In the third chapter of his gospel, John related a meeting of Nicodemus, a prominent ruler of the Jews who came to Jesus under the cover of darkness to talk with Him. In the course of their conversation in verse three, Jesus stated, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Jesus further explained in the fifth verse that the new birth would be of water and the Spirit.
John 3:16 is considered by many to be the golden text of the Bible. Jesus continuing to speak to Nicodemus said, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” It was through God’s grace and love that He sent Jesus to die for mankind.
Man cannot do enough good works to earn his salvation. Paul wrote to the Ephesian church in Eph. 2:1-10 that man is saved by God’s grace. Verses 8 and 9 state, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” However, there are conditions to be met—the first of those being faith.
There were thousands of people assembled on the first Pentecost after the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. Peter and the other apostles preached the first gospel sermon to them and convicted and convinced them that they had crucified the Lord and Christ. Those believing Jews in essence confessed their faith when they asked in Acts 2:37, “What shall we do?” Peter replied in verse 38, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins…” Verse 41 states, “Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.”
Without believing in Jesus as the Son of God and confessing that faith, God’s grace would have been useless to those people on Pentecost. One cannot continue in his sinful life and expect to be saved without repenting and turning away from those sins. Baptism is the final act of being born of water and the Spirit for salvation (Jn. 3:5).
Sometime later, an evangelist, Philip had preached Jesus to an Ethiopian Eunuch. Acts 8:36-38 records that the Eunuch saw some water as they were traveling down the road and he asked, “What hinders me from being baptized?” Philip replied that, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” The Eunuch confessed his faith when he said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” At that point, Philip baptized the Eunuch and he went on his way rejoicing.
Paul recounted his own conversion in Acts 22:1-16 as he spoke in his defense before the Jews. He stated that after being blinded by the light on the Damascus road that he asked and was instructed in verse 10, “What shall I do, Lord?” He was told to, “Go into Damascus, and there you will be told all things which are appointed for you to do.” Paul’s account of his conversion concluded in verse 16 when he stated that Ananias asked him, “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.”
Peter in his first letter referring to the ark and great flood said in I Pet. 3:20, 21 that eight souls were saved through water as, “an antitype which now saves us—baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ…”
These previous conversion accounts point out that penitent believers confessed that they did believe and were baptized in order that their sins would be forgiven and washed away. According to Acts 2:47, the Lord added those who were being saved to the church. They had been born of water and the Spirit as Jesus had earlier related to Nicodemus.
The new birth, baptism is also symbolic of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. Through faith in Christ and repentance of past sins, the old man of sin dies. He is buried as the dead body of Jesus was buried. Then he rises as a clean sinless Christian to walk a new life just as Jesus rose to live a new life. Many of the remaining writings in the New Testament deal with righteous Christian living after one has been saved.