If You Don’t Duck Under Their Campbellite Water, Then Maybe You Won’t Inherit???

I Corinthians 6: Do you dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? 2 Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? 3 Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! 4 So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church? 5 I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers, 6 but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers? 7 To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? 8 But you yourselves wrong and defraud—even your own brothers! 9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?

Romans 6: 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too would walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death LIKE his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection LIKEW his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin would be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been justified from sin. John Murray comments: “The death of Christ is not a process and neither is our conformity to His death a process. We are in the condition of having become conformed to His death.” p 218, commentary on Romans

Acts 2:38 is the favorite prooftexxt for those who believe that water baptism is literally “in order to” the legal remission of sins, and that water baptism is an essential ingredient of salvation. In what sense can water baptism remit sins? I Peter 3:20 In the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. 21 Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,

Water Baptism is like the animal sacrifices of the Old Testament, which did not really or literally atone for sin but were representations of Jesus Christ who would eventually come into the world and actually atone for sin by the sacrifice of Himself. Hebrews 10:1 For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. 2 Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? 3 But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. 4 For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

Hebrews 10: 19 Therefore, brothers,[c] since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 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.

Christ said, “This IS my body” when He took the bread. When He took the cup, He said, “This IS my blood.” Christ’s literal body was His fleshly body, and not the bread itself, nor the breaking of that bread, nor the body of His disciples with him. His human blood was still circulating in His human body, and was not the liquid in the cup.

Since it is not possible for an external ordinance to do an internal work or an invisible declaration (imputation) or to render real satisfaction (atonement) to the broken Law of God , water baptism cannot do these things. Water can only represent the remission of sins by the death of Christ (Matthew 26:28; Hebrews 9:22, 26, 28). Christ put away sins by the sacrifice of Himself. Water baptism no more remits sins than the animal sacrifices of the Old Testament.

Ephesians 5:3 But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. 4 Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. 5 For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous ( that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7 Therefore do not become partners with them; 8 for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), 10 and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.

The serious legalist concludes from the above
1. The wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience, and we know who they are because they continue to sin, and even on purpose.
2. In reality it makes no sense that God is going to punish the condemned non-elect for these sins and not also punish the justified elect for the same specific sins.
3. Therefore, the serious legalist concludes that the justified elect don’t commit these sins, or at least not for long, and never on purpose.

I thank God for another gospel, one in which Christ’s life in justified sinners gives us assurance that sin shall not be our master, because we are not under law but under grace. This true gospel teaches us to fear God and God’s law, because we know that not even Christ in us causes us to satisfy God’s law and we trust in the death of Christ as that which answers the demands of God’s holy law.

Those who are without Christ are under the wrath of God for the very same sins which we who are justified before God continue to commit. Our hope is not that we are no longer coveting idolaters, but that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

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9 Comments on “If You Don’t Duck Under Their Campbellite Water, Then Maybe You Won’t Inherit???”

  1. markmcculley Says:


    2) Many find in ‘water’ a reference to Christian baptism (e.g. Brown, 2. 139-141). For Bultmann (pp. 138-139 n. 3) and others who have followed him, this is so embarrassing that he suggests the words ‘water and’ were not part of the original text, but added by a later ecclesiastical editor much more interested in Christian ritual than the Evangelist himself. There is no textual support for the omission. At the other end of the spectrum, Vellanickal (pp. 170ff.) suggests that when the Evangelist received this account there was no mention of water, but that he added it to provide an explicit reference to the rite of Christian initiation. Added or not, the simple word ‘water’ is understood by the majority of contemporary commentators to refer to Christian baptism, though there is little agreement amongst them on the relation between ‘water’ and ‘Spirit’. After all, reference is made in the near context to Jesus’ own baptismal ministry (3:22; 4:1), and John has connected water and Spirit in a baptismal context before (1:33, 34). Moreover John’s alleged interest in sacraments in ch. 6 encourages the suspicion he is making a sacra­mental allusion here. Many accordingly suggest the Spirit effects new birth through water (= baptism) (e.g. Ferraro, Spirito, pp. 59-67).

    Those who adopt this position, of course, are forced to admit that John’s words could have had no relevance to the historical Nicodemus. This part of the account, at least, becomes a narrative fiction designed to instruct the church on the importance of baptism. What is not always recognized is that this theory makes the Evangelist an extraordinarily incompetent story-teller, since in v. 10 he pictures Jesus berating Nicodemus for not understanding these things. If water = baptism is so important for entering the kingdom, it is surprising that the rest of the discussion never mentions it again: the entire focus is on the work of the Spirit (v. 8), the work of the Son (vv. 14-15), the work of God himself (vv. 16-17), and the place of faith (vv. 15-16). The analogy between the mysterious wind and the sovereign work of the Spirit (v. 8) becomes very strange if Spirit-birth is tied so firmly to baptism. Some doubt if there is any explicit reference to the eucharist in John 6 (cf. notes on 6:25ff.), casting doubt on the supposition that the Evangelist is deeply interested in sacramental questions. If he were, it is surpassingly strange that he fails to make explicit connections, neglecting even to mention the institution of the Lord’s supper. The Spirit plays a powerful role in John 14 – 16; 20:22, but there is no hint of baptism. Moreover the allusions to Jesus’ baptismal activity (3:22; 4:1), far from fostering sacramentalism, explicitly divert attention elsewhere (cf. notes on 3:25-26; 4:2; 6:22ff.). The conjunction of water and Spirit in 1:26, 33 is no support for this position, as there the two are contrasted, whereas in 3:5 they are co-ordinated.

    The entire view seems to rest on an unarticulated prejudice that every mention of water evoked instant recognition, in the minds of first- century readers, that the real reference was to baptism, but it is very doubtful that this prejudice can be sustained by the sources. Even so, this conclusion does not preclude the possibility of a secondary allusion to baptism (cf. notes, below).

    3) A variation on this view is that ‘water’ refers not to Christian baptism but to John’s baptism (Godet, 2. 49-52; Westcott, 1. 108-109, and others). In that case, Jesus is either saying that the baptism of repentance, as important as it is, must not be thought sufficient: there must be Spirit-birth as well; or, if Nicodemus refused to be baptized by the Baptist, Jesus is rebuking him and saying that he must pass through repentance-baptism (‘water’) and new birth (‘Spirit’). ‘To receive the Spirit from the Messiah was no humiliation; on the contrary, it was a glorious privilege. But to go down into Jordan before a wondering crowd and own [his] need of cleansing and new birth was too much. Therefore to this Pharisee our Lord declares that an honest dying to the past is as needful as new life for the future’ (Dods, EGT, 1. 713).

    The argument presupposes that John the Baptist was so influential at the time that a mere mention of water would conjure up pictures of his ministry. If so, however, the response of Nicodemus is inappropriate. If the allusion to the Baptist were clear, why should Nicodemus respond with such incredulity, ignorance and unbelief (3:4, 9-10, 12), rather than mere distaste or hardened arrogance? Even if John’s baptism is mentioned in near contexts, the burden of these contexts is to stress the relative unimportance of his rite (1: 23, 26; 3:23, 30). If John’s baptism lies behind ‘water’ in 3:5, would not this suggest that Jesus was making the Baptist’s rite a requirement for entrance into the kingdom, even though that rite was shortly to be superseded by Christian baptism? Moreover, as Dods sets out this proposed solution, it is assumed that Jesus is recognized as the Messiah who dispenses the Spirit, but it is far from clear that Nicodemus has progressed so far in his appreciation of Jesus.

    4) Several interpreters have argued that Jesus is arguing against the ritual washings of the Essenes (a conservative and frequently monastic Jewish movement), or perhaps against Jewish ceremonies in general. What is necessary is Spirit-birth, not mere water-purification. But ‘water’ and ‘Spirit’ are not contrasted in v. 5: they are linked, and together become the equivalent of ‘from above’ (v. 3).

    5) A number of less influential proposals have been advanced. Some have suggested that ‘water’ represents Torah (which can refer to the Pentateuch, or to the entire Jewish teaching and tradition about God, written and oral, or something between the two extremes). But though water is sometimes a symbol for Torah in rabbinic literature, ‘birth of water’ or the like does not occur. Moreover the stress in the Fourth Gospel is on the life-giving qualities of Jesus’ words (6:63); the Scriptures point to him (5:39). Odeberg (p. 50), Morris (pp. 216-218) and others have seen in ‘born of water and the Spirit’ an hendiadys for spiritual seed or semen, in contrast with semen of the flesh (v. 6). The entire expression refers to God’s engendering seed or efflux, cast over against the natural birth Nicodemus mentions in the preceding verse. But Odeberg’s supporting citations are both late and unconvincing, demanding that the reader (not to mention Nicodemus!) make numer­ous doubtful connections. Jesus’ indignation that Nicodemus had not grasped what he was saying (v. 10) suddenly sounds artificial and forced. Hodges has recently suggested that the two crucial terms, both without articles, should be rendered ‘water and wind’, together symbolizing God’s vivifying work,1 since Greek pneuma can mean ‘wind’ or ‘breath’ as well as ‘spirit’ (cf. notes on 3:8). But this fails to reckon with the fact that pneuma almost always means ‘spirit’ in the New Testament. Only very powerful contextual clues can compel another rendering: the presence or absence of the article is certainly not an adequate clue (cf. v. 8 where pneuma = ‘wind’ is articular). The word pneuma in the very next verse (v. 6) cannot easily be understood to mean anything other than ‘spirit’, and it is this consistent meaning that prepares the way for the analogical argument of v. 8, where wind symbolizes spirit.

    The most plausible interpretation of ‘born of water and the Spirit’2 turns on three factors. First, the expression is parallel to ‘from above’ (anōthen, v. 3), and so only one birth is in view. Second, the preposition ‘of’ governs both ‘water° and ‘spirit’. The most natural way of taking this construction is to see the phrase as a conceptual unity: there is a water-spirit source (cf. Murray J. Harris, NIDNTT 3. 1178) that stands as the origin of this regeneration.3 Third, Jesus berates Nicodemus for not understanding these things in his role as ‘Israel’s teacher’ (v. 10), a senior ‘professor’ of the Scriptures, and this in turn suggests we must turn to what Christians call the Old Testament to begin to discern what Jesus had in mind.

    Although the full construction ‘born of water and of the Spirit’ is not found in the Old Testament, the ingredients are there. At a minor level, the idea that Israel, the covenant community, was properly called ‘God’s son’ (Ex. 4:22; Dt. 32:6; Ho. 11:1) provides at least a little potential background for the notion of God ‘begetting’ people, enough, Brown thinks, that it should have enabled Nicodemus ‘to understand that Jesus was proclaiming the arrival of the eschatological times when men would be God’s children’ (1. 139). Far more important is the Old Testament background to ‘water’ and ‘spirit’. The ‘spirit’ is constantly God’s princi­ple of life, even in creation (e.g. Gn. 2:7; 6:3; Jb. 34:14); but many Old Testament writers look forward to a time when God’s ‘spirit’ will be poured out on humankind (Joel 2:28) with the result that there will be blessing and righteousness (Is. 32:15-20; 44:3; Ezk. 39:29), and inner renewal which cleanses God’s covenant people from their idolatry and disobedience (Ezk. 11:19-20; 36:26-27). When water is used figuratively in the Old Testament, it habitually refers to renewal or cleansing, especially when it is found in conjunction with ‘spirit’. This conjunction may be explicit, or may hide behind language depicting the ‘pouring out’ of the spirit (cf. Nu. 19:17-19; Ps. 51:9-10; Is. 32:15; 44:3-5; 55:1-3; Je. 2:13; 17:13; Ezk. 47:9; Joel 2:28-29; Zc. 14:8). Most important of all is Ezekiel 36:25-27, where water and spirit come together so forcefully, the first to signify cleansing from impurity, and the second to depict the transformation of heart that will enable people to follow God wholly. And it is no accident that the account of the valley of dry bones, where Ezekiel preaches and the Spirit brings life to dry bones, follows hard after Ezekiel’s water/spirit passage (cf. Ezk. 37; and notes on 3:8, below). The language is reminiscent of the ‘new heart’ expressions that revolve around the promise of the new covenant (Je. 31:29ff.). Similar themes were sometimes picked up in later Judaism (e.g. Jubilees 1:23-25).

    In short, born of water and spirit (the article and the capital ‘S’ in the NIV should be dropped: the focus is on the impartation of God’s nature as ‘spirit’ [cf. 4:24], not on the Holy Spirit as such) signals a new begetting, a new birth that cleanses and renews, the eschatological cleansing and renewal promised by the Old Testament prophets. True, the prophets tended to focus on the corporate results, the restoration of the nation; but they also anticipated a transformation of individual ‘hearts’ — no longer hearts of stone but hearts that hunger to do God’s will. It appears that individual regeneration is presupposed. Apparently Nicodemus had not thought of the Old Testament passages this way. If he was like some other Pharisees, he was too confident of the quality of his own obedience to think he needed much repentance (cf. Lk. 7:30), let alone to have his whole life cleansed and his heart transformed, to be born again.

    Some have argued that if the flow of the passage is anything like what has been described then it is hopelessly anachronistic, for John’s Gospel makes it abundantly clear (cf. esp. 7:37-39) that the Holy Spirit would not be given until after Jesus is glorified, and it is this Holy Spirit who must effect the new birth, even if the expression ‘born of water and spirit’ does not refer to the Holy Spirit per se. So how then can Jesus demand of Nicodemus such regeneration?

    The charge is ill-conceived. Jesus is not presented as demanding that Nicodemus experience the new birth in the instant; rather, he is force­fully articulating what must be experienced if one is to enter the king­dom of God. The resulting tension is no different from the corresponding Synoptic tension as to when the kingdom dawns. In Matthew, for instance, Jesus is born the King (Mt. 1— 2), he announces the kingdom and performs the powerful works of the kingdom (4:17; 12:28), but it is not until he has arisen from the dead that all authority becomes his (28:18-20). That is why all discipleship in all four Gospels is inevitably transitional. The coming-to-faith of the first followers of Jesus was in certain respects unique: they could not instantly become ‘Chris­tians’ in the full-orbed sense, and experience the full sweep of the new birth, until after the resurrection and glorification of Jesus. If we take the Gospel records seriously, we must conclude that Jesus sometimes pro­claimed truth the full significance and application of which could be fully appreciated and experienced only after he had risen from the dead. John 3 falls under this category.

    It appears, then, that the passage makes good sense within the historical framework set out for us, i .e . as a lesson for Nicodemus within the context of the ministry of Jesus. But we must also ask how John expected his readers to understand it. If his targeted readers were hellenistic Jews and Jewish proselytes who had been exposed to Christianity and whom John was trying to evangelize (cf. Introduction, § VI, and notes on 20:30-31), then his primary message for them is clear. No matter how good their Jewish credentials, they too must be born again if they are to see or enter the kingdom of God. When John wrote this, Christian baptism had been practised for several decades (which was of course not the case when Jesus spoke with Nicodemus). If (and it is a quite uncertain ‘if’) the Evangelist expected his readers to detect some secondary allusion to Christian baptism in v. 5 (cf. Richter, Studien, pp. 327-345), the thrust of the passage treats such an allusion quite distantly. What is emphasized is the need for radical transformation, the fulfilment of Old Testament promises anticipating the outpouring of the Spirit, and not a particular rite. If baptism is associated in the readers’ minds with entrance into the Christian faith, and therefore with new birth, then they are being told in the strongest terms that it is the new birth itself that is essential, not the rite.’

  2. markmcculley Says:

    Once more, the baneful influence spread by Antichrist over the nations by infant-baptism, is that poisonous notion infused by him, that sacraments, particularly baptism, confer grace ex opere operate, by the work done; that it takes away sin, regenerates men, and saves their souls; …

    “And this pernicious notion still continues, this old leaven yet remains, even in some Protestant churches, who have retained it from Rome; hence a child when baptized is declared to be regenerate; and it is taught, when capable of being catechized to say, that in its baptism it was made a child of God, a member of Christ, and an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven, which has a tendency to take off all concern, in persons when grown up, about an inward work of grace, in regeneration and sanctification, as a meetness for heaven, and to encourage a presumption in them, notwithstanding their apparent want of grace, that they are members of Christ, and shall never perish; are children and heirs of God, and shall certainly inherit eternal life. Wherefore Dr. [John] Owen rightly observes “That the father of lies himself could not easily have devised a doctrine more pernicious, or what proposes a more present and effectual poison to the minds of sinners to be drank in by them.”

    John Gill, “Infant Baptism: a Part and Pillar of Popery,”

  3. markmcculley Says:

    if water without faith will not save, i have to ask; will faith without water save? But if water does not save, there is no water regeneration, and if there is no water regeneration, there is no church regeneration, and that would mean that there is only gospel regeneration..

  4. markmcculley Says:

    The Gospel in Water

    Alexander Campbell wrote, “Immersion is that act by which our state is changed,” and he then stated, “If so, then, who will not concur with me in saying that Christian immersion is the Gospel in water. ”

    Since Campbell’s major premise is wrong, his conclusion based on this premise is wrong. His premise, “Immersion is thatact by which our state is changed,” has no Biblical basis. We are changed by the power of God, and not by water baptism. We are changed by the Word of God (I Thess. 2:13); we are changed by the Holy Spirit of God (2 Cor. 3:18). There is absolutely no hint in the Scriptures that our state is changed by baptism. Therefore, Mr. Campbell’s conclusion that “immersion is the Gospel in water” is utterly false. I am quoting these statements by Alexander Campbell, since he is the fountainhead of the heresy among Church of Christ people, that baptism is essential for salvation. This heresy has become their central doctrine.

    In some strange way the Churches of Christ have developed a water based theology, though some are breaking away from this kind of thinking, most are still in bondage.

    The Gospel of Christ is clearly stated in I Corinthians 15:1-4, “Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you-unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.” Nothing is said about baptism in this statement of the Gospel. Surely, if baptism is a part of the Gospel, we would be informed of that fact in these verses.

    The Bible says we are saved by the Gospel (v.2). If we teach that baptism is essential, we are adding conditions to the Gospel which God has not authorized. There is not one verse in the Bible where such authorization is given.

    The word “Gospel” means “Good News.” It is the good news that Jesus Christ, God’s Son, died on the Cross in our place and stead. He completely paid our sin debt. This is the message Christ has commissioned us to go into all the world and preach to every creature.

    Is this the Gospel you have and preach, or do you add to the Gospel by telling people they must “repent and be baptized for remission of sins”? If you are preaching such a gospel, you do not understand the finished work of Christ. If you are not preaching the Gospel of the Grace of God, you are preaching “another gospel,” and if you are preaching “another gospel,” the curse of God rests on you. “As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed” (Gal. 1:9).

    I reject the twin errors, “that baptism is essential for salvation,” and “that we are baptized for the remission of sins,” for two reasons:

    1. The Gospel of John, and
    2. The Book of Romans.
    The Gospel of John was written to tell men how to be saved (John 20:31), but baptism as a condition for salvation is not mentioned one single time in this book.

    The Book of Romans is the great doctrinal book of the Bible, but it does not teach baptism is essential for salvation, or that we are to be baptized for the remission of sins. The Church of Christ does not get its doctrine of baptismal regeneration from the Bible, but from the Roman Catholic church.

    Baptism for the Remission of Sins

    “Then Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit”‘ (Acts 2:38). Baptism for the remission of sins is the principal doctrine taught by the Churches of Christ. I reject the theory that we are baptized for the remission of sins for two additional reasons:

    1. Acts 2:38 is based on a biased translation, and
    2. this command is given only one time in the New

    A Biased Translation

    Acts 2:38 has been called the most debated verse in the Bible. The entire controversy hinges on the meaning of the English word “for” and the Greek word “eis.” Hundreds of books have been written, pro and con, on the meaning of these words.

    Most Church of Christ ministers follow Alexander Campbell who said, “The preposition ‘eis’ here means in order toin order to the remission of sins.” On the other hand, many able evangelical Greek scholars tell us that “eis” in Acts 2:38 would better be translated as “because of” as it is translated in Matthew 12:41, “The men of Nineveh will rise in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here.” To try to say “in order to” does not make sense in that verse. A criminal is not put in jail “in order to” commit crimes, but because he has committed crimes. When we say a person shouts for joy, we do not mean he shouts in order to get joy, but because he has joy.

    Dr. Bruce Cummons has given an excellent illustra- tion in reference to the word “for” in Acts 2:38:

    Consider another passage of Scripture, where the same word “for’ is used in a similar way. Read carefully Luke 5:12-15. Christ healed a leper of his dread disease. Since this was before Calvary, the healed man was still under the law, and Christ was faithful in fulfilling the law. Jesus said to the man, therefore, ‘Go, and show thyself to the priest and offer for thy cleansing, according as Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them” (v.l4). Notice the language carefully: “Offer for thy cleansing. ” Did Christ heal, or did the offering heal? Why, you may say that’s ridiculous! Christ healed! The offering was only a testimony to the truth that had taken place in the life of the man healed’. You are right’.

    Furthermore, the same language is employed and the same purpose is set forth in Acts 2:38. ‘Repent, ‘ as I have shown to mean, biblically, ‘repent unto salvation’ and then ‘be baptized for the remis- sion, “or as a testimony that your sins have been remitted.

    If the offering did not cleanse or was only a testimony of, “for thy cleansing, ‘ then by the same Bible truth, baptism does not save but is a testimony of the truth that your sins have been remitted; or to be baptized “for the remission of sins, ‘ or actually as a testimony that your sins have been remitted.

    Christ alone is the Saviour, not the baptistry, not the water in it! Thus, the purpose of baptism is to show forth the salvation that has already taken place in the heart and life of the believer. If the blood of Christ was shed for the remission of sins, then baptism cannot bring about, or be the means of remitting sins. You cannot have two ways of salvation. If you want to set this verse (Acts 2:38) against the hundreds of passages in the Bible that declare salvation to be by faith and make Acts 2:38 say what Peter never intended it to say, then that is up to you.

    The Command to “Be Baptized for Remission of Sins”
    is Not Repeated After the Day of Pentecost.

    One of the principal rules of Biblical interpretation is to study the passage in the light of its context. Let us do this. The events that took place on the day of Pentecost were most unusual. A little less than two months before this time, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, had been nailed to a cruel cross. He had died for the sins of the whole world. He was buried and had been raised from the dead on the third day. The Jewish nation had clamored for His blood, and they were not satisfied until He was dead, but God raised Him from the dead (Acts 3:15).

    Now, fifty days later, something very unusual was taking place. Read the details for yourself in the second chapter of Acts. A great crowd of people had gathered after the Christians had been filled with the Holy Spirit. The crowd asked, “What is the meaning of this?” (Acts 2:12).

    The Apostle Peter stood up and preached to the great crowd in the power of the Holy Spirit. He told them, “‘Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Men and brethren, what shall we do?’ (Acts 2:36,37). “Then Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit'” (Acts 2:38). Peter was calling the Jews to repentance for their terrible sin of crucifying the Lord Jesus. He told them to be baptized to demonstrate the sincerity of their faith. Lip service was not enough. The emphasis of Peter’s statement was on repentance for their awful sin. The emphasis was not then, and is not now on being “baptized” for the remission of sins. Such emphasis is not found anywhere in the Word of God.

    This was a onetime command. You ask, “How do you know this to be true?” The facts speak for themselves. This command is not repeated one single time in the Book of Acts. It is not repeated anywhere in Romans and clear through the Book of Revelation.

    Read Acts 3:11-20. What did Peter tell the people to do after the lame man was healed? “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts3:19). He did not tell them to “be baptized for the remission of sins. ” Surely, if baptism for the remission of sins is essential for salvation, Peter would not have missed this opportunity to command them to do this. What did the people do? “However, many of those who heard the word believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand” (Acts 4:4).

    In Acts 8:26-40 we have the account of the conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch. Please take time to read the account for yourself.

    Philip “preached unto him Jesus” (v.35). “Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, ‘See, here is water. What binders me from being baptized?'” (v.36). Did Philip tell him “to repent and to be baptized for the remission of sins”? No. Philip said, “‘If you believe with all your heart, you may.’ And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God'” (Acts 8:37), “and he baptized him” (v.38). I emphasize, the eunuch believed and was saved. Dozens of references tell us we are saved simply by believing (Acts 10:43; 13:39; 16:31; John 3:16-18; 5:24; 6:47). This account follows the Scripture pattern of believing and THEN being baptized. The eunuch was saved by believing before he was baptized.

    The story of the conversion of Cornelius is well known to all Bible students. Read the account for yourself in the tenth and eleventh chapters of Acts. Is the account of Cornelius’ conversion in harmony with Church of Christ doctrine?

    What did Peter, the same man who told the people on the day of Pentecost to “Repent and be baptized for the remission of sins,” tell Cornelius that he must do to receive remission of sins? Peter was just starting his sermon when he said, “To Him [Christ] all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins” (Acts10:43). And what happened? “While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word” (v.44). Notice Cornelius was saved by believing and not by “being baptized for the remission of sins. ” Please notice that the Holy Spirit fell on Cornelius and his household BEFORE they were baptized. This is the Divine order. Believing always comes before baptism.

    When Paul and Bamabas were on their first missionary journey, they came to Antioch in Pisidia. Did they preach baptism for the remission of sins? No, they preached, “and by Him [Christ] everyone who believes is justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses” (Acts 13:39).

    Did the Apostle Paul tell the Philippian jailor, “Repent and be baptized for the remission of sins, and you shall be saved”? No, he told him, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31).

    The Book of Romans is the great doctrinal book of the New Testament. Does it teach baptism for the remission of sins? Not one single time! One of the great themes of Romans is justification by faith. I repeat, not one time from Romans through the Book of the Revelation are we told to “repent and be baptized for the remission of sins.”

    To my way of thinking, these facts which have been presented to you should be prayerfully pondered. Is God trying to tell you something? Acts 2:38 is one of your great doctrinal verses, but the command to “repent and be baptized” is not repeated one single time after the day of Pentecost. But you say, “Since Acts 2:38 teaches that baptism is for remission of sins, that is all that is needed. One verse is enough. ” Yes, one verse is enough, if it is in harmony with the rest of the Bible, but Acts2:38 is not in harmony with what the Bible teaches about salvation.

    Churches of Christ have several other proof-texts to show baptism is essential for salvation, but not one of these verses teach that you must be baptized for the remission of sins.

  5. markmcculley Says:


    When I saw that there was a chapter in the book titled “Baptism in the Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement,” I fully expected this chapter to warn baptists not emphasize believers’ baptism to the point that in guarding against paedo-baptism, we would fall into the opposite error of Campbellitism. And I was happy at the prospect of reading such a chapter, because here in Louisville there is a large number of Campbell’s theological descendants, especially in the “Christian Church.” Rather than an apologetic defense against Campbellitism, the author of this chapter, A.B. Caneday, asserts that “if one perseveres in reading Alexander Campbell’s works with care, one discovers that Campbell, particularly on baptism, has been unfairly treated to this day” (304)

    But is Caneday correct? Should evangelicals (and, in this format, I would especially like to add, should Baptists) seek rapprochement with those in the Campbellite tradition [found in denominations such as the Christian Church and the Churches of Christ]? Should we not instead follow the example set by historic Baptist associations (299-300) and seek to distance ourselves from fellowship with the Campbellites, based on New Testament passages such as Galatians 1:6-9 and 2 John 10-11?

    The Campbellites hold to a core error best described as baptismal justification. Alexander Campbell taught that everyone needs a change in the state of their spiritual relations before God. According to Campbell, this change-justification- is caused by baptism. Campbell is careful to state that baptism is the “instrumental cause” of this change, not the original cause [why Campbell is comfortable with the term “instrumental cause,” when he seems so slow to use other terms not directly found in Scripture, I’m not sure]

    Campbell believed in a three stage model of the new birth, like many Regular Baptists in his day, and like some also in this day. He believed one was regenerated (begotten) before baptism, but born (brought forth) in baptism.

    One CoC leader just published an article in the newspaper in which he used a classic Roman Catholic argument to dismiss the doctrine of “sola fide.” He clearly rejected justification by faith, in place of justification by baptism.

    It is not only that baptism is sometimes not mentioned, but there are passages in which gospel preaching is distinguished from baptism (1 Cor 1:17) in a way that would be impossible if baptism were necessary for justification.

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