Evangelicals continue to charge us with teaching "baptismal regeneration." I was accused of teaching this false doctrine while serving at Christ's Church of the Valley in Peoria, Arizona. Peter Strubhar, who was "second in command" at the time, called me to the worship center where he let me know in Christ's Church of the Valley did not teach baptismal regeneration.
I sat patiently listening to the charge. When he completed his remarks I said, "I don't believe in or teach the doctrine of water salvation or a works righteousness salvation." He countered with what his daughter, who was attending one of my CCV classes, told him about what I taught. Frankly, his daughter either reported what I taught inaccurately or she did not understand what I taught!
There are those in the Restoration Movement who believe there is some magical power in the water of baptism which washes away sin. All too many preachers and teachers are careless or do not understand the historic teaching within the movement. Still others are simply sloppy about the terminology used to communicate the place of immersion as it relates to salvation.
Let's be honest! A man is justified by faith apart from works. The works Paul speaks of in Romans and elsewhere are the works of the Law or works which, in and of themselves, have some merit which earns justification. According to Paul and James works demonstrate the nature, quality, and depth of one's faith. So James can say, "I will show you my faith by my works" (James 2:18). Paul says one's relationship with God, once established, results in works "God prepared for us to do" (Ephesians 2:10).
Christian baptism is not a work! It is, to be sure, a result of faith because it is commanded but it is nonetheless not a work. Baptism carries in it no merit to earn anything from God. Baptism is the response of one's conscience to God's design for establishing a relationship. Baptism does carry with it remarkable promises. It is the time, for example, when the believer is promised remission of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). It is the time when one "puts on Christ" (Galatians 3:27). It is the time when sins are washed away (Acts 22:16). According to Jesus, when baptism results in baptism salvation is assured (Mark 16:15, 16). Christian baptism is the time when God fulfills his promises to the individual who places his/her confidence in the shed blood of Christ. It is the blood of Christ which is applied by faith which saves. Faith carries with it the promise of salvation; baptism is the formal time when God fulfills his promise!
What then about confession and repentance? Those, too, are natural responses to God derived from faith in Christ!
Altogether too many preachers and teachers in the movement do not understand the truth of salvation by faith. It is, dare I say it, salvation by faith alone! Properly understood, however, genuine faith leads to resulting action--work or response! Work and response does not save; one responds because one has faith!
I predict the movement will continue to lose churches and preachers to evangelicalism as long as these important truths are misunderstood, mistaught, or misapplied.