By: Rex D. Deckard
As the powerful forces of frontier revival swept across mid-19th century America, doctrinal issues became matters of great concern. Calvinism and Arminianism debated such divisive issues as predestination and free choice, grace and works, and the question of conversion requirements. Sincere students of Scripture
concluded the necessity of water baptism, and rightly argued that it was more than just a symbolic act, but that it was required for the remission of sins.
Out of these years of controversy and Biblical research evolved a doctrine that has made considerable advances into the theology of many fundamental churches. The concept of “baptismal regeneration”
has become fundamental doctrine to a large number of church groups.
The belief is that when an individual is water baptized they not only have their sins remitted, but they are also filled with the Spirit through the act of baptism. That this idea is absent from the belief and practices of the New Testament church becomes evident with a sincere study of the Word of God.
The Pentecostal outpouring and Peter’s message at the birth of the Church (Acts 2) establish the requirements for conversion into Christianity. When the multitude that gathered inquired as to salvation, Peter clearly stated, “Repent, and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:38).
Three distinct and separate requirements are delineated: Repentance – done by the individual. Baptism in the Name of Jesus Christ – administered by the minister (church). Receiving the Holy Ghost – given by God.
In the 8th chapter of the Book of Acts, when revival and Christianity spread to Samaria, we are told that the people believed and were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus, but that they did not have the baptism of the Holy Ghost (Acts 8:16). The Jerusalem Church sent Peter and John to pray with the Samaritans,
whereupon they received the Holy Ghost (v. 17).
In the 10th chapter of Acts Peter was sent to preach to the gentile Cornelius and his household. During his message “the Holy Ghost fell.” In verse 47 Peter asked the Jews that had accompanied him, “Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost…” In verse 48 they were baptized in the name of the Lord. Once again water baptism was a completely separate and distinct act from the baptism of the Holy Ghost. In the first instance water baptism preceded Spirit baptism, in this instance it followed. In both instances it was an additional step in the conversion experience.
In the 19th chapter of the Book of Acts we learn of Paul’s ministry to the Ephesian believers. Verse 2 indicates that they believed but had not yet received the Spirit. Verse 5 indicates that Paul baptized them in the name of the Lord Jesus ,but it isn’t until verse 6 that they receive the Holy Ghost when Paul prays with them. Once again, believing/repentance, water baptism and the baptism of the Holy Ghost are three separate and distinct steps!
In writing to the Roman believers the Apostle Paul explains the relationship between the Gospel and conversion. In Chapter 6 and verse 4 and 5 he states: “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…”
And then to the Corinthian believers: “For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” (I Corinthians 15:3,4).
In salvation an individual believes the Gospel and applies that belief in the steps of conversion through obedience. Thus we have:
Death of Jesus Repentance (our death)
Burial of Jesus Water baptism in the name of Jesus (our burial)
Resurrection of Jesus Holy Ghost baptism (our spiritual resurrection)
Jesus’ death was a personal choice. He freely gave Himself as a sacrifice for sin (John 19:11). His burial was performed by His disciples (John 19:38). His resurrection was through the supernatural power of God (Acts 2:32).
When we repent, it is an individual choice to give our life to God. We are baptized by a disciple of the Lord. We receive the baptism of the Holy Ghost through the supernatural power of God (Acts 1:8, Acts 2:l-4,17,11:17). Each of these events are separate and distinct.
Clearly, the doctrine of baptismal regeneration is not found in New Testament teaching or practice. There is not one instance where the act of water baptism, alone, imparts the baptism of the Holy Spirit. To the contrary, Jesus Himself stated that a man must “be born of water and of the Spirit” in order to see the Kingdom of God (John 3:5).
(The above material appeared in the July 1992 issue of the Trumpet.)
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