Is baptism a part of the gospel?
Note to our readers: This is the first time that a question has been answered without printing the question. The author of the question may conclude that there are no answers to his “arguments.” The truth is that he has written 16 pages of poorly written illogical rambling that is not worth the space it would occupy on this web site. There is nothing that he has written that has not been answered on this website. Most of his comments have been answered several times. The Answer to Question 226 alone answers most if not all of them. Should it not do so there are many other answers that will fill in the blanks. There is only one argument that he makes that has not been answered directly, although it has been answered several times indirectly. In particular, he states that “Baptism is not part of the gospel,” and here we will address that statement.
Before we get to that question, however, there are some other items that need attention in preparation. Our Writer asserts in his discussion of faith:
Hearing the gospel is a prerequisite to BELIEVING the gospel. If BELIEF does not result from hearing, then hearing "in of itself" profits nothing in salvation. Of course you must first hear the Gospel before you can BELIEVE it and be saved (Romans 1:16). In regards to 2 Thessalonians 1:8, we OBEY the gospel by choosing to BELIEVE the gospel (Romans 1:16). In Romans 10:16, we see: *But they have not all OBEYED the gospel. For Isaiah says, "Lord, who has BELIEVED our report?" Refusing to OBEY the gospel (2 Thessalonians 1:8) is refusing to BELIEVE the gospel. Choosing to BELIEVE the gospel is an act of obedience.
His language here admits that true faith includes obedience – one who refuses to obey the gospel, he says, is also refusing to believe the gospel. Romans 10:16 forces him to this conclusion. This logically commits him to the proposition that if baptism for the remission of sins is a command that must be obeyed as part of the gospel, then refusing to be baptized for the remission of sins is in fact unbelief of the gospel. It is here there his assertion that baptism is not a part of the gospel comes into play. It is his attempt to avoid the logical conclusion to which he earlier statement has committed him. His asserts that baptism is not a part of the gospel that must be obeyed with the result that refusing to be baptized is not refusing to believe the gospel.
There is one other preliminary matter. His second attempt to avoid the necessity of baptism for salvation is his assertion that repentance precedes faith. He is forced to this argument by Acts 2:38 in which Peter commanded his hearers to “repent, and be baptized every one of you … for the remission of sins.” Peter obviously placed repentance before baptism. Most folks recognize this as evidenced by the use of the expression “penitent believer” to describe a candidate for baptism. He defines repentance as “change of mind” in an attempt to separate it from the concept of “sorrow for sin” and “turning away from sin.” His exact language is:
Repentance actually PRECEDES saving faith. Many misunderstand the term “repentance” to mean “turning from sin.” This is not the Biblical definition of repentance. In the Bible, the word “repent” means to "change your mind."
It would be interesting to hear him explain what motive to repent a person who did not believe would have. While it is true that the Greek word translated “repentance” literally means “a change of mind,” it does not include that about which the mind is changed. If our writer is correct it means “a change of mind about Christ.” But what does that change of mind include. In this case Peter was preaching to Jews who did not believe that Christ was the Messiah. Thus the change of mind necessary was to believe that Christ was the Messiah. If this is repentance as used by Peter in Acts 2:38 does it not mean that Peter was saying the same thing that Christ said in Mark 16:15 – “He that believeth (repents) and is baptized shall be saved.” To make repentance the same as faith doesn’t solve our writer’s problem. It actually contradicts his position. J.W. McGarvey cogently discusses Acts 3:19-21 in his commentary on Acts:
Having now fully demonstrated the Messiahship of Jesus, and exposed the criminality of those of who had condemned him, the apostle next presents to his hearers the conditions of pardon.
(19) Repent, therefore, and turn, that your sins may be blotted out, and that seasons of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord,
(20) and he may send Jesus Christ, who has before preached to you,
(21) whom heaven must retain until the time of the restoration of all things which God has spoken, through the mouth of all his holy prophets, since the world began.
Here, as in his former statement of the conditions of pardon, the apostle makes no mention of faith. But, having labored, from the beginning of his discourse, to convince his hearers, they necessarily understood that his command, based as it was, upon what he had said, implied the assumption that they believed it. A command based upon an argument, or upon testimony, always implies the sufficiency of the proof, and assume that the hearer is convinced. Moreover, Peter knew very well that none would repent at his command who did not believe what he had said; hence, in every view of the case, he proceeded, naturally and safely, in omitting mention of faith.
In the command, “Repent and turn,” the word turn expresses something to be done subsequent to repentance. There is no way to avoid this conclusion, unless we suppose that turn is equivalent to repent; but this is inadmissible, because there could be no propriety in adding the command turn, if what it means had been already expressed in the command repent. We may observe, that the term reform, which some critics would employ instead of repent, would involve the passage in a repetition not less objectionable. To reform and to turn to the Lord are equivalent expressions, hence it would be a useless repetition to command men, Reform, and turn.
In order to a proper understanding of this passage, it is necessary to determine the exact scriptural import of the term repent. The most popular conception of its meaning is “godly sorrow for sin.” But, according to Paul, “godly sorrow works repentance in order to salvation” (2 Corinthians 7:10). Instead of being identical with repentance, therefore, it is the immediate case which leads to repentance. Paul says to the Corinthians, in the same connection, “Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that you sorrowed to repentance.” This remark shows that it is sorrow which brings men to repentance, is also implies that there may be sorrow for sin without repentance. That there is a distinction between these two states of mind, and that sorrow for sin may exist without repentance, is also implied in commanding those on Pentecost who were already pierced to the heart, to repent. It is also evident from the case of Judas, who experienced the most intense sorrow for sin, but was not brought to repentance. His feeling is expressed by a different term in the original, which is never used to express the change which the gospel requires, and is equivalent to regret, though sometimes, as in his case, it expresses the idea of remorse.
In thus tracing the distinction between “godly sorrow” and “repentance,” we have ascertained the fact that repentance is produced by sorrow for sin, and this must constitute one element in the definition of the term. Whatever it is, it is produced by sorrow for sin. Is it not, then, reformation? Reformation is certainly produced by sorrow for sin; but, as we have already observed, turning, which is equivalent to reforming, is distinguished, in the text before us, from repenting. The same distinction is elsewhere apparent. John the Immerser, in requiring the people to “bring forth fruits meet for repentance” [Matthew 3:8], clearly distinguishes between repentance and those deeds of a reformed life which he styles fruits meet for repentance. With him, reformation is the fruit of repentance, not its equivalent. The distinction is that between fruit and the tree which bears it. When Jesus speaks of repenting “seven times a day” (Luke 17:4), he certainly means something different from reformation; for that would require more time. Likewise, when Peter required those on Pentecost to repent and be immersed, if by the term repent he had meant reform, he would certainly have given them time to reform before they were immersed, instead of immersing them immediately. Finally, the original term is sometimes used in connection with such prepositions as are not suitable to the idea of reformation. As a general rule it is followed by aÓpo/, or e˙k, which are suitable to either idea; but in 2 Corinthians 12:21, it is followed by e˙pi÷ with the dative: “Many have not repented, e˙pi÷, of the uncleanness, and fornication, and lasciviousness which they have committed.” Now men do not reform of their evil deeds, neither will the preposition, in this case, bear a rendering which would suit the term reform.g Reform, then, does not express the same idea as repent, but, as we have seen above, reformation is the fruit or result of repentance.
Seeing now that repentance is produced by sorrow for sin, and results in reformation, we can have no further difficulty in ascertaining exactly what it is; for the only result of sorrow for sin which leads to reformation, is a change of the will in reference to sin. The etymological meaning of meta¿noia is a change of mind; but the particular element of the mind which undergoes this change is the will. Strictly defined, therefore, repentance is a change of the will, produced by sorrow for sin, and leading to reformation. If the change of will is not produced by sorrow for sin, it is not repentance, in the religious sense, though it may be meta¿noia, in the classic sense. Thus, Esau “found no place for metanoi÷aß, a change of mind, though he sought it carefully with tears” (Hebrews 12:17). Here the word designates a change in the mind of Isaac in reference to the blessing which he had already given to Jacob; but this change did not depend upon sorrow for sin, hence it was not repentance, and should not be so translated. Again, if the change of will, though produced by sorrow for sin, is one which does not lead to reformation, it is not repentance; for there was a change in the will of Judas, produced by sorrow for sin, yet Judas did not repent. The change in his case led to suicide, not to reformation; it is, therefore, not expressed by metanoe÷w, but by metame÷lomai. Our definition, therefore, is complete, without redundancy.h
We can now perceive, still more clearly than before, that in the command, “Repent and turn,” the terms repent, and turn, express two distinct changes, which take place in the order of the words. Their relative meaning is well expressed by Dr. Bloomfield, who says that the former denotes “a change of mind,” the latter “a change of conduct.” Mr. Barnes also well and truly remarks: “This expression (be converted), conveys an idea not at all to be found in the original. It conveys the idea of passivity—BE converted, as if they were to yield to some foreign influence that they were now resisting. But the idea of being passive in this is not conveyed by the original word. The word properly means to turn—to return to a path from which one has gone astray; and then to turn away from sins, or to forsake them.” That turn, rather than be converted, is the correct rendering of the term, is not disputed by any competent authority; we shall assume, therefore, that it is correct, and proceed to inquire what Peter intended to designate by this term.
As already observed, it designates a change in the conduct. A change of conduct, however, must, from the very necessity of the case, have a beginning; and that beginning consists in the first act of the better life. The command to turn is obeyed when this first act is performed. Previous to that, the man has not turned; subsequent to it he has turned; and the act itself is the turning act. If, in turning to the Lord, any one of a number of actions might be the first that the penitent performed, the command to turn would not specially designate any of these, but might be obeyed by the performance of either. But the fact is that one single act was uniformly enjoined upon the penitent, as the first overt act of obedience to Christ, and that was to be immersed. This Peter’s present hearers understood. They had heard him say to parties like themselves, “Repent and be immersed”; and the first act they saw performed by those who signified their repentance, was to be immersed. When, now, he commands them to repent and turn, they could but understand that they were to turn as their predecessors had done, by being immersed. The commands turn, and be immersed, are equivalent, not because the words have the same meaning, but because the command, “Turn to the Lord” was uniformly obeyed by the specific act of being immersed. Previous to immersion, men repented, but did not turn; after immersion, they had turned, and immersion was the turning act.
We may reach the same conclusion by another course of reasoning. The command Turn occupies the same position between repentance and the remission of sins, in this discourse, that the command Be immersed had occupied in Peter’s former discourse. He then said, “Repent and be immersed for the remission of sins”; now he says, “Repent and turn that your sins may be blotted out.” Now, when his present hearers heard him command them to turn in order to the same blessing for which he had formerly commanded them to be immersed, they could but understand that the generic word turn was used with specific reference to immersion, and the the substitution is founded on the fact that a penitent sinner turns to God by being immersed.
This interpretation was first advanced, in modern times, by Alexander Campbell, about thirty years ago, and it excited against him then an opposition which still rages. The real ground of this opposition is not the interpretation itself, but a perversion of it. The word conversion being used in popular terminology in the sense of a change of heart, when Mr. Campbell announced that the word incorrectly rendered in this passage, be converted, means to turn to the Lord by immersion, the conclusion was seized by his opponents that he rejected all change of heart, and substituted immersion in its stead. He has reiterated, again and again, the sense in which he employed the term convert, and that the heart must be changed by faith and repentance previous to the conversion or turning here commanded by Peter; yet those who are determined upon doing him injustice still keep up the wicked and senseless clamor of thirty years ago. The odium theologicum, like the scent of musk, is not soon nor easily dissipated. There are always those to whose nostrils the odor is grateful.
There are several facts connected with the use of the original term ... in the New Testament, worthy of notice. It occurs thirty-nine times, in eighteen of which it is used for the mere physical act of turning or returning. Nineteen times it expresses a change from evil to good, and twice (Galatians 4:9; 2 Peter 2:21) from good to evil. The term convert, therefore, were retained as the rendering, a man could, in the scriptural sense, be converted to Satan as well as to God. But be converted can never truly represent the original, though it is so rendered six times in the common version. The original is invariably in the active voice, and it is making a false and pernicious impression on the English reader to render it by the passive voice. If we render it truthfully by the term convert, we would have such readings as these: “Repent and convert”; “lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and should convert, and I should heal them,” &c. [Matthew 13:15; Acts 28:27]. In a correct version of the New Testament, the expression be converted could not possibly occur; for there is nothing in the original to justify it.
Not less worthy of observation is the fact, that while the change called conversion is popularly attributed to a divine power, as the only power capable of effecting it, and it is considered scarcely less than blasphemy to speak of a man converting another, or converting himself, yet the original word never does refer either to God, or Christ, or the Holy Spirit, as its agent. On the contrary, in five of its nineteen occurrences in the sense of a change from evil to good, it is employed of a human agent, as of John the Immerser, Paul, or some brother in the Church (Luke 1:16, 17; Acts 26:18; James 5:19, 20); and in the remaining fourteen instances, the agent is the person who is the subject of the change. Thus, men may be properly said to turn their fellows, yet the subjects of this act are never said to be turned, but to turn to the Lord. The term invariably expresses something that the sinner is to do. These observations show how immeasurably the term convert has departed, in popular usage, from the sense of the original which it so falsely represents, and how imperious the necessity for displacing it from our English Bibles. The word turn corresponds to the original in meaning, in usage, in inflections, and translates it unambiguously in every instance.i
Peter commands his hearers to repent and turn, in order to three distinct objects: first, “That your sins may be blotted out”; second, “That seasons of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord”; third, “That he may send Jesus Christ who was before preached to you” [Acts 3:20]. It is supposed, by the commentators generally, that the last two events are contemplated by Peter as cotemporaneous, so that the “seasons of refreshing” spoken of are those which will take place at the second coming of Christ. That there will be seasons of refreshing then, is true; but there are others more immediately dependent upon the obedience here enjoined by Peter, to which the reference is more natural. The pardon of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit, which were immediately consequent upon repentance and immersion, certainly bring “seasons of refreshing,” which might well be made the subject of promise to hearers supposed to be trembling with guilty apprehension. The reference of these words is, doubtless, to the gift of the Spirit; for they occupy the same place here that the gift of the Spirit did in the former discourse. Then, after repentance, immersion, and the remission of sins, came the promise of the Holy Spirit; now, after the same three, somewhat differently expressed—that is, repentance, turning to the Lord, and blotting out of sins—comes the promise of “seasons of refreshing from the presence of the Lord.” They are, then, the fresh and cheering enjoyments of him whose sins are forgiven, and who is taught to believe that the presence of the approving Spirit of God is with him.
The third promise, that God would send Jesus Christ, who was before preached to them, was dependent upon their obedience, only in so far as they would thus contribute to the object for which he will come, to raise from the dead, and receive into glory, all who are his. It is qualified by the remark, “whom heaven must retain until the times of the restoration of all things of which God has spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began” [Acts 3:21]. It is difficult to determine the exact force of the term restoration in this connection. It is commonly referred to a state of primeval order, purity, and happiness, which, it is supposed, will exist just previous to the second coming of Christ.j But the apostle speaks of a restoration of all things of which God has spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets. Now, there are many things spoken of by the prophets beside those which refer to the final triumphs of the truth, and all these are included in the expression. Some of these things will not consist, individually considered, in restoration, but in destruction. Still, the prevailing object of all the things of which the prophets have spoken, even the destruction of wicked nations and apostate Churches, is to finally restore that moral saw which God originally exercised over the whole earth. It is doubtless this thought which suggested the term restoration, though reference is had to the fulfillment of all the prophesies which are to be fulfilled on earth. Not till all are fulfilled will Christ come again.
McGarvey’s comments clearly demonstrate that our writer has missed the mark on the correct application of “change of mind” as well as its order in the pathway to salvation. All that is left of his argument is whether baptism is a part of the gospel. Let us now address that question.
Our writer’s definition of “the gospel” is based on 1 Corinthians 15:1-4:
“Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; 2 By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. 3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; 4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.”
Thus, his definition includes only the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord. Baptism is not mentioned and he thus concludes that baptism is not part of the gospel. Unfortunately for him, repentance is not mentioned either. This really causes him a problem because repentance he says precedes faith and is a change of mind about Christ. But then, reading 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 again, it doesn’t even mention faith. This silliness is caused by those who, in attempting to eliminate baptism or other matters from the gospel, define the entire contents of the gospel by 1 Corinthians 15:1-4.
What is “the gospel”? By definition it means “good news.” What was the good news that Paul preached to the Corinthians? Did he preach on anything else other than the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ? Read his two letters along with Acts record of Paul’s visits to Corinth and you will realize immediately that he did. Was he then preaching something other than the gospel? When he came among the Corinthians he determined not to know anything among them save Jesus Christ and him crucified. ! Cor. 2:2. Did he stray from that determination? Obviously not. Why then does he define the gospel that he preached to them as the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ? Lenski in his comments on 1 Corinthians 15 states the reason well:
Whether Paul used some fixed formula in presenting this “statement” of the facts indicated or used no formula, is unimportant in this connection. All that Paul preached to Corinth, no matter concerning what part of the gospel, centered in his “statement” of the facts of the death, the burial, and the resurrection of Christ. Without this “statement” all else would have been empty and without saving power.
Clearly Paul is not saying that these three historical facts are all that there is to the gospel; he is saying that without these three historical facts there would be no gospel at all.
When Paul preached the gospel in Corinth did he preach on the subject of baptism? Read 1 Corinthians 1:13-17:
13 Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius; 15 Lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name. 16 And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other. 17 For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.
Paul not only preached baptism, he used it as a basis for their unity in Christ. Moreover, he emphasized its importance in the scheme of redemption by coupling it with the crucifixion of Christ. He used the Greek word “eis” when he discussed baptizing “in” his name as the KJV renders it. The ASV renders in “into.” Remember this when we come to our discussion of Acts 2:38. (A footnote is justified here to anticipate a response that is sometimes made to this passage and, given the nature of his other arguments, is one he might advance here. Some suggest that Paul is really showing the insignificance of baptism by saying that Christ sent him not to baptize but to preach the gospel. All he is saying is that he did the preaching and, for the most part, others did the baptizing. Without the preaching there would have been no baptizing. Paul did baptize some as he states in these verses, but preaching was his primary participation. This is in harmony with Christ’s practice during his ministry. John 4:1-3. Paul did not say here or anywhere else that baptism was not important or that he did not preach baptism. This passage demonstrates that Paul did preach baptism because many were led to be baptized into the name of Christ by Paul’s associates.) Shortly before Paul’s discussion of the resurrection he told that Corinthians that “we” had all been baptized by one Spirit into one body.” In the “we” he included himself. He was baptized to wash away his sins. Acts 22:16. Since his baptism and the Corinthians’ baptism were the same, it follows that they were also baptized to wash away their sins. An honest person cannot read Romans 6 and Galatians 3 without concluding that baptism is part of the gospel, that Paul preached baptism, and that he preached it was essential for the forgiveness of sins. Our writer demonstrates the extent to which some will go to avoid that conclusion.
The account of the Ethiopian Eunuch in Acts 8 demonstrates that preaching Jesus includes preaching baptism which in turn establishes that baptism is a part of the gospel. After Phillip joined himself to the chariot the account tells us that he began his teaching “at the same place” in Isaiah where the Eunuch had been reading and “preached unto him Jesus.” As they continued the discourse they came to a certain water and the Eunuch said, “Here is water. What doth hinder me from being baptized?” Some may say that he was a proselyte and was familiar with the Jewish ablutions. Even assuming that that is true, why would he bring them into the conversation? They were not relevant to what Phillip was preaching and when the chariot was commanded to stand still it was not a Jewish washing that the Eunuch received. It was an immersion in water. Phillip did not say “Wait until you get home. You are already saved and there is no need for you to get wet now on your journey. He was baptized immediately and it was after his baptism, not before, that he went on his way rejoicing. Preaching Jesus and his gospel includes preaching baptism.
There are many other things that could be said about our writer’s verbal gymnastics, but one more area will suffice. Our writer’s comments on the Greek word “eis” have no scholarly support. He quotes on Greek scholar on Romans 6 with which we will deal in due time. But let us begin with Acts 2:38 – “And Peter said unto them, Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto [“eis”] the remission of your sins; and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” He has several arguments based upon which he asserts that Acts 2:38 does not mean what it really says.
First he asserts that repentance is the means of salvation and that baptism is only the sign (in reference to) true repentance and forgiveness. Faith, he asserts, is implied. What he is asserting is that baptism does not look forward to remission of sins but looks backward in reference to forgiveness. I looked in vain for some quote from some Greek scholar who defined it in that manner but could find none. I looked for any recognized translation that so rendered it but looked in vain. I did find the comments of A.T. Robertson upon whom our writer relies. In his comments on Acts 2:38 he acknowledged that it could mean the purpose of baptism, for the remission of sins, but argued that it could mean the same as “en” since they both came from the same root. Bottom line, he said, one will determine the meaning of the word based on whether he believes that baptism is or is not essential to the remission of sins. He then admitted that he did not believe it was essential and thus rejected that it meant purpose in the text. He is at least honest in admitting that he is engaged in eisegesis (reading belief into the text; notice the “eis” with which the word begins.) rather than exegesis (deriving belief from the text). Robertson’s attempt to avoid the impact of Acts 2:38 by substituting “en” for “eis” has another problem; “en” always takes the dative case while “eis” always takes the accusative case. “Remission” following “eis” in Acts 2:38 is in the accusative case. Therefore, “en” cannot be used! No other scholar I have found agrees with him on Acts 2:38. John Wesley (Methodist) translates it “for the remission of sins.” Charles Williams (Baptist) translates it “that you may have your sins forgiven.” [Full disclosure requires the revelation that Williams also uses some punctuation and language not found in the Greek to avoid the effect of his translation. Keep in mind that the punctuation is the uninspired work of man.] Robert Young (Presbyterian) translates it “to remission of sins.” Thayer’s Greek Lexicon: “f. to denote purpose in order to, to: . . . . ei˙ß a‡fesin aJmartiw◊n for forgiveness of sins, so that sins might be forgiven Mt. 26:28; cf. Mk. 1:4; Luke 3:3; Acts 2:38.” The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (“TDNT”) edited by Gerhard Kittel is perhaps the largest work on the language of scripture. His lengthy discussion of “eis” reads in part: “John baptises, and Jesus shed his blood, for the remission of sins (Mk. 1:4; Lk. 3:3; Mt. 26:28; cf. Ac. 2:38).” Notice that he couples Matt. 26:28 (Jesus shed his blood “for the remission of sins”) and Acts 2:38 (baptized “for the remission of sins”). The expression is exactly the same in the Greek. Did Jesus shed his blood “symbolically”? Did Jesus shed his blood because sins had already been remitted? Clearly not. He shed his blood in order to obtain remission of sins “for many.”
Nothing more needs to be said concerning Acts 3:19. You may want to go back and read the comments of J.W. McGarvey quoted above.
Next our writer argues that even if “eis” did mean “in order to obtain” the meaning would depend on the interpretation of the sense in which baptism can obtain anything. Baptism, he argues, can only forgive sins in a figurative sense and not in a literal sense. In this argument he gives up all of his other arguments in which he tries to make “eis” mean something other than countless translators have found it to mean. He then argues that even if “eis” means “in order to obtain” the phrase “be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins” still does not mean “be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.” It does not mean what it says, he asserts, because baptism cannot literally forgive sins. His argument fails for several reasons, but perhaps the most obvious one is that Peter’s command in Acts 2:38 does no assert that baptism literally forgives sins. What Peter says is that it is necessary to be baptized in order to receive God’s forgiveness of sins. If our writer’s argument is true then neither faith nor repentance is necessary to salvation because neither of them can literally forgive sins. However, both faith and repentance are necessary to receive God’s forgiveness of sins. His argument has proved more than he realized and he has fallen on the logical sword that that which proves too much proves nothing.
Apparently having no confidence in the arguments made thus far, our writer asserts that “eis” is a preposition of reference that points to something, but which does not define the sense of that to which it points, as its significance. The context and overall teaching of the bible on that particular subject, he argues, determine this significance. But what does he then do? He does not go to other passages that deal with the purpose of baptism; rather he goes to passages that deal with faith. Isn’t it amazing that he expects to find the significance (purpose) of baptism in Acts 2:38 by going to passages that do not mention baptism while he ignores the purpose stated in Acts 2:38. Such an argument is irrational at best.
Finally, our writer claims that he has found passages in scripture where “eis” does not mean “into” or “in order to obtain” or state purpose. In Mark 1:4 and Luke 3:3 he contends it means “with reference to.” Both of these passages speak of John’s baptism. The KJV translates “for the remission of sins; the ASV translates “unto the remission of sins.” No recognized version translates it “in reference to.” A few of the “paraphrase” translations have paraphrased the language to harmonize with their rejection of the essentiality of baptism for the remission of sins, but they are examples of men who are willing to put aside their scholarship in order to espouse their personal beliefs. In doing so some of them use additional language that is not found in the Greek and for which there is no basis in the Greek. They should be ashamed. Our writer’s argument is that John’s baptism could not be for the remission of sins because it was prior to Pentecost. Apparently he is unfamiliar with Romans 3:25. The blood of Christ flowed forward as well as back to those who had been obedient before the cross. If the baptism of John was a non-essential, Luke’s language in 7:50 is strange: “But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him.
He fares no better with his argument based upon Luke 5:13-14. He argues that baptism is for the remission of sins only as a “testimony” as the Leper’s offering “for” his cleansing was in the sense of “testimony.” What is the basis for this statement other than his own opinion? Putting aside his opinion, what has happened here? A leper has been healed. The healing of a leper does not take place in a vacuum. There were laws to be followed before one could be declared cleansed. Read Leviticus 13-14. After the healing the man had to go to the priest according to the Law “in order to obtain” (for the purpose of) receiving the ultimate pronouncement of the priest that he was clean. “Eis” means the same thing here that it does in Acts 2:38. Our writer admits that when he says that “baptism is for the remission of sins” but he goes astray when he begins to redefine the Greek to harmonize with his belief. One last word here. There were to things that were to happen with the baptism – remission of sins and the reception of the gift of the Holy Spirit. Refuse baptism and you get neither.
His last effort is based on Matthew 3:11. Matthew quotes John the Baptist: “I indeed baptize you in water unto repentance. . . .” This statement, he says, does not make sense in “eis” is translated “in order to repentance.” Lenski responds: “We have no right to stress eis metanoian so as to make repentance only the result of baptism, as something that followed baptism as its aim and purpose. This is contrary to the durative imperative metanoeite in v. 2, ‘be repenting,’ i. e., live in repentance. ‘For repentance’ refers to the repentance manifested by all those who came to be baptized by John.” Word Biblical Commentary says: “John describes his own baptism as eis metanoian, by which is not meant that repentance is the goal or result of baptism (as ‘to repentance’ might be taken), since the baptism itself presupposes the existence of repentance. Hence, eis metanoian is best understood as ‘with reference to,’ ‘associated with,’ or ‘in agreement with’ (for this meaning of eis, see BAGD, s.v. eis, 5; p. 230a).” Here is what I have found in BADG: “10.Other uses of eis a. at, in the face of metanoei/n eivj to. kh,rugma repent at the proclamation Mt 12:41; Lk 11:32; cp. Ro 4:20 and perh. Mt 3:11. JMantey, JBL 70, ’51, 45-48, 309-11 argues for a causal use here because of the proclam., with reff.; against him RMarcus, ibid. 129f; 71, ’52, 43f; JDavis, Restoration Qtrly 24, ’81, 80-88.” This language does not support Word’s suggested understanding. The section to which Word makes reference, “5,” does not support it either. Strangely, BAGD’s definition “5” does contain the possible understanding of eis as “fit, suitable for someth.” While that section does not reference Matthew 3:11 at all, which is the basis of our writer’s argument here, it does give Luke 14:35 as an example. John always called on his hearers to bring forth works fit for repentance. His purpose in Luke and parallel passages is to contrast his baptism with that of Jesus. It does not contradict other passages that describe his baptism as “for the remission of sins.”
Let me conclude with two quotations. The first is from the Lutheran Lenski in his comments on Acts 2:38:
To be baptized “in his name” means to be baptized “in connection with the revelation he has made of himself,” the application of water (as instituted by him) placing us into union with him by means of his name or revelation. Baptism seals us with this name and revelation and gives us all this name and this revelation contain, and by receiving baptism we accept it all. A refusal of baptism would be a repudiation of Christ and of all the gifts contained in his name. ….
“Everyone of you” makes repentance and baptism personal in the highest degree. Salvation deals with each individual…. Baptism is pure gospel that conveys grace and salvation from God through Christ; it dare not be changed into a legal or legalistic requirement that is akin to the ceremonial requirement of Moses such as circumcision. God does something for us in baptism, we do nothing for him. Our acceptance of baptism is only acceptance of god’s gift.
This is emphasized strongly in the addition: “for or unto remission of your sins.” It amounts to nothing more than a formal grammatical difference whether eis is again regarded as denoting sphere (equal to en), R. 59s, or, as is commonly supposed, as indicating aim and purpose, R. 592, or better still as denoting effect. Sphere would mean that baptism is inside the same circle as remission; he who steps into this circle has both. Aim and purpose would mean that baptism intends to give remission; in him, then, who receives baptism aright this intention, aim, and purpose would be attained. The same is true regarding the idea of effect in eis. This preposition connects remission so closely with baptism that nobody has as yet been able to separate the two. It is the gift of this remission that makes baptism a true sacrament; otherwise it would be only a sign or a symbol hat conveys nothing real. In order to make baptism such a symbol, we are told that Peter’s phrase means only that baptism pictures remission, a remission we may obtain by some other means at some later day. But this alters the force of Peter’s words. Can one persuade himself that Peter told these sinners who were stricken with their terrible guilt to accept a baptism that point to some future remission? Had he no remission to offer them now? And when and how could they get that remission, absolutely the one thing they must have? And how can Ananias in 22:16 say, “Be baptized and wash away thy sins!” as though the water of baptism washed them away by its connection with the Name?
The second is from a Baptist whose last name is Willmarth, from Bapt. And Remission, in Bapt. Quarterly, July, 1877, pp. 304-05:
It is feared that if we give to eis its natural and obvious meaning, undue importance will be ascribed to Baptism, the Atonement will be undervalued, and the word of the Holy Spirit will be disparaged. Especially is it asserted that here is the vital issue between Baptists and Campbellites. We are gravely told that if we render eis in Acts ii:38 in order to, we give up the battle, and must forthwith become Campbellites; whereas if we translate it on account of, or in token of, it will yet be possible for us to remain Baptists.
Such methods of interpretation are unworthy of Christian scholars. It is our business, simply and honestly, to ascertain the exact meaning of the inspired originals, as the sacred penmen intended to convey it to the mind of the contemporary reader. Away with the question – “What ought Peter to have said in the interest of orthodoxy?” The real question is, “What did Peter say, and what did he mean, when he spoke on the Day of Pentecost, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit?”
But having entered this caveat, as a lawyer might say, it may do no harm to show that dogmatic dangers here exist only in imagination. The natural and obvious interpretation cannot give undue importance to Baptism, for Baptism is here united with Repentance and Faith. It cannot undervalue the Atonement, for Baptism is one resting upon, and deriving all its value from, the name of the Lamb of God; and this is distinctly understood by the person baptized, who submits to the rite as a believer in that name. It cannot disparage the work of the Spirit, since he alone effectually calls men to Repentance and Faith; and it is by (Greek en, in, with the influence of) one Spirit that we are all baptized into one body, i. e., the Spirit leads the penitent sinner to Baptism and blesses the rite. And as to Campbellism, that spectre which haunts many good men and terrifies them into a good deal of bad interpretation, shall we gain anything by maintaining a false translation and allowing the Campbellites to be champions of the true, with the world’s scholarship on their side, as against us? Whoever carries the weight of our controversy with the Campbellites upon the eis will break through – there is no footing for the evolutions of the theological skater. Shall we never learn that Truth has nothing to fear from a true interpretation of any part of God’s word, and nothing to gain from a false one?
The truth will suffer nothing by giving to eis its true signification. When Campbellites translate in order to in Acts 2:38 they translate correctly. Is a translation false because Campbellites endorse it?
Two final comments:
You may miss the humor in the last quotation if you don’t know that, while “eis” is pronounced “ace,” it is sometimes pronounced “ice.” It was certainly the latter definition that was in mind when the writer spoke of those who carried the weight breaking through. A little humor never hurt a controversy.
Member’s of the Lord’s church have never worn the name of Alexander Campbell, have never looked to him as the founder of the church, and have never followed his teaching except as it follows the teaching of the New Testament, something it did not always do.
God's Plan of Salvation
You must hear the gospel and then understand and recognize that you are lost without Jesus Christ no matter who you are and no matter what your background is. The Bible tells us that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Before you can be saved, you must understand that you are lost and that the only way to be saved is by obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:8) Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
You must believe and have faith in God because “without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) But neither belief alone nor faith alone is sufficient to save. (James 2:19; James 2:24; Matthew 7:21)
You must repent of your sins. (Acts 3:19) But repentance alone is not enough. The so-called “Sinner’s Prayer” that you hear so much about today from denominational preachers does not appear anywhere in the Bible. Indeed, nowhere in the Bible was anyone ever told to pray the “Sinner’s Prayer” to be saved. By contrast, there are numerous examples showing that prayer alone does not save. Saul, for example, prayed following his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:11), but Saul was still in his sins when Ananias met him three days later (Acts 22:16). Cornelius prayed to God always, and yet there was something else he needed to do to be saved (Acts 10:2, 6, 33, 48). If prayer alone did not save Saul or Cornelius, prayer alone will not save you. You must obey the gospel. (2 Thess. 1:8)
You must confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. (Romans 10:9-10) Note that you do NOT need to make Jesus “Lord of your life.” Why? Because Jesus is already Lord of your life whether or not you have obeyed his gospel. Indeed, we obey him, not to make him Lord, but because he already is Lord. (Acts 2:36) Also, no one in the Bible was ever told to just “accept Jesus as your personal savior.” We must confess that Jesus is the Son of God, but, as with faith and repentance, confession alone does not save. (Matthew 7:21)
Having believed, repented, and confessed that Jesus is the Son of God, you must be baptized for the remission of your sins. (Acts 2:38) It is at this point (and not before) that your sins are forgiven. (Acts 22:16) It is impossible to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ without teaching the absolute necessity of baptism for salvation. (Acts 8:35-36; Romans 6:3-4; 1 Peter 3:21) Anyone who responds to the question in Acts 2:37 with an answer that contradicts Acts 2:38 is NOT proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ!
Once you are saved, God adds you to his church and writes your name in the Book of Life. (Acts 2:47; Philippians 4:3) To continue in God’s grace, you must continue to serve God faithfully until death. Unless they remain faithful, those who are in God’s grace will fall from grace, and those whose names are in the Book of Life will have their names blotted out of that book. (Revelation 2:10; Revelation 3:5; Galatians 5:4)