Saturday, November 13, 2010

Refuting Baptismal Regeneration, Part 2 of 6

As we proceed deeper into Old Testament revelation we read in Jeremiah 4:3-4: “Break up your fallow ground, and do not sow among thorns. Circumcise yourselves to the Lord, and take away the foreskins of your hearts, you men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem.” As with so many things which God taught in the Law, the physical act of circumcision carried a far deeper connotation. In Jeremiah 9:26 the prophet writes: “all the house of Israel are uncircumcised in the heart.”

What was the Lord pressing the point of? The children of Judah in Jeremiah’s day relied in physical ordinances and the presence of the temple to protect them; God was warning them that cutting away flesh was not His will; genuine obedience from a humbled heart was. Circumcision was a symbol of the act God performed; first in cutting Abraham away from Ur of the Chaldees; likewise removing Moses and Israel from Egypt. God’s people are to be separate from the world and separate from the sin the world indulges in. God showed Abraham this through the covenant of circumcision. In Jeremiah 9:25-26 God reveals through the prophet that circumcision does not save. The physical ordinance carried no power; it was only beneficial to the one who was also circumcised in heart. God was making ready to punish Judah for their sins despite the fact that they had been circumcised in the flesh.

It seems fair that circumcision is the Old Testament equivalent of water baptism; Paul alludes to this, Colossians 2:11-12. It was a visible token or sign of God’s presence with His people; no more and no less. Paul used circumcision and Abraham’s conversion to teach us that obedience to the law does not justify. Paul words it thus:

Does this blessedness then come upon the circumcised only, or upon the uncircumcised also? For we say that faith was accounted to Abraham for righteousness. How then was it accounted? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised. And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while still uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all those who believe, though they are uncircumcised, that righteousness might be imputed to them also, and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who walk in the steps of the faith which our father Abraham had while still uncircumcised,” Romans 4:9-12.

What do we glean from this? First, Paul states a fact: we know that God informs us Abraham’s faith was accounted (imputed) for righteousness, Genesis 15:6. Then a simple question was asked: how was this righteousness imputed? Abraham, Paul says, was a justified (saved) man BEFORE he was circumcised. What then was circumcision? It was the outward token (sign) or seal of the faith which Abraham already possessed, and by which Abraham was already justified. Circumcision was the external seal of the covenant between God and Israel during the Old Testament. One cannot “seal” what is not present, so to speak. Just as circumcision was the seal of Abraham’s faith by which he was justified, so water baptism is the confirmation/testimony of a man’s faith which he already possesses. But what is the seal of the New Testament era, to those who also demonstrate the faith of Abraham?

Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, who has also sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee,” 2nd Corinthians 1:22.

In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is a guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory,” Ephesians 1:13-14.

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption,” Ephesians 4:30.

It is clear from Scripture that the reception of the indwelling Holy Spirit, and not water baptism, is the true seal and sign of our covenant with God through Christ Jesus our Lord. It is the reception of the Holy Spirit, mingled with our hearing the word of God that is the “washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit,” Titus 3:5. Hearing the word of God makes one clean; this is the washing of regeneration as the Bible teaches it. Paul clarifies: “Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? ...therefore He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, does He do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? …Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham…So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham,” Galatians 3:2, 5, 7, 9.

You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you,” John 15:3. Jesus also put it another way. “He that is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean,” John 13:10. The Greek word for “bathed” is used in Revelation 1:5, which says, “To Him who loved us and washed (Greek, louo) us from our sins in His own blood.”

Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth,” John 17:17.

That He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word,” Ephesians 5:26. The Greek word for washing in this verse is “loutron,” and means “bath.” The Bible does not teach that we are cleansed from sin by water baptism, but by hearing the word of God, believing it, and being regenerated and renewed.

Let us look at Acts 22:16. The verse reads: “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” The context of the chapter has Paul telling his Jewish audience about his encounter with, and commission by, the living Christ. Ananias had been sent to restore Paul’s sight, and when Paul had been restored he was given a dual command by Ananias: be baptized and call on the name of the Lord. Does baptism aid in salvation? Joel wrote, “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved,” Joel 2:32. Paul argues the same point to greater length: “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation…for whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved,” Romans 10:9-10, 13. Interestingly, the NASB renders Acts 22:16 differently: “Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.” Here then we find a verse that damages the concept of baptism’s necessity, because Ananias is literally telling Paul to be baptized and wash away his sins by calling on the name of the Lord, not by being immersed in water.

What is Acts 22:16 relating? Baptism is metaphorical of the transformation that occurs within a newly born Christian. Consider: can water literally wash away one’s sins? Obviously it cannot. Consider Romans 6:5; is a Christian literally buried with Christ in death through water baptism? No; baptism was chosen by God as a symbol to teach these spiritual truths to new-born Christians. Baptism represents Christ’s burial, and our association with Him in His death. Is it odd that Paul was baptized immediately? Of course not; you will search in vain to find a Christian in the New Testament who refrained from being baptized after their conversion. Yet by Paul’s own witness in Romans 10, it was his confession of faith, his personal belief that Jesus was Lord that saved him; baptism followed his conversion, as good works or the fruit of the Spirit ALWAYS do, Ephesians 2:10; James 2:18; Titus 2:14.

Finally: Acts 9:17-18 relate the rest of the story, as the saying goes. Ananias says to Paul, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit,” verse 17. This hearkens to Paul’s own writing, when he states, “Their [unbelieving Jews] minds were blinded…because the veil is taken away in Christ…nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away,” 2nd Corinthians 3:14, 16. Verse 18 declares, “Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he received his sight at once; and he arose and was baptized.” Like Cornelius and his family, Paul received the Holy Spirit of promise FIRST, and then was baptized in obedience to his Lord’s command. Ananias did not mention baptism in verse 17; his statement was that Paul would have his vision restored, and this would be his sign that he would be filled with the Holy Spirit. After this he was immersed in water. It is convenient eisegesis to ignore this passage in favor of Acts 22:16, which seems to support Baptismal Regeneration when used out of context.

See a similar example from Acts chapter 8 when Philip converts and baptizes the eunuch, Acts 8:26-40. Philip preaches Christ to him (verse 35), and the eunuch asks a question: what hinders me from being baptized (verse 36)? The answer to the question is simple: “If you believe (in Jesus) with all your heart, you may,” verse 37. Philip was instructing the eunuch that saving faith must precede baptism; otherwise water baptism is pointless. The eunuch responded with the confession mentioned in Romans 10:9-10: “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God,” verse 37. Then, and only then, did Philip lead the eunuch to water to immerse him, verse 38.

For a final example, look at Acts 18:7-8. Paul went to a synagogue in Corinth to preach the gospel. Crispus and many Corinthians heard the word of God, believed the message, and were saved. As Paul wrote, “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God,” Romans 10:17. It is this same gospel that saved righteous Abel. Abel offered unto God a sacrifice “by faith,” Hebrews 11:4; and we know that faith only comes by “hearing…the word of God.” Peter summarized that all men shall be saved in the same manner (by faith), Acts 15:11. Look also at Acts 4:4. “However (that is, despite the apostles being arrested), many of those who heard the word believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand.” After they believed they were baptized; the infant Church took our Lord’s words quite seriously when He gave them the ordinance of baptism: that when one believed on Jesus Christ water baptism ought to follow a confession of faith.

Examine1st Peter 3:21. “There is also an antitype (symbol) which now saves us –baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ." Peter refers to baptism as a symbol of the flood waters in Noah’s day, verse 20. Those without the ark perished, Noah and his family within the ark were saved. It was not those who were “immersed” in the flood waters that were saved; it was those who entered the ark and were spared God’s wrath who found grace. How? Noah believed God of things to come, Hebrews 11:7. His actions demonstrated his faith in God as a witness to men, James 2:14-26; by which Noah condemned the ancient world and became the heir of righteousness which is received only by faith, Hebrews 11:7. Peter writes that through Christ’s resurrection we have an escape from God’s judgment (the flood and baptism representing death) by faith in Jesus Christ. This passage can only teach salvation via water baptism if said baptism is the means by which one enters the “ark” of safety God has made in Jesus Christ, rather than genuine faith in Christ as Savior. Let Scripture be the judge of this matter.

If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved,” Romans 10:9.

Whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins," Acts 10:43.

“By Him everyone who believes is justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses,” Acts 13:39.

Peter wrote that believers are “born again…through the word of God which lives and abides forever…now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you,” 1st Peter 1:23, 25.

4 comments:

  1. incredable insight on what God does in our hearts spiritually. God word bro. Currently doing a study through Colossians working through chapter 2 stopping by next week :)

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  2. Ian...Keep the truth coming our way. I have been enjoying the study and find it very refreshing to just kick back and meditate on the Word of God. Looking forward to the next part. Blessings my brother in Christ. Lloyd

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  3. Probably the first indication that one actually got saved is the decision to be baptized because he told us to. If a person will not obey his first command, it is doubtful the Holy Spirit is present.

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  4. William,
    thank you for the encouragement; please keep my ministry in your prayers. I look forward to Colossians, since you expound the gospels quite well.

    Lloyd,
    I'm glad you find my study refreshing; frankly I find that everytime I attempt to teach, I'm usually the one who learns the most! God is great like that. God bless, brother.

    dfish,
    I agree. I think baptism is a part of Ephesians 2:10; Titus 2:14. Good works follow salvation, and the first good work we are called on to do is be baptized. Thanks for taking interest in my Blog. I enjoy visiting yours, so I'll certainly keep you and your ministry in my prayers.

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