Salvation 2.0: Part 6.2: Baptismal proof texts

grace5Second point: I know each and every Church of Christ proof text on baptism. So do the other readers. Please don’t insult me or the other readers by filling the comments with quotations of the very familiar baptism texts. (I’ve also read nearly every Church of Christ book and tract on the subject.)

Here they are (all in the NIV) —

(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 … . 

(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.” 

(Acts 22:16) ‘And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.’ 

(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. 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. 3:26) You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

(Col. 2:11-12) In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.

(Titus 3:4-7) But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.

Not to mention John 3:5 (although its applicability to Christian baptism is hotly debated) and Mark 16:16 (although its authenticity is in serious doubt). (PS — There’s not a single reference to Christian water baptism in Luke.)

Moreover, there are also verses — far more verses — which say that every person with faith in Jesus will be saved (also in the NIV) —

(Mark 9:23) “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for him who believes.”

(John 1:12-13) Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

(John 3:14-18) Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”

(John 3:36) “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.”

(John 5:24) “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.”

(John 6:29) Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” (John 6:35) Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.”

(John 6:40) “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”

(John 6:47) “I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life.”

(John 7:38-39) “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.  

(John 11:25-26) Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

(John 12:46) “I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.”

(John 20:31) But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

(Acts 10:43) “All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

(Acts 13:38-39) “Therefore, my brothers, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law of Moses.”

(Acts 16:31) They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.”

(Rom. 1:16-17) I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”

(Rom. 3:22-24) This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

(Rom. 3:25-28) God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On that of observing the law? No, but on that of faith. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law.

(Rom. 4:4-5) Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.  

(Rom. 5:1-2) Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.

(Rom. 10:4) Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.

(Rom. 10:9-13) That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

(1 Cor. 1:21) For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.

(1 Cor. 12:3) Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.

(Gal. 2:15-16) “We who are Jews by birth and not ‘Gentile sinners’ know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.”

(Gal. 3:2) I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard?

(Gal. 3:22) But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.

(Gal. 5:6) For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

(Eph. 1:13-14) And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.

(Eph. 2:8-10) For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

(2 Thess. 2:13) But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.

(1 Tim. 1:16) But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.

(Heb. 10:39) But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.

(1 John 3:23-24) And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.

(1 John 4:2-3) This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.

(1 John 5:1) Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well.

(1 John 5:3-5) This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.

(1 John 5:13) I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. 

I could lengthen this list, but what would be the point? There are just so many verses that say this!

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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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20 Responses to Salvation 2.0: Part 6.2: Baptismal proof texts

  1. Chris says:

    Jay,

    Thanks for wonderfully expounding on what it means to “call upon the name of the Lord.” Beginning in the OT through the NT. It all ties together so nicely. As I keep digging into the scriptures regarding the sacrifices and its association with calling upon the Lord, I keep seeing the word “conscience” appear in various passages. Not all are tied to sacrifice, but many verses with the word conscience are tied to salvation.

    I find these connections also very interesting. We’ve all heard the old saying – “let your conscience be your guide.” Can you please address what the Bible means when it refers to one’s conscience and how that also ties in with salvation? Here are just a few:

    Hebrews 9:9
    This is an illustration for the present time, indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper

    Hebrews 9:14

    How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.

    1 Peter 3:16
    Having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.

    1 Peter 3:21
    Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

    Hebrews 10:22
    Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

  2. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Chris,

    You ask another interesting question. If you recall the posts from several months ago on honor culture, http://oneinjesus.info/?s=%22western+eyes%22, then I can answer your question briefly (very uncharacteristic of me, I know).

    1. The OT has no word for “conscience.” It was an honor/shame culture, and so conscience was not nearly as important to the Jews as honor, shame, and how Israel appeared to other nations, and such.

    2. The Gospels also do not speak in terms of conscience, but I believe Jesus was arguing for a culture of honor/shame to be replaced with a culture built on conscience and guilt in the Sermon on the Mount, for example. Turning the other check and similar injunctions directly attack the roots of an honor culture.

    3. Greek culture was also an honor culture but some schools of philosophy had introduced the idea of conscience — and Paul and Hebrews and 1 Peter borrow the language of conscience from the Stoics and perhaps Philo of Alexandria.

    They also speak in honor/shame terms, but seek to redefine in whose eyes honor and shame matter — from society to God, primarily. That is, Christians should seek honor from God regardless of what society thinks. And we should be sufficiently self-aware to feel the dishonor/shame of breaking God’s law — leading to the idea of conscience.

    Hence, contrary to the West’s assumption, the idea that people have a “conscience” that tells them right from wrong is not innate. The conscience itself may be, but not all cultures understand it or much care. Honor cultures are far more concerned with how our behavior affects our image to family and tribe and nation. The NT seeks to redirect that thinking. We should be concerned to receive honor from God and no shame in God’s eyes — and we should be self-aware enough feel the pain of being shamed in God’s eyes — and this introduces into Western thought the importance of the individual conscience — a notion almost entirely ignored by prior literature.

    So I was very surprised to learn all that, and it helps us understand countless passages — although it speaks to a culture that is very, very foreign to our own.

    On the other hand, there are many honor/shame cultures in today’s world, and the US usually fouls up its foreign policy by not realizing this. Hence, no amount of money, aid, modernization, trade, etc. will change the fact that most Islamic nations are honor cultures and far more worried with honor, revenge, image, family, and tribe than freedom, democracy, elections, nation, or even wealth. In fact, until the last century, Arabic didn’t even have words for freedom or democracy.

  3. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Chris,

    An excellent brief article on honor/shame vs. conscience: http://www.tektonics.org/tsr/tillstill7-5.html

    and this is great from a Christian perspective: http://honorshame.com/faqs/

    And here’s one written from an African/Christian perspective: http://www.ve.org.za/index.php/VE/article/download/625/719

    Now I just read through about 8 prominent Christian theological dictionaries (nice to have Logos) regarding the use of “conscience” in the Bible, and not a one mentions the honor/shame distinction. That is, theologians tend to see individual guilty conscience arising in NT times. Many sociologists argue that the NT is mistranslated due to ignorance of Greek and Jewish culture, and that “conscience” in the NT is really more like “shame due to group condemnation.”

    I’m no expert, but obviously Christianity tends to change national cultures toward individual guilt — “tends” being the operative word here. The West changed very much because of Christianity. Most guilt cultures today are predominately Christian. And sociologists tend to ignore this, the best I can tell.

    So I think the truth is somewhere in between. In the NT we are seeing the beginning of a massive cultural shift of Rome/the West away from honor/shame — so much so that we Westerners can no longer imagine anyone thinking any other way.

  4. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Chris,

    Here’s a lengthy study on the evolution of the concept of “conscience” in Western thought with reflections on how this should impact missions. http://www.worldevangelicals.org/resources/rfiles/res3_234_link_1292694440.pdf Really good, although it’s chock full of citations that make it difficult to read (and he agrees with my read on the NT use of “conscience,” making him right, of course 🙂 ).

    Anyway, I’ve not read the whole thing yet but it seems to be, by far, the most comprehensive and thoughtful discussion of a difficult subject — taking us from Moses to Bonhoeffer and delving into theology, psychology, philosophy, and cultural anthropology. Perhaps more than you care to read or know, but truly astonishing how a topic that bridges so many disciplines is almost entirely ignored in commentaries and theological dictionaries. But the times they are a-changin’. The theologians are finally starting to notice, especially as the church seeks to be less Western and give greater respect to African, Latino, and Chinese perspectives.

    In other words, lots of great opportunities here for future research if someone needs an idea for a doctoral dissertation. Or if you just want to understand why the Palestinians acts as they do in negotiations.

    You do have a gift for asking the most interesting questions …

  5. Chris says:

    Thank you so much Jay! I look forward to reading these articles.

  6. Monty says:

    (PS — There’s not a single reference to Christian water baptism in Luke.)

    Jay, though not explicitly stated, I believe Luke does refer to water baptism indirectly(by other terminology) by using the phrase, from Lk.24:47″repentance and remission of sins” should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. Luke writes for example in Acts3:19 “Repent and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord. McGarvey, Boles, Coffman, (I’m sure others)all believe Luke(Peter) is using different terminology to speak of baptism. Acts 2:38 “Repent and be baptized” everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, in the next chapter he replaces the “be baptized” of Acts 2:38 with repent and “be converted.'” and he replaces the “for the forgiveness of sins” with “that your sins be blotted out.” Repent is commanded in both, and forgiveness(sins blotted out) is the result of both, “be baptized” = “be converted.” Interestingly Luke never mentions faith(belief) It isn’t mentioned in either LK. 24:47, Acts 2:38. or Acts 3:19. Now I’m certainly OK with it being understood in the word repent as you argue for, but let’s do the same with understanding what Luke was referring to when he uses differing terminology for baptism. Also, the blessing of the gift of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2:38 is referenced as “the seasons of refreshing” in Acts 3:19. The saints of the 1st century would have understood these things.

    Matthew’s gospel ends with Jesus giving the directive to “Go teach all nations…baptizing them into the name of the Father…Son and Holy Spirit. No mention of faith, belief, repentance, but baptism only. Now I’m not saying (faith)believing, repenting are not involved because they aren’t mentioned specifically as critics of baptism do whenever it isn’t specifically mentioned, as if they’ve found the smoking gun, just saying let’s be fair. Paul calls baptism the “washing of regeneration” in Titus, but baptism isn’t specifically mentioned.

  7. Dwight says:

    Using a number doesn’t indicate that it is better than other scriptures if it is present more, but that it is a solid concept. The fact that faith shows up more than baptism doesn’t argue that faith saves apart from baptism, because there are plenty of scriptures that show it does. Acts 2:38 doesn’t excludes faith, but rather argues that repentance and baptism are saving points in response that are notable in action. To argue that faith is the point of salvation because faith shows up more than baptism also argues that faith in Jesus is more important than the concept of Jesus saves.
    But as the saints should know…Christ as the Son of God and savior is the axis on which faith and baptism revolve around.
    What we end up doing is pitting scripture against scripture as if it is a race to the point of salvation. Well faith in running and getting the trophy doesn’t get you the trophy and running doesn’t get the trophy, but rather getting across the line in faith that empowers the running does. Even though we might be focused on the running or even the faith and perseverance of the runner.

  8. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Monty writes,

    I believe Luke does refer to water baptism indirectly (by other terminology) by using the phrase, from Lk.24:47 ″repentance and remission of sins” should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.

    It’s hard to imagine a First Century reader reading Luke 24:47 and finding baptism in it. “Repent” would call on the reader to change. Change what? His failure to be baptized? What in Luke says that?

    We want to read “repentance” as a step in a legal process to earn salvation. But in context, “repentance” speaks to the Jewish need to repent in order to end Exile and return to God and receive the promises of Deu 30. This is shown early in Luke by the speeches of John the Baptist. He is announcing the coming of the Kingdom and the need for repentance to receive forgiveness — all being concepts pre-figured by the Torah and the Prophets. The Jews who came out to hear John heard that the Messiah was about to come to bring the Kingdom and the outpoured Spirit — and so, in preparation, they should repent to receive forgiveness as promised by God in the First Testament.

    Luke 24:47 thus anticipates that the opportunity to repent and receive forgiveness would be expanded to include the nations. As Paul says, to the Jews first and also to the Greeks. The Jews would be shocked that a promise given to them (that they’d prayed for for 490 years!) would be given to the Gentiles, who had no covenant relationship with God.

    Now, in Acts, Luke plainly associates baptism with receipt of the Spirit and forgiveness. Absolutely and obviously true. But we try to make baptism the centerpiece of salvation — the one non-negotiable — which borders on idolatry when the centerpiece of our salvation is actually Jesus. Faith in Jesus as Messiah is plainly the one non-negotiable. It’s the pathway by which Gentiles receive the covenant promises — as Paul argues in great detail in Rom 9 – 11.

    So I don’t for a minute suggest that we stop baptizing our converts or argue for the Sinner’s Prayer. But neither do I think that the narrative of salvation history points us to baptism. It doesn’t. It points us to Jesus and him crucified — and faith in Jesus as Messiah.

    Monty also wrote,

    Repent is commanded in both, and forgiveness(sins blotted out) is the result of both, “be baptized” = “be converted.”

    It’s a very dangerous argument to suggest that “be baptized” = “be converted”. “Be converted” is a change in heart.

    ESV Acts 3:19 Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, 20 that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus,

    KJV Acts 3:19 Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord;

    NAS Acts 3:19 “Repent therefore and return, that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; 20 and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you,

    “Be converted” epistrepho means “return” or “change course.” It’s very similar to “repent.” The point is not to be baptized but to return to God. Peter is speaking to Jews and accusing them of having left God — very appropriate in a time and place when the Exile was ending and Kingdom was coming. The Jews had been under the curse of Exile since the times of Jeremiah and needed to return to God — by becoming faithful to him by, among other things, accepting Jesus as God the Son, as Messiah, and submitting to his rule.

    To reduce this to mere baptism is to elevate ritual over the narrative of scripture — which is entirely typical of McGarvey, Boles, and Coffman. I mean, either Acts is the story of God’s return to rule on the throne of David through Jesus after nearly half a millennium of Jewish Exile — with the blessings of God’s covenant promises to Israel opened to the Gentiles — or it’s a handbook on why baptism saves. McGarvey reduced Acts to handbook status and thereby made much of Acts incoherent to Church of Christ ears.

    My understanding has the advantage of making the sermons in early Acts very important to understanding the book. They suddenly tell a real narrative of what’s going on and why. They become worth our study. The old view of Acts pushes us to skip the sermons and focus on the baptismal practices that follow the sermons — although we don’t understand why the sermons produce the baptisms.

    Why be immersed following a sermon on the history of Israel? On Jesus being the Anointed One mentioned in Psalm 2? What’s the point of baptism IN THE NARRATIVE OF JEWISH HISTORY? Well, you have to first get the narrative right.

    Only AFTER you’ve sorted out the narrative, can you come back and ask how baptism fits in the story of God and Israel and the gospel and the Gentiles. Do that, and you’ll see how very, very wrong McGarvey et al. are in their entire approach. They just ignore all of Jewish history and the Gospels to reduce Acts to a series of lessons on why we should walk down the aisle and receive baptism.

    Now, with the narrative understood, we see the CENTRALITY of faith in Jesus — going back to Abraham because, after all, the scriptures — including Acts — say that Jesus is YHWH. He is the LORD. So faith in Jesus is faith/trust/faithfulness in/to the LORD. And therefore, going back to Abraham, it’s essential and it’s sufficient.

    John the Baptist introduced baptism in water for repentance and into the forgiveness of sins. But, of course, it’s the repentance that produces the forgiveness. I mean, read the prophets. Read Torah. God promises to forgive those who REPENT not those who are baptized. Baptism shows our repentance, but it’s not the same thing.

    And we can’t help but notice all the other people who were forgiven by Jesus with a word simply for their faith — even though they weren’t baptized and water was available. The story of the Gospels is all about forgiveness in response to faith (which includes repentance, grammatically). Baptism by Jesus only shows up in John’s Gospel. And even in John, people are forgiven without baptism by their faith in Jesus–over and over and over. This is a very odd way for Jesus to behave if “be converted” = “be baptized.” If that’s true, then he forgave a lot of unconverted people!

    So we need to get our priorities prioritized. Baptism matters. It’s not the focus. It’s not the point. It’s not the end.

    But God knows that WE need ritual. God doesn’t. People do. People need to know the moment of forgiveness. God gives the Spirit. God forgives. He knows when he forgives. He knows when he gives his Spirit.

    But how do we know? Well, God has chosen for baptism to be the moment — when he announces our salvation, when our confession is made in an acted-out story of death, burial, and resurrection, when our forgiveness is pictured as a washing, when our receipt of the OUTPOURED Spirit is pictured as an immersion in Spirit/water echoing the voices of the prophets of old. It’s very Eastern. Very much a story enacted. A parable. Even dramatic art. A painting enacted.

    But we miss so very much of baptism if we let baptism stand in the place of the story that baptism tells. If “be converted” = “be baptized” then we suck the narrative out of rite. We take a parable and turn it into babble. We take drama and turn it into a parody.

    So, no, “be converted” means “return to God” because you are far from him as shown by your rejection of Jesus — WHO IS YAHWEH. The appropriate response, therefore, is faith. And the sermons in Acts are pleas for faith in Jesus. Luke doesn’t even record the sermons parts that deal with baptism – because his point is WHO JESUS IS AND FAITH IN THAT. Not baptism. But those who responded, happily demonstrated their conversion, their repentance, their faith in baptism because they knew, from John and the apostles, that baptism was the chosen means of saying those things.

    It wasn’t an ordinance (Sorry Zwingli). Nor was it a sacrament (Sorry everyone else, including Campbell). It was a story told by which the church received the convert, the convert confessed his faith, and God himself announced, through ritual and the hands of the ekklesia represented by a leader within the community, the righteousness granted a new convert and his receipt of the Spirit.

    And, as I have to keep reminding my readers, it’s a true story – which is very best kind.

  9. Dwight says:

    I’m not sure I agree with this statement “But God knows that WE need ritual. God doesn’t. People do. People need to know the moment of forgiveness.”, First…it isn’t a ritual, it is a one time happening, not something we do over and over again. Second…God doesn’t need anything, but desires things from us. He wants us to pray to him, even though he can read our thoughts, but he wants us to express it and make it real. Third…God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son, but he didn’t stop him on the way up to the altar, but at the very moment of his sacrifice. God wants follow through from us, until he says OK you’ve done enough, which he never does. Forth…it was so important that Jesus himself did it, even though he didn’t need conversion.
    Now I agree that “the centerpiece of our salvation is actually Jesus” and we do focus much on our efforts on baptism as the center of salvation and not teaching Christ as the center of salvation.
    Obviously, repent doesn’t equal baptism, otherwise Acts 2:38 doesn’t make sense, but repentance is a part of salvation as baptism is, which is why he said “repent and be baptized”. Both were necessary after having been convicted in Christ and having a sufficient faith to move to Him.

  10. Monty says:

    From McGarvey’s commentary on Acts:3:19 “We can now perceive more clearly than before, that in the command, “Repent and turn” ,the term repent and turn express two distinct changes, which take place in the order of the words……..the word properly means to turn—to return to a path from which one has gone astray; and then to turn away from sins, or to forsake them.” That turn rather than be converted is the correct rendering of the term, is not disputed by any competent authority; we shall assume therefore that it is correct, and proceed to enquire what Peter intended to designate by this term.

    As, already observed, it designates a change of conduct. A change of conduct however, must from necessity of the case, have a beginning; and that beginning consists in the first act of the better life;. The command to turn is obeyed when the first act is performed. Previous to that the man has not turned; and the act itself is the turning act. If, in turning to the Lord, any one of a number of actions might be the first that the penitent performed, the command to turn would not specifically designate any one of these, but might be obeyed by the performance of either. But the fact is that one single act was uniformly enjoined upon the penitent, as the first act of obedience to Christ, and that was, to be immersed. This, Peter’s present hearers understood. They had heard him say to parties like themselves “Repent and be immersed;” and the first act they saw performed by those who signified their repentance, was to be immersed. When now, he commands them to “repent and turn”, they could but understand that they were to turn as their predecessors had done, by being immersed. The commands to turn, and be immersed, are equivalent, not because the words have the same meaning but because the command “Turn to the Lord” was uniformly obeyed by the specific act of being immersed. Previous to immersion, men repented, but did not turn; after immersion, they had “turned”, and immersion was the turning point……….We may reach the same conclusion by another course of reasoning. The command “to turn” occupies the same position between “repentance and the remission of sins”, in this discourse, that the command to be immersed had occupied in Peter’s former discourse. He then said, “Repent and be immersed for the remission of sins;” now, he says, “Repent and turn that your sins may be blotted out.”

    Jay, Peter taught that Jesus was the long awaited Messiah, that is evident in his sermons. That is even the focus. Are you seriously saying men like McGarvey, Boles and Coffman, and (myself) included, don’t believe that? Just because we see Peter swapping terminology (but it meaning the same thing?) I think a novice could read Acts 2:38 and then read just 28 verses down, less than 1 minute of reading time, and read verse 19 and see that Peter isn’t teaching anything different in these two passages.He isn’t giving the crowd in 3:19 anything different than he did the crowd on Pentecost. Both crowds were to repent of their unbelief in Jesus being Messiah, and how was that repentance shown? How was their turning back shown? By immersion. Obviously Peter’s crowd as I have stated and as McGarvey has stated understood Peter’s intent, even if he didn’t explicitly state the word immersion. It’s there. To deny Peter’s intended understanding of “return”(yes it means faith in Jesus) by being immersed(why else would you do it?), is to have just as much(if not more so) of an agenda as you claim Mcgarvey, Boles and myself have. There was no “returning” if they weren’t immersed. Everyone there knew what an immersion meant, that they had undergone not just a repentance, but a return to God(faith in Christ) as shown by their immersion. To not be immersed was to not undergo a(turning) conversion. Acts 2:47 states as many as believed were baptized. There is always post resurrection in Acts a one-to-one ratio of “believing” to baptism. “As many of you”. That’s Paul’s choosing of immersion to designate the faithful, the new life, the new man, not McGarvey’s or Bole’s. Does Paul offend you by doing so? Baptism is only the “focus” of our conversation 1. because it’s the topic heading 2. as it gets stripped from it’s place in the repenting and being baptized(turning back-conversion)teaching, and stripped from that 1 to1 ratio of believing and being immersed, (not back then), but today.

  11. Dwight says:

    I agree Monty, just because something is not in the text doesn’t mean it was excluded as not having meaning and the implications are that they followed what was being taught in general. This is why we have Jesus being taught to the Ethiopian eunuch and then him saying when he saw water, “what keeps me from being baptized.” He was obviously taught about Jesus and water baptism. There is no mention of faith nor repentance, because that would be needed and showed through his baptism. He didn’t have to question him on his faith or repentance. And just him asking about baptism was probably a good confession.
    Before Jesus instituted baptism as conversion to Christ, the Jews were practicing it as a conversion to Judaism as a point of cleansing from one life to another, Gentile to Jew. They were also summarily circumcised and then often a sacrifice was offered. But they weren’t seen as converted before these points. The concept of conversion means from one state into another with something happening in between that facilitates the change.
    I see the coC position as a pendulum effort in that they see those talking about faith only, then they must counter and it appears that they are baptism only, but that is not the case. While they do focus a lot of time on baptism, it is understood that faith and baptism are parts of the same conversion. Now the biggest complaint I have with the coC is focusing on faith, repentance and baptism, etc. as the point of salvation, as opposed to Christ as the point, which is often downplayed. The other things reflect, by command, a move towards and into Christ.

  12. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Dwight,

    The definition of ritual is —

    1: the established form for a ceremony; specifically: the order of words prescribed for a religious ceremony
    2
    a : ritual observance; specifically: a system of rites
    b : a ceremonial act or action
    c : an act or series of acts regularly repeated in a set precise manner

    http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ritual

    Baptism meets that definition. The only reason it’s not a series of acts (which is one of a series of alternative definitions, not the only or first definition) is we don’t have enough baptisms in our churches. Churches that grow do baptisms over and over and over. It’s a ritual — just like a wedding is a ritual that we should do but once but which is regularly repeated in our churches according to a highly standardized pattern. Baptism is especially ritualized in Churches of Christ, where we are very concerned that certain words be said over the person being baptized.

    And, of course, the words do matter.

    Being a ritual is not bad or wrong or demeaning. It’s just what it is. A wedding is ritual, but that doesn’t make weddings pointless or bad. Right? I rather like weddings and am very glad that my wife wed me. But it was a ritual.

    Is there a better word?

  13. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Monty quotes McGarvey,

    The command “to turn” occupies the same position between “repentance and the remission of sins”, in this discourse, that the command to be immersed had occupied in Peter’s former discourse. He then said, “Repent and be immersed for the remission of sins;” now, he says, “Repent and turn that your sins may be blotted out.”

    This is nonsense. It only works if Peter is listing steps of salvation and that there are steps that must be followed in a particular order. But Peter is referencing Deu 30:2 (I believe). “Be converted” means “turn back” not “be converted to a new religion.” The meaning of the KJV English changed and McGarvey got that wrong.

    But in the LXX, the same word appears here —

    (Deut. 30:1-3 ESV) “And when all these things come upon you, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before you, and you call them to mind among all the nations where the LORD your God has driven you, 2 and return to the LORD your God, you and your children, and obey his voice in all that I command you today, with all your heart and with all your soul, 3 then the LORD your God will restore your fortunes and have mercy on you, and he will gather you again from all the peoples where the LORD your God has scattered you.”

    It’s the same Greek word in both places.

    Peter, you see, is claiming much more than simply a few random proof-texts which, if you shut one eye and concentrate hard, can be made to sound a bit like things that had happened to Jesus. He is understanding the Old Testament as a single great story which was constantly pointing forwards to something that God was going to do through Abraham and his family, something that Moses, Samuel, Isaiah and the rest were pointing on towards as well. This great Something was the restoration of all things, the time when everything would be put right at last. And now, he says, it’s happened! It’s happened in Jesus! And you can be part of it.
    This is the point of the appeal at the start and the finish of this passage. When the good news of Jesus is announced, it is, of course, about God the creator setting everything right. But part of the point of saying that this final restoration can come forward into the present is that God longs to see it happen to individual men, women and children, right now, in anticipation. Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, anyone who turns away from the life they’ve been leading and turns to God instead—anyone, including the crowds who bayed for Jesus’ blood and the Jewish rulers who sent him off to Pilate to be crucified—anyone at all can know in advance the joy of being forgiven, of being refreshed by the love and mercy of God, of discovering new life and purpose in following Jesus.
    The description of forgiveness here is particularly striking. In another echo of Isaiah (43:25), Peter speaks of sins being ‘blotted out’ as one might wipe a blackboard clean of chalk marks. Something that was written up as an accusation against us is simply wiped out when we turn away—when we not only say ‘sorry’, but actually, in mind and action, turn round in the opposite direction. And all this happens because of Jesus.

    Tom Wright, Acts for Everyone, Part 1: Chapters 1-12, (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2008), 59–60.

    Despite the similarities between the speeches in Acts 2 and 3 it should be seen that they are by no means identical, nor do they function in exactly the same way. Acts 2 is more of a keynote speech, while the speech in Acts 3 moves the argument further along, especially in the discussion of Christology, eschatology, and the responsibility of Jews for Jesus’ death (the ignorance motif is introduced). There is also oddly enough no appeal to have faith in Jesus’ name (though cf. v. 16) or to be baptized in Acts 3.

    The Pentecost speech emphasizes Jesus’ resurrection and exaltation but the temple speech recalls details of Jesus’ trial. The Pentecost speech briefly refers to Jesus’ earthly ministry, but the temple speech anticipates the Parousia. The Pentecost speech emphasizes God’s oath to David; the temple speech recalls God’s promises to Abraham and refers to the Mosaic prophet. The Pentecost speech focuses on the titles “Messiah” and “Lord”; the Temple speech introduces other titles—“servant” (παις), “holy and just one,” “leader of life.” The Pentecost speech cites a prophetic book and the Psalms, but the temple speech cites the Pentateuch.… Both speeches emphasize repentance and release of sins, but the wording is mostly different. Both speeches refer to the future participation of others in salvation (2:39; 3:26); again the wording is different. Thus the two speeches are complementary, probably deliberately so, even though they address the same type of audience about the same situation. A much broader and richer understanding of Christian preaching to Jews emerges from hearing two speeches rather than one.

    Ben Witherington III, The Acts of the Apostles: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1998), 177.

    The call to repentance itself is tersely stated. Then it is elaborated in words unique in the NT and reflective of Jewish remnant theology. “Repent, then, and turn to God,” says Peter, “so that your sins may be wiped out”—and, further, so that there may be brought about the promised “times of refreshing” and that with the coming of God’s appointed Messiah (ton prokecheirismenon Christon, lit., “the foreordained Christ”), he may “restore everything.” The expressions “times of refreshing” (kairoi anapsyxeōs, v. 20) and “to restore everything” (chronoi apokatastaseōs pantōn, v. 21) are without parallel in the NT, though the verb apokathistēmi (“restore”), the verbal form of apokatastasis (“restoration”), is often used in the LXX of the eschatological restoration of Israel (cf. Jer 15:19; 16:15; 24:6; 50:19 [27:19 LXX]; Ezek 16:55; Hos 11:11).

    Richard N. Longenecker, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: John and Acts, 1981, 9, 297.

    Peter’s exhortation, as in his Pentecost sermon (2:38), was to repent. Was Peter saying here that if Israel repented, God’s kingdom would have come to earth? This must be answered in the affirmative for several reasons: (1) The word restore (3:21) is related to the word “restore” in 1:6. In 3:21 it is in its noun form (apokatastaseōs), and in 1:6 it is a verb (apokathistaneis). Both occurrences anticipate the restoration of the kingdom to Israel (cf. Matt. 17:11; Mark 9:12).

    Stanley D. Toussaint, The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, 1985, 2, 361.

    The Greek term “repent” means a change of mind. This is an AORIST ACTIVE IMPERATIVE of metanoeō. The Hebrew term for repentance means “change of action” (“return” [emistrephō] may reflect the Hebrew “turn” shub, cf. Num. 30:3–6; Deut. 30:2, 10) in the Septuagint .

    Robert James Utley, Luke the Historian: The Book of Acts, Study Guide Commentary Series, (Marshall, TX: Bible Lessons International, 2003), Volume 3B:58.

    Peter is speaking to the Jews and begging them, as a nation, to return to God and so bring about the promises of Deu 30. He is not giving an alternative version of the Five Step Plan of Salvation.

    (Acts 3:12-21 ESV) 12 And when Peter saw it he addressed the people: “Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk? 13 The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. 14 But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15 and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. 16 And his name– by faith in his name– has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all. 17 “And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. 18 But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled. 19 Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, 20 that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, 21 whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago.

    Peter is speaking in terms of the Mosaic covenant.

    So McGarvey’s argument fails because he completely misses Peter’s context and point. He doesn’t get the narrative. He doesn’t see what Peter is preaching or asking for because he’s begun with what he seeks to prove.

    It’s not just any change in conduct we wish to insert. It’s the change in conduct referenced in Deu 30:2 — returning to God. Which assumes that the Jews had left God — which isn’t obvious until you recall that in chapter 2, Peter had just preached that Jesus is YHWH! God himself came and walked among the Jews — God the Son, that is, of course, but God/YHWH in truth — and the Jews had crucified him when they should have worshiped him. And this is the context for the plea to return to God.

    It’s not that the Jews were sexually immoral. They’d failed to recognize their own God when walked among them, did great miracles, taught great lessons, and preached Good News. In this, they’d departed from God. Other causes as well, I’m sure, but most especially this.

    Therefore, the plea was to believe that Jesus is Messiah and LORD.

    (Acts 2:36 ESV) 36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

    (Acts 3:14-15 ESV) 14 But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15 and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses.

    To whom could “Author of life” refer other than YHWH himself? Peter credits Jesus as the giver of life, surely referring to Gen 1 and 2. Again, to call Jesus the “Holy and Righteous One” to an audience of Jews is to call him YHWH — because these are terms the OT uses to refer to God himself repeatedly.

    So the lesson is that Jesus is Lord, the Jews denied this fact, and so they must return to God (Deu 30:2 and other passages as well) by accepting Jesus as Lord and Messiah — so that the blessings of Deu 30 would be received — exile would end, right relationship with God would be restored.

    Peter is simply not talking about baptism. He’s talking about the Torah.

    Peter continues —

    (Acts 3:22-26 ESV) 22 “Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you. 23 And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.’ 24 And all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and those who came after him, also proclaimed these days. 25 You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.’ 26 God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness.”

    He speaks of the covenant with Abraham and says that the Prophet promised by Moses was Jesus, who was sent first to the Jews to turn them “from your wickedness.” Again, not about baptism. About changing from a cursed condition to a blessed condition through faith in Jesus.

    So my point isn’t that McGarvey (or you) deny Jesus, but that McGarvey’s reading of the passage is devoid of any understanding of what is really being said. My point isn’t just about faith in Jesus — but where faith in Jesus (and baptism) fits into the narrative of Israelite history. Peter is speaking in terms of the Torah to a Torah-reading people, using the Torah’s arguments to build his case for faith in Jesus. Therefore, he cannot be talking about baptism because baptism is not found in the Torah. Faith in YHWH is.

    Did McGarvey believe in Jesus? Of course. Did he understand this passage correctly? Not at all.

  14. Larry Cheek says:

    Jay,
    Peter was using the message of the Torah for prof that Jesus was the Messiah that was described therein. But, the message instructing them what they must do was from Christ, the Torah was no longer valid and there were no instructions in the Torah what they were to do outside the Torah’s jurisdiction. To bring the Torah into this setting is just as wrong as to bring the Law of Moses into Christianity. Jesus is the author of what to do then and now to continue into the future, and his message is directed to men how to prove their “faith” in him. His message was delivered by his chosen messengers and is recorded for us to understand. The past is gone, it had completed its mission. It was until Christ no further. Christ is now the deliver of all promises, and they may not look like the old promises which were a shadow of the future.
    Notice these messages again.
    “26 God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness.”
    He was not instructing them how to turn themselves from wickedness. He was going to do that as they followed his instructions.
    “(Acts 3:22-23 ESV) 22 “Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you. 23 And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.’”
    So what was the message that was delivered by Christ’s instructions?
    Act 2:38-41 ESV And Peter said to them, “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. (39) For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” (40) And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” (41) So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.
    Even though “faith” is a factor within these actions, faith was not the instruction that was given in the message delivered to be followed in obedience to, Acts 3:22-23.

  15. Dwight says:

    Jay, you got me. I suppose in that sense anything can be ritualistic even taking a bath or being given a bath as a baby. As a child we were washed by another on a regular basis, but now we are washed by another in baptism, literally and figuratively. I don’t ever have the concept though that it is a ceremonial concept as it doesn’t require certain words and others to be in attendance or a certain series of liturgical events within its context. And more than that while being administered by another it is personal between God and us.
    I would agree with Larry the OT was a tutor to bring us to Christ, but it doesn’t say anything about what we must do to have Christ or be saved as it were. The Torah is limited in that sense. Jesus was the fulfillment of the law and the instrument of a new testament, called the Perfect Law of Liberty by Paul. He was the final sacrifice and a priest not from the tribe of Levi.
    The Jews were definitely being told to turn back to God from the world and themselves, but they were discouraged after the day of Pentecost from turning to the Torah as law. The things of the Law, although not sinful, could not save them. They could do the things of the law as long as they realized that the law was not the path to God…Jesus was.
    The crux of Acts 2 was that they, the Jews, were led from the beginning by God to Jesus by promise and yet they rejected Jesus and thus rejected God himself.

  16. Monty says:

    Jay,

    Yes, of course Peter was condemning Israel for rejecting her Messiah , for that is why they were “pricked in their hearts” in ch. 2 and his message is relatively identical with some variation but the point is the same again in ch.3 vs(14) “You disowned the Holy One and asked that a murderer be released to you.” The people had to listen to(obey) Jesus he insist in v(23). “Teaching them to observe all things I have commanded you.” Acts 3:26 When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways.

    The point (I believe) in both sermons is that the folks shared responsibility for killing Jesus. That Jesus was their long awaited Messiah. That he died at their hands (but hold on)and that he was raised up by God and that he has “ascended to the throne of God” McGarvey states(excellent point). In ch. 2 the point is they were speaking by the inspiration of the outpouring of God. The people were amazed(OK if you accept that we’re speaking -by inspiration) then you must believe our message about Jesus being Messiah and that you killed him and God raised him. In chapter 3 Peter heals the lame man (from birth) and the people were “filled with amazement and wonder’ just as on Pentecost, and Peter uses this miracle to say in essence “OK our message is true because you know that only God could do such a thing.” “You killed the Messiah.” Repent and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out. Sins plural. Sins plural in Acts 2:38. Sins plural in Acts 3:26 turning you from your wicked ways(iniquities).How so? By placing their faith in the name of Jesus. vs(16) it is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him. ” In the name of Jesus Christ walk!” vs. (7) “Repent and be baptized” in Jesus name.

    How did the Jews repent and turn to God? By believing in the name of Jesus as expressed by immersion into that name. I doubt seriously that many understood all the ramifications you expressed and in the commentaries you listed. Those are all things scholarly folks like to dig out and that’s great. BUt the common folks of that day-most I’m sure didn’t think as hard as we have about it, just wanted to know what to do about their condition. What shall we do? Isn’t it the same today? Men and women just want to know what to do. How deep is enough and how deep is too deep initially? Peter’s sermon in ch. 3 is of course interrupted but in ch. 4 (vs 4) it says, “many who heard the message believed.” Is that somehow different than in ch 2? “Those who accepted his message(believed) were baptized.” It’s not stated the same is it? But we know that is identical in thought. The answer for Their sin(s) was to repent of their wicked way(s) their(failure to believe in Jesus and complicity in his death, and their sins plural-whatever they may be) and put their faith in the name of Jesus by baptism into his name(turning to God) at which point they would receive forgiveness of sins and the gift of the H.S.-be refreshed. If any man be in Christ he is a new creation. The old things are gone , the new has come. The Jews were lost before they crucified Jesus. Jesus said he came to seek and save the lost. John the Baptist commanded they repent, not of rejection or failure to believe in Messiah, but of their failures to live as they should. Nothing today has changed. Acts 2 and 3, while applying to the Jews, specifically, it applies to all indirectly. No Gentile has to repent of rejecting the Messiah, but we are all complicit by all being sinners with sins. The answer for us is the same as it was for them, Repent of our sinful condition(remorse-weep and wail) but not just remorse, but turn to God by faith as expressed in baptism into the name of Jesus.(believing in the name)

  17. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Monty,

    First, I entirely agree with your first two paragraphs.

    Second, I disagree that the Jews wouldn’t have understood Peter as I suggest. I think they prayed daily for the outpouring of the Spirit, the coming of the Kingdom, and the Messiah to be given. These things were very much on their minds. In fact, the Jews of that age were well aware that they were still in Exile — that is, under the curses of Lev 26 and Deu 29-31. They were reminded every time they saw a Roman soldier or paid a Roman tax.

    We Gentiles don’t think in those terms because we’re Gentiles. But this is how the Jews of that age would have thought. And so a plea to “be converted” in language taken from Deu 30 so that the “times of refreshing” may come would not be heard in terms of individual salvation but national salvation — because the Torah was given to a nation and the blessings and curses were national.

    We entirely miss it because we live in an individualized culture and, of course, we aren’t Jews standing under God’s curse for a prophesied 490 years. They were.

    Therefore, my point — and is really all I’m trying to say — is that they would not have heard “baptism” in “be converted” in Acts 3:19. They would have heard “return to God,” because the Greek word means “return” (NOT “converted” as we use the word in modern English) and they knew that the return required to please God was return to God. Many other OT passages say the same thing.

    Now, that’s only important in that it breaks the patternistic mold of McGarvey, Boles, etc. who want to see a formula for going to heaven in a passage that is not speaking in modern, revival terms. It’s speaking is terms of Israel’s history — which the Jews being addressed would have immediately understood.

    Why does that matter? Well, it’s not because I’m teaching Baptist baptismal theology. I’m not. Acts 2:38 is still very much in my Bible, too. Baptism is still the normative means of salvation practiced by the church described in scripture. It’s what we should teach and practice — with scriptural emphasis.

    But baptism is just not in Acts 3:19, not at all, and that’s because Peter had other priorities in that lesson. Baptism is important. It’s not MOST important. Jesus is. On that I’m sure we agree.

    But the “logic” of the McGarvey/Boles argument is wrong — and it’s important to understand why they made the mistake they made. Why insert baptism into a passage that says nothing on the subject at all? Well, because in their minds baptism saves as much as Jesus saves. They really did raise baptism to a nearly idolatrous level — so much so that it was unimaginable to preach a sermon without mentioning baptism — but quite common to preach sermons that didn’t mention Jesus.

    Year ago, a book on the “Core Gospel” was published showing how much over the decades our CoC sermons changed to speak less and less about Jesus as Messiah and more and more about baptism as saving — thanks to men such as McGarvey and Boles. You can be right about baptism and yet make baptism into an idol. The proper scriptural emphasis matters as much as the proper ritual. And the result of their teaching was to diminish our Christianity and destroy the Restoration Movement as a unity movement. We certainly taught faith in Jesus, but Jesus was just one of several steps.

    Read Muscle and a Shovel. Faith in Jesus is in there — but only secondary to water baptism. Baptism is the focus of the book. We take “obey the gospel” to mean “be baptized,” whereas the NT uses the phrase to mean “believe in Jesus.” And that’s symptomatic of deeply rooted spiritual disease.

    Hence, you won’t find me celebrating the scholarship of McGarvey and Boles. I grew up in churches infected with their scholarship — and studied my way out — and am still struggling to escape the legalism, division, discord, and venom.

    I’ve doubtless written too harshly, and I apologize for that. But it makes me angry when I see people I love still trapped in the patternist world such men helped create. And I have trouble being patient. I mean, I’m seeing daily the pain that this attitude produces, the sectarian division, etc. Subtle errors compound, verse on verse, chapter on chapter, and pretty soon you have a church that divides to be holy — families and friends torn apart — all because we seek to impose a pattern when we should bow before a person.

  18. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Larry,

    Having trouble following your logic since Peter quoted Torah in Acts 3:22-23. So Torah somehow gives the answer. In fact, the answer is the prophet of Deu 18, whom Peter says is Jesus — prophesied by Moses.

    (Deut. 18:1 ESV) 15 “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers– it is to him you shall listen– 16 just as you desired of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God or see this great fire any more, lest I die.’ 17 And the LORD said to me, ‘They are right in what they have spoken. 18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. 19 And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him.”

    Peter’s point is that the Torah gives the answer — listen to the Prophet and the Prophet is Jesus. How is this not a call to faith in Jesus?

    For that matter, consider —

    (Acts 3:12-15 ESV) 12 And when Peter saw it he addressed the people: “Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk? 13 The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. 14 But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15 and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses.”

    Saying that Jesus has been glorified and is “the Holy and Righteous One” is a declaration that Jesus is YHWH — because this is OT language used of God himself. If Jesus is the “Author of life,” how is he less than God?

    So Peter begins by declaring Jesus to be God as well as “the servant” — surely heard as the Servant of Isaiah 40 – 66, being the Messiah.

    The solution? “Repent and turn back.” Repent of what? Turn back from what? Well, from treating God in the flesh as a criminal. From denying that Jesus is YHWH.

    And then in vs. 22 ff, Peter says Jesus is the prophet of Deu 18, well understood to be the Messiah by First Century Jews.

    Then Peter says, “(Acts 3:26 ESV) 26 God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness.”

    What “wickedness”? Well, what he just charged them with — denying and crucifying God the Son.

    How does one turn from this wickedness? Well, by believing Jesus to be God the Son. How else?

    Peter announces that faith in Jesus heals, and then preaches that Jesus is the Messiah and God the Son, and then calls for change by returning to God. Well, faith in Jesus heals more than lameness.

    Now, Peter’s sermon was interrupted (Acts 4:1-2). He might have gotten to baptism had the soldiers not intervened. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least. But the part of the sermon he finished is about returning to God by believing Jesus to be the Messiah and God the Son.

    “Faith in Jesus” includes — yet again — faithfulness. Obviously, obedience is required. Of course. Yes. Obedience is there.

    But “obedience” does not equal “baptism.” Jesus gave other instructions! By what right do we insist on baptism and not on selling all our goods or turning the other cheek. Why is lust forgiven but a failure of baptismal orthodoxy damning?

    The whole line of reasoning turns “obedience” into “save yourself by works.” I mean, “obedience” does not mean “get every single command right” or else we’re all damned. Right? The command to be obedient means “be faithful.” It’s speaking to the heart and our general obedience — our submission to God — not getting each and every command right.

    And when we say you must get baptism right or else be damned no matter what, pretty soon we say the same thing about one cup or the church treasury or how many children an elder must have and on and on and on. We make certain preferred commands into boundary markers of salvation and so works that must be performed to be saved — just like circumcision.

    And that is a very dangerous path to take.

  19. Monty says:

    Jay,

    With just a little bit of searching I found these two commentaries that support Acts 3:19 having sins blotted out as an allusion to Water baptism in Acts 2:38. Apparently, it isn’t just a COfC interpretation as with McGarvey and Boles, or myself. Does that mean it’s correct? No. But it does lend force that this is not just some CofC grasp at a 5 step plan. Reasonable and intelligent people(scholars of a very high degree, unaffiliated with the CofC)) have studied it and have reached similar conclusions. That they(Jews) would have understood turning to God I do not disagree with you, by faith even, but how did they know who did and who didn’t turn to God? By a show of hands? No. By who was baptized. Baptism remits sins, washes away sins Acts 22:16, Acts 2:38, and turning to God by faith expressed in baptism into Jesus name “blots out sin.” Remits sin , washes away sin, blots out sin. Different terminology, but no doubt in my mind, referring to the same call to all who hear the good news. No doubt the weight of scholarship is against it alluding to baptism, but I know how most modern scholars deal with even Acts 2:38 so it doesn’t really surprise me if they don’t see baptism in Acts 3:19. As I have said many times I really do appreciate your blog(I have grown so much here) and am amazed at your tireless efforts to not only write extensively as you do but that you even take the time to respond to your commenters.

    Myers Commentary: μετανοήσατε] see on Acts 2:38. The ἐπιστρέψατε (comp. Acts 26:20), connected with it, expresses the positive consequence of the μετανοεῖν. “Significatur in resipiscente applicatio sui ad Deum,” Bengel.

    εἰς τὸ ἐξαλειφθ. κ.τ.λ] contains the aim (namely, the mediate aim: the final aim is contained in Acts 3:20) which repentance and conversion ought to have. The idea of the forgiveness of sins is here represented under the figure of the erasure of a handwriting. See on Colossians 2:14. Comp. Psalm 51:9; Isaiah 43:25; Dem. 791. 12 : ἐξαλήλιπται τὸ ὀφλημα. Baptism is not here expressly named, as in Acts 2:38, but was now understood of itself, seeing that not long before thousands were baptized; and the thought of it has suggested the figurative expression ἐξαλειφθ.: in order that they may be blotted out (namely, by the water of baptism). The causa meritoria of the forgiveness of sins is contained in Acts 3:18 (παθεῖν τὸν Χ.). Comp. Weiss, Petr. Lehrbegr. p. 258. The causa apprehendens (faith) is contained in the required repentance and conversion.

    Bengel’s Gnomon: Μετανοήσατε οὖν καὶ ἐπιστρέψατε, repent therefore and be converted) Here, and in ch. Acts 26:20, repentance is put before conversion; whereas in Jeremiah 31:19, conversion is put before repentance, “Surely after that I was turned (converted), I repented.” Conversion is put first, when there is signified the recovery of a man from sin and the return to his right mind [senses, Luke 15:17]: it is put after repentance, when there is signified in the person repenting the applying of himself to GOD.—εἰς τὸ ἐξαλειφθῆναι, that your sins may be blotted out) The allusion is to the water of baptism.—τὰς ἁμαρτίας, your sins) even that sin which ye perpetrated against Jesus,—ὅπως ἂν, that) [“when”]. So ὅπως ἂν, Matthew 6:5; Luke 2:35 : and (for the Hebrew למען) Acts 15:17; Romans 3:4 : ἂν being the potential particle, if, viz. ye exercise repentance (ye repent), does not make the whole sentence conditional, but is intended to stimulate the hearers to do their part.

  20. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Monty,

    Would be much easier if you’d give the Internet URLs for this sources. This appears to be cut and paste from http://biblehub.com/commentaries/meyer/acts/3.htm. Took me a while to find Meyer’s Commentary. It’s mid-19th Century.

    And he argues that “blotted out” refers to the forgiveness that occurs at baptism, not that “be converted” (“return” in modern English) refers to baptism. Doubtlessly, had Peter not been interrupted, he would have gotten to baptism (as he did in chapter 2). Whether Luke would have recorded that fact is doubtful, since in later sermons, he doesn’t record the exhortation to be baptized, and yet the listeners obviously have been instructed to do so.

    Gnomon is also found at BibleHub: http://biblehub.com/commentaries/bengel/acts/3.htm It dates back to 1742.

    The same argument is made as in Meyer, in very similar language: “that your sins may be blotted out” is an “allusion” to baptism (and Meyer specifically cites to the Gnomon). Not that “be converted” refers to baptism, per McGarvey et al. I would agree with both that, in the Christian context, we are normatively forgiven at baptism. But I wouldn’t accept that “be converted” or “return” refers to baptism.

    I mean, I’ve had it argued here many times that “faith” includes baptism, because those with faith are saved and only those baptized are saved and so “faith” must include baptism. And that “repentance” includes baptism. And that “convert” includes baptism. And that “your sins be blotted out” means baptism. And on and on. And baptism can’t be everything. I mean, it’s an immersion during which God does all sorts of wonderful, amazing things. But it’s not the same thing as those things that lead to baptism or happen at baptism. And that’s not to speak ill of baptism. Rather, we cannot, in defense of our pattern theology, read baptism into words that are saying something else.

    But once we clean all that up, baptism will still be the moment when God forgives (normatively). And it’ll be what penitent Jews who choose to return to God will submit to. Baptism doesn’t get left out in my reading. It just gets put in its proper perspective — and gets out of the way so that other important elements of the story of salvation may also be told.

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