New World From Water, by Peter J. Leithart

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By Peter J. Leithart, First Things, 4 . 9 . 21

Peter J. Leithart is president of the Theopolis Institute.

The gospel begins with John preaching baptism and ends with Jesus commanding baptism. For two millennia, baptism has been the effective symbol of our incorporation into the body of Christ. Why water?

The Bible’s basic answer is: The new creation is signified by water because the first creation came through water. Genesis 1 describes creation as a hydraulics project. Yahweh creates an empty void, a “deep” of waters, what Tertullian called the Spirit’s “throne” and “chariot.” The Creator hauls water to the sky and sets a firmament-dam to separate waters above and below, divides the waters below to expose dry land, and summons the first living souls to fill the sea. God is himself a “fountain of living water” (Jer. 2:13). Naturally, his creation is born of water and Spirit. …

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