Standing Up to Baptism Bullies

I can’t stand bullies.  They pick on those who are different and treat them as less important.  We’re all made in God’s image and deserve equal dignity.  It’s time to stand up to theological bullies who shove baptism around and treat it as less important than faith and repentance.  

“It’s important,” the bullies say, “But not necessary.  After all, Ephesians 2:8-9 says, ‘For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.’ Baptism is a work, therefore it’s not necessary for salvation.”

Why is baptism treated differently than faith and repentance?  Why is baptism a work, but belief and repentance aren’t?

Jesus calls faith a work.  He was asked point blank: “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?” (John 5:28).  His response wasn’t, “Sorry, there are no works you can do, you just have to stand there and do absolutely nothing and God will save you.”  Nope.  “Jesus answered and said to them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” (John 5:29).  In fact, the work of belief was so important, Jesus later said, “Unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.” (John 8:24).

Faith is something we have to do.  Unless we do the work of believing in Jesus, we’ll be lost!  Salvation can never be earned or deserved, but it’s also not magically transposed on us while we’re asleep.  We have to actively do something by believing!  If both baptism and belief are works, why would Ephesians 2:8-9 disqualify baptism, but not belief?

How about repentance?  Is that a work we have to do to be saved?  Absolutely!  Jesus said in Luke 13:3, “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”  In Acts 2:38, Peter said, “Repent, and each one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.”  Now, here’s what baptism bullies do with Acts 2:38.  They change the meaning of the word “and,” shove baptism to a lower rung of importance, and reinterpret Peter to mean, “Repent for the forgiveness of sins (so now you’re saved), then get baptized after you’re saved.”  Wow.  Really?  How can people belittle baptism so much?  And how is baptism a work, but repentance is not?

How about the “Sinner’s prayer?”  Ironically, most who are anti-baptism are pro-“Sinner’s prayer.”  How is baptism a work but saying a sinner’s prayer isn’t?

The truth is, everything we do in response to what God has done is a work.  Faith, repentance, confessing Jesus as Lord (Romans 10:9-10), baptism, and remaining faithful are all things we must do to be saved (Matthew 10:22).  If Ephesians 2 disqualifies baptism, everything else we do for salvation is disqualified too.

But the point of Ephesians 2 isn’t to tell us we don’t have to do anything to be saved.  That doesn’t fit the context at all.  Paul’s point is to explain the source of our salvation, who it’s “of.”  It’s not “of yourself.”  If it was, we could boast!  It’s by grace as the “gift of God.”  We can’t boast in anything we do for salvation because we are not the source.

We are not the source of our salvation; Jesus is.  Our faith isn’t the source of our salvation; Jesus is.  Repentance isn’t the source of our salvation; Jesus is.  Baptism isn’t the source; Jesus is.  I’ve never heard anyone boast in their faith, repentance, or baptism. “God owes me Heaven now because I put in the work of believing, repenting, and being baptized!”  How absurd!

Faith, repentance, and baptism would be pointless and powerless without God’s gracious kindness toward us in Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:7).  We would be pointless and powerless without His grace, because we’d still be “dead in our sins.” (Eph. 2:1).

However, Ephesians 2 does help us see how to access that grace.  We access it “through faith.”  Faith is what we have to do/have to access Jesus’ salvation.  But that’s not the only verse on the subject.  The passages we mentioned above say we need repentance, confession, and baptism to access it too.  Those all work together with our faith, so that our faith is perfected (James 2:22).

Sometimes bullies just need to be reminded of the importance of their victims.  Baptism is so important, you can’t be saved without it.  In the New Testament church, salvation always came after baptism, not before it.  “He who believes and is baptized shall be saved” (Mark 16:16a). “Repent, and each of you be baptized 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).  “Those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls.” (Acts 2:41). “Now why do you delay?  Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.” (Acts 22:16). “Baptism now saves you — not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience — through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 3:21).

Bullies won’t like this.  Objections will come.  “What about the thief on the cross?” Sorry, baptism wasn’t instituted for salvation until Acts 2.  “Those verses are talking about spiritual baptism, not water baptism.”  Sorry, Paul says there’s only “one baptism” in Ephesians 4:5.  Ask the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8:39 which baptism Paul was referring to, water or spiritual.  “Isn’t baptism just a public display of the fact that you’ve already been saved?” Nope, salvation comes after baptism in the New Testament, not before.  “Aren’t we saved by faith alone?”  No, the only verse with the words “faith alone” says we’re not saved by faith alone (James 2:24).

I’ll tell the baptism bullies what Jesus told Paul when he was bullying His people. “Why are you persecuting Me?  It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” (Acts 26:14).  Why continue persecuting baptism?  Why continue fighting against the crystal clear passages about baptism, desperately twisting the verses with verbal gymnastics?  Why not just give in and obey the Lord Jesus?

Have you been baptized for the forgiveness of your sins?  If not, why do you delay?

Disclaimer:  I approached this article from the bully angle, but I realize you may disagree with me yet not actually be a baptism bully.  If so, I’m not trying to bully you and I’d love to discuss this further with you in the comments section below.  I’ve just dealt with so many baptism bullies over the years I felt the need to take a stand.

15 thoughts on “Standing Up to Baptism Bullies”

  1. I just had this conversation with a pastor at a Christian Church in town. He is a firm believer in baptismal regeneration. I am not. But, having said that, I acknowledge that the Scripture does support such a position, I just believe the antithesis is supported more strongly (if that makes any sense). Baptism is crucial for anyone claiming to follow Jesus. To refuse would cause me to question the sincerity of their claim. Having said that, my definition of salvation, as I understand it from Scripture, doesn’t seem to require the action of baptism. Salvation seems to be dependent upon God’s action, sometimes through His Spirit, sometimes through other forms of communication. The text I use to illustrate this is one often used by those who believe in baptismal regeneration, Acts 10, Cornelius and his household.

    In that text, the question I throw out to people is, “when was Cornelius saved? At what point in the account?” This gets at how the reader defines salvation. I define it as “the state of being in an active, positive relationship with our Creator”. The problem of covenant violations is separation from God, the day Adam and Eve ate of the fruit they died, the dialogue with God ceased, and the work of our Creator through His revelation of Himself in the accounts of Scripture has been to reforge that connection with Him. If the problem fixed by salvation is connection with our Creator, then the state of being saved must be a vibrant connection with Him.

    So, again, when was Cornelius saved? Well, from my definition, it would seem that he actually begins the story in that state. Look at what the angel tells him, “Your prayers have been heard and your alms have been accepted.” Cornelius’ awareness of God may not have been great, but he was certainly connected from God’s perspective. Yeah, it’s a reach, and I’m pretty much alone in that interpretation, but I’m used to it (we can swap bully stories some time).

    But what about Cornelius’ household? When were they saved? Well, let’s see, Peter arrives, and gives what some consider his worst sermon ever (preachers take note – it’s not about you after all, who knew?), and it says, “While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message.” (Acts 10:44) Regardless of how you define the “state of being saved”, this is hard to claim they didn’t have a relationship with God if the Holy Spirit comes upon them in the same way He did the believers on Pentecost. In fact, most everyone who studies this passage agrees that the purpose of the Holy Spirit coming upon these people in this way was to affirm that God has accepted them just as He had Jews who believe. Well, doesn’t that mean they’re saved? Because if it does, then look at the response of Peter and the circumcised ones with him:

    “All the circumcised believers who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. For they were hearing them speaking with tongues and exalting God. Then Peter answered, “Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?” And he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to stay on for a few days.” (Acts 10:45-48 NASB)

    So, my question is, were they baptized before or after they were in a relationship with God?

    It’s not hard to disagree with my interpretation if your definition of the state of being saved differs. And you’re free to do so, obviously. I do hope you are perhaps better able to appreciate the view of those who disagree on this point. I certainly appreciate your view, and have no trouble admitting that Scripture does seem to support both views, but only to a point, and on that point of divergence, I choose the other one from you.

    May your “bullies” also learn to be more accepting. Because I too have run into some rather rabid opponents to your view. One actually said that your view is “preaching a different gospel”, clearly not appreciating your Scriptural basis. For me, it’s more like the discussion of “once-saved-always-saved”, on which topic I can skillfully argue both sides (and find it very entertaining to do so. People seriously panic when you do that, especially in the same conversation).

    Anyway, thank you for the post, and the opportunity to discuss. I hope you are blessed by our Master in your ministry before Him! Blessings upon you!

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    1. Hey Matt! Thanks so much for your response, I can tell you’ve thought a lot about this and that you’re serious about your knowledge of the Scriptures. To get right to your question, when was Cornelius saved, before or after baptism? Certainly after. Here are a couple reasons why I say that: 1) You made the claim that Cornelius was already saved before the whole thing started because of Acts 10:4 where God heard his alms and prayers. My follow up question would be, if Cornelius was already saved, why did God send Peter to him? Why did Peter need to preach the gospel to Cornelius if he was already saved? To prove this point, check out Acts 11:13-14 – “Send to Joppa and have Simon, who is also called Peter, brought here; and he will speak words to you by which you will be saved, you and all your household.” If Cornelius was already saved, why did Peter need to speak words to him by which he may be saved? 2) Would you agree that in proper Bible interpretation, clear Bible texts have to help interpret ambiguous texts? Acts 10 doesn’t say Cornelius was saved after the Holy Spirit came upon him miraculously. All it says is that he was able to speak in tongues. The Holy Spirit all throughout Scripture (even back in the OT) fell on people and gave them miraculous ability, but it didn’t mean they were saved. Think about Samson who was really wicked, yet God would send His Spirit to give him the miraculous power to destroy 1,000 men with the jawbone of a donkey (I do realize he repented later). In Acts 10, the text doesn’t say at what point Cornelius was saved. It’s ambiguous. However, other very clear passages teach that we’re not saved until we’re baptized. So to me those verses clarify Acts 10. What happens is, God sends the Holy Spirit to give miraculous tongue speaking ability to Cornelius and his household NOT to show they’re saved, but as a SIGN to Peter and the others that God has made salvation available to the Gentiles. Remember, the Jews needed a LOT of convincing on that; they needed God to show them this sign to make it very clear salvation was available for the Gentiles. Since Peter and those with him saw that God had now opened the door for Gentiles to be saved, what was the logical next step? Let’s save them by baptizing them in water! In fact, this interpretation squares well with how Peter describes it to the brethren in Jerusalem in Acts 11. In Acts 11:15-18 Peter says the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as it did upon US. Who’s the “us?” It’s not all those who were baptized in Acts 2. It’s the apostles. Just as the Holy Spirit came upon the apostles in Acts 2, NOT to save them, but to give them miraculous ability to speak in tongues to authenticate that their message was from God. So too, the Holy Spirit came upon Cornelius and his household, NOT to save them, but to give them miraculous ability to speak in tongues to authenticate that “God has granted the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life.” (Acts 11:18). The Holy Spirit operates in different ways in the Scripture. He is the power, life, and character of God. Sometimes He operates, not to give new spiritual life, but just to empower people with the power of God. That’s what happened to Cornelius and his household. However, Peter says it’s only those who repent and are baptized that receive the spiritual life giving gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). As Christians saved by Jesus and washed from our sins in the waters of baptism, we have access to all 3: the power, life, and character of God through the Spirit who dwells within us.

      What do you think Matt?

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      1. Great response, and you answered my question, even if obliquely. So, for your understanding of Scripture, the “state of being saved” does not equal a active positive relationship with their Creator. Which is fine, but consider elements of your response. You mention Samson as an example of someone who, with the Spirit of God upon him, slays 1,000 men, as if those two things are opposed. A careful study of Samson should reveal that, instead, it was was the Spirit of God upon Samson that drove him to slay the 1,000. If you look at Samson’s life, killing isn’t something he enjoys and does for fun, it’s something God drives him to. When, under his own ability, he uses foxes through fields. When under the Spirit of God, he kills. Samson was God’s weapon on the Philistines, and in that role, God used him to judge his fellow Israelites. How would God use him that way if he wasn’t in a relationship with God? We’re not talking about an enemy used by God to punish His people, we’re talking about a man used by God to deliver His people. Judges is full of the roughest examples of humanity used by God to do extraordinary things, and to do them in His service. So, I would contend that Samson was, in fact, saved.

        Your point about the speaking in tongues being a sign to the Jews (circumcised) is not only valid, it’s really the only interpretation that makes sense. Chances are good that, within a Gentile population the size of Cornelius’ household, there were many languages represented, so why tongues when it wasn’t really needed, as on the day of Pentecost.

        But your statement about Cornelius point of salvation is really stretching. To think that the Holy Spirit would “fall” on people who have no relationship with Him only to make a point to a third party is kind of weak. What about what such an experience meant to the members of the household themselves? You mentioned that it was a sign to the Jews that the Gentiles were accepted. Well, what is more a statement about the state of being saved than our acceptability before God? When we are acceptable before God, are we not saved? Are you saying unsaved, those who know but don’t follow God, are acceptable to Him?

        Now keep in mind that I’m approaching this topic from the point of view of the “state of salvation” moving backward to how someone gets there. You seem to me to be moving from the point of view of not being saved, into how to get into that state. But stopping short of defining the state itself. So, I’ll ask you, what does it mean to be saved? Not, how do you get there, but what does it mean to be there? Then look for examples of people in Scripture who seem to be there, and see how they got there. And as a warning, be sensitive to the 2,000+ years, and even more miles, of cultural difference. You can’t judge those in Scripture by 21st Century cultural ethics. In fact, you’d find it difficult to judge Old Testament people by New Testament ethics, as the cultural situation is vastly different between the two sets of characters.

        Let’s compare paths, once you’ve thought yours through. Thanks again for the push back, you really make good points, and the one from chapter 11, about Peter going so Cornelius could be saved is interesting, and I do have an answer. But I’ll save it for next time, because I think it will make more sense to you once you’ve worked backwards.

        Blessings upon you and your ministry!

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  2. Hey Matt, thanks for another response! And thanks for not bullying me haha. I probably wasn’t as clear as I could have been on my Samson point. My point was that God sending His Spirit on someone wasn’t always an indicator that they had just been saved. In the Old Testament, God would send His Spirit on people for different purposes: sometimes to give them miraculous strength (as in Samson’s case), sometimes to give people miraculous talents (as in Exodus 31:3 and the building of the tabernacle), sometimes to speak in tongues (as in Saul’s case in 1 Samuel 10:6). So to say that the Holy Spirit falling on Cornelius to give them the miraculous ability to speak in tongues meant they were saved doesn’t necessarily follow.

    However, just for the sake of argument, let’s say Cornelius WAS saved by the Holy Spirit falling on them before water baptism. Wouldn’t Cornelius’s family and the apostles be the only ones in the New Testament that experienced that? Wasn’t everyone else told to be baptized and THEN they would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). My point is, even if we believe the apostles and Cornelius were saved before baptism, clearly those were exceptional cases that applied to no one else we read of, so I wouldn’t use Cornelius’ method of salvation as a model for our own today. But again, that’s just for argument’s sake. I still don’t believe they were saved until they were baptized in water.

    As for the definition of salvation, it would be the condition of being in a right relationship with God through Christ Jesus. We must be in Christ, or a “Christ”ian. Paul says we put on Christ and enter into Christ in baptism in Galatians 3:27. “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” It sounds like we agree on the definition of salvation; an active positive relationship with the Creator. We just disagree on how to enter into that active positive relationship.

    To clarify, when I said the tongues were a sign the Gentiles were accepted, I didn’t mean a sign they were saved. But a sign that God had opened access to salvation in Christ for them. Jews didn’t think Gentiles could be saved without becoming Jews and submitting themselves to circumcision and the Law of Moses. In Acts 10, Peter and the rest of the Jews with him learned, “God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him.” (Acts 10:34-35). Do you see? Cornelius is now welcome to come to God through Christ, so Peter preaches the gospel to Him. Cornelius was a God-fearing man, which is why God sent Peter to show him the path to take for salvation.

    As to what it means to be in a state of salvation, it has always been the case that those who have obedient faith in God can be in right relationship with God. And I agree with you, depending on which covenant we’re talking about, that obedience would look a little different. Under the Old Covenant, if you had faith in God, that meant you would follow the Law of Moses. Under the New Covenant, if you have faith in God, that means you follow the teachings of Jesus and His inspired apostles and prophets. Since we’re under New Covenant times, we follow Jesus and the apostles’ teachings about baptism being necessary for salvation.

    Looking forward to your thoughts!

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    1. Sorry it’s taken so long to respond. I’m having issues with WordPress, but I’m figuring it out. I’m going to skip the first part of your response right now to focus on the second part, what it means to be saved.

      Great definition there, “…the condition of being in a right relationship with God through Christ Jesus.” Well said. Now, think of Paul. He has an encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus. And winds up blind in some guys back room, fasting and praying. A disciple, Ananias, shows up on God’s instructions. Several things happen in that encounter between the two, including Baptism. And yet, whenever this Paul writes of salvation in his letters, rarely, if ever (and that’s debatable), does he mention baptism. Why, if what “cinched the deal” was his immersion, isn’t that more central to his teaching?

      In all of Romans, baptism is only referenced in response to living in sin after salvation. The entire letter, citing Paul’s theology to the highest detail, and that’s the only reference. How can that be if he believed baptism to be crucial to salvation?

      In 1 Corinthians it becomes even more suspect that, for Paul, baptism was a salvation issue. In chapter 1, the issue for baptism is clearly an identification with someone, the one who baptized them, rather than salvation. In fact, Paul says very unequivocally, that “…Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void. For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (1 Cor. 1:17-18 NASB).” For Paul, it seems the cross takes precedence over the practice of baptism in a discussion of salvation.

      Along further in Corinthians, Paul says that the “one baptism” you mention before is done by the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13), which doesn’t fit well with a “water immersion” practice. At least, it would be a stretch to claim that the Spirit baptizes the person in water, I would think.

      Honestly, I think Galatians 3:27 could be interpreted to either side of this discussion. In context, I could see it supporting your point or mine. Since I don’t see it more strongly on one side or the other, I’ll leave it at that.

      In Ephesians, where we find the reference you made before about one baptism, the context is, again, about spiritual gifting. So, since the contexts are similar, it seems to better fit the same sort of reference to one baptism Paul made in 1 Corinthians 12:13. Which is not exactly salvation but gifting after salvation, or, at least not water baptism.

      Lastly, in Colossians 2, the context can be argued to use this reference to baptism for either side. Having said that, the added detail here as opposed to Galatians, in my opinion, makes a stronger case for baptism not being a requirement for salvation. The practice of baptism is tied to the practice of circumcision. Paul doesn’t do that elsewhere. In the early period of the Roman Catholic Church, this reference was used to support infant baptism, since, for Jews, infants were circumcised. But if that’s the connection for Paul, then, in the same way circumcision isn’t necessary for salvation (or even to be a Jew – see his treatment of Timothy in Acts), then this can’t support a position that baptism is necessary for salvation. In fact, if Paul believed that, why make this connection that would argue against it.

      So, Paul’s references to baptism aren’t very clearly tied to salvation. But notice his clear references to salvation do not include baptism. I won’t go through them all, but even a cursory survey of them demonstrates this is true:

      One that I think summarizes the others is in Romans 10. In Paul’s discussion about the place of Israel in relation to Jesus and Gentiles (Romans 9 through 11), Paul makes a very important claim:

      For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. For Moses writes that the man who practices the righteousness which is based on law shall live by that righteousness. But the righteousness based on faith speaks as follows: “DO NOT SAY IN YOUR HEART, ‘WHO WILL ASCEND INTO HEAVEN?’ (that is, to bring Christ down), or ‘WHO WILL DESCEND INTO THE ABYSS?’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).” But what does it say? “THE WORD IS NEAR YOU, IN YOUR MOUTH AND IN YOUR HEART “– that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. (Romans 10:4-10 NASB)

      Notice, the references to Deuteronomy 30, are reference to the very law that no longer are the basis for righteousness. But clearly Paul is saying that this is the word of faith which he preaches. In other words, the familiar statement about being saved (Romans 10:9,10), for Paul, is an explanation of the words of God in Deuteronomy 30. In which passage, God makes an often ignored statement:

      “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, by loving the LORD your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him; for this is your life and the length of your days, that you may live in the land which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.” (Deuteronomy 30:19-20 NASB)

      Notice that God defines life as “…loving the LORD your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him, for this is your life and the length of your days,…” I think that, this is a pretty good summary statement about your and my definition of the state of salvation, living in a right relationship with God. Paul adds the following: “That if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved”. Notice the complete absence of a reference to immersion in water. If that were so vital that salvation would be impossible without it, why would it be so conspicuously absent?

      I’m running out of time and need to get to work. But I have a whole lot of other passages to use. In the meantime, I’ll let you take this break in the conversation and weigh in on what I have so far.

      I sure am enjoying this, and I hope you are as well. You have some really good points, and are challenging me to seriously think through what I believe. I’m not ready to budge on my position, but I am really enjoying the exercise.

      I hope you and your ministry are blessed by our Master and Savior, Jesus!

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  3. Hey Matt, thanks again for getting back to me, and no worries about the delay. I will admit to you though, I’m concerned you are doing exactly what I warned about in my article. Instead of the rhetorical dance, why not just stick to the plain reading of the text in context?

    For instance, you’re claiming that if baptism really was necessary, Paul would have written about it more. Isn’t that a subjective argument? How many times would Paul have to write about it for it to convince you it was necessary? You say he mentions it in Romans “only as a reference to living in sin after salvation.” Exactly! That they were baptized for salvation was an obvious point! He didn’t have to explain that it was necessary for salvation; they already knew, which is why they were baptized in the first place. Paul’s argument in Romans 6 is rhetorical, based on the fact that they understand the importance of baptism. “How is it that you who were baptized (or saved), are now living in sin? Don’t you know that when you were baptized you died to sin by joining the death and resurrection of Christ?”

    In 1 Corinthians 1, what’s going on in the immediate context? They’re bragging about who baptized them (because they’re so worldly minded). “I was baptized by Peter” and “I was baptized by Apollos.” Why was Paul grateful he baptized none of them except Crispus and Gaius? Not because baptism isn’t necessary for salvation. He gives the reason in v. 15 – “So that no one would say you were baptized in my name.” Likewise, in context, what does he mean by “Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel?” If we read that verse as an answer to the question, “Is baptism necessary for salvation?” we’re misusing the text. Paul did NOT write 1 Corinthians 1:17 to answer that question. He wrote it to explain that Jesus did not send Paul to be the person who has to do the baptizing. Jesus didn’t say, “Now Paul, it’s important for the quality of people’s Christianity that YOU are the one who baptizes them. Don’t let Peter or Apollos or anyone else do it, otherwise those Christians won’t be as high quality.” No. Paul wasn’t sent to be the designated baptizer; he was sent to teach people the gospel. Now, obviously Paul did still baptize people. He baptized Crispus and Gaius, but in the Corinthian’s case, he’s grateful he didn’t do more otherwise people would be bragging that they were superior because Paul baptized them.

    In 1 Corinthians 12:13, I’m not sure why this has to be the opposite of water immersion simply because it mentions the Holy Spirit. Those two are intimately connected in the New Testament. In Acts 2:38 it’s at the point of water baptism when we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Paul calls baptism a “washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit” in Titus 3:5. In Ephesians 4, I need some clairfication from you. How is the context of those verses “spiritual gifting?” I can see that subject starting in v. 7, but v. 1-6 is about preserving the unity of the Spirit. He mentions 7 aspects of oneness/unity. One body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father. How do any of those 7 things relate to “gifting after salvation”?

    You’ve also said that Paul’s references to baptism aren’t very clearly tied to salvation. I disagree. Galatians 3:27 says we’re baptized into Christ and have clothed ourselves with Christ. Asked in reverse, “If we’ve not clothed ourselves with Christ, how are we saved?” In Romans 6 Paul says baptism is a burial with Christ in which we raise to walk in newness of life. Asked in reverse, “If we’ve not died to our old selves and been raised to walk in newness of life, how are we saved?” In Colossians 2:11 (which you mentioned) Paul compares baptism to spiritual circumcision. In Genesis 17 God made circumcision the sign that His people were in covenant relationship with Him. Paul’s point is that baptism is the point at which we enter the new covenant relationship with him. Asked in reverse, “If we’ve not entered the new covenant with God, how are we saved?”

    In regard to Paul’s own conversion, Ananias told him, “Why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins.” (Acts 22:16a). Asked in reverse, “If Paul did not wash away his sins in baptism, how could he be saved?”

    Lastly, regarding Romans 10 and the absence of baptism, remember a couple things. 1) This is only one section of the entire letter of Romans. Paul already mentioned baptism in Romans 6 and assumed they understood it was for their salvation (dying to sin and raising to walk in newness of life). Romans 10 does not cancel out Romans 6. They must be considered together, along with the totality of Paul’s teachings on the subject of baptism in his other letters too. 2) Paul’s major argument in Romans is that salvation comes from faith in God, not on the basis of keeping the Law of Moses. He quotes Deuteronomy 30 to show the Jews, from their own Law, that salvation was NEVER on the basis of keeping the Law of Moses; it has always been on the basis of faith in God. If salvation were on the basis of law-keeping, they’d have to keep it perfectly, and that would be nearly impossible (I only say nearly because Jesus did it)! However, God’s point in Deuteronomy 30 is that salvation IS attainable. You don’t have to go up into Heaven to get it or descend into the abyss, it’s available and attainable as long as you do your best to love the Lord and obey Him in faith. (Interesingly, Romans 1:5 and 16:26 bookend the letter with “the obedience of faith.” That’s always what God has looked for in His people, no matter what covenant they’re under.)

    As you said, it’s the same way today for Christians. Salvation is by faith in Jesus Christ and NOT based on a system of law keeping. If it were, salvation would be nearly impossible to obtain. But we CAN be saved as long as we love the Lord, we believe the Lord, and obey the Lord to the best of our ability.

    Where you and I aren’t seeing eye to eye is that part of obeying the Lord and expressing our faith in Him under the New Covenant is to believe what He taught about the importance of water baptism. Being baptized is a part of us expressing our faith in God, and if we say we believe in God, but baptism isn’t necessary, we don’t really trust what He says about baptism. It’s not me trying to earn my salvation through a “work of the law,” it’s me walking by faith in the Lord who told me to do it to wash away my sins (Acts 22:16), receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38), to be saved (1 Peter 3:21), to be spiritually circumcised (Col. 2:11), to be buried and resurrected with Christ (Romans 6), to be regenerated and renewed by the Spirit (Titus 3:5), to clothe myself with Christ (Gal. 3:27), and to have my soul added to the church (Acts 2:41).

    I look forward to your thoughts Matt, thanks so much for being willing to explore these things with me!

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  4. Hey Matt, haven’t heard from you in a while man. If you’re still thinking about these things and need more time, no problem. Just want to make sure I didn’t say anything to discourage you from further conversation.

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  5. Okay, it’s not just me being stupid, WordPress is putting these under “conversations” in the reader section, and not under “notifications” (the top right “bell”). Sorry, again, for the delay. I’m pretty sure that whatever response you make I will have to find here.

    But enough whining about WordPress. First off, I don’t remember your reference to a “rhetorical dance” in your initial post. I don’t think my “dance” was wrong, and I don’t think your responses were out of line (I don’t agree with them, although that shouldn’t surprise you). I suppose that one of the fundamental differences between us, and why I have such a difficulty accepting anything “ergonomic” as part of salvation has to do with our understanding of “work”.

    If I’m not mistaken, and you wouldn’t be the first one I’ve heard this from, you seem to view repentance and baptism as the same category of activity on the part of a new convert. I see the difference between external and internal as important. That’s probably the initial point of diversion, and I think we wind up at the same place (i.e. living in a right relationship with God through Jesus) beyond that divergence very shortly. And that is another reason why I don’t understand people who are so vehemently against your view). I see the distinction of repentance as internal and baptism as external to be very important. It doesn’t sound as if you do.

    In the case of qualifications for salvation, I don’t think it takes a prayer, I don’t think it takes a demonstrated pattern of behavior, or some sort of “magic words”. On the other hand, to “confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord” seems to be an “external” action rather than internal. So, my view isn’t without problems. I can argue that this is somehow different from baptism as an external activity, but it would be pointless.

    What isn’t pointless, though, is that Paul doesn’t mention baptism in Romans 10. Nice try in pulling in every other reference of his to claim he didn’t need to right there, but I think you just won the “rhetorical dance” competition. I find it difficult to believe that you think no one knew that confession of Jesus as Lord was part of salvation, or that belief in the resurrection would be part. Paul clearly isn’t only including new information there, so that he leaves out baptism actually is important. And, while the list may not be “all-inclusive”, I believe leaving something like baptism off is not like Paul.

    On that note, your references to Paul’s use of baptism tied to salvation are interesting in that they would be descriptive of a person after salvation, not necessarily as a person enters that state. At least that’s my view from the standpoint of being a saved person who still sins and repents. I’m still being washed, still putting off the “old man”, still wrestling with my covenant failures with my Master, Jesus. I don’t think any of those are grounds for loosing my salvation (I still remember where it is, I didn’t leave it in my other pants). So, I’m not swayed at all by your connection of Paul’s use of baptism with salvation. Having said that, I don’t think your views are invalid, just not the way I interpret any of those.

    So, where are we? Are we “back to the drawing board”, or “agree to disagree”? I hope you can at least appreciate a view that doesn’t require baptism as required for salvation as a valid interpretation. I’d hate for you to wind up being the “bully”. I’m pretty sure I haven’t convinced you to change your view, but I hope you didn’t get the impression that was my goal either.

    I enjoy this sort of thing, so I’m happy to return to the drawing board. Blessings upon you!

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  6. Hey Matt glad to see you’re still alive and well ha. Okay here’s a concern I have about your arguments so far. They’re largely subjective. You say a lot about how you see things, how you understand/interpret things, but I’ve not really seen you deal with the Bible verses themselves.

    So for instance, what do you do with Acts 2:38 where baptism is said to be for the forgiveness of sins? Or 1 Peter 3:21a, “Baptism now saves you”? I’ve yet to hear you explain how the passages about baptism don’t mean what they say.

    Also, I understand you’re making a distinction between “external” vs. “internal” things being necessary for salvation, but the Bible doesn’t make that distinction. You already proved that when you admitted confession in Romans 10 is external. That doesn’t just give your view “problems.” It wrecks it completely, does it not?

    Regarding my “rhetorical dance,” I think you misunderstood my point about Romans 10. I did not say no one knew confession was necessary for salvation when Paul wrote Romans 10. My point was, the reason baptism wasn’t mentioned was because he already talked about baptism in Romans 6. To suggest he has to mention it again in Romans 10 in order for it to be necessary for salvation is pretty arbitrary. As a bonus point, Paul doesn’t mention repentance in Romans 10, so is repentance not necessary for salvation either? Romans 10 is clearly not an exhaustive list of everything necessary for salvation.

    I’m afraid we’re “back to the drawing board” because you aren’t seriously dealing with the text. You seem to have a very loose “open to interpretation” mentality, which makes for pleasant conversation and you seem like a nice guy, but it’s just not good Bible study. For instance, you kind of blew off all of the verses about baptism Paul connects with salvation events, not with sound exegesis, but with opinion about how you feel life is as a Christian. To give an example, I agree as Christians we need to continually “put off the old man.” Ephesians 4:22-24 talks about that. But how do you see Romans 6:2-6 as talking about the ongoing putting off of the old self? Paul isn’t talking about an ongoing action there at all. He’s talking about an event in the past when they buried the old self, dying and resurrecting with Christ in baptism. Likewise, when Paul calls baptism a spiritual circumcision to enter the new covenant in Colossians 2:11-12, how is that talking about dealing with ongoing covenant failures? Circumcision was never about dealing with covenant failures; it was about entrance into covenant. You said these verses all describe people AFTER salvation. But how can I bury my old self in baptism and resurrect in newness of life with Christ AFTER I’ve been saved? Likewise, how can I get circumcised AFTER I’ve entered the new covenant?

    I want to be able to appreciate your view, but I haven’t seen any indication that it’s Scriptural. So far, it all just seems like your personal preference. Help me see where I’m wrong about that. I certainly don’t want to be a bully, but you gotta give me more than just a feeling or opinion.

    I look forward to your response!

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  7. I realize, I don’t know your first name…anyway, here it goes:

    In Acts 2:38, Peter responds to the question, “What shall we do?” with, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

    You say that this indicates that salvation is entered into by baptism. I say it doesn’t. If baptism were required, then the “gift of the Holy Spirit” would have come on the people of Cornelius’ house after they were baptized, but He came on them before. There it was something they decided to do after the Spirit showed up on them first. It’s a matter of what’s required, and in one place it sounds as if baptism is, but in the other it seems to be something that happens afterwards. You claim I haven’t dealt with the text, and yet when I brought that up earlier, you dismissed it. You said that the Holy Spirit falling on Cornelius’ household was not salvation, and yet, in Acts 2:38, where you claim Peter says baptism is required for salvation, it would also be required for receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit. And, then, in Acts 10, Peter says they have received the Holy Spirit, “just as we have”, we might as well baptize them.

    Having said that, I fully appreciate that connecting Acts 2:38 and Acts 10:44-47 is, perhaps, subjective, but no more than your position. Your interpretation of Acts 10 diminishes the importance of the presence of the Holy Spirit in much the same way you claim mine diminishes baptism. Looking at the wording, the way it was inspired and preserved by God, I’m not sure how you can rightly handle the text and not see that.

    You can not dismiss the position that baptism is not necessary for salvation so easily. I appreciate your view, and I believe those who hold a contrary view who “bullied” you were wrong to do so. But it is equally wrong for you to claim superior handling of the text when you failed to regard my points in such a manner. Be careful how you deal with others of the faith. We are not enemies, and only our true enemy wins when we treat each other with contempt. You do good work with Scripture, and you clearly know your stuff. So, humility might be something you’ve run across now and then in your studies. On to the second passage.

    In 1 Peter 3:18-22, Peter appeals to a group of disciples who are suffering persecution, and ends his appeal with the example of Jesus’ death. In that passage, Peter connects Jesus’ death to some preaching to captive spirits, then with Noah and the ark, and then, finally, that to baptism. It remains one of the most difficult passages to disentangle for students of Scripture. How all that connect is truly confusing, and I’ve read the best minds on it, they don’t agree.

    Having said that, Peter says about baptism there, “Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you– not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience– through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,” (1 Pet. 3:21 NASB). Clearly, this is not a reference to a physical washing. He says so. So, connecting it to a physical event is not necessary either, it could refer to being baptized in/with the Holy Spirit, and Peter is making that distinction as opposed focusing on water-baptism. It’s possible. But, so is your position. As I said, this is a difficult passage to clearly understand.

    Those are my initial textual treatments. Is this the response you were looking for? We can go into the Greek if you’d prefer.

    Blessings upon you,

    matt

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  8. Hey Matt, my name is Brian, and I definitely don’t hold you in contempt. Nor do I view you as my enemy. I merely expressed concern for the way you were arguing your position.

    I didn’t dismiss your position on Acts 10, I made the observation from Scripture that God sending the Holy Spirit on someone to work miracles doesn’t mean they’re saved. I used Samson earlier, but an even clearer example is Saul and his cronies in 1 Samuel 19:19-24. Every time they went to Ramah to kill David, the Lord sent the Holy Spirit upon them and they prophesied. Did that mean they were saved? No way. But God was showing His power over Saul and his feeble efforts to kill His anointed one. God sends His Holy Spirit upon people for different purposes throughout Scripture, yet you are equating it with salvation in Acts 10.

    Now, I definitely see your point about Acts 10:45 saying they received the “gift of the Holy Spirit” and Peter connects that with baptism in Acts 2:38. So it seems like a contradiction. As you say, it teaches one thing in one place and something else in another place. So do you take the position that God’s Word contradicts itself? I don’t. The way we deal with seeming contradictions is to take the rest of the teaching on the subject into account.

    Since all the plain passages like Acts 2:38, Mark 16:16, Acts 22:16, 1 Peter 3:21, Galatians 3:27, Colossians 2:12, Romans 6:1-6 teach that baptism is necessary for salvation, obviously there’s something special going on in Acts 10. We have a few options.

    A) They were saved first before baptism. I don’t take this position because it contradicts other clear passages. However, I’m willing to grant the possibility. But based on all the clear teachings on baptism, it’s easy to see this was a very rare and special occasion. It was the very first time a Gentile entered the new covenant. That’s a big deal. So even if we grant they were saved before baptism, there’s no way I could apply that to all people because Acts 10 was such a unique situation.
    B) They were saved after baptism like everyone else, but God sent the Holy Spirit as a sign that they were approved by God to be saved. In that case, when Peter said, “The Holy Spirit fell upon them just as He did upon us in the beginning,” (Acts 11:15) he is probably talking about the Holy Spirit falling on the apostles to give them the ability to speak in tongues on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2. Just like the apostles spoke in tongues as a sign that they were approved by God as his spokesmen, so too Cornelius’ household was given tongue speaking ability through the Spirit as a sign that they were approved by God to receive baptism. It’s why Peter immediately says, “Surely no one can refuse the water now!” If not for the Holy Spirit miraculously working through Cornelius, the Jews would not have accepted that Gentiles could be saved. So, it’s possible “gift of the Holy Spirit” has two separate meanings depending on the context. In Acts 2:38 it’s salvation and in Acts 10 for Cornelius it’s a miraculous impartation of spiritual gifts.

    Aside from the gift of the Holy Spirit, what about “for the forgiveness of sins” in Acts 2:38? He says one must be baptized for the forgiveness of sins. How can one be saved without the forgiveness of sins? Also, Acts 2:38 was in direct response to the question in Acts 2:37, “What shall we do?” (now that we’ve murdered the Messiah)

    Regarding 1 Peter 3:21, I agree the verses leading up to v. 21 are difficult, but “Baptism saves you” seems pretty clear. Doesn’t it make more sense to see “not the removal of dirt from the flesh” as a reference to a Jewish ceremonial washing of physical uncleanness? Even if you take it as a reference to just a bath to remove filth, it still isn’t ruling out water. It’s just establishing the purpose of using the water.

    Then you have all the other passages I mentioned to contend with as well, right? It just seems like you’re giving up the meaning of the plain passages based on an interpretation of a complex passage in Acts 10 which we may or may not be right about. Shouldn’t we interpret the complex passage in Acts 10 in light of the simple/plain passages on baptism instead?

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    1. Hi Brian, and thanks for the name, and your assurance we’re not enemies. I would appreciate it if, as we go on, if you would not pass judgement on my ability or thoroughness with Scripture until you read some of what I’ve written. My conclusions may be “out there”, but my view is through the lens of Scripture.

      So, you what you want is for me to work on the “plain passages”? Well, that’s the problem. What you call “plain passages” are interpreted by you using the verse in Acts 2:38. Can you tell me honestly, that, without Acts 2:38, you would be interpreting all the other passages to mean that baptism is necessary for salvation? But, let’s set that aside for a minute. I think spending more time on Acts 2:38 is beneficial here:

      Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized 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 NASB)

      Repent = “change of mind” – literally, that’s what the Greek word means, meta (change) noeo (mind), or “after thought” if you take meta to mean “after”, which is also possible.

      Baptize = dipped, washed, immersed, typically in water with few exceptions.

      The result of these two verbs (literally “into” in the Greek) are the following:

      forgiveness = release of a prisoner, cancellation of a debt

      sins = wrongs things done, at least this word for “sin” means that.

      receive = the most common Greek word for the transfer of something from one person to another, but can mean “receive” (it was given willingly) or “take” (it was received from an unwilling person). Here, it’s clearly receive as God willingly gives us of His Spirit.

      Here are a few questions:

      How do you think what Peter describes here is how it worked for Peter and the other apostles? So, how does this relate to his own experience of entering into a healthy relationship with Jesus?

      What part of those results do you consider “salvation”? If it’s forgiveness, then are disciples never in need of forgiveness within their relationship with Jesus? If disciples need forgiveness again and again, would you say they are supposed to be baptized each time?

      If you want to take this verse and use it to interpret the rest of the Christian Scriptures, then you need to validate those questions. Otherwise, we’re left with what Peter says in one place to one group of people, a “special case”, like you say Cornelius’ household is a special case. Ironically, I found, as I studied Acts in depth, most of what the Holy Spirit does seems to be a pattern of “special cases”. He seems to work on different people differently.

      And before you disconnect Acts 2:38 from Acts 10:45-47, keep in mind the similarity in wording between the two. The Gentiles had received, same word. They received the gift of the Holy Spirit, just as Peter has tied to baptism. Luke is making a clear connection to Pentecost, and yes, this is a departure from what they were used to. But are you seriously making a case that the Holy Spirit would deviate from what He inspired to be a necessity? Well, then there can be a lot of cases made for things I don’t think are appropriate.

      You assume the early church already knew that baptism was necessary for salvation, yet you only have Acts 2:38 and 1 Peter 3:21. In your response to my claim that Paul doesn’t mention baptism as necessary, you say at one point:

      You say he mentions it in Romans “only as a reference to living in sin after salvation.” Exactly! That they were baptized for salvation was an obvious point! He didn’t have to explain that it was necessary for salvation; they already knew, which is why they were baptized in the first place.

      Well, okay Brian, how do you know that the early believers already knew baptism was required? If you only use those two verses (Acts 2:38, 1 Peter 3:21), both from Peter, and only one of which uses the term “saves”, where else do you see a clear statement that baptism is necessary? You say it was obvious to them, well, how is that less of an assumption or opinion?

      My point here is that, if I show that your interpretation of Acts 2:38 and 1 Peter 3:21 are possible and not required, then the rest of your position is shown to be the same. It’s not invalid, after all, the verses have forgiveness of sins and saves as direct results. But, as you also point out, the Holy Spirit seems inclined to do otherwise, for “special circumstances”. So, possible, yes, but necessary? I have to go with the Holy Spirit on this one, not necessary.

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  9. Hey Matt, sorry for the delay, I’ve been traveling and haven’t had much down time at all.

    You asked, “Can you tell me honestly, that, without Acts 2:38, you would be interpreting all the other passages to mean that baptism is necessary for salvation?” My answer is yes, because Acts 2:38 and 1 Peter 3:21 are not all I’m using to make that conclusion.

    First, according to your Greek breakdown of Acts 2:38, it still seems you’re concluding that we cannot receive forgiveness or the Holy Spirit until baptism, correct? That’s certainly the plain reading of the text.

    What that means in regard to your question about how the apostles were saved is that we have 2 options: 1) They were saved when the Holy Spirit came upon them and they spoke in tongues or 2) They were apart of the 3,000 who were baptized that day and added to the church.

    I suppose #1 is possible, but the other view seems much stronger. The apostles, like Cornelius, were good men who believed in God, but they still needed to enter into the new covenant relationship with Christ. Since other verses suggest that happens at baptism, I believe that’s when the apostles were saved by Jesus and entered that relationship as well.

    I understand the wording in Acts 10 and Acts 2 about the gift of the Holy Spirit is the same, no question. But in Acts, and all throughout Scripture as I’ve suggested before, the Holy Spirit operates in different ways. Sometimes even with similar wording, but with a unique meaning. For instance, “gift of the Holy Spirit” seems to mean salvation in Acts 2, not necessarily miraculous spiritual gifts, but in Acts 19 Paul asks people in Ephesus, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed? They said, ‘No, we have not even heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.” So then they were baptized in the name of Jesus (which I believe fulfilled Acts 2:38 and they received the gift of the Holy Spirit), but then in the next verse it says the Holy Spirit “came upon them” when Paul laid his hands on them and they began speaking in tongues (like the apostles and Cornelius). So I don’t get too concerned about the phrases “gift of the Holy Spirit” or “receive the Holy Spirit” being used identically in every context, because the context defines how it’s being used.

    So to be clear on my earlier point, I am not only resting on Acts 2:38 and 1 Peter 3:21. There is Mark 16:16 (he who believes AND is baptized shall be saved), Acts 8:38 (and the fact that the Eunuch didn’t rejoice until he came up out of the water), Acts 22:16 (Paul’s sins could not be washed away until baptism), the fact that every detailed account of a person’s salvation in Acts involved baptism, Romans 6:1-7 (can’t be united with Jesus’ death and resurrection until baptized), Colossians 2:11 (can’t enter the new covenant without being spiritually circumcised in baptism), Galatians 3:27 (can’t clothe ourselves with Christ or be baptized INTO Christ without baptism), Ephesians 4:5 (there’s only one baptism, not one by the Spirit and one by water).

    Many of your objections are based on the belief that I’m only using 2 verses. But I have all these other verses to contend with too. There’s no way I could explain them all away and use Acts 10 as a trump card that reverses the teachings in these verses. To me, it’s much easiier to understand the apostles in Acts 2 and Cornelius in Acts 10 as special cases where the Holy Spirit miraculously came upon them (not for salvation, but for the working of miracles like tongues and prophecy, which He has done many times throughout Scripture), as a sign that they were legitimate in God’s eyes. The apostles legitimate ambassadors, and Cornelius and his household legitimate candidates to enter the new covenant relationship in Christ.

    I know earlier you suggested those verses about baptism above have to do with things that also take place after becoming a Christian, but in context those verses aren’t talking about continual, ongoing forgiveness of sins (like when we confess in 1 John 1:9f). They’re talking about the initial forgiveness/washing away of sins that are keeping us outside the new covenant with God in Christ Jesus.

    What say you?

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  10. Hi Brian, I hope you enjoyed your trip!

    I say those are good responses. At least some of them. I can’t see your view about the apostles being among the 3,000 added to their number as anything other than a tenuous reach to make yet another exception fit your view. John says they received the Holy Spirit after Jesus’ post-resurrection appearance to them, so I have to disagree with both of your options on the apostles and the other 200+ gathered in that ginormous upper room.

    Like you, I agree that Peter is referring to salvation in his answer to the people about what they must do. I believe context makes that clear. And the verses you mention are good ones. While I don’t believe they require that interpretation, I believe they certainly allow for it. I think the point of departure between you and I is that I can’t make baptism a requirement for salvation. I can make it important; important enough I would question the sincerity of a “salvation experience” of someone who refused to be baptized. Required though? I can’t go there. There are exceptions.

    Keep in mind that our Master gave the law to His people, the people of Israel, and then opted at several places to ignore those “requirements”. It’s what He does, part of His character. I believe He delights in showing how far He will go to include people in a relationship with Him. He’s not interested in rules as much as that relationship, a man after His own heart, a minister to the Gentiles, several centurions, and so on.

    So, I get what you’re saying, and I won’t deny those are good verses supporting the importance of baptism. But when I see an exception, any exception, I can’t call it a requirement because my Master doesn’t. In fact, is repentance? Is that always included? It can be argued it’s described if not mentioned explicitly. But I believe the life of a disciple is repenting, that this life lived with our Master is characterized by repentance, and that the struggle to be a disciple is defined by a lifestyle of repentance. So, in that sense repentance is required, but not as the “entrance fee”, rather as the definition of the rest of our lives with Jesus.

    Even so, here’s my run down on your verses, and my alternate interpretations.

    Mark 16:16 – Besides the obvious footnote in translations that point out this probably wasn’t in the Gospel as written, it has two halves. The other half doesn’t mention baptism. So, point of the verse isn’t baptism but belief. You think that’s not an important distinction, I do. Before I’m going to tell someone they cannot have a relationship with God unless they’re dunked, I’m going to need that on both sides of the comma.

    Acts 8:38 – Here, you believe the Eunuch wasn’t saved until he was baptized, where I believe he was baptized because he was saved, and that’s what saved people do.

    Acts 22:16 – Again, I see it as something saved people do, not an indication of timing requiring baptism before salvation.

    Romans 6:1-7 – I see a reference to a shared experience to make a point, rather than a reference to a requirement to have a relationship. “You know how, before we knew God, we could do ‘good stuff’, but it wasn’t good as God defines it, because it wasn’t done in a relationship with God? And yet, once we have that relationship, we can do the same things, only now we’re obeying and pleasing our Master, Jesus.” That’s a shared experience from which we can draw a point, not a requirement to enter into the relationship described.

    Colossians 2:11 – The whole context of this passage in Colossians has to do with an argument over rituals. I think Paul is saying that circumcision, a ritual some are claiming saves, has been performed without hands, and on our hearts (inside). It seems you are claiming that his next statement indicates that another ritual, performed by hands on the outside of a person, saves. I disagree.

    Galatians 3:27 – Again, the context is about how law, as a code of regulated behavior, cannot save. And the statement you pull out of that discussion doesn’t require baptism for the condition of “putting on Christ”. I believe it simply refers to a shared experience to make a point. The previous verse indicates far more strongly that it’s faith that initiates the right relationship, allowing for baptism to follow, not initiate.

    Ephesians 4:5 – I’m not sure how you use this to support baptism as an entrance requirement for a right relationship with our Creator. There’s one. Okay, so…I’m not sure why there not being five makes baptism required for my relationship with my Master. The point of the passage is unity, not a a to-do list of what is required to have a right relationship with God.

    So, while I see your point, and can appreciate your position as a valid interpretation, I hope you can also see my disagreement as equally valid.

    I hope you have a blessed weekend!

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  11. Hey Matt, sorry it’s taken so long to respond. I’ll spare you the excuses, but I’m grateful for your patience and willingness to continue discussing these things.

    I struggle with the concept that two positions can be contrary, yet equally “valid.” It seems either the case that baptism is required or it’s not. Either we’re both wrong or one of us is wrong, but we can’t both be right if we hold opposite conclusions, right?

    Can we agree that we don’t know how the apostles were saved by Jesus Christ based strictly on the text in the gospels or Acts? There is no verse that says, “And this is when the apostles were saved.” Yes, we have a reference to Jesus breathing on them and telling them to receive the Holy Spirit on them in John 20, but the text says nothing about their salvation. Now, maybe you hold the position that they were saved at that moment. If so, why does the Holy Spirit need to come upon them again in Acts 2? My view of John 20 is, it was just a preview of what would happen to them on Pentecost. Since the word “Spirit” or “pneuma” also means “breath,” Jesus breathed on them to indicate what would happen later. That’s consistent with John 16 where Jesus seems to indicate that He wouldn’t send the Holy Spirit upon them until He goes away (ascends to heaven – cf. Luke 24:49).

    I worry you are using ambiguous accounts like John 20 and Acts 2:1-4 to create exceptions to salvation. I want to suggest they don’t have to be exceptions to baptism at all. We’re not given details about when the apostles were saved in the gospels or in Acts 2, but we are given details from specific verses about how to be saved. Either A) we view the apostles as an exception to baptism, which can’t be proven from the text. But honestly even if they were an exception, you and I aren’t apostles so the exception wouldn’t apply to us anyway. Or B) we harmonize Acts 2 with other clear Bible verses. For instance, Paul was an apostle, and he was required to be baptized to “wash away his sins” (Acts 22:16 – see comment on this below). Why would the apostle Paul be required to do this but the other apostles wouldn’t?

    Also, I’m struggling to see your point about repentance being a lifetime pursuit, but not an “entrance fee.” In the Bible, it’s both. Jesus said, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” One cannot be a part of Jesus’s kingdom without repenting. And one can’t continue to be a part of that kingdom without continuing to repent. Repentance is NOT an entrance fee in the sense that we EARN entrance because of it. It’s not earned or deserved. But it IS an entrance fee in the sense that it is required for entrance. Besides, how could someone say, “I’m not willing to repent right now at the start, but I’ll become a Christian first and then repent for the rest of my life”? Doesn’t seem to make sense logically or Scripturally.

    I’m grateful you shared your “alternative interpretations,” but it seems like you’re sacrificing the simple reading of the text to fit the mold of the perceived exceptions in Acts 2.

    Mark 16:16 – Why does Jesus have to say, “He who does not believe and is not baptized will be condemned?” If a person doesn’t believe, why would he/she be baptized? It’s like if I said, “If you go to high school and graduate, you’ll get a degree. If you don’t go to high school, you won’t get a degree.” I don’t have to say, “If you don’t go to high school AND you don’t graduate, you won’t get a degree” because it’s already implied if you don’t go to high school, you won’t graduate. It would be redundant to say “he who does not believe AND does not get baptized.”

    Acts 8:38 – From the text, the eunuch doesn’t rejoice until after his baptism. Likewise, the Spirit doesn’t snatch Philip away until after he baptizes the eunuch. I understand this text doesn’t say, “And he was saved at this moment,” but again it must be harmonized with other clear verses on the subject. If we take Mark 16:16 “He who believes and is baptized will be saved,” it makes perfect sense why he didn’t rejoice and why Philip wasn’t snatched away until after he believed AND was baptized.

    Acts 22:16 – If “washing away our sins” in baptism is just something saved people do but not an entrance requirement, why are we only baptized once? Wouldn’t baptism need to be repeated regularly throughout our Christian lives if it’s just something saved people need to do to continue to stay in right relationship with God? And again, how can a person be saved without washing away their sins?

    Romans 6:1-7 – I’m not understanding your argument here. Can you clarify? Also, how can one be a Christian without uniting with the death and resurrection of Jesus, raising to walk in newness of life?

    Colossians 2:11 – The text says nothing about baptism being a new external ritual like physical circumcision. He says baptism is a burial and a resurrection, and that it’s also the point at which our hearts are circumcised and the body of our flesh is removed (it’s cut off and buried). How can one be saved if they haven’t removed the body of flesh, haven’t been buried and resurrected (same point as Romans 6), and haven’t been circumcised in their hearts? That all happens in baptism.

    Galatians 3:27 – Again I’m confused by your point. If we are baptized INTO Christ, aren’t those who haven’t been baptized outside of Christ? If we cloth ourselves with Christ in baptism, are we not unclothed with Christ if we’re not baptized? v. 27 explains what he means in v. 26. It starts with the word “For.” The question is, “How are we sons of God through faith?” v. 27 answers, “For…”. You’re absolutely right to say faith leads to our baptism, which again squares perfectly with Mark 16:16 and Acts 8. If a person has faith, but doesn’t get baptized, he is still left unclothed and outside of Christ.

    Ephesians 4:5 – I didn’t bring this up to say baptism was required. I brought it up to prevent us from saying there are two kinds of baptisms. Holy Spirit baptism and baptism in water. There’s only one. The eunuch in Acts 8 shows us it’s water, as does the “washing” language in other texts.

    Thanks for being patient Matt, I will try to get back sooner in the future.

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