Baptismal Regeneration

by Eusebio A. Tanicala

Due to our insistence that water baptism is essential to the initial forgiveness of sins, we in the Churches of Christ are accused of teaching “baptismal regeneration.”   This label is derisively heaped on us. Denominational preachers attach a negative meaning to this label. This labeling or accusation of “baptismal regeneration”  should not be objected to immediately when some denominational students deny the essentiality of baptism to forgiveness of sin. I suggest that you don’t go immediately into our usual approach of presenting the argument that the act of baptizing precedes the act of forgiving as shown in the order of the verbs in Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16 and Mark 16:15-16. I suggest that when this issue is under study we endeavor to make the opponent have the burden of proof by taking the following steps:

  1. Make the person who gives the label “baptismal regeneration” to define the two terms “baptismal” and “regeneration.”
  2. Secondly, ask what is his basis in making that label. (The expected answer is that we “insist that obeying the command to be baptized is a prerequisite to the forgiveness of sins” while to him water baptism is not a prerequisite to forgiveness of sin. Ask the person who labels you a teacher of “baptismal regeneration” if John the Baptist and Jesus Christ are “baptismal regenerationists.”)
  3. Thirdly, ask him at what point in time or during what action of a disciple does regeneration happen. (The expected answer is “at the point of faith.”)
  4. If he refuses to specify any human action, suggest the following actions: act of being taught the gospel, act of repenting of sins, act of believing in Christ, act of confessing of faith in Christ.
  5. If he points to the act of believing in Christ, ask him if it is scriptural to label him as a teacher of “belief regeneration” and where in the NT is it found.  Ask him: if belief makes a man regenerated, and belief is a human act, does it mean then that man regenerates himself and not God?
  6. If he points to the act of repenting of sins, ask him if it is scriptural to label him as a teacher of “repental regeneration.” Ask him also: “If repentance of sin is a prerequisite to forgiveness of sin, are you then a teacher of “repental regeneration” and since repentance is man’s action, therefore, man regenerates himself and not God?”
  7. If he points to the act of “confessing of Christ’s name” ask him if it is scriptural to label him as a teacher of “confessional regeneration.”
  8. Remind him of the various acts of disciples which are related to forgiveness of sins: faith, repentance, confession of sins, being baptized – ask him to put these in chronological order. (Be ready with an answer that “they are all lumped together.” Then you ask where in the NT where “all these were all lumped together.”)
  9. Ask him if he believes and/or teaches repeating the  “Sinners Prayer” as a requisite to forgiveness of sins, and ask him if it is scriptural to label him as a teacher of “prayer regeneration.”  Ask him if regeneration happens before uttering the “Sinner’s Prayer” or is it during the prayer or is it after the last word of the prayer is said.
  10. At this point, I believe that looking at specific verses may now be appropriate so present the following with accompanying questions or explanations to prove that forgiveness of sin happens after at the last part of the baptismal act or after the baptismal action:
  • Please read Galatians 3:27 and tell me what does it mean to “put on Christ”
  • Please read Romans 6:3 and tell me what does it mean to “become one with Christ” and in what action does a disciple become one with Christ.
  • Please read Romans 6:3 and tell me what does it mean to “die with Christ” and in what action does a disciple “die with Christ.”
  • Please read Romans 6:4 and tell me what does it mean to “die and be buried with Christ” and in what action does a disciple “die and be buried with Christ.”
  • Please read Romans 6:4 and tell me what act of a disciple resembles the resurrection of Christ and when does this symbolic resurrection takes place.

If and when somebody has experienced this suggested method, please share the story with us for our education. – (3.3.11)

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