Baptism In Acts 2:38


Charles J. Aebi

Dear Aebi: "Is the baptism commanded in Acts 2:38 valid for us today? Is it water baptism? One preacher says it was only for first-century Jews, and another says it was Holy Spirit baptism."

The answer to both questions is, "Yes," and both preachers are wrong! It is valid for us today because we have sinned and need forgiveness. We have not committed exactly the same sins the Jews had to whom Peter spoke on Pentecost, but that is irrelevant. New Testament baptism in water was always for the remission of sin, and no specific sin is singled out. Some of the Jews on Pentecost had asked Pilate to crucify Jesus, but they also had done other sins not specified. Sin is violation of God's law (1 John 3:4), and all have sinned (Romans 3:23). So all need forgiveness need saved and they can be saved only by the gospel of Christ (Romans 1:16), which includes baptism in water (Acts 8:12,36; 10:47-48).

Why would anyone conclude that water baptism was only for the Jews, or only for the Jews on Pentecost in Acts 2, unless he wants to avoid the statement of Peter in Acts 2:38 that baptism is for the forgiveness or remission of sins? In order to teach that salvation is by faith only, some preachers argue that the Gentiles were saved before they were baptized, then were baptized in order to join a church. Thus Hiscox's Baptist Manual says that baptism is a church ordinance rather than a command of Christ, and that at first (in Acts 2) baptism was the door into the church or the way to get into Christ, but now it is not so. The truth is that Jesus did command baptism (Mark 16:16), which was thus administered in His name (by His authority) in Acts 2:38, 10:47, and elsewhere.

One preacher wrote that baptism in passages like Ephesians 4:5, 1 Peter 3:21, and Romans 6:3-4 refers to Holy Spirit or spiritual baptism and has nothing to do with water. They say the Holy Spirit is sent on a person to give him faith, which faith saves him without any further acts of obedience. If that were true, it would make Christ a respecter of persons, because otherwise He would give Holy Spirit baptism to everyone and thus save them all. Calvin and Augustine said He only sends the Spirit to the elect who have been predestined to be saved, and it didn't concern them that this made God a respecter of persons or prejudiced toward some and against others. Peter said God shows no partiality (Acts 10:34).

Acts 2:38 was not Holy Spirit baptism; Peter said to repent and be baptized to receive the gift of the Spirit. Baptism in Acts 2:38 comes after faith and repentance, and they gained faith by hearing Peter's sermon about the resurrection and ascension of Jesus. Faith comes by hearing God's word, not by any direct gift of the Spirit (Romans 10:17).

Holy Spirit baptism was promised to the apostles (Acts 1:5,8) and was received by the apostles (Acts 2:1-4). It was not for forgiveness of sins water baptism did that. It was to empower them to speak in foreign languages, thereby proving that their message was from God. The Spirit's coming on Cornelius and friends was to show that they, though Gentiles, could be baptized and be saved. 2660 Layman Rd., Vincent, OH 45784


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