Baptismal Regeneration

24 05 2021

There are many churches that teach baptismal regeneration. This doctrine teaches that one must be baptized in order to be saved. They teach that baptism, not faith alone, is necessary for regeneration. Listen to what Paul has to say in Roman 4:2-8.

For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God.For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works,Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.”

I am a firm believer in the clear Scriptural teaching of salvation by grace through faith alone; therefore I wanted to briefly address this heresy. I want to take a look at the proof texts usually given to support this teaching and then give a Scriptural defense against it.

Text #1

And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” (Mark 16:15-16)

I can’t deny that it says those who believe and are baptized will be saved. What is that speaking of? If it’s speaking of water baptism being required for salvation then the latter part should read differently.

Those who believe and are baptized not shall be damned.”

It says those who believe and are baptized will be saved but it leaves out the baptism when saying they will be damned. Why is that? The answer is that baptism is linked closely with belief yet is not part of salvation.

Those who are condemned are condemned for not believing. This is because faith is the only requirement for salvation. The baptism here is Spirit baptism. Which happens after we believe.

Text #2

Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” (Acts 2:38)

This passage is probably the most commonly quoted proof text. It’s clearly being taken out of context by those who hold to this doctrine. The first thing we have to do is put the verse back in context with the rest of the chapter.

In this sermon Peter is pointing out that they had rejected Jesus and had crucified Him yet God overruled their objection and raised Him from the dead.

Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it.” (Acts 2:23-24)

One important point being missed is that he was telling them to be baptized in the name (or authority of) Jesus Christ, the authority they had previously rejected. Jesus gave instructions to baptize in the name of all three members of the Godhead. Peter was not nullifying what Jesus said, he was simply highlighting the name of Jesus whose authority they rejected.

A second point pertaining to this verse is the term “for.” This word is often highlighted to demonstrate that the baptism was for or to cause the remission of sins. The problem is that there are several Greek and English uses for the word “for.” The word can mean, “in order to get” or it can mean, “because of, as the result of.”

So is Peter saying they must be baptized in order to get forgiveness of sins? If he is then he is contradicting Paul who simply told the jailer in Acts 16:31 to believe.

If I say “take two aspirin for a headache” am I saying to take two aspirin in order to get a headache? Of course not. I’m saying it because you already have one.

The same applies if I said I’m going to Grandma’s house for her birthday. Will she not have a birthday or even a party if I don’t go? Of course she will. My going is not to give her a birthday but because she is having a birthday. This is the clear use of the phrase in this passage.

Salvation is a free gift given by God to those who believe. We are commanded to have repentance toward God and faith toward Jesus Christ (Acts 20:21). We are saved through faith in Jesus Christ not of works (Ephesians 2:8-10).

Peter is not contradicting these passages. He is not saying you must be baptized in order to complete remission of your sins. He is saying to be baptized because you have remission of sins.

Text #3

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.” (1 Peter 3:20-21)

This passage is by far the second most abused passage used to prove this doctrine. What are we to think of such a passage? Let’s jump back a few verses to get the context.

For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison;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.” (1 Peter 3:18-21)

Christ was put to death in the flesh speaking of His death on the cross. The reference to Him being quickened or made alive by the Spirit speaks of His resurrection from the dead. The verse then says by the same Spirit that raised Him from the dead He went and preached to the spirits in prison.

There is no end to the debate about who these spirits are. These spirits are specifically linked to the flood of Noah because it says they were disobedient while the ark was preparing. Some believe that this is saying Christ preached to them by the Holy Spirit through Noah while he was building the ark. I find that interpretation hard to come to. It takes a lot of spiritualization and gymnastics with the text.

The order of events is given, Christ died, was raised, then went and preached to the spirits in prison. Some Roman Catholics hint that this refers to people in purgatory. That’s bad because even Rome teaches that purgatory is for those who died in a state of grace. These who died in the flood obviously did not die in such a state.

We need to ask a question. If these are human spirits why only the ones from the flood? Are they all together in Hades somehow?

I think the answer is that these are not human spirits but fallen angels who sinned in the past during the events of Genesis 6:1-4. Addressing the flood he says eight souls were saved by water and then says in a like manner baptism now saves us. Does that settle it? Does that prove baptismal regeneration?

What we are seeing is a type and anti-type situation. The flood waters (which completely submerged people) was a judgment that led to the death of those who were baptized. In a like manner baptism now correlates not to death and punishment but to our salvation. The apostle then goes on to say it doesn’t apply to the cleaning the filth of the flesh.

It has no effect on cleansing us, that is done by the blood of Christ. It is an answer of a good conscience. It is a reflection of that inward work, a sign of having been brought into the New Covenant.

Text #4

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.” (John 3:5)

This is another very common verse used to defend baptismal regeneration. They do this by pulling a single verse out of a chapter to prove their point. We need to put the verse in context to see what it is actually saying. In verse 3 Jesus simply tells him that he must be born again. This confuses Nicodemus.

Nicodemus responds by asking how someone can be born a second time. He asks if he must enter his mother’s womb again and be born. Then in verse 5 Jesus draws the distinction. He says you must be born of water (physical birth) and of the Spirit (second birth).

Continue into the next verse, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” He clearly explains the birth of water is the physical birth and the birth of Spirit is the second birth. He closes His explanation in verse 7, “Marvel not that I said unto thee, ye must be born again.” He explained that the command to be born again was referring to the spiritual not the physical.

Now that we have looked at the common proof texts we must establish the main reason that baptismal regeneration is false. Too many other Scriptures teach that salvation is by faith alone not by baptism. Let’s examine a few of these verses in the Bible.

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.” (Titus 3:5)

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.” (Acts 16:31)

That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” (Romans 10:9-10)

For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans 10:13)

These among many other Scriptures teach that salvation is accomplished with no effort on the part of the one being saved outside of repentance and faith. One of the greatest proofs against baptismal regeneration is the thief on the cross.

He died minutes or hours after believing and never got off the cross to be baptized. He looked to Christ in simple faith and was saved as a result. Any sinner who looks to Christ receives eternal life. Paul makes an interesting point in Romans 1:16.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.”

The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation, “to everyone who believeth.” Notice how he did not say to everyone who believeth and is baptized. If baptismal regeneration were true then the apostle made a major doctrinal error.

He said the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation. This means salvation comes through the Gospel. This would also mean according to common sense that all requirements for salvation are found in the Gospel.

In 1 Corinthians 1:17 Paul said that God didn’t send him to baptize but to preach the Gospel. If baptism were required for salvation it would be part of the Gospel but Paul evidently does not see it that way. If Paul didn’t baptize except a few then most of his converts were false converts. We know this isn’t the case.

Baptismal regeneration is not orthodox which means it is not the historical doctrine of the church. I would easily qualify it as heresy because it distorts salvation, damns its followers and attempts to add human merit to salvation.


Baptism whether sprinkling or immersion has no salvific value. It does not contribute to our salvation. We are saved by faith alone. The Gospel and baptism are intentionally separated in the Bible because they are not interrelated.



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