An Examination of Baptismal Regeneration

By JOHN ZEWENIUK


A booklet called “21st Century Disciples with a 1st Century Faith” by Waldo J. Werming is being used by a local Lutheran church to teach students the positions of Lutherans concerning doctrinal beliefs and practices. However, the Lutheran position concerning baptism in particular, as set forth in that booklet, and in various Lutheran confessions of faith is one that is in need of criticism on a scriptural and doctrinal basis. The following is a response and criticism of the section on baptism in the “21st Century Disciples with a 1st Century Faith” and therefore a criticism of the Lutheran position in general.

The Lutheran position will be presented as it appears in various Lutheran confessions of faith and the booklet by Waldo J. Werming. The Independent Baptist position will be presented, and historical aspects of both beliefs will be discussed. Then specific problems in Werming’s article will be pointed out. Finally a discussion of the problems of the Lutheran position and its implications will be set forth in light of both the scriptural and historically Baptist doctrine. The following is written with the interests of scriptural truth in mind, not for advancing one denomination’s belief over another, but an attempt to give an understanding of the scriptural teaching of baptism.

The Lutheran Position
Perhaps the best method of understanding the Lutheran position is to consider the Lutherans own confessions of faith. The Augsburg Confession A.D. 1530 Article IX. briefly discusses baptism, and says:

“Art. IX – Of Baptism.

Of Baptism they teach that it is necessary to salvation, and that by Baptism the grace of God is offered, and that children are to be baptized, who by Baptism, being offered to God, are received into God’s favour.

They condemn the Anabaptists who allow not the Baptism of children, and affirm that children are saved without Baptism.”

In part IV. of Luther’s Small Catechism A.D. 1529 , Martin Luther says this of Baptism,

Part IV.

The sacrament of Holy Baptism,

As it should be clearly and simply explained to every household

by the head of the family.

I. What is Baptism? Answer:

Baptism is not simply common water, but it is the water comprehended in God’s command, and connected with God’s word.

What is that Word of God? Answer:

It is that which our Lord Christ speaks in the last chapter of Matthew [xxviii.19] ‘Go ye [into all the world], and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.’

II. What does Baptism give, or of what use is it? Answer:

It worketh forgiveness of sins, delivers from death and the devil, and gives everlasting salvation to all who believe, as the Word and promise of God declare.

What are such words and promises of God? Answer:

Those which our Lord Christ speaks in the last chapter of Mark:’He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved; but he that believeth not, shall be damned.’

III. How can water do such great things? Answer:

It is not water, indeed, that does it, but the Word of God which is with and in the water, and faith, which trusts in the Word of God in the water. For without the Word of God the water is nothing but water and no baptism; but with the Word of God it is a baptism — that is, a gracious water of life and a washing of regeneration in the Holy Ghost, as St. Paul says, Titus, third chapter [iii. 5-7]:’By the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost, which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; that being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life’: This is certainly true. [or, ‘This is a faithful saying,’ ver. 8]

IV. What does such baptizing with water signify? Answer:

It signifies that the old Adam in us is to be drowned by daily sorrow and repen¡tance, and perish with all sins and evil lusts; And that the new man should daily come forth again and rise, who shall live before God in righteousness and purity forever.

Where is it written? Answer:

St. Paul, in the 6th chapter of Romans, says: ‘We are buried with Christ by baptism into death; that like as he was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.’

The Saxon Visitation Articles A.D. 1592 in article III discusses baptism, and says,

Art. III

Of Holy Baptism

The pure and true doctrine of our churches on this article of Holy Baptism.

I. That there is but one Baptism, and one Ablution: not that which is used to take away the filth of the body, but that which washes us from our sins.

II. By Baptism, as a bath of the regeneration and renovation of the Holy Ghost, God saves us, and works in us such justice and purgation from our sins, that he who perseveres to the end in that covenant and hope does not perish, but has eternal life.

III. All who are baptized in Jesus Christ are baptized in his death; and by baptism are buried with him in his death, and have put on Christ.

IV. Baptism is the bath of regeneration, because in it we are born again, and sealed by the Spirit of adoption through grace (or gratuitously).

V. Unless a person be born again of water and Spirit, he can not enter into the Kingdom of heaven. This is not intended however, for cases of necessity.

VI. Whatever is born of the flesh is flesh; and by nature, all of us are children of divine wrath: because we are born of sinful seed, and we are all born in sin.

Also for consideration is the article on baptism by Waldo J. Werming in his “21st Century Disciples with a 1st Century Faith”. Please note particularly some of the statements about baptism.

1. …baptism is initiated as God’s action, not man’s action.

2. …Baptism is the beginning of God’s action of grace in a person’s life…

3. …Baptism is a real event of God’s power and presence…

4. …it is God’s power in the washing of regeneration which joins a person with Christ and into God’s family.

5. …At our baptism we were washed clean and made holy before God…

6. …Through our baptism we were saved, and received the full benefits of all Christ did for us as a free gift…

7. …At our baptism we were declared freed from our sins, not guilty – a washing of regeneration by the Holy Spirit…

8. …In our baptism the Holy Spirit gives us the gift of repentance and forgiveness…the blessing of the new birth…

9. …the Word is connected to the water, which gives it its energizing power…

10. …In our baptism we have been crucified and have died with Christ…passed from death to life…

11. …Through our baptism we have participated in the burial of Christ…our Old Man is put down and we are now dead to sin’s power…

12. …Through our baptism we have participated in the resurrection of Christ…raised from spiritual death to new life totally by God’s power…

13. …Through baptism we become new creatures…Baptism gives the second birth, a union between the Saviour and the baptized one…

14. …Through our baptism we were adopted into God’s family and became part of Christ’s Body, the only holy Church…

15. …At our baptism we received as a garment or a covering, Christ Himself…

16. …At our baptism we received the Holy Spirit…

17. …Because of our baptism…we have power over the devil and our flesh…

18. …Because of our baptism we live our life now under God’s grace…

19. …The Word of God is the power and the water is the symbol in baptism…

20. …This is a spiritual burial for which Christ uses visible means — water. The power is in the Word, not in the water. The water is the instrument, while the spoken Word performs the miracle of regeneration…

21. …God’s grace through baptism is the only revealed biblical answer for children…

22. …baptism supplies the only way children can become or be members of the body of Christ…

23. …means of grace — baptism…

24. …There is no other act for regeneration which God proposes for children…

25. …Baptism is the act to transmit the guarantee of the child’s redemption…

26. …a promise of the Gospel…27. …Baptism is the recognition of the doctrine of sin and grace for all people…

28. …makes them members of His Church…

29. …provides God’s power to children…

30. …Baptism is the only means God has given us by which infants can be born again…

31. …baptism which works faith in them… (infants)

32. …baptism is the circumcision of the heart…

33. …Babies do not have spiritual life until baptized…

34. …baptism is an act in which God is acting upon man, not man merely trying to react to God…

35. …In Holy Communion there are to be exceptions…no such restrictions are stated in baptism…

36. …Kingdom which they enter by the baptismal grace…

37. …receiving His grace…

38. …Acts 2:39 that the baptism promise is also “to their children.”…

39. …a miracle in adults, so in infants…

40. …Baptism is the only means God has revealed to work faith in a child…

41. …entrance into the spiritual world is by water and the Spirit (baptism)…

42. …baptism, as much a mystery but just as much a reality…

43. …Baptism declares, signifies and seal what God has done, does and will do for me…

44. …primarily a seal of God’s work, a regenerating work of the Holy Spirit…

45. …His action, not man’s…

46. …all are to be brought to baptism…

47. …Our baptism reminds us that day by day our new nature is to arise as from the dead to live in righteousness and purity by God’s grace. Our baptism gives us this desire because the blessings that Christ gives here strengthens us…

Summary of the Lutheran Position
From these statements, we can conclude that the Lutheran position on baptism is directly connected and in fact inseparable from the saving work of God. We see that they believe it is God’s visible means of grace. That baptism actually works faith in the candidate being baptized. In fact, it is the means by which we are born again, accepted into the family of God and into Christ’s body, the Church. It gives spiritual life, gives repentance and forgiveness, actually washing us from our sins. It is called the water of life, and bath of regeneration and the renovation of the Holy Ghost whereby we are washed clean and made holy. It is necessary for salvation, because it is the means by which we receive that saving grace of God. It is an act to transmit the guarantee of redemption, an act of God, and not of man. They believe that in baptism we receive the Holy Spirit and a garment of covering (Christ) and that we actually participate in historical event of Christ’s burial and resurrection.

Of course simple water could not do these things of itself, so they believe that God’s word is connected with the water. In fact they believe that God’s word is in and with the water, giving it its energizing power. Water is believed to be the instrument used to impart this grace, and the Word is said to be that which performs the miracle in the water.

This position on baptism is called baptismal regeneration. Because it is the means of grace, an act of God, not of man. They believe that all must be baptized, including, if not especially infants. So, this is the basis for the practice of infant baptism. Also, since the water is empowered by the Word of God, giving it saving power, the amount of water, or the method of baptism is not important. In fact the pouring of water over the body, or affusion, or a sprinkling which is called aspersion, is sufficient to impart the grace of God, and this is the normal practice of the Lutheran Church today. Because of baptismal regeneration, and the saving work of God in the baptism, they believe that a person can look back on their baptism for assurance and comfort of salvation.

The Lutheran Position Historically
If this is the position of the Lutheran Church today, The question arises, where did this position come from. Is it scriptural? If not, when did it come about? What is the history of baptismal regeneration, infant baptism and affusion and aspersion?

From today back to the beginning of the Lutheran Church by Martin Luther, the doctrines of baptismal regeneration, infant baptism and affusion and aspersion were accepted and practiced by Lutherans. Before that, it is necessary to go to the Roman Catholic church to find these doctrines. However, although baptismal regeneration was believed very early in Church history, John T. Christian in his history of the Baptists, on page 38, says,

“For the first thirteen centuries immersion was the normal practice of the Christian world. “Baptism by immersion,” says Dollinger, “continued to be the prevailing practice of the Church as late as the fourteenth century” (Dollinger, The History of the Church, II. 294. London, 1840-42)”

So we see that it wasn’t until quite late in the History of the Roman Catholic church that affusion and aspersion was the normal practice, although it was practiced for many centuries as an alternate method of baptism. Of the development of Affusion, John T. Christian says this on page 37 of his history of the Baptists,

“Affusion for baptism was of slow growth. Possibly the earliest mention of affusion is found in the famous teaching of the Twelve Apostles (Bryennios, Didacha ton Dodeka Apostolon. Constantinople, 1883), which is variously claimed to be a production of the first to seventh century.

Novatian (A.D. 250) presents the first case of clinic baptism on record. …but his baptism is distinctly called “an abridgement” or “compend” (Eusebius, The Church History, 289. New York 1890). Affusion is a mere substitute for immersion. France was the first country where affusion was permitted to persons in the full enjoyment of health (Wall, The History of Infant Baptism, I. 576). ”

From these statements we can surmise that affusion wasn’t the practice of the early church, but was practiced much later. It wasn’t until hundreds of years after it was first practiced that it became accepted, let alone considered the standard procedure in baptism.

We find a similar development of infant baptism. John T. Christian quotes Andre Legarde on page 35 who says:

Until the sixth century, infants were baptized only when they were in danger of death. About this time the practice was introduced of administering baptism even when they were not ill (Lagarde, Latin Church in the Middle Ages, 37).

So we find that infant baptism didn’t become the normal practice until the sixth century. Before this, only infants in danger of death were baptized. On page 31, Christian says:

The first direct evidence in favour of it (infant baptism) is found in the writings of Cyprian, in the council of Carthage, in Africa, A.D. 253. In writing to one Fidus, Cyprian takes the ground that infants should be baptized as soon as they are born (Epistle of Cyprian, LVIII. 2). This opinion, however, was not based upon the Scriptures, and did not meet with the approval of the Christian world. The early councils of the church were all against infant baptism. The council of Elvira or Grenada, A.D. 305, required the delay of baptism for two years (Hefele, History of the Councils, I. 155. Edinburgh, 1871).

This clearly shows that infant baptism was also a practice that developed over time, and was not the practice of the Apostles or the churches before the 6th century.

Baptismal regeneration can be found very early in the church. However, the Apostles and the Apostolic Fathers (Clement, Barnabas, Ignatius and Pastor of Her¡mas), as well as many after them required a profession of faith before they would baptize. And, with a scriptural understanding of faith, that is, it is the gift of God (Eph. 2:8), and assuming that these men so close to the Apostles understood this definition of the faith that saves, it could be concluded that these men did not believe in baptismal regeneration because they required faith before they would baptize. Believers baptism was the only practice of the Apostolic churches, and it was the only practice of true churches after them.

The progression that we see then, is that errors crept into the church and gradually developed. At first the error of baptismal regeneration crept in. Then, when it was firmly believed by so many that it was the act of baptism that regenerated an individual, then it could be pointed out that infants should be baptized. This secured the child’s salvation in case he died before he was able to personally express faith in Christ. Then all babes were given baptism since it was only logical to give the child the grace of God in baptism at as early an age as possible. And so, logic became the ultimate guide of doctrine and practice in these areas, and scripture was secondary.

The idea of affusion and aspersion can also be seen as a logical progression of baptismal regeneration. Since it was the water that saved by the power of the word of God, could not God empower a little water, as easily as much water? And so, affusion and aspersion were logically added to the practice of baptism.

So we see that the Lutheran position on baptism coupled with the Roman Catholic position raises some serious doubts as to the scriptural basis to these practic¡es. If these are not the proper scriptural doctrines of baptism, what is and who believes the truth?

The Baptist Position
Consider the Baptist position. The London Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689 has this to say concerning Baptism:

Chapter 28

OF BAPTISM AND THE LORDS SUPPER.

1. Baptism and the Lord’s supper are ordinances of positive and sovereign institution, appointed by the Lord Jesus, the only lawgiver to be continued in his church to the end of the world.

Matt. xxvii. 19,20, I Cor. xi. 26.

2. These holy appointments are to be administered by those only who are qualified and thereunto called, according to the commission of Christ.

Matt. xxvii. 19, I Cor. iv. 1.

Chapter 29

OF BAPTISM

1. Baptism is an ordinance of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus Christ, to be unto the party baptized, a sign of his fellowship with him, in his death and resurrection; of his being engrafted into him;3 of remission of sins;4 and of giving up unto God, through Jesus Christ to live and walk in newness of life.

Rom. vi. 3-5, Col. ii. 12, Gal. iii. 27.

Mark i. 4, Acts xxii. 16

Rom. vi. 4

2. Those who do actually profess repentance towards God, faith in, and obedi¡ence to, our Lord Jesus Christ, are the only proper subjects of this ordinance.

Mark xvi. 16; Acts vii. 36,37; ii. 41; vii. 12; xviii. 8.

3. The outward element to be used in this ordinance is water, wherein the party is to baptized, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Matt. xxvii. 19, 20, Acts vii. 38.

4. Immersion, or dipping of a person in water, is necessary to the due administra¡tion of this ordinance.

Matt. iii 16, John iii. 23.

A Baptist Catechism by C.H. Spurgeon, T.T. Eaton, and edited by Dr. Ken Johnson from Victory Baptist Church says this of baptism:

74. How do baptism and the Lord’s supper become spiritually helpful?

A. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper become spiritually helpful, not from any virtue in them, or in him who administers them (1), but only by the blessing of Christ (2), and the working of the Spirit in those who by faith receive them (3).

(1) I Cor. 3:7. “So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.”

II Pet. 3:21. “The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

(2) – I Cor. 3:6. “I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.”

(3) – I Cor. 12:13. “By one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, Whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.”

75. What is Baptism?

A. Baptism is a New Testament Church ordinance, instituted by Jesus Christ (1), to be unto the person baptized a sign of his fellowship with Him, in His death, and burial, and resurrection (2), of his being ingrafted into Him (3), of remission of sins (4), and of his giving up himself unto God through Jesus Christ, to live and walk in newness of life (5).

(1) – Mt. 28:19. “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the son, and of the Holy Ghost.”

I Cor. 11:2 “Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you.”

(2)- Rom. 6:3. “Know ye not that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ, were baptized into his death.”

Colos. 2:12. “Buried with Him in baptism, Wherein also ye are risen with Him.”

(3) Ga. 27. “As many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”

(4)-Mk. 1:4. “John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.”

Acts 22:16, “And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.”

(5)- Ro. 6:4,5. “Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection.”

76. To whom is baptism to be administered?

A. Baptism is to be administered to all those who actually profess repentance towards God (1), and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, and to none other.

(1) Acts 2:38. Then Peter said unto them, Repent and be baptized, every one of you.”

Mt. 3:6. “And were baptized of him in Jordan confessing their sins.”

Acts 8:12,37. “When they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. — See, here is water, what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest.”

Acts 10:47,48. “Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord.”

77. Are infants of such as are professing believers to be baptized?

A. The infants of such as are professing believers are not to be baptized, because there is neither command nor example in the Holy Scriptures for their baptism (1).

(1)- Ex. 23:13. “And in all things that I have said unto you be circumspect.”

Prov. 30:6. “Add thou not unto His words, lest He reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.”

78. How is baptism rightly administered?

A. Baptism is rightly administered under the authority of a New Testament Baptist Church by immersion, or dipping the whole body of the person in water (1), in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, according to Christ’s institution, and the practice of the apostles (2), and not by sprinkling or pouring of water, or dipping some part of the body, after the tradition of men(3)

(1)- Mt. 3:16. “And Jesus, When He was baptized, went up straightway out of the water.”

Jn. 3:23. “And John also was baptizing in Aenon, near to Salim, because there was much water there: and they came and were baptized.”

Mt. 21:25. “The baptism of John, whence was it? from heaven, or of men? And they reasoned with themselves, saying If we shall say, From heaven; he will say unto us, Why did ye not then believe him?”

(2)- Mt. 28:19,20 “Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”

(3)-Jn. 4:1,2. “When therefore the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John (though Jesus himself baptized not, but His disciples).”

Acts 8:38,39. “And they went both down into the water, both Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip.”

In the book Baptist Doctrine in One Year based on Pendleton’s Church Manual by M.L. Moser, Sr. in Lesson 26 says this:

XIV. Of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper

We believe that Christian baptism is the immersion in water of a believer,1 into the name of the Father, and Son, and Holy Ghost:2 to show forth in a solemn and beautiful emblem, our faith in the crucified, buried, and risen Saviour, with its effect, in our death to sin and resurrection to a new life;3 that it is prerequisite to the privileges of a church relation; and to the Lord’s Supper,4 in which the members of the church by the sacred use of bread and wine, are to commemorate together the dying love of Christ;5 preceded always by solemn self examination.

Places in Bible where taught.

Acts 8:36-39 … Matt. 3:5,6; John 3:22,23; 4:1,2; Matt. 28:19; Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 8:12; 16:32-34; 18:8 Matt. 28:19; Acts 10:47,48; Gal. 3:27,28.

Rom. 6:4; Col 2:12; I Pet. 3:20,21; Acts 22:16.

Acts 2:41,42; Matt. 28:19,20. Acts and Epistles.

I Cor. 11:26; Matt. 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:14-20.

I Cor 11:28; I Cor 5:1,8; 10:3-32; 11:17-32; John 6:26-27.

We do not recognize as Bible baptism the immersions practiced in other denomi¡nations for lack of ecclesiastical (church) authority in its administration.

We believe that Baptism as well as the Lord’s Supper should be administered by duly ordained ministers.

From lesson 32 of the same book, the following statements are made:

…”(4) The design of baptism furnishes a conclusive argument in favour of immersion.

There is in baptism a representation of the burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ…

It is clear from these passages (Rom. 6:3-5;Col 2:12; I Pet 3:21) that baptism has a commemorative reference to the burial and resurrection of Christ… In baptism they see him buried and raised again, just as they see him dead in the sacred Supper. Baptism is, therefore, a symbolic proclamation of two of the three prominent facts of the gospel — the burial and resurrection of Christ.

Baptism also expresses, in emblem, the believer’s death to sin, and resurrection to newness of life. In “repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ,” there is a spiritual death to sin, and a spiritual resurrection to newness of life. These two facts are emblematically set forth in baptism. Hence the absurdity of baptizing any who are not dead to sin. We are baptized into the death of Christ. We profess our reliance on His death for salvation, and we profess, also, that as He died for sin, we have died to sin. As burial is a palpable separation of the dead from the living, so baptism is a symbolic separation of those dead to sin from those living in sin. And as resurrection from the dead indicates an entrance into a new sphere of existence, so baptism in its similitude to a resurrection denotes an entrance upon a new life…Baptism is likewise a symbol of purification…

Finally in the book Alien Baptism and the Baptists by William Manlius Nevins, in chapter 2, we read:

As there was a divine pattern for the tabernacle, so there is in the Bible a pattern for baptism. In this pattern there are four elements:

A Proper Subject.

A Proper Mode.

A Proper Design.

A Proper Administrator.

Or it is better stated:

A Scriptural Subject.

A Scriptural Mode.

A Scriptural Design.

A Scriptural Administrator.

The scriptural subject being talked about, is a subject who is a born again believer, bringing forth “fruits meet for repentance.” The scriptural mode is that of immersion. The scriptural design is to picture the death burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ and to declare your faith in Christ, signifying the putting off of the Old man, and putting on of the New man. The scriptural administrator is an ordained minister of a local New Testament church.

Summary of the Baptist Position
So, from these confessions of faith, and discussions on baptism, we can see the independent baptist’s position concerning baptism. It is one of two ordinances appoint¡ed to the New Testament Church by Jesus Christ. It is a sign of our fellowship with God, in his death and resurrection. It is a sign of our being engrafted into him and of the remission of sins. It bears a commemorative reference to the burial and resurrection of Christ, expressing in emblem a believers death to sin and newness of life. In baptism we profess our reliance on Christ’s death for salvation, and profess that as he died for sin, we have died to sin. It is a symbolic separation of the spiritually dead and the spiritually alive. It is an act of obedience towards God.

Only born again believers are to be baptized and only an ordained local New Testament church minister can administer baptism. The only proper mode of baptism is immersion, for affusion and aspersion or any other method does not symbolize our death burial and resurrection with Christ. Immersion is the only method practiced in the bible, and the only method practiced by Christ’s churches. We are to be baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Baptism is necessary before we can enjoy the privileges of a church relation, and the Lord’s Supper. Infants are not to be baptized because they can not believe or profess faith in Christ.

The Baptist Position Historically
This is the Baptist position. This doctrine has been preserved from today back to the apostles in the New Testament church of Jesus Christ. Despite the persecution and bitter opposition of Protestant and Roman Catholics alike, God has preserved his church throughout history and the doctrine of baptism stands preserved with all other true doctrines. It is not found preserved in the Roman Catholic church, for that is an apostate church. The following are some examples of baptists throughout the centuries who have held to this doctrine of baptism.

The Independent Baptists in the United States today hold these doctrines. Most of these churches have descended from the baptist churches of the Philadelphia Baptist Association which began in the early 1700’s when baptists came to America. They believed in believers baptism and rejected baptismal regeneration and infant baptism just as baptist churches today do. Before them, the Baptist churches of England held these doctrines during the Reformation Period and earlier.

Throughout the centuries baptists have been called by many names. The baptists of England were most often called Anabaptists because they rebaptized individuals joining their churches. The Waldenses were also baptists, in that they believed the doctrines of Independent Baptists today. Their history can be traced from the fifth Century right past the Protestant Reformation. Other examples of baptists who believed in faith before baptism, rejected infant baptism and only practiced immersion are the Wycliffites in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. The Hussites in the fifteenth century, the Lollards in the fourteenth, the Albigenses around the thirteenth, and the Tisserands and the Paterines in the twelth century. The Paulicians were baptists seen in the seventh through the tenth centuries. The Bogomils, Catheri and Donatists were also names of baptists. Finally there were Novations in the fourth, fifth and sixth century. Before these were the early churches, who held believers baptism because this was the doctrine taught to them by the apostles themselves.

It is through these and many other people throughout the centuries where Independent Baptists receive their history. They reject the Roman Catholic church, and therefore do not look to it for a historical support of their doctrine. Christ promised to preserve his church (Mat. 28:20) and this preservation included the truth concerning the doctrine and practice of the church that Christ himself started. Baptism has always been taught, from the first church to the baptist churches of the twentieth century, as baptists teach it today.

We believe that this doctrine of baptism is not only historical, but it is scriptural. Our history supports it, and more importantly, so does the Word of God. Since this is our position, the concern for teaching and declaring this baptism and no other can be understood. So, when this doctrine is taught contrary to scripture the desire to respond and point out the error can also be understood. This is the intention of examining the statements made by Waldo J. Werming in his “21st Century Disciples with a 1st Century Faith” and by specifically pointing out problems with his teaching.

PROBLEMS WITH THE LUTHERAN POSITION EXAMINED
God’s action or man’s?

He says that baptism is initiated as God’s action, not man’s. The problem with this is that baptism requires active participation on the part of man. A man has to do the baptizing and someone has to consent to the baptism. Either the person being bap¡tized, or as is the case of infant baptism, the parents of the child have to consent to the child being baptized. This is active participation of man. If baptism is God’s action and not man’s then God has to wait, and rely on man to carry out the process. No matter how you look at it, man becomes the limiting factor making man the one ultimately responsible for the baptism. If a person was saved in baptism, if God required baptism to impart his grace to a person, man would have to act before God could act. Any person observing baptism can see that it is an act carried out by man. God does not baptize, man does.

The Beginning of Grace

Baptism is called the beginning of God’s action of grace in a person’s life. This is not true. The beginning of God’s action of grace in a person’s life is not baptism, but the work of the Holy Spirit on the heart, drawing the elect, giving them the gifts of repen¡tance and faith and saving them outright. This saving work of God had to occur before baptism because repentance was a prerequisite of baptism (Mat. 3:8) Faith also was required before baptism (Acts 8:36,37). But repentance and faith are the gifts of God unto salvation. In Acts 11:18 we see repentance being granted by God to the gentiles, and it was repentance unto life. In Eph. 2:8 we see that faith is also the gift of God and it is through this faith that we are saved. Therefore baptism cannot be the beginning of God’s action of grace on the heart, because in the Word of God it only occurs after a profession of repentance and faith in Christ.

Washing of Regeneration

The next paragraph bears the statement that baptism is God’s power in the washing of regeneration which joins a person with Christ and into God’s family. There is no argument that the washing of regeneration joins a person with Christ and brings him into the family of God. The problem, however is the confusion over the term washing of regeneration. Baptism is not the washing of regeneration. The only time that the term washing of regeneration occurs in the Bible is in Titus 2:5. Nowhere in the verse is there any mention of baptism. In fact there is no mention of baptism in the whole book. Therefore the idea that the washing of regeneration is talking about baptism is quite unfounded. The mistake is in thinking that the word washing must be referring to baptism. However, the verse begins, “Not of works of righteousness which we have done” You cannot get away from the fact that baptism is a work. It is certainly a work of righteousness, but the verse very plainly says, that our salvation, this washing of regeneration, is “not of works of righteousness which we have done.” So this washing of regeneration must be talking about something else. In Revelation 1:5 John by Inspira¡tion says, “And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood,” Here we see Jesus Christ has washed us in his blood. When we are baptized, are we baptized in the literal blood of Christ? No, anyone who has ever witnessed a baptism can tell you that it is not blood we are baptized in, but water. It is Christ’s blood we were washed in, not the water of the baptistery. This is the washing of regeneration. It happened on the cross of Calvary, when Jesus shed his blood for our sins. God doesn’t even use baptism as a means of effecting this shed blood to us, for the Bible says that that is the work of God on the heart (Acts 16:14). Baptism, then is not this washing of regeneration, and to make it so, takes glory from the washing of the blood of Christ and gives it to a powerless water. Baptism beautifully pictures this washing, but that is all it is, just a symbol.

Is Baptism God’s Means of Removing Guilt?

Next he says, “All people are born in sin, stand guilty before God, and are condemned eternally if they do not receive God’s means to remove the guilt?” This is absolutely true, but let’s be careful, what does Werming mean by, “if they do not receive God’s means to remove the guilt” This is written under the subject of baptism, and from the rest of the article, it is obvious that Werming believes that baptism is God’s means of removing guilt. If this is true then the thief on the cross is in hell today, and Christ lied to him in Luke 23:43, for this man never did receive baptism, but for sure, he was saved by God, given a repentant heart, and faith, even at his death. The means of his faith wasn’t baptism, but it was the work of God on his heart.

Are We Washed Clean and Made Holy by Baptism?

Point two says that at our baptism we were washed clean and made holy before God (I Cor 6:11; Eph 5:25-26). If this is true, then all the saints before John the Baptist such as Abraham and David were washed clean and made holy before God some other way, for they were never baptized. Also the thief on the cross must have been washed clean and made holy before God some other way because he was never baptized. And what about men who were baptized, but never washed clean and made holy before God. For example, the men in Acts 19 were baptized (Acts 19:3), but they were not clean and holy before God. When they heard the word of truth however, they accepted Christ and were re-baptized. It was only after they heard the word that they were baptized. If we are washed clean and made holy before God at our baptism, then baptism is inconsistent, not cleansing all who are baptized. And, it must be only a means of grace and not the means. Is this idea of many means of grace consistent with the Word of God? How did Abraham receive his grace? We see in Galatians 3:6 that Abraham’s righteousness was because of his belief or his faith in God. We know that this is the grace of God. How did he get it? In Genesis 17 we see that Abraham believed after God spoke to him, then he acted in obedience to God’s word. So it was God’s word that produced faith and faith produced obedience. Is it any different in the New Testament? In Acts 4:4 we read that many that heard the word believed. So it is the hearing of the word coupled with the quickening work of the Spirit (I Pet 3:18) that washes us clean and makes us holy (II Thess. 2:13). Not just the work of the Spirit, but the work of the Spirit with the hearing of the Word. Not just the Word, but the hearing of it and belief in it. Do we hear the word and believe in baptism? No, Romans 10:17 says “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” Faith cometh by baptism? No, by hearing, by the Word of God. Do we hear the word in Baptism? No, Romans 10:14 says, “and how shall they hear without a preacher?” So it is by the preaching of the Word that we hear, not by God mystically implanting the Word in the waters of the Baptistery.

I Corinthians 6:11

What about the scriptures quoted to support the idea that we are washed clean and made holy before God at our baptism? I Cor 6:11 says, “And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” Now, first of all notice, that there is absolutely no reference to baptism. There is a washing clean and making holy before God, but Revelation 1:5 shows us that it is a washing in the blood of Christ. Notice that we are washed clean, made holy, sanctified and justified by the Spirit of our God. That is to say it is the work of the Spirit that effects this cleansing, sanctification and justification. Not at baptism, but before, when we hear the Word and receive repentance and faith.

Ephesians 5:25-26

Ephesians 5:25-26 says, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,” The implication of using this verse to say that baptism cleanses and makes us holy is that it is with water that we are cleansed and sanctified. First of all, notice that this sanctification and cleansing is not by water, it is by the Word. Second, notice that it does not say, “That he might sanctify and cleanse it with water by the word,” No, he says with the washing of water. The emphasis is not on water, but on the washing of water. Is the washing of water talking about baptism? No, for it says the washing of water is the Word. The verse itself tells us that. It is not the washing in water, it is the washing of water. How is the church sanctified and cleansed? By the word. What is sanctifying and cleansing of the church? The washing of water. What is the washing of water? The action of the Word of God with the work of the Spirit to sanctify and cleanse his local New Testament Church.

Werming goes on to say that we were saved and received the full benefits of all Christ did for us as a free gift through our baptism. As we have seen earlier, however, this occurs before baptism, and not at or through our baptism. Notice Ephesians 2:8 which says it is through faith that we are saved, not through baptism.

Colossians 2:12

He quotes Colossians 2:12-15, I Peter 3:21 and Titus 3:4-8 to prove these statements. Colossians 2:12-15 says, “Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross.” Notice that it never says we are saved in baptism. We are buried and risen with Christ in baptism, that in emblem only. Baptism is symbolizing our death and resurrection with Christ. It is expressing the faith in the operation of God that we already possess, before we are baptized. It is the operation of God which saves us, not baptism. Baptism is not the operation of God for the operation of God is on the heart (Ezek. 11:19,20).

I Peter 3:21

I Peter 3:21 says, ” 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:” This is used to prove that baptism saves us. That is what it says, “baptism doth also now save us” It can’t be denied that baptism saves us, for that is what the verse says. How, then does baptism save us? Literally? No, figuratively. It is only a figure, or picture of our salvation. A careful study of this verse and the verse before it proves this. First of all notice that baptism is saving us as a figure, “The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us” What is the like figure? The previous verse says that eight souls in Noah’s ark were saved by water. Did the water save them? No, the ark did. What was the waters part in Noah and his family’s salvation? It lifted up the ark, or it lifted up that which actually saved Noah. This is the like figure of baptism. Baptism lifts up and declares what it is that actually saves, which is the death and resurrection of Christ. It is only a figure, it is the answer of a good conscience before God. Peter makes this clear, stating in the parenthesis that baptism is, “not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,” It is only an answer or response to God in obedi¡ence to him, declaring that we are already washed in his blood, and declaring that we are already saved.

Titus 3:4-8 also has no reference to baptism, but only to the washing of regenera¡tion. It refers to the saving work of Christ, but it is clear that this happens before baptism, not during, at or through baptism.

Romans 6:3-4

Finally in his second point, Werming says that at our baptism we are declared freed from our sins, and that is a washing of regeneration of the Holy Spirit. He quotes Titus 3:5, which we have seen says nothing of baptism. He quotes I Corinthians 6:11 again, which also says nothing of baptism. He also quotes Romans 6:7. The reference to baptism is in verse 3 and 4, which says, “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” In these verses, Paul is explaining what baptism symbolizes. Verse 5 says, “we have been planted together in the likeness of his death” So we are buried by baptism in the likeness of his death. It is a picture. We are baptized into the death of Jesus Christ symbolically. We are already dead to sin, and our baptism is our pledge to God to walk in newness of life. When God saves us, he looks at Christs death, burial and resurrection, and accepts that as a substitute for the death he would require of us, if it were not for Christ, for verse 23 says the wages of sin is death. So our death, burial and resurrection in actuality is substitu¡tionary. We don’t have to die, because Jesus died for us. There is no need for us to die anymore. So, we don’t die, except in Christ. When we are baptized, then that burial is not a literal participation in the historical event of Christ’s burial, but it is a declaration and picture of how we are dead to sins and buried with Christ and a picture or declara¡tion of how we shall be in the likeness of his resurrection (verse 5). The baptism is symbolic, and you have to understand that the reference to baptism is also a reference to what it symbolizes. So, we are buried by baptism into the death of Christ.

Do We Receive Repentance in Baptism?

Werming’s third point states that, “In our baptism the Holy Spirit gives us the gift of repentance and forgiveness, giving us the blessing of the new birth (Acts 2:37-38; 11:16-18). This cannot be so, for every example of baptism given in the bible we see that the candidate already possessed repentance. When the Pharisees came to be baptized by John, he refused them because they didn’t have repentant hearts (Mat. 3:7,8). If repentance was a condition of baptism, then repentance couldn’t be given in baptism. You already have repentance and faith when you are baptized. Acts 2:37-38 is used to prove his position. Verse 37 and 38 says, “Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? 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.” First of all, note that it was at the hearing of the Word that these men received conviction. Peter then told them that they needed to repent. And every one that repented needed to be baptized. The ones that were to be baptized were the ones who repented. The phrase, “be baptized every one of you” is talking about those who repented, not every one present. L.S. Ballard makes this point in an article entitled “Acts 2:38 – Does Not Teach That Baptism Is A Necessary Condition to the Remission of Sins” , as it appeared in the Missionary Messenger May 1981. He says,

“Acts 2:38 is a compound sentence, composed of three clauses all of which are connected by the conjunction “and.”But they are not clauses of the same rank, and therefore do not look to the same purpose or end. So when writers say they naturally connect the verbs of the sentence, they do not necessarily mean that they connect them for the same purpose. To do such a thing would reveal one of two things, (1) that they are ignorant of the Greek grammar, or (2) that they wilfully jumble the language in order to maintain a false theory. Any one who would undertake to coordinate “repent and be baptized” in the verse as a compound predicate of “ye” understood would impeach his scholarship for the reason the verb “repent” is second person plural number, and verb “be baptized” is third person singular number. The one exception to the rule that verbs agree with their subjects in person and number is, a neuter plural nominative may take a singular verb in the Greek. J. H. Huddilston’s Greek Grammar, page 18, Professor of Greek in the University of Main. This is scholarship and any thing to the contrary is not scholarship. Since there is no such thing as a neuter plural nominative in Acts 2:38, this rule cannot apply in the verse.”

This proves that Peter’s command to be baptized was only to those who repented. Baptism didn’t give those people something they had before they were baptized.

Acts 11:16-18 doesn’t prove the giving of repentance in baptism either. verses 16-18 says, ” Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost. Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, what was I, that I could withstand God? When they heard these things they held their peace, and glorified God, saying Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repen¡tance unto life.” First notice that in verse 17 the like gift was given to those who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, not to those who were baptized. Second, lets examine what happened. Verse 15 says, “And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning.” The Holy Ghost fell upon them as Peter spoke, not as they were baptized. This is also proved by chapter 10 verse 47 which says, “Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?” They had already received the Holy Ghost, before they were baptized. Verse 16 is not talking about water baptism. It is also not talking about Holy Spirit Baptism, as some believe. It is talking about Pentecost, when the church was immersed or filled with the Holy Ghost. It was a baptism in the Holy Spirit, not by him. The men at pentecost who were baptized in the Holy Ghost spoke in tongues and did many miraculous things. These gentiles also, after they had received the Holy Ghost, the Holy Ghost fell on them and they also spoke in tongues and did miraculous things as they at pentecost. This was what Peter was talking about in Acts 11:16, not the baptism which these men received in Acts 10:47.

Do We Literally Participate in Christ’s Death and Resurrection?

Werming goes on to say that the Word is connected to the water, and gives the water energizing power. He says that this is how regeneration is produced. This doctrine is simply not found anywhere in the Word of God. He gives no scripture to back this statement up.

His fourth point says that we have been crucified and have died with Christ and have passed from death to life in baptism. He gives Romans 6:4 and 8-11 to support this. We have already sufficiently seen why this is not so, and Romans 6:4 was dealt with above.

The fifth and sixth points say that we actually participate in the historical event of Christs burial and resurrection. Again, his refusal to accept baptism as an emblem of our burial and resurrection, directs him to the idea that we participate in the actual historical event. However, reading the verses he quotes, Col 2:12 for example, we can easily understand that the burial and resurrection of baptism is symbolic and not mystically transporting us to the literal event of Christ’s burial and resurrection. It is absurd to assume that we literally participate, especially when the word of God never says it is a literal participation. The only way we are dead, buried and resurrected with Christ as to the historical event is in God recognizing Christ’s death and burial as a sufficient substitute for the requirement of our death and burial. The only way we participate in the historical event of Christ’s resurrection is in that as Christ raised from the dead victorious, so are we victorious. It is in the victory of Christ that we receive our victory. If we participated in the literal death and burial, then what was the purpose of Christ’s death and burial. If we were literally, historically resurrected with Christ, then the victory is in ourselves, and we don’t need the victory of Christ. So, baptism pictures our burial and resurrection with Christ, not as a literal historical participation of the event, but as a symbol that as Christ died, in his death we are dead to sin, As Christ was buried, in his burial God recognizes that as our burial, and as he was raised victorious, so in his victory we are victorious. And because of this we walk in newness of life.

Galatians 3:27

He cites Galatians 3:27. This verse says, “As many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” Notice that it is baptism which is used to identify those who have put on Christ. It doesn’t say that baptism puts Christ on for you, it says that those who have been baptized have put on Christ. They put on Christ, then were baptized to declare that they had indeed put on Christ. Verse 26 says, “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus” We put on Christ by faith, which is the gift of God, then we are baptized.

Are We New Creatures Because of Baptism?

His seventh point says that through baptism we become new creatures, but it is quite clear that the bible teaches that we become new creatures through faith, not through baptism (Eph. 2:8). He lists II Corinthians 5:17 , but that verse gives absolutely no reference to baptism. He says that baptism gives the second birth, but the bible says that God gives the second birth (John 6:33, II Cor 3:6).

God’s Family and God’s Church

Point 8 says, “through our baptism we were adopted into God’s family and became part of Christ’s Body, the only holy Church” Werming confuses the Church with the family of God. I Corinthians 12:13 says that we are baptized into the Body of Christ, which is the church. This is true, for our baptism joins us to a Local New Testament church, and we become a member of that institution which is the church, Christ’s body. However, the Body of Christ, the Church, which is the Bride of Christ is not the family of God. For all the saved are in the family of God, but only some of those who are in the family of God are in the Bride. We are adopted into the family when we receive repentance and faith, we become part of the Bride when we are baptized into a New Testament Church.

Do We receive a Garment or Covering in Baptism?

The ninth point is that at our baptism we received Christ as a garment or cover¡ing. Again, this does not happen at baptism, but when we receive repentance and faith through the hearing of the Word and the effectual calling of the Holy Spirit. Galatians 3:26-28 says that we are children of God by faith in Christ Jesus and that baptism is our way of recognizing that we have put on Christ already. It doesn’t happen at baptism.

Do We Receive the Holy Spirit at Baptism?

He says that we received the Holy Spirit at our baptism. This is not true for we can see in Acts 10:44-48 that the Holy Spirit was received before baptism. None of the verses quoted (I Cor. 6:11; I Cor 12:13; Titus 3:5) say that we receive the Holy Spirit at our baptism. I Corinthians 12:13 says, “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.” This does not say that we receive the Holy Spirit at baptism, it says “by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body” This means that it is by the Holy Spirit that we are led to be baptized, and it is the Holy Spirit that places us in the Bride of Christ when we are baptized. There is no receiving of the Holy Spirit in this verse.

Next, he says, “because of our baptism and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we have power over the devil and our flesh” It is true that because of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit we have power over the devil and our flesh. However, as seen above, we receive the Holy Spirit before our baptism, and so we already have power over the devil and our flesh before we are baptized. Baptism doesn’t give us any power of any kind.

Assurance and Comfort

He says that we may return to our baptism for comfort and assurance of our forgiveness. However, in the bible we are never told to look to our baptism for assur¡ance and comfort. We are told that the Holy Spirit comforts, and is the comforter (Acts 9:31, John 14:26) The Word of God comforts (Rom 14:4). I John 5:13 says, “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.” So we see that it is the word of God and the Holy Spirit that gives us comfort and assurance of our forgiveness. We can never look to the event of our baptism and use that as assurance of salvation because we were never saved by baptism, and therefore it is possible, and sadly, often that many who receive baptism are not born again. Any man who hasn’t received repentance and faith before he is baptized is not a child of God and his baptism was not a baptism, but just a meaningless ceremony. Before baptism can be meaningful, that which it symbolizes must be a reality. This is only true of a born again believer, and this is why we only baptize those who express repentance and faith in Christ.

Werming’s final two points say that because of our baptism we live our life under God’s grace, and “should be instruments of God, sanctified, useful to him in serving others and telling others how they can have a right relationship with God” Of course these things are true, but not because of baptism. They are true because of the salvation by grace through faith that God has given us.

Affusion and Aspersion

After defining baptism in this way, Werming proceeds to try to justify the practice of affusion or aspersion. The justification is that it is the water and the Word that are important, and not the method. The idea is that God can use any amount of water to save an individual. Talking about those who believe baptism as the baptists do, and dealing with Romans 6:4, he says, “They do not bury them in water until they are dead.” This is true, for as one must die to be literally buried, so one must be dead to sin before he can be buried in water. He says, “To say that the word “death” is figurative or spiritual, and the word “buried” is literal or physical, makes the text ludicrous and nonsensical” The problem is not in the Baptist interpretation of the scripture, it is in his understanding of the Baptist interpretation. What is literal, is the death burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. What is symbolic is the baptism which symbolizes that burial and resurrection. What death are we buried into by baptism? The death of Christ (verse 3). We do not literally die in baptism, nor are we literally buried. We only picture that we have died to sin and are buried with Christ. It is into Christ’s literal death that we are symbolically buried. However, a refusal to bury in water as a symbol of our burial with Christ destroys the symbol, for a sprinkle of water, or a pouring of the water over the head does not symbolize a burial. The idea then, is not that the word “death” is figurative or spiritual and the word “buried” is literal and physical, but that our burial by baptism into Christ’s death is symbolic of our burial with Christ. We were already dead to sins before our burial in baptism, and when we received repentance and faith, God recognized Christ’s death and burial as a sufficient substitute, of what God required because of sin. That is how we are actually dead and buried with Christ and our baptism declares and pictures this. It is the idea that Christ uses water as a visible means to effect a literal spiritual burial that is ludicrous and unfounded. It just is not in the Word of God. Water is never spoken of as an instrument of regeneration. Only the Word of God and the Holy Spirit are the “instruments” of regeneration. Faith effects that regeneration, not water.

In further trying to justify aspersion and affusion, Werming says, ” ‘baptize’ means to wash” The word baptize is the Greek word baptizo transliterated into english. It is universally accepted that the word baptizo in the Greek means to dip, plunge or immerse. In John T. Christians book, “IMMERSION The Act of Christian Baptism” in chapter two, he quotes many different Greek lexicons. He gives the Liddel and Scott lexicon definition of the word saying,

“Liddell and Scott are learned Episcopalian scholars of England. I turn to the seventh edition the one all of these scholars say is the best, p. 274, and baptizo is defined,”to dip in or under water.””

He goes on to quote many other lexicons including J.H. Thayer’s Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and says this,

“On p. 94, I read: “Baptizo, to dip repeatedly, to immerse, to submerge. In the New Testament it is used particularly of the rite of sacred ablution, first instituted by John the Baptist. afterward by Christ’s command received by Christians and adjusted to the nature and contents of their religion, viz: an immersion in water.” Under baptisma he says, “a word peculiar to the N.T. and ecclesiastical writers, immersion, submersion.” ”

The Liddel and Scott and the Thayer Greek lexicons are considered to be the best by the majority of Greek scholars today. They define the word baptizo as to dip, submerge or immerse. Werming defines it as to wash, and then quotes Mark 7:3-4 to support his definition. Mark 7:3-4 says, “For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash their hands oft, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders. And when they come from the market, except they wash, they eat not, And many other things there be, which they have received to hold, as the washing of cups, and pots, brazen vessels, and of tables.” The first word translated wash is the Greek word Niptontai, the second Baptisontai, the third Baptismos. The first word nipto means to cleanse, the second two, baptizo meaning dip, submerge or immerse. With this understanding of the Greek words and in the light of Mark 7:3-4 we see that baptizo indeed can be translated wash, but the implication of washing when it is translated from baptizo is of an immersion, or they wash themselves and the cups and pots etc. by dipping or immersion, instead of just a simple cleaning or cleansing as in the word nipto. If baptism was intended to only mean a washing, or somehow a cleansing, then nipto would have been a better word to use, and we would call the ordinance niptism. However, God chose to use the word baptizo which means dipping or submerging in water. God chose this word because it is the word that expressed what God wanted to express. The immersion in water is essential to baptism, because God used a word that demands a rendering of dipping or immersion. The reason for this is that immersion is the only method of baptizing which pictures a burial and resurrection.

Using the argument that God never specified exactly how much water to use and that we don’t know how far into the water men went when they were baptized confuses the issue. With a knowledge of what the word baptizo means, and then hearing that Jesus went down into the water, it is obvious that they would have gone deep enough so that an immersion could be performed. To say otherwise is to raise an extremely weak argument. We read in John 3:23 that John baptized in Aenon because there was much water there. That’s why he baptized there, the Word of God says it. If John only required ankle deep water, he didn’t need to find a place with much water.

Infant Baptism

Werming then considers the question of infant baptism. He says that God’s grace through baptism is the only revealed biblical answer for children. God’s word however is silent on the baptism of infants as well as it is silent on baptism as a means of grace. He says that baptism is the only way children can become members of the body of Christ. This is true, not only of children, but of adults as well. However, the word children is not the same word as infant. A child can understand his need for a saviour and receive repentance and faith, an infant does not have the ability to under¡stand his need for a saviour, nor does he have an ability to express repentance and faith. That baptism is the only way anyone can become a member of the body of Christ is true, but if you understand that the Body of Christ is not all the Family of God, then you also understand that every individual who is saved is not a member of the Body of Christ, though he is a member of the Family of God.

Werming then says that there is no other act for regeneration which God propos¡es for children. As we have shown earlier Baptism is not an act in order to obtain regeneration. God says that salvation is not of works, lest any man should boast. There is no act which any man woman child or infant can perform which can save them.

Matthew 28:19

The use of Mt. 28:19 to justify baptism for infants because infants are part of all people everywhere will not stand up to examination. Matthew 28:19 says this, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” The first command is to teach all nations. The word teach here is the Greek word matheteuo and it means to make a disciple. So, we are told to go into all the world and make disciples of all people, meaning all people without distinction. Then, those who we have made disciples of are to be baptized, but only the disciples, and none other. Baptizing doesn’t make them disciples, for we are to make disciples of them before we baptize them. The baptism is not connected to all the people, it is connected to the disciples. The grammar demands this rendering. In the book Baptist Doctrines by Charles Jenkins, W.M. Cathcart, D.D on page 72 writes this concerning Matthew 28:19, ” The verb to “teach” is “to make disciples,” and the com¡mand of the Saviour is to baptize them, not the nations, but the disciples; the word translated “them” in the Greek text, is in the masculine gender, and the word rendered “nations” in the neuter.” Since the word them does not agree in gender with the word nations, it must be referring instead to those who are taught, or made disciples. An understanding of this verse causes us to recognize that even though infants are a part of “all peoples everywhere” they are not to be baptized because they are not yet made disciples. Only when a person is old enough to understand the teaching, and under¡stand the need for salvation, is that person able to be baptized. This understanding cannot occur in infancy for an infant does not have the required mental capacity.

The Circumcision of the Israelite boys

Werming gives reference to the circumcision of the Israelite boys in the Old testament, saying that they weren’t conscious of what was happening and that in Circumcision they were adopted into the family of God. He is wrong, however, in saying that in Circumcision an Israelite boy was adopted into the family of God. Circumcision identified that child as an Israelite and a member of God’s chosen nation, but God’s chosen nation was not God’s family. Only those who had faith in God were part of his family. There were many circumcised Israelites who were not part of God’s family because they were wicked men without repentance and faith. Circumcision never saved any child. Not one child that was circumcised was ever saved because of his circumci¡sion. Every child that was circumcised however was identified as an Israelite, and accepted as a member of that nation on earth. So, this idea that since Hebrew children didn’t know what was happening in circumcision, it makes it alright to baptize a child who doesn’t know what is happening is also an argument that won’t stand up to examination.

He continues by saying that the normal procedure for baptism for adults was that they accepted the Word first. However a study of all the examples of baptism shows that this was not only the normal procedure, it was the only procedure. There are never any examples of baptism before a profession of faith. Household baptism are not examples of infant baptism. Both in Lydia’s case and the Philipian jailer’s case there is no indication that there were any infants. It follows that the reason that the households were baptized is because everyone in the household were instructed and personally believed. We just don’t see any infants in these cases.

Restrictions for Baptism

The idea that there are no restrictions for who is to be baptized also falls when the Scriptures are examined. Luke 3:7,8 says, “Then said he to the multitude that came forth to be baptized of him, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.” Here, and in Matthew 3:7,8 we see that John restricted baptism to those who had true repentance. Those who had true repentance brought forth fruits worthy of repentance, and when they brought forth fruits worthy of repentance John baptized them. If John believed their repentance was only a show as the Pharisees and Sadducees, he would not baptize them.

Matthew 28:19 also gives a restriction for baptism. The verse teaches that only those who are made disciples are to be baptized. So here again we have a restriction of baptism. In Acts 2:38 we see again the restriction to baptism, for Peter says repent, and be baptized every one of you… Who was to be baptized? Only those who repented. The Greek grammar demands this rendering of the verse. Acts 2:41 says, “They that gladly received his word were baptized:” Only they that gladly received the word, and no others. In Acts 8:36 and 37 we read, “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.” Here we again see the restriction put on baptism. Would Philip have baptized the Ethiopian eunuch if he didn’t already believe? No, for Philip’s answer to the question “What hinders me to be baptized” was not “Nothing hinders you, let me baptize you right now, so that you may receive the grace of God” No, it was, “If you believe with all you heart” That little word “if” is undeniable proof that there were restrictions to baptism. Can an infant believe with all his heart? No, he cannot, so an infant must not be baptized. In Acts 10:47, we read, “Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?” Notice that they had already received the Holy Ghost before they were baptized. Notice also that Peter put the matter of their baptism to a vote before the church. If the people refused their baptism, they would not have been baptized. However, the church agreed to the baptism, because they were assured that these men had received the Holy Ghost, and therefore were assured that these men were already born again. If there were no restrictions for baptism, Peter’s question would have been a silly meaningless question. From these passages it is obvious that there were in fact restrictions for who was to be baptized.

Origen

Next, Werming quotes Origen to support infant baptism. First of all, Origen was a Gnostic and a heretic, who held many beliefs contrary to scripture. Quoting him to prove the validity of a doctrine would be about as useful as quoting a Muslim concerning the ten commandments. He might know something about them, but he sure wouldn’t be a reliable source for forming Christian doctrine. Furthermore, In Origen’s writings he makes no reference to the baptism of Children. John T. Christian in his History of the Baptists says this on page 30,

“Origen, A.D. 185-254, is quoted in favour of infant baptism. His words are:

To these considerations it can be added, that it may be en¡quired why, since the baptism of the church is given for the remission of sins, baptism is given according to the observance of the church; even to children (parvulis); for the grace of baptism would seem superfluous if there was nothing in children requiring remission and indulgence (Migne, XII. 492)

The same sentiment is found in his commentary on Romans.

The original Greek of Origen no longer exists, and there remain of the words of Origen only translations by Rufinus and Jerome in Latin. These translations are notori¡ously unreliable, and it is admitted that the ideas of a later age are freely incorporated in the writings of Origen. The children mentioned are not “infants,” for in the same work this word is used to describe Jesus at the age of twelve (Migne, XIII. 1849) All that can be claimed is that Origen refers to the baptism of children, not infants, as an apostolic tradition. This is not of much weight, when it is recalled that Origen refers to a number of things as of apostolic tradition which are not even mentioned in the Scriptures.”

It cannot be proven that Origen was in favour of infant baptism, but only child baptism. Even if he believed in infant baptism, his support of the doctrine would be more of an indication to be wary of it and confirm it with scripture, instead of accepting the doctrine of a Gnostic without question.

Adults Only Baptism in History

Werming says that adults only baptism was an idea introduced later in the church. This is an amazing statement when you consider that there isn’t even any clear evidence of infant baptism until A.D. 185 when we read Tertullian opposing it (J. T. Christian, History of the Baptists page 31) and that the first evidence in favour of it was in A.D. 253 in the writings of Cyprian. (J.T. Christian, History of the Baptists page 31) This same book also says on page 31 and 32 that the early councils of the church were all against infant baptism (The council of Elvira or Grenada, A.D. 305 demanding a two year delay, the council of Laodicea A.D. 360, demanding that those baptized must learn the creed by heart and recite it, The council of Constantinople decreeing that persons should remain a long time under Scriptural instruction before they receive baptism) Finally on page 33 of the same book we read “The first rule, to which reference is made as favouring infant baptism in Europe, was by the Spanish Council of Gerunda, A.D. 517… It is clear that infant baptism was not the position of the early church, but was a doctrine that developed over time. Adults only baptism was not a later practice, for this is all we find in history from the apostles, apostolic fathers and early church. It may be true that later after great apostasy fell among many churches, that Adults only baptism became a minority position, but it was not a minority position for hundreds of years, and when it was, it was the minority who held the proper practice, not the majority. This is true of so many things, even today.

Then it is said, “The Universal Church never elevated “adults only” baptism to a doctrine of the church.” By Universal Church it is taken to mean the Roman Catholic Church. This church in its beginning was an independent church equal with all other independent churches. However corruption crept into the church, and soon the church of Rome was declaring itself to be the head church, and all other churches were subject to her. Some submitted to Rome and her apostasy, but many churches remained indepen¡dent. When Werming says that The Universal, or Catholic church never elevated “adults only” baptism to a doctrine of the church, he is talking about an apostate church which cannot be looked to for sound doctrine.

Did Jesus Invite Infants to Come to Him?

Werming then says, “Jesus says that adults are to receive the kingdom as little children, by what right dare we disqualify children from the kingdom which they enter by the baptismal grace…” Baptists do not reject little children from coming to Christ. However, little children are not infants. Jesus did not instruct adults to come to him as infants with no mental capacity to believe, he instructed them to come as little children. The little children that Jesus invites to come to him are children with the mental capacity to do so. Also note that Werming calls it baptismal grace, but we never see God calling it baptismal grace. We find salvation by grace through faith, but never salvation by grace through baptism. He uses Acts 2:39, “And the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” This is not a promise to infants, but to the children of whom Peter was talking to. Children as in descendants, not as in infants. Peter qualifies his statement in verse 39 by saying, “even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” Not as many as man shall call, but as many as God shall call. Not as many as man shall baptize, but as many as God shall call. Those are the ones to whom the promises are given, and to none other. It is only to those that baptism is to be given. How do we know who God has called, and therefore who to baptize? We know because those who God called, he justified (Rom 8:30) and those who God has justified are justified by faith (Gal. 3:24) and faith is the grace and gift of God (Eph. 2:8) So we see that only those who God has called are supposed to be baptized. We know God has called them when we see fruits of their justification, primarily and most importantly, faith in Christ.

The Salvation of Infants Who Die

Werming asks, “if they (infants) are automatically saved until the age of 12, how do they become unregenerate (unsaved) at that time?” The simple answer to that question is that infants are not automatically saved until the age of 12 (Ps 51:5). All are sinners from the time they were conceived. The confusion is over the belief that those who die in infancy, or those who die as the result of an abortion or something like this are saved and go to heaven. It is not that all children are automatically saved until they are 12, the belief is that those whom God has allowed to die in infancy are also those who God chose to be his elect and for this reason those ones are saved when they die. A child who is not elect then, God will bring to an age where they have the capacity to understand their accountability. The idea then, is that God does not take the life of one who is not elect before he has the mental capacity to understand to some degree his own depravity. We do not put the child in a state of innocency, for we believe that all are under the curse of sin from the time they were conceived. In fact the idea that baptism is the only way to ensure an infants salvation brings up the question of all the children that die in infancy without baptism,and all the aborted babies: Are they in hell today because they were not baptized? What about David’s baby that died? David said in 2 Samuel 12:23, speaking of his child that died, “But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.” David believed that he could go to him, but this child was not baptized.

John 3:5-6

John 3:5,6 is quoted in favor of baptism with the understanding that the water being spoken of is baptismal water. The verses read, “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 flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” Notice that there are two kinds of birth described here, physical and spiritual. The birth of water is the physical birth, the birth of the Spirit is the spiritual birth. We can see that this is so because in verse six, Jesus describes the two births saying, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” Notice that he does not say that which is born of water and the Spirit is spirit, only that which is born of Spirit is spirit. Why? Because he covered water birth by saying that which is born of flesh is flesh. Therefore this passage does not talk about baptism.

Werming argues that it is wrong to call baptism of infants a sin. He says that this cannot be so, because God doesn’t warn against it. He says no law is broken. The idea that because God has not specifically denied an action must make it okay is a danger¡ous idea. God does not specifically name every sin we are not to commit. However, we do know that sin is actually rebellion against God, or disobedience toward God. Baptism of infants then is a sin, because it is disobedient to the requirements and restrictions that God puts on who is to be baptized. Proverbs 30:6 says, “Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.” God commands us not to add to his words, and this includes adding infants to the candidates of baptism. It is transgression of God’s word, and transgression of God’s word is sin.

Perseverance and Falling Away

Finally, Werming says, “This does not mean that one who has been baptized cannot fall away from God. Some who are baptized can and do lose their faith” We know that God gives repentance and faith to his elect, and we also know that John 10:28 says, “And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand” Jesus saves those who the Father gives him (his elect). These are the only people who God saves. This verse proves that those who he saves, he keeps. The idea that someone can lose their salvation is wrong and against scripture. Those who fall away and “lose” their faith are actually people who never had it to begin with. However, countless people who are baptized grow up and never express any faith and never show fruits of repentance. Did they die spiritually after they received spiritual life in baptism? No, they never received spiritual life. The fact that a baptismal regenerationist is going to have to face, when so many who are baptized in infancy never show any fruit is that they never received spiritual life to begin with. Either that,or their baptism failed. If baptism is a work of God, to give spiritual life, then either God failed in giving it, or he failed in keeping it. This, however is not the case, for whom God predestinated, he called, whom he called he justified and whom he justified he keeps. This is the truth of God’s word.

The Implications of Baptismal Regeneration

The doctrines of baptismal regeneration, infant baptism and affusion and aspersion are dangerous doctrines. They are contrary to Scripture, take glory from God and lead many to a false assurance of Salvation. The issue is not simply a denomina¡tional issue concerning the religious belief of an ordinance. It is an issue of truth, concerning the reality of salvation and how God works. These doctrines are not found in the Scripture, they are productions of the imaginations of men. They are developments of logic, based on an incorrect premise. The premise is that baptism is God’s means of effecting grace. When this belief is put beside the Word of God we do not find harmony, but discord. When we find that baptism doesn’t save, then the doctrine of infant baptism falls, because it is simply a logical development of baptismal regeneration. When baptismal regeneration falls, affusion and aspersion fall, because they are logical developments of baptismal regeneration. When we understand that the scriptural doctrine of baptism is to picture our burial and resurrection with Christ, and that it is only to be given to those who already know Christ as personal saviour, then God receives all the glory for salvation, and man cannot take an ounce of credit. Then we see that immersion is a beautiful picture, perfectly symbolizing what it is intended to symbolize. It is in man’s nature to make an act or some work to be the means of saving his soul. It allows him to reserve some glory for himself. God chose to save men, so that he might be glorified and so he chose a method and means in which a sinner could only give God all the glory. God saves men by grace through faith, not by grace through baptism. So many times in the New Testament, when the gospel is preached, repentance and faith are mentioned without even a word of baptism. When the Philipian jailor asked what he must do to be saved he was told only to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. In Acts 2:19, Peter told the people to Repent and be converted. He did not tell them be baptized and be converted. The evidence in God’s word against baptismal regeneration is so overwhelming, it is only the mind of man which hearing does not hear, and seeing does not see. Because of the doctrine of baptismal regeneration so many people today in many denominations are trusting in their baptism to save them. They have faith alright, but the faith is in their baptism, instead of saving faith in Jesus Christ. Paul said in I Corinthians 1:17, “For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel” We know that Paul did baptize (verse 14, 16) but Paul was sent by Christ to preach the gospel. He was sent to preach the gospel, because it was through the preaching of the gospel that God brought men to salvation. Otherwise, Paul would have been sent primarily to baptize and secondarily to preach. Finally, consider Romans 10:17, which says, “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” Faith does not come by baptism. It comes by hearing. Hearing comes by the Word of God. What is heard? It is the gospel, that Jesus Christ died for sinners, and that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life. This is the gospel, baptism is not the gospel, baptism is to be after receiving of the gospel.

This is not to say that Baptists believe baptism is unimportant. On the contrary, we believe it is very important. Our very name is Baptist. If we didn’t feel baptism was important we would surely take another name for ourselves. No, we believe baptism is important, but in its proper context. It is only important in the context that God gave it to us. It is important because God commanded us to baptize. It is not important because it saves. It is not important because it is necessary to salvation. It is important because it is an answer of a good conscience towards God; the answer of a conscience that is already made good in the blood of Jesus Christ.

Hopefully this has served to clarify what the Scriptures teach concerning baptism. It was not intended to browbeat or mock another denominations doctrine, it was done in the spirit of love and the interests of doctrinal truth. It was written in order to obtain a better understanding of baptism and a better understanding of why it is that Baptismal regeneration is not scriptural. It was written in honesty and sincerity and hopefully the Lutheran position was accurately portrayed. It is only by the Spirit of God that any man can come to an understanding of any divine truth. It is not doubted that any error taught is taught in sincerity, but sincerity is not a valid excuse to perpetuate that error. Hopefully this has been successful in showing beyond adequacy that Baptismal regeneration is not in accordance with Scripture and all who believe it need to prayerfully study and consider what the Word of God teaches.

Contents are COPYRIGHT © 2003 John Zeweniuk, All rights reserved.