Twisting Acts 2:38 – The Question of Baptism by Water for Salvation by Craig Branch
SOURCE: One of the most common methods cult leaders use to establish their false doctrine is to employ segmented text attention. That is, isolating verses which on the surface seem to the novice Bible student, to affirm the cult’s doctrine.
In line with the cult’s false gospel of works as opposed to grace (Romans 11:6), in order to be justified (declared righteous) before God, many cults teach that one of several necessary steps to becoming saved is to be baptized in water. This inevitably removes the focus from Christ’s finished work and imputed righteousness to the individual (faith in Christ alone by grace alone), and subtlety or overtly leads to the conclusion that “official” baptism by and into the cult (the one and only true church) actually will save.
There are about eight main verses that the cults use as proof-texts for their doctrine of baptismal regeneration, but the most popular is Acts 2:38, “And Peter said to them, `Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.'”
Notice that on the surface it seems to prove their point, but not when one applies sound principles of interpretation. Remember the question to always ask is, “What does the passage mean“, not, “What does it say?”. For instance, Jesus seems to say in Luke 14:33 that one cannot be a disciple (Christian) unless he first gives away all his possessions. Obviously we have to interpret the verse in light of the context and in relation to the rest of Scripture.
First is the historical context. Jesus and the Gentile converts to Judaism were very familiar with the symbol of baptism for cleansing and separation. It was normal practice (Unger’s Bible Dictionary, p. 122; New Bible Dictionary, Douglas, p. 131). John the Baptist continued the symbol of baptismal cleansing of repentance, but noted there was a baptism which superseded it — that is baptism with the Holy Spirit (Mark 1:8).
The grammatical context is also important. A key word in Acts 2:38 for the baptismal salvation proponents is “for”; “baptized… for the forgiveness of sins.” They insist that the meaning be interpreted “in order to obtain” the forgiveness of sins. The problem with this insistence is that the word “for” (eis, in Greek) has several connotations in New Testament Koine Greek. Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament says that eis is a versatile word which primarily “denotes entrance into, or direction and limit: into, to, toward, for, among,” (p. 183).
In other words the symbol of baptism could either be pointing towards the cleansing and forgiveness (with reference to), or could pointing to the actual procuring of forgiveness (in order to).
Renowned Greek scholar A. T. Robertson states that not only does eis signify “aim or purpose” (in order to) as in 1 Corinthians 2:7, it can just as well mean “on the basis or ground of (with reference to), Matthew 10:41; 12:41.
He states that, “the illustrations of both usages are numerous in the New Testament and the Koine (New Testament Greek) generally.
“One will decide the use here (Acts 2:38) according as he believes that baptism is essential to the remission of sins or not. My view is decidedly against the idea that Peter, Paul, or any one in the New Testament taught baptism as essential to the remission of sins…” (Word Pictures of the New Testament, pp. 35-36).
Why do the overwhelming percentage of Greek scholars agree with Robertson? Because the rest of Scripture refutes baptismal regeneration. All one has to do is read Acts 10, concerning the account of Peter taking the gospel (which saves, Romans 1:16), to Cornelius and the Gentiles. As Peter proceeds through the gospel message (vs. 34-43), the Scriptures relate that the gift of the Holy Spirit was received upon believing by these Gentiles before they were baptized in water (10:44-48; 11:17-18). Additionally, the Scripture teaches that this is the same way all are saved (Acts 11:15-18, 15:7-11).
Posted on September 22, 2015, in Baptism Prooftext and tagged acts 2:38, acts 2:38 and church of christ, Baptismal Regeneration, church of christ, church of christ salvation, water baptism, water salvation. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.