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This Baptism Objections page addresses objections that Christians have to the historical teaching on baptism. If you have not read that page, then this page will not make much sense to you.
On this page, I will refer to the Scriptural and historical teaching on baptism as "baptismal regeneration," even though I only lightly touched on that term when I taught the historical view. I am doing that for convenience, as I don't have a different concise term to describe the historical view, and because it is Scriptural terminology.
I am aware that baptismal regeneration is almost a cuss word in some Christian circles. It is certainly "heresy" in many denominations.
The problem is that regeneration at the time of baptism is clearly taught in Scripture and was taught by all Christians until after the Reformation. If it's heresy, then everyone was a heretic until the 17th century!
Part of the problem is the definition generally given to baptismal regeneration.
While it's true that Roman Catholics and denominations like the Churches of Christ believe there is no way to be regenerated (i.e., born again) except by baptism, this is not the only way to understand the term—neither logically, nor grammatically, nor historically.
When I personally use the term "baptismal regeneration"—which I rarely do because of the reaction it causes—I do not mean that there is no other way to be regenerated except through baptism.
Here is what I do mean ...
Under normal circumstances, the proper response to the Gospel is to be baptized. Scripture knows nothing of a sinner's prayer. Every person who believes in the New Testament is then baptized in water in the name of the Lord Jesus.
This is the normal response to the Gospel, and it results in being born again. As Ananias said to Saul, who would eventually become the apostle Paul ...
This is the only "sinner's prayer" the Scripture knows of.
There are two exceptions seen in the New Testament ...
Today, many truly godly men and women—who are born again and have the Spirit of God—have been misled by modern tradition into believing that baptism is a purely symbolic act to be performed after a person is already born again, rather than being the true and Scriptural sinner's prayer. However, because it is always <em>obedience</em> that matters to God, not theological understanding, God has brought people to new life in Christ despite our misunderstanding and traditions of men.
Scripture is very clear on the matter, referring to baptism as "the washing of regeneration" (Tit. 3:5) and saying repeatedly that we are baptized into Christ (e.g., Gal. 3:27). Thus, like the issue of high places in ancient Israel, though God seems to overlook it (1 Kings 15:14), nonetheless he commends and rewards those who return to the ways he established (2 Kings 23:19 w/ 23:25).
There's a sense in which baptism is a work, but let's face it ... calling baptism a work is a real stretch. How hard is it to get wet?
Far more importantly, "works salvation" is not false, it is true. James states in no uncertain terms that faith without works won't save you (James 2:14-24). Peter commands us to add virtue, knowledge, self-control, and several other things to our faith if we want an entrance to the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Pet. 1:5-11).
Jesus is not afraid to ask us to work.
Paul also says many times that we must have works to go to heaven, but we're so used to twisting Paul to fit our traditions that we no longer even notice when we read his letters.
If baptism is a work, that's no problem.
The sad truth that most of us don't want to face is that this is the real reason we object to baptismal regeneration. We really don't care what Jesus, the apostles, or the churches they started say about baptism, we're not changing our view no matter what.
When the Scriptures on baptism are lined up one right after another without man's interpretation, their conclusion is so obvious that no one but a trained theologian could miss it.
If you're on this page, you've probably already seen them listed like that on the baptism page. If you haven't seen that page, you should.