What Do We Learn From the Baptisms in the Book of Acts?

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Edward D. Andrews
EDWARD D. ANDREWS (AS in Criminal Justice, BS in Religion, MA in Biblical Studies, and MDiv in Theology) is CEO and President of Christian Publishing House. He has authored over 100 books. Andrews is the Chief Translator of the Updated American Standard Version (UASV).

Main Idea and Outline

The Greek baptisma refers to the method of immersion, including submersion and emergence; it is derived from the verb bapto, meaning “dip.” (John 13:26) In the Bible, “to baptize” is the same as “to immerse.”[1] The Greek Septuagint uses a form of the same word for “dip” at Exodus 12:22 and Leviticus 4:6.[2] At the time one is immersed in water, he is for the moment “buried” out of view and then lifted out.

We will look into baptism in the book of Acts, together with related questions: (1) Baptism in the book of Acts, (2) being baptized into Christ, (3) baptism and salvation, and (4) a summary of baptism in the book of Acts. The book of Acts is a historical overview of the Christian congregation from 33 C.E. – 61 C.E. Therefore, the reader will find far more cases of baptism than any of the other New Testament books. The approach herein will be to look at each account in the book of Acts, to offer a summary of whether the account in Acts is descriptive (not meant to be practiced) or prescriptive (meant to be practiced), and observation as to whether baptism is essential for salvation.

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Baptism in the Book of Acts

 Christian baptism was a required mark of the Christian community, done in the name of Christ, on the basis of faith in that name, who got baptized in symbol of that, and entered into the congregation. (Italics will be added throughout for emphasis)

Acts 1:5; 11:16; Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” 16 And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’

Luke 3:16 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

16 John answered them all, saying, “I baptize you with water, but the one who is more powerful than I is coming, the lace of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with Holy Spirit and with fire.

In the above Acts 1:5 we have Jesus paraphrasing the Words of John the Baptist as recorded in Luke 3:16, minus the “with fire.” In Acts 11:16, we have an allusion to Acts 1:5. There is a contrast going on here, but it is not between water baptism and baptism with the Holy Spirit; no it is between the baptism of John (minus the Holy Spirit) and Jesus’ baptism with the Holy Spirit. To further this, the reader of Acts 1:8 is told that Jesus promised these ones would ‘receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon them.’ While waiting for this moment, they were moved to pick a replacement for Judas, and the qualification was that he must who ‘have accompanied them during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among them, beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from them.’[3]

BIBLE DIFFICULTIES

Acts 2:1-4, 33, 41 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

When the day of Pentecost was being fulfilled, they [120 disciples] were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance. 33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. 41 So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls.

It was obvious for those who were in attendance on this day that there was a new way to God, yet the opportunity to the Jewish people throughout the Roman Empire had yet to be completely closed.[4]  Water baptism in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19) was different from the baptism in the Holy Spirit. It was also a new expression involving the Holy Spirit.

AN ENCOURAGING THOUGHT_01

Brief Excursion on Baptized in the Holy Spirit

In reference to baptism in the Holy Spirit, Jesus had promised his disciples just before his ascension to heaven: “you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” (Acts 1:5, 8) We can see from Acts 2:1-4, 33, and 41 quoted above that shortly thereafter that promise was fulfilled. In the upper room in Jerusalem, Jesus, from heaven, carried out his first baptisms in the Holy Spirit. These initial 120 disciples “were all filled with the Holy Spirit.” What was the result? the apostle Paul explains, “by one spirit [the 120 disciples] were [the first to] all [be] baptized into one body.” (1 Corinthians 12:13) In other words, those who are baptized in the Holy Spirit become a part of a spiritual body with Jesus Christ. Paul also said in the epistle to the Ephesians, “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit.” (Eph. 1:13) So, we can see that the Holy Spirit served as an initial ‘seal with the promise’ of the magnificent future that awaits. However, that is not all.

Mosaic Authorship HOW RELIABLE ARE THE GOSPELS

2 Corinthians 1:21-22 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

21 Now the one who establishes us together with you in Christ and who anointed[*] us is God, 22 and who has also put his seal on us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a down payment.

[*] Anoint: (Heb. māšǎḥ Gr. chriō) In the Hebrew OT, the word meant to anoint, smear, rub an object or person (a prophet, priest, or king) with a liquid, which symbolized a dedication or consecration for a special service. In the Greek NT, the word meant to anoint with oil, to assign one to a duty, role, or office. It is also used of the pouring out of the Holy Spirit on those who are anointed in Christ. – Exodus 28:41; 1 Samuel 16:13; 2 Corinthians 1:21.

Jesus had said to Nicodemus: “unless someone is born again,[*] he cannot see the kingdom of God. . . . Unless someone is born from water and spirit, he is not able to enter into the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3, 5) Here at the beginning of the book of Acts, 120 humans had been born again. By means of the Holy Spirit, they had become spiritual sons of God, as well as brothers of Christ. (John 1:11-13; Rom. 8:14-15) All these things that we see accomplished by means of the Holy Spirit after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost 33 C.E. are in their own way far more wonderful than the miracles of the New Testament. Moreover, the miracles were one-time events, while the baptism in the Holy Spirit did not come to an end after the death of the apostles but rather, it has continued right down to our day.

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[*] Could also be rendered “born from above.” Born Again, Born of God, Born of the Spirit, Regeneration (Rebirth): (Gr. gennaō anōthengennaō theosgennaō pneumapalingenesia) This regeneration is the Holy Spirit working in his life, giving him a new nature, who repents and accepts Christ, placing him on the path to salvation. By taking in this knowledge of God’s Word, we will be altering our way of thinking, which will affect our emotions and behavior, as well as our lives now and for eternity. This Word will influence our minds, making corrections in the way we think. If we are to have the Holy Spirit controlling our lives, we must ‘renew our mind’ (Rom. 12:2) “which is being renewed in knowledge” (Col. 3:10) of God and his will and purposes. (Matt 7:21-23; See Pro 2:1-6) All of this boils down to each individual Christian digging into the Scriptures in a meditative way, so he can ‘discover the knowledge of God, receiving wisdom; from God’s mouth, as well as knowledge and understanding.’ (Prov. 2:5-6) As he acquires the mind that is inundated with the Word of God, he must also “be doers of the Word.” – John 3:3; 6-7; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Titus 3:5; James 1:22-25.

Baptism With Fire. When John the Baptist saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to the baptism,[33] he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” John the Baptist spoke of the One coming after him, to which he said, “He will baptize you with Holy Spirit and with fire.” (Mt 3:7, 11; Lu 3:16) E. Ray Clendenen writes, “The fact that there is only one Greek article governing the two nouns, “Spirit” and “fire” indicates that only one baptism is in view and the addition of “and fire” further defines the character of the Messiah’s baptism. Whereas water temporarily cleanses the outside, fire permanently purifies the whole.” (Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003), 169.) Certainly, this is possible but for this author, it would seem that the being baptized with Holy Spirit is not the same as being baptized with fire.

The “explanation [by some] is that the Holy Spirit and fire are here equated. In development of this interpretation it is argued (1) that the copulative demands equation; (2) that the Spirit is linked with tongues like as of fire in Acts 2:3; and (3) that fire may equally well symbolize the purifying, energizing, and even enlightening work of the Spirit.” (The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Revised (Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1979–1988), 426.) The context is that John the Baptist was telling his listeners that there was going to be a division, that Jesus “will gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” John further pointed out that the Baptism with fire was not going to be some blessing or reward but rather because “Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” – Matthew 3:10; Luke 3:9.

Jesus used fire as a symbol of destruction. Jesus said to his disciples concerning the execution of the wicked upon his return, “but on the day that Lot went out from Sodom, it rained fire and sulphur from heaven and destroyed them all. It will be just the same on the day that the Son of Man is revealed.” (Lu 17:29-30; Matt. 13:49-50)  Of course, there are other examples where fire is represented as a destructive force, not a saving one, such as 2 Thessalonians 1:8; Jude 7; and 2 Peter 3:7, 10.

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End of the Excursion on Baptized in the Holy Spirit

Acts 2:38, 41 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 41 So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls.

Those in attendance who has been with Jesus since the days of John the Baptist are certainly taking note of the fact that it was no longer repentance over violations of the Law and the baptism of John, no it was now repentance and baptism in the name of Jesus Christ that placed one in a righteous standing before God.[5] It is, in fact, “the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1John 1:7) Later, after speaking of Jesus as “the Author of life,” Peter said to Jews at the temple: “Repent, therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out.” (Ac 3:15, 19) Here he informed them that they needed to repent from their bad actions against Jesus and “turn again,” to accept him, this being what brought forgiveness of sin; there being no mention of baptism at this time.[6]

Acts 8:12-16 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

12 But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. 13 Simon himself also believed, and after being baptized, he continued with Philip; and he was amazed at seeing the signs and great powerful works taking place. 14 Now when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent them Peter and John, 15 who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. 16 for he had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.

When persecution hit the Judea area, many were inclined to move away with the exception of the apostles. It was at this time that we find Philip in Samaria spreading the gospel message and, with the miraculous power of the Holy Spirit, cast out demons and cured the paralyzed and lame. Jubilant, a large number received the message and were baptized, including a certain Simon who had been involved in the magical arts. (Ac 8:4-13) At Samaria when they listened to and believed “good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized.” At this juncture the Biblical account spells out that the ones baptized were, not infants, but “both men and women.”—Ac 8:12.[7]

There was something distinctive about their receiving the Holy Spirit by the laying on of the hands. How? These were actually the first non-Israelites to be added to the church because the Samaritans were not Jewish proselytes. Moreover, when Philip spread the gospel in Samaria, numerous ones “were baptized, both men and women,” but they did not immediately receive the Holy Spirit. (Acts 8:12) Why?

Remember, it was to Peter that Christ Jesus entrusted “the keys of the kingdom,” the privilege of first presenting the opportunity for entry into “the kingdom of the heaven” for different groups of converts. (Matthew 16:19) So it was not until Peter and John went to Samaria and laid their hands on these first non-Jewish disciples that Holy Spirit was poured out on them as a token of their prospective membership in “the kingdom of the heaven.”[8]

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Acts 8:36, 38 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

36 And as they went along the road they came to some water; and the eunuch said, “Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?” 38 And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him.

*The Ethiopian eunuch was a court official who was in charge of the treasury of the queen of Ethiopia. But since a castrated person was not accepted into the congregation of Israel under the Law, the term eunoukhos would apply here not literally but in its sense of “court official.” (Ac 8:26-39; De 23:1) Ebedmelech, the Ethiopian who rescued the prophet Jeremiah from imprisonment in a cistern, was a eunuch in the court of King Zedekiah.

Was this a hasty act? Not at all! The Ethiopian was a Jewish proselyte.* Therefore, he was already a worshiper of the God of the Hebrews with knowledge of the Scriptures, including the Messianic prophecies. However, his knowledge was incomplete. Now that he had received this vital information regarding the role of Jesus Christ, the Ethiopian understood what God required of him and was ready to comply. Baptism was appropriate. (Matthew 28:18-20; 1 Peter 3:21) The Ethiopian eunuch asked to be baptized when they came to “some water.” They both “went down into the water.” Afterward, they came “up out of the water.” (Ac 8:36-40) All these instances imply not a little pool, but a large body of water into and out of which they would have to walk.[9]

*Proselytes were non-Israelites who chose to adhere to the Mosaic Law.—Leviticus 24:22.

Acts 9:17-18; 22:16 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

17 So Ananias departed and entered the house, and after laying his hands on him said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road by which you were coming, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes and he regained his sight and got up and was baptized; 16 And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’

How are sins washed away? Not by mere water immersion, but by calling on his [Jesus’] name are sins washed away. Cornelius called on Jesus’ name and he accepted Christ and was baptized by the Holy Spirit. For this to happen his sins must have been forgiven, yet it was all before he was baptized in water. If one repents and accepts Christ and trusts in His shed blood one’s sins can be forgiven. Water immersion in Jesus’ name is important, but only as a symbol and public demonstration of repentance of sins and acceptance of Jesus and dedication to do his Father’s will faithfully, as Jesus did.[10]

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Acts 10:44-48 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word. 45 All the circumcised believers[*] who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. 46 For they were hearing them speaking with tongues and magnifying God. Then Peter answered, 47 “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” 48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days.

[*] I.e., faithful ones

It is true that the centurion Cornelius was ‘a devout and upright man, being well spoken of by the whole Jewish nation and acquainted with the writings of the prophets, who feared God,’ who “gave alms generously to the people, and prayed continually to God;”  yet he was not a Jewish proselyte as some have suggested. The Biblical record establishes decisively that this army officer was an uncircumcised Gentile in the fullest sense. If Cornelius had been a proselyte, there would have been no reason for Peter to say, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation.” (Le 19:33, 34; Ac 10:28) Additionally, if he had been a proselyte ‘the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter would not have been amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles.’ (Ac 10:45; 11:12) Finally, if he had been a proselyte, why did the “circumcision party, criticized him” over this matter?—Ac 11:2.[11]

In fact, Cornelius was the first of the uncircumcised non-Jews to become a Christian, which demonstrated that by this time it was unnecessary for Gentiles to get circumcised or become a proselyte, in order to become a member of the Christian congregation. As Peter stated, “God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.” (Ac 10:34, 35) It was Peter who opened up The Way to the Jews at Pentecost, to the Samaritans, so to the gospel was now being brought to the uncircumcised Gentiles. In agreement, James replies, “Brothers, listen to me. Simeon has related how God first visited the Gentiles, to take from them a people for his name.—Ac 15:7, 14.

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Acts 16:14-15 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

14 And a certain woman named Lydia from the city of Thyatira, a merchant dealing in purple cloth who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. 15 And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us.

Lydia was “a worshiper of God,” likely being a proselyte Jew, who was open to the good news of the Christ. As holds true with the other above accounts, baptism always followed the spoken word. (16:13-14) Herein, we find a point that should not escape our notice, this being that “the Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.” This evidences that infants were not being baptized in the first-century, as it involved listening to the gospel, accepting it as so and praising God. Being that Lydia’s husband is not mentioned, it is likely that she may have been a widow. Conceivably “her household” was made up of relatives, but the expression could also involve servants. Regardless, Lydia obviously went home and shared this good news with her household. As they too accepted the Way, it must have brought her great happiness.[12]

Acts 16:30-33 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

30 And after he brought them out, he said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 And they said, “Believe[*] in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”32 And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his household.

[*] Believe, faith, Trust in: (Gr. pisteuo) If pisteuo is followed by the Greek preposition eis, (“into, in, among,” accusative case), it is generally rendered “trusting in” or “trust in.” (John 3:16, 36; 12:36; 14:1) The grammatical construction of the Greek verb pisteuo “believe” followed by the Greek preposition eis “into” in the accusative gives us the sense of having faith into Jesus, putting faith in, trusting in Jesus.–Matt. 21:25, 32; 27:42; John 1:7, 12; 2:23–24; 3:15–16, 36; 6:47; 11:25; 12:36; 14:1; 20:31; Acts 16:31; Rom. 4:3.

Again, in the account of the Philippian jailer, you will notice the same two important points: (1) Paul and Silas “spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house; and (2) they heard the Word of God, which moved them to baptism. The Philippian jailer did not ‘shut off his mind’ when the apostle Paul answered his question, “What must I do to be saved?” And Paul and Silas did not mount an ‘assault on his emotions’ and plead for a large financial contribution. Rather, “spoke the word of the Lord to him.” Reasoning with the man, they helped him to come to a clear understanding of God’s provisions for salvation.—Acts 16:32.

It must be asked, what is the way to salvation? “The missionaries show the way of salvation to the jailer by coming straight to the point and telling him what he must do: Believe in the Lord Jesus.’” (Acts 16:31) a contrite heart that recognizes the need of the shed blood of Jesus is crucial if we expect to receive salvation. Many offer confusion on the matter by implying intentionally or not that belief in Jesus alone is all that is required. Yet, it seems a bit dogmatic to focus on one facet of Scripture that addresses salvation, while setting the others aside, which is like isolating page three in a business contract, because it says what you want it to say while ignoring the first two pages.[13]

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Acts 19:1-7 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

19 And it happened that while Apollos was in Corinth, Paul traveled through the inland regions and came to Ephesus and found some disciples. And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said to him, “But we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit!” And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” And they said, “Into the baptism of John.” And Paul said, “John baptized with a baptism of repentance, telling the people that they should believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, in Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying. There were in all about twelve men.

The baptism of John had reached its course and purpose by 33 C.E., and now Jesus gives the commission to something greater: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matt 28:19) From this point forward, no other baptism had the backing of God. ‘About twenty years later though we find Apollos, a native of Alexandria, who had come to Ephesus; he was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. He spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John.’ Apollos was certainly in need of correction, this being the case for the disciples that Paul came into contact with in Ephesus as well. It appears that these men had gotten baptized under the baptism of John after it had been terminated. Therefore, they were baptized in the name of Jesus and received Holy Spirit.—Ac 18:24-26; 19:1-7.

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Being Baptized into Christ: (those born again persons, who are anointed with the Holy Spirit and become joint heirs with him, are “baptized into Christ Jesus.”)

At Jesus baptism, he was well aware that he was about to follow a sacrificial course. He knew that “the Son of Man came . . . to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mt 20:28) Jesus understood “that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be [plunged into death], and on the third day be raised.” (Mt 16:21) In comparison, he stated: “I have a baptism [death] to be baptized with.” (Lu 12:50) Jesus said to his disciples,

Mark 10:38-39 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

38 But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” 39 And they said to him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized. (Bold mine)

Jesus was completely baptized into death when he was plunged into death by being executed on Nisan 14. Three days later, the Father completed his baptism as he raised him from the dead. As is clear from the context, Jesus’ water baptism that began his ministry was different and separate from this baptism into death. At his water baptism, he simply entered into a life course that would lead to his baptism into death.

While the apostle had been baptized by John (John 1:35-37; 4:1), the baptism with Holy Spirit was yet future, and it would symbolize being baptized into death. (Mr 10:39) Being baptized into Christ’s death is far different. Paul made this more explicit in his letter to the Roman congregation, saying: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?”—Romans 6:3.[14]

The path of the Christian who is baptized into Christ Jesus is a way of uprightness in this great test of life in imperfection, which Paul goes on to explain to the congregation of Rome: “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.”—Ro 6:4, 5; 1Co 15:31-49.

Expounding the subject still more, Paul, in writing to the congregation at Philippi, described his own course as “share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” (Php 3:10, 11) It is God Almighty who competes these one’s baptisms. How so? He will raise them up out of death and unite them with Christ as immortal spirit persons, who enjoy heavenly life.—1Co 15:53, 54.

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Baptism and Salvation

Is water baptism essential to salvation? Salvation was a key question for the first-century congregation because many Judaizers across the Roman Empire argued that the Gentiles could not be saved unless they were circumcised and obeyed the Law. (Acts 15:1-5) However, it is very clear from Scripture that there is only means of salvation, and that is . . .

Ephesians 2:8-9 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not from works, so that no man may boast.

The entire provision for salvation is an expression of God’s grace (kindness that is not deserved). There is no way that a descendant of Adam can gain salvation on his own, no matter how noble his works are. Salvation is a gift from God given to those who put faith in the sin-atoning value of the sacrifice of his Son.

Hebrews 5:9 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

And having been made perfect, he became to all those who obey him the source of eternal salvation,

Do we have a conflict with what was just stated in Ephesians 2:8-9, that of being saved through faith? No, being obedient to God’s Word is nothing more than an evident demonstration that one’s faith is genuine.

James 2:14, 26 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

14 What use is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? 26 For as the body apart from the spirit[22] is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.

A person does not earn salvation by his works. But anyone who has genuine faith will have works to go with it, works of obedience to the commands of God and Christ, works that demonstrate his faith and love. Without such works, his faith is dead.

Acts 16:30-31 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

30 And after he brought them out, he said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.

Oversimplification has resulted in many misunderstandings when it comes to God’s Word, the Bible. Many have concluded from this that simple mental acceptance of Jesus is, therefore, all that is required for salvation! This is an oversimplification. True, belief in Jesus as our Ransomer is essential. But it is also necessary to believe what Jesus taught and commanded, to acquire a full understanding of Bible truths. This is shown by the fact that Paul and Silas subsequently “spoke the word of the Lord to him [the jailer] and to all who were in his house.” (Acts 16:32) Salvation also involves obedience. As was shown above, Paul showed this when he wrote that Jesus “became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him.”—Hebrews 5:9. (Little 2008, 139)

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It should be noted that the one being baptized in water enters a special relationship as a servant of Christ, to do His will. The individual does not determine what the will of God is for him, but it is God who makes the decision as to the use of the individual and the placing of such one in the framework of His purposes. There is no place within Scripture that even suggests that baptism is a requirement for salvation. We have already established that salvation is by faith alone, not by works. (Eph 2:8-9) Being that baptism is a work of righteousness (Matt 3:15), an expression of one dedicating themselves to Christ and his Father; it would negate salvation by faith to say that one must be baptized to ascertain salvation. (Rom 11:16) However, we have also established that a saved person is not truly such if they have no evident demonstrations of faith. Thus, baptism is just that, an evident demonstration, an outward display of one’s faith in Christ Jesus. To obligate it as a means of salvation would be the rejection of Jesus ransom sacrifice. (Hutson 2000, 3-4)

Jesus Paul THE EVANGELISM HANDBOOK

Summary of Baptism in the Book of Acts

 At the end of our exploration of Acts, we are now able to offer some conclusions as to what baptism is, what it is not, and the way it was carried out. Although Christian baptism does not wash sins away, it is a symbol of repentance, indicating that the individual being immersed in water has made an unconditional dedication to God through Jesus Christ. (Compare Matthew 16:24.)  In view of the fact that hearing the word, believing, and repenting precede water baptism (Ac 2:14, 22, 38, 41) and that baptism requires the individual to make a solemn decision, it is apparent that one must at least be of age to hear, to believe, and to make this decision. From the definition of baptism, as stated earlier, it is clear that baptism is a complete immersion in water, not a mere pouring. The Bible examples of baptism corroborate this fact.

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Bibliography

  • Bock, Darrell L. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament: Acts. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007.
  • Elwell, Walter A. Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1988.
  • Ferguson, Everett. Baptism in the Early Church: History, Theology, and Liturgy in the First Five Centuries. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2009.
  • Gaertner, Dennis. The College Press NIV commentary: Acts. Joplin, Mo: College Press, 1993.
  • Gangel, Kenneth O. Holman New Testament Commentary: Acts. Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998.
  • Harris, Robert Laird, Gleason Leonard Archer, and Bruce K Waltke. Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. Chicago: Moody Press, 1999, c1980.
  • Hutson, Curtis. Is Water Baptism Essential to Salvation? Murfreesboro, TN: Sword of the Lord, 2000.
  • Kistemaker, Simon J, and William Hendriksen. New Testament Commentary: Exposition of the Acts of the Apostles. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1953-2001.
  • Little, Paul E. Know What You Believe. Downers Grove. ILL: InterVarsity Press, 2008.
  • Wiersbe, Warren W. The Bible Exposition Commentary. Wheaton: Victor Books, 1996, c1989.

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[1] Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1988), 257.

[2] Robert Laird Harris, Gleason Leonard Archer and Bruce K. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, electronic ed. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999), 342.

[3] Darrell L. Bock, Acts, Baker exegetical commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 2007), 57-8.

[4] Simon J. Kistemaker and William Hendriksen, vol. 17, New Testament Commentary: Exposition of the Acts of the Apostles, New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1953-2001), 77.

[5] Kenneth O. Gangel, vol. 5, Acts, Holman New Testament Commentary; Holman Reference (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998), 36.

[6] Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1996), Ac 2:14.

[7] Simon J. Kistemaker and William Hendriksen, vol. 17, New Testament Commentary: Exposition of the Acts of the Apostles, New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1953-2001), 296-98.

[8] Everett Ferguson, Baptism in the Early Church: History, Theology, and Liturgy in the First Five Centuries (Grand Rapids, MI.: Eerdmans, 2009), 193-4.

[9] Kenneth O. Gangel, vol. 5, Acts, Holman New Testament Commentary; Holman Reference (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998), 127.

[10] Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, A. R. Fausset et al., A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997), Ac 9:17–19.

[11] Dennis Gaertner, Acts, The College Press NIV commentary (Joplin, Mo.: College Press, 1993), Ac 10:48.

[12] Kenneth O. Gangel, vol. 5, Acts, Holman New Testament Commentary; Holman Reference (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998), 271.

[13] Simon J. Kistemaker and William Hendriksen, vol. 17, New Testament Commentary: Exposition of the Acts of the Apostles, New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1953-2001), 601-02.

[14] Robert H. Mounce, vol. 27, Romans, electronic ed., Logos Library System; The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2001), 149-50.

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