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I would start by saying, I don't believe Christ's church teaches "baptismal regeneration" anymore than other believers will teach in "prayer regeneration." I mean this: those who teach that you "pray Jesus into your heart" (i.e. the Sinner's Prayer) do not believe the PRAYER is what saves the person, but Jesus saves the person when the person submits to Christ. Despite this doctrine not being in the New Testament, the same basic principle applies to the act of obedience of immersion in water for the forgiveness of sins. The answer to your question is probably best answered with another question: WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF BAPTISM IN THE NEW TESTAMENT? Jesus says it saves you: Mark 16:15-16 Peter says it is when your receive forgiveness of sins: Acts 2:37-38 Peter again says it saves us: 1 Peter 3:21 (interesting here that he says there is nothing "magical" about the water, but rather the act of appealing for a clean conscience to God) Paul, when retelling his own conversion story (and quoting Ananias), says that baptism is when our sins are washed away and when we call on the name of the Lord: Acts 22:12-16 [this conversion is further interesting when viewed in the light that Paul spent three days fasting and PRAYING, yet was not forgiven of his sins during this time...see Acts 9:9 and 9:11) There are some other passages which describe the purpose of baptism, but they are in line with the above passages. Some will try and use the Holy Spirit baptism (an event which occurred only twice; once on the Apostles in Acts 2 to establish the church and once again roughly seven years later in Acts 10 to bring Gentiles into the church) as a justification for these verses, but the context bears it out that when Jesus is preached, the response (an act of a saving faith which is paired with works of obedience as seen in James 2:14-24) is to be baptized (see Ethepian Eunuch in Acts 8:35-36) in water (Peter makes water a part of his teachings in 1 Peter 3, corresponding the saving attributes of water baptism to the saving attributes of water in Noah and the ark [the ark would not have worked had there been no water]). Finally, baptism is the only point in which the New Testament says we are put into Christ (Gal 3:26-27) and put into the church, or Christ's Body (1 Cor 12:13). Christ is only saving His Body (Eph 5:23) and ALL spiritual gifts are found only in Christ (Eph 1:3), and this includes forgiveness of sins (Eph 1:7). So, unless there are verses in the New Testament which teach how one can be forgiven of sins (as a non-Christian) without being immersed into Christ (we are immersed into Christ's death when we are baptized-see Romans 6:1-7), or how you are clothed with Christ or put into contact with His blood without obediently being baptized for the forgiveness of sins, I would stick with what the Apostles taught. Counter Arguments: (not all inclusive, but a few popular) Romans 10:13-Whoever will call on the name of the LORD will be saved. Argument: All we have to do is call on the Lord, or pray to Him, and we will be saved. Counter: When did Paul say that he "called on the name of the Lord"? Acts 22:16 Romans 10:8-10 Argument: You must only confess Jesus and believe He is Lord, you will be saved. Paul doesn't mention baptism. Counter: Despite that Paul mentions baptism in three verses (see above), just because someone mentions one part of salvation does not negate the other parts. In this same passage, does Paul mention repentance? Does that negate the necessity of repentance? If so, Jesus must have been wrong (Lk 13:3). Argument: The thief on the cross was forgiven of his sins without baptism (Lk 23:42-43) Counter: Jesus had the authority to forgive sins as God (Mark 2:5ff) AND the New Covenant (to include water baptism) had yet to be established until his resurrection and ascension (Acts 1 & 2) I apologize for such a long comment, but this is a deep subject and worth as thorough an examination as possible, as this has eternal weight
I think the doctrine is true given the multitude of biblical support, and evident in the united agreement among Catholics, Orthodox, Lutherans, Anglicans and Methodists, that a person must be spiritually regenerated to enter the kingdom of heaven. The passages below constitute the major scriptural reasons why the great majority of Christians for two thousand years have accepted this belief, and accept baptism as a sacrament: a physical means to convey God’s grace. John 3:5 Acts 2:38 Acts 22:16 1 Corinthians 6:11 Titus 3:5 1 Peter 3:19-21 The ones who reject this doctrine (Baptists, Presbyterians, many Pentecostals, and other Protestants) place spiritual regeneration at the point of personal conversion or a decision to become a disciple of Jesus.
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