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Baptism: Water and Spirit IV

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Question #1:

Did you know that the word for baptism was coined in 1611? The King didn't want to explain that for several hundred years sprinkling was not baptism. Good thing it doesn't have anything to do with salvation.

Response #1:

Good to make your acquaintance,

My English dictionary has the origin earlier by several centuries – and of course the word would have been in the earliest versions of the English Bible to translate baptisma et al.

However that may be, it is certainly a blessing that we who believe in Jesus are commanded to "stand fast in the freedom with which Christ has made us free" (Gal.5:1)!

Yours in Him who are saved by grace through faith alone, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Bob Luginbill

Question #2:

I was baptized when I was a infant in the Coptic orthodox church and my priest put me all the way down in the water so will that make me get to heaven still or not? Please email me back.

Response #2:

Dear Friend,

Water-baptism has nothing to do with salvation:

For God loved the world so much that He gave [up] His one and only Son, [with the purpose] that everyone who believes in Him should not be lost [forever], but have eternal life [instead].
John 3:16

Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.
Acts 16:31

Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
Romans 10:9 ESV

For more on this, please see the links:

Salvation: God's Free Gift

God's Plan to Save You

Anyone can plainly see that water-baptism can only "clean" the outside, not the inside, but it is the inside of a person which is what counts to God: cleansing the outside is a matter of ritual; cleansing the inside is what makes for spiritual renewal (Matt.23:36; Heb.6:2; 9:10; 1Pet.3:21). The issue is not what ritual you have undergone or what church or organization you belong to but whether or not you have been born again unto eternal life through placing your faith for salvation in the Person and the work of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. If you have, then you are a believer, and all believers are saved, even if they have never been water-baptized or joined a church or done any number of other things which are extraneous to salvation. If a person does not have faith in Jesus Christ, does not believe He is the God-man and that He died for the sins of the world, if a person has not put their faith in Him, then said person is not a believer and, in spite of denominational affiliation or rituals, only believers are saved.

This is a very important matter. Please do feel free to write me back about any of this.

Yours in Jesus Christ, in whom alone is salvation whose Name is the only "Name under heaven given to men whereby we must be saved" (i.e., by believing in Him: Acts 4:12).

Bob Luginbill

Question #3:

G'Day Brother;

Hope your well! I mentioned to you a while ago, I had left my old church and was looking for a Christ Centered, Bible Based Church. In my endeavor of doing so, I have come to find that Baptist Churches that don't believe in OSAS, believe in speaking in Tongues & vice versa. So I couldn't find what I want. So I started looking at other Churches; and one in particular that came up was Church of Christ. They don't believe in OSAS, & they don't believe in speaking in Tongues. Anyway I invited one of there pastors or leaders over on Thursday evening to share with me a little about there beliefs. He left me very confused and to be honest made me doubt my salvation. I have been going over the scriptures he left me with and praying to the Lord very hard about what he said. I still feel a little confused and in doubt.

I'm hoping you can put my thoughts to rest on this issue. You have to understand, before 10 years ago I did not know the Lord. I would commit more sins on a good weekend than someone would in a lifetime. When I did eventually come to the Lord my life changed 180 degrees and I was so hungry for the word of God; all of my friends thought I had fallen on my head, they thought something was seriously wrong with me. Although my parents were very happy, they also could not believe it, and neither could their friends. Since my eyes were opened, I have found myself worshiping at a Baptist Church. The only message I've been exposed to is the Grace message & the Blood of Christ. I guess the only thing in 10 years I have come to fault about my church was their doctrine of OSAS, and I truly believe the Lord opened my eyes regarding this false doctrine. You've got to understand, I haven't socialized with anyone that has a different view to the Grace message. So when this guy came over on Thursday, and showed me all these verses about being Baptized in order to be saved I was overwhelmed. Mind you I have read all these verses before, but I guess my mind was never programed to understand them in that way. One of the things that started going through my mind was, what else other than the doctrine of OSAS have I been taught that is incorrect. Upon reading them verses that he shared, it sounded like you need to be baptized to be saved.

I said to him I was born again, and was baptized 6 months after coming to the Lord. And that I have a good relationship with Christ, and a health appetite for God's word. I also said I had a great desire to share my testimony with people and that I was persevering in sharing Christ and praying for those the Lord puts on my heart. Yet he was adamant I was not saved because I was baptized for the wrong reason. He said you must believe, repent, confess belief in Jesus, baptized & endure to the end to be saved. He said my salvation is on the line if I'm not biblically baptized again. These are some of the verses he shared with me to prove his position:

Mark 16:16, Acts 2:38, 8:35, 9:5-6, 22:16, Rom 6:3-4, Gal 3:26-27, Col 2:12-13, 1Peter 3:20-21.

I continue to pray to the Lord for guidance. Can you help me put this to rest. Cause a few verses, especially Mark 16:16, make it clear that unless your baptized you can have no salvation. I mentioned to him, the thief on the cross was not baptized, he said that's part of the old covenant.

Love In Christ

Response #3:

Good to hear from you. This is another question I get all the time. Let me start by saying that you are most certainly saved, that you do not need to be re-water-baptized (and did not need to be water-baptized in the first place).

The reason you are feeling confused, worried and upset is because guilt is a very powerful weapon in the hands of the evil one. Sadly, many Christian groups use that same weapon of guilt in order to further their own ends. Those who do are making use of cult-like methodology. Any successful cult always starts out by being friendly, then points out some terrible "deficiency" in the person they have befriended. Oddly, they are always the only ones who can remove this deficiency so that the person can be "saved" or "fulfilled" or "happy" or "achieve Nirvana" or whatever it is they are promising. The beauty of this technique is even more exceptional than may first meet the eye. If a person has "found a home" with the group, said person is very clearly not going to want to give it up. So not only does the "deficiency" produce guilt, but also a tremendous desire to please so as not to shunned and lose this new relationship. More often than not as well remedying the deficiency will involve doing something very odd which makes the person look "weird" to friends and family. And going hand in hand with that will be new doctrines (often secret or known and accepted only by the group in question) which the person will be encouraged to proselytize about – rendering him or her even more odd and noxious to friends and family. Finally, once the Kool-Aid is fully metabolized, the person will be told to stay away from previous friends and family. Once this stage is reached, the chances of escaping the negative gravity of such groups are small. Then the victim/mark/convert is ripe for full exploitation, becomes a pawn of the group, and usually end up handing over all of his or her resources to it. I find this sort of practice on the part of "Christian" groups abhorrent, even if it is done at a lower level of manipulation and conscious exploitation than in outright cults.

I have written a great deal about the issue of water-baptism, and I will give some links below (please do have a look), but will try to put it in a "nutshell" for you here. Water-baptism is John's baptism, pure and simple. There is no other water-baptism. Water-baptism is the Jewish baptism anticipating the Messiah; the only baptism for the Church is the baptism of the Holy Spirit, as John and our Lord Jesus make very clear:

"I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and [with] fire".
Matthew 3:11 KJV

(4) And gathering them together [Jesus] commanded [the disciples] not to depart from Jerusalem, but to await the promise of the Father (i.e., the Holy Spirit) "which you heard about from Me. (5) For John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Spirit not many days from now".
Acts 1:4-5

"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth".
Acts 1:8

That is why Paul can say dogmatically that there is only "one baptism", namely, the baptism of the Holy Spirit (Eph.4:5; cf. Tit.3:5 where it is intimately connected to the renewing of the Spirit).

Water-baptism is legalism, and completely so. Since it was a Mosaic ritual of purification modified by God for "preparing" the Jewish nation for the coming of the Messiah, applying it to the Church after the fact is in my view just as bad as engaging in animal sacrifice. In both cases, the message is that the Messiah has not yet suffered – which of course He has, for the sins of the entire world. As a result, we Christians have the gift of the Holy Spirit and the freedom to worship and serve our Savior in grace and by grace alone through faith. But by and large most people still don't want to actually listen to Jesus' words: "John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Spirit not many days from now" (Acts 1:5).

So why do we still have so much water-baptism in the Church? Three reasons:

1) Misinterpretation: It started with the Roman Catholic church; the Reformers changed the mode of water-baptism but didn't liberate us from the legalistic ritual itself because they didn't take to heart the implications of the scriptures on this issue (in fairness to them they had many other "fish to fry"). It is not an easy issue to interpret, true, but taking the easy road and continuing the ritual was a horrible mistake.

2) Tradition: Since they did it in the Reformation, we do it now. Of course the Reformers weren't perfect. If we wanted to follow them perfectly we would throw out the book of Revelation and forget about what's about to happen entirely (just to name one area).

3) Guilt and Control: Water-baptism is what makes a church a semi-cult. Once you've committed this act of legalism you are much more likely to see the church in question as the arbiter of your salvation (even if doctrinally it is never put that way). When it comes to things that are legalistic, moreover, false guilt is always much easier to gin up. A good rule of thumb is that if you find yourself feeling guilty about something that is not definitely a sin, legalism is almost certainly "in the mix".

We do see people being water-baptized in Acts. Although no one ever stops to think that this ends within a few years of the first Pentecost, that Jewish audiences who knew of John are always in view, that Spirit baptism is usually connected to it somehow, and that there is no "water" in the epistles at all – all aspects of a transition away from Law to grace which we also see as a prominent theme throughout the book of Acts.

We so also have verses which give us pause, the main legitimate one being Matthew 28:19-20:

Then Jesus came over and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me, so go and make all nations my followers by baptizing them [with the Spirit] into the Person (i.e., "name") of the Father and [into the Person] of the Son and [into the Person] of the Holy Spirit, and by teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you."
Matthew 28:18-20a

The expanded translation above from the Greek makes clear what even a little serious thought about the passage – even in a correct English version – would demonstrate: water-baptism cannot put a person into Christ – only the baptism of the Spirit can do that. That is also why, by the way, our Lord stresses the authority He has won as the predicate to this "great commission": it is only because of His victory that the Spirit could be given (e.g., Jn.7:39) – but John was using water (and so were the disciples) before the cross – so that this passage has to be talking about Spirit baptism, not water-baptism. So Matthew 28:19-20 is completely consistent with Matthew 3:11, and with Acts 1:4-5 and 1:8, and with Ephesians 4:5 – and with all of the other passages which discuss Spirit baptism. The baptism of the Spirit is the Church's baptism – that is how we become part of Christ's Church. Water-baptism was a Jewish ritual adapted by God and administered by John to prepare for the coming Messiah. Employing it in any other way is legalism.

Honestly, your experience with the Church of Christ proves my point. If water-baptism really was important or necessary, then what are the odds that a group which did it could not explain it? As it is, on the one hand every group which practices water-baptism has a different explanation for what it means and what it does, often with multiple versions within the same church or group (see if you're not confused about their position after asking for an explanation). On the other hand none of the explanations are convincing or make any particular sense: they don't understand it; they just want to do it. And that is very understandable since it is a powerful weapon in getting people to commit to their group and stick with it once "baptized".

And what are the odds that if baptism were necessary for salvation, as this group troubling you says, that we would not have a single verse in scripture which states that directly and unequivocally? Your point about the thief on the cross is wonderful. In the history of the last two thousand years there have been many death-bed confessions. Does the Church of Christ administer the "last rites" or something of the sort in such cases? If my airplane is plummeting to earth and I have only a few seconds to accept the Lord before I die and I am kept out of heaven for want of a bath?

If water-baptism were necessary, we would do it. But Jesus says, ""This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent" (John 6:29 NKJV). We are saved "by grace through faith"; everything else is "of works" (Eph.2:8-9).

Finally, as to Mark 16:16, the gospel of Mark ends at verse eight. Everything else (found in KJV but not in most modern versions) is forgery added hundreds of years later – as all biblical scholars of any standing know very well. The other verses you cite are often used by pro-water groups but do not teach any necessity for water-baptism nor that it is necessary for salvation. Most of the ones you list, (i.e., Rom 6:3-4, Gal 3:26-27, Col 2:12-13, 1Peter 3:20-21), are not talking about water-baptism at all but about Spirit baptism, the one and only baptism of the Church. The Acts passages are all cases of Jews of Jesus' and John's day ministering to other Jews of Jesus' and John's day. Clearly it was important for that generation to connect Jesus to John in order to demonstrate his Messiahship. But if there were a different water-baptism than John's, then why weren't the disciples re-baptized with water? Why weren't the previous believers re-baptized with water? The situation is actually the reverse of what your group claims: there is still some water-baptism in the early days of Acts only because of the process of transition from Law to grace then underway. Just as no one understood at first that the gentiles were going to be let into the Church in large numbers, or that the dietary regulations were no longer in effect, or that the temple rites were no longer legitimate . . . at first, so it is unreasonable to suppose that John's baptism of water would immediately fall by the wayside, especially in the early days and with that generation. What is absurd and spiritually dangerous is that people are still erroneously doing it today.

Here are those links I mentioned:

Baptism: Water and Spirit I

Baptism: Water and Spirit II

Baptism: Water and Spirit III

One Baptism: the True Meaning of Peter's Words at Acts 2:38.

John's Water-Baptism versus the Baptism of the Holy Spirit

Is baptism necessary for salvation?

Keep fighting the fight of faith, my friend, through God's grace.

In Jesus who died to liberate us from the curse of the Law,

Bob L.

Question #4:

G'Day Brother!

I can only thank our Lord Jesus for you & your work. Once again you have put my mind to rest, and I feel like I'm back on track. Your words have encouraged me & I am at peace with myself and everything around me. You have truly injected me with confidence to continue persevering and moving forward. Especially after feeling very doubtful and confused. Your explanation as always is exceptional. I pray the Lord continues to use you for the extension of his kingdom.

God Bless You Brother.

In Jesus Christ the Resurrection and the Life

p.s. I'm copying you now, ending my emails the same way you do.

Response #4:

I am so glad to hear you have gotten your spiritual "sea legs" back under you. The evil one is always looking to throw us off balance. Spiritual growth is the only way to get to the point where we are no longer being "swept off-course and carried headlong by every breeze" of false teaching (Eph.4:14). So keep on fighting the good fight of faith!

"For now we really live, if you stand firm in the Lord."
1st Thessalonians 3:8 NASB

They say that imitation is the most sublime form of flattery, so thanks for that and for all your good words!

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #5:

Dr. Luginbill,

I've attached a document I wrote about a view I have concerning Peter's vision in Acts 10. I would like your opinion on my thoughts. To summarize, I believe the vision being repeated three times points to the three times Peter will make the mistake of considering what God has declared as clean, to be unclean.

The document is just over three pages. I know you are a busy man, but I hope you can find time in your schedule to give it a look.

May God continue to strengthen you daily in teaching His Word,

P.S. Semper Fidelis, Leatherneck!


Peter's Vision and the Mistakes that Follow

Acts 10:9-16

On the next day, as they were on their way and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray. But he became hungry and was desiring to eat; but while they were making preparations, he fell into a trance; and he saw the sky opened up, and an object like a great sheet coming down, lowered by four corners to the ground, and there were in it all kinds of four-footed animals and crawling creatures of the earth and birds of the air. A voice came to him, "Get up, Peter, kill and eat!" But Peter said, "By no means, Lord, for I have never eaten anything unholy and unclean." Again a voice came to him a second time, "What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy." This happened three times, and immediately the object was taken up into the sky.

I have heard many teachings on this, and most teachers say this was where God showed Peter that the Gentiles are included in the plan of salvation. I don't believe that is all this vision means.

What God has made clean, you do not make ritually unclean.

The last word used for unclean is actually a verb, koinoo, meaning to make ritually unclean. It means what God has made perfectly clean, don't make it ritually unclean. The verb, don't make unclean is written in the Greek imperative. Here is what that means: The imperative mood expresses a command to the hearer to perform a certain action by the order and authority of the one commanding. Thus, Jesus' phrase, "Repent ye, and believe the gospel" (Mk.1:15) is not at all an "invitation," but an absolute command requiring full obedience on the part of all hearers.

God is saying; when I declare something holy, do not consider or make it unholy with your rituals. If God cleanses something, don't say that it isn't, or don't perform some ritual to make it clean. This is a command.

When God gave someone the Holy Spirit, they were perfectly clean. They no longer have to follow any rituals, such as circumcision. Every ritual, pre-Christ's death and resurrection, was a sign of Christ, a sign of what He does for us. Sacrifices, Circumcision, Sabbath Rest, all the High Priest rituals before entering the Holy of Holies. Every single one was pointing to what Christ did or does for us, and every single one of them has been fulfilled. To hold fast to them is to deny Christ's work.

I have not seen any commentator state the purpose of God presenting the vision three times to Peter. Why does it say it happened 3 times? Peter will make the mistake of not seeing something as clean that God has made clean, and he will do it 3 times.

First instance:

The first instance of Peter calling or considering what God declared clean to be unclean is directly in the vision. Peter was starving, and God provided him with food.

Acts 10:13-15

And a voice came to him, "Rise, Peter; kill and eat."

But Peter said, "Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything common or unclean."

And a voice spoke to him again the second time, "What God has cleansed you must not call common."

The animals that are in the 'vision' were all impure according to the Mosaic Law; to eat them would be a violation of the Law's dietary code. In the past, the dietary code (and the rest of the Law in general) was meant to show that Israel was a sanctified people, separated from the rest of the world as God's unique, holy people. Israel, by refraining from certain foods and by following certain practices, would be shown to be different, set apart by God and for God.

Peter's mistake was thinking he knew better than God. Peter was not all knowing. He was still following the laws and rituals that all Jews followed (and it has been many years since Christ ascended). The Lord told Him to eat it, and Peter recognized the Lord, and said no! Got admonished him, stating He had declared the food clean, and you will not declare it unclean.

Second Instance:

Peter, bless his heart, still didn't understand what God had told him in the vision. The next verse we find him contemplating it.

Acts 10:17

Now while Peter wondered within himself what this vision which he had seen meant, behold, the men who had been sent from Cornelius had made inquiry for Simon's house, and stood before the gate.

Again, this points to Peter not having the full knowledge of the principles of the New Covenant. He didn't understand the Law was now fulfilled. All those rituals and Laws to set Israel apart were not needed. They were meant to point to Christ. Rituals meant nothing in God's eyes and didn't make you clean; it was God who declared something clean.

Acts 10:28-29

Then he said to them, "You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean. Therefore I came without objection as soon as I was sent for. I ask, then, for what reason have you sent for me?"

Without the vision, and without the voice after the vision prompting him, Peter would not have gone to see Cornelius and his house. Peter still thought that the Gentiles were considered unclean. But Peter obeyed the voice. He goes to the house of Cornelius and even states God shows no partiality. Peter presents the Gospel to Cornelius's home (Acts 10:34-43).

This was new to Peter. This is the first time he has preached the Gospel to the Gentiles. In the midst of his preaching, we read the following.

Acts 10:44-48

While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message. 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.

The recipients of Peter's message believed in the Messiah, they put their faith in the one Person who can save them. In the midst of Peter's message, God baptized them. The Holy Spirit fell upon them. God poured out His Spirit. What does scripture tell us happens when God gives us His Spirit after faith in His Son?

1 Corinthians 6:11

And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.

They were washed. God made them clean. They were sanctified. God gave them a Spirit of holiness, allowing them to progress in outward sanctification by the Spirit inside them. They were justified. God legally declared them, based on their faith, to be righteous.

Titus 3:4-6

But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior

Again, this just reemphasizes the same points from above. God washed and cleaned them.

So what does Peter do? After they have already been made clean by God; God declared them clean by giving them His Spirit and washing their sins away, Peter does what the vision he had seen before said not to do; he takes what God has declared as clean, and commands a ritual cleaning. Notice what the text says: 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.

Peter throws out the question. No one had an answer, but Peter had already been given a vision with the answer. The text doesn't say they asked to be baptized in water, it says Peter ordered them to be baptized in water. Here is Peter's second mistake. Up to this point, there is no scripture that states Peter had baptized, in water, anyone. Acts 2:41 says those who believed were baptized, but the text does not give proof of whether this was by water, or by the Spirit.

It appears that Peter later understands his error. When recalling the story to the Jews, he states:

Acts 11:15-17

And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them, as upon us at the beginning. Then I remembered the word of the Lord, how He said, 'John indeed baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.' If therefore God gave them the same gift as He gave us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God?"

Third Instance

Galatians 2:11-14

But when Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision. The rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in the presence of all, "If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?

This is Peter's third mistake, matching the three-part vision, and being the third time he has taken what God has made clean, and considered it unclean. The Gentiles had been shown to be full partakers of the Gospel. Peter understood that it was by faith in Christ (see Acts 15:1-11) one was saved and made clean, not through works and rituals. But he has a relapse, treating the washed and regenerated, but physically uncircumcised Gentiles, as unclean. This time, Paul rebukes Peter in the presence of all.

We are set apart, washed and made clean, by the baptism of the Spirit. All believers, from the point of faith, enjoy this reality.

Response #5:

This is very good stuff! In my opinion the points are not only true but cogently and succinctly made.

With your permission, I'll post it the next time I do something on water-baptism / legalism.

Are you planning/considering doing something along the lines of pastoring a church or having a Bible study ministry? You certainly seem to have the knack and the temperament for it.

Your friend in Jesus Christ and the true grace of God,

Bob L.

Question #6:


Thank you for your review and encouragement. The Lord actually provided me this insight while I was seeking understanding on baptism. I had come to all the baptism of Acts, and I needed to set the stage that the book (as you have often said) is historic and transitionary. I began writing all the recorded 'mistakes' the Apostles made in Acts, and as I came to Peter's vision, the 'three-fold' vision stuck out to me. Why did the Lord show him three times?

You are free to post it on your site; I don't study and teach the Word for my own glory, but for His. I am all for teaching in any way I can; the Lord knows there is a lack of true study of His Word.

I've been teaching, through various Sunday School classes and home Bible studies, for about 15 years. As for my current status; I am leading/teaching a Men's Discipleship group in association with my local church. I had attended this group for six-months, when the leader (one of the pastors of the church), asked me to step in and begin leading/teaching it. It has been a blessing; the men that attend (while few compared to the size of the church) are eager to learn. I have been praying for the Lord to work on bringing in more men. Our current topic is actually baptism. I am praying that God can remove the preconceived and taught ideas that inhibit the true learning of His Word.

I am also leading/teaching a Bible study group in my home on Thursdays and Sundays. Both of these studies are with the same group of people who are hungry for the Word.

I’ve been having a lot of issues with my local church. So many churches today are severely lacking in teaching God’s truth, and even following the God-given instruction on how to lead a body. But God appears to be working. One of the pastors (the same that had me step in and teach the Men’s group) is in charge of the spiritual growth ministry. I’ve had numerous conversations with him about the church, and God has now laid it upon his heart that change needs to take place. I am now part of a team that is spending at least 12 weeks coming up with ideas and plans to systematically and intentionally disciple others in spiritual growth. We are looking at what’s missing, what needs to be better, and what needs to be aligned with Scripture. I’ve been asked to re-write the core-classes, as well as write some material for some other classes that are needed.

I truly believe God has me in this group for a reason, but I also am somewhat apprehensive on the outcome of this group. My prayer is that it all works in the end, but I fear we are going to get into some areas of impasse. If God’s Word is clear, and they recognized the Truth but make a personal choice not to follow or obey, I don’t believe I can be a part of it. I continue to pray daily for the leadership and the body, and for personal wisdom and direction.

Finally, I’ve had a huge burden on my heart for about a year for the ‘flock’ of God. My burden used to be just teaching, but now I am so focused on feeding, tending, and protecting the body of Christ. Initially, I felt this was just the God-given love for my brothers and sisters, but I am starting to see that God is calling me for more. During a long drive, I was listening to 6-hours of MacArthur on "Marks of a Healthy Church". In one of his sermons, he was discussing Elders, and how it’s a good thing to desire the position of Elder. In the past I’ve always thought that would be a very prideful thing, but as MacArthur spoke on it, God ‘hit me over the head’, and I truly believe that’s where God is directing me. I’ve been evaluating why I ‘desire’ the position, and none of the reasons relate to pride. It’s truly to follow the calling of God, and the personal loving leadership and care for His sheep. I seek no reward, only obedience to my Lord. So please add a prayer about this in your personal time. I am not sure if anything will come from my desire, or even how to proceed.

Thanks again for your words. It’s nice to have someone that can keep me accountable in my work, to ensure what I am studying and teaching is not my idea, but truly from God’s Word. I am sure any who hold strongly to their water baptism beliefs will have issues with me calling Peter’s water baptism of Cornelius’ household a mistake, but I can’t convince them, only God’s Word, through His Spirit can do that.

God bless you brother,

Response #6:

I'm not much on "discipling", or on accountability to people as opposed to accountability to God, or on John MacArthur, but you are most welcome – and I will most certainly say a prayer for you and your situation. Biblically speaking, you seem to me to already be doing the job of "elder" and "pastor" or "overseer/bishop" (this last one is the office Paul is speaking about as honorable to desire in 1Tim.3:1). As to distinctions between these titles, I believe they are just different ways of describing the same thing, namely, the men in the church who are responsible for guiding it through the teaching of the Word. Church polity, while a monster issue in the worldly church, is of very little moment in scripture (beyond the basics scripture does address), flexibility being the key in order to accommodate gifted people doing the work God has called them to – just as you are obviously doing.

Thanks for the permission!

In Jesus Christ the Chief Shepherd of the Sheep,

Bob L.

Question #7:


Can you help me understand, so I can explain to others, the difference in Greek with imperative commands verse non-commands?

Now I understand the imperative command (at least I believe I do). From one of the Lexicons, it states an imperative command "expresses a command to the hearer to perform a certain action by the order and authority of the one commanding." I understand this.

But how do we classify the other non-commands, and is there a way to understand this in Greek?

For instance:

Eph 5:18: And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit,

Many would assume by reading the English that we are commanded not to be drunk with wine, but that’s not an imperative. The only imperative is ‘be filled’ with the Spirit.

So what do you call the ‘do not get drunk’ portion? Is this simply an exhortation (encourage to do this, but not a command?). Is this shown in the Greek? Would you call any non-command such as this an exhortation?

In one of your articles about baptism in Acts 2:38, you state "Peter does not actually command these hearers directly: he uses the third person imperative, not the second." Can you provide a brief explanation of the difference between first, second, and third person imperative, and why the third person is not actually a command? I know, only from reading other material, that there are third person imperatives in the Lord's prayer; I am trying to identify this in the Greek; is third person using the passive voice? Is that how we can denote the difference? I generally use http://classic.net.bible.org/home.php for my Greek/Hebrew examination; is there a better website for this type of study?

I've been diligently studying this by reading all sorts of papers describing the various Greek imperative commands. I think I have a pretty good understanding now.

I was discussing this with my wife, and trying to explain third-person imperative to her, knowing that there isn't a very good English equivalent. She gave me a decent example that doesn't fit perfectly, but seems to make sense to me, and I'd like your opinion and if you can offer a better example.


I am alone, with an infant. I tell the infant to eat. This is a command to the infant, but the infant is not able to do so on it's own. It's not a command directed at the infant. A third person will be the doer of the command, and the infant will still be part of the process.

Does that make sense? I can easily see this with Acts 2:38. The third-person imperative, "be baptized" is an action that will come from God.

Looking forward to your insight,

Glory to Him who sits on the throne,

Response #7:

The word "imperative" is a grammatical term referring to a verb's "mood". We have various moods of verbs in English, although most of the unique forms have been lost, and Americans in particular are not schooled in these things in K-12. When I teach Greek and Latin 101, I always have to start at the beginning with my students and explain how language "works" – that is true even with the brightest of them.

The main verb form is the indicative: "The dog runs". This is a statement of fact (whether or not it is true).

The next most common mood in English is the "imperative": "Run, Spot, run!" This is a command (whether or not it is obeyed).

We also have the subjunctive mood in English: "I tell you this so that you may understand". This is a mood of contingency (since the verb in the subjunctive may never end up being fulfilled).

Greek also has an optative mood to express wishes and less likely conditional situations.

The above is a very short precis of a subject which can take up several hundred pages in a traditional grammar.

Going back to the imperative mood, the imperative is the mood of command. We generally use an exclamation point when we use these in English ("Listen up, people!"). It can also be spotted by the fact that an imperative verb form generally comes first in the sentence in English (English has become very much a word-order language), has no expressed subject ("you" is understood), and does not generally use any helping verbs: "I run", "I am running" and "I do run" are all present indicatives in English, but "Run!" is an imperative (negative imperatives are the main exception where we use the helping verb "do" plus the negative: "Don't!").

So the phrase "imperative command" is redundant. An imperative is a command and most commands are rendered by the imperative in most languages most of the time (I will spare you the exceptions).

In your example, Ephesians 5:18, the first half of the verse is negative, the second is not; both verbs are in the imperative mood, however, hence both verbs express commands.

As to what commands actually mean, that is a question of interpretation. If I say to you, "come in, sit down, take your shoes off, and have a drink!", you would not expect that you are absolutely obligated to do all these actions nor that I would be reaching for my shotgun if you refuse. The relationship between the parties in question and the situation are the keys to understanding the meaning. If a commanding officer gives an order, it is usually an order (even in social situations). If someone who has no authority over you gives you an order it is almost never obligatory, and it may only be a matter of courtesy: "Watch out for that banana peal you're about to step on!"

Language is flexible. It means what it means but what it means is dependent upon a large number of factors, and the mood of the verb (in this case) is only one of these.

As to Acts 2:38, what we have in the case of "repent!" is a standard 2nd person imperative, but in the case of the baptize verb we have a "third person" imperatival form rather than the standard, 2nd person direct form: e.g., "Let them eat cake!" Most versions ignore the distinction but NKJV has the difference right in their rendering: ""Repent, and let every one of you be baptized". I believe this is a very important distinction here. The third person imperative is designed for giving commands to people who are not present, and as such is necessarily looser than the standard 2nd person form – if for no other reason than that it would depend upon someone else relaying the command. For that reason in my experience when relaying commands in a tight authority structure this form is seldom used: "Sergeants, have every member of your squads draw double rations for the march" – makes it clear it's not optional; but "Sergeants, let every member of your squads draw double rations for the march" might give the impression it is optional. So when Peter switches forms here it is very significant (and very unusual too). It certainly means that #1 is absolutely necessary, but #2 less so.

Peter was asked what was necessary to be saved and he rightly says "repent!" – which is the "flip-side" to faith: the opposite from unbelief and an unbelieving life is belief and a believing life; whereas a genuine expression of faith is likewise impossible without first turning away from one's previously worldly attitude of disbelieving God. You cannot repent and not have faith; you cannot have true faith without having repented of your previous unbelief – they are opposite poles of the same attitude. So Peter gives the gospel in terms these Jews who were familiar with John's water-baptism can understand, but then uses the third person imperative because the baptism of the Spirit which had amazed and drawn the crowd is something good they "may" have rather than something necessary they have to do to be saved.

Because Peter does not fully understand these matters immediately (and that is understandable) – a point well chronicled and explained in your piece, I might add – I am inclined to believe that he felt the baptism of the Spirit would have to be mediated. And indeed it was so in the early going of the Church, mediated by the apostles through the laying on of their hands for the purpose of establishing their authority (later of course all would receive the Spirit at the point of faith in Christ; cf. Rom.8:9b). Why Peter would have assumed that water-baptism was necessary for this mediation, however, is not entirely clear except to note that John had water-baptized the penitent and of course the disciples had been doing the same during Jesus' first advent (though not Jesus Himself: Jn.4:2). It is possible that Peter did not yet understand that Jesus words recorded for us at Matthew 28:29 referred to Spirit baptism – though later he would:

"As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning. Then I remembered what the Lord had said: 'John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.' "
Acts 11:15-16 NIV

Here is how I translate the verse (please see the discussion at the link: "One Baptism: the True Meaning of Peter's Words at Acts 2:38."):

Then Peter said to them, "Repent [of your unbelief]". He said also (Greek: phesin kai), "Let each of you be baptized in the Name of Jesus as a demonstration of the forgiveness of your sins [which comes as a result of this faith], [so that] then [as a result of your faith] you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (i.e., through that laying on of hands in the baptism)."
Acts 2:38

As to the Lord's prayer, the first three "commands" are third person, but these all have to do with things which are outside of the experience of the person praying: the Father's Name should be hallowed by all, His will should be done by all, and His kingdom will most definitely come to all (believers) – but all of these things are for the whole family of God and lie in the future, at least as far as their complete and total fulfillment (hence the third person, more "permissive" imperative). "Give us", "forgive us", and "don't lead us" are all standard 2nd person imperatives – because they are direct requests for aid and comfort now on an individual level (the last one in the sequence is technically an aorist subjunctive, but that is a standard alternative construction throughout ancient Greek and was understood as the equivalent of the imperative, just an idiomatic difference where this stem is used in prohibitions).

I have never made a big deal out of the difference here because, obviously, we are dealing with God, not other human beings, when we pray this prayer. He is the One in complete authority so that a command is understood as a request. "God, please help me!" is, technically speaking, a command (in the imperative mood), but we all understand very well that since God is under no obligation to respond to us as someone in a position of subordination, this is merely an emphatic way to state our request – that's what I mean about the relationship between the parties being a critical factor in how we are to interpret the language.

Giving a command to someone who does not understand is still a command, grammatically speaking. If you said, "let the child eat", that would be a third person command.

Hope this helps. Please feel free to write back if you have any questions about this.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior. Marana Tha! "O our Lord, return!" (a command, technically)

Bob L.

Question #8:


Last night this topic came up in my home Bible study. In referencing Matt 28:19-20, I pointed out that the only imperative is "make disciples", that neither "go", "baptizing", or "teaching" are imperatives.

In one of your articles, you state "What this passage actually commands is for us to "make disciples" (the only imperative in the Greek), that is, to teach mankind about Jesus Christ, how to come to Him and how to follow Him. The two participles ("baptizing" and "teaching") are clearly instrumental in nature (i.e., they show the method of carrying out the order: "by baptizing" and "by teaching"). "Baptizing" and "teaching" therefore reflect the means to these two parts of the process."

Now, like you, I completely believe Christ was referring to baptism by the Holy Spirit. I noticed you stated this is instrumental in nature, and I completely agree. My question arises on the imperative of "make disciples". Does the imperative in "Make disciples" carry over to the "baptizing" and "teaching"? In other words, is the weight of the imperative applied to "baptizing" and "teaching"? I thought that because there was not an article "by", or "through", that they don't hold the weight of the imperative.

In 1 Tim 4:13 it says give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching.

There is an article in this text, the "to", and I see this as carrying the weight of "give attention" to reading, exhortation, and teaching.

In Matt 28, the text is very specific, and God intended it to be this way. Baptizing and teaching are not commands, but are results of the command, making disciples.

I’ve been thinking, and I’d like your opinion on my logic. The text in Matt 28:19-20 could have said make disciples by baptizing and teaching; which would carry the imperative from "make disciples" to baptizing and teaching. The text could have also made each one an imperative. Baptizing and teaching are not even an imperative in the passive voice (meaning it’s a command, but carried out by someone other person or power). If it were a command for ‘us’ to baptize, then there would be no asking for permission when we have new disciples; we would be commanded to do it, without regard for their opinion.

Of course, if my understanding of this Greek grammar is incorrect, and the imperative does carry forward into baptizing and teaching, then this doesn’t work.

Submitting to Him daily,

Response #8:

1st Timothy 4:13 is not a parallel because the three nouns are all the objects (or, more technically speaking, "objective complements" since they are in the dative) of the imperative verb "give attention". Matthew 28:19-20 is a case of two circumstantial participles in the nominative which thus explain the imperative verb with which they agree, "make disciples". So the definite article is neither here nor there (the only reason it is present in the other passage is because concept nouns generally take an article in Greek). With participles, the presence of a definite article almost always makes them attributive (i.e., "the believing ones" = "believers"), so that is not what is called for here (it would change the grammar entirely).

Also, it is the case in Greek that circumstantial participles such as these do not have (except in few special cases) any sort of direct cue (like a case or an added word) to illuminate their application. Context is our guide as to what in particular is meant. This seems difficult to English speakers at first, but by the second year most of my students have usually overcome this (only) apparent difficulty. If I were to say to someone in questionable English (though good Greek), "Arriving home, turn on the air-conditioning", it would not be any great jump of logic to expand the translation into "when/if you get home, . . .". That is the situation we have in Greek with circumstantial participles, namely, the logic of the situation always makes their particular meaning clear for anyone who stops to think about it. In this case, the instrumental usage is the only one that really fits. The versions all use the bare participle (all of the ones I checked, any way). That is fine since in our minds, if we give it any thought, we are understanding these participles as instrumental anyway: i.e., we do not assume it means "when baptizing" or "if baptizing" or "since baptizing" or "although baptizing" but only "by/through baptizing" will work. Since the main verb is a command, the two participles naturally show us how that command is to be carried out. We English speakers are not very conversant with circumstantial participles any longer – as evidenced by all the debate over the second amendment where "being necessary" is clearly causal: "since a militia is necessary . . .", so leaving these verbs as bare participles in the versions is insufficient in my view. My rendering:

Then Jesus came over and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me, so go and make all nations my followers by baptizing them [with the Spirit] into the Person (i.e., "name") of the Father and [into the Person] of the Son and [into the Person] of the Holy Spirit, and by teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you".
Matthew 28:18-20a

So, yes, baptizing with the Spirit not with water enters the person "into" the Trinity; doctrinal and detailed teaching makes the Christian more like Christ and more useful to Him day by day. That is true discipleship – accomplished by teaching, learning and believing the truth, first of the gospel, then of the entire Bible. The former action is the means of entering into the process (salvation); the latter is the means of fulfilling the process (spiritual growth).

Since the two circumstantial participles are inseparable from the command and, indeed, explain the command, there is certainly an obligatory force in this respect: you cannot fulfill Jesus' command to "make disciples" without giving the gospel effectively so that the person becomes a child of God (Spirit-baptizing) or without indoctrinating him/her with the whole realm of biblical truth so that the Christian grows, progresses and produces a full crop for the Lord (truth-teaching).

I hope the above helps and is not too confusing. Please do feel free to write me back about any of the above in any case.

Your friend in Jesus Christ, now and forever,

Bob L.

Question #9:

Dear Dr. Bob,

After reading several of your articles on baptism, I must admit that my conclusions are markedly different.

Matthew 28: 18- 20 seems to establish that the baptism in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, a baptism administered by man, is for all nations. If so, this would preclude water baptism from being superceded by baptism with the Spirit, which is administered by our Lord.

Acts 2: 38, 39 seems to inextricably connect baptism in the name of our Lord for the forgiveness of sins with the gift of the Holy Spirit for both Jew and Gentile, as many as God shall call. This would include both the pouring out and the baptism with Spirit if my understanding of the process is correct. Water and Spirit.

Acts 8- The Samaritans believed and were baptized in the name of our Lord and then in God's time, later received the Spirit. Water and Spirit,

Acts 10, 11, 15- The Spirit was poured out as a gift upon the Gentiles and they were baptized and received the Spirit. Then they were commanded to be baptized in the name of our Lord. Both the Spirit and water were in play at their conversion. The baptism with the Spirit is stated in Ch 11 and the baptism in water in Ch 10. There is no indication that the one would supercede the other. Water and Spirit

In Acts 19 at Ephesus some disciples who only knew John's baptism were instructed and baptized in the name of the Lord and then the Spirit came on them when Paul laid hands on them. Water and Spirit.

John 3: 5 We must be born of water and the Spirit. When we repent and are baptized in the name of our Lord for the remission of sin, our Lord richly and abundantly (Titus 3: 5, 6) pours out the Holy Spirit immersing us with the Spirit also. As we come forth from this experience we are born again, born of water and the Spirit. There is no need to interpret this passage again (Occam's razor.)

What then is the one baptism of Ephesians 4? Some say water, others say Spirit. I believe the one baptism is the baptism in the name of the Lord in water combined with the baptism with the Holy Spirit. All agree there is only one birth but two elements. Similarly I believe there is one baptism with two elements, water and the Spirit. The baptism of Israel unto Moses in the cloud and the sea may fore shadow the one baptism of Ephesians.

For your consideration and may God bless you.

Response #9:

Good to hear from you again. As you probably know from reading the site, I disagree with you entirely on this subject. Everyone is certainly free to believe what he/she wishes to believe. The really important question is, "what is the truth?"

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: [it is] the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.
Ephesians 2:8-9 KJV

Understanding Matthew 28 as a "[water] baptism administered by man" or Acts 2 as a necessary "[water] baptism in the name of our Lord for the forgiveness of sins" or John 3 as speaking of a need to "repent" and be "[water] baptized in the name of our Lord for the remission of sin" has as its common thread the proposition that participation in the water ritual is not only mandated but also mandatory for salvation; otherwise a person would not be a disciple (Matt.28), would not be forgiven (Acts 2), would not be effectively repentant so that sins would not be forgiven (Jn.3) – in other words, would not be saved.

If salvation were in fact by works, I would be only too happy to do whatever works were necessary to be saved. However, salvation is "by grace through faith", whereas " by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified" (Gal.2:16 NKJV). Ever since the Reformation most evangelicals have accepted – at least in principle (though often failing in practice in respect of one thing or another) – the very clear and pervasive testimony of the New Testament that the coming of Jesus Christ, His death for us on the cross and fulfillment of all of the shadows of the Law, has released us from the necessity of all of these rituals now rendered dead by the reality of the Person and the work of the One they represented. Going back to the old way, whether in Sabbath observance, or dietary restrictions, or church membership, or artificial priesthoods, or circumcision, or water-baptism or any number of other rituals or ritualized behaviors is harmful enough if pronounced as important for Christians to observe (since the substitution of ritual over the reality of the truth vitiates spirituality on every level and undermines faith). But when any of the above is proclaimed as necessary for salvation, then instead of furthering salvation such a position eradicates the possibility of it: because the person in question is then relying on some "thing" they have "done", and not on the only Way of salvation, faith in the Person and the work of Jesus Christ.

If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about--but not before God. What does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness."
Romans 4:2-3 NIV

Salvation, therefore, comes from faith. Can a person who believes that they are saved by being water-baptized even be saved? It is a fair question. For we are either justified entirely by faith in which case we are saved – or we are seeking to justify ourselves through the works we have done: but salvation is "not of works, lest any man should boast" (Eph.2:9). We might have something to boast about through such works, but "not before God" (Rom.4:2).

We all want (or all should want) to follow the scriptures in all things. I see in your analysis of these scriptures the desire to bring some sort of consistency to this position (I will go into the details of the problems with your analysis below), but first I would like to submit that unless you already believed that water-baptism was necessary, you would not be inclined to think of things in this particular way at all. Simply put, the analysis you provide has in common with other such attempts to justify water-baptism the prior inference that water-baptism is necessary. This is building on sand, and this is the reason why your approach, although quite different in many respects from other approaches which reach the same conclusion (or, better, which validate the same a priori conclusion they began with), has in common with them the problem that after all is said and done it is not persuasive at all about 1) why water-baptism would be necessary; 2) what it would be meant to symbolize; and 3) how it would be different from / interact with the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

"I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and [with] fire".
Matthew 3:11 KJV

(4) And gathering them together [Jesus] commanded [the disciples] not to depart from Jerusalem, but to await the promise of the Father (i.e., the Holy Spirit) "which you heard about from Me. (5) For John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Spirit not many days from now".
Acts 1:4-5

Both the herald of the Messiah, the one sent to baptize with water, and the Messiah Himself, the One prophesied to replace water with the Spirit, testify to the primacy of Spirit baptism. The two baptisms are definitively not the same. The "but" in Matthew 3:11 and the "but" in Acts 1:5 are very big "buts", marking the strong contrast between the two. Simply put, John's water-baptism is not the baptism of the Spirit and the baptism of the Spirit is not John's water-baptism. Attempting to conflate the two only confuses the issue. It is very common in cult doctrine to produce confusing, conflated pictures of otherwise straightforward doctrine because ambiguity in theology is the friend of a false sort of dogmatism and ensuring that, though false, it cannot be easily refuted. I am certainly not saying that this is your intent, but into every unnecessarily loose hypothesis guilt and uncertainty easily take up residence, and these can be powerful persuaders for all who are not solidly grounded in the truth.

Matthew 28:19-20: This passage is speaking of Spirit baptism and not water-baptism. Both John and Jesus have previously told of us of the coming change so that there is no reason to assume a reversion to the earlier practices and a concomitant overturning of the earlier prophecies (Occam's razor, rightly applied) – only by misunderstanding the passage through a traditionalist mind-set would we be tripped up into forgetting Matthew 3:11 and Acts 1:4-5. Human beings cannot "baptize into the Person" of God (that is what the "Name" is; cf. Ps.9:10). Those of us who accept the meaning of what the Greek text actually says here (reflected in the ASV and also in the text notes of the NIV) cannot be held responsible for those who pretend the Bible says something other than what it actually does say – because of attachment to traditional practices. Here we have Spirit, but no water (alternatively and incorrectly in the traditional understanding of many, water but no Spirit – but in no understanding of the passage can we have both). Further, Jesus tells us that the basis for this "great commission" is the "authority" He has received through His victory on the cross – and that is also the basis for the reception of the gift of the Spirit (whereas John and his disciples were free to use water before the cross):

For the Spirit was not yet [being poured out in Spirit baptism], because Jesus had not yet been glorified (i.e., had not yet received the authority commensurate with His future victory).
John 7:39b

Acts 2: 38: As was the case for John's water-baptism, this verse, correctly understood, connects repentance (the 2nd person command) with the purpose construction "for the forgiveness of sins". It is the only the blood of Christ that avails for "the forgiveness of sins" (Gk.: aphesin hamartion), not John's water-baptism which was only symbolic thereof. And Peter is not saying that water-baptism is necessary for the forgiveness of sins. He is instead connecting up the gift of the Spirit with laying on of hands he and the disciples will be administering shortly. Was water necessary for the latter? No – as Peter would find out (Acts 10; cf. Acts 11:16). But this was an all Jewish (or Judaic) audience, and the connection of John to Jesus was an important one to make – most of these people accepted the Messiah's herald, so it was helpful to show by this means that Jesus was indeed the Messiah, the one heralded by John. Later, once the apostles' authority had been sufficiently established and the gospel began to spread to the gentiles, the Spirit began to be given without any such direct mediation (as at Acts 10). This is the mediation of the Spirit precisely as our Lord describes in Matthew 29:19-20: giving the gospel which brings a person into discipleship as a believer and enters the new Christian into Christ (the baptism of the Spirit). Note that Peter does not command water-baptism (in contrast to "repent!", we have a third person versus a second person imperative which, since the parties concerned are actually present, is permissive not obligatory). But Peter adds to all this "And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (NIV) – thus separating the act of water-baptism from the gift of the Spirit: water ritual and supernatural gift clearly distinguished. After all, earlier in the chapter all of the believers had received the Spirit – without water.

Acts 8: Samaritans were "almost Jews": not Jewish but considering themselves not to be gentiles; for these people as well the continuation of the connection with John's ministry and the water-baptism of repentance was important. Significantly for our purposes the water-baptism does not accomplish anything to do with the Spirit. That only happens later when other apostles are sent from Jerusalem. Water-baptism separated from Spirit baptism.

Acts 10: Now that the gentiles too are being called into the family of God, Peter is given an "education" about the end of Jewish ritual in the thrice repeated vision of the lowering of the tablecloth with the "forbidden foods". A correspondent points out that the three times may signify the three future failures of Peter to learn the lesson. Suggesting water-baptism to those who had already been Spirit baptized in Cornelius home is one of those failures. But it is still only a suggestion. Peter does not command it (he says "can anyone forbid water?" KJV) . And water was not necessary for receiving the Spirit ipso facto since the Spirit had already been received. Spirit without water.

Acts 19: There is no water here. Paul wants to know if these individuals have been Spirit baptized but finds that they have only been water-baptized ("John's baptism" – which biblically speaking is the only water-baptism). Paul places his hands on them (apostolic mediation as at Samaria) and they receive the Spirit. Spirit only and no water at all.

John 3:5: Jesus is speaking of salvation, not the baptism of the Spirit which believers after Pentecost would receive. Further, the water in question is the water of the Word (e.g., Is.55:1; Rev.22:17; cf. Jer.2:13). The Spirit is the One said to give birth here, but He gives birth to those who respond to the Word of the gospel He makes real and understandable (e.g., 1Cor.2:9-16). If this referred to water-baptism, then salvation would, by definition, have to be through water-baptism completely irrespective of the gospel or our faith in it.

On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him." By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.
John 7:37-39 NIV

The Spirit as Agent of salvation (nothing to do with water-baptism at all).

There is only one baptism, and we are blessed that Paul has put it just that concisely at Ephesians 4:5 (cf. Tit.3:5). Everyone has to choose whether to side with the legalism of water-baptism or the grace of the Spirit: it has to be one or the other; the two cannot be combined.

Written in the love of Jesus Christ and the grace we have through His death on the cross for us all.

Bob L.

Question #10:

Dr Bob

Thank you for responding to my e-mail; my problem is reconciling Ephesians 2: 8, 9 with Acts 2: 38, 39. At the end of the day my theology of salvation must agree with the practices of the early church not necessarily with the theology of the reformers.

Aren't the references to baptism as a ritual together with the assertions that God does not use ritual to save, classic examples of poisoning the well? They seem to be intended to cause us to think of something external and outward, without reality or substance when in reality baptism is the time when faith is working with baptism (James 2: 22) to perfect faith so that faith may be effective in conveying God’s grace to those that believe. If God wants to use washing in the pool of Siloam or dipping seven times in the Jordan, that is His prerogative, isn't it. To say He doesn’t use baptism to save appears me to be somewhat ill advised.

To say that baptism has nothing to do with salvation is to me, frankly, unbelievable.

Jesus promised he who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved (Mark 16: 16) The eunuch in Acts 8 shows us that one must be a believer to be baptized. No infants, please. Without faith it is impossible to be pleasing to God.

Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved (Acts 2: 21); we call on the name of the Lord to wash away our sins by being baptized (Acts 22: 16); baptism now saves by appealing to God for a good conscience (1Peter 3: 21)

Repentance saves (2 Corinthians 7: 10)

Baptism washes away sin. (Acts 22: 16)

Repentance wipes away sin. (Acts 3: 19

Repentance is for forgiveness of sin. (Luke 24: 47)

Repentance and baptism are for the forgiveness of sin. (Acts 2: 38)

Baptism results in newness of life. (Romans 6: 4

Repentance leads to life. (Acts 11: 18)

Baptism in water and the Spirit leads to the coming forth from water and the Spirit, the new birth

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, that no man should boast.

The theology of the reformation seems to views faith as a one-dimensional factor excluding all others, well almost. By their own definitions repentance should have been excluded but since it was not so controversial they let it slide. Works could mean any response other than faith or it could mean anything that was done. The fact that faith is called a work of God is certainly interesting. The only time we find the phrase "faith alone" (if we don’t count Luther’s addition in Romans 3: 28) is in James 2: 24 which some considered rather "strawy." There is no room in this theology for repentance and baptism to be factors in salvation. Indeed, there is no room for confession of His name nor calling on the name of the Lord nor any of the other factors that contribute to salvation.

The theology of the first century considered faith to be multi-dimensional:

Faith without love is nothing, not meaningful, not effective, incomplete (1 Corinthians 13: 2). Thus faith and love were greatly emphasized. (1 Timothy 1: 5; 1 John 3: 23) and could be considered a synopsis of Christianity. Love is the impetus for obedience to God’s commands. (John 14: 15; 1 John 5: 3)

Faith without works (of faith) is dead and useless. (James 2: 17, 20) Obedience was not a work of righteousness but as perfecting faith.

They recognized that the "works" in Ephesians 2: 9 were works of righteousness (Titus 3: 5) or works of the Law (Galatians 2: 16). They recognized that the obedience of faith, works of faith and labor of love were not negative factors and that Jesus is the source of eternal salvation to those that obey. There is ample room in this theology for repentance and baptism to be factors in salvation as they appear in the conversion narratives of Acts,

The baptism of Acts 2: 38, 39 does not appear to be John’s baptism as it was to the Jews while the baptism of Acts 2: 38, 39 with its attendant promises is to Jew and Gentile. Also I don’t believe John baptized in the name of our Lord. John’s baptism seems to be an effort to prepare the people for the first coming of the Lord while Acts 2: 38 is to prepare us for the second coming.

Kindest regards,

Praying for you and me and all men to come to a knowledge of the truth,

Response #10:

God is certainly free to do anything He wishes to do. The question is, what does He wish us to do? If we were required to be baptized in water to be saved – or if we were required to baptized in water at all, regardless of the issue of salvation – that would be one thing. However, since there is not a single scripture which requires it, since the matter is never brought up in the epistles except in a negative light, and since Spirit baptism is instead what John, our Lord Jesus, and the apostles emphasize as the baptism of the Church, plastering onto the reality of the Spirit a ritual which is really an Old Testament ritual is very questionable. If there is the least suggestion that such is necessary for salvation, then what we have is a far worse situation. Depending upon anything other than faith for salvation is salvation by works not by grace through faith.

Your statement, "baptism is the time when faith is working with baptism (James 2: 22) to perfect faith so that faith may be effective in conveying God’s grace to those that believe", sums up the disparity in our positions quite well. By this logic, no one can be saved through faith – at least not until they can find some water and someone to dip them in the water. But what happens then? What is the person who is being water-baptized supposed to believe or think of the process. What is the precise "magical" formula that must recited (Matthew 28 is different from Acts 2, etc.)? What language must it be in? Who must intone it? If the person is believing in God, then what is the person believing about God? That he/she has be baptized in water for God to save them? That water is necessary to be saved? That the faith the person had before which caused them even to show up to be water-baptized was of absolutely no account (assuming they had faith in Christ at all), but that now they are saved through water-baptism? Or are they saved through faith and water-baptism? Do they have faith before being dunked? Does God not count or honor the faith they are expressing before they hit the water? Does He save them on the way in or on the way out? Does it really matter at all what the person in question believes or when they are dunked or by whom or with what said – as long as they are dunked (that seems to be the only common element among groups who practice this invalid ceremony)? These questions should all be easy to answer if water-baptism were really required or necessary – or biblical. As it is, I have never heard a group which advocates it be able to explain adequately the reason for it and what precisely it represents (or agree on the particulars, only some of which are questioned above). The reason for that, of course, is that the only legitimate water-baptism was John's, and that has now been superseded – by the Spirit.

Paul said, "John's baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus."
Acts 19:4 NIV

Water baptism disposed a person to look for the Messiah who was coming after John, His herald. Spirit baptism is the baptism of the Church, and since the earliest days of the expansion of the gospel to the gentiles, it has been given to all upon faith in Christ.

And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.
Romans 8:9b NIV

There are many instances of cleansing in the Bible. You cite Naaman. He was healed of leprosy, but not saved, by dipping seven times in the river. You cite Jesus' healing of the blind man. He was healed of blindness, but not saved, by dipping in the pool of Siloam. Neither one was baptized; both engaged in a special ritual cleansing on their own according to very specific instructions. You may see these as symbolic. So do I. All who are willing to accept the gift of Jesus Christ are given specific instructions: the gospel, to which all who respond in faith are saved, having been cleansed "by the washing of the-water-in-the-Word", i.e., the truth of the gospel message (Eph.5:26). John's baptism does represent the obedience of faith and the forgiveness of sins thereby – for those of Israel who are assumed, in God's corporate treatment of that nation during her age, to already be believers who are now repenting of their spiritual wandering and being "made ready" for the coming of their Messiah. Once the door of the Church was opened to the gentiles – people who are assumed to be "without God in the world" (Eph.2:12), the situation is entirely different. Now it is a question of unbelievers responding to the "good news" that they too can be saved (as opposed to being cleansed and restored). The ritual of water-baptism has thus been replaced by the reality of faith response to the truth of the message of good news in Jesus Christ. The reality has replaced the ritual. Being water-baptized adds nothing to salvation; however, adding water-baptism to salvation compromises salvation.

As to your listed points:

1) Mark 16:16 is not a part of scripture (see the link). This is the second time I have pointed that out. For me, this is a good illustration of how adding to scripture, even in small amounts, has the potential of corrupting everything. It certainly seems so in this case.

2) Infants, eunuchs, people of faith: If a person has faith in Christ, that person is saved. If a person does not believe that his/her faith in Christ is sufficient for salvation, but that some ritual must also be performed in order to be saved, that addition of works to faith is sufficient to leaven the whole lump.

3) Calling upon the Lord's Name is what saves us (Acts 2:21). Thank you. It is true. No water-baptism necessary.

4) Acts 22:16. This is not the whole story. Paul, having heard the gospel from our Lord Himself, was already saved – and already filled with the Spirit (cf. Acts 9:18-19). Being a Jew of that generation, it was not inappropriate for him to demonstrate his acceptance of the message of the Messiah's herald.

5) 1Peter 3:21 is speaking of the Spirit (see the context) – second time this has been explained too (see the link: The 'baptism which now saves you': 1st Peter 3:21).

6) 2nd Corinthians 7:10. You are confusing baptism, a ritual, with repentance, a conscious decision of the heart. Again, as previously explained, repentance is the complement of faith: all who truly repent believe and all who genuinely believe have repented. Biblical repentance is a complete change of direction – that is just what faith is as well. The former represents turning away from the world, the latter turning towards the Lord. It is impossible to do one without the other. However, a mental reservation to the effect that some ritual must take place or faith is null and void renders faith null and void. See the link: Biblical Repentance (in BB 4B)

7) Acts 22:16. See above #4.

8) Acts 3:19. See #6.

9) Luke 24:47. See #6.

10) Romans 6:4 is Spirit baptism – as is the case throughout the epistles (especially clear in Paul for whom there is only "one baptism": Eph.4:5; sc. Tit.3:5).

11) Acts 11: 18. See #6.

12) John 3: already explained as well. The water of the Word is responded to in the heart and the result of the salvation received is the baptism of the Spirit. That is the way of the Church, John's symbolic water-baptism for the pre-cross nation of Israel having been replaced by the reality of the Spirit for us all – just as John and Jesus prophesied.

13) Reformation. I have no dog in this fight. I believe in the truth of the scriptures. If the early fathers were right about something, good for them. If not, I am not obliged to follow. Same goes for the Reformers.

14) The only witness to the "faith of the first century" is the Bible. Your understanding and synopsizing of it here is esoteric and not anything I would agree with at all. The only point I would wish to make is that your arguments rely very heavily upon the book of Acts. But the book of Acts is historical. That is, it relates correctly what actually happened. The statements made may or may not be doctrinally correct even though they are accurately recorded. Peter remonstrated with the Spirit when told to "slay and eat" in Acts 10 – but he was wrong to do so. This was a period of transition, so Peter may certainly be forgiven. He had to learn the new way of grace, and the three-fold vision of Acts 10 was part of that process graciously given to him so that he might learn the truth. For us to ignore these truths and consider what he says chapters earlier as completely informed when we see him partially misinformed here later on is woefully insufficient theology (see the link).

15) Again, the underlying mistake here is seeing a physical act as necessary for repentance. Repentance is something that takes place in the heart. To the extent that a person believes that by taking some physical action he/she can satisfy God's requirement of repentance, to that extent the repentance (and the faith from which it is inseparable if genuine) is rendered invalid. See the link: Biblical Repentance (in BB 4B)

16) There are no true gentiles present in Acts 2. All are either Jewish or Jewish converts who historically and biblically are considered part of the congregation of Israel – and all knew about John and John's baptism very well. I have explained what Peter meant here and what we can glean from scripture about it in another place (see the link: One Baptism: the True Meaning of Peter's Words at Acts 2:38). Given that Peter had not yet even learned that there would be many years of the Church age and that the gentiles were not to be excluded from the gospel and that the Law had in fact been fulfilled and was now not necessary for faith and practice, laying such a burden upon the backs of other believers today based upon such a slender reed as Peter's words in Acts chapter two is to me what is "ill-advised" – especially as it can be explained in terms of everything else scripture allows us to say about the replacement of Jewish ritual with the post-cross reality of the Spirit.

Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.
Hebrews 10:22 NIV

Consider: the blood of Christ is clearly symbolic, being a figure representing His death of atonement for all sin on the cross. So if the blood "sprinkled" here is symbolic (cf. Heb.10:19 in the context), representing the Person and more particularly the work of Christ in whom and in which we believe, how then would we take the water as literal? In fact, the "washing" here represents the water-of-Word (see the link), the gospel, which cleanses us when we believe: water and Spirit, meaning not physical water and physical wind (pneuma), but the Word of God in conjunction with the Spirit of God by whom in God's grace we are saved . . . through faith.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #11:


I really enjoyed reading your viewpoint on Baptism. I belong to a church that doesn't believe baptism is necessary for salvation, but the minister last week said in his sermon…."A lot of you have accepted Jesus, but haven't been baptized, why aren't you doing it?". I was raised in an Anglican church, but now go to a community church that still baptizes adults. It really bothered me. They compare it to marriage…making your commitment public. I talked with someone in the church about it today, and she said "Jesus tells us to do it, so we should do it". You answered a question by saying we don't need to do everything Jesus did, i.e. living a celibate life, but they would say that it's not about doing what he did, it's following his commands. They are so much more knowledgeable about this, so trying to educate myself to help them see it a different way.

It seems to me, that Jesus was more about "Baptism of the Spirit", as opposed to water baptism…they say it was a command of Jesus.

Any help would be so appreciated. It just doesn't sit right with me…if they say it's not necessary for salvation, then why does it seem so important to them. Plus you can't be a "member" of this church unless you're baptized. I don't get it!!!

Thanks so much,

Response #11:

Good to make your acquaintance. I'm glad this site has been of some help to you. On the question of water-baptism, there are many files on this topic at Ichthys. From you comment it sounds as if you have found one of them. I think most of your additional questions are answered elsewhere – I will give you the links to these other files below but will also give you "the gist" of what you ask here as well.

First let me say that I appreciate your no-nonsense "spiritual common sense", and for me it is additional proof of the truth. That is to say, the fact that a Christian who is trying to serve Jesus Christ and to learn and believe the truth when coming to it for the first time finds water-baptism odd, disturbing, and not consistent with scripture speaks volumes in my opinion. This is additional evidence of the point that if we didn't have a tradition of baptizing with water we wouldn't be doing it all based on scripture. Your other initial observation I find equally "right on the mark" to the effect that Jesus' concentrated His teachings on this subject on the baptism of the Spirit. That is absolutely right, and it amazes me how tradition and "group think" can so easily cast aside this fundamental and important truth (cf. Jn.14-16).

(4) And gathering them together [Jesus] commanded [the disciples] not to depart from Jerusalem, but to await the promise of the Father (i.e., the Holy Spirit) "which you heard about from Me. (5) For John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Spirit not many days from now".
Acts 1:4-5

"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth".
Acts 1:8

Furthermore, the explanations you have been given for continuing water-baptism clearly are problematic, and these explanations differ from group to group. The only thing they have in common is that none of them make sense. And none of them make sense because water-baptism is John's baptism, a cleansing ritual for Jews anticipating the coming of the Messiah (and continued briefly in the early days of the Church to connect Jesus as the Messiah to His herald John for Jewish and Jewish-proselyte converts who knew about John and expected the Messiah to be connected to him). Since Jesus has now come and since the generation of Jews who knew of John has now come and gone, there is no more rationale for continuing the ritual of water-baptism. And, in fact, continuing it is wrongfully proclaiming that the Messiah is still yet to come (a violation of the truth comparable to that of Hebrews 6:6).

As you realize, Spirit baptism was what Jesus was focused on in looking forward to the time after the cross. For after His ascension He would send the Spirit to form His Church, and it is the gift of the Spirit that makes all the difference (not being splashed with water).

As to water-baptism being "a command of Jesus", that is no doubt a mis-interpretation of Matthew 28:19

Then Jesus came over and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me, so go and make all nations my followers by baptizing them [with the Spirit] into the Person (i.e., "name") of the Father and [into the Person] of the Son and [into the Person] of the Holy Spirit, and by teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you".
Matthew 28:18-20a

Versions which have "in the name" are mistranslating the Greek preposition eis which means "into" (the Greek word for "in" is en, not eis). They no doubt do so because they incorrectly understand Jesus as referring to water-baptism and so translate in accordance with their tradition in direct violation of the actual language of the text.

Clearly, no amount of splashing can make a human being one with the Trinity. We are only "baptized into" the Trinity through the ministry of the Spirit (e.g., 1Cor.12:13). In this passage Jesus is anticipating the first Pentecost and the formation of the entire Church thereafter – as the entire context of these verses make clear (the "commission" follows the grant of "authority" which releases the gift of the Spirit: Jn.7:39). So Matthew 28:19 is actually completely consistent with Acts 1:4-8 and with John's words about the Messiah baptizing "with the Holy Spirit" instead of with water as John was doing.

Tradition is hard to supplant, and people who have invested in it are likewise generally immovable. But for those who wish to keep advancing in the grace and knowledge of God through Jesus Christ it is necessary to put truth over tradition every time.

Here are those other links:

Baptism: Water and Spirit I

Baptism: Water and Spirit II

Baptism: Water and Spirit III

One Baptism: the True Meaning of Peter's Words at Acts 2:38.

John's Water-Baptism versus the Baptism of the Holy Spirit

Is baptism necessary for salvation?

Baptism and following Jesus

Is water baptism required for Christians today?

Foot-washing, Bitter Herbs, Baptism, and Borrowed Faith.

The baptism of the Holy Spirit as distinct from speaking in tongues.

An Extended Conversation about the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.

Sin, Baptism, and the Book of Revelation.

Does baptism play a role in being born again? 

"The Great Commission"

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob Luginbill

Question #12:

Dr. Luginbill,

Thank you so much for taking the time to respond to my email. I have to say it's hard to find anything online that supports what I'm feeling. Most sites emphasize the need for baptism, so it was refreshing to read your articles. I brought this up with a church member on the weekend, and told her about your website. She was very interested to read them, so I passed them on - they are very open to learning, which I like. I hope you don't mind me passing on your response to my letter as well. I want to understand why baptism is so stressed in this church (however they do tell me it is definitely not required for salvation). I do come from a much more conservative background (Anglican), so don't want to be divisive. I just want to understand the need for it, if there is indeed a need for it. I don't want to stand up in front of the church and read a testimonial and then be submerged in water (and I especially don't like the undercurrent that it's required if I want to be an obedient Christian and a church member). I haven't really felt direct pressure, but have been asked why I haven't done it. I definitely do want to be a faithful, obedient Christian - so am only trying to seek the truth. As I said in my earlier email, it doesn't feel right (for me) or necessary and your answers to my questions seem to support this.

Thank you so much for your kind and thoughtful response. Your website and email have helped me greatly...and could potentially help my church! Looking forward to reading all links to other articles you included.

Response #12:

You are most welcome, .

I certainly hope it works out for you!

Please feel free to write back any time.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #13:

Hi Dr. Luginbill,

I hate to trouble you with more questions on baptism, but am more confused than ever. A had a talk with a church leader today who feels that Matthew 28:19, is a command from Jesus to be baptized with water. She believes it doesn't equal salvation, but it is communion with God because we are physical beings, and it's more or less a gift from God, as is the bread and wine. Baptism is only done to confirm our faith...I guess the difficult part is they believe it's a command, and I find it hard to see it that way.

Matt 28:19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:

She said that a minister cannot baptize someone with the Holy Spirit, only Jesus can do that, therefore Matthew 28:19 is referring to water baptism...it couldn't refer to baptism in the Holy Spirit, because it's not possible for anyone to do this except Jesus. Didn't his apostles do this...baptize people in the Holy Spirit without actual water baptism? How you explained it to me seems more logical , but so difficult for me to express. My knowledge of the Bible is not the best (even though we went to church every Sunday as children!), but am trying to learn. The particular person I was discussing this with wondered if you were a member of the Salvation Army church, who don't believe in baptism or communion...not sure why this would make a difference, but to be honest I don't know much about the Salvation Army Church.

Thanks for any additional insight,

Response #13:

The confused rationales you are being given are understandable because the ritual is not biblically authorized (and so can have no actual or understandable biblical rationale). Therefore those who want to justify it make up all sorts of reasons why "it's good" or why "we should". Being dunked in water is not communion. The biblical rite of communion is for fellowship, and all who are believers do have fellowship with the Lord (cf. 1Jn.1:3). The communion ritual is the only ritual authorized for the Church and it is very clearly a remembrance of our Lord, His Person (the bread) and His work in dying for our sins (the wine), and our faith in eating and drinking. We know all this because it is explicitly mentioned as such in scripture, and we do it because our Lord specifically told us to: "Keep on doing this to remember Me" (Lk.22:19; 1Cor.11:24-25). Confusing water-baptism with this precious ritual of remembrance of our Lord, who He is and what He did for us, not only does not result in remembering Jesus through water (?) but also cheapens true communion. As to confirming faith (!?), if we believe in Jesus, we have faith. But if we add works to our faith like the Pharisees insisted on doing, then we are relying on our works, and not on our faith at all. If we think we need to be water-baptized to be saved, or, worse, think we are saved because we have been water-baptized, then we are not even saved at all. Far from confirming faith, any work felt necessary for salvation or for "confirming faith" is antithetical to that very faith it thus seeks to establish or confirm.

As to Matthew 28:19, there is no mention of the word "water" here, and we know very well from scripture that "baptism" is often water-less – as in the baptism of the Spirit (cf. also e.g., Lk.12:50; 1Cor.10:2). You are absolutely correct that the apostles did indeed in the early days of the Church baptize people with the Spirit through the laying on of their hands. They were given this unique power in order to establish their authority while the Church was just beginning:

Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.
Acts 8:17 NKJV

And, of course, it is the apostles whom Jesus is addressing in Matthew 28, and the apostles literally did baptize new believers into the Trinity as in the passage above. Later on, of course, this blessing began to happen for them the same way it now does for us, that is, they gave people the gospel and the Spirit came on those who believed, baptizing them into Jesus (and the Trinity) and indwelling them, doing so even before the apostles could mediate the blessing.

While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message.
Acts 10:44 NIV

As to the Salvation Army, I am aware that they do have fellowships and "churches", but I am not a member (and I have no idea what they believe about baptism).

I hope this is helpful in your search for and support of the truth of the Word of God.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #14:

Dear Dr. Luginbill,

I can't help but wish you were beside me when I was discussing this with a church member last week!! I passed on your website and previous response, but I know she felt as though she was in the right when discussing this, based on scripture - she more or less said Matthew 28:19 was a command, because no person can baptize someone in the Holy Spirit, only Jesus can do that. After reading your response - that apostles did baptize in the Spirit, I have to wonder why she is under that impression. To be honest I wish I hadn't gone to this particular person in the first place...there are more open people to talk with. I guess I just have to wade through this. The problem for me, is that I feel that I'm good enough to go to this church (and put my money in the collection plate), but not good enough to be a church member. If Jesus accepts me, when I accept him, how can a baptism be part of the criteria for membership? I really don't care all that much about being an actual member, but it bothers me that I can't - it's the principle of it. Although they say, I'm not saved by baptism then why should the act of baptism carry this weight...they can say it doesn't save you all they want, but are they not saying that they have a higher "rank" if only those baptized can become members? This church I go to was previously a Baptist church (now a community church), but they severed ties because they still believe in miracles and healing, which the baptist church denies (or feel that miracles use to happen but not anymore). They have obviously kept the adult baptism part as well. I grew up in the Anglican church, which taught me nothing about living out my faith. It was really a "once a week, show up for church kind" of experience. I know that no church is perfect, and I really do love this church and the people...just need to explore this whole issue, and figure out why it bothers me so much.

I have to decide whether I should push this issue, or allow it to rest.

Another huge thank you for all your help, and for being so generous with your time,

Response #14:

Thanks for the update – and let me say how much I appreciate your steadfastness in seeking the truth in spite of the "flak" you are getting for it. I wish I could say that I'm surprised at the reaction you're getting. I hope it will comfort you to know that your experience is one of many extremely similar ones I have heard about from readers and acquaintances (not to mention what I have seen personally) who have raised this and other such issues in their churches. Your point about being somehow "second class" for this reason is an excellent one, and one which really provides food for thought. With all of the questionable things Christians sometimes do, and with all the positive things they don't do which they should be doing, singling out this one legalistic exercise as the litmus test for who's in and who's out makes absolutely no sense – unless as you suggest they really do want to convey the impression that water-baptism is somehow mysteriously connected with saving faith. That is an odd thing too since, as we have discussed, adding ritual observance to faith enervates faith. True faith is "not of works, lest any man should boast" (Eph.2:8-9). The legalistic Jews of Paul's day did the same thing with circumcision and the observance of the Mosaic Law generally. Since water-baptism is essentially a ritual designed for those under the Law – to prepare them for the coming Messiah who would fulfill the Law – the story is even worse. But perhaps the worst part is that the people and groups who practice water-baptism are not really interested in understanding it even though, as is obvious from your experience, they really can't explain it.

There is no substitute for the truth – stand fast in it.

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #15:

Dr. Luginbill,

Thanks again for your insight. I can see you've had a lot of experience with this issue. I have a hard time coming to conclusions on my own, because only within the last year have I actually read the Bible, so your input has helped me greatly. Last night my daughter asked me how I could believe in the Bible that counts homosexuality as a sin...I'm challenged in many areas these days!! I have to keep in mind John 16:33 at all times!! When I say to her, we are all sinful and there is no hierarchy of sin...that Christians are to love all people regardless of their race, sexual orientation, etc., it doesn't cut it with her because it's calling it a sin in the first place she has a problem with. She believes people are either born this way or not, and if God created them like this how can you call it a sin. I really feel it's turning her off the Christian faith...she has more or less told me this. Would you have any links to this topic? I've read a few of your responses on the gay marriage issue, but what troubles her mostly is calling it sinful in the first place, if they are indeed born this way.

I am so sorry to throw another question at you! I promise my emails will stop soon!!!

Thanks so much,

ps. I found out today that our church is having a meeting next week on the baptism/membership policy! I guess I'm not the only one asking questions.

Response #15:

You are most welcome (and good news about the meeting!). Young people are often difficult about such things – I know I sure was! I never met my maternal grandfather but I like to tell one the stories reported about him. He used to like to say that almost everybody had to "go over fool hill" in their youth, but most came back once they figured out there was nothing over there worthwhile. I know I did!

For what it's worth, I think your response to your daughter along with your patient and loving attitude are exactly the right approach. I hear this argument you report all the time and I'm guessing she didn't invent it herself anew. When we are in a disobedient mode towards God, especially when we are young, it is natural for us to find some easy excuse that vindicates our doing whatever it is we want to do. I know I did!

On sinfulness, you have that exactly correct as well. Everyone is different. We are all born different in this respect too, namely, what tempts me may not tempt you, and vice versa. But just because I am born with the ability to resist temptation X does not mean I don't have my own weaknesses. And just because you are born with a tendency to be tempted to sin Y does not mean that sin Y is not a sin. If a person is heterosexual by natural tendency, that does not mean the person is not a sinner. If said person indulges in sexual activity outside of marriage, that is sinful and wrong. But if said person begins to declare that such sexual sin is not even sin, that is a very dangerous development, spiritually speaking. The same is true of all of us, regardless of our tendencies. Sin is sin regardless of what we are tempted to do. If we decide to have a difference of opinion with the Lord on this we will lose. One terrible side effect of this approach is that instead of appreciating what He had to do in dying for all these sins of ours is to assume that it wasn't necessary because we are not really sinners. If completely digested, that point of view would alienate anyone from God.

I hear a lot about Christianity needing to be "more inclusive". In my view the main problem with the church-visible today is that it far too inclusive . . . of everything that is either of no importance or directly inimical to the truth, and that it saves its "exclusivity" for finding fault with those who are actually interested in the truth. God does not talk to each and every one of us in an audible verbal way. So how can we know the truth? Only from the Word of God, correctly interpreted and taught. If we really are interested in His truth, God never allows a knock on that door to go unanswered – although we have to be persistent in all good things. That's how faith is demonstrated; that's how faith is built up and strengthened. Faith and truth make the perfect marriage of spiritual growth which conquers all the doubts and destroys all the idols of the evil one. I am sure the witness of your life, of your consistency in the truth, and of your patience and love is not lost on your daughter. In the end, these things are inestimably more powerful than all the arguments of the world and its corruption. I will certainly pray for her to come back over onto our side of the hill.

In our dear Lord Jesus whom we love with a love incorruptible and full of glory,

Bob L.

Question #16:

Dear Dr. Luginbill,

What an amazing response...I've read it at least 5 times already! This has helped me so much. I was struck by your comment about sin...that the dangerous part is when we no longer see sin as sin. It's one thing to commit a sin and feel remorse, shame, etc., it's another to feel there's nothing sinful about it. I'm going to remember this!

My teenage daughter is a very clever girl, and is a hardworking student. We have 3 teenagers, and have no major teen rebellion issues...miracles still do exist! She has wonderful friends, one being a gay fellow student. He's always been welcome here with open arms, and I have a gay brother, who I've always had a good relationship with. As you say she will hopefully see my attitude and that's what will leave an impression. I know she feels I am some kind of ancient relic for believing it's a sin...this is where she has the difficulty. Plus, seeing how some Christians have treated and still treat gay people probably makes her cringe. I keep telling her that that behaviour is not Christian - in fact it's the opposite of how Jesus would want us to treat them. As well, it is probably one of the most challenging things for me because of my brother. He's very political as well, and would most likely disown me if he knew where I stood. We don't get into heavy discussions, probably because I've never treated him any differently, so he doesn't ask (I really don't know what I'd do if he started interrogating me on these issues!). My daughter does see that I've treated him no differently than my other brothers, and she knows that I found out at a very young age that he was gay. Hopefully my track record will speak for itself. My father had a very difficult time accepting his lifestyle and saw it as a sin (which never changed), but over the years was able to embrace him and his partner, showing great love without judgement - my daughter knows this too.

I like the story about your grandfather...sounds just like me too!!

I can't begin to express how much you've helped me sort through these difficult questions.

Thank you so much for your generosity & wisdom

Response #16:

You're very welcome. Here are some recent related links:

Repentance, Confession, and Forgiveness

Sin and Salvation, Confession and Forgiveness

Sin and Spiritual Transformation.

Sinlessness and 1st John.

Apostasy and the Sin unto Death, the Conscience and Sanctification.

In Your Anger, do not Sin:  Ephesians 4:26 and the Sin Nature

Some Sensitive Topics II

Some Sensitive Topics III

Political Action versus Biblical Christianity.

As a researcher in ancient history, I find our particular viewpoint on such matters very odd and prejudicial to the argument. The Greeks, for example, practiced homosexual relations as a matter of cultural expression, and would have found the notion that "some are gay and some are straight" totally incomprehensible. I think if the issue were explained to them in our terms they would say that there is a range running from 100% straight to 100% gay with people falling in at every point all along that line. In other words, the development of "gay" as an absolute category is entirely a modern notion, not a biological imperative (at least not before, say, 100 years ago). We all have all sorts of biological tendencies towards all sorts of behavior, and with varying degrees of intensity. That is the heritage with which we are born after the fall. What we do in managing these tendencies is a matter of free will. If a person is 100% straight, that does not mean that said person is obligated to get married – let alone engage in extra-marital sex. Society may not care one way or the other. God, however, does care. A Christian who sacrifices his/her right to marry in order to better serve Jesus Christ (not as a member of some "order" but through devoting oneself to a ministry so time-intensive that marriage, while permissible, is not profitable) is certainly working towards a wonderful report at Christ's judgment seat. On the other hand, a Christian who engages in extra-marital sex as a life-style is not going to be immune from divine discipline just because the nature of the sex in question would be legitimate if practiced within the bounds of marriage. We all fail in many ways. We all sin. But anyone who pronounces their sin "not a sin!" is engaging in the most dangerous sort of behavior – even more dangerous than the sinful behavior itself. That is because this sort of attitude cannot be embraced without hardening one's heart against the truth. I.e., when we sin and know very well we are sinning and are going to "catch hell" for it, at least we understand and admit to ourselves what the truth is, and so are ripe for repentance once God begins to make it hurt. But if we don't want to have to deal with God on the matter at all, eventually God will "turn us over to a reprobate mind" (Rom.1:28). On this, please see the links: "Apostasy and the Sin unto Death" (in BB 3B), and "Phase One Hardening of the Heart: Darkening of the Truth" (in BB 4B).

In a nutshell, this issue has become a matter politics in our day and age, and politics is the devil's playground. Nothing good ever comes of it, even when believers imagine they are involving themselves in a "good cause". My rule of thumb for any and all who want to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ is to give all things political a very wide berth. Once we begin involving ourselves in "group-think" of whatever sort, spiritual decline is never far behind (and this will be a very pronounced problem once the Tribulation begins and antichrist is revealed).

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord who is the truth, the very Word of God,

Bob L.

Question #17:

Dr. Luginbill,

Thank you again for your thoughtful response. Reading your reply is like a mini history lesson, which I read over and over again! It must be fascinating to research ancient history - it helps me put Bible scripture and the customs of the day into context. Your insights have helped me greatly, and will continue to help me when this discussion comes up again with my daughter. I'd like to have in-hand some of your articles/emails for our church meeting on Sunday. It will be interesting to see if they dismiss this viewpoint on baptism outright, or see it as worthy of consideration. Whether it will have an impact on compulsory baptism for church membership, remains to be seen. I noticed on your site that you said your faith is of the Protestant Evangelical tradition. I know they are going to ask what your denomination is, as they already have. If you don't want to share this information with me I will totally understand so please don't feel obligated. I'm somewhat nervous about this meeting, but as you say "stand fast in the truth."

Thank you again for your wise counsel and for sharing so much of your vast knowledge on these two subjects.

Forever grateful!

Response #17:

You are very welcome – so glad to be of help. As to your question, my dad was a Presbyterian minister, and I dabbled with going that route. I also benefitted greatly from the ministry of an independent church/Bible teacher (R.B. Thieme Jr.) with which I became familiar while in the Marine Corps. The seminary I attended was evangelical but not affiliated with any denomination. For about the last nearly three decades, I have been independently pursuing my own ministry (via research at first, small Bible study later, on-line since 1997). See the links:

FAQ #13. History: What is the origin of the Ichthys ministry?

FAQ #14. Biography: What are your background and qualifications?

We who believe in Jesus Christ are His Church. The only organization other than this recognized by the Bible is the independent local church. Denominations are not only not biblically authorized but also do much to inhibit learning the truth of the Bible. That has to do not only with fossilized traditions but also with the fact that once a denomination is established the collective attitude of following generations is usually "job done", so then they feel free to move on to "other things", social activities, charitable work, ritual observance – things which may not be necessarily wrong, but are at the very least not the biblical purpose of a local church or particularly helpful for the spiritual growth of individual Christians. Blessedly, for all those who thirst for the "pure milk of the Word" (1Pet.2:2), God always provides. Related links:

Church: The Biblical Ideal versus the Contemporary Reality.

Mega-Churches, Emergent Christianity, Spirituality and Materialism.

Dysfunctional Churches.

Ichthys and Contemporary Christianity.

Aspects of the False Doctrine of Institutional Security

Salvation and Church Affiliation.

Christian Unity and Divisiveness.

The Local Church and Personal Ministry IV

The Local Church and Personal Ministry III

The Local Church and Personal Ministry II

The Local Church and Personal Ministry I

Thank you for your example – and also of course for your kind and encouraging words.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior who is the Word of God,

Bob L.

Question #18:

Dear Bill,

Thank you for the links and for sharing your spiritual background - without a doubt they will ask at the meeting. I do think there is a freedom that churches lack today. I know I felt pretty spiritually dead in the Anglican church I attended for most of my life - the "job done" attitude is definitely at work. I never once had a meaningful discussion with anyone, even the minister. My sister talks about a "freedom in Jesus", that I find hard to see in the churches today. Although there are things I don't love about our church (contemporary Christian music for one), it's the first time in my life I've really grown in my faith, and the first time we've ever actually looked forward to church. My husband is now seeking, but is still struggling with many questions...he has been diagnosed with a serious medical condition. Nothing like a health crisis to bring you face to face with your mortality. Without this happening, I don't think we'd be where we are today. Your writings and website have helped him also with many questions.

Once again, my deepest gratitude and thanks,

Response #18:

You are most welcome.

I will keep you and your hubby in my prayers. Here's hoping for a good outcome for you both in your church.

Do feel free to write back any time.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.


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