Salvation

3. The Biblical Meaning of Salvation


Christianity is a message of salvation. What does that mean? Our Protestant friends sometimes ask, “Brother, have you been saved?” They have in mind a private religious experience, a prayer meant to guarantee one’s place in heaven. Is that what salvation means?

In the ancient near east, kings and emperors were described as “saviors” when they liberated a besieged city, or brought peace and harmony to the land. The Old Testament ascribes that task to God.  The Hebrews were often besieged by their neighbors and ultimately suffered exile in Babylon and Assyria.  They cried out to God for “salvation.”  In the book of Chronicles we read, “Save us, God our Savior; gather us and deliver us from the nations.” (1 Chron. 16:35)

The Hebrew prophets looked forward to a time when God would raise up a divine king (the Messiah) to save Israel from the nations. (Isaiah 9) But unlike the kings of the nations, the Messiah would conquer in humility and meekness. “A bruised reed he will not break; a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.” (Isaiah 42:3) His dominion would extend to the whole world, and not just Israel. (Is. 49:6)  He, himself, would suffer, “offering his back to those who beat him.” (Is. 50:6). He would “bear the sin of many,” and make himself “an offering for sin.” (Is. 53:10).  In that day, God makes a New Covenant with Israel.  He puts his law in their minds and writes it on their hearts. (Jer. 31:31)

When Jesus appeared in Galilee, he declared the arrival of this Messianic kingdom. (Mark 1:15) But unlike the Hebrews, Christ said his kingdom was not of this world. (John 18:36) His enemies were not nations and armies, but the spiritual powers and principalities. (Ephesians 6:12) Christ said, “If I cast out demons by the finger of God, know that the Kingdom of God has come among you.” (Matt. 12:28)

Jesus also assumed the role of the suffering servant. He gave his life as a ransom for those held under the power of the devil. (Mark 10:45; Hebrews 2:14). His death was an offering for sin. (Romans 3:25) By his suffering, Christ merited the gift of the Spirit. (Acts 2:32)  Because of his humility, “God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name above all names.” (Philippians 2:8)

Before the coming of Christ, Jews and Gentiles were divided by the Mosaic Law. It was “the dividing wall of hostility.” (Ephesians 2:14) But Christ nailed it to the cross, with its laws and commands. (Col. 2:14) Now, in Christ, those who were far off have come near. The Gentiles are heirs together with Israel. It is not by the Mosaic Law, but by faith that we are incorporated into Christ.  All those who believe are now children of Abraham.  According to Isaiah’s promise, the light of Israel extends through Christ to all the nations. (Romans 3-4)

Those who believe in Christ are promised forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2).  God’s love is shed abroad in their hearts. (Rom.5:5) Since love is the fulfillment of the law (Rom. 13:8), those who walk by the Spirit have fully met the law’s demands. (Rom.8:3) The Spirit is a deposit, guaranteeing their resurrection from the dead. (Rom. 8:11)

But the promise of faith comes with a condition. Faith joins us to Christ, to the people of God, but Scripture exhorts us to persevere in faith and obedience. “Those who persevere to the end will be saved,”  Christ says. (Matt. 24:13). If we fall away through disobedience, if we neglect such a great salvation, there is no more sacrifice for sins. (Hebrews 10:26). If we walk in the Spirit, we will be saved. But if we return to the deeds of the flesh, we will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21).

We persevere, we remain in Christ, by fellowship with his body, the Church, and by receiving the sacraments. “Whoever eats my flesh abides in me,” Christ says.  (John 6:56)  This bread is his flesh, given for the life of the world. (John 6:51)) For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these, “writes the second-century St. Justin, “we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word . . . is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh.” (Justin Martyr, First Apology, 66)

Salvation, in Scripture, is a rich concept.  Following ancient usage, it suggests the coming of a conquering king who vanquishes his enemies and invites the meek and humble to partake of his reign.  It’s more than a private experience. Those redeemed by Christ enter into a society, the Church, and are nourished by Sacramental mysteries.  Through faith and obedience, they await the consummation of all things at the end of time.

From the website of Dr David Anders – http://calvin2catholic.com/ 

 

2. Assurance of Salvation?


There are few more confusing topics than salvation. It goes beyond the standard question posed by Fundamentalists: “Have you been saved?” What the question also means is: “Don’t you wish you had the assurance of salvation?” Evangelicals and Fundamentalists think they do have such an absolute assurance. 

All they have to do is “accept Christ as their personal Savior,” and it’s done. They might well live exemplary lives thereafter, but living well is not crucial and definitely does not affect their salvation.

Kenneth E. Hagin, a well-known Pentecostal televangelist from the “Word Faith” wing of Protestantism, asserts that this assurance of salvation comes through being “born again”: “Unless one is born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). Though much of Hagin’s theology is considered bizarre in Protestant circles, his explanation of being born again could be endorsed by millions of Evangelical Protestants. In his booklet, The New Birth, Hagin writes, “The new birth is a necessity to being saved. Through the new birth you come into the right relationship with God.” 

According to Hagin, there are many things that this new birth is not. “The new birth is not: confirmation, church membership, water baptism, the taking of sacraments, observing religious duties, an intellectual reception of Christianity, orthodoxy of faith, going to church, saying prayers, reading the Bible, being moral, being cultured or refined, doing good deeds, doing your best, nor any of the many other things some men are trusting in to save them.” Those who have obtained the new birth “did the one thing necessary: they accepted Jesus Christ as personal Savior by repenting and turning to God with the whole heart as a little child.” That one act of the will, he explains, is all they needed to do. But is this true? Does the Bible support this concept? 

Scripture teaches that one’s final salvation depends on the state of the soul at death. As Jesus himself tells us, “He who endures to the end will be saved” (Matt. 24:13; cf. 25:31–46). One who dies in the state of friendship with God (the state of grace) will go to heaven. The one who dies in a state of enmity and rebellion against God (the state of mortal sin) will go to hell. 

For many Fundamentalists and Evangelicals it makes no difference—as far as salvation is concerned—how you live or end your life. You can heed the altar call at church, announce that you’ve accepted Jesus as your personal Savior, and, so long as you really believe it, you’re set. From that point on there is nothing you can do, no sin you can commit, no matter how heinous, that will forfeit your salvation. You can’t undo your salvation, even if you wanted to. 

Does this sound too good to be true? Yes, but nevertheless, it is something many Protestants claim. Take a look at what Wilson Ewin, the author of a booklet called There is Therefore Now No Condemnation, says. He writes that “the person who places his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and his blood shed at Calvary is eternally secure. He can never lose his salvation. No personal breaking of God’s or man’s laws or commandments can nullify that status.” 

“To deny the assurance of salvation would be to deny Christ’s perfect redemption,” argues Ewin, and this is something he can say only because he confuses the redemption that Christ accomplished for us objectively with our individual appropriation of that redemption. The truth is that in one sense we are all redeemed by Christ’s death on the cross—Christians, Jews, Muslims, even animists in the darkest forests (1 Tim. 2:6, 4:10, 1 John 2:2)—but our individual appropriation of what Christ provided is contingent on our response. 

Certainly, Christ did die on the cross once for all and has entered into the holy place in heaven to appear before God on our behalf. Christ has abundantly provided for our salvation, but that does not mean that there is no process by which this is applied to us as individuals. Obviously, there is, or we would have been saved and justified from all eternity, with no need to repent or have faith or anything else. We would have been born “saved,” with no need to be born again. Since we were not, since it is necessary for those who hear the gospel to repent and embrace it, there is a time at which we come to be reconciled to God. And if so, then we, like Adam and Eve, can become unreconciled with God and, like the prodigal son, need to come back and be reconciled again with God, after having left his family. 

You Can’t Lose Heaven?

 Ewin says that “no wrong act or sinful deed can ever affect the believer’s salvation. The sinner did nothing to merit God’s grace and likewise he can do nothing to demerit grace. True, sinful conduct always lessens one’s fellowship with Christ, limits his contribution to God’s work and can result in serious disciplinary action by the Holy Spirit.” 

One problem with this argument is that this is not even how things work in everyday life. If another person gives us something as a grace—as a gift—and even if we did nothing to deserve it (though frequently gifts are given based on our having pleased the one bestowing the gift), it in no way follows that our actions are irrelevant to whether or not we keep the gift. We can lose it in all kinds of ways. We can misplace it, destroy it, give it to someone else, take it back to the store. We may even forfeit something we were given by later displeasing the one who gave it—as when a person has been appointed to a special position but is later stripped of that position on account of mismanagement. 

The argument fares no better when one turns to Scripture, for one finds that Adam and Eve, who received God’s grace in a manner just as unmerited as anyone today, most definitely did demerit it—and lost grace not only for themselves but for us as well (cf. also Rom. 11:17-24). While the idea that what is received without merit cannot be lost by demerit may have a kind of poetic charm for some, it does not stand up when compared with the way things really work—either in the everyday world or in the Bible. 

Regarding the issue of whether Christians have an “absolute” assurance of salvation, regardless of their actions, consider this warning Paul gave: “See then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness; otherwise you too will be cut off” (Rom. 11:22; see also Heb. 10:26–29, 2 Pet. 2:20–21). 

Can You Know?

 Related to the issue of whether one can lose one’s salvation is the question of whether one can know with complete certainty that one is in a state of salvation. Even if one could not lose one’s salvation, one still might not be sure whether one ever had salvation. Similarly, even if one could be sure that one is now in a state of salvation, one might be able to fall from grace in the future. The “knowability” of salvation is a different question than the “loseability” of salvation. 

From the Radio Bible Class listeners can obtain a booklet called Can Anyone Really Know for Sure? The anonymous author says the “Lord Jesus wanted his followers to be so sure of their salvation that they would rejoice more in the expectation of heaven than in victories on earth. ‘These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God (1 John 5:13).’” 

Places where Scripture speaks of our ability to know that we are abiding in grace are important and must be taken seriously. But they do not promise that we will be protected from self-deception on this matter. Even the author of Can Anyone Really Know for Sure? admits that there is a false assurance: “The New Testament teaches us that genuine assurance is possible and desirable, but it also warns us that we can be deceived through a false assurance. Jesus declared: ‘Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord” shall enter the kingdom of heaven’ (Matt. 7:21).” 

Sometimes Fundamentalists portray Catholics as if they must every moment be in terror of losing their salvation since Catholics recognize that it is possible to lose salvation through mortal sin. Fundamentalists then hold out the idea that, rather than living every moment in terror, they can have a calm, assured knowledge that they will, in fact, be saved, and that nothing will ever be able to change this fact. 

But this portrayal is in error. Catholics do not live lives of mortal terror concerning salvation. True, salvation can be lost through mortal sin, but such sins are by nature grave ones, and not the kind that a person living the Christian life is going to slip into committing on the spur of the moment, without deliberate thought and consent. Neither does the Catholic Church teach that one cannot have an assurance of salvation. This is true both of present and future salvation. 

One can be confident of one’s present salvation. This is one of the chief reasons why God gave us the sacraments—to provide visible assurances that he is invisibly providing us with his grace. And one can be confident that one has not thrown away that grace by simply examining one’s life and seeing whether one has committed mortal sin. Indeed, the tests that John sets forth in his first epistle to help us know whether we are abiding in grace are, in essence, tests of whether we are dwelling in grave sin. For example, “By this it may be seen who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not do right is not of God, nor he who does not love his brother” (1 John 3:10), “If any one says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen” (1 John 4:20), “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3). 

Likewise, by looking at the course of one’s life in grace and the resolution of one’s heart to keep following God, one can also have an assurance of future salvation. It is this Paul speaks of when he writes to the Philippians and says, “And I am sure that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6). This is not a promise for all Christians, or even necessarily all in the church at Philippi, but it is a confidence that the Philippian Christians in general would make it. The basis of this is their spiritual performance to date, and Paul feels a need to explain to them that there is a basis for his confidence in them. Thus he says, immediately, “It is right for me to feel thus about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel” (1:7). The fact that the Philippians performed spiritually by assisting Paul in his imprisonment and ministry showed that their hearts were with God and that it could be expected that they, at least in general, would persevere and remain with God. 

There are many saintly men and women who have long lived the Christian life and whose characters are marked with profound spiritual joy and peace. Such individuals can look forward with confidence to their reception in heaven. 

Such an individual was Paul, writing at the end of his life, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day” (2 Tim. 4:7-8). But earlier in life, even Paul did not claim an infallible assurance, either of his present justification or of his remaining in grace in the future. Concerning his present state, he wrote, “I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby justified [Gk., dedikaiomai]. It is the Lord who judges me” (1 Cor. 4:4). Concerning his remaining life, Paul was frank in admitting that even he could fall away: “I pummel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified” (1 Cor. 9:27). Of course, for a spiritual giant such as Paul, it would be quite unexpected and out of character for him to fall from God’s grace. Nevertheless, he points out that, however much confidence in his own salvation he may be warranted in feeling, even he cannot be infallibly sure either of his own present state or of his future course. 

The same is true of us. We can, if our lives display a pattern of perseverance and spiritual fruit, have not only a confidence in our present state of grace but also of our future perseverance with God. Yet we cannot have an infallible certitude of our own salvation, as many Protestants will admit. There is the possibility of self-deception (cf. Matt. 7:22-23). As Jeremiah expressed it, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt; who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9). There is also the possibility of falling from grace through mortal sin, and even of falling away from the faith entirely, for as Jesus told us, there are those who “believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away” (Luke 8:13). It is in the light of these warnings and admonitions that we must understand Scripture’s positive statements concerning our ability to know and have confidence in our salvation. Assurance we may have; infallible certitude we may not. 

For example, Philippians 2:12 says, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” This is not the language of self-confident assurance. Our salvation is something that remains to be worked out. 

 What To Say

 “Are you saved?” asks the Fundamentalist. The Catholic should reply: “As the Bible says, I am already saved (Rom. 8:24, Eph. 2:5–8), but I’m also being saved (1 Cor. 1:18, 2 Cor. 2:15, Phil. 2:12), and I have the hope that I will be saved (Rom. 5:9–10, 1 Cor. 3:12–15). Like the apostle Paul I am working out my salvation in fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12), with hopeful confidence in the promises of Christ (Rom. 5:2, 2 Tim. 2:11–13).” 

 NIHIL OBSTAT: I have concluded that the materials
presented in this work are free of doctrinal or moral errors.
Bernadeane Carr, STL, Censor Librorum, August 10, 2004

IMPRIMATUR: In accord with 1983 CIC 827
permission to publish this work is hereby granted.
+Robert H. Brom, Bishop of San Diego, August 10, 2004

From Catholic Answers website: www.catholic.com

 

1. Are Catholics Born Again?


Catholics and Protestants agree that to be saved, you have to be born again. Jesus said so: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). 

When a Catholic says that he has been “born again,” he refers to the transformation that God’s grace accomplished in him during baptism. Evangelical Protestants typically mean something quite different when they talk about being “born again.” 

For an Evangelical, becoming “born again” often happens like this: He goes to a crusade or a revival where a minister delivers a sermon telling him of his need to be “born again.” 

“If you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and believe he died for your sins, you’ll be born again!” says the preacher. So the gentleman makes “a decision for Christ” and at the altar call goes forward to be led in “the sinner’s prayer” by the minister. Then the minister tells all who prayed the sinner’s prayer that they have been saved—”born again.” But is the minister right? Not according to the Bible. 

The Names of the New Birth

Regeneration (being “born again”) is the transformation from death to life that occurs in our souls when we first come to God and are justified. He washes us clean of our sins and gives us a new nature, breaking the power of sin over us so that we will no longer be its slaves, but its enemies, who must fight it as part of the Christian life (cf. Rom. 6:1–22; Eph. 6:11–17). To understand the biblical teaching of being born again, we must understand the terms it uses to refer to this event. 

The term “born again” may not appear in the Bible. The Greek phrase often translated “born again” (gennatha anothen) occurs twice in the Bible—John 3:3 and 3:7—and there is a question of how it should be translated. The Greek word anothen sometimes can be translated “again,” but in the New Testament, it most often means “from above.” In the King James Version, the only two times it is translated “again” are in John 3:3 and 3:7; every other time it is given a different rendering. 

Another term is “regeneration.” When referring to something that occurs in the life of an individual believer, it only appears in Titus 3:5. In other passages, the new birth phenomenon is also described as receiving new life (Rom. 6:4), receiving the circumcision of the heart (Rom. 2:29; Col. 2:11–12), and becoming a “new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 6:15). 

Regeneration in John 3

These different ways of talking about being “born again” describe effects of baptism, which Christ speaks of in John 3:5 as being “born of water and the Spirit.” In Greek, this phrase is, literally, “born of water and Spirit,” indicating one birth of water-and-Spirit, rather than “born of water and of the Spirit,” as though it meant two different births—one birth of water and one birth of the Spirit. 

In the water-and-Spirit rebirth that takes place at baptism, the repentant sinner is transformed from a state of sin to the state of grace. Peter mentioned this transformation from sin to grace when he exhorted people to “be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). 

The context of Jesus’ statements in John 3 makes it clear that he was referring to water baptism. Shortly before Jesus teaches Nicodemus about the necessity and regenerating effect of baptism, he himself was baptized by John the Baptist, and the circumstances are striking: Jesus goes down into the water, and as he is baptized, the heavens open, the Holy Spirit descends upon him in the form of a dove, and the voice of God the Father speaks from heaven, saying, “This is my beloved Son” (cf. Matt. 3:13–17; Mark 1:9–11; Luke 3:21–22; John 1:30–34). This scene gives us a graphic depiction of what happens at baptism: We are baptized with water, symbolizing our dying with Christ (Rom. 6:3) and our rising with Christ to the newness of life (Rom. 6:4–5); we receive the gift of sanctifying grace and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:27); and we are adopted as God’s sons (Rom. 8:15–17). 

After our Lord’s teaching that it is necessary for salvation to be born from above by water and the Spirit (John 3:1–21), “Jesus and his disciples went into the land of Judea; there he remained with them and baptized” (John 3:22). 

Then we have the witness of the early Church that John 3:5 refers to baptismal regeneration. This was universally recognized by the early Christians. The Church Fathers were unanimous in teaching this: 

In A.D. 151, Justin Martyr wrote, “As many as are persuaded and believe that what we [Christians] teach and say is true . . . are brought by us where there is water and are regenerated in the same manner in which we were ourselves regenerated. For, in the name of God the Father . . . and of our Savior Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit [Matt. 28:19], they then receive the washing with water. For Christ also said, ‘Unless you are born again, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven’ [John 3:3]” (First Apology 61). 

Around 190, Irenaeus, the bishop of Lyons, wrote, “And [Naaman] dipped himself . . . seven times in the Jordan’ [2 Kgs. 5:14]. It was not for nothing that Naaman of old, when suffering from leprosy, was purified upon his being baptized, but [this served] as an indication to us. For as we are lepers in sin, we are made clean, by means of the sacred water and the invocation of the Lord, from our old transgressions, being spiritually regenerated as newborn babes, even as the Lord has declared: ‘Except a man be born again through water and the Spirit, he shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven’ [John 3:5]” (Fragment 34). 

In the year 252, Cyprian, the bishop of Carthage, said that when those becoming Christians “receive also the baptism of the Church . . . then finally can they be fully sanctified and be the sons of God . . . since it is written, ‘Except a man be born again of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God’ [John 3:5]” (Letters 71[72]:1). 

Augustine wrote, “From the time he [Jesus] said, ‘Except a man be born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven’ [John 3:5], and again, ‘He that loses his life for my sake shall find it’ [Matt. 10:39], no one becomes a member of Christ except it be either by baptism in Christ or death for Christ” (On the Soul and Its Origin 1:10 [A.D. 419]). 

Augustine also taught, “It is this one Spirit who makes it possible for an infant to be regenerated . . . when that infant is brought to baptism; and it is through this one Spirit that the infant so presented is reborn. For it is not written, ‘Unless a man be born again by the will of his parents’ or ‘by the faith of those presenting him or ministering to him,’ but, ‘Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Spirit’ [John 3:5]. The water, therefore, manifesting exteriorly the sacrament of grace, and the Spirit effecting interiorly the benefit of grace, both regenerate in one Christ that man who was generated in Adam” (Letters 98:2 [A.D. 408]). 

Regeneration in the New Testament

The truth that regeneration comes through baptism is confirmed elsewhere in the Bible. Paul reminds us in Titus 3:5 that God “saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit.” 

Paul also said, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:3–4). 

This teaching—that baptism unites us with Christ’s death and resurrection so that we might die to sin and receive new life—is a key part of Paul’s theology. In Colossians 2:11–13, he tells us, “In [Christ] you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision [of] Christ, having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ” (NIV). 

The Effects of Baptism

Often people miss the fact that baptism gives us new life/new birth because they have an impoverished view of the grace God gives us through baptism, which they think is a mere symbol. But Scripture is clear that baptism is much more than a mere symbol. 

In Acts 2:38, Peter tells us, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” When Paul was converted, he was told, “And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on his name” (Acts 22:16). 

Peter also said, “God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 3:20–21). Peter says that, as in the time of the flood, when eight people were “saved through water,” so for Christians, “[b]aptism . . . now saves you.” It does not do so by the water’s physical action, but through the power of Jesus Christ’s resurrection, through baptism’s spiritual effects and the appeal we make to God to have our consciences cleansed. 

These verses showing the supernatural grace God bestows through baptism set the context for understanding the New Testament’s statements about receiving new life in the sacrament. 

Protestants on Regeneration

Martin Luther wrote in his Short Catechism that baptism “works the forgiveness of sins, delivers from death and the devil, and grants eternal life to all who believe.” His recognition that the Bible teaches baptismal regeneration has been preserved by Lutherans and a few other Protestant denominations. Even some Baptists recognize that the biblical evidence demands the historic Christian teaching of baptismal regeneration. Notable individuals who recognized that Scripture teaches baptismal regeneration include Baptist theologians George R. Beasley-Murray and Dale Moody. 

Nevertheless, many Protestants have abandoned this biblical teaching, substituting man-made theories on regeneration. There are two main views held by those who deny the scriptural teaching that one is born again through baptism: the “Evangelical” view, common among Baptists, and the “Calvinist” view, common among Presbyterians. 

Evangelicals claim that one is born again at the first moment of faith in Christ. According to this theory, faith in Christ produces regeneration. The Calvinist position is the reverse: Regeneration precedes and produces faith in Christ. Calvinists (some of whom also call themselves Evangelicals) suppose that God “secretly” regenerates people, without their being aware of it, and thiscauses them to place their faith in Christ. 

To defend these theories, Evangelicals and Calvinists attempt to explain away the many unambiguous verses in the Bible that plainly teach baptismal regeneration. One strategy is to say that the water in John 3:5 refers not to baptism but to the amniotic fluid present at childbirth. The absurd 
implication of this view is that Jesus would have been saying, “You must be born of amniotic fluid and the Spirit.” A check of the respected Protestant Greek lexicon, Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, fails to turn up any instances in ancient, Septuagint or New Testament Greek where “water” (Greek: hudor) referred to “amniotic fluid” (VIII:314–333). 

Evangelicals and Calvinists try to deal with the other verses where new life is attributed to baptism either by ignoring them or by arguing that it is not actually water baptism that is being spoken of. The problem for them is that water is explicitly mentioned or implied in each of these verses. 

In Acts 2:38, people are exhorted to take an action: “Be baptized . . . in the name of Jesus Christ,” which does not refer to an internal baptism that is administered to people by themselves, but the external baptism administered to them by others. 

We are told that at Paul’s conversion, “he rose and was baptized, and took food and was strengthened. For several days he was with the disciples at Damascus” (Acts 9:18–19). This was a water baptism. In Romans 6 and Colossians 2, Paul reminds his readers of their water baptisms, and he neither says nor implies anything about some sort of “invisible spiritual baptism.” 

In 1 Peter 3, water is mentioned twice, paralleling baptism with the flood, where eight were “saved through water,” and noting that “baptism now saves you” by the power of Christ rather than by the physical action of water “removing . . . dirt from the body.” 

The anti-baptismal regeneration position is indefensible. It has no biblical basis whatsoever. So the answer to the question, “Are Catholics born again?” is yes! Since all Catholics have been baptized, all Catholics have been born again. Catholics should ask Protestants, “Are you born again—the way the Bible understands that concept?” If the Evangelical has not been properly water baptized, he has not been born again “the Bible way,” regardless of what he may think. 

 

NIHIL OBSTAT: I have concluded that the materials
presented in this work are free of doctrinal or moral errors.
Bernadeane Carr, STL, Censor Librorum, August 10, 2004

IMPRIMATUR: In accord with 1983 CIC 827
permission to publish this work is hereby granted.
+Robert H. Brom, Bishop of San Diego, August 10, 2004

From Catholic Answers website: www.catholic.com 

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