Not long after the apostolic era, Christian leaders began teaching that the ordinance of baptism regenerated sinners. The author of the Shepherd of Hermas, for example (ca. 100-154 A.D.),1 explained that “we went down into the water and received forgiveness of our previous sins” (31.1). He also believed a Christian could only sin once after being regenerated by baptism.2
In this excerpt Tertullian, the great 2nd century scholar from Carthage, explains his views on baptism. He clearly believed in baptismal regeneration. Here, he marvels at how people could scoff at such a simple vehicle as baptism for salvation:3
Well, but how great is the force of perversity for so shaking the faith or entirely preventing its reception, that it impugns it on the very principles of which the faith consists! There is absolutely nothing which makes men’s minds more obdurate than the simplicity of the divine works which are visible in the act, when compared with the grandeur which is promised thereto in the effect; so that from the very fact, that with so great simplicity, without pomp, without any considerable novelty of preparation, finally, without expense, a man is dipped in water, and amid the utterance of some few words, is sprinkled, and then rises again, not much (or not at all) the cleaner, the consequent attainment of eternity is esteemed the more incredible.