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Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Baptismal Regeneration - Salvation Is Not Of Works

In my last post on this subject I argued for the truth that salvation is by grace. I also acknowledged that even those who embrace a theology that proposes baptismal regeneration would likewise argue that it is by grace. It is not enough to say that it is by grace for that does not readily address the fundamental differences. The Church of Christ preacher that I spoke with recently said we really are not that far apart. I beg to differ. We are an eternity apart. His position is that if you were not baptized you would not go to heaven. My position is that baptism is not essential for salvation. That difference makes all the difference. I cannot accept the fact that he has embraced the true gospel, but another gospel, “which is not another, but there be some that would trouble you and pervert the gospel of Christ.” I do not believe he can see heaven while trusting in his baptism. I presume he would argue that he does not trust his baptism, yet at the same time he does not believe he can go to heaven without being baptized. But………I get ahead of myself.

In this post I want to address the correlating truth to salvation being by grace. If it is by grace then it is not of works. Here again, the discussion of this aspect of the issue will not settle the issue. I presume that most who embrace some form of baptismal regeneration would agree that salvation is not of works. Thus we have a basic difference concerning the nature of baptism. My understanding of Scripture leads me to believe that baptism is a work, a good work but a work nonetheless. Those who accept baptismal regeneration, I presume, conclude it is not a work. They would classify baptism as a sacrament while it seems clear to me that the New Testament gives baptism to us as an ordinance. But again, I get ahead of myself. My purpose here is to show that salvation is not of works.

Titus 3:5 - Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;

Salvation is not by works of righteousness. Salvation is not because of what we have done. Baptism clearly seems to be something we do??

Romans 4:5 - But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.

It is not working, doing that justifies us. Rather it is faith. Having believed our faith is counted for righteousness. Having believed we are given the gift of righteousness. We are given this because of what we believe, not because of what we do.

Galatians 2:16 - Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.

This verse tells us what does not justify and what does. It is not the law that justifies, that is what we do. It is faith in Jesus Christ that justifies. We believe in Jesus Christ that as the Scripture says we might be justified by faith. He then comes full circle and reminds us that no flesh shall be justified by the works of the law.

Ephesians 2:8,9 - For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.

I referenced verse eight in my last post, verse nine says, “Not of works”. What is not of works? Salvation is not of works. In this verse we have the reason it is not of works, “lest any man should boast”. I find this to be a marked difference between those who hold my position and those who hold to baptismal regeneration. I am amazed how when I ask people about their relationship with God the vast majority of people tell me about when they were baptized. They tell me about something they did. If someone were to ask me about my relationship with God, I don’t recall this ever happening, I would tell them what I believed! They point to an external event, I point to an internal heart change.

2 Timothy 1:9 - Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began,

While I referenced this verse in the last post I thought it merited attention in this post as well. Because not only does it speak of salvation being by grace but also instructs us that salvation is not according to our works. And possibly more important it establishes a clear distinction between works and grace.

Romans 3:26,27 - To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith.

What is declared? Not our righteousness but his righteousness, which is provided as a gift. It is the declaration of his righteousness and not our own that enables him to be both just and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. This issue is not what we do but what we believe. Here again the issue of boasting is addressed like in Ephesians 2:9. He tells us that boasting is excluded. But how? By the law of works? No! But by the law of faith. If we do something it provides a format for boasting. If we simply believe what he did then boasting is excluded.

Romans 4:2 - For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God.

This verse causes us to realize that the whole concept of works involves more than just the Old Testament law. Abraham lived several hundred years before the law. Abraham was not justified because of what he did otherwise he would have had opportunity to glory. He was not justified because of what he did but because of what he believed. This point would seem to be beyond dispute.

Romans 4:3 - For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.
Galatians 3:6 - Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.
James 2:23 - And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.

I will conclude here. This premise is so closely tied to the one in the previous post that an argument for one premise naturally serves as an argument for the other. If salvation is by grace it cannot be of works. I don’t think that there are many who would dispute the main premise I am seeking to set forth; salvation is not of works. Of course there is plenty of disagreement concerning the application of this truth to baptism. There are obviously many who do not consider baptism to be a work and many others who believe that it is. Some of what I have touched on here will be expanded in future posts. I don’t think anyone could claim to be a Bible believer and argue that salvation is by works. The challenge for some then becomes taking what is obviously something we do and arguing that it is not a work.
In our next post we will spend some time thinking about the issue of faith in relation to salvation.

Acts 2:41 - Then they that gladly received his word were baptized
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