"What must I do to be saved?" The question receives a different answer in every conceivable religious faith, and in this essay, we will pursue a single question: What is the Biblical view of the relationship between faith and works?
The Biblical view of the relationship between faith and works is that both are necessary for salvation. That is made abundantly clear by (a) the teaching of Jesus in the Gospels, and (b) the epistle of James.
Christian apologists rightly point to numerous verses that declare that faith alone is what saves, and not any external act (John 3:16, 18, 36; 11:25-6; Acts 16:31; Eph. 2:8-9; 1 John 5:1).
Christadelphians agree that no "external act" can save, so no objection to our soteriology can be advanced on this point. Moreover, none of these verses (above) say that "faith alone is what saves." Indeed, this was Luther's dilemma; he could find not a single verse in Scripture which credits faith alone with the power of salvation, and so found it necessary to rewrite a critical verse in the Pauline corpus. That verse was Romans 3:28, which appears in Luther's translation as follows:
So halten wir nun daf|r, da_ der Mensch gerecht wird ohne des Gesetzes Werke, allein durch den Glauben.
The guilty interpolation here is allein ("alone.") Rather than adding it to their own translations (as Luther did), modern Christians simply prefer to read it into the text, as if it was already there. This is a classic example of eisegesis, and we shall see more of it from Turkel as my essay continues.
In the preface to his work, Turkel defines the "Semitic Totality Concept" (a principle to which he frequently appeals during the course of his argument) as the Jewish belief that thought and action are intrinsically united.
Applied to the role of works following faith, this means that that there can be no decision without corresponding action, for the total person will inevitably reflect a choice that is made. Thought and action are so linked under the Semitic Totality paradigm that Clark warns us [An Approach to the Theology of the Sacraments, 10]:
The Hebraic view of man as an animated body and its refusal to make any clear-cut division into soul and body militates against the making of so radical a distinction between material and spiritual, ceremonial and ethical effects.
Thus, what we would consider separate actions of conversion, confession, and obedience in the form of works would be considered by the Hebrews to be an act in totality. "Both the act and the meaning of the act mattered -- the two formed for the first Christians an indivisible unity." [Flemington, New Testament Doctrine of Baptism, 111]
But of course, Christadelphians agree that in the context of works following faith, there can be no decision without corresponding action. This is amply demonstrated by (a) the response of Peter's audience in Acts 2, (b) the record of the faithful (Hebrews 11), and © the epistle of James.
If there is any argument to be made from the "Semitic Totality Concept", therefore, it can only be that a corresponding action (in this case baptism) must follow the personal decision of an individual to accept Christ and confess his or her sins. This, in turn, merely serves to demonstrate that baptism is essential for salvation. Indeed, a profession of belief and a public confession of sin would account for little unless they were acted upon.
Turkel therefore undermines his own argument by an appeal to the "Semitic Totality Concept", and (consequently) reaffirms the salvific efficacy of baptism.
We will see that the answer to the question, "Is baptism necessary for salvation?", is that the question is out of order. If there is any question that needs to be asked, it is this: "If you are saved, and you know what baptism means and that it was commanded by Christ, why would you not be baptized?" One does not become baptized to be saved; one is saved and is therefore baptized.
Notice that the very first thing Turkel does is to present us with a false dichotomy. He places salvation before baptism, thereby eliminating any need for it. (It will be interesting to see if he offers any proof texts to support the idea that salvation precedes baptism.)
For those of us who support the salvific efficacy of baptism, the argument begins with the clear evidence of Scripture:
Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? [to be saved]
Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
Faith that is true inevitably manifests itself in obedience, and being that baptism is the first act declared for the believer by Christ, the true believer will gladly undergo baptism.
Both of these statements are true - but notice that Turkel avoids the essential question: "Why are we baptised?" Indeed, he will avoid it for as long as possible, because he is effectively presenting us with a redundant theology. For if baptism is non-essential, there is no need for it whatsoever. And yet, since we know that baptism does take place in the New Testament, he must try to explain why - without surrendering his initial premise. The only way to do this, is to pretend that baptism is nothing more than a gracious courtesy on behalf of the believer; an essentially meaningless ritual which has no theological value whatsoever. It will be interesting to see how he will argue his point.
Mark 16:15-16 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.
This passage may be dispensed, in my view, without discussion of baptism. The evidence is strongly against its inclusion (and that of Mark 16:9-20 as a whole) in the text:
Similarly, we may dispense with Turkel's rebuttal without discussion. The argument for salvic baptism does not rest entirely on this verse. We may use it in discussion with those who accept it, but those who do not accept it, gain nothing by excluding it. Indeed, they merely delay the inevitable.
Meanwhile, those who are interested in confirming (or denying) the long ending of Mark are invited to click here. Contrary to Turkel's claim, the evidence is strongly in favour of the long ending.
John 3:5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
Some would claim that the phrase "born of water" clearly refers to water baptism. While many see an allusion to baptism here that Christian readers would recognize, there is a serious problem with seeing a reference to baptism that cannot be controverted, and that is that Nicodemus would not have the slightest idea that Jesus was referring to it. How could Nicodemus understand a reference to "an as yet nonexistent sacrament"?
The sacrament of baptism was by no means non-existent. John the Baptist had been performing it for years - even before Christ began his own ministry.
The correct interpretation of this verse is found in light of the intimate connection of water, spirit, and cleansing in Judaism. As Beasley-Murray observes, "The conjunction of water and Spirit in eschatological hope is deeply rooted in the Jewish consciousness." This motif is found in Ezekiel 36:25-27:
I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.
Sprinkling is not the same as baptism. The word "baptism" comes from the Greek baptizo, meaning "to dip or plunge." There is no way in the world that sprinkling can be equated with dipping or plunging. The language of cleansing found in Ezekiel 26 is reminiscent of the Law of Moses, in which the ritual sprinking of both blood and water accompanied the sacrifice for sin. There is absolutely nothing to link it with baptism, except for the fact that a ritual cleansing is here referred to.
Similar sentiments are found elsewhere in Jewish literature. Here is another passage from the Qumran material (1QS 4:19-21):
He will cleanse him of all wicked deeds by means of a holy spirit; like purifying waters He will sprinkle upon him the spirit of truth.
This passage is useless as a proof text against the salvic efficacy of baptism, since it appears to teach that it is the Holy Spirit which purifies and saves us. Only those who subscribe to the most extreme forms of Pentecostalism would accept such a doctrine. Moreover, the citation (above) is taken from the writings of the Essenes, who were clearly unorthodox by 1st Century Jewish standards. Turkel's argument from the Qumran material is therefore irrelevant.
While John's readers would undoubtedly recognize the baptismal "freight" the word water carried with it in this context, is improper to read this passage as though the freight had been loaded before the train got to the station. At the core of John 3:5 is the metaphorical use of water in Judaism as a symbol of interior cleansing -- not a declaration that baptism is required to enter the Kingdom of God. [See for these points commentaries of John by Brown (141-2), Morris (193), Beasley-Murray (49), and Borhcert (111, 173).]
A few points:
- Where is the proof that "the metaphorical use of water in Judaism" is "a symbol of interior cleansing"?
- If baptism is not required to enter the Kingdom of God, why does Jesus refer to it (albeit indirectly) in his discussion with Nicodemus? And what does he mean when he refers to being "born of water"? He cannot refer to the ritual cleansing of the Law of Moses, since this was no longer necessary under the new covenant. He can only refer to our "new birth in Christ", which occurs as a result of "dying to sin" (with the metaphorical "death of the old man") and "living in Christ" (with the metaphorical "resurrection to life" that only baptism can symbolise.)
- Recalling the fact that John's "baptism of repentance" was still taking place at the Jordan river every day (indeed, the narrative takes us immediately to John the Baptist, right after the interview with Nicodemus), we may ask ourselves "Would Nicodemus honestly fail to miss an indirect reference to baptism?" We know that he does not fully understand Jesus, for he grapples with the phrase "born again" as he attempts to reconcile it with the reference to water - but let us also remember that this phrase is not the language of John, who simply called for "baptism unto repentance", without any references to "new birth." If Nicodemus is confused at all, it is the birth analogy that is confusing him, not the alleged "freight" which is allegedly encumbering the word "water."
Since Turkel's argument appears to rely heavily on the commentaries of Brown, Morris, Beasley-Murray and Borhcert, it would probably be quite instructive to read them - but since they are not presented here, we must make do with greater luminaries.
Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit he cannot enter the kingdom of God.
Jesus does not reply directly to the question of Nicodemus, but proceeded to give a more explicit statement concerning the new birth. One must be born of water and of the Spirit. This may mean, it will be admitted by all, (1.) That no one is a member of the kingdom of God until he is born again; (2.) That the Savior declares the impossibility of one entering who is not born of water and of the Spirit. One cannot enter by being born of water alone, nor of the Spirit alone, but must be born of water and of the Spirit. Otherwise he cannot enter.
What, then, is the meaning of these two words? Concerning the birth of the Spirit we need say little, as there is little controversy about it. Concerning born of water we agree with Alford that it refers to baptism, while "of the Spirit" refers to the inward change. He adds: "All attempts to get rid of these two plain facts have sprung from doctrinal prejudices by which the views of expositors have been warped."
Abbott says: "We are to understand Christ as he expected his auditor to understand him. The Jewish proselyte, as a sign that he had put off his old faiths, was baptized on entering the Jewish church. John the Baptist baptized both Jew and Gentile as a sign of purification by repentance from past sins. Nicodemus would then have certainly understood by the expression, born of water, a reference to this rite of baptism."
Milligan, of Scotland, says: "John said: I baptize with water; the One coming baptizes with Spirit; but Christ says: The baptism of both is necessary. One must be born of water and of the Spirit." See also Titus 3:5 and Rom. 6:4. (Joh 3:6.)
Johnson, Barton W. (1886), New Testament Commentary, Vol III: John.
See also Johnson's analysis of John 1:25-26:
25. Why baptizest thou then?
This question shows that John's baptism was, to them, a new rite. They could understand that Christ, or Elias, or "that prophet" might establish a new ordinance by the divine authority, but if John is none of these, why does he do so? Their perplexity shows that, in some way, the baptismal rite was new to them. It is claimed that Gentile proselytes to the Jewish faith were baptized (immersed according to all the Jewish authorities) before this time, but the only proof offered is the testimony of the Talmud, written two or three centuries later. Even if proselyte baptism had been instituted, John's rite presented the new feature of baptizing Jews, those who considered themselves God's people. In that it called the chosen people to baptism it was a new rite. (Joh 1:26.)
26. I baptize with water.
The correct rendering is in water, and the preposition en is thus rendered by the American Committee of the Revisers, as well as by Canon Westcott of the Church of England and the most judicious scholars. Even in the Common Version, out of 2,660 times that en occurs in the Greek of the New Testament, it is rendered by "in" 2,060 times. There is no good reason why it should not be so rendered every time it occurs in connection with baptism. The translators of the Catholic Bible in English, the Douay Version, were more honest than King James' revisers, and have always so rendered it. John does not answer the question of the Pharisees directly, but points to one already standing among them. The baptism of water connects itself with that pre-eminent being.
Johnson quotes his own Commentary in his People's New Testament (1891), which includes the following addition:
All agree that the birth of the Spirit refers to the inward, or spiritual change that takes place, and all candid authorities agree that born of water refers to baptism. So Alford, Wesley, Abbott, Whitby, Olshausen, Tholuck, Prof. Wm. Milligan, the Episcopal Prayer Book, the Westminister Confession, the M. E. Discipline, and M. E. Doctrinal Tracts, and also the writers of the early Church all declare.
Let us now test the veracity of Johnson's claim by a direct appeal to the writings of the Early Church Fathers:
- JUSTIN MARTYR (inter AD 148-155.)
Whoever is convinced and believes that what they are taught and told by us is the truth, and professes to be able to live accordingly, is instructed to pray and to beseech God in fasting for the remission of their former sins, while we pray and fast with them. Then they are led by us to a place where there is water; and there they are reborn in the same kind of rebirth in which we ourselves were reborn: In the name of God, the Lord and Father of all, and of our Savior Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit, they receive the washing with water. For Christ said, "Unless you be reborn, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven." ...The reason for doing this, we have learned from the Apostles.
The First Apology, 61.
- THEOPHILUS OF ANTIOCH (c. AD 181.)
Moreover, those things which were created from the waters were blessed by God, so that this might also be a sign that men would at a future time receive repentance and remission of sins through water and the bath of regeneration -- all who proceed to the truth and are born again and receive a blessing from God.
To Autolycus, 2:16.
- IRENAEUS (c. AD 190)
"And [Naaman] dipped himself...seven times in the Jordan" [2 Kings 5:14]. It was not for nothing that Naaman of old, when suffering from leprosy, was purified upon his being baptized, but [this served] as an indication to us. For as we are lepers in sin, we are made clean, by means of the sacred water and the invocation of the Lord, from our old transgressions, being spiritually regenerated as new-born babes, even as the Lord has declared: "Except a man be born again through water and the Spirit, he shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven."
- TERTULLIAN (inter AD 200-206.)
A treatise on our sacrament of water, by which the sins of our earlier blindness are washed away and we are released for eternal life will not be superfluous.....taking away death by the washing away of sins. The guilt being removed, the penalty, of course, is also removed.....Baptism is itself a corporal act by which we are plunged in water, while its effect is spiritual, in that we are freed from sins.
On Baptism, 1:1; 5:6; 7:2.
...no one can attain salvation without Baptism, especially in view of the declaration of the Lord, who says: "Unless a man shall be born of water, he shall not have life."
On Baptism, 12:1.
- CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA (ante AD 202.)
When we are baptized, we are enlightened. Being enlightened, we are adopted as sons. Adopted as sons, we are made perfect. Made perfect, we become immortal...."and sons all of the Most High" [Psalm 82:6]. This work is variously called grace, illumination, perfection, and washing. It is a washing by which we are cleansed of sins; a gift of grace by which the punishments due our sins are remitted; an illumination by which we behold that holy light of salvation -- that is, by which we see God clearly; and we call that perfection which leaves nothing lacking. Indeed, if a man know God, what more does he need? Certainly it were out of place to call that which is not complete a true gift of God's grace. Because God is perfect, the gifts He bestows are perfect.
The Instructor of Children, 1:6:26:1.
- RECOGNITIONS OF CLEMENT (c. AD 221.)
But you will perhaps say, "What does the baptism of water contribute toward the worship of God?" In the first place, because that which has pleased God is fulfilled. In the second place, because when you are regenerated and born again of water and of God, the frailty of your former birth, which you have through men, is cut off, and so ...you shall be able to attain salvation; but otherwise it is impossible. For thus has the true Prophet [Jesus] testified to us with an oath: "Verily, I say to you, that unless a man is born again of water....he shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven."
- CYPRIAN OF CARTHAGE (c. 200 - 258 AD.)
But afterwards, when the stain of my past life had been washed away by means of the water of re-birth, a light from above poured itself upon my chastened and now pure heart; afterwards through the Spirit which is breathed from heaven, a second birth made of me a new man... Thus it had to be acknowledged that what was of the earth and was born of the flesh and had lived submissive to sins, had now begun to be of God, inasmuch as the Holy Spirit was animating it.
To Donatus, 4.
[When] they receive also the Baptism of the Church...then finally can they be fully sanctified and be the sons of God...since it is written, "Except a man be born again of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
Letters, 71 :1.
[It] behooves those to be baptized...so that they are prepared, in the lawful and true and only Baptism of the holy Church, by divine regeneration, for the kingdom of God...because it is written, "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God."
Letters 72, :21.
- LACTANTIUS (AD 310.)
But you will perhaps say, What does the, baptism of water contribute towards the worship of God? In the first place, because that which hath pleased God is fulfilled. In the second place, because, when yon are regenerated and born again of water and of God, the frailty of your former birth, which you have through men, is cut off, and so at length you shall be able to attain salvation; but otherwise it is impossible.
For thus hath the true prophet testified to its with an oath: 'Verily I say to you, That unless a man is born again of water, he shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Therefore make haste; for there is in these waters a certain power of mercy which was borne upon them at the beginning, and acknowledges those who are baptized under the name of the threefold sacrament, and rescues them from future punishments, presenting as a gift to God the souls that are consecrated by baptism.
Betake yourselves therefore to these waters, for they alone can quench the violence of the future fire; and he who delays to approach to them, it is evident that the idol of unbelief remains in him, and by it be is prevented from hastening to the waters which confer salvation. For whether you be righteous or unrighteous, baptism is necessary for you in every respect: for the righteous, that perfection may be accomplished in him, and he may be born again to God; for the unrighteous, that pardon may he vouchsafed him of the sins which he has committed in ignorance. Therefore all should hasten to be born again to God without delay, because the end of every one's life is uncertain.
Divine Institutes, 5:19.
- HILARY OF POITIERS (AD 359.)
We are circumcised not with a fleshly circumcision but with the circumcision of Christ, that is, we are born again into a new man; for, being buried with Him in His baptism, we must die to the old man, because the regeneration of baptism has the force of resurrection.
- ATHANASIUS (AD 360.)
And with reason; for as we are all from earth and die in Adam, so being regenerated from above of water and Spirit, in the Christ we are all quickened.
Discourse Against the Arians, III:33.
- EPHRAIM SYRYUS (ante AD 373.)
The baptized when they come up are sanctified;--the sealed when they go down are pardoned. They who come up have put on glory;--they who go down have cast off sin.
Hymns for the Feast of the Epiphany, 6:9.
- BASIL (AD 375.)
And in what way are we saved? Plainly because we were regenerate through the grace given in our baptism.
On the Spirit, 10:26.
This then is what it is to be born again of water and of the Spirit, the being made dead being effected in the water, while our life is wrought in us through the Spirit. In three immersions, then, and with three invocations, the great mystery of baptism is performed, to the end that the type of death may be fully figured, and that by the tradition of the divine knowledge the baptized may have their souls enlightened. It follows that if there is any grace in the water, it is not of the nature of the water, but of the presence of the Spirit.
On the Spirit, 15:35.
- GREGORY OF NYSSA (AD 382.)
[T]he birth by water and the Spirit, Himself led the way in this birth, drawing down upon the water, by His own baptism, the Holy Spirit; so that in all things He became the first-born of those who are spiritually born again, and gave the name of brethren to those who partook in a birth like to His own by water and the Spirit.
Against Eunomius, 2:8.
- JOHN CHRYSOSTOM (AD 387.)
For if no one can enter into the kingdom of Heaven except he be regenerate through water and the Spirit, and he who does not eat the flesh of the Lord and drink His blood is excluded from eternal life, and if all these things are accomplished only by means of those holy hands, I mean the hands of the priest, how will any one, without these, be able to escape the fire of hell, or to win those crowns which are reserved for the victorious? These verily are they who are entrusted with the pangs of spiritual travail and the birth which comes through baptism: by their means we put on Christ, and are buried with the Son of God, and become members of that blessed Head.
On the Priesthood, 3:5-6.
- GREGORY OF NAZIANZEN (AD 388.)
The Word recognizes three Births for us; namely, the natural birth, that of Baptism, and that of the Resurrection...
Oration on Holy Baptism.
- AMBROSE (AD 390.)
And that the writer was speaking of baptism is evident from the very words in which it is stated that it is impossible to renew unto repentance those who were fallen, inasmuch as we are renewed by means of the laver of baptism, whereby we are born again, as Paul says himself: 'For we are buried with Him through baptism into death, that, like as Christ rose from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we, too, should walk in newness of life.'
Concerning Repentance, 2:8.
Therefore read that the three witnesses in baptism, the water, the blood, and the Spirit, are one, for if you take away one of these, the Sacrament of Baptism does not exist. For what is water without the cross of Christ? A common element, without any sacramental effect. Nor, again, is there the Sacrament of Regeneration without water: 'For except a man be born again of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.'
On the Mysteries, 4:20.
Acts 2:37-8 Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
A key here is the word "for" (eis) - a word that can mean for or because of. If eis is taken to mean "for" then it is taken to mean that baptism is essential to salvation; if it means "because of", then it is not.
Here we see a classic example of an outdated argument. The "causal eis in Acts 2:38" defence was refuted decades ago by commentators and lexicographers. It relies on an insupportable rendering of the Greek - a rendering that not even Daniel Wallace was able to justify.
Thus, William Arnold III, in answer to correspondence:
Concerning Acts 2:38, the grammar actually requires that Peter is saying be baptized "for" the remission of sins. The use of the preposition eis demands this meaning. Concerning this specific verse, BAGD, the most authoritative Greek lexicon in English says, "to denote purpose / in order to, to . . . for forgiveness of sins, so that sins might be forgiven Mt 26:28; cf. Mk 1:4; Lk 3:3; Ac 2:38."
Seeing the plain implications of this passage, some scholars have jumped through hoops to try and explain it away. Once again I call attention to Wallace's highly acclaimed Greek grammar. Wallace (who does not believe baptism is essential) has a discussion about this verse specifically under his treatment of the preposition eis:
"An interesting discussion over the force of eis took place several years ago, especially in relation to Acts 2:38. . . .
J. R. Mantey argued that eis could be used causally [which would mean baptism "because of" remission of sins] in various passages in the NT, among them Matt 3:11 and Acts 2:38...
On the other hand, Ralph Marcus questioned Mantey's nonbiblical examples of a causal eis so that in his second of two rejoinders he concluded (after a blow-by-blow refutation): 'It is quite possible that eis is used causally in the NT passages but the examples of causal eis cited from non-biblical Greek contribute absolutely nothing to making this possibility a probability. If, therefore, Professor Mantey is right in his interpretation of various NT passages on baptism and repentance and the remission of sins, he is right for reasons that are non-linguistic.'
Marcus ably demonstrated that the linguistic evidence for a causal eis fell short of proof. . . . adjusting the grammar to answer a backward-looking 'Why?' has no more basis than the notion that anti ever meant mere representation (see prior discussion)."
He also discusses the shift from second person plural to third person singular and then back, which you mentioned.
But notice even some other passages: "Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord" (Acts 22:16); "baptism now saves you" (1 Peter 3:21); "He saved us not by works of righteousness that we have done but on the basis of his mercy, through the washing of the new birth and the renewing of the Holy Spirit" (Titus 3:5, NET, see also John 3:3-5). Coupled with Acts 2:38, these passages clearly connect baptism with the remission of sins and even with salvation.
Full text available here.
In the wake of this exchange, Wallace dropped the argument from eis in Acts 2:38 - a fact which was clearly demonstrated by the 1996 publication of his Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics. Here, in his discussion of eis, Wallace lists five uses of the preposition, but ďcausalĒ is conspicuous by absence. While it is true that he still believes baptism to be non-essential for salvation, he admits that no such argument can be proved on the basis of the grammatical construction in Acts 2:38. Additionally, it is significant that the premier lexical work of Liddell and Scott does not even list any causal uses of eis.
However, "into" is the closest approximation of eis in this verse, so that Peter tells the crowd to be "baptized into the remission of sins."
This argument is not just insufficient - it is totally spurious. Turkel relies too heavily on "If" statements, and vain suppositions. Instead of presenting mere conjecture about the text in question, why does he not parse it? Why does he not at least break it down into its component parts?
Perhaps a visit to Mr Johnson is in order...
37. When they heard this.
The conclusion, supported by such convincing demonstration. Before Peter began to speak they did not understand the signs; but now it was clear to them that they had rejected and crucified the Lord.
Pricked in their heart.
Convicted of their sins, and pierced with sorrow. They believed Peter's affirmation; their faith revealed their sin in rejecting Christ. Overwhelmed with sorrow, they ask,
"What shall we do? Is there any way that such sinners can be pardoned?"
38. Repent, and be baptized.
For the first time the terms of pardon under the New Covenant and the Great Commission are given; given once for all time, and always the same. The convicted, broken-hearted, sorrowing sinner, believing that Jesus is the Christ, is to repent and be baptized.
Not sorrow. They already sorrowed; but a change of purpose; the internal change which resolves to serve the Lord. The Greek term [metanoeo] rendered "repent," means a change of mind. The act of obedience in baptism is an outward expression of both faith and repentance.
In the name of Jesus Christ.
"Upon the name" (Revised Version). Upon the ground of the name. In submission to the authority of Jesus Christ.
For the remission of sins.
Thus, by complying with the conditions just named, they shall receive remission of sins. No man can receive pardon without faith and repentance, nor can he without submission to the will of Christ.
"Eis (for) denotes the object of baptism, which is the remission of the guilt contracted in the state before metanoia (repentance)."
"In order to the forgiveness of sins we connect naturally with both the preceding verbs. This clause states the motive or object which should induce them to repent and be baptized."
-- Prof. Hackett.
The gift of the Holy Spirit.
Promised as a comforter to all who obey Christ, but whom "the world cannot receive" [Joh 14:17].
Johnson, B. W. (1891), The People's New Testament.
Read in light of the Semitic Totality Concept, it indicates that believers will practice this behavior to validate their commitment to Christ. Baptism is just one part of that behavior is inextricably linked to repentance and salvation. Does the lack of the behavior mean one is not saved? No, but one does have to ask why anyone would not produce the validating behavior. Do they understand the command? Are they hydrophobic? Why would they refuse baptism if they knew that Christ had commanded it? Can we picture someone hearing the preaching of Peter and saying, "Peter, that's good news, I'll repent as you say, but I'm definitely not being baptized, even though I know it was commanded by the one I now call Lord." ?
The only problem with this argument is that it proves nothing at all. Not once does Turkel attempt to explain why a redundant baptism is performed. Indeed, the very best he can offer us is an inverted statement...
I'll repent as you say, but I'm definitely not being baptized, even though I know it was commanded by the one I now call Lord
...which merely begs the question yet again:
For what purpose are we baptised at all?
It is all very well to protest against those who will not obey Jesus' commandment to baptise. It certainly sounds very pious and wholesome. But what does it achieve? Nothing. For unless he who is baptised can give a sound theological reason for doing so, his submission to the act is pointless. What does it signify? He does not know. What is its effect? He believes it has no effect. Why then was he baptised in the first place? Simply because Jesus commanded it. No other reaon. "Just because."
Turkel therefore presents us with a redundant, meaningless ritual, which must nevertheless be performed...
"Because Jesus said so!"
...and not because it has any significance of its own.
Does this empty rhetoric frustrate the reader? It certainly should, for it makes a total mockery of:
- The baptism of John.
- The Great Commission.
- The commandment of our Lord Jesus Christ.
- The believer's symbolic enactment of death, burial and resurrection, as expounded by the apostles Peter and Paul in their epistles.
Baptism, like any validating behavior, is "essential to salvation" only in the sense that if you don't want to go through with it, and there is no barrier to understanding, then it is clear that you do not possess salvation.
Notice the complete lack of proof texts. Where are the Scriptures to support this bold conclusion? If they exist, why have they not been advanced? If they do not exist, on what basis does Turkel maintain his argument?