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Liberty University

Baptism and The Early Church Practice According to the Acts of the Apostles

A paper submitted to Dr. Hudson

In partial fulfillment of the Requirements for

the course NBST 522

Liberty Theological seminary


Christopher W. Myers


Lynchburg, Virginia

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Table of Contents

Introduction- 3

The Greek- 3

Mode- 5

Spiritual Baptism-- 7

The Meaning of Baptism-- 8

Salvation and Baptism-- 11

John 3:5- 16

Participators in Baptism-- 19

For Today's Church: A Conclusion- 20

Bibliography- 23


       One of the most hotly debated topics within the church today is the issue of baptism.  Churches have been divided over such issues as mode, meaning, purpose, and who may partake in the New Testament ordinance of baptism.  Believers even argue if baptism is an ordinance or a sacrament!  This paper seeks to show that there is a physical baptism and there is a spiritual baptism.  Spiritual baptism is the reality that the physical baptism is portraying.  The purpose for this portrayal of the spiritual is necessary to understand the meaning of the physical baptism both for the believer and the witnesses.  The purpose of baptism explains who may be baptized and why they should be baptized and the meaning of baptism brings the understanding of the proper mode for baptism.  The baptism of the Spirit is not a separate circumstance from the spiritual reality of baptism. A survey of the use of baptism in the Book of Acts will serve to guide the discussion on these matters of baptism.

The Greek 

       The Greek action verb for "to baptize" is βαπτίζω (baptizo) and occurs 80 times in the New Testament and 21 times in Acts.[1]  Baptizo is derived from the Greek word bapto, which means to dip or immerse.  Hence baptizo in its normal sense is to be translated to fully whelm (i.e.wet) as "to wash."[2]  In a rare circumstance in Hebrews 9:10 the word is used to describe various Jewish ceremonial washings.  The Jews had ceremonial washings that used all sorts of modes of washing such as: sprinkling, avulsion, and immersion.[3]  However, even the ancient Reformists such as Luther and Calvin acknowledged the normative use of baptizo to mean immersion.[4]

       The Septuagint uses baptizo to translate the Hebrew לבט (taval).  It is found translated this way four times in the Septuagint (LXX): two times in the Apocryphal books of Judith and Ecclesiasticus and two times in the canonical books II Kings and Isaiah.[5]  The Hebrew taval means "to dip" or "to plunge into."[6]  The LXX of Isaiah 21:4 confirm our definition of the Greek translation of baptizo.  It says, "My heart wanders and transgression overwhelms me; my soul is occupied with fear."[7]  This shows us the genuine use of the word baptism where water is not involved.  Isaiah is so totally emotionally overtaken and overwhelmed by the frightful plights of his vision.  Isaiah is fully whelmed by his visionary experience and fully whelmed is the normative meaning of baptizo.

       The Greek noun for "baptism" is βάπτισμα (baptisma) and occurs 6 times in Acts.[8]  In every instance where it is found in Acts it refers directly to the baptism of John.  The baptism of John is also called the baptism of repentance.  The Christian ordinance of baptism is not the same as the baptism of John.  This is understood in Acts 19:3-5 where Paul finds out that some of John's disciples have only been baptized with John's baptism and Paul tells them, "John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus."[9]  And after John's disciples heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.  It can be shown from the gospels with much certainty[10] that John baptized by immersion and the accounts of Jesus' baptism fit the context best if immersion is understood.  Since Christian baptism builds on John's baptism, it is important to discuss the nature of the mode for Christian baptism.  Understanding John's baptism to use the mode of immersion definitely strengthens the hypothesis that Christian baptism should use the mode of immersion.  But weightier evidence lies with the Greek and the contexts of New Testament texts that allude to the mode of baptism.


       The Greek is clear that the mode for baptism, by its very definition of "fully whelmed" and the idea of being washed, is immersion.  This belief in the mode for baptism to be immersion is further strengthened when the meaning of baptism is understood and one understands immersion to best symbolize being "buried with Christ" and rising again with Him in His resurrection "to newness of life."[11]  Furthermore, many passages in the New Testament are understood best in context if immersion is the mode of baptism for the apostolic church.

      One of these passages is in Acts 8:36-38, where the story is told of Philip and the eunuch.  First, one must observe that they came to water while riding along in the chariot.  This is important because no doubt on this dry desert road journey, the eunuch had water for drinking, but this is not what was used, rather the eunuch saw a body of water and "Philip and the eunuch went down into the water."  It seems that immersion fits the context the best, since it would be fruitless to go into the water for sprinkling or avulsion, especially when either could have been accomplished with drinking water, but immersion could not.    

       However, it should be said here that nowhere in the New Testament is it commanded for someone to be baptized by immersion.[12]  Rather, it is more clear that baptism is fully a matter of the heart's intent and desires, and so, the mode although important for symbolism is not as important as the heart of the one being baptized. 

       A believer should choose immersion as their mode in baptism because physical baptism by immersion best symbolizes the work of Christ in one's life, which is the spiritual reality of baptism.  The meaning of Christian baptism is best understood through the writing of Paul to the Colossians in chapter two, and the epistle to the Romans in chapter six where he explains the spiritual meaning of baptism. 

Spiritual Baptism

       Paul explains spiritual baptism in two analogies throughout his corpus, one is with the symbol of circumcision and secondly, he uses the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ to illustrate the meaning of baptism.

       In Colossians 2:11-14, this is the one place in scripture where New Testament baptism is connected to the Old Testament ordinance of circumcision.  Notice, however, that Paul does not say baptism is the continuation of circumcision.  Rather he explains how spiritual circumcision describes the work of Christ in spiritual baptism completed by the Spirit in the elect. 

      First, we must come to the conclusion that the baptism of Colossians 2:12 is indeed describing the washing of the heart of man and not the physical aspect of water baptism that is commanded by Jesus in the Great Commission.  To understand this as Spirit baptism, two things must be manifest.  One, verses 11-12 of Colossians 2 is one Greek sentence.  It makes the best semantic sense if Paul is referring to both spiritual aspects of things within the same sentence.  We would expect Paul to denominate the baptism as that "with hands," or the like, if he meant a physical thing, when he was just developing thought on the spiritual thing of circumcision.  But the Greek construction tells us that Paul is continuing his thoughts on the spiritual aspects of regeneration using baptism to further make his point. 

     Secondly, the first part of the sentence is describing the spiritual aspect of an Old Testament ordinance.  Paul is describing a spiritual circumcision of man's heart that was prophesized by the prophet Ezekiel.[13] One done "without hands" and it is the work of Christ or as Paul put it "the circumcision of Christ."  Is it so surprising that Paul would talk this way about a physical ordinance?  It is this spiritual aspect of the ordinance that the prophet Jeremiah speaks of in his Spirit inspired work:

Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, and take away the foreskins of your heart, ye men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem: lest my fury come forth like fire, and burn that none can quench it, because of the evil of your doings.[14]

And then the prophet goes on to talk of a spiritual washing in the similar way as Paul speaks to the Colossians:

O Jerusalem, wash thine heart from wickedness, that thou mayest be saved. How long shall thy vain thoughts lodge within thee?[15]

Is the prophet talking of a physical washing to rid the people's sins?  No, rather it is the turning work of repentance that displays new character and hence new spirit. 

     With the manifestation of the New Covenant, Paul can make known the mysteries of the gospel that only the spiritual circumcision of Christ (Colossians 2:11) and the spiritual washing (baptism) of Christ (Colossians 2:12) can "put off the body of the sins of the flesh," which is the total work and power of God.  The operation of God to do these things is a display of his power that we must have faith in.  Therefore, the evidence weighs heavy towards the spiritual aspect of baptism being described here.

The Meaning of Baptism

       Baptism is likened to circumcision, in that, by circumcision the foreskin symbolizing the old man[16] of sin is put off by the work of Christ and in baptism the sins of old are nailed to the cross and die with Christ.  In Colossians 2:12-13, Paul explains how baptism better pictures the work of Christ over circumcision by relating Christ resurrection to the sinner's ability to rise again with Christ.  Now this rising again with Christ is not explicitly explained here in Colossians, it is more plainly defined in Romans 6 where Paul makes it known that we rise again with Christ to a new life, we become a new creation, a new creature and are freed from sin.[17]  Additionally, not only can the believer understand baptism to symbolize newness of life that ensures us the hope of the salvation of our souls from damnation, but also through the resurrection of Christ we have the hope of the redemption of our body.[18]  Christ is the firstfruits of those to be risen again at the day of the resurrection;[19] so all believers have the hope of glorified bodies.

       So in turning to Romans 6 to explain the resurrection of Christ in relation to the meaning of Christian baptism the objection can be given that Romans 6 does not explain the spiritual aspect of baptism, but merely what the physical rite of baptism accomplishes.  Of course, the question of baptism and salvation emerges.  First the objection to Romans 6 must be evaluated.  Notice two things here: one, that Paul is expounding here in Romans 6:1-14 one of the same exact subjects that he conquers in Colossians 2, being "dead to sin."  It can be argued that Paul was referring to the spiritual in Colossians, so it is probably not an exception here in Romans.  Secondly, Paul goes on to talk of being crucified with Christ and dieing with him so that believers may live with him in Romans 6:6-13 and he obviously means spiritually being crucified with him, so that believers may be spiritually alive to God.  Notice that this spiritual application is derived directly from his thoughts on baptism in Romans 6:3-5, so it follows that Paul is expounding the spiritual meaning of a physical baptism. 

       It does seem clear that Paul is telling us the spiritual meaning behind the physical baptism because of Paul's opening statements where he says, "Know ye not that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death."[20]  Some scholars contend that this "use" of baptizo can be likened to its use in I Corinthians 10:2.[21]

I Corinthians 10:2 reads, "all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea."[22]  In this sense baptizo seems to be used in the sense of "to be identified with," which is then connected to Romans 6:3 to say that believers were identified with Christ and His death.  But that is going beyond the lexical extent of baptizo and instead can be seen to be used in a metaphorical sense in I Corinthians 10:2 of the people passing through the Sea and moving with the Cloud and in both instances there is a good chance they were soaked with water after the matter.  But there is no need to try to read a metaphorical sense of baptizo into Romans 6:3, it seems to talk of the physical baptism with water and how this is a sign or symbolism of the spiritual work of Christ in you, just as the Old Covenant ordinance of circumcision was a physical sign of what should be an inward reality.

       Now, does Romans 6 mean that spiritual baptism occurs at physical baptism? Or stated another way, is baptism a prerequisite for salvation?  Because this topic could occupy the space of a book, this paper will evaluate the entire evidence provided in the Acts of the Apostles and various supplements to work toward a conclusion.

Salvation and Baptism

          The New Testament does not know of a Christian who was not baptized.[23]  The act of baptism was so closely tied with a first century believer's conversion experience that it is ashamed to think how Christians have alienated it from the conversion experience in this day and age.  The current day alienation of baptism from the conversion experience is one reason baptism has been so controversial and abused in the history of the church.  Many texts are used to support the theory that a person cannot be saved without a physical baptism.  Some of these texts are Acts 2:38, Acts 22:16, Mark 16:16, and I Peter 3:21, Galatians 3:27, and traditionally John 3:5. 

       First the examination of Acts 2:38:

Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.[24]

The argument arises that if baptism is for the remission of sins and a person must have their sins remitted in order to be a Christian saved from death, conclusively then you must be baptized in order to be saved.  In the Greek, the preposition translated "for" in the phrase "for the remission of sins" (εις αφεσιν των αμαρτιων υμων) is εις (eis).  Eis has the following lexical meanings, "into/unto, for/because, of/with reference to."[25]  If one decided to translate eis as "with reference to,"[26] which would give Peter's command a whole new meaning and would avoid the salvation and baptism debate.  But this is not its normative use and really it is going beyond the simple construction of the Greek and imposing a construction into the Greek that is not the "plain meaning" of the text.  Disregarding the translation of eis, here are three views of the text.

       One view is that the baptism to which Peter refers is a strictly spiritual baptism as Paul describes in Romans 6 and Colossians 2.  This view fits well with the theology of the New Testament, but it does not fit well with the meaning and obvious use of "baptism" in Acts.  This view also completely ignores the context because after Peter commands to repent and be baptized, the people go and become physically baptized.[27]

       Secondly, the view is that Peter means physical baptism exclusively.  This view fits the context well, but this view suggests that the works of man at baptism are required for the salvation of a soul.  This view does not fit the theology of baptism found throughout Acts.  For example, this view would propose that the Holy Spirit is only given at physical baptism, but Acts 10:47 says, “No one can withhold the water for these people to be baptized, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?”  These people have already received the Holy Spirit before baptism.  Can the Holy Spirit be received in the same way Peter did on Pentecost without being a believer (saved)?  Furthermore, Acts 10:43 says, "About him all the prophets testify, that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”  Did Peter forget about baptism this time? Why did he only mention faith?  Lastly, the words of Paul are recorded in Acts 13:38-39, "Therefore let it be known to you, brothers, that through this one forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by this one everyone who believes is justified from everything from which the law of Moses could not justify you."  The theology of Acts (along with the rest of the New Testament) is clear that salvation is a gift from God and is not conditioned by any work of man, lest anyone should boast, but is totally the work of God.  Therefore salvation cannot be procured from a physical water baptism, neither could water baptism be a condition to salvation.[28] 

       Thirdly, the view that seems to hold the most evidence is that for a first century believer and to Peter also, baptism was intricately connected to the conversion experience (it is not today), so to Peter the idea of baptism incorporates both the spiritual reality and the physical symbol.  This view would state that in Peter's mind he did not believe that physical baptism changed anything but the cleanliness of the flesh, but rather baptism is the physical response to God of the inward spiritual situation wrought by the resurrection of Christ Jesus. [29]

       Very similar to Acts 2:38 is the words of Peter in Acts 22:16 where the words of Ananias are recorded according to Paul's testimony of his conversion:

And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.[30]

Again, the premise is that one cannot be saved without having their sins washed away and this verse says that baptism washes your sins away.  If the conclusion is taken from the examination of Acts 2:38 is applied here, then one would see how the washing away of sins is totally a work of God and is not procured by man dipping other men in water, and so here is another example of how baptism is intricately connected to the conversion experience.  Paul knew that the great experience of the removal of the scales from his eyes and his immersion in water was a milestone in his life where he could draw the line separating his past life from his newness of life.  He knew by faith that he was born anew and from that moment of arising from the waters onward, Paul would walk in the ways of Christ Jesus. 

       Lastly, the argument is given that how can someone ignore the unanimous beliefs of the ancients who believed that baptism was a condition for salvation?  The answer could be put poignantly, where did you learn your church history?  Only through the Roman Catholic Church and their view of baptism as a sacrament was this view acclaimed and believed erroneously by many (even protestants to this day[31]).  Did Justin Martyr believe it in circa 160 AD?  Justin Martyr says: "There is no other way than this (for salvation): to become acquainted with this Christ, to be washed in the fountain spoken of by Isaiah for the remission of sins, and for the rest, to live sinless lives."[32]  Justin Martyr almost certainly was referring to Isaiah 41 where it is written:

16Thou shalt fan them, and the wind shall carry them away, and the whirlwind shall scatter them: and thou shalt rejoice in the LORD, and shalt glory in the Holy One of Israel.

 17When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue faileth for thirst, I the LORD will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them.

 18I will open rivers in high places, and fountains in the midst of the valleys: I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water. [33]

The same Hebrew word translated fountain is מעין (mag-yahn) and is only found one other time in Isaiah[34] in chapter 12:3 and the KJV translates the same word as "wells":

Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation.[35]

This fountain of Isaiah is the water that God provides; it is the salvation by Jesus Christ; it is the everlasting water that springs up from Jesus Christ, which He proclaimed to the Samaritan woman, " but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”[36]

       Justin Martyr speaks further on the prophecy of Isaiah:

"This washing of repentance and knowledge of God has been ordained on account of the transgression of God's people, as Isaiah cries.  Accordingly, we have believed and testify that the very baptism, which he announced is alone able to purify those who have repented.  And this is the water of life.... For what is the use of that baptism which cleanses only the flesh and body?  Baptize the soul from wrath and from covetousness, from envy, and from hatred,"[37]

Baptizing the soul is a spiritual matter and so the water of life that saves is of the Spirit of God and not the ordinance of men.  Justin Martyr understood this and he wrote much earlier than the fathers of the Catholic Church.

       Tertullian, writing in the early third century, is a product of the Catholic Church and believed in baptism as a sacrament, which was a condition for salvation regeneration.  However, he even recognized the spiritual baptism that precedes the physical:

That baptismal washing is a sealing of faith, which faith is begun and is commended by the faith of repentance.  We are not washed in order that we may cease sinning, but because we have ceased, since in heart we have been bathed already.  For the first baptism of a heart is this: a perfect fear of the Lord......[38]

      Lastly, in the middle of the third century the fathers concluded the correct spiritual nature of baptism in the Treatise on Re-Baptism:

Our salvation is founded in the baptism of the Spirit, which for the most part is associated with the baptism of water.[39]

This quote best embodies the belief that the early church so closely connected Spirit baptism with the physical, this paper proposes that this was able to be so closely associated because the early church practiced baptism at the conversion experience.  Today it is replaced among many evangelical by the altar call, which is our modern day equivalent to something like an ordinance at the conversion experience.  Should Christians go back to this early church practice of baptism at conversion?  More on this will be discussed later.

John 3:5

       The belief of the early Catholic Church rooted their theology of sacramental baptism in their interpretation of John 3:5.  So a brief discussion is necessary to see the Old Testament relation to this verse.  It must be recognized that Jesus is talking to a learned theologian, Nicodemus, a Pharisee.  Jesus answers Nicodemus concerning being born again,[40]

“I tell you the solemn truth, unless a person is born of water and spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must all be born from above.’  The wind blows wherever it will, and you hear the sound it makes, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit."[41]      

It must first be noticed in this passage that the same Greek word translated "spirit" is also translated "wind."  So Jesus seems to be giving Nicodemus a play-on-words here concerning that Greek nuance.  And he does this because of Nicodemus' knowledge of the prophets.  The prophets have this same play-on-words, which Jesus uses here about wind and water.   Consider Ezekiel 37:9-10 on the wind or the "spirit":

Also He said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.”’” So I prophesied as He commanded me, and breath came into them, and they lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great army.[42]  

And consider Isaiah 44:3-5 on water and Spirit:

      For I will pour water on him who is thirsty,
      And floods on the dry ground;
      I will pour My Spirit on your descendants,
      And My blessing on your offspring;
      They will spring up among the grass
      Like willows by the watercourses.’
      One will say, ‘I am the LORD’s’;
      Another will call himself by the name of Jacob;
      Another will write with his hand, ‘The LORD’s,’
      And name himself by the name of Israel.[43]

In the prophets water and wind are pertinent examples of life giving symbols of the Spirit of God.  Both of these passages of the Old Testament deal with prophecies of the future restoration of Israel at the dawning of the Messianic kingdom.  This adds special weight in John 3 because Jesus is speaking of the entering of the Kingdom of God.  It is exegetically sound to draw this interpretation of what Jesus meant when he said "water and spirit (wind)" in lieu of imposing into His words "baptism and the Holy Spirit."  Furthermore, Nicodemus would have been knowledgeable of these symbols to which Jesus was communicating, but he would not have understood Jesus to mean Christian baptism, this practice came later after John's baptism, which was currently being practiced at this time.

       In closing this issue of salvation and baptism, it must be noted that this paper does not seek to belittle baptism as to make it insignificant or to label it as something not relevant to today's culture.  On the contrary, believer's baptism is a beautiful picture of Jesus work in all true Christians and it is a God-ordained ordinance of public confession that Jesus is Lord and Savior, and baptism, truly, should be the first step of faith for every believer in Christ today and everyday until Jesus returns.  And yes, a convert's salvation should be questioned when he understands the commandment of Christ to be baptized and does not desire to follow in obedience to Christ.  The believer's submission to Christ to make Him Master of his life should be exemplified and proven in baptism.  And so if someone is not willing to be baptized, then there is a heart issue that must be dealt with.  The answer, as always, is balance.  A biblically sound believer should not make baptism a sacrament because that would be unscriptural and in opposition to the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith alone.  Nor should one dispel baptism because it is not a condition for salvation because it most certainly is a condition for obedience to God.         

Participators in Baptism

       The belief of infant baptism was avoided in the discussion on the mode of baptism, and also in spiritual baptism and circumcision discussed herein.  Nonetheless, a believer's baptism has been assumed throughout this paper and the textual evidence on this issue in the Acts of the Apostles must be discussed.

       Christians who hold to infant baptism can only argue this view into the Acts texts by imposing their interpretation into the text.  Paedobaptist believe that Acts 16:15, 33 and 18:8[44] where it is recorded that believers and their households were baptized, must have included their infants.  Indeed, the majority of the evidence weighs against that claim.  Especially, in Acts 18:8 where Crispus and his household is baptized:

And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house; and many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized.[45]

Luke specifically tells us that Crispus and his household believed on the Lord and they were baptized.  So we know here in this instance that every household person had the ability to believe.  Also in this verse, the order is given.  They heard.  They believed.  They were baptized.  This text leaves no room for infant baptism and furthermore the following texts in Acts disallow it. 

       For example: in Acts 2:41, those who "gladly received the word" were baptized, and in Acts 8:12-13 after men and women and also Simon believed Philip's preaching, then they were baptized.  In Acts 10:47-48 those who already have received the Holy Spirit were baptized.  In Acts 16:14 Lydia had to respond to Paul's preaching and then she was baptized, it makes the most contextual sense that Lydia's household also responded in the same way she did before they were baptized.[46]

       Infant baptism only makes sense if baptism is seen as a sacrament, being a condition for salvation.  But as this paper has already discussed, physical baptism portrays the spiritual baptism that is totally a work of the Spirit in the conversion of "believers."  Believers are those who have the ability to have faith and so baptism cannot be for infants. 

For Today's Church: A Conclusion

       It must be noted here that the historical Jewish roots of baptism, along with the controversy of the receiving of the Holy Spirit at baptism could have been discussed in this paper if space were not an issue.  I strongly recommend Beasley-Murray's scholarly work in this paper's bibliography for further study on these topics.  The charismatic idea of baptism in the Holy Spirit and contrastly the idea of the equality of being baptized with the Holy Spirit and spiritual baptism[47] could have also taken the space of a book to discuss; I strongly encourage the book by Rick Walton in this paper's bibliography for further study on this topic. 

       The Lord's Supper is memorialized to remember the Sovereignty of God in providing salvation through the blood sacrifice of His Son.  But it is more than that!  It is to look at God in fear and recognize His great glory and holiness that we fall short of and to recognize our insignificance without Him.  It urges us to make Him Number One in our life, to make Him Master of our life.  It is a means of worship only because God's name is glorified.  The fame of His name is glorified because the salvation of decrepit sinners gives us a perfect view into His holiness and we must come to see, and smell, and feel, and hear, and taste this divine holiness in the ordinances of the church.  And so baptism must be worship.  It must glorify Christ.  It can do this by confessing the name of Christ as the eunuch did in Acts 8,[48] it can do this by remembering the work of Christ in our hearts, and it can do this by being a prayer to God the Father lipped by the believing witnesses and the one being baptized[49], and it can do this by being a dedication of one's life to Christ Jesus forever.  That dedication would be accepting Christ's Lordship forever in your life.

       And so as we think upon baptism as worship, we forget about anything that it can do for us and remember everything that it can do for God.  And it seems that this is the vision of the early church by placing baptism at the conversion experience.  The one being baptized might not understand the glory of God in baptism immediately, but surely a person of faith in Christ Jesus should be baptized immediately![50] Then the explanation of the beautiful meaning of baptism and the work of the Spirit of Christ in the heart of men would be understood and it would bring nothing but rejoicing[51] and cause the name of the Lord to be glorified.  The name of the Lord will be glorified in the person who is saved when that person understands his newness of life.  And those who are believers already and are witnesses of the baptism will glorify the name of the Lord and rejoice in reflection of their newness of life and the newness of life wrought in yet another saved sinner.  Baptism, then and only then, would become a sweet savor to the nostrils of God.  Yet again, Satan has taken something so beautiful and turned it into a controversy and the church fights over everything about baptism, letting it dash into pieces the unity of the body of Christ that Jesus prayed for in John 17.

    Now I lament with G.R. Beasley-Murray on how baptism is lacking in the church today:

Baptism in the name of the Lord Jesus, whatever else it came to imply, was in the earliest time a baptism 'for the sake of' the Lord Jesus and therefore in submission to Him as Lord and King.  He that in baptism 'calls on the name of the Lord' (Acts 22:16) undergoes baptism in a prayerful spirit; it becomes the supreme occasion and even vehicle of his yielding to the Lord Christ.  Here is an aspect of baptism to which justice has not been done in the Church since its earliest days: baptism as a means of prayer for acceptance with God and for full salvation from God, an 'instrument of surrender' of a man formerly at enmity with God but who has learned of the great Reconciliation, lays down his arms in total capitulation and enters into peace.  Baptism is peculiarly appropriate to express such a meaning, especially when the Pauline depth of significance is added to it.  No subsequent rite of the Church, such as confirmation, adequately replaces it.  The loss of this element in baptism is grievous and it needs to be regained if baptism is to mean to the modern Church what it did to the earliest Church.[52]


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Understanding Four Views on Baptism.  Counterpoints series edited by: Paul E. Engle and John H. Armstrong.  Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 2007.

Ryrie, Charles C. A Survey of Bible Doctrine.  Chicago: Moody Bible Institute, 1972.

Schreiner, Thomas R. and Wright, Shawn D.  Believer's Baptism: Sign of the New

Covenant in Christ.  NAC Studies in Bible and Theology Series edited by: E. Ray Clendenen.  Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2006.    

Septuagint with Apocrypha: Greek and English, The.  Sir Lancelot C.L. Brenton English

trans.  Hendrickson Publishers: eleventh printing, 2005.

Strong, James LL.D., S.T.D.  Strong's Complete Word Study Concordance: Expanded

Edition.  edited by Warren Baker.  Chatanooga: AMG Publishers, 2004.

Wallace, Daniel B.  Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New

Testament.  Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996.

Walton, Rick.  The Speaking in Tongues Controversy: The Initial, Physical Evidence of

the Baptism in the Holy Spirit Debate.  Xulon Press, 2003.

Wigram, George V.  The Englishman's Greek Concordance of the New Testament. 

       Peabody:  Hendrickson's Publishers, 2006.

Wigram, George V.  The Englishman's Hebrew and Chaldee Concordance of the Old

       Testament. 5th edition.  Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishers, 1970.


       [1] Wigram, George V.  The Englishman's Greek Concordance of the New Testament.  (Peabody:  Hendrickson's Publishers, 2006.)

       [2] Strong, James LL.D., S.T.D.  Strong's Complete Word Study Concordance: Expanded. edited by Warren Baker.  Chatanooga: AMG Publishers, 2004.

       [3] Ryrie, Charles C. A Survey of Bible Doctrine. (Chicago: Moody Bible Institute, 1972.)  II Kings 5:14 probably is the example of the "various washings" that the author to the Hebrews had in view in chapter nine and verse 10 of his work.    

       [4] Nettles, Thomas J. "Baptist View: Baptism as a Symbol of Christ's Saving Work"  Understanding Four Views on Baptism.  (Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 2007.)

       [5] Hatch, Edwin and Redpath, Henry A.  A Concordance to the Septuagint:  And the other Greek Versions of the Old Testament (Including the Apocryphal Books).  (2nd ed.  Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1998.)  See also the textual variations, which include baptizo as a translation for 5 additional passages of the Old Testament, pg. 190.

       [6] Key Word Study Bible.  King James Version.  (Chattanooga: AMG Publishers, 1991.) See Lexical Aids and Strong's Hebrew number 2881.

       [7] Septuagint with Apocrypha: Greek and English, The.  Sir Lancelot C.L. Brenton English trans.  Hendrickson Publishers: eleventh printing, 2005.

       [8] Wigram, George V.  The Englishman's Greek Concordance of the New Testament.  (Peabody:  Hendrickson's Publishers, 2006.) Acts 1:22, 10:37, 13:24, 18:25, 19:3-4 all of these passages refer to John's baptism of repentance.

       [9] Acts 19:4 NKJV

       [10] Although many paedobaptists still will argue this

       [11] See "The Meaning of Baptism" discussed below

       [12] Unless you were to translate baptizo as immersion and hence believe that the mode is commanded in the very definition of the Greek word.  But it seems that mode is not the main lexical view of the word, rather it also has in view the idea of cleansing or washing (which is best accomplished by immersion) because you only can wash every part of yourself by fully whelming your whole body with water!

       [13] Ezekiel 11:19, 36:26

       [14] Jeremiah 4:4 KJV

       [15] Jeremiah 4:14 KJV

       [16] cf. Romans 6:6, 2 Corinthians 5:17

       [17] Romans 6:7

       [18] Romans 8:23

       [19] I Corinthians 15:20

       [20] Romans 6:3 KJV

      [21] Namely, Spiros Zodhiates and Warren Baker, see their notes to the Key Word Study Bible.  King James Version.  (Chattanooga: AMG Publishers, 1991.)

       [22] New King James Version

       [23] The exception is the thief on the cross, of course.

       [24] NET Bible Translation

       [25] Bauer, Walter and Danker, Frederick William.  A Greek-English Lexicon of the New

Testament and Other Early Christian Literature.  3rd Edition. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001.) BDAG 290

       [26] The reason for deciding to translate it this way is because the text shifts from second personal plural to third person singular and then back to second person plural (this allows repunctuation in grammars).  But this would be an awkward way to translate the text.


       [27] Acts 2:41

       [28] Also these verses in Acts add to the understanding of the theology of baptism in Acts: Acts 13:48; 15:11; 16:30-31; 20:21, 26:18.  Another good discussion would be on the theology proposed by Mark 16:16 and how baptism for the remission of sins can be explained in lieu of the gospel parallels of the Great Commission in Matthew 28 and especially in Luke 24:46-49 (where it says that repentance and the remission of sins will be preached).  In addition Mark 16:16 would lead into the discussion of textual criticism and there just is not enough space in this paper to go in that direction at this time.  So we will confine ourselves to the discussion directly coming out of the text of the Acts of the Apostles.

       [29] For excellent support of this hypothesis see I Peter 3:21!

       [30] Acts 22:16 KJV c.f. Acts 9:18

       [31] Such as the ICOC

       [32] Bercot, David W.  A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs: A Reference Guide to More Than 700 Topics Discussed by the Early Church Fathers.  (Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 1998.) Found under Salvation: through Christ alone pg.574.

       [33] KJV

       [34]  Wigram, George V.  The Englishman's Hebrew and Chaldee Concordance of the Old Testament. 5th edition.  (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishers, 1970).  See pg. 742

       [35] Ibid.

       [36] John 4:14

       [37] Bercot, David W.  A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs: A Reference Guide to More Than 700 Topics Discussed by the Early Church Fathers.  (Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 1998.) Found under Baptism pg. 50.

       [38] Ibid. emphasis mine, pg. 53

       [39] Ibid. pg. 55

       [40] Literally in the Greek, "born from above."

       [41] NET Bible Translation

       [42] NKJV

       [43] Ibid

       [44] See Pratt in Understanding Four Views on Baptism. 

       [45] Acts 18:8 KJV

       [46] The best example is Acts 8:36-37, but Acts 8:37 is believed by the majority of scholars to be clearly not part of the originals, it is omitted in the earliest and best witnesses.  The Western text includes it and is known for such embellishments and therefore, it is significant in telling us a tradition of the early church and it does add to the evidence against infant baptism, but it greatly diminishes its weight as evidence since it is not Spirit-inspired material. (For further discussion see the Net Bible translation note on Acts 8:37)

       [47] Some of the texts in Acts dealing with baptism of the Holy Spirit are: Acts 1:5, 2:38, 8:16, 10:47-48, 11:16.

      [48] See Acts 8:37 and note 46 above.  '

     [49] See Acts 22:16, 'calling on the name of the Lord,' I think all would agree this is a prayer

      [50] Acts 16:33

       [51] Acts 8:39

       [52]  Beasley-Murray, G.R.  Baptism in the New Testament.  (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing, 1962.) pg. 101-102

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