Baptism and Ongoing Salvation
Is salvation an ongoing process? Most would agree yes, we are saved, being saved and we will be saved. All those tenses are spoken of in the scriptures concerning salvation. So I see no problem referring to it as a process. Lately, I have been studying Roman Catholic theology. Trying to get a good handle on the ins and outs of their ordo salutis. It was interesting to me to learn that Roman Catholics also believe salvation is ongoing. Not only that but justification and purification come from baptism.
“People often 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, “baptism … now saves you.” It does not do so by the water’s physical action but through the power of Jesus Christ’s Resurrection, 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.”1
The way I understand justification and purification has always been through Christ. Through my mystical union with Him.
“This union may be defined as that intimate, vital, and spiritual union between Christ and His people, in virtue of which He is the source of their life and strength, of their blessedness and salvation. That it is a very intimate union appears abundantly from the figures that are used in Scripture to describe it. It is a union as of the vine and the branches, John 15:5, as of a foundation and the building that is reared on it, 1 Pet. 2:4, 5, as of husband and wife, Eph. 5:23–32, and as of the head and the members of the body, Eph. 4:15, 16. And even these figures fail to give full expression to the reality. It is a union that passes understanding. Says Dr. Hodge: “The technical designation of this union in theological language is ‘mystical,’ because it so far transcends all the analogies of earthly relationships, in the intimacy of its connection, in the transforming power of its influence, and in the excellence of its consequences.”1 If the discussion of this aspect of the mystical union is taken up first of all in the ordo salutis, it should be borne in mind (a) that it would seem to be desirable to consider it in connection with what precedes it, ideally in the counsel of redemption, and objectively in the work of Christ; and (b) that the order is logical rather than chronological. Since the believer is “a new creature” (2 Cor. 5:17), or is “justified” (Acts 13:39) only in Christ, union with Him logically precedes both regeneration and justification by faith, while yet, chronologically, the moment when we are united with Christ is also the moment of our regeneration and justification.”2
Catholics have condemned protestants for rejecting the teaching that righteousness and purification have come through baptism
“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 this causes 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 baptize 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” (cf. 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.” 3
But is the Catholic consistent? If our sanctification depended on our baptism and sanctification is ongoing baptism itself should be constant. No Catholic continues to be baptized. By not practicing baptism often they by their actions declare their righteousness and their purification to be a once and for all act. If baptism now saves and we need to continue to be saved, we need to be baptized continually. The logic is inescapable. If by baptism you are forgiven, saved, made righteous and that must continue so should your baptism.
Honestly, I think if a person has faith that he is purified in water baptism then he is indeed purified. If the person does not believe he is purified he is not. Regardless the water is a symbol of purification and one can be purified in water baptism. Water baptism is just one side of the coin. The spiritual side of the coin is that by faith we are united to Christ, justified, adopted, regenerated, sanctified and eventually glorified. It is no longer I who lives but Christ who lives in me. I am not righteous, but when I Abide in Him, I am justified. God has begun the work and will finish the job for those who Abide. We are to work out our salvation and do so in such a manner not to be disqualified. It is he who endures till the end that will be saved. Thank God it is He who works in me to will and act according to His purpose.
On that note, I think ongoing baptism to prepare our hearts for the soon return of our master is a great thing. Oh, what a blessing to those who have faith ongoing baptism purifies and prepares us for the coming of our Lord and Savior Yeshua. Not as though we forget that the kingdom is now, here in our mist. Ongoing baptism of repentance should be practiced often like communion. It also unites us to Christ in the physical world. In the incarnation, the word of God came Spiritually and physically. Fully God and fully man. Peter says baptism now saves you. If salvation is an ongoing process so should the baptism that saves us. One must be purified by water and Spirit to see the kingdom. Johns baptism of repentance is different than Christian baptism or even baptism in the Spirit. Jesus is soon coming. Let us purify our hearts for our coming King. As a kingdom of priests let us go out and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Spirit. Let us bear fruit in keeping with repentance.
1The Essential Catholic Survival Guide: Answers to Tough Questions about the Faith. (2005). (p. 233). San Diego, CA: Catholic Answers.
2Berkhof, L. (1938). Systematic theology (pp. 449–450). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans publishing co.
3The Essential Catholic Survival Guide: Answers to Tough Questions about the Faith. (2005). (pp. 234–235). San Diego, CA: Catholic Answers.