Ian Hewitson, defending Norman Shepherd, insists that baptism is a point of transition from death to life. Though this transition does not happen only through baptism, “neither can it be restricted to regeneration (200).” Shepherd quotes John Murray in Christian Baptism:
Baptism is not an addendum to discipleship but that by which discipleship is consummated…Since discipleship is not consummated without baptism we must regard baptism as an indispensable mark of the church. The person who refuses baptism and declines the reproach of Christ, which it entails, cannot be received as a member of Christ’s body.
To the common and infantile charge that this appears Romish, Shepherd writes:
The position here advocated should not be confused with the sacramentalist doctrine of baptismal regeneration…Baptism is not to be construed here as the instrumental cause of our union with Christ, as in the Roman Catholic sense of ex opere operato. Union with Christ is accomplished not by virtue of baptism but by virtue of the power of the Spirit.
For Shepherd, the Spirit is sovereign over the means of grace (205).