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Twisting Acts 2:38 – The Question of Baptism by Water for Salvation by Craig Branch

acts 238 salvation waterSOURCE: 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.

The “doctrine of demons” (1 Timothy 4:1) seeks to undermine the Person and work of Christ (i.e., a different Jesus and a different gospel, 2 Corinthians 11:3-4).

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.

Several groups teach baptismal salvation. Among them are Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Armstrong’s Worldwide Church of God, United Pentecostals, and many Churches of Christ.

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 John the Baptist continued the symbol of baptismal cleansing of repentance, but noted there was a baptism which superseded it — that is baptism with the Holy Spirit (Mark 1:8).

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Baptismal Regeneration/Water Baptism Salvation – Reduced to Absurdity

absurd

Have you ever been in a forum and someone post something like this?

Mar 16:16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.

Act 2:38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Joh 3:5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

1Pe 3:21 The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:

Sometimes they will not even copy and paste the verses and will just list them like this Mark 16:16, Acts 2:38, John 3:5 and 1 Peter 3:21 – and rarely do they add any commentary – they just throw them out there like they prove the necessity of baptism for salvation. Not only is this a prime example of proof-texting and contextomony, there is also something very absurd about this methodology that people use to try to prove water baptism is required for salvation.

A Reduction to Absurdity is a form of argumentation that the apostle Paul often employed. Wikipedia states: “A Reductio ad Absurdum (Reduction to Absurdity) is used to demonstrate that a statement is false by showing that a false, untenable, or absurd result follows from its acceptance”. So how does proof-texting in the above manner result in an absurdity? It results in taking a few verses, or sometimes as many as a dozen verses, completely out of context of what the rest of the Bible says about Salvation.

One site counts over 31,000 verses in the OT and NT together. And by myopically focusing on a handful of verses, these are a few things that are omitted by this “water gospel”. God has always had a plan of salvation. That plan is and always has been that salvation is by grace and mercy through faith in Christ.

The Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world was slain before the foundations of this world. So we see Gods plan before He formed the earth was that He would send His Son to reconcile the world to Himself. This is played out all the way through scripture. In Genesis we see the gospel of grace in proto-type form when God killed animals (shed blood) to cover Adam and Eve and promised that through their seed the head of the serpent would be crushed. Then we see Abraham being justified before God by faith in Gen. 15, before the law, before he was circumcised (Romans 4) and before he was obedient to offer up Isaac (Gen 20). God would send Jesus to make atonement for sin and the expiation of sin. This is seen in the offering of sacrifices for sin in the OT and is vividly seen in the Day of Atonement which looked forward to Jesus’s fulfillment of the law and the prophets which would fulfil the Salvation Plan of God. By faith they looked forward to Jesus’s atonement and we look back.

And in the NT there is much more overlooked by this proof-texting methodology. In the Book of John (which was written so that we “may know that ye have eternal life”) Jesus says 11 times that those who believe in Him HAVE (present tense) eternal life and HAVE (past tense) moved from death and condemnation to life in Him. There are 4 NT books that focus on salvation Romans, Galatians, Ephesians and Hebrews that all agree salvation is by grace and the sacrifice of Christ. There are well over 100 NT verses that say we are justified or saved by faith in Christ Jesus. There are dozens that say we are not saved by works. And scripture says several times that salvation is a gift from God (Romans 6:23, Ephesians 2:8-9 etc.).

So when you step back and consider all that the scripture says about salvation you can see the absurdity and danger of focusing on a handful of verses.

Some who use this methodology might say “All I have to do is post scripture and you have to prove they don’t mean what they say”. That is flat out wrong. By posting these verses as proof-text the poster has the obligation to prove the doctrine they are asserting by doing so. And when you get down to the nitty gritty and examine their proof-texts none of them actually teach water baptism is necessary to be saved. Some of them are not even speaking of baptism or water at all.