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Does the Water Regenerate?

Q:

Do you believe that when a person is baptized that it is the water itself that regenerates? Or do you believe that when a person is baptized it is the washing by the Holy Spirit that regenerates?

A:

The water certainly has no cleansing power whatsoever. The only reason why Peter could say that “baptism saves” (1 Peter 3:21) is because that is the point at which we are forgiven of sin based on the sacrifice of Christ. Hence, it is Christ’s blood—and only His blood—that cleanses sin (1 Peter 1:18-19; Revelation 1:5). [Recall that Peter clarified his “baptism saves” statement by adding “through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” So baptism “now saves” via the atoning work of Christ, i.e., His death, burial, and resurrection—which is the Gospel (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:3-4).] The H2O of baptism is parallel to the water of the Jordan in 2 Kings 5. Naaman’s leprosy was not cleansed by those waters—but by God Himself the moment Naaman met the terms/conditions of cleansing (i.e., immersing 7 times). Similarly, the waters of the Pool of Siloam possessed no healing power. It was solely Jesus who restored sight to the blind man—on the condition that the man would go to that pool and apply the water to the mud Jesus had smeared on his eyes (John 9:7). Neither water nor mud, then or now, has any cleansing capability. They were merely mediums/conduits Jesus used to impart the blessing of physical cleansing to the blind man. The same may be said of the waters of baptism. God has always used physical conditions as preludes to His blessings, but the power remains within God’s own mind. Hence, salvation occurs in God’s mind the very moment a person complies with God’s stipulated condition(s). Water baptism is not the HOW of salvation—but, rather, the WHEN.

Regarding the “washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5) by allowing Scripture to interpret itself [see AP’s book Baptism & the Greek Made Simple, p. 142], it becomes apparent that the Holy Spirit regenerates people via His Gospel message which instructs the individual to be immersed in water. The term “Spirit” in John 3:5, 1 Corinthians 12:13, and Titus 3:5 all refer to the message (“word”—Ephesians 5:26) that the Holy Spirit provided via inspired writers/spokesmen. When that same message is presented to hearers today, requiring them to manifest faith, repentance, oral confession, and immersion in water (Romans 10:17; 2:4; 10:9-10; 6:3-4), and the individual complies with those prerequisites to salvation, when that individual rises from the water of baptism, he/she may then be said to have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit (i.e., based on the blood sacrifice of Christ, the Holy Spirit regenerated the individual by means of His stipulated prerequisites to cleansing by that blood). The Holy Spirit regenerates people via their obedience to the Gospel. Notice how Peter words it: “Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever” (1 Peter 1:22-23). “Through the Spirit” is a textual variant that may not have been in the original text, but it is nevertheless an accurate representation of the facts, since the only way for anyone to receive salvation from God is for Him to tell us how we may do so. God did so via the Gospel message authored by the Holy Spirit. When we read Scripture and implement its instructions in our lives, we are being influenced and instructed by the Spirit.

Baptism and the Greek Made Simple


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