Saturday, January 9, 2016

The Fallacy of Baptismal Regeneration

Many of the books that I review on my blog come through As part of receiving the free book, I agree to post my review on my blog as well as on Occasionally, I will receive feedback from my blog readers, but most of the negative comments I receive are responses to my book reviews posted on the Amazon website. Therefore, I have a series of blog posts that I've labeled Countering Criticism where I evaluate the validity of the negative feedback I receive. Today, I would like to look at a comment from a poster named 'A customer' regarding my book review on The Christian Life. You can read my original review here.

On January 8, 2016 A customer says:
"Why would Jesus institute Holy Baptism if it didn't accomplish anything? According to Scripture Baptism saves and forgives sins. 1 Peter 3; 20-22. Titus 3:5-8. Mark 16:16. How does God begin new life? By water and spirit. Starting in Genesis."

Let's read the verses cited by A customer:
  • 1 Peter 3:20-22--"Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.  The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ: Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him."
  • Titus 3: 5-8--"Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.  This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men.
  • "Mark 16:16--"He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned."
Do these verse teach baptismal regeneration?  No.  Does baptism forgive sins?  No.  Orthodox Christianity has never held to either of these teachings.
In a recent sermon Pastor Jeff Riddle notes that there are four types of baptism (Heb. 6:2) shown in the New Testament.  First is the baptism of the Holy Spirit.  All Christians experience this baptism when they come to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit indwells their lives.  Salvation is a monergistic work of God when the Holy Spirit regenerates the believer's heart.
  • "I [John the Baptist] indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire," (Matt. 3:11).
  • "And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning.  Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost," (Acts 11:15-16).
  • "But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his," (Rom. 8:9).
Second is the water baptism in the name of Jesus upon profession of faith in Him.
  • "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost," (Matt. 28:19).
  • "But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women," (Acts 8:12).
Third is the baptism of suffering.  Following Christ requires that Christians die to themselves and that they would be willing to lay down their life for Christ.
  • "But Jesus said unto them, Ye know not what ye ask: can ye drink of the cup that I drink of? and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?  And they said unto him, We can. And Jesus said unto them, Ye shall indeed drink of the cup that I drink of; and with the baptism that I am baptized withal shall ye be baptized," (Mark 10:38-39).
Fourth is the baptism of unity with Christ and unity with fellow believers.
  • "For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus," (Gal. 3:27-28).
  • "Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?" (Rom. 6:3).
If you look at 1 Peter 3:20-22, the baptism referenced here, has to be the baptism of the Holy Spirit.  It's the parenthetical information that makes sure the believer does not equate baptism with salvation.  Albert Barnes' Commentary Notes on the Bible addresses 1 Peter 3:21--
"Not the putting away of the filth of the flesh. Not a mere external washing, however solemnly done. No outward ablution or purifying saves us, but that which pertains to the conscience. This important clause is thrown in to guard the statement from the abuse to which it would otherwise be liable, the supposition that baptism has of itself a purifying and saving power. To guard against this, the apostle expressly declares that he means much more than a mere outward application of water."

Titus 3:5-8 is also referring to the baptism of the Holy Spirit.  Again, 'A customer' has ignored the clarifying parenthetical in the sentence.  From Barnes' Commentary on Titus 3:5--
"And renewing of the Holy Ghost. This is an important clause, added by Paul apparently to save from the possibility of falling into error. If the former expression, "the washing of regeneration," had been left to stand by itself, it might have been supposed possibly that all the regeneration which would be needed would be that which would accompany baptism. But he avoids the possibility of this error, by saying that the "renewing of the Holy Ghost" is an indispensable part of that by which we are saved. It is necessary that this should exist in addition to that which is the mere emblem of it--the washing of regeneration --for without this the former would be unmeaning and unavailing."

In Mark 16:16, belief precedes water baptism.  This is the model that orthodox Christianity follows.  Water baptism is an outward profession of faith and is done because it is commanded in Scripture.  From Barnes' Commentary on Mark 16:16--
"Is baptized. Is initiated into the church by the application of water, as significant that he is a sinner, and needs the purifying influences of the Holy Ghost. It is worthy of remark, that Jesus has made baptism of so much importance, he did not say, indeed, that a man could not be saved without baptism, but he has strongly implied that where this is neglected, knowing it to be a command of the Saviour, it endangers the salvation of the soul. Faith and baptism are the beginnings of a Christian life: the one the beginning of piety in the soul, the other of its manifestation before men, or of a profession of religion. And every man endangers his eternal interest by being ashamed of Christ before men."

In his comment above, 'A customer' partially quotes John 3:5 when he answers his own question of how God begins new life.  Let's look at that in its entirety; I'll add verse 6 as well:
  • "Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.  That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit," (John 3:5-6).
Again, this is a picture of the baptism of the Holy Spirit.  Born of water is the first birth of every man, our natural birth.  Born of the Spirit is the baptism of the Holy Spirit, the second birth of the "born-again" believer in Jesus Christ.  Every person is born of natural descent with an inherent sin nature, but only God's chosen (1 Peter 2:9) are saved by Him from the wrath to come.

Finally, in Genesis 2:7, God formed man out of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils and man became a living soul.  No water was used to create man in the beginning.  If water baptism saved, then the goal of God's Church would be to make sure that everyone was baptized.  However, faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God (Rom. 10:17), which is why the Church evangelizes the world by preaching the Gospel, not baptizing (1 Cor. 1:18).

Orthodox Christianity has never held to the doctrine of baptismal regeneration because it is not found or taught in the Word of God.

"This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more," (Heb. 10:16-17).