Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Refuting Baptismal Regeneration, Part 3 of 6

There is a distinct and profound difference between water baptism (a Christian ordinance) and the baptism of the Spirit (renewal or rebirth when the Holy Spirit is received by faith).The renewing of the Holy Spirit is what John the Baptist referred to as the baptism of the Spirit. “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire,” Matthew 3:11. Jesus stated the same when He said to His apostles, “you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now,” Acts 1:5. In light of these Scriptures, we turn to certain key passages and scrutinize them.

Romans 6:3 states: “Or do you not know that as many as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?” Would Paul be presently referring to being immersed in water, or receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit, the baptism of the Spirit John and Jesus spoke of? The only way to conclude that it is the former is to espouse Baptismal Regeneration and conjoin the two doctrines: spiritual regeneration occurs via water baptism.

Moving ahead to verse 4 Paul begins with the Greek word “oun” which indicates transition; Paul was bringing us from one point to the next. “Therefore (oun) we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we should walk in newness of life.” Paul’s point is simple: are you unaware that the spiritual life you received through the new birth (regeneration and renewing of the Spirit) associates you with our Lord’s death? To remind you of this association the new convert to Christ ought to be baptized as a symbol and reminder that the Christian is dead to sin, but alive to Christ. Paul goes on to allude that water baptism incorporates one into the local body of the church, and by this visible association with Christ’s death we have hope of being partakers of the glory of His resurrection, verse 5.

The trouble comes when someone wishes to read “water baptism” into this entire passage. Then Paul would be speaking redundantly. If read in this context we might paraphrase it like so: “Do you not know as many as were baptized (in water) were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through [water] baptism into [His] death…” The force and message of the passage is lost.

Here is a similar passage is in Galatians. Paul writes, “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus,” Galatians 3:26. Now that sounds very straight forward, and agrees with literally hundreds of similar salvation passages scattered throughout the New Testament. We continue: “For as many as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ,” verse 27. The passage goes on to state that in the ranks of re-born believers there is no discrimination or partiality among its members. Being born again by faith in Christ Jesus (verse 26) makes you a son of God, and the body of the church is one in Christ, verse 28. In fact, this passage doesn’t even have water baptism in view! The apostle is referring to spiritual rebirth as a consequence of our faith in Christ; as well as the equality of our position in Him.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ (compare with Galatians 3:27), he is a new creation; old things have passed away, behold, all things have become new,” 2nd Corinthians 5:17.

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation,” Galatians 6:15.

Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God,” John 3:3.

If someone is born again by faith in Christ after having heard the gospel of salvation, they are in Christ, the Holy Spirit is in them, and they are sealed for the day of redemption. The efficacy of water baptism only enters the picture if a Scriptural argument can be raised that water baptism effects spiritual regeneration (which Roman Catholics have long believed) and makes one a member of the invisible, universal church. Yet Christ Himself states that faith (alone) removes a believer from condemnation and judgment, John 5:24. Paul wrote: In [Jesus] we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins,” Colossians 1:14. Read also Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” To explain what he meant by this verse, I will simply allow the apostle to continue: “But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His,” verse 9.

Paul clarifies, contrasting those who do not have the Spirit as being those who walk in the flesh, verses those who have received the Spirit and walk according to Him. The unsaved do not have the Spirit of God; the saved do –it’s really that simple. How do you know that you have the Spirit of God? When you believe on the Lord Jesus Christ you receive the Holy Spirit of promise, just as Paul wrote elsewhere and we have already quoted. Reception of the Spirit is not contingent on one’s faithful walk, nor is it contingent upon water baptism. It is contingent upon believing God. Paul continues: “And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you,” verses 10-11.

Referring back to circumcision once more; it was an outward seal of the covenant and had no power to justify or regenerate (in fact regeneration is a New Testament concept). Why is that? The Holy Spirit had not been given to indwell men during the Old Testament era. He is the seal of God’s fidelity, and His presence when we are born again through faith assures us that we are children of God, Romans 8:16; 1st John 3:24. If water baptism were essential for salvation every saint prior to Pentecost would have needed baptism. God’s plan for salvation has not changed since the foundation of the world. Jesus is called the Lamb slain since the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8) and the gospel preached is the everlasting gospel, Revelation 14:6. We are told we are born again by, “the acknowledgement of the truth which accords with godliness, in hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began, but has in due time manifested His word through preaching,” Titus 1:1-3.

It is the gospel God preached to Abraham, Galatians 3:8. The gospel was also preached to the Hebrews led out of Egypt by Moses, Hebrews 3:16-4:2. “The gospel was preached to us as well as to them [Israel]; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it,” Hebrews 4:2. The reason cited why Israel perished was unbelief, Hebrews 3:19; this agrees with Jesus’ words in Mark 16:16, that anyone who disbelieves will be condemned. So then, failure to enter Heaven hangs on the sole condition of placing one’s faith in God; water baptism never saved the Old Testament saints, why should we who live in the age of grace need it for salvation? It is written in Revelation that anyone not found in the Lamb’s book of life was cast into the Lake of Fire, 20:15. This book contains the names of the saints through the ages, those who have been justified by faith in the Old and New Testament eras.

If faith in this Lamb slain since the world’s inception is the condition of having one’s name inscribed in His book then this makes sense. If water baptism is also essential for one’s salvation, logically following this train of thought would exclude all Old Testament saints from being in Heaven. They would have to be cast into the Lake of Fire. The violence this seemingly simple addition to the gospel does to Scripture is horrific. I have read proponents of this position actually teaching that God saves in a different manner than He did during the Old Testament era. I cannot find one verse in the Bible stating such a fact. One also has stated without apology that if you placed your faith in Christ but were not baptized (only by immersion), you would be damned. This is unconscionable. Where is this written in Scripture?

Isaiah preached that God laid the iniquity of us all upon Christ, and God made His soul an offering for sin, Isaiah 53:6, 10. The essence of the gospel is this: The Father laid on Christ sin itself (the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all, verse 6) and Christ’s sacrificial death was a single offering for sin itself: all sin for all time for everyone who ever has lived or ever will live (When You make His soul an offering for sin…He shall see the labor of His soul and be satisfied, verses 10-11). The “labor of His soul” was His singular offering for sin upon the cross, so that its penalty was paid for by His righteous act, Romans 5:18. This was typified by the sin offering made once a year on behalf of all Israel, Leviticus 16. Since this act done by the high priest was repeated yearly, it was clear that it was symbolic of the coming One who would at last put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself, Hebrews 9:26.


  1. Hi Ian,

    This series illuminates the topic of water baptism and the baptism of the Spirit. Many have erroneously placed an emphasis on water baptism.

    Thank you for your prayers my brother; I appreciate you.

    Blessings and peace.


  2. As you so aptly pointed out, if water baptism is required for salvation, a lot of problems appear, including all the saints who died before Christ was resurrected. I sorrow for those who insist on clinging to that doctrine, ass it holds many back.


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