Baptismal Regeneration describes the doctrine whereby a person is saved concurrent with their baptism in water. When it comes to refuting this idea, many Christians are surprised to find how on the day of Pentecost when the people asked what they must do to be saved, Peter replied, “Repent, and be baptized everyone one of you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins…” (Acts 2:37-38). This doctrine of baptismal regeneration which appears to be taught by example in Acts seems to be further supported in precept in 1 Peter 3:21 where the apostle describes baptism in saving terms – baptism now saves you! What does this mean? In light of these Scriptures can anyone say that baptism is merely symbolic?
The Westminster Confession Chapter 28 describes baptism in terms in keeping with its vital importance in the New Testament. Baptism is described as a sign and seal of the covenant of grace, or his ingrafting into Christ, of regeneration, of remission of sins… The sacraments of baptism (and the Lord’s Supper) are signs or symbols, in that they are something visual and powerless in themselves that point to an invisible powerful reality; however, they are more than merely symbols, but are an outward confirmation of the reality of our faith. It is like an engagement ring worn by a woman – though the ring is a symbol of her relationship, every time she looks at the ring, she finds an assurance there to confirm what she already knows.