The True Meaning of Baptism by Water and Fire

An excerpt from Paris Talks by 'Abdu'l-Baha. Talk dated November 9th, 1911


In the Gospel according to St. John, Christ has said:

“Except a man be born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.” - John 3:5

The priests have interpreted this into meaning that baptism is necessary for salvation. In another Gospel it is said:

“He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire.” - Matthew 3:11

Thus the water of baptism and the fire are one! It cannot mean that the “water” spoken of is physical water, for it is the direct opposite of “fire,” and one destroys the other. When in the Gospels, Christ speaks of “water,” He means that which causes life, for without water no worldly creature can live—mineral, vegetable, animal and man, one and all, depend upon water for their very being. Yes, the latest scientific discoveries prove to us that even mineral has some form of life, and that it also needs water for its existence.


Water is the cause of life, and when Christ speaks of water, He is symbolizing that which is the cause of Everlasting Life.


This life-giving water of which He speaks is like unto fire, for it is none other than the Love of God, and this love means life to our souls.


By the fire of the Love of God the veil is burnt which separates us from the Heavenly Realities, and with clear vision we are enabled to struggle onward and upward, ever progressing in the paths of virtue and holiness, and becoming the means of light to the world.


There is nothing greater or more blessed than the Love of God! It gives healing to the sick, balm to the wounded, joy and consolation to the whole world, and through it alone can man attain Life Everlasting. The essence of all religions is the Love of God, and it is the foundation of all the sacred teachings.


It was the Love of God that led Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, that strengthened Joseph in Egypt and gave to Moses courage and patience.


Through the Love of God, Christ was sent into the world with His inspiring example of a perfect life of self-sacrifice and devotion, bringing to men the message of Eternal Life. It was the Love of God that gave Muḥammad power to bring the Arabs from a state of animal degradation to a loftier state of existence.


God’s Love it was that sustained the Báb and brought Him to His supreme sacrifice, and made His bosom the willing target for a thousand bullets.


Finally, it was the Love of God that gave to the East Bahá’u’lláh, and is now sending the light of His teaching far into the West, and from Pole to Pole.


Thus I exhort each of you, realizing its power and beauty, to sacrifice all your thoughts, words and actions to bring the knowledge of the Love of God into every heart.

- 'Abdu'l-Baha


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