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THE WASHING OF REGENERATION

By Curtis Pugh

 

            Paul penned a very interesting statement about salvation. He wrote: “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life,” (Titus 3:5-7). In this text we notice several things. Salvation is not of works. Salvation comes by the mercy of God. Salvation comes by the renewing work of the Holy Spirit – that is, the birth from above or being “born again.” Part of this salvation is justification – being viewed as righteous in God's eyes by grace. And finally Paul concludes that we shall inherit eternal life in fulfillment of our hope – our faith towards the future. 

            In addition to these things, Paul mentioned “the washing of regeneration.” More literally he said the “bath of regeneration.” Some folk, every time they see a word related to water in the Bible jump to the conclusion that it refers to baptism. Folks, it just ain't so! A little reminder of high school English will settle the matter as to what the phrase “the washing of regeneration” means. Remember gerunds? A gerund can be spotted by the ending “ing.” A gerund is a verb that acts as a noun. In our text, “washing” is a gerund - a noun. Remember prepositional phrases? Propositional phrases modify nouns. In our text “of regeneration” is a propositional phrase. Prepositional phrases are made up of a proposition followed by a noun and perhaps some modifiers like “a” or “the.” In our text “of regeneration” is a propositional phrase that modifies the noun “washing.” What does the propositional phrase tell us about the noun “washing”? It tells us that it is regeneration that washes. It is regeneration that bathes. The phrase “the washing of regeneration” does not mean, cannot mean, that baptism regenerates.

            The very nature of baptism will not allow for the idea that baptism regenerates or has anything to do with the new birth. It is a righteous act (see Matthew 3:15). Therefore baptism  is a work. Paul, in our text wrote: “Not by works of righteousness which we have done...” Salvation is either by works or by the mercy/grace of God. You cannot have it both ways. That principle is set forth by Paul in Romans 11:6: “And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.” Grace and works, like oil and water, will not mix. Grace means unmerited favor – God's favor as a gift. Works demands payment and a payment is not a gift. And so both English grammar and the context of the phrase “the washing of regeneration” will not allow any idea of baptism having anything to do with regeneration or salvation. “Ye must be born again.”

 


Grace Bible Baptist Church
26080 Wax Road
Denham Springs, LA 70726

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