“And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:39-43)
Before proceeding any further with our consideration of the important biblical doctrine of baptism, let’s deal with the elephant in the room; namely, the false doctrine of baptismal regeneration.
Many churches teach and many professed Christians believe that baptism is necessary for salvation. Roman Catholics even go as far as to teach that infant baptism cancels the debt of original sin. Yet, infant baptism is not mentioned in all of Scripture and the Scripture plainly refutes the erroneous notion of baptismal regeneration. For instance, consider the following:
- While the New Testament contains around 150 references to the truth that salvation is appropriated by faith alone, direct references to water baptism are relatively few.
- Jesus promised the unbaptized thief on the cross, “Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43)
- According to the Bible, we are purchased, redeemed, forgiven, justified, brought near to God, reconciled to God, purged, cleansed, washed, sanctified and enabled to overcome the devil by the blood of Christ (Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 1:18-19; Ephesians 1:7; Romans 3:25; 5:9; Ephesians 2:13; Colossians 1:20; Hebrews 9:14; 1 John 1:7; Revelation 1:5; Hebrews 13:12; Revelation 12:11).
Advocates of baptismal regeneration either substitute the waters of baptism for the blood of Christ or add them as a supplement to Christ’s blood. Either way, they make the blood of Christ out to be insufficient for our salvation.
- Salvation is a miracle of God, only made possible by election and divine intervention (Mark 10:26-28; John 15:16; Romans 9:11; Ephesians 1:4-6; 1 Thessalonians 1:4; 2 Peter 1:10). Consequently, all human boasting is excluded, since salvation is a work of God that has absolutely nothing to do with any works of our own (Romans 3:26-28; Ephesians 2:8-9; Galatians 6:14).
If baptism saves us, then, the Scripture is wrong. We are saved by a work of our own and have every right to brag about our own salvation, a salvation obtained by our observance of a church ordinance—baptism.
- If baptism is necessary for salvation, then, Jesus was wrong when He cried out from the cross, “It is finished” (John 19:30). The necessary work for our salvation was not completed by Christ’s atonement, but awaits the addition of our baptism.
- If water baptism is necessary for salvation, then, it is a curious thing that Christ, the Savior of the world, never personally baptized anyone in water (John 4:1-2). No less curious is the fact that the Apostle Paul thanked God that he personally baptized very few of the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 1:14-16).
- In Acts Chapter 10, we are told how the Gentiles believed, were saved and received the Holy Spirit (v. 44). Afterward, they were baptized (vs. 47-48). Obviously, this sequence of events serves as a refutation of baptismal regeneration.
Contrary to the opinion of many within the contemporary church, the teaching of baptismal regeneration is no minor disagreement within Christendom. It is a major breach of sound doctrine. It not only does despite to the sovereignty of God and the finished work of Christ, but it also perverts the Gospel, not to mention the real purpose and meaning of baptism itself.
“The issue is a serious one. If baptism is essential for salvation, then to reject that gospel is to be damned. But if salvation is through faith in Christ alone, then to add baptism as a condition for salvation is to reject the true gospel…The Bible declares that it is wrong to teach salvation by faith in Christ plus anything else…A gospel of salvation through Christ plus baptism is…false,” (Dave Hunt)