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BAPTISM - IS IT A
WORK OF GOD OR A WORK OF MAN?
Does God do something special through baptism? Over the centuries millions of Christians have said, "Yes! God works in the waters of baptism, not only giving a sign and seal of His grace, but actually delivering to the baptized His regenerating Spirit." Others, however, who have permitted their understanding of baptism to be guided by mere human reason and sight, declare that baptism is merely man's response to the grace of God obtained elsewhere.
Below are some common objections to the Biblical teaching of God's saving power in baptism. Each is followed by a Scripture-based rebuttal.
|Isn't joining the church an act of a person who decides to believe in Jesus, and not based on a mere ritual like baptism?||The Church is not like a club, made up of individuals who on their own decide to join (1 Cor. 2:12-14), but is a family established by its head Jesus Christ (Gal. 4:5; Eph. 1:5), a new community resulting from His Spirit's call (Jn. 3:5; 15:16; 1 Cor. 12:3). God's action always precedes the existence of faith in any individual, regardless of age.|
|Baptism in the Spirit is the only regenerating baptism. Water baptism accomplishes nothing special.||The distinction is artificial. Christian baptism is baptism in the Spirit! What God has joined together we are not to put asunder. The Spirit comes to us enveloped in baptism's waters (Jn. 3:5; Titus 3:5). Peter states clearly that through baptism the gift of the Spirit is given (Acts 2:33).|
|If infants should be baptized, why doesn't the Bible say so?||What is assumed need not always be expressed. The Bible always includes infants and families in its understanding of "nations" (Ex. 11:5; Josh. 8:35; Isa. 13:16; Ezek. 9:6).Jesus did not condemn Judaism for circumcising 8-day-old children, or baptizing the infants of those who converted to Judaism.|
|Since adults are first taught, then baptized, doesn't the same rule apply to infants and children?||Jesus's command to disciple all nations coordinates teaching and baptism, but does not specify sequence. The order makes sense with adults but cannot be used as the reason against baptizing infants. To assume this is to hold the error that a person contributes to his salvation through offering some type of rational thought. Infants are baptized with the purpose that they enter into Christ's church for a life-long learning of His Word (2 Pet. 3:18)!|
|Isn't the baptizing of infants a denial of the necessity of faith?||The Holy Spirit desires to create faith in all. He can come even to a child in the womb (Jer. 1:5; Lk. 1:15). He also comes in baptism's water to bestow faith in infants and children (Ps. 22:9-10; Matt. 21:15-16).|
|A child is not worthy to be baptized because he/she has not made a conscious regardless of age, infants or adults, is worthy of God's gracious activity, nor is able and firm declaration of faith.||Saving faith is never self-centered or self-originated. No one, to accept God or create his/her own faith (1 Cor. 2:14; Rom. 8:7; 9:16). But what is impossible for all people, including infants, children, and adults, is possible with God (Matt. 19:26).|
|Baptism should be limited to those who have reached the "age of accountability?'||There is no Biblical statement for waiting until such an age. Accountability before God begins at conception (Ps. 51:5; 58:3; Jn. 3:6). Baptism is like the Old Testament rite of circumcision, and Jewish children were circumcised when just eight days old.|
|Isn't it enough that infants and children are simply "presented" or "dedicated to God," asking for His blessing upon them?||Jesus did not command us to do just these, but to baptize "all nations?' Infant "dedication" or "presentation" does not carry with it the divine promise of the Holy Spirit and forgiveness, as does baptism (Acts 2:38).|
|Aren't infants and children of believing parents already sanctified (1 Cor. 7:14) and therefore not in need of baptism?||While Jewish boys were born "in holiness:' they still had to be circumcised on the eighth day after birth. Christ says that infants are an example of how to receive God's kingdom (Mk. 10:15). Only by bringing them to baptism can we be sure that infants have been given Christ's kingdom (Rom. 6:3), and are under the influence of the Holy Spirit, who sanctifies through water and Word (Jn. 3:5).|
|If baptism is so powerful, then why do so many who were baptized as infants no longer live an active Christian life?||Human unfaithfulness (for example, the children of Israel during the forty years in the wilderness) does not negate God's faithfulness (Rom. 3:1-4). Scripture teaches that believers can and do at times wander away from the faith (Matt. 13:5-7, 19-22).|
|Since the thief on the cross was saved without baptism, baptism is not necessary to salvation.||We cannot assume that the thief wasn't baptized, since John the Baptizer baptized a great number of Jews in and around Jerusalem (Jn. 3:23; Matt. 3:5). Only unbelief damns; not the lack of baptism. If not being baptized is symptomatic of a person's rejecting the promises of God's Word, then that person is in spiritual danger (Lk. 7:30).|
|Isn't baptizing infants giving the wrong impression of believing in "magical" water?||Only if we believe that baptism is mere water, rather than the water and the Word specifically connected to Christ's command and promises (Eph. 5:26; Matt. 28:19-20).|
CONCLUSION: Baptism is not a mere ritual of remembrance. It is an active carrier of divine rescue; thus, baptism is an objective fact that is the foundation of Christian joy and comfort. Baptism brings the Holy Spirit, who connects the newly baptized to the new life (Jn. 3:5; Titus 3:5-7) resident in Jesus Christ (Acts 2:38; 22:16). This new birth is given to all sinners, regardless of age (Rom. 6:4; 1 Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3: 25-28; Col. 2:13, 14). Baptism now saves you (1 Pet 3:21).
This article was used with the permission of the copyright holder, Good News magazine. You can receive the latest edition of Good News by calling 1-800-778-1132.
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