The apostle Paul described salvation “by grace you have been saved through faith” (Eph 2:8 ESV). This is truly the core of Christian teaching about salvation. However, where is the death, burial, and resurrection in the salvation plan of evangelicals? The saving gospel is the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ (1 Cor 15:1–4). Why do so many evangelicals separate being born again from the believer’s death, burial, and resurrection with Christ?
Regeneration and Jesus’s Resurrection
When God saves the believer from death in sin, God raises that person alive with Christ (Eph 2:4–7). This is regeneration when one is born again through the resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Pet 1:3). This is God’s grace in the power of the resurrection for the believer’s salvation. According to Jesus, regeneration is to lose one’s life to find it (Luke 9:24). Regeneration is essential to salvation.
Many evangelicals overlook scriptures demonstrating that God must raise believers from burial with Christ (Col 2:12–13). How can anyone profess contrary to Scripture that they were saved without being buried into Christ’s death and raised alive with Him (Rom 6:1–7)? How can anyone confess Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” without God raising them in Christ?
Evangelicals do confess that the Gospel is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ by which believers are saved (1 Cor 15:1–4). However, most place regeneration before faith and, or simultaneous with faith, and yet before one appeals to God for a good conscience. While they confess that the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation, evangelicals must recognize that believers must conform to Christ’s death for God to raise each believer to the newness of life (Rom 6:3–8; cf. Phil 3:10–11).
The Moment of Regeneration
Why then do many evangelicals not teach that the believer must die and be buried with Christ for God to resurrect the believer into a new life? God does the work of raising the believer from burial in baptism into the newness of life. The apostle Paul recorded, “having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead” (Col 2:12). God raises the believer with Christ through faith. Regeneration is passive for the believer and active for God. God does the regenerating, and likewise, God raises the believer with Christ from baptism. Baptism is passive for the believer, and God does the work. No scripture refers to baptism as a work.
Without God raising the believer with Christ, that person is not regenerated to life, and that believer has not received the forgiveness of all sins. The apostle Paul further declared, “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses,” (Col 2:13). Why do so many evangelicals not openly recognize that being raised with Christ in baptism is when one is forgiven of all sins? The salvation process of Ephesians 2:4–10 aligns with its sister passage of Colossians 2:12–14. The working is of God. Baptism does not merit salvation, but God works through baptism.
Do evangelicals really believe that Jesus rose from the dead? The Scriptures show that Jesus died in order that each believer must die to one’s sins, and that by being buried with Christ, the believer then rises with Him and is forgiven of all of one’s sins. Jesus declared, “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it” (Luke 9:24). Why then do so many evangelicals avoid believing that God saves the believer when one dies, is buried, and resurrected with Christ?
Regeneration and Baptism in Jesus’s Name
Salvation by faith without Jesus’s death, burial, and resurrection is a misleading and dangerous teaching. How can anyone who believes in the resurrection of Jesus Christ overlook that one is saved when the believer rises with Jesus Christ? Why place baptism after salvation when the early church declared that Jesus revealed, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16)? Why place baptism after salvation? Did Christ? Why did the Pharisees reject baptism in the Gospels (Luke 7:30; 20:1–8)?
If anyone believes in salvation through conforming to Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection, would that person not instruct immediate baptism upon confession of faith and repentance? Were not the converts of the Book of Acts all baptized immediately? Why baptize immediately if baptism can wait another day? “And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name” (Acts 22:16). Can evangelicals proclaim the Gospel as Peter instructed, “And Peter said to them, ‘Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.'” (Acts 2:38)?
Baptism is an appeal and call to God for forgiveness and salvation by which God works by raising the believer from death into life by Jesus’s resurrection (Col 2:12–13; 1 Pet 1:3). This baptism is the one baptism (Eph 4:5). When Jesus rose from the dead, He established baptism in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Matt 28:19). This baptism is the one baptism in Jesus’s name that Peter taught on the Day of Pentecost after Jesus’s ascension (Acts 2:38). Baptism in Jesus’s name is water baptism (Acts 10:47–48). This is the one baptism (Eph 4:5; cf. 5:26). This is the baptism taught in 1 Corinthians 12:13 when the believer is baptized into one body, the church, by the one Spirit (cf. “body” in Eph 5:23; Col 1:18, 24). First Corinthians 1:11–13 shows that the baptism into the church is the baptism in Jesus’s name. Furthermore, 1 Corinthians 6:11 demonstrates that when the believer is washed is Jesus’s name then the Spirit sanctifies and justifies that person. Believers receive the gift of the Spirit upon baptism (Acts 2:38; cf. John 3:5; Titus 3:5). The Lord adds believers to His church at baptism, and yet many often vote and elect those who to add to their churches (Acts 2:41, 47).
Baptism and Jesus’s Resurrection
Evangelicals rightly confess “Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead” (Rom 10:9). How can an evangelical claim salvation before God has raised that believer to new life? Being born again is through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and baptism is also through the resurrection of Christ (2 Pet 1:3; 3:21). By placing salvation before the believer’s death, burial, and resurrection with Christ, many evangelicals are misapplying inspired words. The rebirth of the water and the Spirit does not exclude the baptism that Jesus commanded after His resurrection (John 3:5; cf. 1 Cor 6:11; Titus 3:5). Rising from the waters of baptism is the moment when God begets and regenerates the believer.
After His resurrection, Jesus commanded in Matthew 28:19, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Jesus preached, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matt 7:21; cf. Heb 5:9; Jas 2:24).
When will evangelicals confess as Christians that believer’s baptism is a conformation to the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ? Grace is “not of yourselves,” but salvation is in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ (1 Cor 15:1–4; Eph 2:8). Therefore, how can anyone boast of salvation that is not the result of Christ’s sacrifice and bodily rising to life (Eph 2:9)? To exclude baptism is to give one’s system of works precedence of God’s Word. Baptism does not merit salvation, but God does work salvation through baptism.
The plea of this article that no believer reject Jesus’s resurrection and miss the final resurrection. Everyone must rise with Christ from baptism to enter into the newness of life. Jesus expressed, “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me” (John 14:23).