Hello Dr. Luginbill,
While browsing through the Book of Acts, I noticed something different in the referenced verses, Acts 2:38 and Acts 3:19.
In Act 2:38 Peter mentions baptism, but in Acts 3:19 he makes no mention of baptism. It both cases he is speaking to Jews.
Why the difference?
Now, Acts 3:16 clarifies Acts 2:38 that is by faith alone, I am curious about the differences between the two verses.
For me, Acts 3:16 also clarifies Acts 2:38 when he says "baptized in the name of Jesus Christ" means that faith in the Name of Jesus, whose name means "God Saves" according to Matthew 1:21, gives additional credence to Acts 2:38.
As I have always believed "Scripture interprets Scripture. I just want to know your thoughts. I am picky about words, and when I read and study I notice every single Word. I find this rather interesting. I have been praying for you.
Blessings always to you.
Acts 3:16-19 makes it very clear that salvation is through faith – and by omission of any mention of the ritual that water-baptism has nothing to do with it. For the audience on Pentecost to be water-baptized "in the Name of Jesus" does indeed indicate that accepting Him is what leads to the forgiveness of sins. That is why "repent" (change of heart towards faith in Christ) is a direct command, but "let each be baptized" is not. Also, the purpose Peter had in mind here had not to do with water but the baptism of the Spirit whose miracles had attracted the crowd. As Peter also says here about his goal, ". . . and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit".
Every word in the Word is important! The closer you look, the more you find.
Here are some links on this topic which will lead to more:
The transitional nature of the book of Acts
Baptism: Water and Spirit IX
Baptism: Water and Spirit VIII
Baptism: Water and Spirit VII
John's Water-Baptism versus the Baptism of the Holy Spirit
Water baptism not needed for salvation.
In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,
It's been a while since we last talked, and I hope you are doing well. I have just started my second semester at college and have just started getting back into the swing of things. I'm looking forward to warmer weather!
As you know, the University I attend is a "Christian" institution, a.k.a. Church of Christ. And as you can imagine, the issue of water baptism comes up quite frequently here on campus. For that reason, I continue to periodically study the issue to keep myself sharp and ready to give an answer to anyone who might take issue with my stance on the subject.
I firmly hold to the position that water baptism is not only unnecessary for anything related to salvation, but also is no longer relevant for believers today. I appreciate all our previous conversations and the information you've provided me with, as it has been quite beneficial.
At this point in my studies, the only legitimate verse that might suggest the need for water baptism is Acts 2:38. I've been reading and re-reading your writings on the issue, and I think I'm starting to understand the grammatical shift in mood of Peter's statement. That said, I have a couple questions just for clarification's sake. Below is an excerpt from one of your writings (One Baptism: The True Meaning of Peter's Words at Acts 2:38):
"Third, Peter does not actually command these hearers directly: he uses the third person imperative, not the second, that is, he uses an exhortation rather than a direct command (although he certainly could have phrased it the other way). Fourth, the direct command here is 'repent', and it is that imperative which should be connected with 'for the forgiveness of sins' (i.e., salvation is dependent upon faith whose necessary prerequisite is the understanding of the need to express faith: repentance)."
When you say that the phrase "for the forgiveness of sins" should be
connected with the direct command ("repent"), is there a specific
grammatical reason to do so? Is that a normal grammatical principle in
It certainly makes sense to me why that would be the case, after all, why would a result be attached to a lesser exhortation rather than the direct command? I just wanted to understand the textual reasons for linking the two, so I not only will have a defense for my position available, but also will be able to put my anxiety over this verse at rest.
Good to hear from you, my friend.
As to your question, this is the way I read the verse in the Greek. Here is my translation:
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/repentance], [so that] then [as a result of your faith/repentance] you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (i.e., through that laying on of hands in the baptism)."
The reason my reading is different from others is based on my taking
"and let each be baptized in the Name of Christ" as a parenthetical
remark. That is based in turn on 1) the "he says" coming directly after
"repent!" (though this is left out in many versions), 2) on the fact
that "repent!" is a direct command (whereas "let each be baptized" is,
as the English translations indicate, a 'permissive' 3rd person command,
significant here in particular because it is placed in contrast to the
prior direct command), and 3) Peter's own words at Acts 3:19, 5:31, and
10:43 where in all cases forgiveness of sins is directly connected with
repentance (change of mind) and belief in Christ, and there is no
baptism present at all in those other places.
As I have said in the files you've perused, Peter's primary motive in allowing the water baptism was the true baptism of the Spirit which would accompany the laying on of the apostles' hands – the very Spirit-baptism which had attracted the crowd in the first place. For as he says in our context at the end of the verse "and (i.e., as a result) you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit".
There is more about this verse in the recently posted BB 6B Ecclesiology (link). And here are some other links which give a lot more background and detail on the subject:
The transitional nature of the book of Acts
Baptism: Water and Spirit IX
Baptism: Water and Spirit VIII
Baptism: Water and Spirit VII
John's Water-Baptism versus the Baptism of the Holy Spirit
Water baptism not needed for salvation.
Wishing you a great semester in Jesus Christ our Lord.
As always, I truly appreciate your response and willingness to discuss these things with me.
I think I might finally be grasping the way you are diagraming the passage. I have a very limited knowledge of Greek, but I've been trying my best to understand the mechanics of how you are translating this verse.
That said, I have one other question for the sake of clarification. I'm pasting your translation of the verse (same source as provided in the last email) below for reference:
"Then Peter said to them, 'Repent!' He said also, 'Let each of you be baptized in the Name of Jesus as a demonstration of the forgiveness of your sins, then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.'"
The only part of this translation that I'm having a hard time seeing is "Then Peter said to them". From my understanding, the phrase "phesin Kai" is being placed at the beginning of the second sentence. If that's the case, where is the word "said" in "Then Peter *said* to them" coming from?
I have heard that in some cases, even though a certain word may not be present, it is implied by the grammatical structure. Is that what is occurring here or am I missing something?
I noticed the opposite when looking at Young's Literal translation:
"and Peter said unto them, 'Reform, and be baptized each of you on the name of Jesus Christ, to remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.'"
He places "phesin kai" in the first half of the verse before "repent", but completely leaves out the word "then/de". It makes sense considering if it was translated, it would end up with something like "then Peter also said to them". However, this was Peter's first answer to the question, and makes no sense in the surrounding context.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that I'm a little confused on where the words are coming from for the very first part of the sentence. I think I have a solid understanding of everything else, just not that part. I apologize if my reasoning and wording is hard to follow, I'm having a hard time transferring the question in my head to a written format.
It's no problem at all.
The "he also said" is the phesin kai (φησιν καὶ), and it occurs in the Greek right after "repent!"; the earlier "Then Peter [said] to them" (Πέτρος δὲ ἔφη πρὸς αὐτούς) begins the verse, and occurs directly before "repent!". Many critical editions (followed by many English translations) only print one "said", assuming that either the second one is misplaced or the first one should not be understood (square brackets). But that is an incorrect representation based upon failing to understand the text (a common enough occurrence when it comes to critical editions and translations of the Bible). Luke's word order would be inexplicable if this were meant to be just a standard narrative cue – which is why some later mss. put in the first verb, and why most editions and translations "move" or mostly entirely eliminate the phesin kai.
In Jesus our dear Lord,
Again, thank you so much for your detailed response...it means a lot to me. I apologize for the delay in getting back with you, this week has been super hectic with multiple class projects due in a small window of time.
As far as the text goes, I think I've got a hold of it now. I just needed that extra bit of clarification to grasp it fully. To be honest, your translation of the verse makes a lot more sense than just about anything else I've run across.
To me at least, this seems to honor the grammar of the verse and the theology of the New Testament more than the other views I have seen. Ultimately, that's all I care about. Being true to the text and it's original meaning in order to know the truth.
Is it common in Biblical Greek for words to not be present in the text but to be implied by the grammar (such as in the case of 2:38)? I've heard of it before but never researched it very thoroughly. I know English speakers do it all the time, but it didn't really occur to me that it happened in other languages as well.
Very common indeed, but as you notice, English is guilty of that as
You wrote: "I know English speakers do it all the time". Do what? "leave out words" – which is leaving out words.
Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,
That's quite a good point...I didn't even notice that when I was writing. I'll have to remember that for later.
I appreciate the time you took to explain the verse to me, it definitely puts my mind at ease. I'll go back over our exchange and add your points to my notes on the subject.
I've seen some rather bad interpretations of Acts 2:38, so I wanted to make sure I understood this one correctly. My main concern is honoring the language and grammar of Scripture, as meaning flows directly from that. Yours is by far the most reasonable that I've found anywhere, and based on the evidence, I feel it is the correct view.
As a rather humourous side note, I've been taking a class on the book of Acts this semester at college. Normally I would prefer to study Scripture on my own time, but students here are required to take a Bible class each semester. As you can probably imagine, it's been rather interesting to see how the CoC tries to force scripture to support their theology.
Last week we were going through Acts 3. When we got to 3:19, the professor asked the question, "what was the response that Peter called for?" Upon the projector a slide appeared which stated: "Repent (baptized)". Ironically enough, we had barely just finished discussing context, hermeneutics, and exegesis only days prior. Apparently reading something into the text that isn't there is perfectly okay if it justifies your preconceived ideas about doctrine. (sarcasm)
The extent to which the CoC attaches baptism to repentance and salvation never ceases to surprise me, and this was no exception.
Wishing you a great week through our Lord Jesus Christ,
Thanks for this!
Color me "not too surprised" about denominational organizations hewing to the line regardless of all evidence to the contrary. Most evangelical organizations are "pre-Trib" even though there is massive biblical evidence against it and not a single verse in the Bible which affirmatively teaches it. When people become wedded to creeds, this sort of thing is very common.
Feel free to write me back any time, my friend.
In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,
p.s., English used to have a nice word to connote the use of sarcasm, but it has fallen out of contemporary speech: forsooth!
This evening, I came upon an article written by a Church of Christ advocate claiming to refute the grammatical argument of Acts 2:38. I'm not sure I completely follow his argument, but I'd be anxious to hear what you might say in response. It's a fairly short read, I'll link it below*. I'd really appreciate it if you'd take a look at it.
I'm honestly feeling kind of overwhelmed by all the technical arguments coming from both sides of the issue. There's so much information out there it's difficult to know what really is right. I'm praying that I'll be able to find the truth about the subject and have peace with whatever that may be.
God's blessings to you,
* The link: http://gloriouschurch.ning.com/m/blogpost?id=2853269%3ABlogPost%3A7683
I did have a look. First, the author rejects the best texts and
substitutes the inferior Textus Receptus, the amalgam used for
translating the KJV; that is typical of individuals who are locked into
false doctrine; the TR has the longer ending of Mark as well (which is
also not part of the Bible). Therefore all of his arguments are
necessarily invalidated. Second, the author does not take into account that
in Acts elsewhere where "repentance for forgiveness of sins" is
mentioned, there is no baptism mentioned with it. That certainly shows
that the repentance (turning to Christ in faith) is what results in
forgiveness, not water-baptism. So all of this other Falderal about
tenses and persons and numbers is merely confusing the issue.
Thank you for checking that article out, I consider your input quite valuable. I really do appreciate your willingness to answer my questions.
After noticing his use of the Textus Receptus and doing a little research of my own, I was a bit skeptical. I'm not sure why he would think that a later manuscript from the 16th century is a preferable source for his argument - anything to "prove" a point I guess.
Mishandling and misrepresentation of the text seems to be a common theme with people who hold to his position. I've listened to all the "sales pitches" they like to use, but they often seem very disingenuous.
I ran into another individual who claims to be able to refute the grammatical argument for Acts 2:38. It seems a bit questionable, but I thought I'd see what you think about it. Here's his brief comments:
"What this says is: 'Πέτρος δὲ ἔφη πρὸς αὐτούς (third person plural acc.), Μετανοήσατε (second person plural, imperative) καὶ βαπτισθήτω (third person singular, imperative) ἕκαστος ὑμ ν (second person plural, gen.) ἐπὶ τ ὀνόματι ησο χριστο εἰς ἄφεσιν ἁμαρτιων καὶ λήψεσθε τὴν δωρεὰν το ἁγίου πνεύματος.'
There is nothing remarkable or out of the ordinary about the grammatical syntax of this verse. He said the same thing to every one of those present laying down the same command to each one. Who was he speaking to? All of them, third person plural. Who did he command to repent? All of them, second person plural. Who did he command to be baptized? Every one of them second person plural. Although βαπτισθήτω is third person plural, imperative, it is modified by ἁμαρτιων which is second person plural, gen.
Who would receive the remission of sins? Everyone who obeyed the imperatives to μετανοήσατε καὶ βαπτισθήτω. Who would receive the Holy Spirit as a gift? Everyone of them who obeyed the imperatives to μετανοήσατε καὶ βαπτισθήτω. The simple fact is that the reference point for the two imperatives and the future indicative produces exactly the same results at the same time."
Just from the little bit I know about Greek, this argument seems sketchy. However, I'd prefer to hear your opinion on what he is saying.
Again, thank you so much for your continued patience with my questions.
1) "There is nothing remarkable or out of the ordinary about the
grammatical syntax of this verse"; perhaps not, but the text this person
is reading is NOT the text of the Bible – and the text does make a
difference (he is leaving things out along with the TR).
2) "Although βαπτισθήτω is third person plural, imperative, it is modified by ἁμαρτιων which is SECOND PERSON plural, gen."; Does this person even know Greek?! Nouns do NOT have "person" – only verbs have person (i.e., "You eat", "We eat" – but "food" can't have a pronoun attached to it – neither can the noun "sin"). Further, the forgiveness of sins here goes NOT with "let each one be baptized" but with "repent!". That is the critical point and that is what Peter is telling them – as we know well from the other places in Acts where forgiveness is conditioned by Peter on repentance alone (i.e., change of heart leading to faith in Christ) with no water involved at all (Acts 3:19, 5:31, and 10:43).
3) "The simple fact is that the reference point for the two imperatives and the future indicative produces exactly the same results at the same time."; the author would see the distinction more clearly perhaps, if he were reading the correct text. But even with the incorrect tense, "let each be baptized" (permission) is much different from "repent, you all!" (command). Why does Peter use 3/s for water? Because it was not necessary. So here the choice is individually put: all who want to do this may, but it has nothing to do with salvation. Why does he use the plural for "repent!"? Because that WAS necessary to be saved – as John the baptist also had said. And the type of imperative is very important. A direct imperative is an order. However, the third person imperative, especially when it is singular and not plural, often indicates permission rather than obligation:
(1) Now concerning the things of which you wrote to me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. (2) Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband.
1st Corinthians 7:1-2 NKJV
As is clear from the first verse (and from many other proofs as well),
Christians are not here being ordered unequivocally to get married with
the result that any Christian who is unmarried is somehow violating a
divine command (not at all: cf. 1Cor.7:8; 7:11; 7:32; 7:34). Likewise,
the individuals Peter is addressing here are not here being ordered
unequivocally to get water-baptized so that any who didn't were NOT
violating a divine command (let alone not being saved as a result!). But
without a change of heart and faith in Christ (repentance) there is no
forgiveness of sins.
4) Finally, this entire approach is entirely wrong-headed and violates proper hermeneutic practices. Why? Because this is the book of Acts. The book of Acts is a historical book, not an epistle dictating faith and practice. And more than that, this particular book's purpose is to describe the process of transition between the Jewish Age and the Church Age. This event took place only hours after the Church Age began – right at the start of the transition – when none of the participants, not even Peter, yet fully understood that the implications of the gift of the Spirit and the new direction in which He would be taking the Church and why. Treating this incident as if it were happening today rather than before the New Testament was even written always results in grave interpretive errors. I dare say that a large percentage of all heresies and false teaching have come from just this procedure, namely, misusing and therefore abusing the book of Acts. Water-baptism is John's baptism, looking forward to the coming of the Messiah who had at that point come, had already died for all of our sins, and had risen from the dead, ascended to the Father, and been seated in glory. But many in Peter's audience hadn't done what John had told them to do so that it is understandable how they would have wanted to erase that mistake. While there may have been no harm in it (debatable, since as we see the harm continues to this day in the erroneous placing of works of water over faith in Christ), it was NOT necessary for salvation – and Peter definitely does NOT say here that it was/is.
There is a great deal about all this in the recently posted BB 6B Ecclesiology (at the link). See especially section I.5.c, "The Nature of the Book of Acts" – although it would be beneficial to read the whole study from the beginning to fully appreciate the import of this particular section.
In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,
Hi Dr. Luginbill,
Many thanks for the detailed reply. It's interesting how the water baptism for salvation advocates have such a fancy for using inaccurate information and/or texts.
Would it be safe to say that this individual was letting his doctrine determine his understanding of the Greek grammar rather than letting the grammar determine his doctrine?
It wouldn't be the first time that has happened!
In Jesus our dear Savior,
One other question just occurred to me. I had intended on asking you about it quite some time back in one of our previous conversations, but it slipped my mind. In the past, we had discussed the subject of water baptism in detail. At this point, I wouldn't be surprised if you have grown tired of continually dealing with my questions on the subject. I apologize for bombarding you with questions - I'm really trying to have a thorough understanding of the grammatical reasons for holding the position that both you and I do. I understand the theological reasons for our view, but I just want to make sure that I also can back it up with the grammar of the Greek when challenged by others (which happens quite often).
As things stand, the only scripture regarding the subject that I have any uncertainty about is Acts 22:16. When I read through your articles on baptism, you had mentioned that in the Greek, "wash away your sins" is connected to "calling on the Name of the Lord" and not "be baptized". Could you explain the grammatical reasons for this view? I've done a great deal of research on that particular verse, and while I have found others who say the same thing, not many have fully explained why they feel it should be understood in that fashion.
At the same time, I've run into a number of other people who claim that the Greek grammar actually demands a baptismal regeneration view of the verse (i.e. water baptism is required for forgiveness of sins). Essentially, I'm just wanting to understand the grammatical reasons for attaching "wash away your sins" with "calling on the Name".
No worries. The problem is not so much with the way the verse is translated (see
below) but with the way certain individuals completely misunderstand it – as
they misunderstand this entire issue.
Things to note about Acts 22:16: 1) This is Paul telling of his conversion well after the fact to a hostile group of Jews in Jerusalem; 2) In the passage where Luke relates the actual events themselves, he reports himself in the Spirit (i.e., Luke, not Paul giving a speech) that Ananias says "“Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit" (Acts 9:17).
So we can say with certainty from the earlier passage that the reception of the Holy Spirit was the prime reason Ananias was sent (Greek purpose clause) – along of course with the restoration of Paul's vision – and NOT water-baptism. We also know from the book of Acts elsewhere (notably Acts 8:14-17) that in this time of transition (the apostolic era) early on the Holy Spirit was mediated by the apostles through the laying on of their hands in order to establish their authority. Furthermore, this was often done in conjunction with the rite of water-baptism since a) this necessarily involved laying their hands on the ones being water-baptized and b) there was a desire and a (possibly) legitimate point to having Jews who were saved only a few years after the cross identifying with John's baptism which heralded the coming of the Messiah which they had hitherto rejected (but as time went on, and especially once the gospel spread to gentiles who had never even before heard of John, the practice's symbolism became more and more problematic).
As an apostle to be, and with all the other apostles having obediently received John's water-baptism, there was some point to Paul's receiving it as well (albeit retroactively) – along the lines of Timothy being circumcised to avoid unnecessary hostility vis-à-vis other Jews even though of course it had nothing to do with salvation (Acts 16:3). But it was the reception of the Spirit which was the key point. Ananias clearly mediated the Spirit to Paul on this occasion; later on, all believers receive the Spirit when they are saved, and that change happened very early on in the apostolic era (Paul presents it as universal in the book of Romans, not more than about a decade after this event: Rom.8:9b).
So was water involved in Paul's reception of the Spirit and restoration of sight, with both blessings accompanying Ananias' laying on of hands?
And Ananias went his way and entered the house; and laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he received his sight at once; and he arose and was baptized.
Acts 9:17-18 NKJV
As we see clearly here (and the details of Acts 22:13-16 agree), first Ananias
lays his hands on Paul, then Paul receives his sight. Since that occurs with the
laying on of the hands, it is probable that we are to understand this act to
have also been what imparted the Holy Spirit since a) that is the standard
pattern (cf. Acts 8:17-19; 19:6; Heb.6:2); and b) the restoration of sight and
the reception of the Spirit are linked here at Acts 9:17.
It is impossible to make any reasonable case that Paul, having seen the Lord and having been stricken with blindness now for days, had somehow not yet believed in Christ, and that he was then only "saved" when he underwent water-baptism after having his sight restored – and having been just previously already filled with the Spirit. Since the Spirit was given to him first – as a close reading of the passage in comparison with the references provided surely indicates – then he was of course a believer prior to being baptized with water. And, by the way, the fact that water-baptism was always meant only for believers (rather than as a means of salvation or a requirement of it) is seen clearly in the case with John's baptism generally: water-baptism was always and ONLY meant for the children of Israel – all of whom were expected to be believers as God's people – so that the ritual was one of repentance to bring them BACK to the Lord (i.e., it was a ritual of revival rather than of salvation).
All of this brings us to Acts 22:16 in particular. The mistake that Christians (we assume that they are believers in at least some cases) make in regard to the book of Acts, is that they assume that whatever happens in that HISTORICAL book is meant to apply to the Church today in every respect. Whereas in fact some things, even done by the likes of Peter as in the erroneous "election" of Matthias when of course the Lord had Paul in mind, are historically correct portrayals of mistakes. This misguided view of the book of Acts takes no consideration of the fact that the apostolic era was one of massive transition: it was no small thing to switch from the plan of God being centered on one people following the Law to the entire gentile world following grace: Old Covenant to New Covenant. But many people are still confusing the two after all these years.
Such a transition, from a focus on Jerusalem and the shadows of the Law to a focus on Christ and the New Testament in the power of the gift of the Holy Spirit, could not possibly have happened overnight. There had to be a period where some old things continued for a time (such as water-baptism) while the glorious new things were phased in (such as the writing of the New Testament which took approximately 25 years). Since there was no NT yet – none at all in the earliest days of the transition – and since there were no seminaries or history and tradition of gentile believers who knew scripture, special gifts (such as prophecy) were given and continued during the early part of the transition in order to bridge the gap until such time as the complete Bible was available and a sufficient number of gifted men had been trained up to be able to teach the Word.
Continuing with water-baptism today is thus directly analogous to pretending to be able to speak in tongues, a transitional gift which ceased before the last of the apostles was taken home. I have written a great deal about this very important topic, and, really, this whole question of water-baptism cannot be properly understood until the transitional nature of the apostolic era and the nature of the book of Acts are first realized (best place for learning about this: BB 6B: Ecclesiology; at the link; see also the links: "Historical and Transitional Nature of Acts" and "Transitional Era of the Book of Acts").
‘And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.’
Acts 22:16 NKJV
This is more or less what Ananias said. But note that it is said AFTER Paul
receives his sight (which happens three verses earlier at Acts 22:13), and thus
AFTER Ananias had placed his hands on Paul, so therefore AFTER Paul had received
the Spirit, and unquestionably AFTER Paul had believed in Christ.
There is a problem with the way NKJV presents the verse, however, and that is the comma inserted between "wash away your sins" and "calling on the name of the Lord". In fact, the final participle is to be connected directly to the second command and in Greek it is thus clear that the two are intimately connected. The second problem with the translation is a bigger one: the participle is actually aorist, and thus does not mean "calling upon" but rather "having [first] called upon". The command "be baptized" thus stands on its own, and is to be understood as Ananias telling Paul to receive John's baptism – a good and proper thing (in Ananias view at the time) for a man who knew well of John but had not responded to the call at the time, a man who was now "called to be an apostle" and would need to have been obedient to John's ministry of response to the coming of the Lord (even though now of course the Lord had come, died, been resurrected, and ascended). This was retroactive and never meant for the Church as a whole forevermore, but was only even potentially not problematic for Jews of that generation who had been around when John was baptizing but had not or had not been able to participate (we see that pattern wherever the apostles water-baptize too).
The critical participle "having called upon the Name of the Lord" is conjoined NOT with "be baptized" but with the second command "wash away your sins".
For "whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved."
Romans 10:13 NKJV
By "calling on Him" Paul would have been saved if not already saved, and the "calling upon" in Acts 22:16 is put by Ananias as "having called upon". Moreover, this is a circumstantial participial which in our context is instrumental: "wash away your sins BY having called upon the Name of the Lord". In other words, from the word order, from the fact of the participial construction, and from the tense of the participle, it is clear that the "washing away" is a result of the "having called upon the Name of the Lord", and NOT upon "be baptized" with water.
And such were some of you (i.e., sinful unbelievers). 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.
1st Corinthians 6:11 NKJV
As the verse above makes crystal clear, "washing" can be spiritual – and always is in a salvation context. It means to be cleansed of our sins, something only the blood of Christ can do, NOT water. Being sanctified is spiritual, accomplished by the Spirit; being justified is spiritual, accomplished by the Spirit; and being "washed", having one's sins forgiven, is likewise spiritual, being accomplished by the Spirit and NOT by being dunked in physical water:
(25) Husbands, love your wives as also Christ loved His Church and gave Himself over [to death] on her behalf, (26) so that He might sanctify her, having purified her by the washing of the water [of truth] in [His] Word.
It is NOT physical water that sanctifies, purifies and washes us clean from sin – it is our response to the water of the Word, to the truth of the gospel, the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, presented by the Holy Spirit.
Not on account of [any] works which we had done in [so-called] righteousness did He save us, but [He saved us] through the washing [away of our sins which leads to our] rebirth and [to our] new beginning from the Holy Spirit.
Washing away of sins is not something that can be done with water.
And it is [this true] baptism [of the Spirit] which now saves you: [you are saved] not through any [literal] washing away of filth from your flesh, but [through] an appeal to God for a clean conscience through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
1st Peter 3:21
And comparing forgiveness to "washing away" of sin is common in scripture because of the obvious analogy of physical dirt representing sins.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
And cleanse me from my sin.
Psalm 51:2 NKJV
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Psalm 51:7 NKJV
Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean;
Put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes.
Cease to do evil.
Isaiah 1:16 NKJV
Come now, and let us reason together,”
Says the LORD,
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
They shall be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They shall be as wool.”
Isaiah 1:18 NKJV
But we all know – or should – that we believers do not take a bath to be
forgiven our sins when we commit them – we confess them to the Lord. Similarly,
those who first believe are cleansed of their sins by the Lord through the
Spirit through their faith in Jesus Christ, His perfect person as the God-man
and His work on the cross in dying for our sins – NOT through the physical
ritual of water-baptism, a ritual which was NEVER meant to represent saving
faith (it represented a return in heart to the Lord for the believers of the
Jewish nation). There were many "baptisms" under the Law, and John's is the
last, meant to hearken towards the transition as it heralded the Messiah who
would "restore all things" and "make all things new" (Matt.17:11; Acts 3:21;
Rev.21:5). But all of these "instruction about cleansing rites" (Heb.6:2 NIV) or
"teachings about [various] baptisms" under the Law are physical acts meant to
represent spiritual realities.
Blessedly, today we deal ONLY with spiritual realities in the actual Church of Jesus Christ, the one and only symbolic ritual remaining being the one which recalls the person and the work of Jesus Christ, communion – and that too is often greatly misunderstood, misused and abused (see the link).
Beyond all argument for anyone who actually reads or knows anything about the Bible and its truths, physical works do not save or produce spiritual miracles – that may be witchcraft, but it is not biblical Christianity.
In Jesus Christ who is the very truth.
Thank you very much for your detailed response. Of course, I agree wholeheartedly. Whenever I've come across this verse being used for baptismal regeneration propaganda in the past, the first thing that always came to my mind was Titus 3:5 (just as you also referenced). The issue seems so clear but it's amazing that people don't care to dig into it deeper. One of the main reasons I wanted to get this particular verse "squared away" is because I've recently befriended some Church of Christ members here at school. We've had some good conversations on a variety of Biblical matters, but one area where we are unable to reach a compromise is on the subject of water baptism. As you know, in the Church of Christ water baptism is viewed as a necessity for salvation.
I actually had one individual come up to me earlier this week wanting to talk specifically about my issues with the CoC, hence this email. I feel I have a good understanding of most of the "baptism" texts, minus the scenario in Acts 22. We haven't had the conversation yet due to an early winter storm that has closed down campus, but I wanted to prepare so I could have some viable answers. So that said, I really appreciate you taking the time to better explain things to me.
In the process of trying to understand the grammatical side of Acts 22:16, I found an article written by a gentleman who holds to a nearly identical view of the verse. He renders it a little differently than you, but he comes to the same conclusion. Besides understanding the participles in the same way as do you ("calling" is instrumental, the means by which the washing occurs), he also makes the following argument:
"Both "be baptized" and "wash your sins away" are separate commands, so the washing of sin cannot be grammatically connected to being baptized. A direct quote: "Again, it is simply impossible that the means by which Paul is to get washed of his sins is by being baptized. These are two commands; one cannot be explaining the other." He then explains that "calling" is instrumental, the action that goes with and brings about the washing away of sins."
Would you say that his statement that the separate commands cannot be
connected (based purely upon the grammar) is accurate? If you'd like to
read his article, here's a link.
They are of course two separate commands (I think that is clear even from the
English – although, as mentioned, some versions use perverse punctuation for
this passage); "instrumental, the action that goes with and brings about the
washing away of sins" – I think that's pretty much what I said.
In my experience of things, people who are really seeking the truth eventually do find it (Matt.7:7; Lk.11:9). On the other hand, those who are aren't, don't. So even if you could prove this point overwhelmingly to these CoC folks, I doubt that it would make a dent. They are not interested in the truth. That is why they have ended up where they have ended up – and are content to stay there.
Still, you're a good man to try and reach them.
In Jesus our dear Savior,
Thanks, that's what I figured but I just wanted to make sure we were on the same page. It's sad that so many people choose to opt for a surface reading of Scripture and never spend the time to think about and study the subject of what true baptism really is.
I would have to agree about what you mentioned about the CoC. Nearly all the members that I have personally interacted with have been much more interested in "proving" their doctrinal positions rather than being open to studying and searching for the truth. There are exceptions of course, but that is (sadly) an accurate description of the average CoC member, at least in my experience. I usually will try to avoid these pointless debates when they come up, but sometimes I feel it's necessary to engage even if it's unlikely that I will see any results. My thought is that maybe someday what I said will come back into their mind when they're more open to considering other things.
However, I have been surprised to find a person who seems to genuinely be interested in learning what the Bible actually teaches about things. They were raised in the CoC, and have questions about some doctrines which they feel the CoC doesn't have an adequate answer for. We've discussed quite a few different subjects, and it has seemed like they were productive conversations. I'm hoping that once we tackle some of the "big fish" in the CoC pond of doctrines they will be equally as receptive.
Thank you again,
It's my pleasure.
There are a number of Ichthys readers who are CoC refugees. As with any other religion or cult or flawed denomination, whenever a person therein gets hungry for the actual truth, the Lord begins to move. It is a blessing to be His instrument in helping someone out, so good for you that you are hanging in there with this individual!
In Jesus our dear Savior,
Hello Dr. Luginbill,
I hope you are doing well (especially in light of the strange times we live in!). Last time we talked, we had discussed Acts 22:16 and the proper way of understanding it.
Please forgive me for bringing that subject back up. I have continued to study since we last emailed, and while I feel much more confident in other areas, this verse still makes me uneasy. That said, your previous explanation makes perfect theological and logical sense, but despite that, I still cannot help but have some anxiety about it.
On the one hand, when some people see that verse and see “washing” and “baptism” in the same sentence, it’s case-closed (“Well, see water baptism washes your sins away!”). Even though I think you are correct in the way you understand it, I can’t help but doubt myself when accused by others of “trying to explain away the clear meaning of a simple verse”.
Please don’t think that I’m trying to attack you personally or just ask questions for the sake of asking. My goal is to put my mind at rest from objections raised by others (if that makes sense).
That said, I have a couple of questions if you wouldn’t mind:
1. I found an article that claims that “be baptized” and “wash away” are not grammatically independent from one another, as “apolousai is subordinate to baptisai”. Here is a quote from the article:
It appears natural, when dealing with two imperatives, to take the second one as subordinate to the first. For example, Nathanael responds to Philip’s prejudice with “Come and see” (John 1:46). Likewise, apolousai is subordinate to baptisai, and not independent.
…The “washing away” of sins cannot be separated from water baptism.
Is this a valid claim to make based solely upon the grammar of the
passage? Is apolousai grammatically required to be subordinate to
2. In another article, a different person argues that “calling on the name of the Lord” is grammatically connected to “be baptized”. Here are his words:
"…calling on the name of the Lord" (epikalesamenos to onoma autou). The word "calling" (epikalesamenos) is nominative case, singular in number, masculine in gender, participle, aorist 1 in tense, and middle voice (The Analytical Greek Lexicon, pg. 157). The participle form (the "ing") shows ongoing action and a relationship to baptism and the middle voice indicates that this is something the subject (Saul or Paul) is doing to benefit himself.
"Calling on the name of the Lord" in Acts 22:16 is not a reference to prayer. Imagine, Saul is "on his knees" in prayer when Ananias comes in and tells him to arise or get up and be baptized to wash away his sins, now that Saul is standing, Ananias tells him to return to prayer. This is especially interesting in view of the usual denominational spin on "calling on the name of the Lord" is how Saul obtained the washing away of his sins and not baptism.
Is there a true grammatical connection between “calling” and “be
baptized” or is this incorrect?
I understand that in the Greek the passage reads as “having called on”, not “calling on” so that seems to be an issue for this person’s position.
I am not a Greek scholar, so when people like these two make grammatical arguments (which I do not fully understand and cannot verify myself), I second guess myself. It sounds like they know what they are talking about, so who am I to contradict people who appear to understand the grammatical requirements of the passage better than me? In all honesty, it’s pretty unsettling. In a sense, I feel like whatever position I take, I am relying (to some extent) on another person’s opinion of how the verse should be interpreted. It feels like everyone has a different opinion on what the grammar dictates in that passage.
Anyway, it seems like I’m rambling. I’d really appreciate it if you could address the two arguments raised by these people. I’ve had no small amount of anxiety over the issue and really would like to put it to rest.
Thank you for all the time and consideration you put into your ministry,
We've talked about this at great length before, so I'll just address a
couple of points here.
1) This is the book of Acts. It chronicles what happened. It does not weigh in on whether or not what happened was right, wrong or in between (see the link). Acts purpose is to chart the very early days of the apostolic era when the transition from Law to Grace, from the Old Covenant to New, was just beginning and when, unarguably, even the apostles didn't realize that there was a transition underway at first – at least not its full scope and the implications of the gift of the Spirit right away. Otherwise, why would the Spirit have had to give Peter the three-fold vision in Acts chapter 10 along with very specific instructions to go with Cornelius' emissaries so as to witness to the gentiles – which of course was the whole purpose of his and the other apostles' apostleship in the first place, e.g.? So even if, and I emphasize "if", Ananias was under the false impression that somehow water washed away sins, we know for a fact it does not (e.g., Eph.4:5; 5:26; 1Pet.3:21).
2) However, the second imperative is explained by the circumstantial participle: "Wash away your sins BY having called upon the name of the Lord"; so the removal of sins is a function of "calling on the name of the Lord"; therefore we can say definitively that the "washing" is symbolic. That was true of John's baptism too, after all – that is what the washing represented: repenting from wandering away from the Lord and having one's sins washed away at repentance. And that is what this particular water baptism, Ananias and Paul, truly is, namely, John's baptism, meant for the Jewish people in anticipation of the Messiah; Paul had not deigned to engage in it before but it was arguably inappropriate for an apostle not to have done so. In John's baptism, Jews who were supposed to be believers repented of their waywardness and sins and these were ceremonially cleansed by water . . . as is true of so many other things in the Law (cf. Heb.6:1-2; cf. Matt.7:3-4). But we are under Grace, not under the Law, and we are not of the generation of John's baptism who were being prepared for the coming of the Messiah (Lk.1:17; cf. Matt.3:3; 11:10), and we are not even Jewish (most of us in the Church at present, at any rate).
In Jesus our dear Savior,
Hi Dr. Luginbill,
Thank you for your response, and also thank you for having the patience to address this topic again. For some reason it keeps bugging me and I haven't been able to get it out of my mind. After your most recent email, I spent a great deal of time doing some additional research on the verse, and I think I'm starting to understand what you meant in an earlier regarding 22:16 - "The problem is not so much with the way the verse is translated but with the way certain individuals completely misunderstand it"
It seems to me (correct me if I'm wrong) that the people who are coming to this verse with objections to the way you interpret it are not doing so based on the requirements of the grammar, but rather based upon their theological bias. Of course they may make grammatical arguments, but that is only an issue for them because of the previously mentioned bias. From what I've read, it seems that the grammar does best support the connection of "washing" to "By having called".
Interestingly enough, I was able to find a Greek scholar (who supports baptismal regeneration) who actually admitted that, "We can be confident that these two verbs "go together" (wash away, calling). However that doesn't necessarily entail that the calling effects [causes] the washing of sins..." To me, that is a fatal admission for her view. She also claimed that the grammar does not indicate which action causes the "washing", and tried to use Acts 2:38 to say that it was the water baptism. Of course, she also ignored the fact that "calling" is aorist, as you have previously noted.
I guess what it boils down to is that while your understanding of the grammar is perfectly reasonable, the objections are coming from those with a theological "axe to grind".
Yes, people tend to see what they want to see. For me, that is the
biggest distinction between Laodicean Christian groups and the small few
who are seeking the truth. If one is seeking the truth, one seeks ALL
the truth and one goes to the Bible, the whole Bible, not just parts of
the Bible, to let the Bible and the Spirit lead us into that truth. But
people with causes and agendas and doctrinal axes to grind only USE the
Bible to find arguments to support their particular perversions of the
truth. Big difference. p.s., the other point, the one about the book of
Acts representing the period of transition from the Old to the New
Covenant, from the Jewish to the Church Age, is actually far more
Confusing John's baptism with the baptism of the Holy Spirit has been an issue in the church-visible since the beginning. But we have to remember that there is a huge difference between the way God handled things before the cross and how He is administering His plan after the ascension of our Lord and the subsequent gift of the Spirit.
These twelve Jesus sent out and commanded them, saying: “Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel."
Matthew 10:5-6 NKJV
Pentecost switched this focus from Israel to the gentiles . . . and that
meant other major changes across the board, including John's water
baptism being replaced by the more important Spirit baptism (Matt.3:11;
p.s., On Acts 2:
1) Anyone who knows Greek reading this passage would immediately be struck by the fact that "repent" is a direct 2nd person imperative but that "let each be baptized" is a permissive 3rd person imperative – indicating to me that Peter was making a deliberate distinction (see our previous discussion).
2) Anyone who knows Greek reading the passage with THE CORRECT TEXT would have that impression reinforced greatly, because, "and he also said" is placed in between the two verbs. Why would Luke have done that – under the inspiration of the Spirit – unless he was trying to show that the two verbs were NOT necessarily linked? (we talked about this as well).
In Jesus our dear Savior,
Hi Dr. Luginbill,
Agreed. I have read (and re-read multiple times) your writings on the grammatical structure of Acts 2:38, as well as a good deal of information from other people on the same verse. I’m completely convinced that you are correct. As you said, the distinctions in the grammar cannot be ignored and definitely place “forgiveness of sins” as separate from being baptized in water.
On 22:16, in your opinion why do so many translations ignore the aorist tense of "calling"? Is it for a smoother English translation or some other reason? In my search, one of the only translations that actually rendered it as "having called" is Young's Literal Translation.
It's not unusual NOT to find much true variation in translations because
1) they all crib off of each other (even the KJV owes a great deal to
earlier English versions; 2) there are "expected" renderings of most
verses that translators are loath to disappoint too often; 3) since
translators are good at language but not necessarily at theology, they
often don't really understand the meaning of what they're translating to
any depth – sort of like me trying to translate a text on quantum
mechanics into English from German: even if my German were flawless, I'd
still make a ton of mistakes because I have no idea about the subject
In Jesus our dear Savior,
Hi Dr. Luginbill,
That makes sense. Rather than closely examining the context and understanding what fits best grammatically and contextually, folks tend to go with the easiest option which may or may not be accurate. I see people do that kind of thing all the time when reading Scripture (often outside the realm of translation as well).
I had a question regarding 1 Corinthians chapter 1 where Paul asks the church in Corinth if they had been baptized “into” his name. Now, some people will say that this proves that Paul understood that water baptism was how you were baptized “into” something else. However, you and others have suggested that this was Paul using irony or sarcasm to point out how absurd that notion is.
For me, that fits well into Paul’s habit of using rhetorical questions and absurdity to show the impossibility of something being true. I can think of a few examples from his letters where he does just that.
When 1 Corinthians 12:13 is taken into consideration (we are baptized “into” Christ by the Spirit), that view makes sense. If we are baptized into Christ via the baptism of the Holy Spirit which does not involve water (Matt. 3:11, etc etc), that further proves the impossibility of what Paul is implying here.
My question is, doesn’t this line of reasoning seem to best fit what is going on in the text? Some people say that this is ignoring what Paul is really saying but to me it makes sense. I guess I’m mostly looking for confirmation that I’m not totally out of line here.
"Baptized into" always refers to being made "one" with the object,
identified with the object in a special way. We understand what that
means with Christ – we become one with Him through the Spirit's baptism,
part of His Body, part of His Bride; baptism is also used in this sense
of close identification of the Israelites and Moses in 1st Corinthians
So I essentially agree with your line of argument here. Paul is rejecting the idea that some group of Christians have become specially his since all Christians are specially Christ's, and he uses the word baptism in the second sense here. This is a difficult thing for non-Greek readers to "get" but certain words in all languages have multiple meanings, and just because they don't work the same way in other languages doesn't negate that fact. So for example the word "test" and "tempt" is the same in Greek but in English the words have greatly differing meanings most of the time. This is no problem for Greek readers who know that but it can cause translators – and people trying to exegete scripture from an English-only approach – a good deal of trouble.
Hi Dr. Luginbill,
Yes, that makes sense. In chapter 10 where Paul speaks of "Israel being baptized into Moses", what does that mean? I know people who point at that passage as proof that water can baptize you "into" someone. However, the Israelites weren't the ones who got wet in that story. But at the same time, it does say that they were baptized into Moses by the cloud and the sea. How are we supposed to understand what Paul is saying here?
In Greek, "baptize" means "put X into Y", and while that is often
putting a solid into a liquid, the word came to be used figuratively for
identifying X with Y ("dry" baptisms – you are correct that in the
exodus the cloud was not wet and they did not get wet from the sea,
quite the opposite). So putting Israel "into Moses" means that Israel of
the exodus was identified with Moses. That is to say, they received
deliverance and blessing and protection because of him, not because of
any worth on their part (as the whole sequel of events demonstrates over
and over again; cf. Ps.106:23). And after all, the most important
baptism of all in scripture, the baptism of the Spirit, is entirely dry
with not a drop of water to be found.
Hi Dr. Luginbill,
Once again, many thanks. It just occurred to me for the first time - is the “cloud” that Paul is referencing the same one that guided the Israelites through the dessert and wilderness?
For some reason I had always assumed that the cloud Paul is speaking of had something to do with the Red Sea crossing. Everyone who had discussed that passage always connected both the cloud and sea to the same event (the red sea crossing).
Yes, this is the same cloud that's being referenced. The Lord appeared
in that same cloud (of fire by night) and separated the Egyptians from
the Israelites (with darkness on one side and light on the other) the
night before the crossing and prevented the Egyptians from approaching
until it was time to let them flood into the parted sea so as to be
destroyed. So the reference is also to the crossing: they were
identified with Moses ("baptized into him", scripture says) in both of
these two regards, even though spiritually they proved themselves
Before I explain my subject matter, a prelude to my understanding that John’s water baptism is not unto salvation. But rather that it requires a) the confession of sins - Matt. 3:6b; Mark 1:5c b) to bear fruits worthy of repentance - Matt. 3:8; Luke 3:8 and c) the repentance for the remission of sins - Mark 1:4b; Luke 3:3. All of the Mosaic Law (Luke 24:44) was to result similarly into the same expectations as was John’s water baptism ministry, with the same focus as-to bring the partakers (Jews) to Christ. He was to be revealed to Israel (John 1:31). Paul clarifies “Into John’s baptism” (Acts 19:3) as being a baptism of repentance and that those who were baptized should believe on Christ (Acts 19:4). Yet, they needed to be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus, Paul laid his hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit (Acts 19:5-6). John chapter 3:3 was actualized, salvation took effect.
I would place Acts 2:38-39 equal to what happened in Acts 19:4-6. Peter did not baptize in water, but rather in the name of Jesus for the remission of sins and to receive the gift of Holy Spirit. Here again the baptism is dry (by your standard) unto salvation (Acts 2:40). An interesting numerical calculation regarding the ‘about’ three thousand souls v41 that were added. If, by speculation twelve disciples were baptizing these three thousand souls over a period of eight hours, each one of the disciples would have to baptize 31.5 souls per hour. A ridiculous summation! Water baptism even by this deduction seems very unlikely.
Baptism unto salvation is not a wet baptism, but a dry baptism (1 Cor. 12:12-13).
Trust my explanation suffices in allowing you to understanding my reasoning or rather my believe.
The Lord bless you and keep you,
My apologies for not requesting a reply from you in my previous email.
Please respond with your good directness.
It is true that all water-baptism is John's baptism. It is also true
that this water-baptism never had anything to do with salvation. John's
mission was to bring Israel – who were already supposed to be part of
the family – back to God in preparation for the Messiah (Lk.1:17; cf.
Matt.3:3; 11:10). Unbelievers do need to repent – to change their hearts
about God and come to Him through faith in Christ. But wayward believers
need to repent too. Repentance is a serious change of mind about going
down a wrong road that leads to turning – or turning back – to the right
road, the only WAY, Jesus Christ.
It is also true that the baptism of the Spirit is the baptism of the Church Age, the "one baptism" of Ephesians 4:5.
So it is also the case that water-baptism today is 1) certainly not necessary for salvation, and 2) not authorized by God or His Word. As one correspondent recently pointed out, if it were, then who, exactly, would be authorized to perform it? There are no apostles today, and no disciples of John, chosen by John, still alive. And no mandate in scripture to baptize with water (Matthew 28:19-20 is definitely "dry", speaking of the Spirit; see the link).
However, the apostolic era was a time of transition (see the link), and a time of climbing a very steep learning curve from Law to Grace, from the Jewish to the Church Age, from the Old to the New Covenant, a transition, that is, which even the apostles had to struggle with at times (cf. Peter having to be instructed three times before being willing to take the gospel to the gentiles in Acts chapter ten). Before the day of Pentecost, the only baptism Peter and company had seen was the water ritual, and we know very well he and his compatriots did not pay as close attention to the words of our Lord as they should have (e.g., Matt.6:52; 8:17) – which is why the Spirit was given, to lead them deeper into the truth (cf. Jn.15:26; 16:13).
So while you make a convincing case, and while I agree with the thrust of what you are saying, I don't think we can say that the apostles never used water. Paul, for example, would likely not have regretted "baptizing" in Corinth if it were the Spirit he meant when he says that (1Cor.1:14).
As I say, you make some good points, ones worth considering further.
In Jesus our dear Savior,
I do agree with the transition period that saw the practice of the water ritual come to an end. My focus was more on Peter and the 3000 souls 'not' being' a water ritual. Sorry, for the misguidance. Paul is the exemplar as per 1 Corinthians 1:14-17 for moving away from the water ritual.
Blessings and have a wonderful week.
On Acts 2, how would you explain this:
Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."
Acts 2:38 NKJV
In the verse above, Peter is saying that the "gift of the Holy Spirit" is
different from the baptism he is talking about here. Because if they are
baptized with the Spirit in the first part of his statement, then they would not
subsequently be receiving this baptism which they just received a second time.
An excellent observation regarding Acts 2:38 NKJV.
It has definitely created a 'propka' (Russian for bottleneck) in my research. Too much information flowing through my mind at once and I find myself somewhat congested. But, I rely more on the impression that I received as I was reading your explanation regarding v38.
a) The first part of Acts 2:38 references salvation, a completed action. This special outpouring in Acts has to do with the Holy Spirit being sent by the Father and the Son of God (Acts 1:4,8), which is unto salvation. and the Spirit is present.
b) Acts 2:38b is perhaps a direct reference to Joel 2:28-29. The promise of the Spirit is for Israel specifically ('Men of Judea', 'Men of Israel' and 'house of Israel' Acts 2;14,22,36). A future event wrongly interpreted by Peter as part of salvation? It further reiterates his misunderstanding of events as his intention is to not have Jesus go to the cross; "God forbid it, Lord." (Matthew 17:22a). The Joel scripture defines the work of the Holy Spirit (Joel 2:28-29) with specific observable manifestations of the Spirit's work through individuals (prophecy, dreams, and visions). This then is coupled directly to 'The day of the Lord'. Verse 29 ends with '...in those days.'!
c) Promise of the Spirit in Joel 2:28-29 (I think can be related to Isaiah 32:15 and 44:3.) These manifestations (Joel 2:28-39) are much different than those referred to in 1 Cor 12. It is only the gift of prophecy in Joel 2:28 that equates to those in 1 Cor.12. The gifts of Joel 2:28-29 are in its entirety a focal action related to a future event that is encapsulated as being an Israeli ministry, after their restoration. Therefore my understanding that Peter interjected a truth without knowing that his timing was early. It also seems as if verse 38 actually defines the specific recipients of this gift of the Holy Spirit, for the promise '...is for you .... (v39).
d) A further observation is that the four different aspects of gifts are for the body of Christ to function in, as referenced in 1 Cor. 12:
- v1 'spiritual gifts'
- v4 'varieties of gifts'
- v5 varieties of ministries',
- and v6 'varieties of effects'. These areas are much more comprehensive than those mentioned in Joel 2:28-29. It is also important that the Spirit gives as He wills (1 Cor. 12:11), which I term as selective giving ( in the sense of receiving the gift in person for a specific purpose). In the context of Israel, all of Israel is purified (Eze. 20:38) and will corporately receive the 'end-time' gift of the Spirit as predetermined for the nation of Israel.
I have not completed the study and will appreciate your feedback regarding this matter. I trust that my descriptive style of writing will bring my belief and/or understanding of this text to light.
Grace be with you,
It is true that there are different ways to see this verse/passage. I would
hesitate to say even at this early stage in the learning curve that this might
be a "future event wrongly interpreted by Peter as part of salvation?" I think
we have to give the apostles credit for having THAT part right even at this
point, at any rate.
Here's one, also Peter and later, which is more clear:
While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God. Then Peter answered, “Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then they asked him to stay a few days.
Acts 10:44-48 NKJV
So it does seem that early on the apostles did continue the baptism of John with
literal water. Moving on from the old to the new is seldom seamless.
In Jesus our dear Savior,
I think that we agree with the implementation of water baptism (John's repentance baptism and the disciples' practice thereof), which should have been terminated at Pentecost. The continuance (transition phase) of water baptism (specifically Peter's and Paul's water baptism practices) should not have continued after Pentecost, and finally, Paul's total termination of water baptism, as he so poignantly reflects on in 1 Cor. 1:17. I would want to believe that Peter followed suit later in his ministry. I do agree that water baptism was practiced for longer than needed to be. The re-implementation of water baptism by the church should not have happened, which I believe is an extra-biblical and philosophical act of man.
In defense of Peter the following:
a) Peter acted in a very self-directed manner often; he sunk, he denied Christ, he cut off an ear, he refused to kill and eat, he stopped eating with Gentiles and he references in 1 Peter 2:16 "...things hard to understand,...". More examples could be given, but this suffices. In his zealousness, he acted as he thought right and there is a place for it.
b) None of the above has any negative relevance to Peter's apostleship and authority.
c) Peter was indeed entrusted to the circumcision (Gal. 2:7)
d) If my recollection of the First Letter of Peter is correct, no mention is made of water baptism at repentance, but rather the completeness of our salvation in and through Christ Jesus our Lord.
Acts 10:44-48 NKJV
This scenario took place before the Council at Jerusalem - I will interpolate Peter's change of heart at this council after he baptized the Gentiles in Chapter 10; "But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are." (Acts 15:11NAS). Peter was acting on what he thought was right by baptizing the Gentiles, he acted in good faith even though he should not have baptized the Gentiles in water any longer. "Can anyone forbid water,"? I think or deduct from this question that the receiving of the Holy Spirit should be amplified by immersion into water. Again, perhaps a self-directed matter action by Peter, because it must have been difficult for him to move away from that which they were commanded to do before Pentecost. All of the disciples, including Paul, should have taken John's proclamation "this is the one who baptizes in the Holy Spirit." John1:33c NAS as that which would supersede water baptism after Pentecost. I specifically mention Pentecost and not the Cross as the point of change because the Spirit was not yet given.
In summary, I believe that the continuance (transition phase) of water baptism should not have taken place since after Pentecost, but was practiced until full revelation dawned on the disciples and Paul.
Grace be with you,
"I believe that the continuance (transition phase) of water baptism
should not have taken place since after Pentecost, but was practiced
until full revelation dawned on the disciples and Paul."
I think this is a very good way to put it.
Have a look at the link: BB 6B: Ecclesiology (if you haven't already done so). There is a lot in that study about the time of transition from Old to New Testament chronicled in part by the book of Acts and the reasons for it along with the struggles the early believers had with it.
In Jesus our dear Savior,
Yes, they believe in modern tongues and were very shocked when I said I didn't. They didn't go as far as saying people aren't saved without it or that a "second baptism" or anointing is necessary (like the Charismatics do) but at the same time they didn't think that anything in the Bible pointed to the cessation of tongues and yet didn't the sign gifts cease before the end of the apostolic period?
When you read people's testimonies of being denied promotion within their church or had a role taken away from them because they can't speak tongues, it is a really chilling thing to think of. It makes me wonder if the counter reformation really ended and these are not actually mystical Catholics threaded through the church visible! Well, Satan certainly hasn't let up on his fight against the truth after all!
It would incense me to think of Christians being shut out of promotions
within their church because of tongues . . . if the whole idea of
denominational organizational structures did not seem biblically
wrong-headed to me in the first place (see the link). So since they are
in the wrong place; maybe this sort of ostracism is God's way of helping
them to move on to some place better where they can actually grow.
Yes, the so-called "sign gifts" ceased as Paul said they would (in 1Cor.13:1ff.) – and as all experience shows (see the link). If anyone really could "heal by touch", e.g., he/she would soon be an international celebrity. People DO claim that today, but they are not internationally known for this because it's clearly not true.
Considering all the work I've put in over the course of my life to learn languages, it would be great if I could just automatically know how to speak them (through the Spirit) without any effort. Such is not the case, however, not in ANY case. I often put that proposition to tongues folk: "Show me one person who can speak a language they haven't studied or otherwise learned". So they fall back on tongues being "a non-language language" – which is precisely the opposite of what Paul proves at great length in 1st Corinthians 14:6-11.
Keeping you in my prayers, my friend!
Hello Dr. Luginbill,
I just finished an article that gives an explanation of why Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist.
Was hoping that I could get a critique from you, to see what your comments might be. These came to my mind yesterday as I was pondering the teaching I gave on water baptism and why it is not necessary.
Always appreciate the help and your guidance.
Here is the article: October 30, 2021 Why was Jesus Baptized in water?
The following is a revelation that came to me today from the Holy Spirit, as I began to ponder this subject concerning this often discussed event; ample Scriptural support will be provided for the reader, so that may make their own judgment.
“13Then Jesus arrived from Galilee at the Jordan, coming to John to be baptized by him. 14But John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I have the need to be baptized by You, and yet You are coming to me?” 15But Jesus, answering, said to him, “Allow it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed Him. 16After He was baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and settling on Him, 17and behold, a voice from the heavens said, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
The baptism of Jesus was a foreshadow of what was going to happen in the Spiritual realm, for every person who chooses to follow Him as a disciple.
Jesus made the statement that His baptism was for the purpose of: “fulfilling all righteousness”;
There are two parts to His baptism which were required in order to fulfill all righteousness; 1) His death on Calvary, 2) His resurrection from the dead. These two events accomplished by our LORD and Savior, completely fulfilled all righteousness.
This first part of Jesus fulfilling all righteousness, concerns symbolically and actually fulfilling requirement 1; His death on Calvary, His immersion under the water.
Following, is a picture of what happens to an unbeliever when they accept and believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and are born-again or born from above, as depicted in:
“5Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.
A. The words “born of water” refers to the “Water of the Word of God”; According to John 1:1, “Jesus is the Word”.
B. When a person is born-again, 1) they are immersed and covered by acting on the faith God has given them, in God’s Word, 2) they are baptized[immersed] by the Holy Spirit, and are brought into the Kingdom of God; they become “Children of God”.
C. Jesus going down under the water is a picture of H symbolically taking all the sins of the world under [immersed] in the water. See John 3:16.
See Romans 6:3-4.
"Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death. Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death[to sin], so that as Christ was raised from the dad through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.
See Romans 6:6.
“knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin.
D. Going under the water is also a picture of the death of Jesus for our sins on the Cross of Calvary.
The second part of Jesus fulfilling all righteousness, concerns symbolically and actually fulfilling requirement 2, His resurrection from the dead, His rising up immediately from the water.
Jesus coming up out of the water is:
1. A picture of born again believer, who has been freed from the bondage of sin.
See Romans 6:7-10.
“ 7For anyone who has died[to self] has been freed from sin.8Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him. 9For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, He cannot die again; death no longer has dominion over Him. 10The death He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life He lives, He lives to God. 11So you too must count yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus”.
2 Corinthians 5:17.
“17Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away. Behold, the new has come!
See Romans 6:5.
“For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death[for our sin], certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection”,
2. This is a picture of the “First Resurrection” in which all believers will partake.
See Revelation 20:6.
“6Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: over these the second death hath no power; but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years”.
Thanks so much as always,
Anxious to hear what you have to say.
Blessing to you always,
For my own take on this issue, please see the link: in
Christ's Baptism by John
In a nutshell, going down into the water was a picture of Christ being immersed in the sins of the world (i.e., to die spiritually for them) – after all, they had just been "washed off" in that water when He went down into it; Christ's coming back up is a picture of His resurrection. His death and resurrection are the two key parts of the gospel and that fulfills God's righteousness: the Father is just to save us even though we are sinners because Christ died for us AND was resurrected to demonstrate the efficacy of His victory:
He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.
Romans 4:25 NIV
In Jesus our dear Savior,
Just a quick question. I know people say repent and have faith but
surely only true repentance comes after salvation as it is the
indwelling of the Holy Spirit that convicts us of sin. So really it is
about faith first and then salvation and then repentance?
So with that in mind would those that had the baptism of John be truly repentant or were they showing faith that they were waiting for the Messiah, the faith in whom brings true repentance after salvation? Obviously John already knew about repentance as he was filled with the Holy Spirit at birth.
Am I right on this or out in the weeds?
I saw those emails about "Spiritual Formation" and just thought more of the same old rubbish!
I am convinced that this is just a small part of on ongoing counter reformation movement of the evil one through Catholicism. We can never underestimate how truly awful and dangerous Catholicism is. Ecumenism is impossible because we have no fellowship with darkness and with Belial.
I saw that lots of those awful Ignatius Loyola (the Jesuit) labyrinths are popping up outside so called Bible believing churches other there! Would you believe they have made one in my local park?! I'll send you a photo of it next time I go there.
The RCC is no sleeping and toothless enemy. It is alive and kicking and doing what it has always done, making sure people do not come to a saving faith in Jesus Christ.
I saw your communications with your friend from seminary and that you stood up for true doctrine and I was really cheering you on whilst reading that. It couldn't have been easy to do that with someone you know so well and care for but I was so very glad that you did.
A lot of people in leadership in the church visible seemed to have compromised in one way or another so to see you stand firm on the truth was a truly wonderful thing to behold Bob! I applaud and salute you!
It is such an honour to have you as a friend and be a part of your ministry.
In Jesus, who is worth it all,
Yes, there's "nothing new under the sun". And when the evil one finds an
effective tool, he never abandons it; he only repackages it. Same old
dog food – shiny new can!
On repentance, this word means "changing your mind", and when we are talking spiritual issues, it depends what a person is changing from. For the unbeliever, repentance is FROM "dead works" (Heb.6:1; 9:14) – which means the old mindset of unbelief where a person doesn't need God or thinks he/she can help God, or finally comes to believe that they in effect "are God" . . . and TO faith in Christ, relying entirely on the Lord to deliver us from sin and death. For believers, repentance usually refers to turning away from a dangerous, sinful course and back to the strait and narrow. The baptism of John is a special case because the Jewish nation was presupposed to be the people of God, that is to say, all believers, so that we would have a case of the second type in theory; but in fact most of them were unbelievers, so this baptism would represent their commitment to accept the Messiah once He was identified (which some of them did but not all, and many who did failed to persevere in following Him). More at Ichthys at the link: repentance.
I'm pleased to know that you have the spiritual resources now to fight off momentary lapses, pass tests, and ward off attacks. The quicker and the more resolutely we do so, well, that is a sign of spiritual growth for sure!
Keeping you in my prayers.
Hello Dr. Luginbill,
I am developing a teaching based on Joel 2:28 along with other collaborating verses where the baptism of the Holy Spirit is mentioned.
The verses I referenced above puzzle me.
“14When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. 15On their arrival, they prayed for them to receive the Holy Spirit. 16For the Holy Spirit had not yet fallen upon any of them; they had simply been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. 17Then Peter and John laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.
Here are the reasons these verses have me puzzled:
1. In Verse 14 - they received[that is believed] in the Word of God.
2. In Verse 15 - Peter and John prayed for these believers to receive the Holy Spirit?
3. In Verse 16 - The Holy Spirit had not yet fallen on them?
4. Also Verse 16 - These believers were simply "baptized into the name of the LORD Jesus?
5. In Verse 17 - Peter and John laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit?
I am puzzled by Verses 15 to 17, because as I recall, from John 3:5, an unbeliever receives the Holy Spirit when they are born-again. I don't believe in a second or third "Work of Grace" as some do. Can you also explain Acts 19:1-6, as those who were already believers, did not know about the Holy Spirit? Can you give me an explanation of these verses and an answer to those verses that have ? questions. Maybe these questions are answered in your teaching titled "Pneumatology"?
Thanks so much again for your great help and expertise.
Blessings to you always,
Always good to hear from you, my friend.
(5) Jesus responded, "Truly, truly I tell you, that unless a person is born from water and Spirit, he is not able to enter into the kingdom of God."
John 3:5 is speaking about the process of salvation – which is by means of the
Spirit who gives us the new/from above birth when we believe. That has been the
case since Adam and Eve. The giving of the Spirit to indwell us permanently is
something that only happens after Christ has won the victory of the cross and
ascended (Jn.7:39; cf. Eph.4:8).
The apostolic period is one of transitions: from the shadows of the Law to the realities of the incarnate Messiah who has now won the victory of the cross and sent to us His Spirit as a result. One of those transitions has to do with the giving of said Spirit. By the time Paul wrote Romans, the Spirit was being given automatically to all who believe as is the case today (Rom.8:9). But after the first Pentecost, it was the case that this gift had to be mediated initially by the apostles – in order to demonstrate and solidify their authority (the apostles are the foundation of the Church during this early time: Eph.2:20).
Acts 19:5 is another example of transition issues. There were those who had believed based upon John the baptist's teachings, but who were not in Jerusalem at Pentecost (or who had believed after that but through the work of disciples of John). In this case, Paul mediates the Spirit as in other cases we see in Acts. Here is a link where I explain the grammar and other details.
The best place to look for explaining the transitional period described in the book of Acts in BB 6B: Ecclesiology (at the link), especially, "The Nature of the Book of Acts" and "Acts chapter by chapter".
Hi Dr. Robert D. Luginbill, Firstly, I want to thank you for your
discussions on baptism which I read on your site! I had been feeling
very convicted about the purpose of water baptism in the light of sola
fide, and then Jesus commanding something that in itself doesn't save
when that same Jesus came to fulfill the substance of the divers
washings/baptisms in the law and under John. I searched everywhere for
teachings but I saw none that explained my convictions. The best I found
were hyper-dispensationalists that preach different dispensations and
that water baptism would again resume in the milenium. I stumbled upon
your website and read your articles and email exchanges on baptism, and
I knew I was looking at the truth. Everything fitted perfectly in God's
word. It was as if the holy spirit was telling me about my convictions
through the truth of your explanations.
However, I have a question, Can you recommend any published books that share the same views as you. I love having books or reading books so I can always go back to them. I have downloaded your resources but I was curious if there were any books that touch on this topic and explain this issue like you did. The very few (1 or 2) books I saw were hyper dispensationalism books. Since you have not published an extensive book on this topic, I was wondering if you could refer me to one as it would also help me just refer people to the book for better understanding. Thanks a lot!! Soli Deo Gloria.
Good to make your acquaintance, and thanks so much for your encouraging
I really don't know of any books or published materials useful on this subject outside of what may be found at Ichthys. The subject index is a good place to look for leads on Ichthys. Also, BB 6B Ecclesiology, is a good study to read for setting water-baptism and all other such related matters in a helpful context (such as the proper interpretation of the book of Acts). Here are a few other direct links for you in case you might have missed something:
Dispensations, Covenants, Israel and the Church I
Dispensations, Covenants, Israel and the Church II
More on Dispensations
The Five Dispensational Divisions of Human History (in SR 5)
The Transitional Era of the Book of Acts and its Unique Spiritual Gifts
The Nature of the Book of Acts (in BB 6B)
Feel free to write me back.
Hi Dr Luginbill,
Thank you so much for your work on Baptism, I am very much now convinced WATER baptism is not for Christ's church. This is groundbreaking for me but I felt like something was wrong in the imposition of ordinances that stemmed from the the old dispensation or john' ministry, upon Christians when John himself made it known that Jesus would instead baptize with the Holy Ghost. The foundation of the practice for many hinges on Matthew 28;19 of which I am grateful to you for your explanations. However, someone who believes we are commanded by Jesus to baptize proposed a difficulty. Here's the difficulty quoted from him :
""When Jesus commissions his disciples, commanding them to baptize, Mt.28, does your friend imagine that Men baptize with Holy Spirit? The Spirit blows where he wills, Jn.3:8. The Spirit is sovereign. The Spirit is content to baptize those whom the Son designates, the will of God being unified. Those who believe Man baptizes others in the Holy Ghost are but a small step from baptismal regeneration""
Basically his point is that our view poses a new difficulty. Men can't baptize with the Holy Ghost, Only Jesus does. And that due to distorting the text, we have believed a wrong doctrine. I didn't know how to respond. How do you answer to this?
Good to make your acquaintance, and thank you so much for your kind
As to your friend's question about Matthew 28:19, well, one could make the same quibble about "make disciples". For how are disciples "made" except by giving unbelievers the gospel? But it is not us who save these individuals when we tell them the truth. The Holy Spirit is the One who gives those who believe new birth, birth from above, not us. He is the sovereign One, just as your friend acknowledges.
But as to mediating the Holy Spirit, in the early days of the Church Age, the apostolic times before the canon of scripture was written, there were many miraculous occurrences, one of which was indeed the apostles doing just this, namely, placing their hands on new believers and imparting the Holy Spirit (which after the period of transition came to be automatic at salvation: e.g., Rom.8:9):
(14) Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, (15) who, when they had come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. (16) For as yet He had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus (lit. "into"; Gr. eis as at Matt.28:19). (17) Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.
Acts 8:14-17 NKJV
So while the disciples/apostles are commanded to "make disciples" and "baptize [these] into" the Trinity, the latter in the early going was done with the laying on of hands, but the former never was. So it is clear that this verse, Matthew 28:19, is a mandate to bring people to Christ and to lead them forward spiritually thereafter through teaching the Word ("baptizing" and "making disciples" respectively; n.b., a "disciple" is a mathetes, in Greek, i.e., "one who learns [the truth]", just like the Latin derived English derivative "disciple").
And for any who want to quibble about the true meaning of Matthew 28:19, let them consider that our Lord said this BEFORE He said the following:
(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".
"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."
As John had already made clear, water-baptism was his bailiwick; Christ would baptize not with water but "with the Holy Spirit".
"Now I am baptizing you with water for the purpose of [your] repentance. But the One coming after me is more powerful than me and I am not worthy to carry His sandals. It is He who is the One who will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire."
Matthew 3:11 (cf. Mk.1:8; Lk.3:16; Jn.1:33)
Thank you Sir. The Subject Index is really useful. Please can you take a
look at this link :
Can you confirm its accuracy? If accurate, this is pretty strong evidence that water might not have been involved in Acts 2:38.
Thanks for sharing that. It's an interesting argument, namely, that
logistically it would have been impossible to water-baptize so many
people in Jerusalem on that one day. However, I'm always loathe to put
too much stock into arguments based upon "this or that was impossible",
since there are so many things recorded in scripture which, to human
ken, WERE impossible . . . and yet they certainly happened.
The main thing to remember is that even John proclaimed that Jesus would baptize not with water but "with the Spirit" (Matt.3:11; Mk.1:8; Lk.3:16; Jn.1:33), and that it is the baptism of the Spirit which one finds throughout the New Testament epistles as being critical to the Christian life – while water baptism is not even mentioned outside of the book of Acts (which relates the transition from Law to Grace under the New Covenant).
Hey Dr. Luginbill, I had some questions about water baptism that I
wanted to ask you about (we've talked about this subject a good bit
already). Admittedly, I don't think it is the easiest topic to explain
when you consider everything. In my gospel presentation, I added/wrote
up why water baptism is no longer required for salvation and for today
and wanted to add a little more "meat" to my explanation. Still working
on that, but I have a few questions.
On a particular website (link below), I read a small four part series meant to prove that the practice is obsolete (which we agree with). I wanted to read someone else's take on the subject to see how they came to that conclusion just out of curiosity. Unfortunately, this person still got a lot wrong (he thinks the great commission was for Jews only) despite being correct in the bigger picture. Regarding some of the points below, I want to know how you would answer said statements or claims. It just helps me to think through a lot of this. At the same time, I do have a few actual questions.
Something else that spurred me on to examine this subject (just between you and me) further is the fact that ___ believes water baptism continued and that we should still do it today. I was a bit surprised as I don't agree, but his arguments for his own conclusion made me want to go back and recheck everything. So I'm kind of just telling you where I'm coming from here. Even though the issue is resolved for me, I still have questions and things I need clarity on.
1. This isn't a question of whether or not the following is true or not (I already know it's false) but more of a "how do you go about dealing with such statements." The writer believes water baptism was salvific only for a short time during the transitioning into the church age. He believes we shouldn't do it today but cites it was required as an act of obedience based on Mark 1:4 and Luke 7:30. The passage in Luke says, "but the Pharisees and experts in the Law rejected God's purpose for themselves, because they had not been baptized by john." His point is that God intended all believers (even those already saved) to be water baptised as an act of obedience to demonstrate saving faith, very much like how Abraham obeyed the command to be circumcised and sacrifice his son. Obviously, water baptism had no saving power in and of itself because salvation has always been by grace through faith. But do you think water baptism during Jesus day was a James 2:14 scenario where faith required works to prove it? I don't like and disagree with how this writer words it, that water baptism was "salvific" during the transition from the old to the new covenant.
2. I am aware that you believe Acts 19:4-5 has nothing to do with water baptism. However, I remember you saying that even if water baptism was being referred to in that passage that it still wouldn't prove the continuing necessity for said ritual. Something like that.
The writer from the link believes the disciples in Ephesus were water baptized again because they did not understand the true meaning of John's water baptism, hence Paul baptized them again. If water baptism did occur here, could this be a possible explanation? Maybe it is a dumb question because we believe there was no water involved. But that leads me to ask, how can we be sure this wasn't another case of water baptism?
3. Do you think one of the possible reasons so many of the church "fathers" taught the necessity for water baptism and works in salvation was because of the false teachings present in the churches Paul had originally evangelized (but had since been infiltrated by the false Christian Jews)? This would tie in with the trend and path the era of Ephesus took when they "forsook their first love." The truth was honored at first but then abandoned so that it got messed up like a game of telephone?
In terms of the issue generally, the surprising thing to me is that anyone who reads scripture and puts the Bible first would even imagine that water-baptism was still legitimate.
"I baptize you with water (i.e., physically) for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire."
Matthew 3:11 NIV
(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".
"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".
(1) When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. (2) And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. (3) Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. (4) And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
Acts 2:1-4 NKJV
These are not just words. These are God's words.
Nowhere in the Bible does it tell us to be baptizing with water. Nowhere. Matthew 28:19-20 is not an exception. It doesn't mention water. And if it were talking about water, it would be in direct conflict with the four passages quoted above (see the link).
People use water to baptize out of tradition. That is the ONLY reason . . . since it is not in the Bible.
That anyone could think it has anything to do with salvation only confirms that said person has no regard for scripture and is possibly not saved – not if said person is relying on water-baptism, i.e., on works to be saved:
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.
Ephesians 2:8-9 NKJV
Water-baptism is John's baptism. Jesus' baptism is Spirit baptism. John's was
for the Jewish people before Christ came. Jesus' is for all who put their faith
in Him (Rom.8:9). John's was meant to bring the Jewish people – all of whom were
supposed to be believers – to represent repentance in preparation for the
Messiah. It didn't save them. Faith has always been what saves us (Gen.15:6) by
the grace of God. And how many who were water-baptized by John followed Jesus
thereafter and are heaven today? Before Pentecost, we are told that only a 120
plus were still faithful and together (there could have been some more
elsewhere, but it is doubtful if more than a small percentage of all those who
were dunked by John were still believers if they ever were, based upon this
passage; cf. Jn.6:66).
The book of Acts complicates the issue – for those who do not understand its purpose or how to correctly interpret it. But for those who do, it is clear that water-baptism was always John's and was only continued briefly after Pentecost, mostly to Jewish believers who had not been baptized with water by John, and was discontinued later, once the apostles (Paul in particular) had climbed the learning curve sufficiently to recognize that the Law was now fulfilled.
Water-baptism today is legalism, quite literally, because not only is it works instead of grace, but also because it is a part of the Law which has now been abrogated.
I've written possibly close to a thousand pages on this and related subjects. Best first place to look is all of BB 6B (at the link) because that will give you the correct frame of reference for this issue. After that, the whole "Baptism: water and Spirit" series of email postings would be good to peruse (link to the latest one).
And you are certainly correct about the "fathers". There is more wrong in them than right. And what do we expect? These are ancient scholars several centuries removed from the apostles following an era where there was no great love for the scriptures – at least in terms of understanding them (i.e., that first post-apostolic era "abandoned their first love" of the Bible: Rev.2:4). The sad thing is that so many today are so willing to go backwards in the faith and in doctrine and not press forward to the truth. 2nd Peter 2:22 comes to mind.
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it.
2nd Timothy 3:14 NIV
Hello Dr. Luginbill,
Continuing to pray for you and your ministry. How is everything coming with the classics?
Pardon me for the delayed response.
___ says that water baptism never stopped and was a Jewish ritual that was carried into the New Covenant. He said he wasn't aware of any passages that support the notion that it would ever stop. So yes, he believes it is still for today and doesn't believe 1 Corinthians 1 disproves that. Of course, he doesn't believe it necessary for salvation (we of course knew that). I don't agree with him, but he is still a great teacher whose teachings I still utilize.
Yes, I have read through your discussions on baptism with others (I just finished going through all of them which explains my delayed response). But there are some things that are still not clear to me. I actually want to do a special treatment on this very subject because it isn't the easiest to explain on the surface level. That and it has challenged me a lot. I don't know hardly anyone who believes as you and I do (other than the few in the Ichthys circle and a few other random individuals, one of which I gave you the link to). I struggle to find many people on the internet who don't believe water baptism is for today. I think it is one of the most (if not the most) misunderstood issues that has remained present in the church for the past two-thousand years. Hardly anyone has gotten it right (hence I really want to write on why it is obsolete).
So I'm reading through Baptism: Water and Spirit part 2 (read and skimmed through all the others as well) and you said the following- The last possible instance of water-baptism recorded in the book of Acts occurs in chapter 19:1-7, and Paul is the one who performs "the baptism". I have argued elsewhere that water was not involved on this occasion: these individuals had received John's baptism before the Spirit had been given so Paul baptizes them with the Holy Spirit (i.e., it is a unique situation since most believers even at that time had become such after the Spirit was being universally given at the point of faith in Christ). Again, you wrote- But the critical thing to notice is that this baptism is the last one mentioned in Acts, and it occurs at the beginning of Paul's Ephesian ministry which would last for three years thereafter.
This is what I was asking about. Which is it? It seems weird to argue for one position but then say it may be something else. That is why I asked how we could be sure if this wasn't water baptism or not. Even if it was, I don't think that would change our position or anything? Does the Greek read "in" or "into" the name of the Lord Jesus? ___takes this as water baptism.
However, even if we assume that water to be present here, it is quite clear that Paul's motivation is not to make up some lack in obedience (they had been water-baptized before) or grace (Paul certainly did not believe that water-baptism proffered any overt spiritual benefits), but precisely to bestow upon them the Holy Spirit which, in this transitional apostolic period, was sometimes given through the hands of the apostles (at least it was not apparently retroactively given to those who had believed prior to the first Pentecost of the Church as it would be latter on: Rom.8:9).
I don't understand this. Could you clarify this statement that suggests water baptism could be used to bestow/mediate the Spirit onto individuals? The purpose of water baptism we know was of course to reveal the Messiah to Israel and represent repentance for a Jewish audience. But it just sounds like we are giving multiple meanings to water baptism- mediating the Spirit is one I'm not aware of nor have I seen mentioned in Scripture anywhere. You said, The Spirit is an unction just like water can be an unction. The Spirit enters us into Christ, and if there is any true symbolism in water baptism it is to demonstrate this same connection. Thus, in a context of Jewish converts (even in Greek cities, these were prominent among the first believers), the connecting of the baptism of the Spirit to water baptism by the laying on of the apostles' hands was a natural thing since they would all have had John's ministry in mind when confronted with the truth that Jesus was the Messiah whom John heralded. I'm confused on this point. Could you explain these sentences because I was never aware of this? It's just that I am not aware of any verses that say water baptism was a way to mediate the Spirit baptism at the hands of the apostles during the apostolic transitional period. They placed their hands on them but that seems to be an act distinguished from water baptism itself. Are you saying that the "laying on of hands" in Acts is not simply touching the individual but refers to laying their hands on converts to physically baptize them? If so, how could that be proven since no verses seem to state this clearly?
In question 4 of the link: https://ichthys.com/mail-Baptism-Water-and-SpiritII.htm one of the correspondents took the view that Paul was saying that (despite there being a Jewish and Gentile Pentecost as two seperate events) both the Jews and Gentiles received the same type of baptism (spirit baptism). It wasn't a case of "one type for one group and one for another." Obviously, (as you pointed out) Israel and the church are not two separate groups. And that is exactly what Paul was trying to assure his audience. It seems to me that this person was saying that Paul was only assuring his listeners that they had all received the important and necessary baptism of the Spirit. From there, someone may argue that this isn't saying water baptism would die out, but that Paul was simply reminding his audience that (as the correspondent put it) the Jew and Gentile both got the same thing. Therefore, not a proof passage showing there aren't two baptisms. This person asked you about this again but I'm not really sure if you got around to answering his question (hence I'm asking). Either that or I just really misunderstood your answer.
Water-baptism represented repentance (clear even from Acts 2:38), and beyond all argument repentance precedes faith. But water-baptism practitioners apply the water after faith, and thus have both the ritual and its true symbolism entirely backwards.
I don't get your point. The apostles baptised some people after they believed. Are you saying they got the procedure wrong?
Also, in Matthew 28:19-20, does the Greek really say "into" as opposed to "in" the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? How can we be sure this is the correct rendering when so many have translated it "in" the name of the Father...
Totally unrelated to all the above (shift of topic here), is my question involving church membership. Obviously, I'm not a fan nor do I think it is biblically justified (just like denominations). You and I know each other well enough so you probably already knew that. But I believe some people's primary (I actually have heard of this as part of some congregations justification for this) drive of utilizing church membership is so that they don't have to conduct any gay/homosexual weddings. If they come to the church's pastor, he could very well tell them, "you have to be a member of our church for me to marry you two." This is understandable, but I still don't think this is a good reason to have church membership. It sounds a bit cowardly because the fear (I'm guessing) is that the pastor could be prosecuted or even imprisoned for refusing a gay couple. How would you argue against this? I ask because I don't know what I would say quite frankly.
In His grace and power,
Thanks for those prayers – all my classes "made"! So things are in good shape
for another year. Still no word on who is chairing personnel, so prayers
appreciated to coax someone else to volunteer [n.b., thanks for prayers here: I
was able to avoid serving on the committee].
There is no direct command to stop Sabbath observance or animal sacrifice or eating kosher either – but we know from plenty of passages that these are not things we should be doing now. Yet some people say to do them and even claim salvation depends on them. Water baptism is right in the same category. Jesus Himself, just before He ascended, made the direct contrast between "John" baptizing with water and "you" being baptized with the Spirit (Acts 1:5-8). There is only "one baptism", according to Ephesians 4:5. Based upon our Lord's final words to the disciples, which one do you reckon that is?
As to "I don't know hardly anyone who believes as you and I do", I almost hate to say it but given where we are in the Church Age, I could take that as a "proof". There are more people in the world who believe that the pope's words are infallible than believe in justification by faith. And there are more people in the world who believe in Muhammad than in the pope, and maybe more who believe in Shiva than Muhammad, and possibly more who believe, affirmatively, in nothing, than all the rest put together. Very soon, more people will believe in antichrist than everything else put together. So I do not believe that majority rule means a thing. That, by the way, is what Laodicea means: the people ARE justice (i.e., vox populi, vox dei). In fact, in my experience and observation, the less people behind it the more likely it is to be genuine (not a fool-proof rule, but still . . .).
As to "it just sounds like we are giving multiple meanings to water baptism", I would quarrel with the "we". My position is that water baptism is John's baptism, and that the only reasons that the apostles and co. occasionally and in the early going sometimes did engage in it was because 1) they were ministering to Jews or those within the Jewish milieu (i.e., proselytes and Samaritans), and these folks had been a part, so to speak, of that earlier, Jewish preparation for the Messiah, so that it seemed "right" to water baptize them (I don't believe it was, but I understand it); 2) the apostles and co. didn't have this all figured out at first; it took time to transition from Law to grace; even Paul had a learning curve to climb; but by the end of the apostolic era, the epistles make it clear what is what: Law has been replaced because Christ fulfilled it (please tell everyone to read the books of Galatians and Hebrews for starters here).
So the biblical position is that the apostles should never have used water. Just as Peter and co. should never have appointed a putative new apostle (Matthias). Just as Peter shouldn't have needed a huge lesson from the Spirit to go in and minister to Cornelius and his gentile friend. One could go on. We can't expect for these men, great as they were, to have "gotten this" all overnight (since it was "new wine" that went against all they had been brought up in), and part of the reason they were allowed not to "get it" immediately was no doubt because the Jewish believers of that day needed time to adjust as well. That adjustment is what Acts is all about on one level, and what the apostolic era is all about too.
So as to "giving multiple meanings" to water baptism, not at all. I'm merely trying to explain the thinking of individuals who were in the middle of working things out. So in the case of water-baptisms where the Spirit is given, the Spirit is given NOT because of the water but because the apostles placed their hands on these new believers and mediated the gift of the Holy Spirit. That was a special empowerment designed to enhance and establish their authority as apostles, but it stopped being necessary very early on as well (e.g., Rom.8:9).
So when I say in some of these instances "whether or not", what I mean is that the important thing was the gift of the Spirit. The apostles mediated this gift "whether or not" their hands were wet. If their hands were wet, they were, according to the most charitable interpretation, accommodating the understandable desires of new converts within the Jewish ambit to "have the same experience everyone else had gotten" (though completely unnecessary), and according to a less charitable interpretation, still behind the learning curve.
Water baptism is the same and means the same whenever and wherever it has been conducted: it is a ritual of repentance whereby the people of God commit to coming back to Him and preparing themselves for the coming of the Messiah.
Spirit baptism is the gift of the Spirit.
The only way the two combine is in the somewhat confused and confusing initial practices on some occasions of men who were mediating the Spirit (for reasons discussed above and in the prior links and references).
As to "and if there is any true symbolism in water baptism it is to demonstrate this same connection", it would probably have been better to omit this explanatory clause since it has only confused you (at least). The "if" is very important. What I am doing here is giving water-baptizing brethren some benefit of the doubt that their unauthorized ritual, even though not given that meaning by the Bible, may possibly have some loose applicability to the truth, charitably interpreted (but is still something to be avoided; i.e., if I say skiing represents spiritual growth that may explain why I ski, but it's not a reason to ski or make others feel guilty if they don't, because it is just a representation). What I am NOT saying, nor do I believe, is that the apostles who temporarily (and in ignorance) occasionally engaged in this ritual saw such symbolism. The laying on of their hands mediated the Spirit. It didn't matter if this contact occurred in the course of a water baptism or not. Acts 8:17 is definitely dry – no argument. Acts 19:1-6 might be read as "wet", but I read it as dry . . . after thinking about it for many years. Notice what Paul says about water: "John baptized with a baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in Him who was coming after him, that is, in Jesus." Which is exactly what I've been saying. THEN these people are baptized INTO Jesus Christ, into His Person (Greek eis NOT en), something only the Spirit can do, which happens only "when Paul put his hands on them" (no water mentioned); "the Holy Spirit came on them" after he did so , with no water involved.
As to "proof passages", there is a difference between something which will floor an opponent in an argument and something which is sufficient to teach the truth to someone who is open to the truth. I am interested in the latter, not the former (that is the province of apologetics). If you're looking for "smoking guns", I don't believe you can find any of those in the Bible for any single point – because unbelievers, skeptics, and ornery individuals will always find a way to cast doubt. We are believers. We have faith in the truth as the Spirit reveals it to us through the scriptures. When He does, that is more than sufficient, even if others are not persuaded.
I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, so no one can say that you were baptized in my name. (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.) For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.
1st Corinthians 1:14-17
Let's put this to the test, shall we? Water-baptizers today, even those who do not say it is necessary for salvation (though they all intimate that) claim that participating in the ritual is absolutely required. A Christian who is not water-baptized is deficient, suspicious and NOT allowed to join a church (why anyone would want to, I don't know, but that is another issue). In fact, these sorts give the newly baptized a certificate of baptism so that if they move they can prove they have been water-baptized. How would these sorts react to Paul if they had been in Corinth and heard him say the above? They would not be well pleased. Not at all. Paul says here that he essentially does not care whether or not any of the Corinthians or many of the Corinthians were ever baptized in water at all. That is NOT how a person who believes water baptism is necessary and important behaves, not at all. In fact, Paul cannot even remember whether or not he water-baptized this or that group (beyond odd, if it were important, far less "necessary"), whereas modern day water-baptizing advocates "count coup" over this ritual, memorialize it, take picture, record it, praise it, fixate on it, send out newsletters. Paul couldn't care less – he says so. And why? Because, "Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel". Now think about that. If "baptizing" in Matthew 28:19 means "with water", then Christ most definitely DID send Paul to "baptize . . . with water". So Paul is lying here – or else our Lord was NOT talking about water but about the Spirit, and the so called "great commission" has nothing to do with water at all. In fact, of course, water is not mentioned in that passage. In fact, of course, Christ says to "baptize them INTO" the persons of the Trinity, which only the Spirit can do. In fact, of course, this was NOT the last thing that Jesus said to his disciples before ascending. The last thing He said was this:
On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
Acts 1:4-5 NIV
And . . .
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.
Acts 1:8-9 NIV
In my opinion, it is not possible to read these passages honestly and believe in
water baptism. Whether or not that will win a debate is another question, but
one I don't concern myself with.
As to "I don't get your point", water baptism "for repentance" is for those who were supposed to be believers, coming back to the faith (all Israel was supposed to belong to the Lord). But applying this ritual to new believers is backwards since they have just believed and do not need to repent of backsliding from faith, the purpose of water baptism according to scripture (many putative symbolic meanings are assigned to water baptism today by their practitioners, none of which "hold water").
As to "How can we be sure this is the correct rendering when so many have translated it "in" the name of the Father?" Well, you could go get a Ph.D. in Greek. Or you could get an interlinear translation and see that the word there is eis, not en, which means "into" and not "in". For Philistines who want to say things like "sometimes as here eis means 'in' and not 'into' ", you could track down their supposed examples of this and ask if absolutely the word has to mean "in" and not "into" in those examples (good luck with that), and then you might also ask yourself, since even in the NT in the vast majority of cases eis means "into" irrefutably and definitely NOT "in", why Matthew would have been led by the Spirit to say eis in that passage and not en, if that is what he really meant. People are always twisting scripture to line up where they want it to line up, and translators are good at language but many if not most of them are not theologians by any means. "In the name of" sounds better; "Into the person of" is not something an editor is going to accept – even though it is correct – for one reason because they don't understand it.
Water-baptism is, in my view, a very dangerous thing. It is the leaven of legalism which leavens the whole lump. Once a person accepts that "doing something" is part of salvation or spirituality or what it means to be a Christian, when that "something" is a ritual which is not biblically authorized, then said person has put at least one foot into legalism. Why not get circumcised? Why not keep the Sabbath? Why not do all manner of ritualistic things which have absolutely nothing to do with drawing closer to Jesus Christ? Things which have been made obsolete by the cross of Christ. Before you know it we'll all be crawling up some mountain on our knees and not paying any heed to the Bible at all.
At some point, if a person is going to grow, God's grace has to be accepted by faith. Not by works. That is what our salvation and subsequent walk with the Lord is all about.
On the last question, that's a new one on me. You have to believe me that church-visible legalism has been pushing church membership as hard as can be long before any of this sort of thing ever surfaced. If they've found yet another reason, it doesn't surprise me. But it is a non-issue because I don't want to be a member nor do I want to found an organization that requires membership – because I don't believe in it (it is most definitely not in the Bible; see the link). On top of that, I don't do weddings or funerals. I am happy to say something at either for those who are close and want the comfort. But you have to have a license to be able to officiate at weddings. Best advice: never get that license (then you never have to make excuses).
As to "it just sounds like we are giving multiple meanings to water baptism", I would quarrel with the "we".
It can be "we" now because I misunderstood (and misread) but I agree with what you said because it makes sense. You're right.
The only way the two combine is in the somewhat confused and confusing initial practices on some occasions of men who were mediating the Spirit (for reasons discussed above and in the prior links and references).
I think I agree but I'm just not sure about this. The problem that some may pose is that there isn't a verse that directly states that laying on of hands was "sometimes" water baptism. Many people see them as two different things (Acts 8:17) even though they both involve physically touching someone else. Some would say this is an assumption. The argument is that "placed their hands on" is a phrase we don't see mentioned until later in Acts. As in, dry placing on of hands is special and unique; something to be differentiated from being hand- dunked in water.
So how can we know that, for example, in Acts 2:38, this was the case with Peter? I'm really not sure how I would answer that. As in, how can we prove the Spirit was mediated to an individual during a wet baptism? I know you mentioned that looking for "smoking guns" is basically pointless, but I did think this was important to consider in all fairness (since I've seen others ask similar questions to this one). My question isn't whether the Spirit could be mediated during a wet baptism (no doubt it could). What I'm asking is did this actually occur and how can we really assure others this was the case in some instances? How can we conflate the two without straight up evidence? How could the apostles know water baptism would accomplish the same thing (or have the same effect) as just simply placing dry hands on someone when they were carrying on water baptism for the reasons we have already gone over (due to them being behind the learning curve)? So wouldn't they be doing something that would have an effect they did not intend? As in, the Spirit was mediated during a wet baptism (perhaps) unwittingly?
Notice what Paul says about water: "John baptized with a baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in Him who was coming after him, that is, in Jesus." Which is exactly what I've been saying. THEN these people are baptized INTO Jesus Christ, something only the Spirit can do, which is when "when Paul put his hands on them" (no water mentioned) "the Holy Spirit came on them".
Our dear brother took this as water baptism, citing this as Christian water baptism (something to be differentiated from John's water baptism). Of course I don't agree since there was only one type of water baptism. I'm aware that the phrase (John baptized with...) you mentioned supports the idea this was a dry baptism. So you are saying the Greek does translate as "into" in verse five? If Acts 19:1-6 might be read as "wet, does this mean the Greek does not support the word "into?" By all means, if it says "into," that ends it right there. It's just that the "might be read" confuses me and doesn't sound very reassuring unless I misunderstood.
As to "I don't get your point", water baptism "for repentance" is for those who were supposed to be believers, coming back to the faith (all Israel was supposed to belong to the Lord).
So no unbelievers just become believers? How do we know there weren't any unbelievers present who had just believed? How do we know this wasn't a mix of backsliding believers and fresh converts? Forgive me if this sounds dumb (please bear with me) but asking questions like this helps me to think through these issues to figure them out. I know you might say, "well, there are a lot of unbelievers in churches today who are supposed to be saved but in reality are not. We can't always be sure with every single person." I know many of the Pharisees were rejected by John, but weren't some accepted who are (in all likelihood) in Hell today?
I guess we could say John unwittingly baptized many people who were unbelievers (these people just went through the motions without any true inner spiritual change), but who's to say none of them were fresh converts that he was aware of?
As for everything else you've written, I understand and agree with all of it. I believe I agree with everything but I'm still unsure on the points above, hence I asked about them.
Your brother in Christ,
Glad we're making some progress.
As to "laying on of hands was "sometimes" water baptism", I don't believe I said that. What I said was that the laying on of hands by the apostles mediated the Holy Spirit. To take your next question about Acts 2:38ff., Peter tells them that they will receive the Holy Spirit if they repent, but Luke does not describe any laying on of hands or any water baptism either, for that matter. All he says (in v.41) is that "on the point of receiving the Word they were baptized". The Greek says, literally, "and those [on the point of] having received the Word (aorist ptcp.) were baptized". For those who want to say that this refers to water baptism and could not be the laying on of hands, my question would be how they think these people could have been baptized with water by the apostles without them laying their hands on them? That is an especially important point when one considers that there weren't any streams or pools there. If there was any water, it would probably have been a small amount applied to the head not dunking the entire body. But in fact this probably means (I believe it means) that they were placed into union with Christ – i.e., baptism by the Spirit but not necessarily with the Spirit (see below; and see the link for the distinction).
*Even more important to remember is that the Acts 2:38 situation was parallel to John's baptism in that the recipients were all Jews or Jewish proselytes. So this situation was unique and is not applicable to the Church today for that important reason alone, whatever one wants to make of it.
1) "So how can we know that, for example, in Acts 2:38, this was the case with Peter?" That what, exactly, was the case with Peter? He knew these men had to repent of their unbelief and believe in Jesus Christ (he says so); he believed that if they did, they would receive the Spirit – just as he and the others had a little earlier; just how he expected that to happen, we would have to ask him. We don't know how or whether a water baptism took place here because it doesn't say; we don't know whether there was any laying on of hands because it doesn't say; it does say they were baptized on the point of receiving the Word (Acts 2:41), but based upon Acts 8:12 compared with Acts 8:15, unless this is referring to water baptism, it probably means that they were entered by the Spirit into union with Christ when they believed. That is scriptural usage elsewhere (e.g., Acts 22:16) – and that is what I believe.
2) "How can we conflate the two without straight up evidence?" I'm not conflating the two. Far from it. One is legitimate; one is not. Is it possible that the two things – water-baptism and the mediation of the Spirit by apostles – happened simultaneously on some occasions? Yes, but we have to look at individual cases. Here is what we know: At some point (e.g., Rom.8:9), everyone who believed received the Spirit; for some who had believed before this, the Spirit had to be mediated by the apostles (as in Samaria and at Ephesus); but for some, even before this, the Spirit was given at the point of faith (as on the day of Pentecost and in Cornelius' home). What happened, exactly, on the few other occasions in Acts where there are baptisms described directly or indirectly is a matter of individual cases, some clearer than others. We can say what was right and what was wrong and why it was (if and when it was) that the apostles occasionally used water at first (e.g., Acts 10:47), but what I am NOT trying to do is build a "doctrine" here and convince others of it.
What I do teach and believe is that John's baptism was water but the Church Age's baptism is the Spirit and that this was true from the moment that the Church Age began on the day of that first Pentecost. What I am also attempting to do is to explain, to those interested in the truth, why it was that water was occasionally employed (and it turns out to be a lot less frequent than people assume casually reading through Acts) when in fact that ritual was obsolete (not to mention problematic, as later generations have proven by falsely using it). Everything else comes down to exegesis and explanation of individual passages. Doctrine has to do with principles of truth; explaining why people may have done things we can't understand at first or about which we have questions is something else again. If I were conversing with some baptizer about this, I would stick to the principles: John baptized with water, Jesus said "Spirit"; and Paul makes clear that he regretted the water (and so had come to understand that it was unnecessary and unhelpful). Everything I read in Acts and in the rest of the NT supports that basic understanding, and, if I were discussing the subject, I would stick with that.
3) "How could the apostles know water baptism would accomplish the same thing". I don't say that they did or even saw things that way. We can only affirm what scripture says they did. Since we are talking about only a few cases here, it would be better to examine the cases. If I were talking with someone and they wanted to discuss this as a principle, I would avoid that and ask to talk about "what exactly happened at XYZ ", and discuss what the Bible actually says in a given case, then explain my understanding of it.
4) As to "unwittingly", we have already affirmed that the apostles had a learning curve. When Peter gave Cornelius and company the gospel, they received the Spirit – much to the surprise of Peter and his friends. That would qualify as "unwittingly", I suppose, in the sense that while they didn't begrudge it they never intended it – but it did happen. The incident in Samaria and in Paul's case are not "unwittingly", however, nor was the incident at Ephesus.
Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized.
Acts 9:17-18 NIV
On Ephesus, Acts 19:5 has eis, into, not en. So, yes, this
part of it is referring to being placed by the Spirit into union with
Christ, not to water baptism.
On the believer, unbeliever thing, of course many of these people baptized with water by John were unbelievers – and did not become believers by being baptized; we know that the Pharisees did it for show, for example. And given the lukewarm response to our Lord – when He wasn't healing them or giving them a free lunch – no doubt even many of those who did respond at the time didn't persevere in faith. We're talking about the principle here of what the water-baptism was meant to symbolize versus what Spirit baptism actually does.
Thanks Dr. Luginbill. I really am enjoying this discussion as it has been really helpful in helping me smooth out all the rough spots. Please continue to bear with me as I finish up with a few more questions. Hope I'm not taking up too much of your time (I am conscious of that). We may have made some progress, but not as much as you may have thought. I can't help it, if I'm not sure about something or confused, then I have to keep asking.
As to "laying on of hands was "sometimes" water baptism", I don't believe I said that.
When I asked how we could conflate/combine the two without evidence (and regarding the statement I have quoted right above), I was asking whether water baptism and spirit mediation/baptism occurred at the same time, which you stated again and as possible when you said, "Is it possible that the two things happened at once on some occasions? Yes, but we have to look at individual cases." You say it is possible, which is all I wanted to know (did they both happen at once on some occasions). But does "possible" mean it did actually happen at individual cases? That's what I'm asking. In the link https://ichthys.com/mail-Baptism-Water-and-SpiritII.htm , you stated, "In the early days of the apostolic age, however, the baptism was mediated by the laying on of the apostles hands often, though not always, in conjunction with water baptism." You used the word "often," not possible here. Is it a possibility or something that happened often? It's the shift of words that really confuses me here. And that is what I have been asking- do we have any passages that support that the two actually occurred together or at once "often?" I know this probably isn't that important, and perhaps I'm looking for "smoking guns" proof, but it just sounds like you are confident saying it in one place but then unsure in another. That's what is confusing me.
To take your next question about Acts 2:38ff., Peter tells them that they will receive the Holy Spirit if they repent, but Luke does not describe any laying on of hands or any water baptism either, for that matter. All he says (in v.41) is that "on the point of receiving the Word they were baptized". The Greek says, literally, "and those [on the point of] having received the Word (aorist ptcp.) were baptized". We don't know how or whether a water baptism took place here because it doesn't say; we don't know whether there was any laying on of hands because it doesn't say; it does say they were baptized on the point of receiving the Word, but based upon Acts 8:12 compared with Acts 8:15, unless this is referring to water baptism, it probably means that they were entered by the Spirit into union with Christ which, in the other case, did not also give the gift of the Spirit. Whether this happened and how and for how many at Acts 2, scripture doesn't say.
So we don't actually know if there was any water? I mean, you're correct
that it doesn't say. But elsewhere I read where you talked about this
you have stated that water was involved. Is it more of a "most-likely"
scenario? In the same link (response #11) you said, "In Acts 2:38,
nothing in the language here can be taken to show that baptism is
required for salvation. Repentance, the flip-side of faith as I have
said, is what results in forgiveness and salvation through faith "in the
Name of Jesus" (followed in turn by the gift of the Spirit). The key
part of the "be baptized" here is "in the Name of Jesus Christ"; the
water-baptism of these potential Jewish converts would thus indicate
their repentance and faith in Jesus, and it was that repentance and
faith in Jesus which saved them, not the act of being dunked. Why were
they dunked? We have discussed by now the reason for water-baptism on
the part of the apostles in the early days of the Church several times
at least, and I have shown repeatedly that it is directly connected with
the mediation of the Spirit which demonstrated the apostle's authority,
especially in connection with Jewish or Jewish-area audiences. The
Spirit's coming is the event in context here on the day of Pentecost,
and Peter is promising his listeners the same gift that brought them
together to hear him in the first place; that gift will be mediated
through the laying on of the apostles' hands during water-baptism. So
why do you state so confidently in the above paragraph that they were
dunked if we don't know whether they were or not? You used the grammar,
"in the name of Jesus Christ," and not "into", indicating this was water
baptism. I'm not bringing any of this up to argue of course, but because
it is confusing. I'm not sure what I would say if some random person
tried to tell me that water was definitely involved. Maybe? I don't
Yes, I know water baptism involved touching another person, but where is there any passage that says that water baptism is directly connected with the mediation of the Spirit which demonstrated the apostle's authority? I know you said it didn't matter whether their hands were wet or dry, but how can we say for certain that all the specific "hand laying" phrases that acts mentions isn't some separate act from physically handling during water baptism? You said, "why were they dunked," and seemingly already answered that when you said "the water-baptism of these potential Jewish converts would thus indicate their repentance and faith in Jesus." So that is a reason, but then you give another when you say the gift will be mediated by the laying on of the apostles hands during a water baptism This is what I meant by giving multiple reasons or purposes for water baptism during that time. The apostles did it for the reasons John did, but they were misguided to do this because the Messiah had already come (hence it was also wrong to continue sacrificing animals as some continued to do-Hebrews). They apostles had (as you have often said) a lot of unlearning to do.
I know you said this stuff isn't important for building and maintaining doctrine, and I agree. The issue of whether water baptism is for today obviously doesn't rise and fall based on what we are discussing because you and I are settled on this in that it isn't for today. So that obviously isn't the issue. But, to a much smaller extent, I still think these questions have some importance in them. Someone may ask me "where does it say both occurred at once," and I wouldn't have a passage that demonstrates that with certainty. I can't make claims without proof. It still wouldn't look good on my part. If I did that, it may have been better if I had never said anything at all.
For those who want to say that this refers to water baptism and could not be the laying on of hands, my question would be how they think these people could have been baptized with water by the apostles without them laying their hands on them? That is an especially important point when considers that there weren't any streams or pools there. If there was any water, it would probably have been a small amount applied to the head not dunking the entire body. But in fact this probably means that they were placed into union with Christ -- i.e., baptism by the Spirit but not necessarily with the Spirit (see below; and see the link for the distinction).
Are you saying this is a case of water and spirit baptism occurring at once? As in, simultaneously or together?
Even more important to remember is that the Acts 2:38 situation was parallel to John's baptism in that the recipients were all Jews or Jewish proselytes. So this situation was unique and is not applicable to the Church today for that important reason alone, whatever one wants to make of it.
Yes, of course.
Here is what we know: At some point (e.g., Rom.8:9), everyone who believed received the Spirit; for some who had believed before this, the Spirit had to be mediated by the apostles (as in Samaria and at Ephesus); but for some, even before this, the Spirit was given at the point of faith (as on the day of Pentecost and in Cornelius' home). What happened, exactly, on the few other occasions in Acts where there are baptisms described directly or indirectly is a matter of individual cases, some clearer than others. We can say what was right and what was wrong and why it was (if and when it was) that the apostles occasionally used water at first (e.g., Acts 10:47), but what I am NOT trying to do is build a "doctrine" here and convince others of it.
Understood and agreed.
Since we are talking about only a few cases here, it would be better to examine the cases. If I were talking with someone and they wanted to discuss this as a principle, I would avoid that and ask to talk about "what exactly happened at XYZ ", and discuss what the Bible actually says in a given case, then explain my understanding of it.
Again, (see the paragraph where I discuss this) I was basically asking- "where is there any passage that says that water baptism is directly connected with the mediation of the Spirit which demonstrated the apostle's authority?"
What I am also attempting to do is to explain, to those interested in the truth, why it was that water was occasionally employed when in fact that ritual was obsolete (not to mention problematic, as later generations have proven by falsely using it). Everything else comes down to exegesis and explanation of individual passages. Doctrine has to do with principles of truth; explaining why people may have done things we can't understand at first or about which we have questions is something else again. If I were conversing with some baptizer about this, I would stick to the principles: John baptized with water, Jesus said "Spirit"; and Paul makes clear that he regretted the water (and so had come to understand that it was unnecessary and unhelpful). Everything I read in Acts and in the rest of the NT supports that basic understanding, and, if I were discussing the subject, I would stick with that.
Hmmm, good food for thought. I talked to some of our brothers on a
similar subject about the fact that we as teachers are not required to
anticipate and answer "ahead of time" (without anyone asking) every
argument we think will be used against our written works. Obviously, if
someone asks, we give an answer. But that doesn't mean I have to in my
initial paper. That is what question and answer time is for. This leads
me to ask you, do you think it would be a bad idea for me to go through
the various passages in the NT and explain how and why they don't
support the necessity for water baptism without getting caught up in
explaining why people may have done things we can't understand at first
or about which we have questions? How should I go about this? If I'm
going to write a paper on water baptism, there won't be hardly enough
content if I don't mention at least something about most of the passages
that have the word "baptized" or "baptism" in them. A "survey" approach
maybe? Any advice would be appreciated.
As to "Hope I'm not taking up too much of your time", I'm happy
to help – apologies for the delay. Today was the first day of classes so
I didn't have the time yesterday to catch up on Saturday emails as I
In general, I have tried to answer these questions in the postings you ask about to the best of my understanding about what happened. This has become clearer to me over time. Some of these postings were made before I studied the issue out anew for BB 6B: Ecclesiology (link), wherein I spent a good deal of effort on the book of Acts and the transition.
Here is what we know, in my opinion:
1) John the baptist was the last major figure under the Law while Christ fulfilled and ended the Law (cf. Matt.11:11-15; Lk.16:16), with the result that the Law is now obsolete (Rom.10:4; Heb.7:12; 8:13). So John to Christ; Law to Grace; Water to Spirit; Jewish Age to Church Age; Old Covenant to New Covenant; Jewish believers mostly to Gentile believers mostly; Temple worship focus to New Testament canon focus. One could go on, of course. The transition was so dramatic that it is probably impossible for those of us who were not part of it, not Jews who had only known the Law and who now had to make the transition from everything they knew to everything we now know, to fully understand just how wrenching it was. We can't expect for that to have happened overnight, and Peter, the chief apostle of the eleven, is a good example of how even the best of the best (until Paul was called) took quite some time to come to understand all the implications of the Messiah having come and died and risen and having sent the Holy Spirit.
2) Water baptism is a Jewish ritual associated with the culmination of the Jewish Age and administered by the "greatest of women born [in the normal way]" (Lk.7:28) in anticipation of Him who would fulfill the plan of God on the cross, preparing the people of God for this most unique, pivotal and foundational event of all history. Water-baptism was never meant for anything else. If there had been perfect understanding of all of the issues by the disciples before our Lord's crucifixion and all that followed, they would never have indulged in it again (of course they also would never have betrayed Him, abandoned Him, denied Him, and doubted Him). But as mentioned, for various reasons, this initial lack of understanding being a major part of it but not the only part (accommodating the ignorance of others also playing a role), the ritual was occasionally continued by some at some times, but not by everyone forever. Unfortunately, like so many other incorrect practices, in one way or another (the various forms being testimony themselves against its legitimacy) it has survived in most major Christian traditions – as have so many other parts of the Law (just think of even Protestant churches where the people should know better, lighting candles, having altars, misapplying/misunderstanding communion, building churches which resemble temples . . . one could go on). The fact that water baptism has survived is thus not any sort of indication that this is a good thing or from God in any way.
3) Luke is not as concerned with this issue as we are and so he doesn't give us the information we might have liked to have in order to solve this "problem". Two reasons for this, most likely: a) he knew that the Spirit was the key, but if the apostles were water-baptizing people it didn't strike him as so terribly odd that he needed to mention it as unique or important or even comment on it at all except in his reporting of events in the Spirit; b) there are plenty of things which the Spirit has put into the Bible which because of their nature allow misinterpretation – by those who are not really interested in the truth and not willing to do the hard work of getting at the truth; part of this has to do with the well-known principle rehearsed often by our Lord of allowing the situation where "Seeing they may see and not perceive, and hearing they may hear and not understand" (Mk.4:12; cf. Is.6:9-10). So we should not be upset or take it to heart or draw too much from the fact that there isn't more about this issue in the Bible. From the point of view of the truth, Jesus told us that "John baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit" (Acts 1:5). That is pretty clear, all on its own. It should have been clear to the disciples, but they took their time with this principle as with many other things in the transition.
4) So that brings us down to cases. I apologize for any perceived or actual inconsistencies in the way I've explained this in the past, but, honestly, while they may be technically so I do not believe they are substantive. It's clear to me that a) the disciples/apostles "didn't get it" initially (and well past "initially" for some things in some cases); b) they did occasionally baptize with water (though this was not only not necessary but also potentially and, as things have turned out, actually confusing); c) sometimes it's clear from the way Luke writes that water was involved (e.g., Acts 10:47); sometimes it's equally clear, if one looks carefully at the situation, that no water was involved (e.g., Acts 10:44; 19:1-6 [in my opinion]); and sometimes it's not clear whether or not water was involved – as at Acts chapter two. I have attempted to interpolate – as at Acts chapter two – based upon what we know of the times, of the apostles (incorrect) attitude in the early going, and from what the text actually says. If pressed, I would say what I have said before, namely, it's probably the case that on the day of Pentecost Peter and the others did lay their hands on these new believers, in some cases to apply water, and that as a result – of their hands being laid on not on account of any water – these new believers received the Spirit. But that is interpretation. The text doesn't say that there was any water baptism – and it also doesn't say that they did lay on hands (with or without water) so that these new believers received the Spirit. It does say they were "baptized", but Luke uses this of entrance into Christ as well as of water as well as of the Spirit – and he is allowed to do so. As I say, I've given you my take on what likely happened, and if that is the case, it does explain how on several of these occasions there may well have been an application of water (tradition now not authorized) and the baptism of the Spirit simultaneously as a result.
5) So there was no "reason" or "purpose" for water-baptism after the cross, let alone after the coming of the Spirit. So the "why" of why they kept doing it – sometimes, maybe, depends on cases – is not really important. I have attempted to explain it, but I'm not inclined to apologize for the men who did it. I will say that they were great believers, far greater than us, and we would be in the wrong to say if we had grown up as they had that we would have done a better job getting "up to speed" with the new reality of Grace replacing Law. It is also important to note, as I document in BB 6 (link), that the actual number of water-baptisms in the book of Acts is in reality far fewer than the impression most people have, and that they also all occurred early on in the apostolic period. So in actuality the apostles "got it" on this point earlier than may be imagined.
6) As to "where does it say both occurred at once", I wouldn't want to be anywhere near a conversation where something like that even comes up with someone who believes in water baptism. That is the sort of apologetic fine point which isn't about teaching but about arguing (not the purpose of this ministry). If someone wants to know why I think water baptism is "out", I'm happy to tell them. If someone wants to ask why they did it – sometimes – in Acts, I have an answer for that as well . . . but it would involve parsing particular cases because if we are down in the weeds doing it that way, we are probably wasting our time on people who don't believe, won't believe it, and only want to win an argument. I've told you where and when and why I think this may have happened, but these are admittedly interpretations of individual passages based upon what I do know to be correct in principle. I would be inclined to stick with the principle – and if pressed explain why the individual cases do not violate or contradict those principles. The main thing was the Spirit, as our Lord said (and as John said too).
I think sticking with the principles is the way to go. If someone says, "this passage conflicts with that", I have a ready answer, regardless of the passage. Trying to convince others of precisely and in detail of what happened in each situation described in Acts is probably not possible, especially since Luke does not give us enough details to say so in a way that would persuade the adversarial in each case (cf. the discussion above) and is only of interest to those who already accept the truth – and will only muddy the waters for those who do not.
So as to "better not to say anything", that is often the case when it is a question of no direct and affirmative principle being involved.
As to study methodology, collecting and examining all passages which are applicable is a good, logical way to approach things, of course.
Hope this helps!
Good grief, ok I'm sorry, I had one more thing I wanted to ask.
In 1 Corinthians 1:13, (were you baptized... the name of Paul?) does the Greek read "in" or "into?" Considering Matthew 28, has "into", would the word "in" regarding 1 Corinthians make any sense? At "the great commission," the apostles were told to baptize people into the name of the trinity. But if we use the word, "into," in 1 Corinthians, then that seems to suggest that (when Paul actually did so on a few occasions) water baptism (the context clearly suggests water) could put someone into Christ (obviously false). If the word is "in", then I'm guessing this suggests it just means Paul water baptized some people in the name of Christ? Like, basically, no different than any of the apostles saying (during a healing or miraculous event) something like, "in the name of Jesus Christ I command you to rise and walk." Saying, "in the name of..." wouldn't have any spiritual significance other than acknowledging the sovereignty and power of God; giving the Lord the credit for the deed and a form of respect. Does this make sense?
1st Corinthians 1:13 has eis to onoma, just like Matthew 28:19 –
which I read to mean that Paul is asking them not about formulae but
about results. I.e., "Are you in union with Christ or Paul as a result
of being saved?" In other words, Paul is bringing the issue around to
genuine baptism, Spirit baptism, a result of the salvation which applies
to everyone getting the letter. Remember, he only water-baptized a few
of them and can't even remember which ones with total accuracy. But he
writes this rhetorical question to ALL the Corinthians. Only the Spirit
could accomplish the eis to onoma – union with Christ. So the
important baptism is the Spirit's baptism, as he reminds them with this
One last question. Does the Greek have "in" or "into" eis in Acts 10:48? "So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ."
That is en and not eis – so that part clearly does refer
to a verbal formula. That makes sense (except for still thinking
water-baptism a good idea), because Peter had just seen that they were
already baptized eis when they believed.