  11. Larry Cheek says:

    It appears to me that you must have thought I was referring to to the word (who’d). I just copied one more word than necessary, but what I thought was wrong in this area was the word (eldest) the most logical word for me to see placed there would have been (elder). I am almost certain that Jay intended (elder).

  12. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:



    The Greek preposition is en, normally meaning “in” but it’s not exactly the same as the English “in.” ESV is likely more literal in saying “in” rather than “by” as in the NIV, KJV, NAS, vs. “in” as in ESV, NET, and Tyndale’s pre-KJV original.

    Either way, I’m confident “Spirit” with a capital S is Paul’s intention as c. 12 is about gifts of the Spirit.

    I’m of the opinion (covered here several times) that all Christians baptized in both water and Spirit. The use of “drink” is an allusion to the Spirit as water, per the prophets and Jesus. And if the Spirit is like water, being baptized in/by the Spirit is to receive the outpouring of the Spirit — in biblical language. The image is God pouring Spirit down from heaven onto the person being baptized. And so “in” seems most likely Paul’s thought. Compare Titus 3:6.

    I don’t think Paul was using “in” in the Baptist sense of the person being baptized in already in the Spirit and so baptism doing effect receipt of the Spirit. That would be a badly anachronistic reading — reading with a Zwinglian, 16th Century worldview rather than reading Paul as a Jewish rabbi learned in the prophets and Jesus.

    Therefore, I’ve substituted the ESV translation of that passage where it appears in the book. I’ll re-post in a few days after I’ve made any other changes the readers suggest.

    Thanks much for the comment. I find ESV generally superior to NIV but didn’t want to have to replace all the old NIV verses — but I’m delighted to use a better translation.

  13. Larry Cheek says:

    I have performed some very detailed searches in e-sword looking for expressions which would validate your statement above (“Then how do you explain the baptism of the Holy Spirit described in various NT passages?”) but I cannot find what you are suggesting. I know there could only be a few so could you present them for us?

  14. Christopher says:


    The phrase “baptism of the Holy Spirit” does not occur in the Bible. Here’s what the preposition “of” means (from M-W):

    1) belonging to, relating to, or connected with (someone or something)

    I haven’t read Jay’s columns on the Holy Spirit, but from his comment above I would guess we are largely, if not completely, in agreement. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is a complicated subject. It took me years to figure it all out. In the Bible, both God and Jesus are said to baptize with the Holy Spirit. And, since it is part of our triune God, it is an actor in anything done by the Father or the Son (consider the account of creation in Genesis, for instance). It therefore might be said that we are baptized in, with and by the Holy Spirit.

    I don’t know if that answers your question. If not, please clarify it more.

  15. Dwight says:

    One of the problems I see is in declaring baptism a symbol, which the scriptures never do. Once we declare it a symbol, then we can like Calvin who declared we are totally lost, follow the rabbit hole down in thinking. Baptism was never called a symbol, as washing was never called a symbol and was never seen as a symbol. When Jesus cured the 10 lepers, he told them to go purify themselves, why if they were clean physically? Because they were still unclean in relation to God.
    It was a relational thing between man and God, not between man and man.
    The secondary cleansing was an acceptance by God.

    The other problem is separating faith from works and works from faith. Abraham was seen as faithful to God, but only when Abraham did as God said, which reflected his faith. Romans seems to separate faith from works, but really Paul’s argument is that the works of the law cannot save, only faith, and yet not only faith, because we must have faith in God and Jesus. But James makes it clear that faith is exhibited and perfected and completed in works. So Romans isn’t arguing against faith/works, but works of the law without faith in God. The law could not save, only God could.

    And then the other problem is regarding baptism as a work. Cleansing or Baptism is never regarded as a work, but it is a position of transitioning.
    One presents himself for baptism and is baptized by another. They are buried, by another (man) into Christ death, and raised by another, God, into newness of life.
    Going back to a relational thing between man and God.

    One of the interesting things about Acts 2 is that the concept of faith is never approached. The Jews didn’t think in terms of faith, but rather faithfulness or being faithful, which meant expressing their faith. When Jesus came to the boat and Peter asked if he could go to Jesus, Jesus didn’t say you don’t need to, but said come. It took great faith to get out of the boat and then Peter’s faith changed and weakened, while he was still on the water. So it takes faith to be baptized, but it takes baptism to reflect the faith that is sufficient enough for salvation in submitting. In Acts 2 repentance and baptism reflected an unspoken faith, but an acted on faith, which resulted in salvation.

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