A New Zealander writes, “I was wondering what statements of faith are held to by Churches of Christ. Down here they strike me as pretty odd. They believe in baptismal regeneration and consequently not in the baptism in the Spirit (which is what I call regeneration).”
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As a nondenominational fellowship of autonomous congregations (among whom I live and serve), Churches of Christ and Independent Christian Churches have no written creed or statement of faith, which results in wide diversity on a number of subjects. In the past, their preaching often focused more on water baptism and the external “marks of the true church” than on God’s gift of salvation and Christ’s finished atonement. However, they are presently rethinking long-held opinions regarding the precise relationship of water baptism to justification, the present-day ministry of the Holy Spirit and the existence of other Christians outside our own movement.
Some members of Churches of Christ talk as if they believe in baptismal regeneration, but most really do not, even when they refer to baptism as a “condition” of salvation. Although they do not always express it clearly, they generally believe that baptism is the occasion when one is saved by grace through faith, based on the sacrifice of Jesus. They do not believe that baptism accomplishes anything apart from faith and so they do not baptize infants.
In the past, Churches of Christ identified baptism in the Spirit with miraculous power and extraordinary spiritual gifts, and limited it to the Apostles at Pentecost and the gentiles at Cornelius’ house. That thinking is rapidly changing today. Many influential leaders in mainstream churches now appreciate the Spirit’s work in conviction, regeneration and the Christian life. Some of us hold that all the spiritual gifts are for today as well — under the sovereignty and timing of God — but that is still a minority view within this diverse nondenomination.