Baptismal Regeneration - Alexander CampbellAlexander Campbell reacted to the Calvinistic belief that one is as dead as Lazarus until the Holy Spirit overpowers him and converts him against his will. Later Calvinists hate baptism because it implies that one person has as much ability to hear, believe, repent, confess and be baptized as any preselected individual. The restoration movement is not a denomination. Therefore, individual preachers can adopt outrageous views. However, the main stream of the restoration movement never believed that one can perform work which obligates God to save them.
Jesus said that without being born AGAIN of Water and Spirit or Water and the Word you CANNOT, SHALL NOT enter into His kingdom or rule which is the Ekklesia or Christian synagogue or school of the Bible. The seven "spirits" of Isaiah 11:1-4 which would rest on the BRANCH are all related to forms of spiritual knowledge. Jesus said "My Words are Spirit and Life." Therefore, you might join a venue for Rock and Roll peddled as "worship" but Jesus Christ WILL NOT be your free-of-charge Teacher until He washes your spirit or mind. Only then do you have access to the seven spirits represented by the Menorah or Candlestick which gave LIGHT to the Holy Place along with the table of bread and the incense altar. Each Christian "priest" must look into the Most Holy Place with their own prayers. Then, you can enter into the Most Holy Place to meet God. Jesus said that the ONLY new PLACE is the human spirit as it gives heed to the Spirit of Truth through the Word. Don't believe the lie that "musical teams" lead you into the presence of God: that makes them claim to be God standing in the Holy Place. Not in the vilest pagan temple could singers and musicians enter into the holy precincts on the penalty of death. Don't follow people making "Christianity" viler than paganism. If you are part of the 5 out of 13,000 congregations then you have become a laughing stock just like the musical idolatrs at Mount Sinai which forfeited and continues to forfeit the Covenant of Grace.
People who refute this have a "spirit" which intends to hurt you real bad.
It was the sense of distorted Calvinistic lostness which made the American Frontier feel lost and disenterested in church until Barton W. Stone in his little arena and many others for hundreds of years in many groups suggested that anyone could be saved by obedient faith through hearing the Word of Christ which He designed for that very purpose. The restoration movement, in fact, would never have begun unless there was a mass of individuals who did not believe in neo-Calvinism.
Alexander Campbell reacted to this lostness because this "predestinated" person might be an embryo in the belly of your wife. Therefore, we should understand Alexander Campbell in light of his opponents.
"Although the general outward call of the gospel can be, and often is, rejected, the special inward call of the Spirit never fails to result in the conversion of those to whom it is made. This special call is not made to all sinners but is issued to the elect only' The Spirit is in no way dependent upon their help or cooperation for success in His work of bringing them to Christ. It is for this reason that Calvinists speak of the Spirit's call and of God's grace in saving sinners as being 'efficacious,' 'invincible,' or 'irresistible.' For the grace which the Holy Spirit extends to the elect cannot be thwarted or refused, it never fails to bring them to true faith in Christ." (David N. Steele, Curtis C. Thomas, The Five Points of Calvinism, Defined, Defended, Documented: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1975, p.49)
All of those not preselected by God are "the children of Satan - accursed children."
This Neo-Calvinistic teaching is that one predestinated to heaven can do nothing to gain it and nothing to lose it. Those doomed to hell can do nothing to prevent it. Man is just a gooey mess made by God to feed the fires of hell or live with Him in heaven. Therefore, those who have had an "experience" or mental trip can claim superiority because this "cornfield conversion" can be told to the church and gain him entrance into the fellowship of the inside group. On the American frontier where one had be belong to the "tribe" to succeed or even survive, the impulse to manufacture the sign was vital.
"Our opponents contend for a regeneration begun and perfected before faith or baptism - a spiritual change of mind by the Holy Spirit, antecedent to either knowledge, faith, or repentance, of which infants are as susceptible as adults; and, therefore, as we contend, make the gospel of no effect.
By way of reprisals, they would have their converts think that we go for nothing but water, and sarcastically call us the advocates of "water regeneration." They think there is something more sublime and divine in "spirit regeneration"; and therefore claim the title of orthodox." Alexander Campbell, Regeneration
While the restoration movement moved totally away form Calvinism, Alexander Campbell avowed that he might die a Calvinist but not in the extreme position developed later than Calvin. Calvin admitted that he "gagged" on Calvinism and it was later synods which brought his teachings to the extreme position. And people who believe that God has punched their ticket to heaven by some supernatural sign love it because, if elected, it brings a sense of security. While there is a wide spectrum of Baptists, one writer noted:
"What a comfortable thing is this theory of regeneration! The sinner's to be regenerated when actively striving against the divine influence. At the moment of regeneration, "he has," in one sense, "no more efficient agency in accomplishing it than Lazarus had in becoming alive from the dead"; and in another sense, he is not passive, but "does all he can to resist the divine influence, and prevent his own regeneration, until he is made willing by divine almighty power." This is Standard divinity; and he that preaches divinity is a pious, regenerated, Regular Orthodox Baptist Christian Minister! Of how much value, on this theory, is all the preaching in Christendom? The Holy Spirit may be busily at work upon some drunken sot, or some vile debauchee, who is as dead as Lazarus on one side, and on the other resisting the Spirit with all his moral and physical energy, up to the moment that the Almighty arm pierces him to the heart with a sword, and makes him alive by killing him! Cincinnati Baptist Journal of 26th July
Just remember that grace (power) is unmerited but not unconditional or we could and should throw away the Bible.
Baptismal regeneration, in the view of Catholics and many others who have "sprinkled" the child before it is born, is that the application of water affects a supernatural trigger of God's grace and saves the person without their conscious faith, repentance or confession of discipleship to Christ and personal obedience.
Faith regeneration, in the view of those to whom Alexander Campbell responded, was that unconscious, unmerited, unsought, unfought but caught belief and an uncontrolled supernatural experience regenerates the soul and animates the none active body before personal faith.
Conclusion: Because John Calvin was reacting to Catholic baptism rather than truly to the Biblical teaching, water regeneration of the unconscious acted-upon spirit was adopted as faith regeneration of the unknowing acted-upon spirit. Neither systems of legalism needs the active participation of the mind of the candidate for regeneration.
Pride regeneration will surly doom any of us who feel able to save ourselves
Alexander Campbell, rejecting both the pope and John Calvin, turned to Jesus in the Great Commission, to Peter who preached it and baptized, to Paul who preached it and baptized and onward. Paul was glad that he had not baptized those who did not "bring forth fruits of their repentance" and were really disciples of Peter or perhaps even John the Baptist or "Jesus." If the inspired Paul didn't know that those who were baptized had already been saved then how could Alexander Campbell know? There was no way that he could. Salvation, however, to Campbell was not the the actual, spiritual regeneration but regeneration to a life lived in salvation as "good spiritual health."
Paul was sent to prepare everyone, who would listen, for faith through hearing the Gospel. Only secondarily was he sent to baptize those who developed faith and requested baptism.
Paul was not sent to baptize because baptism is solely the responsibility and privilege of those who acquire a personal faith in Jesus Christ. If Paul went out with the primary goal of baptizing people to feed the coffers of the church then he would be preaching baptismal regeneration. However, if the gospel Paul preached did not involve baptism then why would people believe that they should be baptized?
Contrary to those who slander "church of Christ cults" for preaching "baptismal regeneration" Campbell taught in part:
"VI. Baptism is, then, designed to introduce the subjects of it into the participation of the blessings of the death and resurrection of Christ; who "died for our sins," and "rose again for our justification." But it has no abstract efficacy. Without previous faith in the blood of Christ, and deep and unfeigned repentance before God, neither immersion in water, nor any other action, can secure to us the blessings of peace and pardon. It can merit nothing. Still to the believing penitent it is the means of receiving a formal, distinct, and specific absolution, or release from guilt.
"Therefore, none but those who have first believed the testimony of God and have repented of their sins, and that have been intelligently immersed into his death, have the full and explicit testimony of God, assuring them of pardon.
"To such only as are truly penitent, dare we say, "Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling upon the name of the Lord," and to such only can we say with assurance, "You are washed, you are justified, you are sanctified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of God." The Christian System, Baptism
Campbell held that baptism is the consumating act of the process. As spiritual conception takes place when the "seed" is emplanted and germinates, the believer has God's approval or the "right to become children of God." However, the embryo who does not come to full term and go through the birth process will never be a citizen of the kingdom able to enjoy the benefits:
"All the means of salvation are means of enjoyment, not of procurement. Birth itself is not for procuring, but for enjoying, the life possessed before birth.
"So in the analogy: - no one is to be baptized, or to be, buried with Christ; no one is to be put under the water of regeneration for the purpose of procuring (purchasing) life, but for the purpose of enjoying the life of which he is possessed.
"If the child is never born, all its sensitive powers and faculties can not be enjoyed; for it is after birth that these are fully developed and feasted upon all the aliments and objects of sense in nature. Hence all that is now promised in the gospel can only be enjoyed by those who are born again and placed in the kingdom of heaven under all its influences. Hence the philosophy of that necessity which Jesus preached: - "Unless a man be born again, be can not discern the kingdom of heaven," - unless a man be born of water and the Spirit, he can not enter into it.
"But let no man think that in the act of being born, either naturally or metaphorically, the child purchases, procures, or merits either life or its enjoyments. He is only by his birth placed in circumstances favorable to the enjoyment of life, and all that makes life a blessing. "To as many as receive him, believing in his name, be grants the privilege of being children of God, who derive their birth not from blood, nor from the desire of the flesh, nor from the will of man, but from God." (Christian System, Regeneration)
However, Campbell taught that conception begins with the active participation of those who hear the Word of God. Indeed, the Word is likened to the seed. It is emplanted in the heart and spiritual conception takes place. This gives one the power to become a child through the birth process. On the other hand, one who is never born will never enter the kingdom of humanity.
There is no evidence that credible teachers or members of churches of Christ in the restoration movement believe that baptism is a work which they must perform in order to earn a wage of which they can boast.
Abraham is the example of "justification by faith." But, in distorted Calvinism there is no because. However, God told Abraham's son:
And I will make thy seed to multiply as the stars of heaven, and will give unto thy seed all these countries; and in thy seed (Jesus re Paul) shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; Gen 26:4
Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws. Gen 26:5
Paul refers to the promise which the Spirit of Christ made to Abraham and said:
But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. Gal 3:22
But before faith (Gospel) came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Gal 3:23
Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. Gal 3:24
But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. Gal 3:25
This proves that there are not two gospels. This proves that there were not two schemes of redemption. This proves that there was not a baptism for the circumcision (in order to salvation) and another to the Gentiles (because you are already saved). Baptism is into water but it is into or in connection with the Death, burial and resurrection of Christ who is the Author and Finisher of our faith.
Justification is by faith or the Christian system of gospel and not the law. Justification means obeying God so that He can "account" you able to enter the kingdom when He knows that you are too filthy. Justification, like conception, gives God's grace as the ability to follow through. In the human scheme, faith has no value except the power to permit you to move in the direction of your belief. When you do that God approves of you as He approved of Abraham each and every time he obeyed His commandments.
The next two verses are in the form of parallelism: becoming children by faith means putting Christ on in baptism:
For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. Gal 3:26
For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. Gal 3:27
For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. Ga.5:6
To the Colossians, Paul shows that baptism is where we express our faith in the operation of God. In that He resurrected Jesus from the dead as a result of our sins, He will resurrect us to a new life when we hang our sins on the cross of Christ and lie down as we reinact the burial of Christ. Baptism is not for the purpose of washing the body but for the spiritual effect of obeying God's plan to give you grace or power:
In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: Col 2:11
Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. Col 2:12
And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; Col 2:13
Baptism is not some mystical thing where the predestinated are baptized at the time Christ was buried. Rather, baptism here means "immersed in water." The symbol of the flood and of the ark shows that Paul and Peter were speaking of a literal separation from sin where the water divides the dead from the living. In both symbols, the people were "hidden" from the lost by a literal surround of water. You see, sin gets drowned but the "new man" comes out the other side without getting wet!
And to the Romans, Paul wrote:
God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Ro 6:2
Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Ro 6:3
Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. Ro 6:4
For if we have been planted (united to grow along with) together in the likeness (resemblance) of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Ro 6:5
None of the major versions translate these passages as anything except a time and place where the believer expresses their faith in obedience to Christ's quite simple command. Never is there a hint that a dead man can work his own resurrection. However, those in the grave of sin "can hear his voice and rise to meet Him."
The "faith only" concept is a Post-Calvinistic belief. In this scheme God predestinates certain people to be saved. Faith in Christ is the first supernatural sign that one has been selected for heaven rather than for hell. A second, and necessary requirement, more legalistic than baptism, is the demand for some supernatural activity which gives one the sight to go along with faith. Only then, if voted on by their peers, may one enter the church with certainty that they are saved. Finally, because they are aleady saved, they may or not be baptized. Barton W. Stone and Alexander Campbell thought this wrong because, for one thing, it caused preachers to learn the skills to "jack you up" so that you could reach some mental experience. In the second place it caused people compelled to be admitted to membership or remain outside of the religious, social and economic "fold" to lie: to invent stories that the Holy Spirit had give you a vision out in the cornfield. There seemed no way out.
Alexander Campbell and those who heard the truth flocked out of Calvinistic churches because they lived a life of uncertainty because they could never sense that God had given them an adequate sign. Finally, Alexander Campbell and churches of Christ left the Stone movement which continued Cane Ridge style preaching trying to help get more signs for distraught people having given up on all religion. When Stone sensed that the "signs" did more harm than good when the person couldn't get past the nearest tavern he slowly understood that faith must be based upon solid Scriptural teaching. Stone still did not understand baptism.
While simply repeating the universal Biblical statements about baptism and obeying as the only response to faith, none (almost none) in churches of Christ believe that baptism is a legalistic work of human merit. It is, however, "keeping the commandments of Christ" which is the only way to have Father-Son come live with us:
He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. Jn 14:21
If ye love me, keep my commandments. Jn.14:15
And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Mt 28:18
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Mt.28:19
Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. Mt 28:20
And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. Mk 16:15
He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. Mk 16:16
In this passage it takes both faith and baptism to be saved: it only takes a lack of faith to be lost because only those who have faith will ask for baptism. Again, salvation must be understood as the birth process as Campbell believed.
Notice, that Peter did not begin in the first instance to baptize but to preach to produce faith to all who wanted to believe:
Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Ac 2:37
Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. Mt 2:38
And Paul said: "Don't dare do anything, you are already saved." Not on your life!!
There can be no salvation without repentance and one of the worst sins is to follow the legalism of the ancient Jews and try to restrict God's grace to a select few. They believed that God predestinated them because of their Jewishness. They said that, "Father Abraham stands beside the gates of hell and refuses to allow any Jew to go in." Paul stopped in the middle of Romans and in chapters 9-11 preached the "Calvinistic" Jews a sermon to show that God didn't fail and the Scriptures didn't fail: they failed because they believed they were exclusively predestinated. Pride always goes before a fall. As a result, most Jews refused to submit to baptism.
Once it is admitted that Christ shed His blood for everyone who will Ask Him to apply it, conforming to the perfectly clear statement about baptism will be easy with no hint of legalism expressed in the statement: "I don't have to be baptized."
And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. Mk.8:34
Figuratively taking up the cross has no meaning unless we die and are buried "in the likeness" of Christ's burial and resurrection.
And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely. Re.22:17
We live in the literal world to prepare us for the Spiritual. Taking the literal water of the Word causes us to go through the literal bath of regeneration as a way for faith to express itself in love for what Christ has already done. What if Jesus had said: "I am God Incarnate. I have the certainty that I can save mankind. Therefore, I will not literally die, literally be buried and literally be resurrected because that would be legalism?"
Taking up the cross of Christ does not balk at good intentions!
Shedding the exclusiveness of legalism is part of salvation which is "good spiritual health" and you will be free indeed. The supreme mystery of Christ was that both Jew and Gentile can be saved on the same basis and upon the one and only baptism which Christ ever instituted for salvation.
Charging Campbell and the entire restoration movement with teaching baptismal regeneration slanders Alexander Campbell who could never totally reject the original teachings of Calvin. At the same time, Campbell was always in the process of understanding Baptism. Therefore, to take an isolated writing or sermon may miss his total understand.
Whats more, Alexander Campbell did not die for me, is not my sole teacher and will not be my Savior. While we honor him we do not worship him. However, one grows nostalic when comparing his writings with the stuff of modern theology.
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