Dear Brother Amú,
Praise the Lord and God of us all; namely, Christ Jesus. I do write to you in His name (Colossians 3:17).
Brother Amú I am writing this correspondence because it has occurred to me how rarely we really get to the core of topics when we are talking, and perhaps the facts of the major subject may be better processed from a written form.
From the beginning my spirit has been drawn to you with a desire to walk in faith with you in this world. However, we both have acknowledged some basic differences of doctrine that are not superficial, but that lay at the very foundation of our belief systems. Although, the more we communicate the more these differences seem to dissipate. So much of the time disagreement exists between brothers because of misunderstandings. What follows is not written to convince you to my view, but rather to help you understand why I hold the position I do. I will be content for you and I not to see eye to eye, as long as I am satisfied that you understand the reason for my faith.
You may have solutions and answers to the arguments I will present which I have completely overlooked. If this is the case, I am speaking the truth when I say: I welcome such correction. My brother, at this point in my life I fly no one’s denominational flag. If I know my heart, I am a Christian whose only interest is truth.
In our conversations we seem to hit an impasse at the point of what place the mysteries (sacraments) hold in the gospel of Jesus Christ. In the following, I will attempt to limit my comments to the subject of water baptism, in that the Lord’s supper would seem to follow naturally along the same lines of understanding. Those who share, with me, the salvific view of water baptism are often ask why, or how, such a view is held. I wish to share certain passages from the word of God and explain why they are interpreted, by so many, the way they are.
Also, I might add, I will not attempt to set forth the importance of the Jesus name formula, in that I suspect you would agree that first century water baptism was administered in this fashion, and if one felt a necessity to follow the apostles that one should so baptize today. If I am wrong in this assumption you may inform me.
Permit me to follow your lead, where you stated that we most likely view the “baptism” passages of Scripture differently. I suppose that some persons see water every place the word “baptism” occurs, and others “never” see water unless explicitly stated. I am sure you would agree that both groups would be in error. Any honest student of the Bible would look to context for the application of the word “baptism.” I would, further, suppose that we could agree that the term “baptism” most often references water baptism; and that on the rare occasions were other forms of baptism are intended (i.e. spirit, suffering, judgment ) the text will alert the reader. Then the assumption can be made that water baptism is intended unless otherwise stated. With this in mind, permit me to list a few of the texts which I, and those like me, view as applying to water baptism and why we view water baptism as salvific.
Prayer: May the Lord of all light illumine all in our heart that lies in darkness. Amen.
I. Mark 16:16
“He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth if not shall be damned.”
References Water Baptism Because: This is Mark’s account of the Great Commission as demonstrated throughout. Matthew recorded this same discourse in Matthew 28:19. There, the ministers of the Gospel are instructed to execute water baptism upon all converts to the faith. It is universally acknowledged that Matthew intends water baptism and by association, so does Mark.
Has Salvific Quality Because: Mark records Jesus as listing two prerequisites for salvation; namely, 1. belief, and 2. water baptism. (Damnation has only one prerequisite: unbelief.)
II. Matthew 28:19
“Go ye therefore and teach all nations (some: “make disciples of all nations”), baptizing them in (Greek: into) the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.”
References Water Baptism Because: The act of baptism here is administered by the church upon new disciples. One would be hard-pressed to find any scholarship which questions the presence of “water” in this commission. As you know, Amú, this passage is considered the Words of Institution for water baptism throughout Christendom.
Has Salvific Quality Because: One is said to be baptized “into” the NAME. Here, there seems to be a dimension that goes far beyond mere authority. There is the clear idea of placement. The baptized is “placed,” positionally, into the name he or she is baptized “into.” I have before me “Vines Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words,” referencing the word “baptism” it reads: “… the phrase in Matthew 28:19, ‘baptizing them into the Name’ (R.V.; cp. Acts 8:16, R.V.), would indicate that the baptized person was closely bound to, or became the property of, the one into whose name he was baptized.” A side note (that is not so “aside”): the Hebrew concept of “name” most likely should be considered here—i.e. the “name” of a person represents the very essence of the person’s being. Yahweh declares His angel to, in fact, be Himself ( Exodus 23:20-23), because His “name” is IN the Angel (v 21, “Beware of him, and obey his voice, provoke him not; for he will not pardon your transgressions: for my name is in him.”). It would seem, then, that to be placed “into” the name of Jesus, is, in fact, being placed “into” Jesus. This concept has a very large bearing on Galatians 3:27, “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” It seems to me, that given Matthew’s strong Hebraic bent, this concept of the name cannot be ignored.
III. Acts 2:38
“Then Peter said to them, repent, and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”
References Water Baptism Because: In the first place, this is Peter’s answer to the question asked the twelve apostles in verse 36: “... brethren, what shall we do?” Peter’s answer consisted of two required items: 1. repentance, and 2. baptism. Obedience to these two commands resulted in the promise of the Holy Ghost. Both were activities involving the participation of the candidate. Secondly, 3000 of Peter’s hearers responded, and were water baptized, as verse 41 attests: “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.”
|Greek Preposition Chart|
IV. Acts 10:48
“And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord.”
References Water Baptism Because: Water is explicitly mentioned in verse 47 : “Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized,…?”
Has Salvific Quality Because: Water baptism was not optional for Cornelius and his household. It was a command. It seems to me, that a command from an apostle, especially from Peter, would not be inconsequential to one’s right-standing with Christ (see Matthew 16:19 ; Acts 2:42; 2 Thessalonians 3:14; Hebrews 13:17).
V. 1 Peter 3:18- 21
“For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit. 19 By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; 20. Which sometimes were disobedient, when once the long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few , that is, eight souls were saved by water. 21. The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God.) By the resurrection of Jesus Christ:”
References Water Baptism Because: The baptism of v21 references water baptism, because the context of the passage is water. (See v20 “Which sometimes were disobedient, when once the long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few , that is, eight souls were saved by water.”)
Has Salvific Quality Because: Peter states as much when he wrote: “The light figure whereunto even baptism doth also now saves us…” (v21). It seems to me, that, we would be amiss if Peter’s other references to water baptism were not viewed in the light of this statement. Likewise, this statement must be viewed in the light of Peter’s other remarks on the subject of water baptism. Of course I referred to Acts 2:38 and Acts 10:48 where he commanded water baptism for the remission (forgiveness) of sins. Moreover, the statement that water baptism is “… the answer of a good conscience toward God” is very telling, in the light of Hebrews 9:14 where it is the blood of Christ which shall “purge your conscience from all dead works.” Therefore, it is difficult not to see the association of water baptism with the blood of Christ. I fail to understand how such a large portion of the Lord’s church can make the dogmatic statement of: “baptism does NOT save us” when such a statement is diametric to the apostles’: "baptism doth also now save us,” said the Apostle Peter.
VI. Acts 8:15-16
“Who,” (Peter and John) “when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: 16 (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in” (Greek: eis—into) “the name of the Lord Jesus.)”
References Water Baptism Because: Luke records the event of water baptism in v12:“But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.” Even Simon the Sorcerer was baptized, although his heart was not right with God: “Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done.”
Has Salvific Quality Because: The Samaritans were baptized “into” the name of Jesus. The un-mistakable idea conveyed here is position. The Samaritans were placed into Christ, positionally, through their water baptism. With this in view, it becomes difficult to ignore Galatians 3:27 as having an association with water baptism: “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”
VII. Acts 19:5
“When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.”
References Water Baptism Because: Upon learning that they had no knowledge of the Holy Ghost, Paul asked them about their water baptism: “And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John's baptism.”
Has Salvific Quality Because: Paul thought water baptism important enough to re-baptize the disciples of John the Baptist. Upon discovering their incomplete faith, Paul went right to their baptism as the possible problem: “Unto what then were ye baptized?” he asked. Paul must have felt that if their faith was wrong – their baptism was wrong. He seems to see water baptism as the rite of passage into the true faith. Is it not argued that one cannot be saved without the true faith of Christ, and that water baptism is the initiation into that faith? If so, how could one deny water baptism’s association with salvation?
VIII. Acts 22:16
“And now why tarriest thou? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.”
References Water Baptism Because: The command “Arise, and be baptized...!” As it relates to the Greek language is in the middle voice, meaning: “Get Yourself baptized.” Plus, the baptism that Ananias commanded was a washing. This, of course, indicates water.
Has Salvific Quality Because: According to Ananias’ understanding, Paul’s acceptance, and Luke’s inspirational writings, sins are washed away by the instrumentality of water baptism. In light of this, one would be amiss if Ephesians 5:26 was not viewed as referencing water baptism. This verse reads: “That he (Christ) might sanctify and cleanse it (the church) with the washing of water by the word.” It cannot be that the “word” which does the washing has the written word of God in view. This can be asserted with certainty, because it is the Greek word “rhema.” Rhema is a word spoken by a living voice. F. F. Bruce exegetes this verse as referencing to the cleansing of sin by the spoken name of Jesus at the time of the ceremonial washing of baptism (to this agree: Augustine, Alford, Benson, Ellicott, Matthew Henry, Mayer, James-Fausset-Brown, ect.). One must admit this is Pauline teaching and is in perfect harmony with that apostle’s initiation into the One true faith, e.g. “And now why tarriest thou? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” (Acts 22:16).
Lastly, in that the Scriptures are abundantly clear (from such passages as Hebrews 9:14, 1 John 1:7 and Revelation 1:5) that it is the blood, and only the blood, of Jesus that washes sins away, it would seem that water baptism has a necessary instrumental association with the blood of Christ.
IX. Romans 6:3-5
“Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? 4. Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. 5. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection.”
References Water Baptism Because: The unmistakable reference to water baptism by immersion is found in vv4-5; Verse 4 states that the believer is, “Buried with him (Christ) by baptism;” verse 5 sstates that believers are, “planted together in the likeness of his (Christ) death.” The terms “buried” and “planted” speak of that mode of water baptism called immersion. Moreover, the term “like” (v4) and “likeness” (v5) speak of an enactment of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, participated in by the one being baptized.
Has Salvific Quality Because: The reasons for asserting that water baptism, as presented in this passage, to be of a salvific nature are listed, as follows:
- Verse 3 states that the believers are “baptized into Christ” which is in agreement with the same apostle’s statement to the Galatians: “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Galatians 3:27) .
- The term “by” from v4 (as: “we are buried with him by baptism into death:”) is instrumental. Therefore, baptism is the instrument of our burial into Christ’s death. Here, it seems that one should acknowledge baptism as the instrument of our entering into Christ death, and not the result of having entered into his death by the means of faith only (see James 2: 20-26).
- The term “if” from verse five is a word of condition. It is the Greek word “ei” (Strong’s #G1487, meaning: a primary particle of conditionality). Webster has as the primary meaning: “in the event that.” Therefore, Paul writes in this v5, “We shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection, if” (a condition: in the event that) “we have been planted together in the likeness of his death.” It is clear that water baptism is the subject of this passage. It would seem, therefore, that the believer's hope of the resurrection is conditional “in the event that” he or she has been “planted,” “buried,” with Christ in water baptism.
X. Galatians 3:27
“For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”
References Water Baptism Because: Paul employs the same terminology toward the Romans (Romans 6:3 “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?”). Since the letter to the Galatians was written before the letter to the Romans (A.D. 53 and 57 respectively), we may take the Roman statement as commentary to the statement to the Galatians. To the Galatians Paul writes: “baptized into Christ,” without any indication of water; except for the fact that water is commonly understood when the term "baptism" is used, unless the text indicates otherwise. But when the passage from Romans 6:3ff is introduced as an interpreter of Paul’s previous statement to the Galatians, water baptism becomes very apparent. Notice, to the Romans Paul writes “For as many of us as were baptized into Christ…”
Here we will compare Galatians 3:27 with Romans 6:3
Galatians 3:27 hosoi yar eis christon ebaptisthēte,
Romans 6:3 hosoi ebaptisthēmaen eis christon Iēsoun
Paul clearly shows his readers that the phrase “baptized into Christ…,” of Galatians 3:27, has water baptism in view by his use of the terms “buried,” and “planted” of Romans 4:4-5. One would need very good reason, indeed, to understand Paul’s statement to the Galatians any other way. No such reason exists that I am aware of.
Lastly, if we would heed the admonition of Peter, “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation” (2 Peter 1:2); then it would seem the correct hermeneutic to interpret Galatians 3:27 in the light of other related text.
Matthew 28:19 Baptized “into” the name; Acts 8:16 Baptized “into” the name; Exodus 20:24 Name equals presence; Exodus 23:21 Name equals presence; Romans 6:3-5 “Baptized into Christ” references Water Baptism.
Galatians 3:27“For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”
Has Salvific Quality Because: The salvational nature of being “baptized into Christ” is apparent in the resulting consequences; namely, “having put on Christ.” Believers are commanded to: “Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 13:14). None would argue against the need to be IN CHRIST for salvation. So, none would debate the salvific value of this verse. The only question was the meaning of “baptized into Christ.”
XI. 1 Corinthians 1:13
“Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?
References Water Baptism Because: The entire context of the passage, from v11 through v16, indicates that the term “baptized” has water baptism in view.
“For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. 12 Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. 13 Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius; 15 Lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name. 16 And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other.” (1 Corinthians 1:11-16)
Has Salvific Quality Because: The problem Paul was addressing was the different sects that had developed at Corinth. They were all saying, either, “I am of Paul” or “I am of a Apollos,” or I am of Cephas, or I am of Christ (v12). Of these claims only one was valid. The prepositions “of” indicates: belonging to; therefore: ownership, or source of origin is indicated. Paul employs the mystery of water baptism to argue his point. Namely, they were all “of” Christ—only because his was the name into (Greek: eis) which they were all baptized. By employing the Greek preposition “eis” (into) much more than authority is in view. When making a comment on Matthew 28:19 (and the word “eis”) W. E. Vine states: The phrase in Matthew 28:19 “baptizing them into the name” (R.V.; cp. Acts 8:16, R.V.) Indicates that the baptized person was closely bound to, or became the property of, the one into whose name he was baptized.
XII. Ephesians 4:5
“One Lord, one faith, one baptism.”
References Water Baptism Because: The references to water baptism is indicated by at least two facts of the context. First, there is Paul’s subject of unity and the oneness of the body of Christ mentioned in vv2&3 (“Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;”). Paul has in mind that visible baptism which identifies all believers as belonging to the same body (v4). Since Spirit baptism is invisible, the logical subject is a visible water baptism in which all shared, as their initiation into the one faith. Secondly, Paul is most logically referencing water baptism, because the genesis of the Ephesian church shows some confusion on that subject. Acts 19 records twelve disciples of John the Baptist submitting to re-baptism “in the name of the Lord Jesus” ( Acts 19:5). Thus, it is a fact that the Ephesians’ had experience with two water baptisms. Paul is admonishing them, from his prison cell in Rome (A.D. 60), that only one water baptism is valid; namely, water baptism into the name of Christ.
Has Salvific Quality Because: Although the association with salvation may not be as evident from this verse (Ephesians 4:5), it is certainly within the scope of the passage. In v4 Paul states: “there is one body, and one spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling.” One must acknowledge the “one hope” has the believers’ salvation in view. Since the theme of this passage is ONENESS, baptism should not be singled out as having a different quality from, say, the body of Christ, the Spirit of Christ, the hope of the believers calling, the Lord Himself, or the faith by which we all live. Therefore, one should not deny the salvational association of all these things.
XIII. Colossians 2:11-12
“In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ: 12. Buried with him in baptism, wherein also you are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.”
References Water Baptism Because: That this passage (v12) has reference to water baptism is seen in the symbolism of the act: Namely, the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. Again, the structure of this text is seem to apply to water baptism through the same characteristics as Romans 6:3-5. Both passages employ the symbolism of burial and resurrection to characterize baptism. This is the nature of water baptism by immersion.
Has Salvific Quality Because: The salvific nature of water baptism, as it is demonstrated here, is seen through its association with Old Testament circumcision. In bringing the shadow of the Old Testament to the light of the church, Paul identifies water baptism as the fulfillment of circumcision. Since we have apostolic authority to receive baptism as the New Covenant manifestation of circumcision, and since circumcision was the “seal” of the Abraham covenant (“And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had...” Romans 4:11a), it seems that we can say nothing less of New Testament water baptism: Namely, Christian water baptism is the “seal” of the New Covenant. To say that water baptism is to the New Covenant what circumcision was to the Old Covenant is to say what the Bible says.
XIV. 1 Corinthians 10:2-3
“And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; 3. And did all eat the same spiritual meat;”
References Water Baptism Because: Paul is here paralleling the Israelites’ passing through the Red Sea with New Testament water baptism, just as he is paralleling the cloud which overshadowed them with New Testament Spirit baptism. In v6 we are told, “now these things were our examples;” (the Greek says, our figures: τύποι ). There is a one-to-one association between the sea and water baptism, and the cloud and Spirit baptism.
Has Salvific Quality Because: The salvational quality of baptism (both of water and Spirit) is made apparent throughout the whole Exodus motif of the passage. For example:
- Moses represents Christ,
- Egypt represents the world,
- The leaving Egypt represents repentance,
- The passing through the Red Sea represents water baptism,
- Dwelling under the cloud represent Spirit baptism,
- The wilderness wanderings represents the Christian life,
- The water from the rock and the manna represents the blood and body of Christ in the Lord’s Supper,
- The crossing over Jordan into the promised land represents the passing of the believer into Heaven.
When water baptism is presented as the antitype of the crossing of the Red Sea, it becomes difficult to argue against its salvific attributes. This is particularly true when one admits that it was the Red Sea crossing that closed Egypt off to the new nation of Israel, and washed away the Egyptians that were following for the purpose of bringing God’s people back into slavery. This is just too perfect a picture (of what every voice in the New Testament presents of water baptism) to ignore.
Dear Brother Amú, I have presented fourteen passages for your consideration: (2×7). In that seven is God’s number of completeness, and I have doubled that number, I will stop at this point.
As I stated in the beginning, I am writing in order to give you a clear reference of my thoughts on the subject. I do not expect a reply, except in our personal conversations. I have prayerfully presented how I view these passages, and why. You, no doubt, see some, if not most, differently. I would like to say this to you with all sincerity: If your view is opposed to what I have set forth, and it does no violence to the Word of God, then let your view be mine. It is my desire, my friend Amú, as I hope it is yours, to be lead aright by the inspired holy Scriptures.
☩ Jerry Hayes