AN EXEGETICAL (AND BIBLICAL THEOLOGICAL) STUDY ON BELIEVER'S BAPTISM
We live in an age that will avoid disagreement and confrontation at any cost. In fact, in our warped culture, tolerance is often equated with maturity and spirituality. The spirit of this age cries out to me even now, why even stir the waters? Why not let bygones be bygones? Doesn’t the Bible teach that Christians are to be characterized by a spirit of unity?
However, unity in love must also be unity in the truth. I hope that the reader will see that I am not trying to pick a fight, nor stir up trouble; rather, in a love for Christ and His Word, I hope to present baptism as the Christ-centered ordinance given as an identity marker of God’s new covenant people.
Believing that God’s new covenant people are only those who have been united “into Christ” by faith, it follows then that I would hold that baptism is only to be administered to those who have given a credible profession of faith in Jesus Christ. The rest of this paper will be dedicated to support this statement.
WHAT DOES BAPTISM ILLUSTRATE?
Despite what many non-Christians assert, baptism is not some archaic, out-dated act of ‘cultic religiosity’ that we have thoughtlessly perpetuated from generation to generation.
Contrary to this unfortunate stereotype, baptism beautifully pictures, or symbolizes, the believer’s union1 “in Christ” in His death, burial, and resurrection from the dead. Indeed, the apostle Paul seems to advocate this idea in Romans 6:3-4, where he writes:
“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 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 might walk in newness of life.”
To understand this passage more clearly, we must first survey the surrounding context of a passage, lest we make Paul say something he never intended to. All throughout the previous chapter, Paul is contrasting the headship of Adam with that of the second Adam, Jesus Christ.
In essence, Paul’s argument is this: Adam, through his sin, has brought death and condemnation to all his posterity, namely all of mankind, while Christ, through His perfect obedience, has brought life and righteousness to all His posterity, namely those who are “in” Him by saving faith.
In fact, in God’s great plan to redeem a people for Himself, He has sovereignly used sin to magnify His infinite grace in Jesus Christ all the more. Is this not plain when he writes in 5:20-21,
“Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that (i[na), as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Since some would undoubtedly misinterpret what Paul was saying, he poses a question that will silence his critics who will claim that Paul is advocating a sinful lifestyle. And so he writes in the very next verse, Rom. 6:1,
“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?”
If God’s grace abounds where sin increases, why not sin more so that God will be glorified more for his grace, right? But such reasoning completely misses what Paul is arguing for, and so he has to supply the answer for his critics:
“By no means! How can we who died (aorist tense) to sin continue to live(present tense) in it?” (Rom. 6:2, author’s translation).
When someone is born again by the Spirit of God, they are transferred from being “in Adam” and become united “into Christ.” Indeed, as Paul tells us elsewhere, those “who were once darkness” (in Adam), are “now light in the Lord” (Ephesians 5:8). Those who once shared “in the dominion of darkness” have now been “qualified to share in the inheritance of His people in the kingdomof light” because we have been brought “into the kingdom of His Son” (cf. Colossians 1:12-14).
Earlier, Paul argued that “sin reigns in death” (Romans 5:21) only in those who are “in Adam,” that is, all those who are still currently “under sin” (cf. 3:9; 6:14). The power of sin still has “dominion over” all those who are yet under the law (6:14). Indeed, since they are not “in Christ,” they are still “slaves to sin” (6:15).
But, those who are “in Christ” – the 2nd Adam – are not characterized this way. Rather, all who are by faith united “into Christ” have with Christ "died to sin" (aorist), and correspondingly are no longer slaves to it. How can this be?
Because Christ has broken the power of sin’s dominion by His resurrection, believers are no longer subject to the power of the law,2 the power of sin, and the power of death (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:55-57). Therefore, Paul exhorts them not to again submit themselves to sin’s burdensome yoke (cf. Galatians 5:13).3
Indeed, the last thing Paul wants the believers in Rome to assume from his progressional argument from chapters 4 and 5 is that grace gives believers an excuse to live. But this is not what the "new creation" (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:17) was recreated (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:6) for: those "in Adam" live this way, but those "in Christ" are to walk (present tense) in the same newness of life that His resurrection effected for them.
Paul, being the preacher that he was, needed something to hammer this point home – namely that those who are dead (aorist tense) to sin cannot continue to live (present tense) in it. And so he uses the believer’s baptism as the perfect illustration to clarify what he is asserting to them. Indeed, what better illustration to show that those who have been united into Christ by faith have died (aorist) “with Him” to sin and been raised (aorist)“with Him” to “newness of life” than baptism (6:2-3)?
Though it might be possible to infer falsely that increased sin meant superabounding grace, Paul reminds the believers that what they had confessed at their baptism contradicts the false logic of continuing in sin. As Nettles notes, Paul declares that when we are baptized into Christ Jesus, we undergo a vivid reenactment of our participation with Christ in His historical death on the cross.4
Indeed, just a few verses later, Paul writes:
“For if we have been united (perfect) with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His. We know that our old self was crucified (aorist) in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing (aorist), so that we would no longer be enslaved (present tense) to sin. For one who has died has been set free (perfect) from sin” (6:5-7).
Baptism represents not merely the death to the “old man,” but also the resurrection to a new life. This is why the idea of a ‘believer’ living a lifestyle of sin is an oxy moron in Paul’s mind. They are theologically mutually exclusive!
Is not this clearly purveyed in Rom. 6:8-10, where Paul writes:
“Now if we have died with Christ (aorist), we believe that we will also livewith Him. We know that Christ being raised (aorist) from the dead will never die (present) again; death no longer has dominion (present) over Him. For the death He died He died (aorist) to sin, once for all but the life He lives He lives (present) to God.”
And because believers have already been “co-raised with Christ” (aorist), Paul says that believers too are to live (present) their lives to God. And just as death no longer has dominion over Christ, this is true for all who are “in Him.” Indeed, Paul says this in the very next verse:
In a nutshell, Paul tells the believers that they are dead to sin but alive to righteousness, since they are in Christ, who died once-for-all to sin so that the life He know lives, He lives to God. What better illustration to show the believers death in Christ, their burial in Christ, and their resurrection to newness of life in Christ than baptism?
Nowhere in the whole context of chapter 6 does Paul even hint at the notion of unbelievers being dead to sin but alive to righteousness. Unbelievers are not dead to sin, but are dead in sin (cf. Ephesians 2:1).
In Paul’s mind, those who have been baptized can claim all the promises listed therein. Is it wise then to tell unbelievers, who are not in Christ by faith, even though they have been baptized (or sprinkled) that they are to reckon themselves dead to sin and alive to Christ?
It is in this context that the Baptistic view of baptism truly makes sense. Now that we have determined Paul’s logic of argument in his attempt to ground his exhortations of the believers’ obedience unto holiness (6:15-22), let us read again 6:2-3,
“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized (aorist) into Christ Jesus were baptized (aorist) into His death? We were buried (aorist)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 might walk (present) in newness of life.”
Who is Paul writing about? Believers (“us”) who have been co-buried and co-risen with Christ; about those who have definitively been transferred from the realm of death and sin to life and righteousness; those who are now the new creation “in Christ” (cf. 2 Cor. 5:17) by faith alone (cf. John 1:12-13).
When inspecting Paul’s reason for writing this section, along with his logic and reasoning, I find it extremely difficult in finding any warrant for the sprinkling (different than “baptism”) of unbelieving infants, or even the baptizing of false professing ‘christians’ who are yet living a lifestyle of sin.7 In Paul’s mind, baptism is only for believers; only they are “in Christ” and have subsequently co-died and co-risen with Him to newness of life.
And so to answer the question, “What does baptism symbolize?” we see that baptism beautifully pictures the believer’s union to Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection from the dead.
Along the same lines, Paul tells us in Colossians 2:11-12 that,
“In Him (Christ) also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised with Him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised Him from the dead.”
Again, we will indefinitely miss Paul’s argument if we neglect the surrounding context of this passage. As in Romans 6, Paul is using a theological argument as a motivator for godly living for the believer.
Because the congregation had received Christ Jesus the Lord (2:6) when they accepted the gospel at the hands of Epaphras, they were to conduct their lives as those who had been united to Christ in His death and resurrection.
It appears from the letter that some form of heresy had begun to infiltrate the congregation, and had the potential of “disqualifying” some of them (2:18).
The main clause that anchors 2:8-17 is Paul’s command in 2:8, where he warns them:
“See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elementary principles of the world, and not according to Christ.”
And thus we see that the doctrine of the believer’s union with Christ serves again as an apologetic to counter error within the church. And as with Romans 6, the best way to remind believers that they are united with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection is believer’s baptism.
What this false teaching was, we cannot be certain, for Paul does not explicitly tell us. However, there are hints within the letter that support that this “philosophy” was connected with ascetic and mystical form of Jewish piety, teaching that there was a ‘spiritual elite’ who could press on in wisdom and knowledge, so as to attain true ‘fullness’ (cf. 2:16-18).
Paul counters such meritorious thinking by reminding the believers of the sufficiency of Christ’s ‘fullness’ (cf. 2:9). By faith, believers have been “filled in Him” (2:10), and thus need nothing other than Him. They are to walk “in Him” and so be “rooted and built up in Him” alone (2:7), “holding fast to the Head.”
In 2:20, Paul tells them that since they “have died with Christ (aorist) to the elementary principles of the world,” they are no longer to submit themselves to them as if they were “still living” in this world.
Indeed, in 2:23, we are told that though such things have “an appearance of wisdom” and “religion” and “humility”, they “are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.” In Paul, the word for ‘flesh’, sa,rx (sarx), often refers to the fallen and sinful nature of mankind. No amount of works done by man can fix his “flesh problem.” This is why legalism cannot save mankind from his ruinous plight.
But, in 2:11, Paul tells us that when believers come to Christ, their flesh (i.e. their sinful nature) has been “circumcised” or “cut away” (aorist) – not through a circumcision done by natural hands, but rather through “the circumcision done by Christ.”8
We thus see the folly of seeking fullness in anything other than being “in Christ.” All believers, by faith, have, on the one had, been filled (perfect) “in Him,” the sovereign head over all creation (2:10), and on the other hand, have had their old, sinful nature (inherited from Adam) circumcised (2:11).
It is in this context that Paul refers to baptism (2:12). The main verb in the verse is “being raised,” and signifies that even now all those who are “in Christ” have this fullness. Thus Paul appeals for them to remember what their baptism symbolized, namely, their union – by faith – in the risen and exalted Lord of the universe (cf. 2:15).
Indeed, those who are in Christ are lacking in nothing, and thus need not fall prey to the heresy infiltrating the church there (cf. 2:16), which, ironically, was only “a shadow” of Christ’s fullness (2:17).
And so, reminding the believers of their baptism, Paul can make the following charge:
“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God” (3:1).
As with Romans 6, Paul appeals to the believers to remember what their baptism symbolized – death to sin, and resurrection to newness of life – to encourage them to walk in a manner worthy of their calling.
Again, Paul’s appeal is for the believer to remember his or her baptism. No unbeliever has had their heart circumcised,9 or has been raised with Christ. This text, like Romans 6, applies only to believers. From the contextual evidence, I see no support for appropriating baptism to unbelievers – whether they are infants of believing parents or false professing ‘christians.’
We note that in both of these texts, then, that baptism is intimately linked with the believer’s death to sin,10 which Paul seems to connect with idea of “burial.”
The apostle Peter also has this idea of burial in mind when he writes:
“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, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to Him” (1 Peter 3:21-22).
In context, the “this” refers to God’s salvation, or deliverance, of Noah and his family through the flood of His divine wrath via the ark. What Peter seems to be saying, then, is that just as Noah and his family survived the chaotic waters of judgement during the flood, so too believers in the risen Christ have come through the baptismal waters alive.
The major point of the context (3:13-22) is clear and simple: Christians should endure persecution patiently because in the end their triumph is secure through Christ.11 As Schreiner rightly points out, however, “baptism saves only because it is anchored to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.”12
It is very clear, then, from these texts that baptism was a great symbol that pointed to the completed work of redemption that Jesus Christ has accomplished for His people. Baptism shows them that they have been saved and cleansed through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
If Baptism corresponds to an appeal to God for a clean conscience, why would anyone ever baptize someone who has never done so? Unbelievers, including infants (even of believing parents), who have never cried out to God for His mercy, should not be baptized, for doing so completely destroys Peter’s “correspondence” of it!
Finally, in Galatians 3:27, we see that baptism signifies nothing less than salvation:13
“For as many of you as were baptized (aorist) into Christ have put on Christ.”
In the verse prior (3:26), we see that this happens only by faith:
“For in Christ you are all sons of God, through faith.”
As Schreiner concisely comments:
Paul’s main theme here is not baptism. His point is that all believers are clothed with Christ. We see incidentally, however, that baptism was universal in the church (and hence central!), since all those who are clothed with Christ (i.e. all Christians) are baptized.14
Once again, if baptism = salvation in Paul’s mind, why are we baptizing those who are not sons of God (not just ‘sons of the covenant’, which is a foreign category in Paul’s mind) “through faith”? Why would we declare someone a “son” whom God has not? Those who are God’s children, are made children by faith alone (cf. John 1:12-13).
BAPTISM OUTSIDE THE EPISTLES
In the NT, the verbal form is used 77 times and the noun form 19 times. Most of these occurrences are found in the four gospel accounts and Acts.
Most of the noun uses do not explicitly show how baptism was performed; we are merely shown that it took place. However, the Scriptures do provide us with a few examples that provide us with some vitally important details that I believe support the Baptistic position of believer’s only baptism by immersion. For example, let us examine Mark 1:4 [p.p. Luke 3:3], which says:
“John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.”
The phrase of great importance is “a baptism of repentance.” Though literal translations are often the safest and best to use, sometimes they can be rather wooden and vague. What exactly is a baptism of repentance? In the Greek, we call this a genitive construction, which can be translated in many ways. One such possibility is how the NLT translates the verse:
“He was in the wilderness and preached that people should be baptized to show that they had turned to God to receive forgiveness for their sins.”
This paraphrase captures precisely what the Greek is trying to purvey15: to participate in this baptism was a recognition of the need for God’s forgiveness with a sense that one needed to live differently as a response to it16 (cf. Acts 13:24). According to this verse, baptism is somehow related to repentance.17 Is this not so in Luke 3:7-9, where we read:
“(John) said therefore to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”
The people wanted to be baptized, but John said that repentance is the prerequisite. It is also worth noting that John brings to the fore the mention of Abraham, whom the Jews considered their father. Here we see, as with Jesus’ own testimony in John 8, that Abraham’s true offspring are those who are characterized by repentance towards God and faith in Jesus Christ, irrespective of circumcision, or even baptism!
The weight of our argument that repentance cannot be severed from baptism (cf. Mark 1:4) is further strengthened when we read of the close correlation of repentance, baptism, and forgiveness of sins in Acts 2:38, where Peter answers the question of the Jews, “What shall we do?” ...
“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.”
Interestingly enough the exact same Greek words are used here as in Mark 1:4. However, now that Christ has been raised from the dead, the (purchased) gift of the Holy Spirit is now poured out on God’s people as the covenant marker (as opposed to circumcision in the old covenant).18 And so we see here the strong link between repentance, baptism and the forgiveness of sins. In fact, in 2:41, the only people who were baptized had “received” Peter’s message (logos) of repentance.19
Finally, we see this same formula in Acts 22, where Paul is recounting his conversion to Christianity before his accusers. In verse 16, Ananias says to blinded Saul,
“And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on His name.”
Not only is baptism linked here to his sins being washed away, but also to his calling upon the name of Christ (cf. Rom. 10:13). It is not unimportant to note that the participle, “calling upon,” is an aorist, which indicates prior, or antecedent action to the main imperatives (“rise” and “be baptized”). Consequently, can we not infer from Luke’s grammar that only those who have savingly called upon Jesus Christ to forgive them of their sins should be baptized in His name?
And so we must ask, why would anyone baptize someone who had not repented and subsequently received forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit?
MODE OF BAPTISM: IMMERSION
But how did John ‘baptize’? By surveying the NT20, we see that it was by immersion only. Let us, with the noble Bereans, see then if these things be so.
“And as they were confessing their sins, John was baptizing them in the Jordan River” (Mark 1:4 [p.p. Matthew 3:6], author’s translation).21
Again, the people were not baptized apart from their repentance (here the confession, or acknowledgment of their sins against Yahweh). But the thing we should note here is that John was baptizing them “in” (evn) the Jordan River, not “by” or “near” it. If John were merely sprinkling them, would not a better preposition would have been “with”, i.e. “John was sprinkling them with the Jordan River.” But this is not what Mark says. They were being baptized in the Jordan!
The fact that baptism requires immersion can also be seen in John 3:23, where we read:
“John was also baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because water was plentiful there, and people were constantly being baptized” (author’s translation).
The very reason (o[ti, hoti) that John was baptizing at Aenon was because there was an abundance of water there. If people merely needed to be sprinkled, why not do it in a more populated and convenient area, like a town or city, where a little water would have sufficed? Moreover, the imperfect verb, “being baptized”, implies that the people ‘kept’ coming to him (cf. NIV, NLT).
Finally, perhaps the strongest evidence that buttresses that baptism is to be administered by immersion is found in Mark 1:9-10 (p.p. Matthew 3:16):
“In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when He came up out of the water, immediately He saw the heavens opening and the Spirit descending on Him like a dove.”
If Jesus “came up out of (evk, ek) the water,” He must have first “gone down into the water,” implying immersion. To imagine sprinkling is completely foreign to the text.
The same thing is seen in Acts 8, where the Ethiopian eunuch is converted and subsequently baptized by Phillip:
“And they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away” (8:38-39).
Finally, we see that the standard lexical definition for bapti,zw is “to use water in a rite for purpose of renewing or establishing a relationship with God: plunge, dip, wash, baptize.”22 It is also interesting to note that in Greek literature, the word has the general sense to put or to go under water (e.g. soak),23 which makes sprinkling or even affusion (pouring) an unlikely translation to use, and thus administer to believing recipients.
Again, biblical evidence clearly favors that baptism in the NT is for believer’s only and is to be administered by immersion!
In the evangelical church, there are few topics that have caused more division than the topic of baptism. The debate has been raging for centuries, and libraries have been filled with the scores of literature that have been written on this topic by men more intelligent and familiar with the Scriptures than I am. In fact, greater and much godlier men than I will undoubtedly disagree with what I will have to say; many of my ‘heroes of the faith’ most certainly would have.
However, when I look at Scripture without imposing any presuppositions or foreign interpretational grids (e.g. the Reformed view of ‘the covenant of grace)24, I believe that the evidence overwhelmingly affirms the Baptistic view that baptism is only for those who have been repented of their sins, believed in Jesus Christ, been forgiven of their sins, and have subsequently received the new covenant promise-sign of the Holy Spirit. May we all, with the Reformers not only quote Sola Scriptura, but may we also practice and live it as well.
If you have any questions, or need clarifications,25 or question my exegesis of certain texts, please feel free to email me at: email@example.com
In Christ, and for His glory,
Pastor Ryan Case
1 Paul says that believers are baptized “into” (eivj) Christ were baptized “into” (eivj) His death, and were buried “with Him” (auvtw/|), so that “just as” (w[sper) Christ was raised from the dead, “in the same way/manner” (ou[twj) we “also” (kai.) might walk in newness of life. In chapter 6, Paul shows us that Christ’s own are intimately united into Him, their federal head (cf. chapter 5). Correspondingly, all those who are “in Him” experience all the blessings His perfect redemption procured, including, for example, death to sin and life to God (cf. Rom. 6:10).
2 Cf. Romans 6:14, where Paul says that those who are “in Christ” are no longer slaves to sin because (ga,r) they are not “under law, but under grace.” It should be noted that nowhere in Scriptures do any of the author’s divide the law up nicely into 3 parts (i.e. the moral, civil, and ceremonial laws, respectively). This tripartite division is especially foreign to Paul’s view of the Law, since he uses the word “law” (nomos) most often to denote the entirety of the Mosaic covenant. Current evangelical scholarship in the study of biblical theology is increasingly beginning to reject this tripartite eisogesis (reading into the text that has been assumed and thus gone unchallenged since the Reformation.
3 In Galatians 5:1, Paul also warns them not to let themselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery, namely circumcision, which represents the Mosaic Law (5:3-4) that was fulfilled entirely by Jesus Christ, and is fulfilled by us who have the Spirit and thus walk in love (cf. 5:14, 18).
4 Thomas J. Nettles, “Baptism as a Symbol of Christ’s Saving Work” in Understanding Four Views on Baptism, ed. John H. Armstrong (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2007), 31-32.
5 There is no infinitive (“to be” [present tense]) in the oldest and best Greek manuscripts.
6 The perfect participle “living” is active. I have translated in English as a causal passive to highlight the emphatic perfect. We could translate it, “Because you are alive in Christ Jesus, reckon yourselves dead to sin” (cf. “How can we who have died to sin still live in it” in 6:2).
7 Moreover, I find no covenant of grace even remotely implied or inferred.
8 The NIV, NLT and NET properly translate h/| peritomh/| tou/ Cristou as a subjective genitive. I.e. “circumcision of Christ” = “circumcision performed by Christ.”
9 Those who support paedobaptism often use Col. 2:14-15 to bolster their position by appealing to the parallel between baptism and circumcision. However, as Schreiner notes, the alleged parallel does not stand because the connection is between baptism and spiritual circumcision, not physical circumcision. Indeed, if Paul thought like our covenantal friends, he would have argued in Galatians that circumcision was no longer in force because baptism had replaced circumcision. Instead, circumcision in Galatians and Colossians points to the cross of Christ and the new creation inaugurated by Him! Baptism, then, is tied to the saving work of the Spirit which produces faith in the lives of believers. See Schreiner, Baptism in the Epistles, 95.
10 It is not insignificant that all the verbs and participles are in both passages are in the aorist tense.
11 Nettles, “Baptism as a Symbol of Christ’s Saving Work,” 37.
12 Schreiner, “Baptism in the Epistles,70.
13 I highly recommend Schreiner’s brilliant treatment of this text in light of redemptive history (pp. 87-96). This passage is not mainly about baptism, but shows that the old covenant has been made obsolescent with the coming of the Spirit as the new covenant indicator that Christ has indeed inaugurated a newcovenant. Baptism and the Spirit are closely associated as the new covenant guarantee of God’s promises coming to pass (see Acts 2).
14 Schreiner, “Baptism in the Epistles,74.
15 I.e. the genitive is descriptive ( = ‘characterized by’ or ‘described by’).
16 Cf. footnote for Mark 1:4 in the NET Bible (an excellent [and often superior] translation by most of evangelical’s leading Greek and Hebrew scholars).
17 Cf. Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 80. Wallace’s grammar is the new intermediate/advanced standard used in evangelical seminaries.
18 We must not be ignorant to the fact that Peter had just previously given us a great new covenant exposition of Joel 2 in Acts 2:17-21. A great book that looks at the new covenant ‘seal’ of God’s people with the Holy Spirit (cf. 2 Cor. 1:22; Eph. 1:13-14) is: James Hamilton, God’s Indwelling Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Old & New Testaments (Nashville: B & H Academic, 2006).
19 Those who adhere to ‘the covenant of grace’ will immediately go to verse 39, noting that this promise (anaphorically pointing back to the gift of the Holy Spirit) is “for you and all of your children,” proving that we are to baptize the children of believers. However, what they fail to note is the context: (1) Only those who repent and are baptized (the 2 imperatives are intricately linked, only being separated by kai [“and”]) can receive the Holy Spirit (which is intricately linked to the other 2 verbs [repent and be baptized] by the kai [“and”] when diagrammed properly); (2) the phrase “you and your children” is immediately modified by the appositional phrase, “everyone whom the Lord our God calls to Himself”; (3) only those who “received the word” were baptized (2:41); (4) that their “sons and daughters” who will have the Spirit poured out on them (2:17-18) will be those who “call upon the name of the Lord” and are “saved” (2:21); and (5) Luke tells us that those who were added to their numbers (2:41) had “believed” (2:44), i.e. “those who were being saved” (2:47). This presents another problem amongst paedobaptists who bring into membership unbelieving children, something Luke seems to be clearly writing against!
20 The only OT use of bapti,zw is found in LXX (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Tanach) 2 Kings 5:14, where Naaman “dipped” (so ESV, NET, NIV, NLT, NASB, KJV; cf. “plunged” in NAB) himself in the Jordan 7 times at the command of Elisha.
21 This translation brings out the proper temporal aspect of the present participle “confessing” which is inseparable from the main verb “baptizing.”
22 See BAGD, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, 3rd ed., pp. 164-166 for a comprehensive overview of the word and its uses. It should be noted that BAGD is the standard lexicon used in academic circles, seminaries, and universities.
23 Ibid., 164.
24 By God’s grace, I will tackle this topic in another paper, since infant baptism is but the tip of this colossal iceberg. The best evangelical rebuttal of this in light of biblical theology is by Stephen Wellum, “Baptism and the Relationship between the Covenants” in Believer’s Baptism: Sign of the New Covenant in Christ, pp. 97-162.
25 For those who are seeking a more in-depth study of this very important doctrine, I would suggest the following books, after studying what the NT says (go to the Book first):
- Understanding Four Views on Baptism, ed. John Armstrong (Zondervan, 2007), 222 pages.
- Believer’s Baptism, ed. Thomas Schreiner & Shawn Wright (B & H Academic, 2007), 364 pages.
- Baptism in the New Testament, George Beasley-Murray (Eerdmans, 1973), 436 pages.