The doctrine of baptismal regeneration teaches that baptism is necessary for salvation. More
specifically, it teaches that a person is only “regenerated” or “saved” when he is baptised with
water. Advocates of this view usually teach four elements essential for salvation – belief,
repentance, confession and baptism. The common scripture texts used to argue this position
include Mark 16:16 and Acts 22:16. Is such a teaching tenable in the light of the Scriptures?

One principle we must uphold in Bible interpretation is that the Bible is the best interpretation of
itself. Scripture does not contradict Scripture. There are various passages of Scripture that teach
that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ Jesus alone. One such passage is
Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the
gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” There is also the teaching of Galatians
2:16, “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus
Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ,
and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” Finally,
there is the testimony of the well-loved John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his
only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting
life.” (Jn. 3:16) There is no mention of baptism as a requirement of salvation in these verses, but
faith alone in the Lord Jesus Christ.

The doctrine of baptismal regeneration does not square with the theology of the Scriptures. For
example, in the epistle to the Galatian Christians, Paul warned against the Judaizers who were
teaching that circumcision was necessary for one to be saved. Paul did not mince his words
against such a teaching, calling such a teaching “another gospel”, and warning that should any
preach another gospel other than that which was originally preached unto the Galatian Christians
from the Scriptures, let that person be accursed (Gal. 1:8-9). Why was it another gospel? Because
it teaches that faith alone does not save. Another additional work of circumcision is needed
before salvation can be obtained. If this is so, then salvation is no longer by grace (c.f. Rom. 4:4-
5), and this contradicts the gospel of Jesus Christ which teaches that salvation is by the grace of
God alone. Man does not contribute one stitch to his salvation in Christ (Spurgeon). Men who
bring in such doctrines are called “false brethren” by the Apostle Paul (Gal. 2:4).

The doctrine of baptismal regeneration is similar to the false gospel proclaimed by the Judaizers
in the Galatian church. In place of circumcision, we now have the declaration that one must be
baptised with water before he can be saved. This is an attack on the gospel of grace in Christ
Jesus, because it denies that the work done by Christ is complete and sufficient to save. One
needs to do his part to be baptised with water in order to be saved. This is in contradiction to the
Scriptural teaching of Sola Gratia – salvation by grace alone in Christ Jesus.

Moreover, baptismal regeneration implies that man can choose whether to be saved or not.
However, the Scripture declares that man is spiritually dead, and thus cannot respond to spiritual
things and save himself (c.f. Eph. 2:1-3; 1 Cor. 2:14). It is God who draws us to Himself (John
6:44). Salvation is of the Lord.

Lastly, consider the testimony of the malefactor who was crucified alongside the Lord Jesus
Christ. When he asked Christ, “Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy king-
dom” (Lk. 23:42), what was the reply of Christ? “Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be
with me in paradise.” (Lk. 23:43) The malefactor was not baptised. All that was needed of him
to enter the kingdom of heaven was faith in Christ.

What then does Christ mean when he declares, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved;
but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mk. 16:16)? Here, baptism is mentioned as a condi-
tion related to faith, but not as a requirement for salvation. The teaching here is that baptism with
water is necessary for obedience, for it signifies the inward reality of the believer, that he is
washed by the water of the Word. Those who genuinely believe in Christ ought to publicly con-
fess and identify themselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, “But what saith it? The word is nigh
thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; That if
thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God
hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto
righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith,

Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.” (Rom. 10:8-11)

The doctrine of baptismal regeneration is thus a false doctrine that flies against the heart of the
true gospel of Jesus Christ. It should be utterly rejected. We should separate ourselves from
those who teach so (Rom. 16:17; 2 Tim 2:16-21). Do not depart from the gospel of grace in
Jesus Christ.


During my recent readings, I came across the testimony of Dan Lucarini published in his book
“It’s Not About the Music: A Journey Into Worship”. Dan Lucarini was formerly a
contemporary worship leader. However, by the grace of God, he came to know the truth of the
Scriptures and left the Contemporary Christian Music movement. He has since written about
how the Lord led him to a more scriptural understanding of worship.

One of the chapters in this book deals with laments of how the hymnal is rapidly being
displaced by churches. I too am concerned that conservative churches are beginning to sing
songs that depart from the spirit of the time-proven hymns. We should be careful not to let this
happen in Tabernacle BPC.

The following are some quotations from the book.
From page 145:
“What happens when you do not have a hymnal? Your church is now at the whim of the
worship leader to select songs with words appropriate to the doctrine of your church. This is
problematic. A well-documented weakness of much modern worship music is the lyrical
content, conformed more to the style of the music than anything else…

“A hymnal on the other hand is a faithful guardian and container of a church’s doctrine. A
hymnal is the product of a long and serious process undertaken by a group of musicians and
theologians who are carefully chosen for their faithfulness to Christian doctrine, their
knowledge of the congregations, and their sensibilities for what constitutes good sacred music
as opposed to pop music. Because of the care and caution put into a good hymnal, you can trust
it far more than you could ever trust any worship leader.”

From page 147:“A music minister who has the hymnal at his disposal will be influenced to choose music first
from a reliable and trusted source, and then look more carefully for new songs. I argue this will
preserve far more diversity in our Christian praise, by encouraging a balance of songs from
across many centuries of Christian experience.”

From page 149:
“The pastor who claims that he will rigorously examine every modern worship song before
allowing its use in his church takes on a terrible burden that will detract from his time preparing
messages, discipling the flock, and doing the work of an evangelist. I think that pastor means
well, but in practice he delegates this to a worship leader who is less qualified to defend the
faith and the flock.

“When we throw out the hymnals, we also throw out God-given protections against doctrinal
drift, heresy and shocking musical worldliness. We turn over the musical catechism of our
children to an ecumenical music industry driven by the worst fashions and lust of this present

The function of song in music is taught in Colossians 3:16 – “Let the word of Christ dwell in
you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and
spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” The worship service is not a
concert. We must never lose this focus in our congregational singing – the choir especially. May
the Lord grant us understanding in this matter.

Yours affectionately,
Pastor Clement Chew