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“And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name,’” are the words that came to the apostle Paul when he converted. (Acts 22:16, UASV) Does this show that the sins of Paul were forgiven by being baptized? Did baptism by immersion wash away Paul’s sins? Did Peter in Acts 2:38 declare that baptism was necessary for salvation? Did Peter not say, “Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you …” (1 Peter 3:21) More on these and other verses below after an overview of baptism by L. Paige Patterson.
BAPTISM: The Christian rite of initiation practiced by almost all who profess to embrace the Christian faith. In the NT era, persons professing Christ were immersed in water as a public confession of their faith in Jesus, the Savior. This was accomplished in direct obedience to the explicit mandate of the Lord (Matt. 28:16–20).
Jewish Background Among Palestinian Jews of the first century, a form of ritual cleansing was practiced, one which undoubtedly constituted the foreshadowing of Christian baptism. The unearthing of hundreds of mikvaot (ritual cleansing pools) in various locations from the Temple Mount to the fortress of Masada and the community of Qumran testify to the widespread practice of both proselyte baptism and ritual cleansings. The existence of deep pools accessed by stairs provides sufficient evidence that the Jewish practice employed a form of self-baptism or self-immersion. A typical use of the mikveh would find a Gentile who had embraced Judaism and accepted circumcision walking into the mikveh, citing the shema, “Hear, O Israel; the Lord our God, the Lord is one” (Deut. 6:4), and then immersing himself in the pool.
John’s Baptism Consequently, when John the Baptist began baptizing in the Jordan River, the practice of baptism per se was hardly shocking to the Jews. The introduction of an administrator who immersed others was John’s novel addition. The church maintained this development in its post-resurrection worship and elevated it to prominence as the first public act of identification with Christ. John insisted that those who sought baptism at his hand give testimony to a radically changed life, evidenced by repentance. Those who thus acquiesced formed a purified community awaiting the advent of Messiah. That Jesus of Nazareth was among those who sought John’s baptism puzzled the church through the ages and seems to have mystified John at the time (Matt. 3:14). John’s protest suggests that he observed no need for repentance in Jesus. He relented and immersed Jesus in response to the Lord’s assurance that in so doing this act would “fulfill all righteousness” (Matt. 3:15). In addition to identifying with the ministry of John, the act declared the nature of the Messiah’s mission. He would be a crucified, buried, and resurrected Messiah. Additionally, the event provided one of the most important declarations of the Trinitarian nature of God with the baptism of the Son, the voice of the Father, and the descent of the Spirit in the form of a dove (Matt. 3:16–17).
Baptism in the New Testament The word “baptism” has several uses in the NT. In addition to its usual sense of faith-witness initiation, the Bible speaks of a baptism of fire (Matt. 3:11–12), baptism by/in the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:13), baptism for the dead (1 Cor. 15:29), and even the baptism of the Hebrew people into Moses and the Sea (1 Cor. 10:2). But overwhelmingly the most prominent use of the word refers to the first response of obedience by a new follower of Jesus. The word “baptize” is itself a loanword borrowed from the Greek term baptizo. Few scholars contest that the meaning of the term is “immerse,” and not “to pour” or “to sprinkle.” In classical Greek, the word is used, for example, to describe the sinking of a ship that is, therefore, “immersed” or totally enveloped in water. Five important issues about baptism are: (1) the meaning of the ordinance, (2) the appropriate candidate for baptism, (3) the proper mode of baptism, (4) the right time for baptism, and (5) the correct authority for baptism.
Meaning In its simplest form baptism is a public identification with Jesus the Christ. As such it pictures the death of Jesus for the sins of the world, His subsequent burial, and His triumphant resurrection. There is also a reenactment of the believer’s death to sin, the burial of the old man, and a resurrection to walk in newness of life with Christ (Rom. 6:4). There is also an eschatological hint, a prophetic look to the future in baptism. Though we die and are interred in the ground, we shall rise again at the coming of the Lord. There are those who see baptism as a sacrament, bestowing grace or even bringing salvation. In this view baptism effects the removal of original sin in infants and/or secures salvation for the one baptized. Advocates of such a position cite Acts 2:38 and a few other verses as supporting texts. The believers’ church tradition understands baptism to be symbolic of salvation, a public profession of faith, and a witness to the work of salvation. The Bible clearly teaches that salvation is appropriated solely by faith based on the grace of God. Baptism, being an act of man, can never cleanse a person of sin or procure God’s forgiveness (Rom. 4:3).
Proper Candidate for Baptism Accordingly, the only appropriate candidate for the witness of baptism is someone who has something about which he can bear witness (Acts 2:38; 8:12–13, 36–38; Eph. 4:5). There is no precedent for infant baptism in the NT; in addition, only one who has experienced regeneration can give genuine witness to that experience. Only one sufficiently mature to have recognized, confessed and repented of his sin, and made a conscious commitment of faith in Christ should be baptized (Acts 2:41).
Correct Time for Baptism In certain areas of the world, baptism is delayed, sometimes as much as two years, during which time candidates “prove themselves” and/or are carefully taught, but the NT knows no such practice. Baptism is a public confession of faith, an initiatory ordinance of a new believer desiring to be obedient to Christ (Acts 8:35–38). The accompanying safeguard is a scriptural program of church discipline. Therefore, as soon as one is saved, he should be baptized.
The Proper Form of Baptism The correct form of baptism is determined by the meaning of the act. While it is true that baptizo means “immerse,” and while it is further the case that Jewish and first-century Christian baptisms were all by immersion, it is the significance of death, burial, and resurrection that determines the form. The new believer is buried in a watery grave and raised up as a symbol of his trust in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ for the atonement of sins. Only immersion adequately pictures a burial and a resurrection (Rom. 6:4–6). Immersionist baptistries dating from early Christian churches are common in Europe and the Middle East. Not a few contemporary Roman Catholic churches have even recognized the antiquity of the practice of immersion and have begun constructing immersionist pools. Eastern Orthodoxy has always practiced immersion.
The Correct Authority for Baptism Who has the authority to administer or perform baptism? Here the Scriptures are not explicit. However, in the NT, wherever people professed Christ and were baptized, they were assimilated into local assemblies of believers. The possible exception to this is the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:35–38). Lacking more precise instruction, it seems safe to say that to identify with Christ as the head of the church without also identifying with the church, which is the body of Christ, would be unfathomable. The local church is the proper authority to administer baptism.
Finally, it should be noted that the two ordinances given to the church—baptism and the Lord’s Supper—together tell the story of Christ’s atoning work. In the Supper, the death of Christ is acknowledged and proclaimed, whereas in baptism, His burial and resurrection are depicted. These comprise the only rituals assigned to the church by Jesus. See Baptism with/in the Holy Spirit; Infant Baptism; Ordinances.
Following Jesus’ ascension to heaven, baptism was carried out upon Christian converts. From 33 A.D. to 36 A.D., these new Christians were Jews, circumcised Samaritans, and proselyte Jews, the latter being those who were initially non-Jews but had been circumcised as proselytes into the Jewish religion and now were converting to Christianity. Water baptism of new Jews, circumcised Samaritans, and proselyte Jewish believers at Pentecost 33 C.E. symbolized their personal dedication to God through Christ. After 36 A.D., baptism involved uncircumcised non-Jews when the Christian gospel was proclaimed to the Gentiles. Concerning Saul, who became the apostle Paul, the account reads: “and he [Saul/Paul] regained his sight and got up and was baptized.”—Acts 9:18, UASV.
SINS NOT FORGIVEN BY BAPTISM
“And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name,’” are the words that came to the apostle Paul when he converted. (Acts 22:16, UASV) Does this show that the sins of Paul were forgiven by being baptized? Did baptism by immersion wash away Paul’s sins? New Testament scholar John B. Polhill writes, “The scene with Ananias concludes with v. 16, which relates Paul’s baptism (cf. 9:18b). The phrase translated ‘what are you waiting for?’ is a common Greek idiom and implies that it was time Paul acted on this commission from the Lord. The first step obviously was to be baptized into the community of believers. “Be baptized and wash your sins away” could be taken as a proof text for baptismal regeneration. The overarching term, however, is ‘calling upon the name of the Lord,’ the profession of faith in Christ that is the basis for the act of baptism.” Polhill is absolutely correct. Paul was not saying that his sins of Paul were forgiven by being baptized. He was saying that he was commanded to get baptized and that his sins were washed away by his calling upon the name of the Lord (the Father, see 22:14) through Christ Jesus. His calling on his name (“Jehovah”) is evidence of his conversion, that is, his dedication of himself to God, a turning to follow Jesus Christ.
Jesus, who set the example for Christians to be baptized by immersion, had no sins to forgive. On the other hand, we need to repent of our sins before we can be baptized. At the time of ‘turning to God,’ says Paul, “I proclaimed that they should repent and turn to God, doing deeds worthy of repentance.” (Acts 26:20, UASV) “Testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Acts 20:21, UASV) More evidence that immersion symbolizes one’s complete dedication to God, as Christians followed Jesus’ example: “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his footsteps.” (1 Pet. 2:21, UASV) Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone wants to come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Matt. 16:24, UASV) Persons are burying their previous life, which is symbolized by water immersion. Now, they are determined to do the Father’s will as Jesus requested. (Matt. 7:21-23) The dedication is also described by Jesus in a parallel account. And he was saying to them all, “If anyone wants to come after me, let him disown himself, and take up his cross day after day and keep following me.”—Luke 9:23, UASV.
Some scriptures try to apply to forgiveness of sins with complete immersion, so we will consider them now.
This one is easily displaced because Mark 16:-20 was not in the original, it was a second century interpolation (addition). Mark ends at 16:8, which is supported by א B 304 syrs copsa (l MS) arm geo (2 MSS) Hesychius Eusebian canons MSSaccording to Eusebius MSSaccording to Jerome MSSaccording to Severus. In short, the traditional longer ending Mark 16:9-20 is not supported by the earliest and best manuscripts: (1) The early church fathers had no knowledge of anything beyond verse eight. (2) Such ancient scholars as Eusebius and Jerome marked them spurious. (3) The style of these verses is utterly different from that of Mark. (4) The vocabulary used in these verses is different from that of Mark. (5) Verse 8 does not transition well with verse 9, jumping from the women disciples to Jesus’ resurrection appearance. Jesus does not need to appear because Mark ended with the announcement that he had. We only want that because the other Gospels give us an appearance. So we expect it. (6) The very content of these verses contradicts the facts and the rest of the Greek New Testament. With textual scholarship, being very well aware of Mark’s abrupt style of writing and abrupt ending to his Gospel does not seem out of place. Eusebius and Jerome, as well as this writer, agree.
The Forgiveness of Your Sins
Acts 2:38 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.
Repentance: The (μετανοέω metanoeō and μεταμέλομαι metamelomai) means to repent, to change one’s way, repentance. It means that we change our minds about our sinful actions or conduct, being dissatisfied with that personality trait. We feel regret, contrition, or compunction for what we have done or failed to do. We change our way of life because we have changed our view, way of thinking, mindset, attitude, and disposition regarding our sinful behavior. We have a change of heart and mind, abandoning our former way of thinking, feeling, and acting. The result is our becoming a new self, with new behavior and having a genuine regret over our former ways. No one can testify but our own spirit that we have repented; we may make professions of repentance, and the world may believe we are thoroughly sincere, but our own spirit may tell us that our profession is false. In other words, genuine repentance will bring about results that we know to be true. – Matt. 3:2; 12:41; Mark 1:15; Lu 10:13; 15:10; 17:3; Ac 2:38; 3:19; 17:30; 2 Cor. 12:21; Rev. 2:5-3:19.
ACTS 2:38 – Did Peter declare that baptism was necessary for salvation?
PROBLEM: Peter seems to be saying that those who responded had to repent and he baptized before they could receive the Holy Spirit. But this is contrary to the teaching of Paul that baptism is not part of the Gospel (1 Cor. 1:17) and that we are saved by faith alone (Rom. 4:4; Eph. 2:8-9).
SOLUTION: This is resolved when we consider the possible meaning of being baptized “for” the remission of sins in the light of its usage, the whole context, and the rest of Scripture. Consider the following:
First, the word “for” (eis) can mean “with a view to” or even “because of.” In this case, water baptism would be because they had been saved, not in order to be saved.
Second, people are saved by receiving God’s word, and Peter’s audience “gladly received his word” before they were baptized (Acts 2:41).
Third, verse 44 speaks of “all who believed” as constituting the early church, not all who were baptized.
Fourth, later, those who believed Peter’s message clearly received the Holy Spirit before they were baptized. Peter said, “Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” (Acts 10:47)
Fifth, Paul separates baptism from the Gospel, saying, “Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the Gospel” (1 Cor. 1: 17). But it is the Gospel which saves us (Rona. 1:16). Therefore, baptism is not part of what saves us.
Sixth, Jesus referred to baptism as a work of righteousness (Matt. 3:15). But the Bible declares clearly it is “not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us” (Titus 3:5).
Seventh, not once in the entire Gospel of John, written explicitly so that people could believe and be saved (John 20:31), does it give baptism as part of the condition of salvation. It simply says over and over that people should “believe” and be saved (cf. John 3:16, 18, 36).
In view of all these factors it seems best to understand Peter’s statement like this: “Repent and be baptized with a view to the forgiveness of sins.” That this view looked backward (to their sins being forgiven after they were saved) is made clear by the context and the rest of Scripture. Believing (or repenting) and being baptized are placed together, since baptism should follow belief. But nowhere does it say, “He who is not baptized will be condemned” (cf. Mark 16:16). Yet Jesus said emphatically ly that “he who does not believe is condemned already” (John 3:18). So neither Peter nor the rest of Scripture makes baptism a condition of salvation.—Thomas Howe; Norman L. Geisler. Big Book of Bible Difficulties, The: Clear and Concise Answers from Genesis to Revelation.
Baptized into Jesus’ Death
Romans 6:3-4 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
3 Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 Therefore we have been buried with him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.
6:3–4. Paul reminds the Roman believers (don’t you know?) of the meaning of their baptism. It is unfortunate that many modern believers in Christ can read these two verses and wonder if Paul is speaking metaphorically or figuratively about baptism—referring to some baptism of which they are unaware and with which they have had no experience. Granted—there is more than one kind of baptism mentioned in the New Testament and, yes, most of them are figurative. For instance, John the Baptist said that, whereas he baptized with water, Jesus Christ was coming to baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire (Matt. 3:11; John 1:33). Jesus himself confirmed the coming baptism by the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5), and the fire appeared as well (Acts 2:3).
In addition, Paul said there is a non-water baptism by which the Holy Spirit places (immerses?) every believer into the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13). Even the Israelites, Paul said, were somehow baptized “into Moses” as they were engulfed by the cloud and (seemingly) by the Red Sea (1 Cor. 10:2).
But in this case, Paul is referring to literal water baptism, and in a way that is unfortunately not emphasized when modern believers are baptized. Several important truths concerning baptism should be noted here: First, Paul is making the assumption that all the believers in Rome had been baptized. When he says all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus, he is not referring to all the believers who had been baptized as opposed to all the ones who had not. He is referring to all believers as opposed to non-believers who had not been baptized into Christ Jesus. Baptism does not appear to be an optional event in the Christian experience as it is for many modern believers.
Not only is baptism not optional, the New Testament, especially the Book of Acts (see, e.g., Acts 9:18 and “Deeper Discoveries”), gives ample evidence that baptism occurred in the immediate context of faith-conversion. This is almost unheard of in contemporary Christendom. Often weeks, months, even years will pass between the time a person becomes a believer in Christ and his or her baptism. In modern Christianity, the primary emphasis is placed upon the intellectual event of “believing,” which is completely consistent with the post-Enlightenment environment of rational intellectualism. However, in the New Testament, equal emphasis appears to be placed on the physical—repenting and being baptized (Acts 2:38), accompanied by exhortations, warnings, and teachings that baptism without faith is a dead work; that baptism must be, as the Anglican catechism says, “an outward visible sign of an inward spiritual grace.”
Not only did baptism happen, and happen in the immediate context of conversion, it meant something! Here is a test which any teacher can use: before teaching the content of Romans 6:3–4, take a poll of the believers in the setting where you are teaching to determine how many of the believers have in fact been baptized, and what the average amount of time was that elapsed between conversion to Christ and baptism (you will likely be surprised). Then, have some people share their understanding of the meaning of baptism. See how many people can explain baptism in the terminology Paul uses in Romans 6:3–4.
You will likely not be surprised—but shocked! Most modern believers have not been taught the theological significance of baptism, nor do they know the important place baptism has as a symbol to be used by the Holy Spirit in their conscious minds and imaginations to help them live lives free from the mastery of sin (in the same way that the bread and cup are symbols which stimulate and motivate the believer to worship and holiness vis-a-vis the Lord’s Supper).
All believers should know and unite around the truths concerning baptism that Paul presents in these verses. To not understand the connection between baptism and freedom from sin is to miss a critical link between Romans 1–5 (justification based on the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Christ) and Romans 6–8 (living sanctified lives based on the imputation of the efficacy and merit of the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Christ).
The shortest version of Paul’s message in verses 3–4 is to reverse the order:
Verse 4b: Jesus Christ’s act of obedience by going to the cross—and his subsequent resurrection—was an act of solidarity in behalf of a human race that had inherited a permanently fatal sentence of death from father Adam (Rom. 5:12, 19). His purpose was to provide a new life for all who would, by faith, identify with him and his act of obedience to the glory of the Father.
Verse 4a: When Jesus Christ died on the cross and was resurrected on our behalf, he provided a faith-focus for the believer. Just as those who looked upon the bronze serpent in the wilderness were saved (Num. 21:8–9), so any who look upon the cross of Christ are saved today (John 3:14–15). We were not crucified and buried; Christ was. But when we are baptized as believers-in-what-he-did, we are baptized into—immersed in, made partakers of—[his] death in order that … we too may live a new life.
Verse 3: “Don’t you know this?” Paul seems to be saying. “Don’t you know that you died to sin when you believed in Christ who died to the condemnation of sin that was yours? When you were baptized, you were baptized into his death.”
Remember: these statements of Paul’s are in answer to the question of his fictional opponent, “Shall we go on sinning?” (v. 1). He is answering, in essence, by saying that your baptism proves that you died to sin: “How can you possibly continue in something to which you died?” The believer who has died to sin has also been raised to live a new life. Sin was the old life, and your baptism means you agreed to be identified with a new life. How can you possibly think of leaving your new life and going back to your old life?
Baptism in the New Testament—and we are living in the era of the New Testament—is as close to getting saved by works without doing so as one can get. This is why some have misinterpreted verses in the New Testament and suggested that there is a connection between physical baptism and spiritual regeneration. There is not! Salvation is by faith alone. But when Peter says, “Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name” (Acts 22:16; emphasis added) and “baptism that now saves you” (1 Pet. 3:21), it is not difficult to see the parallels between faith and baptism—but like railroad tracks, they remain parallel, never converging. Paul’s words to the Philippian jailer connect the two more clearly: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved … then immediately he and all his family were baptized” (Acts 16:31–33; emphasis added).
The reason for the immediacy of baptism following conversion is because of what Paul explains in Romans 6:3–4. Baptism puts the believer physically, emotionally, and spiritually in touch with the object of his or her faith—the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ who was crucified for them, in the following manner:
Paul’s final words of verse 4—we too may live a new life—are the focus of his continuing explanation in verses 5–7: the purpose of death is to be freed from sin; to live a life no longer enslaved to the power, shame, and judicial guilt of sin, but a life “enslaved” to righteousness.
A submission of the will to the Father’s plan; a choice to die; death on a cross.
Agreement of the will with the Father’s judgment: “I deserve to die and accept God’s just decision and his merciful provision;” the point of conversion by faith for the believer.
The experience of being covered by death in a tomb or the “earth.” Christ took upon himself the sins of the world but in death was separated from sin as a master or condemner. Sin has no power over the dead.
Waters of baptism “cover” the believer as a picture of burial in a tomb or the earth. As Christ was separated and freed from the sins of the world in death, so the believer is symbolically freed from sin as a master.
Christ was resurrected from the dead to a “new life.”
As the believer comes out of the waters of baptism, a new life is begun.
Kenneth Boa and William Kruidenier, Romans, vol. 6, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 187–190.
Buried with Jesus In Baptism
Colossians 2:12 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.
2:11–13a. Jesus Christ is fully God, and we are full in him. But what does spiritual fullness mean? How is it ours? In verses 11–15, Paul completes the argument of verses 9–10. Paul begins his explanation of fullness with complete salvation. The metaphors Paul chooses to explain our full salvation are circumcision and baptism. The point of these metaphors is that we are saved totally and exclusively through the work of God, not through any human activity.
No religious ritual can make us alive with Christ. Paul picks two familiar rituals in these verses, but he clearly is not talking about the physical acts of circumcision and baptism. Instead, he is talking about the spiritual reality behind the physical rite. The Jews were masters at physical rites. In Genesis 17, God instituted circumcision as a physical sign of the Abrahamic covenant. Every male was to be circumcised as tangible testimony that he was in a covenant relationship with Yahweh. The Jews began mistakenly to think that the physical ritual was sufficient all by itself.
The Bible is clear even in the Old Testament (Deut. 10:16; 30:6) that physical circumcision saves no one. This becomes even more unmistakable in the New Testament (Rom. 2:28–29). The circumcision Paul is talking about in Colossians 2:11 is the spiritual operation of putting away or cutting away—not of a piece of flesh—but the putting off of the “sinful nature” (niv) or the “old man” as it is referred to in Romans 6. What we were in Adam—sinful, fallen, corrupt—Christ destroyed. This happened at the moment of salvation when we were spiritually baptized into Jesus Christ. The baptism Paul is talking about (v. 12) is the spiritual baptism where we are united and identified with Christ in his death, burial, and resurrection (Rom. 6:1–7).
How does the putting off of the sinful nature take place? Is it a simple outpatient procedure that can be done in virtually any medical clinic? No. For all our modern medical sophistication, no surgery can cut out our sinful nature and give us new life. This is an operation only God can perform. Paul tells us it is not done by the hands of men (v. 11).—Max Anders, Galatians-Colossians, vol. 8, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999), 306.
Washed and Sanctified
1 Corinthians 6:11 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
11 And such were some of you; but you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
6:11. Many of the believers in Corinth once lived in these patterns of life, but Christ had changed them so they became much more reliable as judges of disputes within the church. Since these patterns of life were in the past for those who truly believed, they could take confidence that they would inherit the kingdom of God. Those believers who still fell into these sins needed to remember that their new identities in Christ (what some of you were) protected them from judgment. At the same time, their new identities also required that they live no longer like the wicked, but like believers.
Believers are washed, cleansed from sin through faith in Christ as symbolized in baptism (Acts 9:17–18). They are sanctified, set apart from the world and brought into relationship with God (Acts 20:32; 26:18). They have been justified, declared innocent before God (Rom. 3:24; Gal. 2:16; Titus 3:7). This blessing comes to believers in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ as they call on Jesus’ name and rely upon him for their salvation. They also come by the Spirit of our God as the Holy Spirit applies the work of Christ to believers (Rom. 15:16; Eph. 1:13–14; Titus 3:5). Followers of Christ differ fundamentally from the sinful world around them. Therefore, believers should not make it their practice to bring their lawsuits against one another before unbelievers.—Richard L. Pratt Jr, I & II Corinthians, vol. 7, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 90.
Baptized into One Body
1 Corinthians 12:13 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
13 For by one spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink one spirit.
12:12–13. The apostle issued three statements which set up the basic structure of his analogy. First, the human body is a unit. It is one body, even though it has many parts. Second, just as one human body has many parts, so it is with the body of Christ. Paul often called the church “the body of Christ” (Rom. 7:4). Here he pointed to the unity in diversity that exists in the church as Christ’s body. Third, Paul explained how Christ’s body resembles the human body. To emphasize the diversity within the church, he mentioned racial and social diversity first; Jews, Greeks, slave, and free all contribute to the church. No matter what had previously separated these people, they all had been joined together in one body by means of the one Spirit.
Paul emphasized two experiences of the Holy Spirit that all believers share and that bring unity among them: (1) they are all baptized by one Spirit; and (2) they are all given the one Spirit to drink. Many interpreters argue that Paul was not referring to baptism and the Lord’s Supper. They divide baptism of the Holy Spirit from water baptism, and note that drinking of the Spirit is a metaphor for receiving the Spirit at conversion (John 7:37–39).
Also, in the modern church people often profess faith in Christ and remain unbaptized for long periods of time. As regenerate believers they have the Holy Spirit even though they have not been baptized. Thus, interpreters hesitate to equate baptized too closely with given the one Spirit. Further, no account of the Lord’s Supper refers to partaking of the Holy Spirit in the cup.
Even so, the text implies these ordinances and the New Testament church could hardly have conceived that followers of Christ would remain unbaptized or refrain from participating in the Lord’s Supper. Such believers would have been considered odd (Acts 10:47–48). These ordinances were signs and seals of the new covenant that all true believers were expected to undergo. For this reason, Paul spoke of baptism and the Lord’s Supper as experiences shared by all true believers that symbolized their union with one another in the Spirit and in the body of Christ.
Note the way these verses present Paul’s argument. Specifically, Paul assumed the unity of the church on the basis of the Spirit. Verses 14–24a especially do not argue for the church’s unity so much as they assume it. They argue for diversity. In the modern, fragmented church, many people consider diversity an obstacle to be overcome in the quest for unity. But from Paul’s perspective, unity was to be sought in the Spirit, not in uniformity. The church’s fullness and ability to function properly depend upon its diverse manifestations of the Spirit.—Richard L. Pratt Jr, I & II Corinthians, vol. 7, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 217–218.
Through the Washing of Regeneration
Titus 3:5 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
5 he saved us, not by deeds of righteousness that we have done, but because of his mercy, through the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit,
 Regeneration (Rebirth), Born Again, Born of God, Born of the Spirit: (Gr. palingenesiai; gennaō anōthen; gennaō theos; gennaō pneuma) 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, affecting our emotions, behavior, and 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.’ (Pro. 2:5-6) As he acquires the mind inundated with God’s Word, he must also “be doers of the Word.”–John 3:3; 6-7; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Titus 3:5; James 1:22-25.
3:5–6. Jesus, in these actual events, gained salvation for all people who believe. Rescuing us from the grip of corruption, he saved us.
The work of salvation comes solely from God’s mercy, not because of righteous things we had done. As Isaiah 64:6 states, “All our righteous acts are like filthy rags.” We can contrive no goodness by which to attain the favor or forgiveness of God. Salvation comes independent of human effort or desire. God initiates, acts, and pursues because of his mercy.
Salvation comes through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. These terms explain, in part, the complex activities which faith in Christ generates. The washing of rebirth refers to the cleansing from sin which results from trust in Jesus Christ. This purification of the sound spirit brings life. No longer living on a purely natural or physical level, believers are transformed from spirit-death to spirit-life. They count themselves “dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 6:11). Renewal carries the same idea, that a person has come into a new existence, both in this life and for eternity. The Holy Spirit participates in Salvador, establishing his presence in the soul and enabling each person to act in true righteousness.
God has poured out this Holy Spirit on us generously. God always acts in extravagance, and his gift of the Spirit to those who believe demonstrates his greatest liberality. Not only has he rescued us from the frustrations and enslavements of sin; he has assured a spiritual power and development that would lie beyond us without his personal interaction. The Spirit enables us to follow in the ways of Christ.—Knute Larson, I & II Thessalonians, I & II Timothy, Titus, Philemon, vol. 9, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 382–383.
Offer Sacrifices Clean and Undefiled
Hebrews 10:22 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
10:22. We can now approach God and have the mercy and grace of our High Priest standing over us. This blessing brings us many privileges. The next three verses contain three exhortations.
The first exhortation is for believers to draw near to God in an expression of personal devotion. Four conditions for approaching God are given.
First, we are to come with a sincere heart. This calls for genuine devotion rather than hypocrisy. Second, we are to come in full assurance of faith. This demands a bold confidence that God has provided full access to his presence through Christ alone. Third, we are to have our hearts sprinkled … from a guilty conscience. This demands constant confession of our sins and openness to God. Finally we are to have our bodies washed with pure water. This may be a reference to baptism as an outward commitment to Christ, or it might be symbolic as is the previous reference to hearts sprinkled with blood. If it is symbolic, the hearts sprinkled from a guilty conscience would picture our salvation, and our bodies washed would symbolize a righteous lifestyle. In this new state of purity made possible by Jesus, believers can come boldly to God and claim his grace and mercy.—Thomas D. Lea, Hebrews, James, vol. 10, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999), 186.
Baptism Now Saves You?
1 Peter 3:21 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
21 Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the flesh but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Verse 21 has also generated great debate. This writer believes that Peter used the historical account of Noah and his family as an analogy for the triumphant salvation provided through Christ. His reference to baptism, however, is not water baptism. The flood waters did not save Noah—quite the opposite. The waters of the flood destroyed everyone in judgment. Noah passed through those waters safely because he and his family were placed securely in the ark. Water baptism does not fit the picture and is not the point.
The point of the analogy becomes clear when we recall that when a person accepts Jesus Christ as personal Savior, he or she is placed into “the body of Christ.” At that moment the Holy Spirit enters that person’s life as a permanent resident. This action is described in the New Testament as “the baptism of the Holy Spirit” (see 1 Cor. 12:13). This is Peter’s emphasis. When you accept Christ, you are placed spiritually in Christ. As this occurs, you stand before God with a “good conscience” (v. 21) because your sins have been forgiven. Water baptism does not provide a person with a clear conscience before God; baptism by the Holy Spirit does.—David Walls and Max Anders, I & II Peter, I, II & III John, Jude, vol. 11, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999), 57.
Keep Walking in Divine Light
1 John 1:7 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
7 but if we are walking in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.
1:7. On the other hand, when we walk in the light (live in light of truth, knowledge, and righteousness), two things happen. First, we have fellowship with one another. Some commentators teach that the fellowship is with other Christians. If so, the sense would be, “If we walk in truth, knowledge, and righteousness, we have full fellowship with other Christians who do the same.” On the other hand, other commentators reject that interpretation for grammatical reasons. The Greek pronoun for “one another” (allelon), they say, would normally refer to the two parties named in the first part of the statement (God and the Christian). If so, the sense would be, “If we walk in truth, knowledge, and righteousness, we have fellowship with God who is light and has no darkness.”
The second thing that happens when we live in the light is that the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. This strengthens the interpretation that the fellowship is between God and the Christian. It seems less connected to suggest that when we walk in the light, we have fellowship with Christians and the blood of Jesus purifies us from sin. It seems more natural to suggest that when we walk in the light, we have fellowship with God and are cleansed by God from every sin. It would certainly also be true that if we are walking in the light, we would have fellowship with other Christians, so no great doctrinal truth is lost regardless of which way this verse is interpreted.
To be “purified from all sin” does not suggest that if a believer does not walk in the light, his sins are not forgiven in the judicial sense. Nor does it mean that all believers are completely freed from all sin. Rather, the verb is in the present tense, suggesting a continuous and progressive action. It might include the forgiveness and purification from all past sin at the moment of salvation. But because of the present tense, it goes further to suggest that those who are walking in the light have sin’s defilement removed and that they experience a progressive sanctification—a progressive character transformation into the image of Jesus.
All sin means every kind of sin and shows there is no limit to the categories of sin that Christ is willing to forgive. His sacrificial death made every type of sin forgivable —David Walls and Max Anders, I & II Peter, I, II & III John, Jude, vol. 11, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999), 156–157.
Jesus Christ, the Faithful Witness
Revelation 1:5 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
5 and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has set us free from our sins by his blood.
1:5a. Jesus Christ equally provides divine grace and peace. He is described in three ways. He is the faithful witness, a reference to Jesus’ work as a Prophet, revealing God’s Word both during his earthly ministry and in the present book. Next he is the firstborn from the dead, a reminder of his death and resurrection. Perhaps we may think of Jesus’ work as Priest here; he is the one now in heaven on behalf of his people. (Rev. 5 expands this by portraying Jesus as the slaughtered Lamb in heaven.) Finally, he is the ruler of the kings of the earth, an obvious reference to his sovereign role as King, in contrast to the Roman emperors who thought they were in control. (Rev. 19 shows Jesus as the conquering King.) After this point in Revelation, John prefers the name “Jesus” or “Lord Jesus” instead of “Jesus Christ.”
1:5b–6. All Persons of the Trinity send grace and peace. Jesus in particular is named as the one to receive glory and power for ever and ever. John now bursts into a hymn of praise to Jesus, a doxology Glory and words for power are linked several times in Revelation (see also 4:11; 5:12, 13; 7:12; 15:8, 19:1). They are attributed both to God the Father and to Jesus the Son. In the present context, Jesus is worthy for three specific deeds: he loves us, he freed us from our sins, and he made us to be a kingdom and priests. The verb love is a form that could be translated “keeps on loving.” The us means “his servants” (v. 1).
In the Old Testament, Israel was set free in the context of the death of the Passover lamb. In the New Testament, as Revelation 5:9 clarifies, “You [Jesus, the Lamb on the throne] were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.” Revelation 7:14, the only other text in Revelation in which blood refers to the death of Jesus, uses the startling image of cleansing through being dipped in the Lamb’s blood.
An important Old Testament designation for the Israelites after their exodus from Egypt, kingdom and priests (Exod. 19:6), is now transferred to “us.” If Jesus is King over earthly kings (v. 5), he is especially King over the kingdom of God. If he is the Priest now in heaven on behalf of his people, he has a multitude of priests on earth to serve his God and Father. These priests are not a specialized clergy class, but include all of “us.”—Kendell H. Easley, Revelation, vol. 12, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998), 14–15.
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 Paige Patterson, “Baptism,” ed. Chad Brand et al., Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003), 166–168.
 John B. Polhill, Acts, vol. 26, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 461.