Instrument of Regeneration
Seal/Sign of Divine Grace which Replaces Circumcision
This view holds that as circumcision initiated one into the covenant community of Israel, so baptism initiates one into the covenant community of the church. It is an outward rite of initiation. Therefore, apart from participating in baptism one may not be recognized as being a part of the covenant community of the church.
Symbolic Portrayal of our Union with Christ
This view holds that water baptism is a picture of the Spirit baptism which has already taken place in the life of the born again believer. It is an outward testimony of an inward spiritual reality which has already taken place. Therefore, apart from participating in baptism the individual has not yet obeyed a command of Christ, but is still saved and part of the universal church.
Required Sign of True Profession of Faith
This view holds that water baptism is the first act of a genuine profession of faith. Therefore, apart from participating in baptism the individual has not yet truly professed genuine faith in Christ.
The view that I will critique is the view that baptism is an instrument of regeneration. Scripture calls individuals who have repented of their sin and believed the gospel to be baptized in water as a visible testimony to the inward spiritual transformation which has already been performed by the Holy Spirit at the moment of repentance and faith. The emphasis is upon the individual first being a believer/disciple (Matt. 28:18-20). Mark 16:16 also issues belief/faith as a prerequisite for being baptized. Upon reading Acts 2:38 one finds that a prerequisite for being baptized is personal repentance. An individual should not be baptized unless he has expressed personal repentance of sin. Acts 8:12 describes those who were baptized as believing the good news which Philip preached prior to their baptism. The Gentiles received the Holy Spirit by faith in the gospel prior to receiving water baptism (Acts 10:47). Lydia and her household responded in faith to the gospel message brought by Paul and then received water baptism (Acts 16:14-15). Paul required a profession of faith in Christ prior to receiving water baptism (Acts 16:31-33). Paul requires that individuals believe in Christ prior to participating in water baptism (Acts 18:8; 19:4-5). Acts 22:16 also speaks of calling on the name of Christ to be saved, which would occur prior to baptism. Paul emphasizes his call to preach the gospel as more important than baptizing people in water (1 Cor. 1:14-17). On a few occasions he baptized those who repented of their sins and believed the gospel. Yet, apparently this was not essential to Paul that he immediately baptize converts. The reason he was not so concerned with baptizing individual believers was that faith in the gospel was the only thing necessary for one to be saved from his sins (Rom. 1:16; 10:9-13; 1 Cor. 1:21). Paul emphasizes the gospel as the power of God that saves those who believe and he determined to speak of nothing else while in Corinth (1 Cor. 1:18; 2:2).
There are times in Scripture where the Spirit is described as effecting a washing and removal of the guilt of sin. This was pictured in the O.T. Practice of using clean water to wash away the ceremonial guilt of an individual (Num. 19:17-19; Heb. 9:13). The Psalmist asks God to wash away the guilt of his sin (Ps. 51:2, 7-10). The prophets foretell a spiritual washing that will take place as a part of the New Covenant (Ezek. 36:25-27; Zech. 13:1; 14:8). Jesus speaks of this same spiritual washing that will take place when one believes the gospel (John 3:3-8). The believing individual is washed clean from the guilt of all his sins by the Holy Spirit (Tit. 3:5; Eph. 5:26-27; ). When an individual places his faith in Christ, he is washed clean by the Holy Spirit – Spirit baptism, not water baptism (1 Cor. 6:11). Hebrews speaks of water and O.T. Sacrifices cleansing people’s flesh – ceremonial cleansing, but of Christ’s sacrifice cleansing people’s consciences – spiritual cleansing through Spirit baptism (9:13-25). Faith in Christ’s sacrifice results in Spirit baptism, which results in our hearts and bodies being washed with pure water – the Holy Spirit washing away the guilt of our sin and regenerating us (Heb. 10:19-22).