Amazing Grace: Should We Re-baptize Baptists?

grace2.jpgWe had a bright, self-confident student intern working for my firm one summer. Inevitably, our discussions led to religion, and he was a devout Baptist. He really knew his stuff, and he enjoyed discussing his views on religion with me.

One day, while we were disputing over whether baptism is required for salvation, a fellow employee — another Baptist — happened by. She asked what we were discussing. In response to our reply, she said, “Well, of course you have to be baptized to be saved!”

Our intern was dumbstruck. He asked how a fellow Baptist could take such a view. She replied, “That’s what I’ve always been taught and what our pastor has taught us since I was a little girl.” She assured the intern that her church was a member of the Southern Baptist Convention in good standing.

We need to consider how broad baptism is. Baptism is immersion. But which immersions count and which do not? In other words, will the Baptists go to heaven? There. I’ve said it. One of the most controversial questions facing the Churches of Christ today is what to do with the Baptists. A very large percentage of the members of the Church of Christ who were not raised in the Church of Christ were converted from among the Baptists (and the Baptists have a great many former Church of Christ members).

While there are important differences in doctrine and practice, the similarities of the two groups are large. By far, the most important distinction is with regard to the two groups’ differing views of baptism. Many, maybe most, within the Churches of Christ believe that a penitent believer becomes a Christian only upon being baptized. So do many Baptists. Not all Baptists, but many of them.

You see, a great many Baptists have taken the view for many years that baptism is for the forgiveness of sins, in the same sense that the Churches of Christ have always understood it. In fact, this view seems to be spreading. But then, many other Baptists believe that baptism is in response to having already been saved at the moment of faith, or praying the “sinner’s prayer,” and thus is not essential to salvation.

As to those who have been baptized with the same purpose as us, on what theory can we deny that they are our brothers in Christ? They believe in Jesus, repent of their sins, were baptized for forgiveness of sins, go to church on Sundays, give more generously than we do (on average), and diligently evangelize their neighbors.

Our differences relate to doctrine and not faith. We disagree on instrumental music, the pastor system, the frequency of taking the Lord’s Supper,[1] “once saved, always saved,” and little else. We agree on church autonomy,[2] predestination, election, evangelism, inspiration of the Bible, the workings of the Holy Spirit (except for those of us taking the Word-only view), and most other doctrines.

Thus, we must believe that the Baptists are in error on some points, but it would be ridiculous to argue that those Baptists who disagree with us on any point necessarily do so in a rebellious, hard-hearted spirit. Those who so argue need to get out and meet the people they are criticizing. Baptists are not perfect, but neither are they rebellious and hardhearted, which is why so many of their books are in our libraries and taught in our Sunday school classes.

The question then boils down to those Baptists who have been immersed for some reason other than for forgiveness of sins. Does this immersion constitute New Testament baptism? If so, they are going to heaven on the same terms that we are — by grace.[3]

As always, the only authority that matters on this question is the Bible itself, and it speaks at length on baptism. Let’s start by agreeing on some elements of the doctrine of baptism:

1. Biblical baptism is immersion. The Churches of Christ and Baptists agree on this point.

2. Not just any immersion counts. Hearing, believing, confessing, repenting, and going for a swim doesn’t get it. You must be immersed for a Biblical reason. The purpose behind the immersion makes the getting wet a baptism.

3. The validity of baptism does not depend on who does the baptizing. You do not have to be immersed by a member of the Churches of Christ (or even a Christian) to be saved.

Imagine if this were true. Your baptism would not be effective unless the person baptizing you was saved at the moment you were baptized. But this means that a saved person must have baptized him. And so on. You would have to check out the spiritual genealogy of all baptizers to know if a baptism counted! Worse yet, all baptisms would have to be traced back to the apostles! After all, under this view only the apostles could initially have baptized anyone. Thereafter, only those baptized by an apostle could baptize. And so on. Once the chain is broken, no one could ever be saved again.

Thus, the only question is: what does the Bible say is an acceptable reason for being immersed? We will deal with this question in two phases. First, is our traditional argument — that the person being baptized must intend to receive forgiveness of his sins — valid? Second, if not, what other purposes might be sufficient?
We have traditionally argued that the only good baptism is a baptism for the purpose of obtaining forgiveness of sins. If you believe that your sins are forgiven upon attaining faith in Jesus, before baptism, as many Baptists do, then clearly you are not being baptized to obtain forgiveness.

Our disagreement with these Baptists centers on Acts 2:38:

Peter replied, “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.”[4]

The key phrase is “for the forgiveness of sins” or, in the American Standard Version,[5] “unto the forgiveness of sins.” If “for” or “unto” indicates the purpose of baptism in the mind of the believer, then this phrase would define an acceptable subjective intent. If “for” or “unto” defines the effect of baptism, that is, its result but not necessarily the believer’s purpose, then this verse does not define for us what the believer must be intending, and we will need to look elsewhere for a sufficient purpose.

After all, baptism has many effects that are not always intended or expected by the believer. Thousands have been baptized within the Churches of Christ with the expectation that the Holy Spirit’s actual indwelling would not be received, and yet each of these believers did receive it.[6] Their baptism was valid despite receiving something that was not only unexpected but also contrary to their understanding of baptism. They had a partially false understanding of the effect of baptism, but the baptism was nonetheless effective. If misunderstanding the effect of baptism as it relates to the Holy Spirit does not prevent the baptism from being effective, then why does misunderstanding the effect of baptism as it relates to when (not whether) sins are forgiven?

Acts 2:38 can only be read as requiring that the believer have forgiveness as his purpose in being baptized if the word translated “for” or “unto” has this meaning in this context. The Bible itself answers this question. Let’s look at every other place where similar phrasing is used and see what was intended in these other verses. The phrase in Acts 2:38 in the Greek is baptizo eis,[7] or “immerse” “into.” Each of the following verses contains virtually the identical form of the same phrase:

Matt. 28:19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit . . ..

Mark 1:4 And so John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

Luke 3:3 He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

Acts 8:16b [T]hey had simply been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus.

Acts 10:48 So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.

Acts 19:5 On hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus.

Rom. 6:3-4 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

1 Cor. 1:13-15 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul? I am thankful that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, so no one can say that you were baptized into my name.

1 Cor. 10:2 They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.

1 Cor. 12:13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body-whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free-and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.

Gal. 3:27 [F]or all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

Notice that, by far, the most common translation of baptizo eis is “baptize into.” Why is this? The correct translation of the Greek preposition eis is seen in Acts 8:38:

Acts 8:38 And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him.

Eis means into when it refers to immersion.[8] Remember that “baptize” is a technical church term that we invented long after the Bible was written. When Peter or Paul said “baptize,” their listeners and readers did not hear a technical term — they heard “immerse.”

It is readily conceded that in other contexts eis can mean something subtler, such as “unto” or “for.” But when you are talking about going under water, “into” is the most obvious translation, and no other meaning can be substituted if “into” makes sense.[9]

This is amply demonstrated by re-reviewing the verses quoted above. In every case, “into” could have been used by the translators and the verses would make perfect sense. Now try to substitute “for” or “in order to”[10] or any other phrase and see if it works. Moreover, in those verses that translate eis as “in,” “into” is clearly a better translation. In fact, the New International Version translators typically footnote it as an alternative translation.[11]

Matt. 28:19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them for the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

Acts 8:16b [T]hey had simply been baptized for the name of the Lord Jesus.

Acts 10:48 So he ordered that they be baptized for the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.

Acts 19:5 On hearing this, they were baptized for the name of the Lord Jesus.

Rom. 6:3-4 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized for Christ Jesus were baptized for his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism for death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

1 Cor. 1:13-15 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized for the name of Paul? I am thankful that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, so no one can say that you were baptized for my name.

1 Cor. 10:2 They were all baptized for Moses in the cloud and in the sea.

1 Cor. 12:13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit for one body-whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free-and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.

Gal. 3:27 [F]or all of you who were baptized for Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

Translating these verses as we would like to translate Acts 2:38 doesn’t make sense. Clearly, we should translate Acts 2:38 to be consistent with the meaning of the same words in similar contexts in other places in the New Testament. Thus Acts 2:38 should be translated-

be baptized into the forgiveness of sins.

or better yet-

be immersed into the forgiveness of sins.

What a beautiful word-picture! Peter tells us what baptism symbolizes: being immersed, totally and fully, into forgiveness of sins. This translation makes baptism come alive as a demonstration of what God is doing for us while we are being immersed. It is also what Peter’s listeners would have heard.

By peeling 2,000 years of church-talk veneer from Peter’s words and translating into simple English, we see exactly what he was saying, and it is powerful!

But Peter talks about the effect of baptism, not the intent of the person being baptized.

If we must bind “into forgiveness” as the necessary reason for being baptized, then we must bind all similarly phrased verses. Thus, no one is saved unless while being baptized he intended to be immersed into all of the following:

  • forgiveness of sins
  • the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit
  • the name of the Lord Jesus
  • the name of Jesus Christ
  • Christ Jesus
  • Christ Jesus’ death
  • one body by one Spirit

How many of our brothers and sisters were baptized for the express purpose of entering into one body by the Spirit? I have heard many preachers baptize in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, but I have been to many baptisms where these words were not used. Were those baptisms valid?[12]

There is no basis for saying that the language of Acts 2:38 imposes the one acceptable reason to be immersed. Certainly, we have shown that forgiveness of sins occurs at baptism. Acts 2:38 is extremely clear on this point.

But it is equally clear that we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit when we are baptized. I am persuaded that those who were baptized denying that they were receiving the Holy Sprit were not only saved, but received the Spirit. Just so, those who are baptized believing that they have already received forgiveness will receive forgiveness despite their incomplete understanding.

This brings us to the second leg of the argument. If Acts 2:38 tells us an effect of baptism, but not the purpose that the believer must have while being baptized, what does? After all, we have already agreed that not just any immersion counts.

I can only find one passage that clearly speaks in terms of what the believer intends while being baptized — the baptism of Jesus:

Matt. 3:13-17 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”

Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill[13] all righteousness.” Then John consented.

As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

The baptism of Jesus is one of only three events recorded in all four Gospels (the others being the feeding of the 5,000 and the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus). It is obviously a very important event. Why? Why, indeed, when before His baptism Jesus was already sinless, God’s Son, and well pleasing to God?

Verse 15 gives the reason: to fulfill all righteousness. What does this mean?

I’ve been amazed at the number of my students who have responded to this question by saying that Jesus was fulfilling prophecy. He was fulfilling righteousness, not prophecy. These are two very different things. He was “filling up” that which is right; he was doing the right thing.

And what makes something “right” or “righteous”? The only test of right-ness is the will of God. If Jesus was doing God’s will, he was doing what was right, and therefore fulfilling righteousness. If this was not God’s will, then he was not fulfilling righteousness.

Therefore, Jesus was baptized to obey God! Not for forgiveness of sins, not to receive the Holy Spirit, and not to become God’s Son, but to obey God. But why did God want Jesus to do this?

God wanted Jesus to set an example for His followers who were to come. And clearly, Jesus’ baptism is remarkably like our own. When we were baptized, these three things happened:

1. The Holy Spirit descended upon us from heaven.

2. God declared us to be His beloved son or daughter.

3. God declared that He is well pleased with us.

Jesus had no need for these things, but we did. And by learning about Jesus’ baptism, we graphically see what God did for us in our own baptism. Jesus is our perfect example, and He submitted humbly to an otherwise unnecessary baptism, because God willed it, to show us that we are not too good to submit and what submission means for us.

If Jesus was setting an example for us to follow, then being baptized to fulfill righteousness (or the same thought, to obey God) follows His perfect example.

I cannot find a Biblical justification for declaring that those Baptists who are baptized to obey God are not scripturally baptized. Their purpose is the same purpose that Jesus had. That is pretty good authority. Therefore, there is no Biblical justification for declaring these Baptists lost.[14]

And I can think of no greater blessing to God’s kingdom, all of God’s kingdom, than for the Churches of Christ and Baptist Churches to recognize one another as brothers and co-workers and to vigorously labor to learn from one another.

Should we merge churches? Don’t be ridiculous. There is only one church, and the Baptists and we are already in it. We might as well get used to it.[15]


[1] Most Baptists follow the traditional Calvinist practice of quarterly communions.
[2]
The Southern Baptist Convention is joined voluntarily and may be withdrawn from at any time. It does not set doctrine for its member churches. It does get into doctrinal disputes as to whom to appoint to the governing boards of colleges and other institutions that it supports, but the Baptists have many institutions that are independent of Convention control.

[3] The author’s views on grace and the distinction between faith and doctrine is set forth in detail in The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace. Other works to the effect that doctrinal differences will not prevent properly baptized, genuinely penitent men and women of faith from going to heaven include F. LaGard Smith, Who Is My Brother? (Cotswold Publishing 1997); James S. Woodroof, The Church in Transition (The Bible House, Inc. 1990); and Rubel Shelly, I Just Want to be a Christian (20th Century Christian 1984).

[4] Unless otherwise indicated, Biblical quotations are taken from the New International Version (NIV).

[5] The American Standard Version is a translation published in 1901. It follows the Greek very closely but is much harder to read than later translations due to its retention of archaic English and closeness to Greek sentence structure. The translation was a favorite of many Church of Christ preachers for many years.

[6] See The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace for more detail on the Holy Spirit. See also Harvey Floyd, Is the HOLY SPIRIT for Me? (20th Century Christian 1981).

[7] Pronounced “ice.”

[8] “Whatever translation of eis may be possible in its varied relations, there is no possible translation when it relates to a real or verbal baptism, but into.” James W. Dale, Christic Baptism and Patristic Baptism (Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers, et al. 1874, reprinted 1995). Zodhiates defines eis: “After verbs implying motion of any kind, into or to, toward.” Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete New Testament Word Study Dictionary (AMG International, Inc. 1994). Of course, “immerse” implies motion.

[9] In Matt. 3:11, John the Baptist declares, “I baptize you with water for repentance.” “For” translates eis. Many would argue that in this context eis does not mean “into,” but rather something like “because of” or “on account of.” Thus, the argument goes that eis in Acts 2:38 means that we are to be baptized “because of” forgiveness of sins. But the meaning of eis in Acts 2:38 must be taken from the verses using baptizo and eis in the most similar way, being the verses cited in the main text. Moreover, it is entirely possible that Matthew meant to be understood as saying “into” here — “I baptize you with water into repentance”-meaning that, as is also true of Christian baptism, the subject of the baptism was pledging a life of penitence beginning with his baptism. Compare 1 Peter 3:21 saying that baptism is “the pledge of good conscience toward God.”

[10] Alexander Campbell translates eis as “in order to” in his translation of Acts 2:38 in his Bible translation, The Living Oracles: “And Peter said to them, Reform, and be each of you immersed in the name of Jesus Christ, in order to the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off; as many as the Lord our God shall call.” This translation is neither good Greek nor good English as “in order to” must be followed by a verb, “to” being the first element of an infinitive.

[11] Although I have based this article largely on the NIV, which is generally very good, some of its translations are biased toward Baptist theology. These translations have varied from edition to edition. The quoted verses translating eis as “in” are good examples of this difficulty.

[12] I would note that most Church of Christ baptisms that I have witnessed have been baptisms “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” when they should have been “into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”! But I’m sure the baptisms were entirely effective despite this common slip into a “Baptist” translation (in this case, actually a mistake by the King James Version translators).

[13] Pleroo, literally, to fill; metaphorically, to complete. Spiros Zodhiates defines it as “to fulfill, perform fully.” The Complete Word Study Dictionary. Compare Acts 12:25 and Col. 4:17.

[14] For what it’s worth, Alexander Campbell considered those who taught that Baptist baptism is invalid to be heretics. See Leroy Garrett, The Stone-Campbell Movement (Revised Edition, College Press 1994), pp. 262-268. While Campbell certainly disagreed with many within the Restoration Movement on any number of points, the only ones Campbell ever labeled a heretic were these, the Mormons, and those who taught the doctrine of a second chance after death. Indeed, Campbell always sought unity between the Restoration Movement churches and the Baptists.

[15] For more detailed study of this subject, read Jimmy Allen’s Re-Baptism? What One Must Know To Be Born Again (Howard Publishing Co., Inc. 1991).

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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0 Responses to Amazing Grace: Should We Re-baptize Baptists?

  1. josh keele says:

    If there is such a thing as a Baptist that was baptized for the remission of sins in a Baptist church that teaches that you must be baptized for the remission of sins to be saved, as you claim. (I've certainly never met one of these fictional beings.) But if you aren't just pulling some wacky gimmick, then the obvious question is this: Why do they fellowship the other Baptist churches? It is clear that since they (if they be real) beleive that it is necessary, they can't in all good conscience fellowship their fellow Baptists whose entire life is devoted to mocking this belief! Therefore, it is clear that they do not exist and that you are mistaken (or that you are pulling a "wacky gimmick").

  2. Vicki says:

    Hi Jay,
    This article makes perfect sense to me and I agree with it . I'm no authority or expert on scriptural translations and interpretations, but I hear such expertise doesn't save us either!
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts – appreciated as always.
    Vicki

  3. Jonathan says:

    Hey Jay,

    Great article. Just wanted to respond to Josh. As a matter of fact these "Fictional Baptist" do exist. I attend a non-institutional (anti) church in cullman and we have a member who was raised Baptist and when she married her husband and they wished to place membership together, she said that she had already been baptized for the remission of sins. So the preacher and a few men went and talked to the preacher at the Baptist church about it and sure enough he said that that was what he practiced and preached. So she was accepted into full fellowship.

  4. Mark says:

    Josh,
    Are you omniscient? You are the first person I have ever encountered who knew the thoughts and motives of Catholics, Baptists, erring brethren, and whomever else pops up on the radar screen.

    You say, "…their fellow Baptists whose entire life is devoted to mocking this belief!" I spent the first 22 years of my life in Southern Baptist churches, and I never heard one of them even one time mention Churches of Christ or mock any other person's belief about baptism. After I was already preaching in a Church of Christ, a Southern Baptist preacher once told me that he regarded infant baptism as heresy, but my conversation with him is the only time I ever heard a Baptist preacher mention someone else's view on baptism.

    Of course, I don't have your skills at reading hearts, thoughts, and motives, so I guess it's possible that the sweet, godly people who helped raise me devoted their lives to mocking the notion of baptism for the remission of sins when I wasn't watching. (Right here, imagine one of the little emoticons rolling its eyes.)

    Your desperation to believe that you and the people who agree with you on everything are the sum total of God's people on earth leads you to caricature those who disagree with you, and it's hardly productive of healthy discussion.

    Jay, if this qualifies as an ad hominem attack, let me know, and I'll suspend myself or try to behave better.
    Mark

  5. odgie says:

    Jay,

    Better stop with those "wacky gimmicks" brother, or i'm disfellowshipping you!

    🙂

  6. josh keele says:

    When you were in the Baptist church for 22 years you never heard one sermon on why they believe that baptism isn't essential to salvation? You must have been asleep for 22 years, Mark.

  7. Rob Woodfin says:

    Josh,
    A couple of weeks ago I offered a prayer during our morning assembly that you might appreciate … or maybe not. I can only ask that you think about it for at least a meaningful moment before scribbling a snide reply:

    Lord, there are some in Churches of Christ today
    who stand and thank you that we are not like other people …
    … extortioners … unjust … unrighteous … unclean …
    … or even as all the “so-called Christians” in the world.
    We come to worship services three times a week.
    We give generously of our means every Sunday.
    And some are absolutely certain that you prayed for uniformity
    — contending it was your desire that everyone might
    think and speak and worship precisely and exclusively as we do today.
    But we are not the standard.
    And it is not our mission to proclaim ourselves to the world.
    None of us … nor any group of people … is the standard.
    YOU, Lord, are the standard.
    And not one of us measures up. No, not one.
    Lord … be merciful to us … for we are sinners.
    Lord, be merciful … not just to us … but to all who believe on you,
    — as you graciously prayed the night before you were crucified,
    that all of your disciples might be one
    … just as You are one with the Father.
    Thank you for your mercy … and your grace.
    We ask for courage and compassion as we help spread the gospel
    in this community and throughout the world.
    Even so, come Lord Jesus.
    Amen.

  8. Mark says:

    Josh,
    I wasn't asleep all that time, though I probably did take some naps in church during my pre-school days. The Baptist churches I was part of didn't have the psychotic need to preach "issues" to distinguish themselves from other believers that I see in the right wing Churches of Christ.

    The church that I grew up in gave me respect for the Word of God, and I learned valuable lessons about God and Jesus. Like most of you, I learned very little about the Holy Spirit. I am sometimes accused of teaching "Baptist doctrine" by people like you, but, even after 22 years in those churches, I could not give you a clear articulation of Baptist doctrine. That simply was not the focus of the teaching and preaching in that church.

    I never really got first hand exposure to believers attacking each other until I got to ACU and spent some time in the library reading things like the Spiritual Sword, Contending for the Faith, and the Firm Foundation. The Baptists, I have discovered, know how to attack each other, too, but they aren't nearly as good at it as we are. Fortunately, Josh, most of our people aren't nearly as good at it as you are.
    Mark

  9. josh keele says:

    Rob Woodfin, my dear friend. I do hope you realize the irony of your prayer. Your prayer basically boils down to "God I thank you that I'm better than the Pharisee who prayed God I thank you that I'm better than everyone else and I thank you that I'm better than those that I perceive to be following his steps."

    But you see, my son, I don't beleive I am better than anyone else. I believe that God is better than opinion. I believe that following the word of God is better than conjecture. I beleive that the gospel of Jesus Christ is the power of God to save, whereas conjecture is the power of nothing to do nothing.

    To sum up, and I'm done commenting on this post after this:

    Jay can conjecture till the Lord returns that be "baptize for the remission of sins" really means "if you get dunked you get the remission of sins no matter what you think about baptism." He can conjecture that eis is used here to demonstrate automatic result rather than motive (although both are lexicographicaly possible). But conjecture as he might, it just doesn't fit with Acts 22:16, "get up and be baptized and have your sins washed away calling on the name of the Lord." The notion there of calling on the name of the Lord indicates an appeal must be made and that Ananias puts Paul to mind that he is being baptized to have his sins washed away explains that the appeal is for the remission of sins. Comparing Acts 2:38 to Acts 22:16 shows that baptism is not "get dunked and you get the remission of sins no matter what" but that it is an appeal for the remission of sins. You have to call on the name of the Lord, beseech him for forgiveness, not just get dunked as a sign of a forgiveness that you erroneously think you already have. More verses could be brought in to show that he tenor of the Scriptures is that baptism must be viewed as an appeal, but it is not necessary.

    In closing, God does not rely on random chance to save people. The whole notion that "oh no, what if this person is just ignorant of what baptism is supposed to be? will God let them go to hell for this ignorance?" This is s spurious and specious argument. Did God allow random change to converge on Cornelius and damn him? Nay, but he sent an angel to tell him exactly who to hear the gospel from. When Paul says that "we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose" (Rom 8:28) I don't have to worry about a knotty question only this matter but can rest assured by Scripture that if someone dies in ignorance of what baptism is, they were not called according to God's purpose, for if a person is called according to God's purpose, then God has arranged all of the universe in their favor and to their salvation making everything result in their ultimate good.

  10. J D says:

    Good post, Jay. On the other side of the coin is the discussion I've had with some Baptists who say that if we tell people they need to be baptized to be saved, then we are trusting in works and are lost. They will not consider fellowship with us.

  11. Jay Guin says:

    My own experience is that Baptists are anxious to be in fellowship with us. However, there is a definite backlash among them toward both a stricter Calvinism and a questioning of the salvation of those who don't toe the Calvinistic line. But I think this is a very small percentage.

    Of course both sides should see baptism as a gift rather than a work.

  12. This is a great post about baptism.

  13. Nick Gill says:

    "So long as a man really desires to do right, to serve the Lord, to obey His commands, we cannot withdraw from him. We are willing to accept him as a brother, no matter how ignorant he may be, or how far short of the perfect standard his life may fall from his ignorance…We will maintain the truth, press the truth upon him, compromise not one word or iota of that truth, yet forbear with the ignorance, the weakness of our brother who is anxious, but not yet able to see the truth …Why should I not, when I fall so far short of perfect knowledge myself? How do I know that the line beyond which ignorance damns, is behind me, not before me? If I have no forbearance with his ignorance, how can I expect God to forbear with mine? …So long then as a man exhibits a teachable disposition, is willing to hear, to learn and obey the truth of God, I care not how far he may be, how ignorant he is, I am willing to recognize him as a brother." (David Lipscomb, Gospel Advocate, April 22, 1875).

  14. Jay Guin says:

    Nick,

    Thanks. I'd not run across that quote from Lipscomb before.

    How'd you find it? I keep looking for an electronic database of old GA articles for research, but I can't find one.

  15. Mark says:

    I have for so long hoped to find a baptist that accepts the teaching of baptism in the Name of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins…I too find it difficult to believe they exist – but I'm still looking! 🙂

  16. Jay Guin says:

    Mark,

    I know several personally. They exist. I suspect that there are far more in the pews than in the pulpits.

    In fact, one of best books on baptism — agreeing almost entirely with how we understand it — is by a British Baptist, G. R. Beasley-Murray: Baptism in the New Testament.

  17. Pingback: Amazing Grace: A Question About Baptism « One In Jesus.info

  18. Owen says:

    Jesus selected 12 men to be Apostles who did not understand much of what He tried to teach them. After almost 3 years they still didn't understand that the kingdom was not going to be an earthly kingdom. Even after His death, burial, and resurection they were expecting it to be an earthly kingdom. They were wrong about a very important aspect of His teaching and had no clue what their role was to be in this spiritual kingdom. If I were writing this story I would have kicked these guys out and found a more educated group or something. But the Bible tells a different story, one were Jesus give them the keys to the kingdom instead of kicking them out. Thank God for His grace and for the fact that I don't have to be perfect or have a perfect understand of His will for Baptism or anything else in the scripture to be accepted by Him.

  19. Jay Guin says:

    Owen,

    I'd never heard that argument before — and it's a good one. Thanks.

  20. Roger L says:

    Question:
    There is a much blogging on here which demands much thought, but most of it raises more questions than it answers. But here is my question: John the immerser immersed Jewish people who were to "believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus." (Acts 19:4). This baptism (immersion) was for (eis = into) the remission of sins. (Cf. Mark 1:4) If one does not need to have a basic understanding as to the purpose of baptism, then why were the Ephesians in Acts 19 immersed again? Surely they were immersed to obey God. They did so with a view of and faith in Christ, limited in scope as it was. They did so for the remission of sins. But their baptism was unacceptable.
    Roger

  21. Zach Price says:

    i cried once in highschool upon going to a southern baptist church lock-in when a youth minister told me i wasn't saved even though i was baptized (no i wasn't an infant, i made the decision). from my experience that is not the norm for baptists.

  22. Zach Price says:

    as a note, for Episcopalians there are only two requirements in consideration for valid baptisms by other denominations, it has to have water and has to be trinitarian ( some mention of father son and holy spirit) so the only ones (as far as i know) not considered valid are mormons from lack of a trinity

  23. Regina James says:

    Very interesting article, Jay! I found this very interesting b/c my father hardly knew any of his father's relatives due to the family being "disfellowshipped" when he married a Baptist woman. Grandpa James never "joined" the Baptist church, but his relatives never "forgave" him for marrying outside of "the church". Thank you for such a gracious viewpoint!

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