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Is Baptismal Regeneration a False Doctrine?

Baptismal regeneration is one of the oldest doctrines in Christianity. It’s also one of the most commonly debated, disputed, and, in my belief, misunderstood beliefs in Christianity. Many Christians, often former members of abusive sects that taught a distortion of this doctrine, dismiss baptismal regeneration out of hand. Should an entire doctrine with Scriptural support and a long history within Christianity be dismissed in this way?

It should be kept in mind that not all groups that believe in baptismal regeneration have the same beliefs about it. Most baptize people of all ages, while a few will only baptize those old enough to choose for themselves. Some have no preference regarding the mode of baptism, while others only recognize an immersion. A few groups that teach baptismal regeneration insist on baptizing in the Name of Jesus. Some Christians believe in original sin while others don’t. Most importantly, not all groups that teach baptismal regeneration believe that anyone who dies unbaptized is consigned to hell. The rest of this article will focus mainly on groups that support the historic orthodox teaching on baptism.

The historic view of baptism drew a comparison between baptism and circumcision. Baptism was seen as a means of entering into the New Testament’s covenant of grace, just as circumcision was a means of entering into the covenant made in the Jewish Scriptures. Baptism is one of the many ways in which God imparts grace to us. Baptism makes us a part of the whole Church, not just a member of a local congregation. Romans 6:3-10 is a good passage of Scripture to study regarding covenants from a New Testament perspective.

Acts 2:38-39 are two verses of Scripture that stress the importance of baptism. Though often twisted to support a theology that demands baptism specifically in the Name of Jesus as a prerequisite for salvation, this passage has a more important significance. It ties together the act of baptism, the reception of the Holy Spirit, and the fact that baptism is freely available to those willing to receive it in faith. When we repent of our sins, we are free to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. In the case of an unbaptized adult, they are able to join the Church through baptism. Those baptized as infants can later repent of their sins and make an adult commitment to Christ in confirmation. Baptism does allow God to work in a person in a unique way, see Colossians 2:12.

Historic orthodox Christianity rightfully recognizes salvation by grace. While baptism is seen as being generally necessary to the Christian life, it’s also understood that God’s grace can save someone who was unable to be baptized through no fault of their own. In Anglicanism, those who die unbaptized after making a commitment to Christ are still counted among the faithful departed. Catholicism recognizes the faith of those who die without baptism in similar circumstances, including martyrdom.

Not all baptismal regeneration doctrines are cut from the same cloth. Instead of dismissing all of them as “works salvation”, inquirers should examine the claims in light of Scripture.

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July 26, 2014 - Posted by | Apologetics |

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