Irenaeus on Baptism

For as we are lepers in sin, we are made clean, by means of the sacred water and the invocation of the Lord, from our old transgressions; being spiritually regenerated as new-born 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.”

 Fragment 34, Ante-Nicene Fathers 01, Philip Schaff (ed.), Grand Rapids: ccel, p.1428

Irenaeus of Lyons (c. 130-202), a disciple of Polycarp (a disciple of the Apostle John) is used by both supporters of infant baptism and believers’ baptism.  This quote from a fragment of his writing seems to lean towards the latter, linking salvation to both faith and baptism.  Of course it isn’t conclusive as it could be argued Irenaeus is speaking of faith as confirmation of a baptism performed earlier in life.  Interestingly, Irenaeus is among the earliest Christian writers to be born to Christian parents.  Unfortunately the details of his baptism are not known.  Several other major writers known to have been born to Christian parents are known to have been baptized later in life (Augustine, Ambrose, Basil & his brother Gregory of Nyssa,  & Gregory Nanzianzen- whose father was a Bishop).

While we can’t confirm his position like we can for other Church Fathers, Irenaeus is one of the earliest to mention baptism, and he seems to be among those who combine baptism with faith and repentance.

One Comment on “Irenaeus on Baptism

  1. “Regenerated as newborn babes”… to me that is the spiritual sense, that we come to Christ as babes in knowledge and wisodm; we gain that as we grow in Him.

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