Baptismal regeneration refuted

INTRODUCTION

The following Churches teach that baptism regenerates man.

Roman Catholic Church. This sacrament is also called “the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit,” for it signifies and actually brings about the birth of water and the Spirit without which no one “can enter the kingdom of God.’ (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1215)

Orthodox Churches: ‘Sacraments … are not simply symbols of divine grace, but sure agents and means of its transmission. … [through baptism one] becomes a member of the church of Christ, being liberated from the controlling power of sin, and being reborn in the new creation in Christ” (International Eastern Orthodox-Old Catholic Theological Dialogue Commission, 1985); “Baptism is a new birth. It is being born to the life made new by our Lord Jesus Christ. It means to be alive in Christ… Through Holy Baptism all become Christ’s. We become Christians and have the opportunity to inherit God’s Kingdom… Why in the world would any parents who claim to be Christians want to put off making their offspring Christians as soon as possible? Don’t they want their infants to share in the Kingdom of God? The baptized one becomes a member of Christ’s body — His Church” (Doctrine of the Russian Orthodox Church, ONE CHURCH, 1981).

Lutheran Church: “Baptism effects forgiveness of sins, delivers from death and the devil, and grants eternal salvation to all who believe, as the Word and promise of God declare. … It is not the water that produces these effects, but the Word of God connected with the water, and our faith which relies on the Word of God connected with the water” (Luther’s Small Catechism, 1529, IV). ‘Being by nature sinners, infants as well as adults, need to be baptized. Every child that is baptized is begotten anew of water and of the Spirit, is placed in covenant relation with God, and is made a child of God and an heir of his heavenly kingdom” (Baptism formula used by Lutheran pastors in baptizing infants, The New Analytical Bible and Dictionary of the Bible, Chicago: John A. Dickson Publishing Co., 1973).

Anglican Church: ‘Baptism is not only a sign of profession, and mark of difference, whereby Christian men are discerned from others that be not christenes, but it is also a sign of Regeneration or new Birth, whereby, as by an instrument, they that receive Baptism rightly are grafted into the Church: the promises of forgiveness of sin, and of our adoption to be the sons of God by the Holy Ghost, are visibly signed and sealed …’ (The 39 Articles of Religion of the Anglican Church of Canada from the Book of Common Prayer, 1959, XXVII)

The Church of Christ (bear in mind that, unlike the above mentioned Churches, the Church of Christ rejects infant baptism): ‘Jesus informed Nicodemas that one does not enter the kingdom of God except by the new birth process (Jn. 3:5), which involves “water,” i.e., baptism. Not many would deny that the new birth and “regeneration” are equivalents. Hence, there is a solid connection between regeneration and the birth that involves water’ (http://www.christiancourier.com/)

I want to say another thing: evangelist Billy Graham, who is a Baptist, accepts not only infant baptism but also baptismal regeneration. Here are his eloquent words: ‘”I have some difficulty in accepting the indiscriminate baptism of infants without a careful regard as to whether the parents have any intention of fulfilling the promise they make. But I DO BELIEVE THAT SOMETHING HAPPENS AT THE BAPTISM OF AN INFANT, particularly if the parents are Christians and teach their children Christian Truths from childhood. We cannot fully understand the miracles of God, but I BELIEVE THAT A MIRACLE CAN HAPPEN IN THESE CHILDREN SO THAT THEY ARE REGENERATED, THAT IS, MADE CHRISTIAN, THROUGH INFANT BAPTISM. If you want to call that baptismal regeneration, that’s all right with me” (Graham, interview with Wilfred Bockelman, associate editor of the Lutheran Standard, American Lutheran Church, Lutheran Standard, October 10, 1961). Therefore, if during one of his crusades a Roman Catholic or a Lutheran or an Orthodox accepts Jesus Christ as His personal Saviour and Lord he does not exhort him to come out of his Church and join an Evangelical Church which rejects infant baptism and baptismal regeneration (where he must be baptized by immersion), for he thinks that baptism is not his concern nor his business. Instead, what happens if during one of his crusades a Muslim or a Buddhist or a Hindu turns to Christ? Well, he lets him choose his own church, whether it is Catholic or Protestant or Orthodox or whatever it is. Listen to what he said in 1999: ‘Baptism is very important because Jesus taught that we are to believe and to be baptized. But that is up to the individual and the church that they feel led to go to. The churches have different teachings on that. I know that in the Lutheran or the Episcopal or Catholic Church it is a very strong point, and in the Baptist church. But there are some churches that would not insist on baptism. So, I give them the freedom to teach what they want. I am not a professor. I am not a theologian. I’m a simple proclaimer. I’m announcing the news that God loves you and that you can be forgiven of your sins. And you can go to heaven. My job from God is not to do all these other things. I am not a pastor of a church. That’s not my responsibility. My responsibility is to preach the Gospel to everyone and let them choose their own church, whether it is Catholic or Protestant or Orthodox or whatever it is” (Billy Graham, interview with Patricia Rice, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 10, 1999).

REFUTATION

We have been born again through the Word of God

The Scripture says: “For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God” (1 Peter 1:23 – NIV), and: “He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created” (James 1:18 – NIV).

Therefore one is regenerated through the Word of God and not through water baptism – whether baptism consists in immersing the candidate or in pouring some water upon his head. Let me explain to you when and how the Word of God regenerates a man. When a person hears the Gospel of the grace of God, that is, the Word of God, and the Holy Spirit convicts him of sin, he feels sorry about his sins and he repents of them, and he puts his faith in the Word of God. When he puts his faith in the Word of God, the Word of God regenerates him and he becomes a new creature, that is, a son of God washed in the blood of the Lamb. This spiritual regeneration is called new birth.

John 3:5 and Titus 3:5

Those who hold the doctrine called ‘baptismal regeneration’, in order to confirm their doctrine through the Holy Scriptures, quote the following words spoken by Jesus: “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” (John 3:5), and also the following words written by Paul: “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration ….” (Titus 3:5). According to them, the water Jesus spoke of and the washing of regeneration refer to water baptism. However, their interpretation is wrong.

The water Jesus spoke of is the Word of God, for the Scripture compares the Word of God to the water which comes down from heaven, as it is written: “For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and do not return there, but water the earth, and make it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void. But it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:10-11 – NKJV). Therefore, as the natural water which comes down from heaven is able to make the earth produce its fruit, so the Word of God is able to regenerate all those who believe it. To be born again of water means, therefore, to be born again of the Word of God.

The washing of regeneration is the cleansing performed by the Word of God in all those who have believed in Jesus Christ. For Paul wrote to the Ephesians that Christ “loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word” (Eph. 5:25-26). In order to confirm that Christ has cleansed believers through the Word of God, and not through the water baptism which was administered to them after they believed on Him, I remind you of the following words Jesus said to His disciples on the night He was betrayed: “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you” (John 15:3 – NKJV). Notice that He did not say to them that they were clean because of their water baptism, but because of His word, which was the Word of God as Jesus said: “The word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me” (John 14:24 – NKJV).

Conclusion

To conclude, therefore, I say this. We have become sons of God not through water baptism but through our faith in the Word of God. When we believed in the Word of God – which says that Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins and rose again for our justification – we were made alive and became sons of God by the power of the Word of God. The Scripture clearly teaches that a man becomes a son of God by faith; John says: “He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:11-13 – NKJV). And our sins have been forgiven us and we have been justified not through water baptism but through faith, as it is written: “All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name” (Acts 10:43 – NIV) and: “Through him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law of Moses” (Acts 13:39 – NIV). Therefore let no one deceive you with vain words.

Giacinto Butindaro

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About giacintobutindaro

I am a minister of the Gospel, living and serving God in Italy
This entry was posted in Apologetics, Water baptism and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Baptismal regeneration refuted

  1. gary says:

    I Corinthians 15:29

    Otherwise, what do people mean by being baptized on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized on their behalf?

    This is a very odd passage of Scripture. The Mormons use this passage as the basis for their belief in Baptism for the Dead. I will present the orthodox Christian/Lutheran view of this passage below, but first I would like us to look at something else in this passage that is odd:

    If the Church in Corinth had been taught by the Apostle Paul that the manner in which one is saved is to pray (verbally or nonverbally) a sincere, penitent, prayer/petition to God, such as a version of the Sinner’s Prayer, why does this passage of God’s Holy Word discuss baptisms for the dead and not “prayers for the dead”, specifically, praying a version of the Sinner’s Prayer for the dead?

    Isn’t that really odd? No matter what activity was actually going on in the Corinthian church regarding “the dead”, why is the discussion/controversy about baptism and not the “true” means of salvation according to Baptists and evangelicals: an internal belief in Christ; an internal “decision” for Christ?

    And even more odd…why didn’t Paul scold the Corinthians for focusing so much on baptism which he had surely taught them (according to Baptists and evangelicals) was nothing other than an act of obedience; a public profession of faith??

    Why so much emphasis on baptism?

    Is it possible that the reason that the Corinthians were so concerned about baptism is that they had been taught by the Apostle Paul and other Christian evangelists that salvation and the promise of the resurrection of the dead and eternal life are received in Baptism, just as orthodox Christians, including Lutherans, have been teaching for almost 2,000 years??

    Gary
    Luther, Baptists, and Evangelicals

  2. Eric says:

    This article seems to contradict itself. The author provides this quote from the Lutheran catechism, “It is not the water that produces these effects, but the Word of God connected with the water, and our faith which relies on the Word of God connected with the water”. He then says that this is unbiblical. But here is a direct quote from the author that is supposedly biblical, “The washing of regeneration is the cleansing performed by the Word of God in all those who have believed in Jesus Christ.” Isn’t this basically the exact same thing that is said in the Lutheran catechism? Luther said, “it is not the water that produces these effects, but the Word of God connected with the water”. So how can the author say that water doesn’t regenerate but the Word of God does, and then claim Luther is wrong for saying the exact same thing?

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