9. Regenerational Baptism

August 2022

Though the unique nature of our beliefs about Holy Communion are real, it is likely our unique beliefs about Baptism that get the greater attention. It may seem odd that we would even label our beliefs “unique” since Scripture clearly teaches the saving nature of Baptism. Here are five passages that affirm regenerational Baptism.

When the Apostle Paul recalled his encounter with Ananias in Damascus after his encounter with the glorified Lord Jesus on the road to Damascus, he remembered, “And he [Ananias] said, ‘The God of our fathers has appointed you to know His will and to see the Righteous One and to hear an utterance from His mouth. For you will be a witness for Him to all men of what you have seen and heard. Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name’” (Acts 22:14-16). Both the words of Ananias and Paul's repeating of those words declare that Paul would have his sins washed away through the act of Baptism.

It's not surprising, then, that the Holy Spirit would continue to use Paul's pen to emphasize for us what exactly happens to us when we are baptized. To the Church at Rome Paul wrote: “Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin” (6:3-7). Baptism is our participation in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. In this participation our old nature is put to death and a new nature free from bondage to sin rises in its place. In so many words, we are regenerated through Baptism.

To the Galatians Paul wrote: “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ” (3:26-27). As with the Romans passage, the words don't directly say we are saved though Baptism. However, how else do we understand the term “clothed with Christ”? Our sins are as filthy rags. When we are forgiven, our filth is removed and we put on Christ. To be forgiven is to be clothed with Christ. This clothing belongs to those of us who are baptized.

Similarly, the words written to the Christians at Colossae explain what it is that happens to us when we are baptized. “...and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead” (2:11-12). Here is repeated the idea of burial with Christ, but what is of true note is the phrase, “the removal of the body of the flesh.” The flesh refers to our sinful nature which is cut away (circumcision) in Baptism. Also of note in this Colossians passage is faith. This truth is our when we believe it. (We will address the issue of faith and infant Baptism in September).

Paul's references to salvation though Baptism use other words and images than “salvation” and “regeneration” specifically. Not so with Peter who wrote inspired by the Holy Spirit, “Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ...” (1 Peter 3:21). Baptism now saves you! How? It's not a physical washing, but it is a washing of the conscience through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

There are other passages in Scripture that teach salvation or regeneration through Baptism. These five, however, will suffice to show that our belief about Baptism is clearly according to God's Word and not at all unique. Our sins are washed away, our old nature is put to death, we are clothed in Christ, our sinful flesh is cut away, indeed, we are saved by the washing of our conscience because Jesus was raised from the dead.


Scripture quotations taken from the NASB (New American Standard Bible) Copyright by The Lockman Foundation: http://www.lockman.org/