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