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.

Conclusion:

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.





Salvation 101

23 04 2015

There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him. Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? 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. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit. Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be? Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness. If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things? And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (John 3:1-18)

 

The text above is one of the best known in the Bible and makes a great and simple outline for sharing the Gospel. This can be used for a short open air sermon on the Gospel or in a one on one conversation. If you feel you can’t share the Gospel I challenge you to find simple outlines like this one to use in your witnessing encounter. Often we take a passage and force our points into it. This is not God’s intentions for using His Word. Draw your points from the text don’t force them into it.

 

1. The need of Mankind (Verse 3)

A. Spiritual life (born anew)

B. Spiritual eyes (cannot see the kingdom)

2. The Offer to Mankind (Verse 16)

A. The cross pre-figured in verse 14

3. The Call to Mankind (Verse 18)

A. Believe or be condemned (We are condemned already)

 

This is just an example of how to draw points from the text of Scripture. This is also a good way to share the Gospel in a simple manner. Hopefully it’s a blessing for you.





Was Jesus All In?

14 04 2015

Did Jesus change His mind right before the cross? Did He decide against dying for sin? Did He show human weakness in not wanting to fulfill the plan of God? This question is of no little importance. How we answer it will say a lot for our view of Christ and the cross.





The Dangers of Easy Believism

5 06 2014

I believe that the plan of salvation is a simple plan. I think even a child can grasp it and we should never complicate what God has made simple. When I say a term like “easy believism” I am referencing a system of teaching on salvation that is foreign to the Scriptures and puts sinners in danger of false conversion. How we view the doctrine of salvation has eternal consequences. We must get salvation right. Many churches in trying to get more converts, higher numbers or for any other reason often turn to easy believism.

I think it is possible and tempting at times to over simplify the Gospel so that what the person is doing is actually not salvation at all. We want so bad for people to be saved that we give just the basics and walk them through a path that we believe they will accept. In this way we often get false conversions and everyone has to come forward again just to be sure of their salvation because they are full of doubts because they were given some dumb downed simple plan that contained no salvation and they are in constant doubt. Look with me at the logical problems with the typical easy believism plan of salvation.

Step 1: Know your a sinner.

Sounds good right? The problem is that knowing your a sinner won’t save you. Satan knows he is a sinner and all of his demons know they are sinners. They will not be saved because they know they are sinners. We need to explain the human condition and our lost state before God. Without that there would be no need of salvation.

The question is this: is step one to getting saved knowing you are a sinner? I have shared this with people who knew they were a sinner but thought that compared to most people they were not that bad. A person can know they are a sinner in a general sense without grasping the sinfulness of their own sin.

Step 2: Know there is a penalty for sin.

Sounds good right? the problem is that knowing there is a penalty for sin won’t save you. Satan knows there is a penalty for sin and all of his demons know there is a penalty for sin. Look at what they tell Jesus.

“And when he was come to the other side into the country of the Gergesenes, there met him two possessed with devils, coming out of the tombs, exceeding fierce, so that no man might pass by that way. And, behold, they cried out, saying, What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? art thou come hither to torment us before the time?” (Matthew 8:28-29)

Simply knowing these facts intellectually will save nobody. One can know he is a sinner and know that there is a penalty for sin and still die lost. Knowledge doesn’t save. Most people admit they are sinners in the sense of not being perfect, and those same people will admit there is a hell where people like Hitler go when they die but it has no real effect on them personally. We should preach and teach about hell and warn of the judgment to come.

People can know judgment is coming without it personally affecting them. If we get the first step wrong then the second doesn’t even matter. Remember they know they are a sinner but not the worst and now they know there is a place of punishment for sin but not theirs. Only the real bad people go there. Easy believism just says that all they have to do is know these facts.

Step 3: Know the penalty was paid.

There are very few people I talk to who don’t know that Jesus died on the cross. I would be be foolish to think that all of these people are saved. You are not saved by simply knowing that Jesus died for sin. Satan and all of his demonic hordes know that Jesus died for sin. You can “know” all three of these steps and still die in your sins and perish. Knowing that Jesus died for sins without a grasp of one’s own sinfulness and the righteous judgment of God against our sin will do no good.

Step 4: Accept the free gift of salvation.

This leaves people who think there sin is no big deal but know that God will punish the really bad sinners thinking that Jesus dying on the cross will forgive their seemingly insignificant sins by repeating a prayer after someone. This so called step is the nail in the coffin of the false convert. They never fully grasped the sinfulness of their sin, and they never understood that their sin leaves them in line for the righteous judgment of God in hell.

They don’t realize that Jesus on the cross was punished in their place and bore personally in His body the guilt of their sins big and small. Without all of this they cannot fully accept the gift of salvation which means forgiveness of sin, a place in Heaven, and a right standing before God. To the false convert who is told he needs to simply “know” these 4 things Jesus is some religious figure that the Bible talks about. They cannot grasp their own sinfulness, nor what exactly Jesus did on the cross therefore they cannot fully and truly find Him precious. They cannot embrace Him fully.

Without embracing and loving Him fully there can be no salvation. Their sin has not become exceedingly sinful and they see no need to turn from those sins because after all they “know” all 4 things you have to know to go to Heaven. We must stop this “just give me 2 minutes of your time” assembly line Christianity. People are left needing reassurance of salvation because they are often unsaved. Christ was never formed in them and they have no witness in their spirit that they are the children of God. There is a simple plan of salvation and believing is easy but let’s stop watering it down. Eternity will bear witness to the consequences of getting salvation wrong and those you have assured salvation to because they “know” certain things will spend eternity cursing your name





The Sinners Prayer Part 4: Is It Dangerous?

2 05 2014

In this final lesson on the sinners prayer I want to ask one last question. I have asked if it’s Biblical and the answer is a strong no. I have asked if it’s necessary and the answer again is no. What’s the harm in leading people through prayers or telling them they must pray to be saved? If there is no harm then I suppose nothing is wrong with it but we need to stop and ask ourselves is this practice dangerous? Let me present to you several dangers I see in this practice.

Making salvation man made:

Salvation is the work of the Spirit. He must draw, He must convict, He must save. I fear that we will lead people into praying a prayer when He has done none of those things in them. Some people have no conviction over their sin and yet they want to go to heaven so we lead them in a prayer and assure them they will. Without repentance they will not and that comes from the Lord. To pray is not to repent. It’s not bad to ask someone about salvation by saying “have you believed?” Believing is something we do in relation to what God is doing in us.

It is bad to ask someone about salvation by saying “have you prayed to receive Christ?” There is no mention of that term in the Bible and salvation has become granted by the prayer itself. People can pray prayers and not truly be regenerated but no one can believe on Christ and not be regenerated.

Making a magic potion:

We tend to see prayer as the means of being born again and it’s not. It is the Spirit of God that does that work in us. Just like the story in the first post on this subject. The two boys had no interest in what was being said but jumped in on the prayer and were told they were saved because they said some magic words and BOOM!!!! A child of God. This is false conversion my brothers and sisters. We take small children and walk them through prayers because we told them they will burn in fire if they don’t. Often these kids have no sense of their sin and guilt before God or of what Jesus did on the cross. Then they fall away in later years and we say, “well at least they prayed and asked Christ into their heart.”

How many parents are not praying for their children’s salvation because they believe they are saved because of some magic words? I see churches talk of 30 or 40 “saved” every week but their church never grows. Where are these people at? The answer is that they got many people to say the magic words but very few were sincerely converted. I know a woman who said that if she were in a car going off a cliff she would ask Jesus in her heart one more time “just in case.” She honestly sees this as magic words salvation. Just in case of what? If your not sincere in your salvation then hastily repeating a few words right before death won’t do it.

Making false converts:

Jesus made an amazing and scary prediction.

“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” (Matthew 7:21-23)

We say that anyone who prays a prayer is saved but Jesus said not everyone who says to Him “Lord, Lord” will enter the kingdom of Heaven. He then goes on to tell us the horrifying truth that Many…get this MANY, perhaps MILLIONS will stand before Him completely convinced they are saved. These are not false teachers who know that they are false these are people completely convinced they are saved and even have good works or church works to claim but they are told to depart from Him that is into everlasting fire, that is eternal damnation. Many of them prayed and played church and thought they were saved because of a few magic words yet they stand eternally condemned because He never knew them.

To know Christ is far more then saying a few words. It’s far more then telling someone pray this prayer and you’ll go to Heaven. To know Christ we must have true repentance for our sin. To repent means to change your mind. To see your sin as something that condemns you before God. It’s more then feeling sorry for what you have done it’s an inward change. You no longer want to do those things. In the Bible it’s progressive. You don’t repent and that’s it but you repent and keep on repenting.

It means to trust in the sacrifice of Christ. Faith in Christ for salvation. Many are trusting their prayer but that is not trusting Christ. When you ask why they are saved the answer comes back “well I prayed and trusted Christ.” It’s their experience they are trusting not the Lord. They should answer that they are saved because they believe on Jesus, trust in His work on the cross, because they see God at work in their life, their desires have changed and they now love the God they once hated.

I believe that if we continue on this path of human tradition we will arrive at the judgment thinking we have thousands of conversions on our account only to see thousands we walked through prayers cast into the lake of fire because they never again listened to the Gospel since we assured them they were saved. I urge everyone reading this to check yourself, are you saved? How do you know that? Oh friends this is a serious subject and if we get it wrong eternal souls will perish.





The Sinners Prayer Part 3: Is It Necessary?

1 05 2014

Having seen many sad stories related to false conversions from the sinners prayer and seeing that the verses used to teach such a thing are taken out of context, and realizing there is no such example at all of anyone in the Bible being told to pray a prayer we now move on to ask an important question. Is the sinners prayer necessary? Once again I am not saying it’s wrong to pray at the time of salvation nor am I saying those who do are not truly saved.

It has become a culture in the church that this is the normal “plan of salvation” and it must accompany conversion. In the Bible we see many salvation’s but not one instance of anyone being led in a prayer or told to pray. Look at the message of John the Baptist.

“In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 3:1-2)

Look at the message of Jesus Christ.

“Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.” (Mark 1:14-15)

Look at the message that Jesus told His disciples to preach.

“And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 10:7)

In all these instances not one time do we see the command to pray a prayer. Look at instances of salvation in the Bible. The Samaritan woman believed on Him but we see no prayer being said. The man born blind was asked if he believed on the Son of God but no walking him through a prayer. Consider John 1:49 where we see someone making a confession concerning Christ just as Romans 10:9-10 prescribes but it’s not a prayer. Consider John 9 where the confession of Christ would get people thrown out of the synagogue. This stands as further evidence the confession spoken of in Romans 10:9 is not a worded prayer.

In Acts 2:38 Peter calls on them to repent not to pray a prayer and verse 4 says they gladly received his word and were baptized with no prayer mentioned. In Acts 3:19 we again see a sermon where the command is to repent and in 4:4 we see about 5,000 believing with no mention of a prayer. In Acts 5:14 we see multitudes added to the Lord and no mention of a prayer. In Acts 8:37 the eunuch was asked if he believed but he was not walked through a prayer.

In Acts 9:42 it says many believed in the Lord but no mention of a prayer. In Acts 10:44 we see the Holy Spirit falling on the hearers while the sermon was being preached meaning their hearts were opened and they were saved without a prayer. In Acts 11:14 we see that it was by the preaching not a prayer they were saved.

“Who shall tell thee words, whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved.”

I could probably go on and on having not mentioned yet the jailer who asked what he must do to be saved and the answer was not pray and accept Christ but believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. Believing on Christ may be evident by a prayer but the prayer is not a sign of true conversion nor is it necessary for it. In all of these instances it would have been easy for the Scriptures to mention a prayer at least once but in every case it is silent on such an issue. The silence of the Bible is something we cannot ignore. So why is praying to be saved so widespread in the church today if the Bible doesn’t even mention it or give an example? The answer is traditions.

I know a man who was saved in prison. He got a Bible and began to read it. Through reading it his eyes were opened, he believed God and felt his burdens melt away. He found out where the Christians met and identified himself as one. He was as far as I can tell soundly saved at that moment. The problem is that he got out of jail and went to a church who convinced him that if he did not know a time and place that he prayed and accepted Christ then he wasn’t saved. He went forward and “got saved.” The problem is that his actual salvation experience in jail is closer to what we see in the Bible then his secondary one.

My grandmother in her testimony told of how she was saved. She noted that she didn’t walk the aisle, no prayers were prayed. As the Pastor taught in Sunday School she said it was like a light dawned in her soul and her eyes were opened. She felt her burdens melt away and left with the joy of the Lord. Her whole life changed which of course is the fruit of salvation.

I went to church with a man who said that one Saturday night he decided to be saved. He believed the Gospel and his heart was turned to God. He went on to say that the next day he went to church and got saved. I tried to tell him brother you were saved on Saturday night when you accepted the Gospel and trusted the Lord. He insisted that it was Sunday when he went and prayed to receive Christ. This my friends is the problem. We are adding unBiblical works on top of genuine salvation experiences.

George Mueller of Bristol tells of his salvation that he attended a Bible study and as someone else prayed he felt all of his burdens melt away and left a new person even though he didn’t pray at all. Billy Graham’s salvation happened at a tent revival. He felt the grasp of the Holy Spirit on his soul and he believed all that the preacher had said. He walked forward as others did and the preacher prayed over the whole group but there was no personal prayer. His life was changed though a sign of true conversion.

H.A. Ironside believed on the Lord but ran from God and tried living in the world. While at a party Scripture verses kept coming to mind and he could have no fun. When laying in bed he told the Lord that he believed His promises he said, “because thou hast said so I have eternal life.” This prayer was not a prayer asking for Christ to save him but a declaration that he believed the Word of God and was thus saved.

I was reading the conversion of missionary C.T. Studd. He heard the Gospel at a D.L. Moody crusade and responded. While on his knees Moody knelt beside him and asked if he believed Jesus died for him. When he answered that he did Moody said, “Well, thank Him for it.” With that he got up and went on to the next person. That prayer was also not the kind of prayer we encourage today.

Many walk an aisle and pray a prayer because they are looking for a magic potion or quick fix and never get saved. Others walk the aisle out of conviction of sin. These I say are already saved before they even step out of the pew. They have repentance meaning they have changed their mind about their sin and they have faith which is to say they believe that Jesus died for their sins. That is what the Bible calls salvation.

Let sinners express it as they will whether to thank God, or ask Him to save, or whether they just want to skip the prayer and make a public profession and be baptized. We often judge the unsaved as saved by the prayer they prayed and tell those truly saved they must jump this hurdle to be saved.

A person may pray a prayer when they are saved or they may not. They may pray and ask Christ to save them or simply thank Him for dying for them. There is no cookie cutter way to salvation except by faith that is believing on the Lord Jesus Christ. That may manifest itself in various ways but we need to stop seeing those manifestations as the end in themselves. We need to stop urging people to pray to be saved and encourage them to believe the Gospel. We also need to stop insisting people are saved simply because they repeated or said a few words when they have no real desire to follow Christ. In part 4 of this series we will ask if the sinners prayer is dangerous.





The Sinners Prayer Part 2: Is It Biblical?

30 04 2014

In this article on the sinners prayer I want to ask the question is it Biblical? What are the passages used to defend such a prayer? Where do we see it used in the Bible? The Bible is the final authority for all faith and practice and it behooves us to be as Biblical as possible. The truth after all is that millions of people, many with no spiritual fruit claim to be saved because they prayed the prayer.

I am not saying that all people who repeated a prayer after someone is not saved. Some do have this as part of their conversion testimony and I don’t intend to cast doubt on your salvation if that’s the case. There are however millions who have been lulled into a false sense of salvation by repeating a prayer. Praying at the time of salvation can be a Biblical thing but assuring people they are saved because they repeated a few words is not.

From this perspective the sinners prayer is both Biblical and unBiblical depending on how it is approached. Let’s start by looking at passages commonly used to teach the so called sinners prayer.

“Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.” (Luke 18:10-14)

This passage is often used to justify the sinners prayer but to do so is to view it without regard to context. The parable in context is the comparison of the self righteousness of the Pharisees as opposed to the humility of the publican. The Pharisees considered themselves so much better then the publicans and yet it was the publican who was declared righteous by God and not the Pharisee. Was he made righteous by the prayer? No in fact the prayer wasn’t even the main focus of the story. It was the humility of heart and contrition of the publican that justified him. That was the focus of the story.

“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)

We again need to look to the context of the passage before us. If taken as two stand alone verses it could be said that these constitute a sinners prayer for salvation but when put into the context of the chapter it becomes less likely that this is Paul’s intention. Look at the first verse of the chapter to better understand his context.

“Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.” (Romans 10:1)

So we see the clear context is in regards to the nation of Israel. Let’s look back at our text and see how this all fits together. Paul is writing to Christians first of all not unbelievers. There is no way that we can look at what he wrote here and get the idea he was saying that unbelievers need to pray a prayer to be saved. Notice also that he inverts confessing and believing in the second verse. Faith always precedes confession it never says that it is the result of it.

The context in this passage is concerning the Jews who he says in verse 3 are going about to establish their own righteousness and are not submitting themselves to the righteousness of God by faith. If they will believe in their heart that God raised Jesus from the dead this is to say if they believe He is Lord and they confess with their mouth that He is Lord they will be saved.

The confession in question is not a prayer but the confession that every Christian has concerning Christ. Paul is saying that if they believe and confess and go on believing and confessing they are saved. This is not an indication that praying a single prayer to receive salvation is necessary for salvation. Often times we get people to pray a prayer then they never come to make a public profession of faith and we call them saved. This passage is not a sinners prayer at all but it is saying a person must confess Christ if he is saved. We have turned it completely on it’s head and switched the meaning.

Look at the next verse used to defend the sinners prayer.

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

I doubt I need to spend much time here since it is in the same chapter and context. He is writing to believers not unbelievers and his topic in this chapter is his desire for the Jewish people to be saved. He is not saying that any individual who prays and asks Jesus in his heart will be saved. You would have to ignore context and add those thoughts into it. He is saying that anyone can call on the name of the Lord whether Jew or Gentile. We have here the declaration that all can be saved not that all need to pray a prayer to be saved.

To call means to follow or be followers of. You can no more add a prayer in here then you can into Genesis 4:26:

“And to Seth, to him also there was born a son; and he called his name Enos: then began men to call upon the name of the Lord.”

Moses isn’t saying that then began men to pray and ask Jesus in their heart is he? Of course not he is saying that men began to be followers of the one true God. They began to call on His name and to be known by His name.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

This verse is another that is used to try and make a sinners prayer Biblical but it falls short. This letter was written to believers and is for us. It’s not referencing unbelievers. This has to do with when a Christian sins.

There is no place in the Bible where we see a command to “invite Jesus into your life” or “pray to receive Christ” or “pray to be saved.” When we use terms like pray to be saved it gives the impression that praying saves us. When Paul was asked how to be saved he didn’t say just pray and receive Christ.

“And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.” (Acts 16:30-31)

Philip didn’t tell the eunuch to invite Christ into his life.

“And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” (Acts 8:36-37)

In fact there is not one instance in the entire New Testament when we see someone led through a prayer to be saved. This is not to say that if someone prays and asks forgiveness of sin they are wrong but there is no Biblical basis to say that a so called sinners prayer is needed or required for salvation. In part 3 of this series we will ask if the sinners prayer is necessary.





The Sinners Prayer Part 1: Sad Stories

29 04 2014

I want to address a very controversial subject and that is the idea of a so called sinner’s prayer. I was raised around easy believism and anyone who prayed a prayer and signed a card was declared saved regardless of the absence of faith or interest. I will approach this subject from different points of view in several lessons but I want to start by sharing a few stories concerning the sinners prayer. Keep in mind these are only a few of hundreds more I can share.

I worked in a hospital where we saw a lot of gang violence. It seemed every time a gang member was shot and killed a pastor would come in and say how thankful he was that so and so prayed and accepted Christ as Savior at Sunday School or Vacation Bible School. I asked myself could all of the robbers and murderers in Bakersfield really be Christians? The answer of course is no they are not.

Often I have tried to witness to people many of whom are prostitutes, or drug addicts who thank me and tell me “well I did that already.” The problem is salvation is not something you did but something you are. What they mean is that they repeated some prayer in the past and they believe because of those words that they will go to heaven one day.

I spoke to a pastor one time who spoke of leading this lady to Christ and when he tried to get her to come to church to follow up her profession she refused because she had yard sales all the time and she didn’t want to quit that. He said to me “I believe she was sincere in her prayer though.” My thoughts were “really? I mean honestly?” With no signs of actual sincerity she was declared saved even though she is the closest example in modern times that I have seen to the rich young ruler in the Bible.

When I worked in a children’s church once my partner and I decided not to coerce the children into praying prayers so we let them respond on their own if they chose to. I walked over to the primary church room where the youngest kids, I mean just out of the nursery were being taught. The teacher would speak in a loud scary voice and talk about the fires of hell and how those who go there burn and burn forever and ever.

No mention of sin, spiritual death, the cross or anything. He would then say “now who wants to burn in hell forever?” When no one would raise their hand he would ask, “Okay then who wants to go to heaven with Jesus?” The entire room of barely out of the nursery children who were just told they would burn in fire forever raised their hands. He had them line up and he would kneel down and have them come up one at a time. He would take them by the hand and start to pray and have them repeat what he said. He would tell them they were saved and not to let anyone tell them differently.

I was out evangelizing with someone not too long ago who himself has a poor grasp of the Gospel but was sharing it with some children. I believe children are easily led down certain paths and we must be careful when witnessing to them. He came back claiming all 3 kids were saved even though he admits the boys in the group were making fun of what he was saying and only the girl was listening.

He said that when he led the girl in a prayer that the boys joined in and so they are all saved. Much of what transpired in this event bothered me but none more then all of the adults around him saying, “Well amen, praise the Lord they were saved.” It made me question their salvation and their grasp of the Gospel. It’s not some magic words that save us and those boys jumping in to repeat words did not save them.

Perhaps the adults just didn’t want to discourage his evangelistic fervor. Well maybe that’s true but the failure is their own. You are not discouraging someone to correct them so that they understand the truth especially concerning salvation. By letting him think this way they are putting at risk the souls of each person he witnesses to because he may be giving lost sinners a false hope in some words they repeated. They may be 10 times harder to reach in the future because of this hurried prayer.

I have been out witnessing with one lady in particular who would simply walk everyone she talked to through a prayer. She would then say “Well so and so at that house prayed the prayer.” What do you mean prayed THE prayer? Is there a prayer in the Bible that is to be repeated thus granting salvation? Of course not. She would tell people that they don’t have to stop being whatever false religion they were they just had to pray the prayer. She would assure people that if they only prayed after her they would have the assurance of heaven.

Then of course there are the myriads of people who pray a prayer over the television or radio and encourage others to pray along with them assuring them they are saved if they really meant it. I have even been to churches and I mean supposedly Bible believing churches that led the entire congregation in a sinners prayer. One church I attended even encouraged the already saved people to pray along out loud so the unbelievers praying didn’t feel awkward.

These stories sound crazy but there are actually many more examples that I could give of this false assurance of salvation. I know many parents whose children have walked away from the faith but they seem unconcerned because they remember when as a 4 or 5 year old child they asked Jesus in their heart. It doesn’t seem odd to them that there was never a change or a desire for the things of the Lord even though we are told that those who are in Christ are new creations.

“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

And we are told that those who go out from us only prove they were not of us.

“They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.” (1 John 2:19)

I find it difficult to witness to people who openly live in sin but believe themselves to be saved since they repeated a prayer and someone assured them they were saved and urged them to never be convinced otherwise. It has become a sort of sedative of the masses to the Gospel message. This alone does not make a sinner praying in repentance towards God wrong but it should give us cause for concern and cause us to closely examine any use of such a sinners prayer in our dealings with the lost. In part 2 of this series I will look at the Biblical basis for the sinners prayer.





Who Are God’s Elect?

15 01 2014

“Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness.” (Titus 1:1)

Introduction:

The doctrine of election standing alone is in no way controversial. Many believers are unnecessarily afraid of the doctrine which causes them to refuse this very Biblical concept and they often find no joy in being God’s elect, being chosen, or any such thing. I recall about two years ago one of my favorite preachers evangelist Benny Beckum preached in my church and encouraged us to rejoice in being chosen since the foundation of the world. He urged us not to be afraid of the term, after all it is in the Bible. I have had several people in my life who have been so much against God’s sovereignty that the term election really troubled them. They were regularly on witch hunts to “get me” even though they themselves held heretical views that they refused to be questioned on.

Some within my own church a few years back gossiped about me, slandered me, and regularly looked for ways to attack me for this very doctrine. They never asked me to explain it and never cared to understand what the Bible taught. I don’t fear the doctrine of election because in and of itself it’s nothing to fear. I only fear it’s opponents who would be the first to burn me at the stake were it legal. Even though in writing this I will say nothing unBiblical, I’m sure they will examine every word, and if one “i” is dotted in a weird or misunderstood way then they will run to my pastor screaming “heretic.”

Why election is important?:

Why is this doctrine so important? Well, I think it’s important because it’s Biblical. The New Testament alone references the elect 13 times. It’s important because Luke 18:7 tells us God will avenge His elect. We see in Romans 8:33 that no one can lay any charge to God’s elect. These are groups that I want to be a part of. The problem is that those who are afraid of it are so fierce in their opposition to it (such opposition is mostly out of ignorance) that people like me who love and embrace it in a Biblical sense cannot (at least out loud) appreciate this doctrine of the Bible. We need to embrace what the Bible embraces, that is why it’s so important.

Two opposing in depth views:

There are two opposing views that seem to clash. The first group believes that God chose to save people based upon His knowledge in advance that they would believe. They believe that no one can believe unless aided by the Holy Spirit and that those who are saved may of their own free will choose to walk away from Christ and thereby be lost again.

There is another group who believes that God chose in advance those who would believe not based on anything they did. They believe that no one can be saved without the aid of the Holy Spirit and that those whom God has chosen cannot be unchosen by walking away. They maintain that all who come to faith are secure in their salvation.

There are also multitudes who take a little from both of those groups to form their own beliefs.

Who does the Bible call elect?:

The Bible calls Israel God’s elect: “For Jacob my servant’s sake, and Israel mine elect, I have even called thee by thy name: I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known me.” (Isaiah 45:4)

The Bible calls Jesus elect: “Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded.” (1 Peter 2:6)

The Bible calls Angels elect: ” I charge thee before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels, that thou observe these things without preferring one before another, doing nothing by partiality.” (1 Timothy 5:21)

The Bible calls Believers elect: “Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness.” (Titus 1:1)

What does elect mean?:

The word “elect” means “picked out or chosen.” Let’s go through the Scriptures and see what God says about choosing or picking out.

The Angels:

Concerning angels let me say that the Bible teaches that Satan led a rebellion against God where he drew multitudes of angels away. The Bible describes these in Jude 1:6, ” And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.” So many chose to follow Satan, these we would call fallen angels, demons, or devils. The angels who stood faithful to the Lord on the other hand would be the elect angels.

Israel:

While the nation of Israel is called God’s elect Paul later reveals that not all who are ethnically of Israel are part of true Israel. The Jews believed that by being born Jewish they were entitled to God’s salvation but Paul said, “For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.” (Romans 2:28-29) The Jews in Bible times were saying that God’s promise to the fathers had failed but Paul disagreed, “Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel: Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called. That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.” (Romans 9:6-8)

Would this make God unrighteous? Paul says it would not: “What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” (Romans 9:14-15) So not all who are born as Jews will be saved, but there is a promised day coming when all of the ethnic seed of Abraham will be saved, “For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob.” (Romans 11:25-26)

Jesus:

Why is Jesus called the elect? Well there are several reasons given to us in Scripture. The first has to do with the title. He is the chosen Messiah and redeemer, is being chosen makes Him the elect Savior of the world. The second is that He is the figure of the true which means everything else points to Him as their ultimate fulfillment. Believers are called the elect and we are His body, or you could say He is the fulfillment of what we are only a shadow of. Israel is called elect and He is the embodiment of true Israel. In other words Jesus is the true elect of God and all the other elects simply point back to Him in one all glorifying way.

Election through Scripture:

We see election throughout Scripture. God chose to give Adam and Eve dominion. God chose the offering of Abel over that of Cain. God chose to save the family of Noah through the flood. God chose to save Lot and his family out of Sodom. God chose Abraham when He called him out of Ur of the Chaldees. Even though the blessing should have fallen to the firstborn son Ishmael God chose Isaac instead. When Esau should have been the heir God chose Jacob. When it seemed logical to use the tribe of the priesthood to bring the Messiah God chose Judah instead. When Saul’s son should have taken the throne in succession God chose to give it to David as well. Of all the nations of the world to put His blessing God chose Israel. Of all the cities to put His name God chose Jerusalem. We are told that God has chosen the weak things of the world to confound the mighty.

So with election so prevalent throughout the Bible we come now to the New Testament. The elect Messiah has died for sin and the elect Jewish nation is temporarily blinded. Why were they blinded? “As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the father’s sakes.” (Romans 11:28) They were blinded because God chose or elected to add another group to true Israel or His elect people. “Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;  Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby.” (Ephesians 2:11-16)

Election of Believers:

Just as God chose to put His name in Jerusalem so He chooses to put His name and dwelling on anyone who becomes part of His Son. Believers are called the elect of God. God chose us from the foundation of the world to be in Christ, to be conformed to the image of His Son. I am one of God’s elect today. In saying that, I am saying that I believe upon the true Israel, the true elect of God, Jesus Christ. All who become partakers in Him are elect, and precious and shall never be put to shame. We find our identity in Christ and our election. Paul repeats this several times. “But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.” (1 Corinthians 1:30) Our righteousness, wisdom, and sanctification come not of ourselves but our identification with Christ. Paul says in Romans that our protection from the judgment of God comes from our identity in His elect, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” (Romans 8:1) We are His elect because we are part of the true elect. Those who are partakers of  the promise to Abraham do so not because they are of Israel according to the flesh but those who accept true Israel Jesus Christ.

Many groups hate the doctrine of election because they are trying to pay for their own sins through prayers, beads, good works, giving money, praying to the dead, and following a religious system. They have rejected the true elect Jesus Christ. Their hatred flows from their rejection. They reject the one way of salvation and think they can through good works pay for their own sins. They hate those who find their rest and acceptance in the Beloved of God, the Elect of God, the true Sabbath rest.

For those who are saved by faith alone in Jesus Christ we need to stop the bickering. Whether you call yourselves by nickname Calvinist (although the doctrine existed before John Calvin) or whether by nickname you call yourself Arminian (although the doctrine existed before Jacob Arminius) let us call each other by the grand old nickname given in Scripture: Christian.





Baptismal Regeneration

4 06 2011

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 accompanies faith in Christ. Some of these churches include the Roman Catholic Church (as previously discussed) Orthodox, some Anglican groups, Mormonism, some Lutheran groups, Oneness Pentecostals, most Church of Christ, United Pentecostals, and Seventh-day Adventists.

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 damnable teaching and then give a Scriptural defense against that most unholy doctrine.

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) Here we have the Great Commission as recorded in the Gospel of Mark. One cannot deny that it does say that those who believe and are baptized will be saved. What is that speaking of? Is it speaking of water baptism or another baptism?

If it is speaking of water baptism as being required for salvation then the latter part should read, “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? What possible explanation could there be for such an omission?

The answer is simple, the baptism being spoken of is the baptism of the Holy Spirit. When we are saved we are baptized with the Holy Spirit so it is true that those who believe will be baptized and saved. Those who do not believe will not be baptized with the Holy Spirit and will be damned. It’s not possible that this passage is talking about water baptism or else it would have to say that those who are not baptized are damned as well. Since believing and being baptized with the Holy Spirit are the same event there is no reason to mention baptism for those who believe not.

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 which is probably the most commonly quoted proof text is also being taken out of context by those who hold to this doctrine.

The first thing we have to do is put the verse back into 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)

So one important point that is 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 so Peter was not nullifying what Jesus said, he was simply highlighting the name of Jesus whom they had previously 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 also mean, “in order to get”(which is what these folks are saying) 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, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.” In light of the perfect harmony of Scripture I would answer that he is not saying that. 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 still have a birthday. 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.

In 1 Corinthians 10:2 it says the children of Israel were baptized “into” Moses. “And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea.” The same Greek word “for” in Acts 2:38 is used to say “into” by Paul. We must then ask ourselves this question is it saying that they were baptized in the cloud and sea in order to get Moses as their leader? Of course not he was already their leader. They were baptized into Moses because he was their leader.

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 (Ephesians 2:8-10). Peter is not contradicting these passages by saying you must be baptized in order to complete remission of your sins but rather he is saying to be baptized because you have remission of sins.

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? Well let’s look at it and see what it is saying. It says that baptism now saves us and it says that the eight souls on the ark were saved by water. Two very interesting statements by Peter. First of all I think it is important to note that water did not save those on the ark but rather they were saved through the flood waters not by the flood waters. Even with that understanding corrected one might assert that we are saved through baptism. Keep in mind we must interpret Scripture with Scripture.

Are we saved through baptism? Paul said in Ephesians 2:8 we are saved by grace through faith not through baptism. Paul goes on in the next verse to say it is not of works. One might argue that having faith is a work as much as baptism but Paul also covers that by pointing out that it is God working in us to bring about our faith, “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” (Phillippians 2:13)

What the apostle is saying here is that baptism is a counterpart to our salvation but it is not a part of our redemption. It is a type or a picture. Take as an example the Old Testament sacrifices. They did not save anyone because they were saved by faith. The writer of Hebrews said those sacrifices could never take away sin, “But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year.For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.”

Those sacrifices had to be made by the saved but they did not of themselves save anyone. They were only a counterpart to their redemption. Abraham was told to circumcise his household. Those who were not circumcised were not allowed to be part of the covenant community, “And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant.” (Genesis 17:14)

Did circumcision save them? No, we are told that Abraham was justified by faith, “Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” (Galatians 3:6) They were saved by faith as well but were commanded to make sacrifice and be circumcised thus showing their faith in God. We are saved and then commanded to be baptized not as a part of our redemption but to demonstrate the faith we have toward God.

Even the use of words by Peter speaks not of regeneration but of an outward act of an inward change. Look at what Peter said in verse 21 where he says that baptism saves us “not the putting away of the filth of the flesh.” He is saying it has no power over our sins. It can’t save us or regenerate us but it is “the answer of a good conscience toward God by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

He says it is showing a good conscience toward God or it is demonstrating that we have been saved. He is saying that we are saved not by the baptismal waters but by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. We are saved by our identifying with the death, burial and resurrection of Christ and baptism is the external picture of that internal experience.

Now that we have looked at the common proof texts we must establish the main reason that baptismal regeneration is false. This reason is the fact that too many other Scriptures teach that salvation is by faith alone not by baptism. One doctrine never cancels out another. If this appears to be the case then we must be interpreting one of them wrong because Scripture is infallible as the Word of God. Let us examine a few of these verses in the Bible.

Titus 3:5, “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.”

Ephesians 2:8-9, “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.”

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

Romans 10:9-10, “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 10:13, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

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. When we turn to the Scriptures we see many accounts of baptism following salvation, not salvation resulting from baptism. In Acts 8 we see an Ethiopian Eunuch being saved and then he asked what hindered him from being baptized. If it were necessary for salvation then the question was unnecessary. In Acts 10 we see the Holy Spirit being given to those who believed in the house of Cornelius. Once Peter saw that they were saved he asked, “Who can forbid them water” the baptizing came after they received the Holy Spirit. In Acts 16 we see the Phillippian jailer asks, “What must I do to be saved?” The answer was not believe and be baptized but “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.”

Of course one of the greatest examples of salvation apart from baptism is the thief on the cross. Many groups defend that by saying that those who desire to be baptized but can’t due to circumstances are still saved by their desire to be baptized. The problem there is saying that God made a requirement for salvation that man in some cases could not keep.

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 every one who believeth” notice how he did not say to every one who believeth and is baptized. If baptismal regeneration were true then the apostle made a major doctrinal error and it has stayed in the Bible down through the centuries meaning the Word of God has been corrupted.

He said the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation which means salvation comes through the Gospel. This would also mean according to common sense that all requirements for salvation are found in the Gospel. Even those who believe in baptismal regeneration will agree with that point. Keeping that in mind look at what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1:17, “For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.”

So Paul was making a point here that God had called him to preach the Gospel, not to baptize. He separates baptism from the Gospel. If salvation were attainable through baptism then Paul should have baptized them or else they were not saved. 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 it’s followers and attempts to add human merit to salvation.

Written By: Rick Garland

 








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