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Comparative Theology, book by H. H. Pope Shenouda III
14- Is salvation through the word and not through water?
Do the Apostle's words about the Church: "...that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word" (Eph.5: 26) mean that cleansing is through the word, that is, salvation is through the word? What about the other verses which signify the necessity of the word for salvation such as: "...having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever" (1Pet.1: 23) and "Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth" (Jas.1: 18), and which did not say: "having been born again... through baptism" and "saved us through baptism"?
What is the importance of water for salvation? Since the Lord says: "He who believes and is baptised will be saved", then salvation will be attained this way. But the phrase "He who believes" should be preceded by teaching or preaching, because the Apostle says: "And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?" (Rom.10: 14) The importance of the word arises from here.
The word, which results in belief, comes first and then after belief baptism is administered, the result of which is salvation and renewal of life. Although salvation and renewal of life are received through baptism, yet the word should come first because it leads to faith and faith leads to baptism. That is why the Apostle says: "...He brought us forth by the word of truth" and "...having been born again through the word of God", on the assumption that the 'word' is the origin that led to all these.
The Apostle's words about the Church: "...that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word" (Eph.5: 26) means that cleansing is completed by baptism (the washing of water) through the word, that is, through preaching and the ministry of the word which result in faith and then in baptism.
Here we observe that the Apostle says: "with the washing of water by the word" and not "with the washing of water which is the word", and we have discussed this issue before here on st-takla.org in other pages. If the washing of water means the word there would have been no need for this repetition. But "the washing of water by the word" means the washing of water which takes place following the effect of the word. Without the word and its effect the people could not have come to the washing of water, that is, to baptism.
We observe that the word ‘belief’ is not mentioned in the phrases "having been born again... through the word of God" (1 Pet.1: 23) and "brought us forth by the word of truth" (Jas.1: 18). Is the word without belief sufficient for the new birth? This is impossible. The word ‘belief’ is not mentioned because it is obviously implied.
There is no need to repeat on every occasion words whose meanings are obviously implied. We cannot on every occasion repeat the words: word -belief- baptism rebirth.
Preaching has its importance; nobody can deny the importance of the ministry of the word. Nevertheless, we can never say that some people are 'brought forth by the word of truth' whether they believe or not. This also applies to baptism.
The phrase 'washing of water by the word' implies two things: the word and baptism. We notice that the word 'belief' is not mentioned since it is implied.
Our Protestant brethren are constantly concentrating on faith. Does the absence of the word 'faith' in (Eph.5: 26); (Jas.1: 18); (1Pet.1: 23) mean that it is not important or necessary? Of course not. Sometimes the absence of a word does not render it unnecessary, but that its meaning is implied. This applies to the word 'baptism'.
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