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Particulars of Christianity:
309 Baptisms

Preface for Baptisms Article Series

Preface for Baptisms Article Series
Baptisms: Introduction and Historical Background
Original Proclamations about Baptism
Two Baptisms Occurring Separately
Baptizo: Two Baptisms, One Greek Word
Synonymous Phrases: Baptism in the Holy Spirit
Water Baptism in Jesus' Name
No Record of Paul's Water Baptism
Is Baptism Essential to Salvation?
Acts 1: Parallel Account of the Great Commission
Necessity of Water Baptism: 3 Common Arguments
Survey 1: Baptisms in Acts
The Baptism of Crispus (and Assuming Evidence)
Survey 2: Baptism from Romans to Revelation
Baptism and Hebrews 10:22
Conclusions: When and How Are We Reborn?
Survey 3: Baptism and the Ante-Nicene Authors
Closing: Water Baptism for the Right Reasons

As we begin this article series concerning baptisms, we want to clearly state a few important points here at the beginning. Our primary purpose in this series is to understand the New Testament view concerning both water baptism and baptism in the Holy Spirit. However, there are a few central themes that quickly take shape during the examination process. Among these central themes, the analysis of the New Testament begins to produce a strong theme against any absolutist positions concerning water baptism.

What do we mean by absolutist positions on water baptism? Absolutist positions on water baptism are those which assert that water baptism is the means of obtaining regeneration and, without which, regeneration cannot be obtained. Such doctrines should be considered absolutist regardless of whether or not they make such assertions directly or establish them indirectly. Or, to put it another way, an absolutist position of water baptism is one that denies rebirth by divine fiat was a fundamental part of the understanding and experience of the New Testament Church.

Merriam-Webster's online dictionary defines "fiat" as follows.

Fiat - Function: noun, Etymology: Latin, let it be done
1: a command or act of will that creates something without or as if without further effort
2: an authoritative determination: DICTATE [a fiat of conscience]
3: an authoritative or arbitrary order: DECREE [government by fiat]

Given this definition, when we talk about regeneration by divine fiat, we mean God's ability to regenerate individuals without water baptism. Specifically, we mean that there are precedents in the scriptural record of God regenerating people without their having been water baptized. AND, as such, regeneration by divine fiat was a part of the New Testament Church's understanding of how people are reborn in Christ. Our study will examine these precedents of divine fiat as well as the occurrences of both water baptism and baptism in the Holy Spirit found in scripture.

But is it necessary or relevant to disprove such absolutist positions that water baptism is necessary for regeneration? After all, does anyone actually assert that without exception water baptism must occur to receive the rebirth? The answer to that question is "yes."

While very few baptismal views might outright deny the possibility of regeneration by divine fiat altogether, a great many would makes such strong statements against regeneration by divine fiat as to relegate it to a mere fanciful and unrealized point of theoretical possibility. In this way, there might be a sort of reluctant "head nod" given to regeneration by divine fiat under the guise that "well, sure, God can do whatever He wants," while at the same time the statements on the topic deny that such a theoretical will ever, can ever, or does ever occur. Thus, their position is absolute, in that while it may be theoretically possible that God would regenerate someone without their having been baptized in water, He really never does or ever would do such a thing, but instead only regenerates in water baptism.

But theological beliefs must always be driven by scripture. It is not theologically acceptable to acknowledge divine fiat as a theoretical possibility after making a series of strong statements, which effectively deny that scripture teaches it. So, if the Bible does not teach that regeneration by divine fiat can and did occur then there is no need to suppose or offer that it could as a theoretical possibility. In such a scenario, offering regeneration by divine fiat as a theoretical possibility is mere extraneous speculation of an idea that is not found in scripture.

On the other hand, if the scripture records that regeneration by divine fiat can and did occur in the New Testament, then the absolutist position that water baptism is absolutely necessary for regeneration must be rejected. Our study will examine this very issue, disproving any view which, for all intents and purposes, absolutely requires water baptism to occur for regeneration.

Now, it is important to state that in discussions about water baptism, the phrase "necessary for salvation" can often be defined in a variety of ways. This phrase can be heavily loaded with ideas that the words in the phrase do not themselves carry or convey. So, again, we want to be clear about our meaning up front.

When this study begins to assert that "water baptism is not necessary for salvation," we mean only what the words in the phrase itself imply. We simply mean that "the act of being baptized in water is not required in order for someone to receive regeneration." We do not mean there is "no reason" to water baptize. We do not mean that water baptism is useless, obsolete, or should be discarded. When our articles conclude that water baptism "is not necessary for salvation," that is all that we mean - not that it shouldn't be done, not that it wasn't the norm, not that it was handed down by the apostles, and not that there isn't a reason to do it. But only that it isn't by necessity required for regeneration.

In other words, even though there was a reason to water baptize, even though water baptism was the normal practice handed down by the apostles in the early church, people can be and people, in fact, were regenerated by God without having been water baptized. Water baptism was NOT the means or agent of obtaining regeneration.

While the analysis that follows will quickly takes shape against any absolutist positions, we are not against the idea of water baptizing altogether. Nor have we discarded the practice. Instead we maintain that water baptism should still be done to this day, but it should be done for the right reasons. And those right reasons are the same reasons that it was practiced in the New Testament and early Church. At the end of our article series on baptisms, we have included an additional segment, entitled, "Closing Statements," which will articulate what those right reasons for water baptism are.