Thursday, February 5, 2009
Baptism and the Believer
Acts 2:38 - "Repent and be baptized, every one of you in the name of Jesus for the remission of your sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost."
Possibly, no other verse has been misinterpreted and misapplied in all of Scripture than this one. Was Peter saying that you must be baptized in order to have your sins washed away? That is what some denominations teach. Others use this verse to teach that you must not only be baptized in water, but you must also be baptized with the Holy Ghost and give the evidence of speaking in tongues to be saved. So who is right? Are either one right? I believe the answer is no. You must study the Word of God in context as a whole book. You cannot take one verse here and there and build a major doctrine upon it, if you are going to rightly divide the word of truth, as 2 Timothy 2:15 tells us. So what was Peter saying?
First, you must look at the Greek language in which the New Testament was originally written. As is the case also, with Mark 16:16, repentance is in the active tense and baptize is in the passive tense. In other words, the emphasis is always on repentance. Second, you must look at the Greek word, "eis," translated "for." Because this verse hinges on that preposition. The Greek word, "eis," can mean, "in order to," or "because of." Translate it as "in order to," and you get, "in order to have your sins remitted." But translate it as "because of," and you get, "because your sins have been remitted."
If Peter spoke these words, he must have said other things about baptism and salvation. Right? Yes he did! In Acts 3:19, he said, "Repent and be converted," with no mention of baptism. He clarifies the position of the Apostles, which was also the position of Christ, in 1 Peter 3:21. He says in essence that baptism is a picture and is not for the putting away of the filth of the flesh. In other words, "Repent, be converted, let Christ was away your sins; and then be baptized because this has happened."
This is in accord with Titus 3:5, which tells us that it is "Not by works of righteousness, which we have done, but according to His mercy He has saved us." And Ephesians 2:9, which states, "It is the gift of God. Not of works lest any man should boast."
Now, is this to say that baptism is not important? Absolutely not! Christ walked 50miles one way to be baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan River. Why? Did he have sins which needed to be washed away? God Forbid! He was identifying with the believing remnant. When we are baptized, we are identified with Christ and other believers. We are saying that our old life is buried and gone, and we are raised to walk in a new life with Christ. It is something every Christian should do, but not to be saved, but because they are. So, trust Christ; repent of sins; accept His free gift; and then be baptized because of it.