A Refutal of Baptismal Regeneration
Below you will find a most interesting, and an honest video by Jay Miklovic, which he made as a defense of baptismal regeneration. I like Jay, nice guy (and he’s a baseball fan to boot). In the video, Jay makes his case, and I need to say up front that I appreciate both his conviction and his arguments. By all means, if you believe something is true, say it clearly, and Jay has done that. In this day of waffling and wishy-washy theology, we need more preachers who are direct in their speech, while remaining humble and loving in their instruction. Jay does that, and it’s very much appreciated.
Having said that, Jay quotes and examines many text as evidence of his position. Early on, the passage of Acts 22:16 is used to argue that baptism and the cleansing of sins are the exact same thing, and that was Paul’s understanding, according to Jay. Here is what Jay says between 6:21-8:09:
As Paul recalls his conversion near the end of Acts, you see he speaks plainly regarding baptism. Now, I’ve heard a few arguments regarding this saying that, well, when it says rise and be baptized and wash away your sins it’s talking about the washing away of sins and baptism as two separate things. You know, you wash away your sins by belief and then you’re baptized. But, basic understanding of language eliminates that possibility. The being baptized and the washing away of sins has to be one and the same thing. Consider, if I were to tell you to drive your car to the car wash and your car will be made clean. Alright, what is going to clean your car? Is it the carwash or is it the driving of the car? Well of course it’s the carwash. The washing is what is going to clean. Arise and be baptized, the word baptized, to wash, or some people would say to immerse, in water and wash away your sins, it’s clearly conjoined, it’s clearly a common thing. To say that the washing away of sins is belief and the being baptized is just the ceremony accompanying it – that makes zero sense; it’s an insult to language in general; it’s an insult to the Scripture itself to try to separate those things, because the Scripture is clear. I mean, I don’t know how much more clearly the apostle needed to speak: Arise and be baptized and wash away your sins. It’s crystal clear. It really is. (bold is mine)
Let’s look at this. Here’s the verse from the NASB, my Bible version of choice:
Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.
To be honest, there is not one English speaking Bible, that I’ve found anyway) that does justice to this verse. The closest to the original language I could find was J.B. Phillips translation of the New Testament, which reads:
And now what are you waiting for? Get up and be baptised! Be clean from your sins as you call on his name.’
Even here, we must look to the Greek to get a more accurate translation. In the Greek, there a couple of very important things to be noted.
First, the question, “Now what are you waiting for?” is a call to action. Paul is being told to literally arise, to get up from his present position. It doesn’t really matter if he is prostrate or sitting, he is being called to action. We find out what that action is to be in following: “Get up and be baptized.”
Secondly, it is important to note here that “be baptized” [ βάπτισαι ] is not passive. It is in the middle voice of the verb, literally meaning, cause yourself to be baptized (by someone else). The very next phrase, “be clean from your sins” is also in the middle voice, literally meaning cause yourself to be cleansed of your sins (by someone else).
Do not fail to get the importance of this brethren. Paul was to be baptized in the same sense that he was to be cleansed from his sins: by having another to do it! Just as another, a qualified man, was to baptize Paul, so must another, in this case, God, cleanse Paul of his sins.
Now, how is this cleansing from sin to take place? By baptism with water?
Not according to the Greek!
Look here at last sentence of the verse: “Be clean from your sins as you call on His name.” It’s close, but not entirely accurate enough.
In the phrase, “as you call on His name”, the Greek is: ἐπικαλεσάμενος. It is nom. s. masc. part. aorist 1, also middle voice. It is best translated, “having called”…upon His name, or, literally it says upon the name of the Lord.
A better rendering of this passage would be something like this based on our brief study of the original Greek language:
And now what are you waiting for? Get up from where you are and cause yourself to be baptized by someone who is qualified! Be clean from your sins having called on the name of the Lord.
The importance of this brief look at the Greek language in this text cannot be overemphasized.
Paul was called to take action, to get up and have someone baptize him. He was also instructed to have his sins washed away – how? – having called upon the Lord!
This is entirely in keeping with the teaching throughout Scripture, namely, that there is no cleansing or washing of sins apart from calling upon the Lord, in faith.
Those who teach baptismal regeneration cannot use this text as an anchor for their doctrine without ignoring the Greek text. What the text here actually does, is reveal the teaching of baptismal regeneration as the error that it is.
Scripture everywhere and always – when the Greek is considered – teaches the same glorious truth that we as ministers must proclaim soundly and without hesitation, namely, that the indispensable prerequisite of baptism is a calling unto the Lord our God for cleansing of our sins, for salvation is of the Lord alone. In short, baptism and the cleansing of sins are not the same thing.
Acts 22:16 proves this. Paul is instructed to be baptized having called, that is emphatically after he has called upon the Lord for the cleansing of his sins. To declare that this verse shows clearly that baptism and cleansing of sin is the exact same thing, is to ignore the Greek, ignore the totality of Scriptural teaching, and to mislead many a soul into error.