Baptismal Regeneration?

by Terry Wane Benton

Some teach and believe that the water of baptism is in no way tied to regeneration or salvation. They think it is something you do after salvation as just a symbol of what already happened in your heart. We see no proof of that view in the scriptures. All verses that talk about baptism have salvation or the equivalent in the spiritual benefits given in baptism where you unite with Christ and rise from the water to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:3-6; Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; I Peter 3:21). No newness of life until you unite with Jesus’ death in baptism where HE SAID you will be saved.

It is faith in God and His promise to operate and remove sins when He said He would (Colossians 2:12), and He said He would when we are buried with Christ in baptism. The Ethiopian Eunuch did not have reason to rejoice until he came up from the water of baptism (Acts 8:33ff). He was not trusting in the power of the water, but in the promise of Jesus as to when He would cut away our sins (Colossians 2:12; Acts 22:16). The water does not do the cleansing (which is the concept of “baptismal regeneration”) but is instead the moment God uses the blood of Jesus to wipe our sins off the record (regeneration at baptism). Some religions make the water the agent of regeneration, and the truth is that baptism in water is the moment of God’s washing in the regeneration process.

Titus 3:5 says, “according to His mercy He saved us through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.Washing is involved in the regeneration process, and baptism is the time of that washing. Ananias told Saul to “arise, and be baptized, washing away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). The truth started the regeneration process, and as it worked in Saul’s heart, there was a readiness to hear what he “must do.” When he was told to arise and be baptized, washing away his sins, calling on the name of the Lord”, there are clearly several things tied together. Regeneration begins with repentance (dying to sin), burial with Christ in baptism, and uniting with His death, and this is the when of the cutting away of sins and the rising up to walk in newness of life, which is regeneration (Romans 6:3-6). Baptism is in the process, but baptism is not the agent that makes the process start, and baptism is not the agent that makes the new life start, but baptism is the moment God cuts away our sins and gives us a new start.

So, we can speak of the “washing” of regeneration and know that God does this washing when we are baptized into union with Christ. We know God does this washing in baptism because He said that was when He washes. Still, as we are being baptized, we do not have faith in the water, but rather “faith in the operation of God” (Colossians 2:12). We trust Him to wash away sins. We are trusting His word about when this washing takes place, and that is when our faith leads us to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38). The washing of regeneration takes place when we are baptized in Jesus’ name for the remission of sins. The water of baptism is not the power or agent of our cleansing but the moment of our cleansing. Jesus said so, and I believe Him.

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