Tuesday, December 04, 2007

On the Washing of Regeneration

I haven't participated in any debates in a while, so this should be fun. I recently entered the fray over at HCR, in a thread on baptismal regeneration. It amazes me that there are Christians in this world who still don't believe in this. The Scriptural witness is abundantly clear! At any rate, here is my first response to, you guessed it, "seal."

Pax Christi,
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As far as it being a regenerative work, know that Judas was Baptized given powers to cast out demons, and did miracles yet he was a reprobate.
That doesn't mean that his baptism wasn't regenerative. It just means that he fell from his previous state of grace. Baptism doesn't grant an assurance of salvation. It cleanses us of all sin and initiates us into His Body, but we're still called to live lives of faithfulness to God. If we don't we will go to hell, even though we once were cleansed.

Acts 10 show the Holy Spirit falling on the House Hold of Cornelius before they touched the Water and they were filled with the Gift of God.
That doesn't prove anything either. Here's the passage in question:

Acts 10:44-48 While Peter was still saying this, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. 45 And the believers from among the circumcised who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. 46 For they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, 47 "Can any one forbid water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?" 48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days.

Now, just b/c they received the gift of the Spirit before their baptism, that doesn't mean they were regenerated by that gift. That's an assumption on your part. You're basically saying, "Oh, see there, they received the gift of the Spirit. That must mean that they were regenerated. Therefore, they didn't need baptism to do that." But that's not true. The context clearly shows that when they "received the gift of the Spirit" they weren't regenerated, they were simply given the charism of speaking in tongues. God did this in order to show Peter that Gentiles too belonged to the Body of Christ. Once Peter saw that, he had them baptized, which is how one gains entrance into the Body. Again, the context bears all of that out.

Know that Apollos and several other disciples of the Apostles were baptized but didn't receive the Holy Spirit until the Apostles laid hands on them. So they had been baptized yet were not regenerated a.k.a given the Holy Spirit yet. So baptismal regeneration doesn't hold up according the scriptures.
Another assumption on your part. Here's the passage in question:

Acts 8:14-17 Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Sama'ria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, 15 who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit; 16 for it had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.

The gift of the Holy Spirit that they had yet to receive was not the gift of regeneration but the subsequent anointing that was achieved with the laying on of hands. In other words, they were indeed regenerated by their baptism, but they had not received the confirmation and strengthening of their calling that took place via the laying on of hands.

In the early Church, even in apostolic times, after a person was baptized, the minister layed his hands upon the person to empower him to live his new Christian life. This usually meant the imparting of a charism of the Holy Spirit, which has an empowering effect in the lives of people. The reason the people in Acts 8 were still in need of the laying on of hands was b/c they were baptized by Philip, who was a deacon and did not have the authority to lay his hands on them. As such, it was necessary to send the apostles Peter and John.

One example of baptism being followed by the laying on of hands is Acts 19, where we read:

Acts 19:4-6 And Paul said, "John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus." 5 On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them; and they spoke with tongues and prophesied.

In this scene they received the Spirit twice, once in their baptism for the regeneration of their souls, and again in the laying on of hands to strengthen them to live the Christian life. Now, you may object that it never actually says here that they were regenerated by their baptism, but such a statement would be pointless. It's simply a given, based on everything that Scripture says about the regenerative nature of baptism (cf. Mk 16:16; Jn 3:3,5; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom 6:4; Gal 3:27; Col 2:12; Titus 3:5-7; Heb 10:22; 1 Pet 3:21).

As for the thief on the Cross (which I think someone else mentioned), this example does not refute baptism either. For one, we are bound by the Sacraments, but Christ is not. In other words, Scripture reveals that baptism is necessary for regeneration and entrance into the Body of Christ, so all who receive this truth and are able to be baptized must act accordingly. But, Jesus Christ can do whatever he wants. So, if he decides to cleanse someone outside of the Sacrament, then so be it.

Secondly, the thief certainly wasn't in a position to be baptized, being as he was hanging from a Cross and all. His faith came a little late in the game. Thankfully, Jesus Christ is merciful and he will make exceptions for those who, through no fault of their own, are unable to approach the waters of baptism.

Finally, what Jesus did for the thief was an exception, not the rule. The normative means for initial regeneration and entrance into the Body of Christ is still baptism.

Pax Christi,


Ninjesuit said...

dang nick, you nailed this one--now post a video response to this guy: http://youtube.com/watch?v=LCzWbYmt2ks

phatcatholic said...

haha, that'd be cool, wouldn't it. i should get my webcam working again....

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