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Friday, March 06, 2009

Baptismal Regeneration - Salvation Is Through Faith

In my previous posts I have argued that salvation is by grace and not of works. These statements proclaim a single truth presented in a negative and positive statement. The single truth is that we cannot save ourselves. There is nothing we can do that is meritorious. Justification can never be achieved through any righteous act by those who have violated the law and are thus condemned. A thousand righteous acts do not erase one unrighteous act! The cold fact that we cannot save ourselves does not of necessity mean that we cannot be saved. It simply means that someone else will have to save us. Negatively, this truth is expressed in the words that salvation is not of works. Positively, this truth is expressed in the words that salvation is by grace.

We can be saved by grace and not by our works. The question becomes do I understand what this means and do I believe it? It is faith that forges the golden chain that binds my soul to the promises of God, and thereby experiencing the cleansing of atoning blood.

In this post I want to simply address the role of faith in the saving of the soul. Once again I know that this will not settle all questions and will even potentially raise objections. I have reason to believe that once again all who claim "Christianity" would admit the role of faith. To deny this would place one in the unfavorable position of denying what the Bible so clearly declares. It will not answer all the questions, because faith itself does not save anyone. Jesus saves. It is not enough to believe, one must believe the right thing. Even the Jews were reprimanded by the Apostle Paul for having, "a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge".

While we must believe the right thing today let us focus on the fact that we must believe.

To begin with it is important to understand why faith is the channel by which we are made partakers of God's promise of righteousness.

First, let us remind ourselves of how thoroughly grace and works are incompatible.

The principle is clearly set forth in Romans chapter eleven where Paul is discussing the choosing of the Jewish people by God to fulfill his redemptive purposes. In the context of that discussion Paul lays down a principle concerning the relationship between grace and works.

Romans 11:6 - And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.

Grace and works do not mix! They are like light and darkness, good and evil, truth and error. Even the slightest introduction of the simplest of works and the entire concept of grace is marred. The easiest, most inconsequential work forbids us to say that a thing is of grace. If the salvation of the soul is by grace then this truth of necessity forbids the introduction of even the most mundane, or religious of acts.

If we can do nothing, how then can we be saved? The remedy is not in what you do but in what you believe. In God's economy believing, not doing, is what saves.

In Romans chapter four in discussing this very truth God presents Abraham as the example. We are told that "Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness". We are told in verse 5,

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

The pertinent statement here should not be missed, "his faith is counted for righteousness".

In verse 9 we are informed that "faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteouness".

Faith is not a righteous work, but it is reckoned for righteousness. If it were a righteous act it would not have to be reckoned so.

Many who embrace a covenant theology equate O. T. circumcision with N. T. baptism and from this connection embrace some form of baptismal regeneration.

This chapter raises some serious questions about their logic.

Romans 4:10 - How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision.

Abraham had righteousness reckoned to him before circumcision! In fact verse eleven relates that he received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had being yet uncircumcised.

Why? "That he might be the father of all them that believed" not the father of all them that are baptized.

Then in verse sixteen the principle of faith in relation to salvation is clearly spelled out. "Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace;".

Faith is not a work. Faith has no merit. Faith does not make us worthy. It is of faith that it might be by grace. And remember, "And if by grace, then it is no more of works; otherwise grace is no more grace."

Righteousness is not imputed to us because of something we do, but because of what we believe. And it is provided based upon what we believe that it might be by grace and not of works, lest any man should boast. Again, those who believe in baptismal regeneration speak of what they did, while we speak of what we believe.

In fact in Romans four Paul goes on and discusses the nature of Abraham's faith. And once again we are reminded in verses twenty-one and twenty-two;

"And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform. And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness."

It was nothing that Abraham did that made him righteous but what he believed.

Then lest we have any doubts about the application of this discussion to ourselves Paul goes on in verses twenty-three through twenty-five and explains the meaning of these things to us;

Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.

These things about Abraham having righteousness imputed to him was written for us. For we too can have righteousness imputed to us, if?????????? If what??????? If we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead. We are accounted righteous not if we do the right thing but if we believe the right thing that it might be by grace, lest any man should boast.

So chapter five begins, "Therefore being justified by faith, . . . ." Justified not by what we do but by what we believe.

I can almost here my Church of Christ friend saying, "Exactly, I couldn't agree more. I am saved because of what I believe God does for me through baptism." Hold on a second! I don't understand. You are saved by what you believe?? You can't be. Because you believe you have to be baptized to be saved. Being baptized requires effort, it requires activity, it is something you do, something you participate in! I can hear him saying, "It is not what I do in baptism but what God does in baptism that effects the washing away of sins." Well, can God effect that washing away if you do not participate in the procedure? I think that consistency would demand that he answer no, for he has made baptism a requirement for salvation. If sins are washed away in baptism then they are not washed away unless I get into the baptismal waters and participate in the act. When you do that you have worked! It may not be much. It may be inconsequential. It may be mundane. It may be very religious. But it is work. And remember, "But if it be of works, then it is no more grace; otherwise work is no more work." And salvation we are told is by grace and not of works.

I could multiply verses showing that in order to be saved we must believe. Having already written more than I intended, I will leave off here for now. There might possibly be opportunity in the future for referencing some of the many verses that talk about believing for salvation. Here again, as I have illustrated at the end of this post, it is not enough to believe you have to believe the right thing. If you do not believe the true gospel then you are lost, possibly religious but lost and without hope.

In our next post we will likely direct our attention to what it is that washes away sin, what must we believe to be saved?

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