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The Salvific Efficacy Of Baptism

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#1 Evangelion



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Posted 02 January 2003 - 10:32 AM

This essay was written in response to an argument by "J. P. Holding" (real name "Robert Turkel") against the salvific efficacy of baptism. That thesis (available here) runs to more than 4,500 words in its original form, and is therefore highly unsuited to the standard "line by line" rebuttal format. Consequently, the reader will see that I have chosen to address only the essential points of Turkel's argument.

Turkel begins:

"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:
Acts 2:37-38.
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.
Very simple.

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.

    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."
    Fragment 34.

  • 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.

    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.

    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."
    Recognitions, 6:9.

  • 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 [72]: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, [73]: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.

    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.
    Trinity, 9:9.

  • 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.

    [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.

    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.

    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.
Examples could be multiplied.

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)."
-- Meyer.

"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?
'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.


#2 Evangelion



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Posted 02 January 2003 - 10:57 AM


Thought and action are expected, under the Semitic Totality paradigm, to correspond. The conversion and the baptism are regarded as one process, not because the latter is required for salvation, but because it is expected in light of salvation.

This is a somewhat tortuous argument. Not only does it carefully avoid any reference to the possible meaning and significance of baptism (yet again!), but it also attempts to separate the act of baptism from the concept of salvation.

The argument thus proposed by Turkel might carry weight if:
  • The text gives us good reason to believe that baptism and salvation are not related in some way.
  • Salvation can be proven to be an instant occurrence, rather than the result of a lifelong process.
Let us test #1 - does the text support the idea that baptism is not necessary linked to the concept of salvation? Acts 2:38 is the verse in question; eis is the word in question.

What do we find in our Bible translations?
  • New American Standard Bible, Revised Standard Version, New International Version, Douay-Rheims Bible:
    ...for the forgiveness of your sins.
  • American Standard Version:
    ...unto the remission of your sins.
  • New King James Version, King James Version:
    ...for the remission of sins.
  • New Revised Standard Version:
    ...so that your sins may be forgiven.
  • Young's Literal Translation:
    ...to remission of sins.
  • Contemporary English Version:
    ...so that your sins will be forgiven.
  • God's Word:
    ...so that your sins will be forgiven.
  • International Standard Version:
    ...for the forgiveness of your sins.
  • World English Bible:
    ...for the forgiveness of sins.
  • Green's Literal Version:
    ...to remission of sins.
  • New American Bible:
    ...for the forgiveness of your sins;
What do we find in our commentaries?
  • Abbott (Church of England), Commentary on Acts:
    ...for the putting away.
  • Alexander (Presbyterian), Commentary on Acts:
    ...for, to or toward.
  • Axtell (Baptist), Shepherd's Handbook:
    ...unto, for, in order to.
  • Benson (Methodist), Commentary on Bible:
    ...for, unto.
  • Bickersteth (Church of England), Commentary on Acts:
    ...for, unto.
  • Butcher (Presbyterian), Shepherd's Handbook:
    ...end toward which.
  • Adam Clarke (Methodist), Commentary on Bible:
    ...in reference to.
  • Dill (Baptist), Shepherd's Handbook:
    ...unto, to.
  • Godet (Presbyterian) Shepherd's Handbook:
    ...aim, purpose.
  • Goodwin (Congregationalist), Shepherd's Handbook:
  • Harkness (Baptist), Shepherd's Handbook:
    ...in order to.
  • Harmon (Methodist) Shepherd's Handbook:
    ...the object to be obtained.
  • Harper (Baptist), Shepherd's Handbook:
    ...unto, in order to receive.
  • Hovey (Baptist), Commentary on John:
  • Jacobus (Presbyterian), Commentary on Acts:
    ...unto, to this end.
  • Meyer (Lutheran), Commentary on Acts:
    ...denotes object.
  • McLintock (Methodist), McLintock & Strong Encyclopaedia:
    ...with a view to.
  • Schaff (Presbyterian), Shepherd's Handbook:
  • Strong (Methodist), Shepherd's Handbook:
    ...in order to.
  • Summers (Methodist), Commentary on Acts:
    ...unto, to the end.
  • Thayer (Congregationalist), Greek-English Lexicon:
    ...into, to, toward.
  • Willmarth (Baptist), Baptist Quarterly, 1878:
    ...in order to.
The text clearly does not support the idea that baptism and salvation are distinct from one another. On the contrary, the use of eis confirms that baptism is essential if we desire to have our sins forgiven - and, consequently, our salvation achieved.

Now let us test #2 - is salvation an instant occurrence? Well, we know that grace comes as a result of justification, and justification comes by faith and works. Salvation (the result of grace) only comes at the Judgement Seat. It cannot possibly come any earlier. Until we are there, facing Christ after the resurrection, we cannot know whether or not we shall be saved.

Even Paul - who freely confessed that there was
laid up for me a crown of righteousness, and not for me only, but to all those who love his appearing
- never once claimed to have been "saved" in the sense of having received immediate salvation on this side of the Kingdom.

Indeed, he specifically stated that
every one of us shall give account of himself to God
we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him.
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.

which would seem to be very clear indeed.

See also:
  • The parable of the talents, in which the lord (Christ), gave talents (personal abilities) to his workers (ourselves), and required them to produce more talents (obedience), rewarded the faithful workers with positions of honour commensurate with their achievements (degrees of reward in the kingdom of God), but rejected the man who was given a talent and did nothing with it.
  • The parable of the workers in the vineyard, in which the husbandman (Christ), calls idle men into his vineyard (ourselves), who work (obedience), but all receive the same salary (salvation), regardless of how long they have worked. And how can they all receive the same salary, regardless of how long they have worked? Because we are saved by grace, not by works, lest any man should boast. Notice, however, that obedience came before the grace. It is impossible to receive the latter without the former.
  • The parable of the sheep and goats, in which the lord (Christ) accepts the sheep (obedient Christians) on the basis of their faith and works (demonstrated by their Christlike attitude to others), but rejects the goats (disobedient Christians) on the basis of their negligence.

(Hence it is off the mark to make much of that Peter commanded the baptism, and thereby conclude that baptism is a "necessity" rather than an inevitable result.

But where is the Biblical evidence to support this argument? Thus far, we have seen a brief reference to the Greek word eis, a bit of empty speculation on its possible meaning, a refusal to explain the reason for baptism, and a deliberate attempt to mislead the reader. The crushing weight of the Biblical evidence cannot be brushed aside with a few "What if..." statements.

A command is often needed simply because the person being commanded has no idea what they should do next (as would have been the case with the Pentecost converts), having no knowledge of what the process is; and it could hardly be phrased in any less demanding language.)

This is a redundant argument. The author has already agreed that Jesus commanded his disciples to baptise, and his followers to submit to baptism. Now he is attempting to reduce the force of this injunction by claiming that it wasn't really a commandment at all! This is mere rhetoric. It proves nothing.

Acts 22:16 And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.

Some argue that this verse teaches that Paul's sins would be washed away following his baptism, and thus indicates the necessity of baptism.

Such a one is Johnson, who cites Howson and Hackett in support of his interpretation:
16. Arise, and be baptized.
Dean Howson (Acts, p. 501) says that the verb "baptize" in the Greek is in the middle voice, and that a more accurate rendering would be, "Have thyself baptized."

Wash away thy sins.
This language shows that Ananias thought that the penitent sinner was to be baptized for the remission of sins (Ac 2:38), and that Paul held the same view. Compare Tit 3:5.

Hackett says: "This clause states the result of baptism in language derived from the nature of the ordinance. It answers to eis aphesin hamartion (Ac 2:38), that is, submit to the rite in order to be forgiven. . . . There can be no question of the mode of baptism in this case, for if it be held that be baptized is uncertain in its meaning, wash away is a definition that removes the doubt." As the final act of conversion, baptism symbolically, is said to wash away sins.

Johnson, B. W. (1891), The People's New Testament.

But under the Semitic Totality concept this is simply not the case.

Alas for Turkel, any appeal to the "Semitic Totality concept" can only reaffirm that this is precisely the case. For if (as Turkel insists) the Jews saw decision and action as two parts of a united whole, baptism necessarily becomes an essential part of the salvation process.

Moreover, if one wants to read this verse as a chronology, rather than as a totality expression as we would read it, one wonders why calling on the name of Jesus is done last.

Firstly, even if "calling on the name of Jesus" was "done last", there would be no theological impact. The procedure would still be legitimate. Secondly, Turkel has not represented this passage accurately.

And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.
This is simply what was said. It does not specify an order in which things were done. Even a casual reader will realise that the phrase "calling on the name of the Lord" indicates something that is performed concurrently with the act of baptism. Once again, Turkel has attempted to baffle his reader with a false dichotomy.

It is more in line with the anthropological data to read Paul's quote of Ananias as a summary of a total commitment process which involved confession, obedience, and regeneration, and the "calling on the name of the Lord" as the "overarching term" in the passage. [For points in Acts, see commentaries by Polhill (461) and Kistemaker (790).]

This is the proposed "solution" to a "problem" which did not exist in the first place. Nobody would deny that "calling on the name of the Lord" is not "the overarching term in the passage." The author has merely attempted to divert our attention from the necessary process of baptism, which accompanied this event. Notice that he has spent no time on it whatsoever - he has not even attempted to explain why it is performed, or what its significance might be. Thus, the proof text remains unchallenged. Turkel has failed to present any evidence which might refute the claim that baptism is essential for salvation, and he has deliberately ignored the reference to the washing away of sins, despite the fact that this is the very idea he is supposed to be refuting!

I leave the reader to decide whether or not this constitutes a thorough approach to exegesis...

Gal. 3:27 For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

Although some indeed have taken the "for" here to "indicate that the status of divine sonship is contingent upon the ritual of water baptism" it is difficult to find this point in a letter in which Paul spends so much time trying to show the Galatians that they do not need to be circumcised.

Notice the formula? Distract the reader's attention from baptism by introducing a totally irrelevant issue - circumcision. The comment
...it is difficult to find this point in a letter in which Paul spends so much time trying to show the Galatians that they do not need to be circumcised
is nothing more than a carefully loaded statement, designed to shift the focus from baptism (the issue which this entire essay is supposed to be addressing) to circumcision (an issue which is not even relevant to the discussion.) Our suspicions are confirmed by the next two sentences, in which we read:

If baptism had replaced circumcision as an initiatory rite, then why does Paul not simply point to baptism over and over again? (Note that Paul in vv. 3:2-3 asks if they received the Spirit -- not if they were baptized!)

Here it is necessary to make a few points:
  • Paul does not say that baptism has replaced circumcision as an initiatory rite. This is another attempt to mislead the reader.
  • There is no need for Paul to "point to baptism over and over again", because (a) Paul was not trying to convince the Galatians that baptism has replaced circumcision, and (b) the question facing the Galatian ecclesia at this time was "What role does the Law now play in salvation?"
  • Paul has already contrasted the works of the Law against the grace of God under the new covenant. Now he wishes to show that all Christians are equal in the sight of God. No distinction is to be made between Jew and Gentile.
Galatians 3:24-29.
Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.
But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.
For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.
For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.

And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.
It is therefore dishonest to suggest that Paul was equating the significance of baptism with the rite of circumcision. He was doing no such thing. We may dispense with the citation from Longenecker, as it is totally irrelevant. Instead, let us move on to the next point of contention.

What is represented is an inward decision, and thus those who are "clothed with Christ" have made the inward decision which baptism is the corresponding action for. One no more obtains a position in Christ via baptism than a Roman child could have become an adult by donning an adult's clothing. {See Galatians commentaries by George (276) and Longenecker (156).]

Here Turkel deliberately confuses the literal with the figurative. His argument (illogical in the extreme) is that since the literal donning of a garment cannot change a child into an adult, neither can the figurative donning of Christ grant us a position in Christ. This merely serves to demonstrate the arrogance of the author, who, in a vain attempt to defend Sola Fide, concludes that Paul's analogy is meaningless, and its literal counterpart useless. For if we do not receive a position in Christ as a direct result of being baptised into him, then Paul has erred, and we have no hope of salvation. That is the necessary conclusion of the author's argument. Does he realise it? Alas, he does not.

By contrast, B. W. Johnson (citing Schaff) gives a clear and consistent exposition:
27. For.
He now shows how their faith acted to bring them into Christ.As Dr. Schaff says, "Faith always implies surrender." Faith leads to obedience. The believer is baptized into Christ, and being found in him has put on Christ. Being in Christ, a member of his body, a part of the Son, the believer becomes a child of God. Compare Rom. 6:3; 1 Cor. 10:2, and Matt. 28:19.

"The baptized is surrounded by Christ and covered by his merits. . . . The figure of putting on Christ as a new dress afterwards gave rise to the custom of wearing white baptismal garments."
--Schaff, in loco. 28.

There is neither Jew nor Greek.
In Christ the old, worldly lines of separation are all blotted out. All one. One person, as it were, "one new man" (Eph. 2:15), of which Christ is the head. All, without regard to race, blended into one whole.

29. If ye be Christ's.
As Christ is the seed of Abraham, all in Christ become the spiritual seed of Abraham, and hence heirs of the promise to Abraham's seed.

In the study of this Letter, it is well to keep in mind that the term faith is used by Paul often in a sense that means more than the act of belief. When it is put in contrast with the law, it is used in the sense of The Faith, that is, The Gospel. It comprehends what is believed, believing, and the results of believing. The fact that the apostles so often places the definite article before the word faith, so that in the Greek he speaks of The Faith, leaves no doubt of his meaning. It is unfortunate that the translators have obscured the meaning by omitting the article. Thus in this chapter the Greek gives the definite article before the word (the faith) five times where it is omitted in the Common Version. The examples are verse 14, verse 23 (twice), verses 25 and 26.

Johnson, B. W. (1891), The People's New Testament.
Observe Johnson's warning in the footnote. It has especial relevance to us. Those who advocate the extreme forms of Sola Fide will argue that faith itself is a supernatural gift from God. But Johnson observes that this is often the result of a superficial reading. When we read of faith "coming" to a believer (as in verse 25) Johnson reminds us that this is in fact The Faith (i.e. the Gospel.) A reference to translator's bias is implied by Johnson's lament that
...the translators have obscured the meaning by omitting the article.
His point is an excellent one. The astute reader will immediately realise that the significance of verses 14, 23, 25 and 26 has been totally overlooked by Robert Turkel's superficial analysis.

In light of this passage, we also see that once the Semitic Totality concept is understood, other passages become more clear in their meaning as well.

It has already been demonstrated that the "Semitic Totality Concept" supports the Christadelphian view, rendering the argument of Turkel both irrelevant and meaningless.

Romans 6:3-4 ("Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death. We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life ") and 1 Corinthians 12:13 ("For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body - whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free - and we were all given the one Spirit to drink") show not that baptism is the point at which we connect with the cross, and are saved, but that it is the inevitable expression of one who has indeed connected with the cross.

Here again Turkel falls back on his erroneous definition of "saved" (no true advocate of baptism would ever claim that we are saved at the instant of immersion), and deliberately ignores the clear references to death, burial and resurrection, in connexion with which, Johnson (citing standard authorities) writes:
3-5. So many of us as were baptized into Christ, etc.
The fact that every follower of Christ has died to sin is shown by his baptism. All its symbolism points to death. To be baptized into Christ means to enter into a vital union with him, so as to be found in him (Gal. 3:27). But this baptism into Christ implies death, for it is a baptism into the death of Christ. That the subjects of baptism are partakers of his death is shown by the form of baptism. It is a burial.

4. We are buried (Revision) through baptism into death.
The argument is that a burial implies death. Baptism is a burial, therefore its subject has died. As Christ died through sin, we die to sin; as the Crucified Christ was buried, we who have died to sin through the gospel are buried with him. As death and burial separate from the natural life, so death to sin and burial into Christ should completely sever our relation to sin. That like as Christ was raised up from the dead. The glorious power of the Father lifted up Christ from the tomb. So we, too, rise from the watery burial, with death and burial between us and the old life of sin, in order to walk in newness of life.

"This passage cannot be understood unless it is borne in mind that the primitive baptism was by immersion."
--Conybeare and Howson.

"That the custom of baptism by immersion is alluded to is generally admitted, but the emersion is as significant as the immersion."
--Dr. Philip Schaff.

"It seems to us very probable that the apostle alludes to the external form of the baptismal rite in the primitive church."

"The apostle alludes to the ancient manner of baptizing by immersion."
--John Wesley.

5. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death.
As the seed, planted, buried out of sight, rises again in a new life, so we are planted in the likeness of Christ's death when we are buried in baptism, and rise in the likeness of his resurrection, when we are lifted out of the water, and are found henceforth to have a new life. Compare Col. 2:12: "Buried by baptism, wherein ye are also risen with him."

Johnson, B. W. (1891), The People's New Testament.
We can defend this interpretation by an appeal to Reformed scholars:
  • J. P. Lange (Lutheran), Commentary on Romans 6.4:
    Buried in death, an oxymoron, according to which burial precedes and death follows, as is illustrated in the immersion into the bath of baptism.
  • William Sanday (Episcopalian), International Critical Commentary:
    Baptism has a double function. (I) It brings the Christian into personal contact with Christ, (2) It expresses symbolically a series of acts corresponding to the redeeming acts of Christ:

    Immersion = Death.
    Submersion = Burial (ratification of Death.)
    Emergence = Resurrection.

    That plunge beneath the running waters was like a death; the moment's pause while they swept overhead was like a burial; the standing erect once more in air and sunlight was a species of resurrection.

  • J. B. Lightfoot (Episcopalian), Commentary on Colossians 2:12:
    Baptism is the grave of the old man, and the birth of the new. As he sinks beneath the baptismal waters, the believer buries there all his corrupt affections and past sins; as he emerges thence, he rises regenerate, quickened to new hopes and a new life.
  • A. S. Peake (Methodist), The Expositor's Greek Testament:
    The rite of baptism in which the person baptized was first buried beneath the water, and then raised from it, typified to Paul the burial and resurrection of the believer with Christ.
One might ask the anti-baptism advocate how we might be expected to identify so intimately with Christ's death unless baptism is performed. One might further ask how we might be expected to be "in Christ" without being baptised into Christ, and so enacting his sacrificial passion. Can anyone explain how "the baptism of the Holy Spirit" might be used as a substitute for believer's baptism by full immersion into literal water? Let him first prove that the typology can be fulfilled by such a deed!

Titus 3:5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost...

Some argue that "washing" means baptism, but it is better understood as a figurative term for the regeneration process of cleansing from sin (in line with the Jewish allegory of water noted above).

We may dispense with the bulk of Turkel's argument here, since he has very little to go on, and makes even less of it. A brief rebuttal is all that is required.

First, Johnson:
By the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost.
Two elements enter into the saving; these are referred to in John 3:5 as the birth of water and of the Spirit. God's spirit effects the renewal of the spirit of man by bringing him to faith and repentance through the preaching of the gospel; thus the renewal of the Holy Spirit is begun, and the gift of the Holy Spirit is promised as a sequence of baptism. Romans 6:1-8 shows that the sinner dies to sin, is buried by baptism, rises to a new life, and is a new creature.

Washing of regeneration.
Literally, "Bath of regeneration." All commentators of reputation refer this to baptism, such as Meyer, Olshausen, Lange, Plumptree, Schaff, Canon Cook, Wesley, etc. Regeneration is due to the Holy Spirit, but baptism is an outward act that God requires to complete the fact. The term "regeneration" only occurs here and in Mt 19:28.

Johnson, B. W. (1891), The People's New Testament.
Johnson's view of the relationship between the Spirit and the believer may be a trifle obscure to those who have not followed him closely. In previous citations, he clearly stated that we obtain faith as a result of hearing the Gospel, rather than by any supernatural means. This recent quote might appear to contradict his former statements - but if we are careful, we shall not lose track of his argument.

He makes reference to the "renewal of the spirit of man" which "brings him to faith and repentance through the preaching of the Gospel." Notice the emphasis - it is still on the hearing of the Gospel. It has not switched to the Spirit alone; Johnson reaffirms the apostolic teaching that "faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God." It is through that same Spirit-breathed Word that our minds are renewed. (See also Adam Clarke's analysis of I Peter 3, in which he explains the reference to Christ "preaching to the souls in prison." The same form of argument is employed here, to great effect.)

With reference to Titus 3:5, see also LSJ:
loutron loutron, ou, [louŰ]

I. a bath, bathing place, Hom.; mostly in pl., therma loetra hot baths, Il.; attic therma loutra Aesch., etc.; also called loutra HÍrakleia Ar.; hudatŰn loutra water for bathing or washing, Soph.; lousai tina loutron to give one a bath, id=Soph.

II. in Poets, = spondai or choai libations to the dead, id=Soph., Eur.

Full text available here.
A vague reference to "washing" would not be sufficient to prove the type. But the undeniable reference to a bath is clear enough. We can be sure that baptism is here referred to.

1 Peter 3:20-21 Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. 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...

We have noted that the Semitic Totality concept radically affects our understanding of verses concerning the interrelation of faith, works, and particularly baptism.

As I have noted, the "Semitic Totality Concept" is clearly antithetical to Turkel's own argument.

Is there any evidence that the early Jewish apostles as Christians had difficulty in communicating this difference in anthropological view to their Gentile converts? I believe that there is, and that this passage serves as an example of how they coped with the problem. But we need to first look at a parallel from corresponding Biblical and secular sources.

And so John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. (Mark 1:4)

From this verse there emerges a puzzle, for while Mark says that John preached "a baptism of repentance," we find what appears to be the opposite proclaimed of John's baptism in this passage from Josephus, who said that John called for his converts:

...to lead righteous lives, to practice justice towards their fellows and purity towards God, and so doing to join in baptism. In his view this was a necessary preliminary if baptism was to be pleasing to God. They must not employ it to gain pardon for whatever sins they committed, but as a consecration of the body implying that the soul was already cleansed by right behavior.

Critics of the Bible often assume that either Mark or Josephus are in error. But I believe that Peter and Josephus are actually explaining to their Gentile readers--those who do not think within the paradigm of Semitic Totality--what the role of baptism is, in their terms as opposed to Semitic terms.

Another false dichotomy is presented for our inspection. We are at liberty to ignore it, should we choose to do so - but instead, let us indulge Turkel for a moment, and address his "evidence."

He has attempted to use Josephus (himself a non-Christian) in order to "prove" that baptism has no salvic efficacy, nor any relation to the remission of sins. The author wishes us to believe that our options are limited to the following:
  • Mark and Josephus are correct.
  • Mark and Josephus are in error.
But there is a third possibility which the author has neglected to present - that Josephus is in error, while Mark is correct! Without pausing to meditate on this scandalous attempt at elevating Josephus' works to the same level of infallible Scripture, let us read the analysis of mainstream theologian Greg Herrick (Ph.D.), who concludes that Josephus must be at fault:
d. Josephus says that Johnís baptism was not for the remission of sins, but was for the purification of the body due to the fact that the soul was already purified by the peopleís return to righteousness prior to coming for Johnís baptism. The Gospel writers appear to unanimously indicate that Johnís baptism of repentance was for the remission of sins and Matthew and Mark state that people were confessing their sins to John, meaning they had no previous righteousness per se, at least as Josephus seems to indicate.


Point (d) above, where Josephus says that Johnís baptism was for the purification of the body and not for the remission of sins, seems to be at odds somewhat with the Gospel accounts. Given the accuracy of the Gospel accounts, it would seem that Josephus was not entirely accurate in what he thought about Johnís ministry. Whatever sources he used, they seem to represent a slightly different tradition than the Gospel writers. The fact too, that Jospehus records only general statements with regards to Johnís ethic and the Gospel writers, on the other hand, record detailed descriptions of his injunctions, makes me think that the Gospel writers were privy to the actual details of the message. Of course, Jospehus was not even born when John preached, yet the Gospel writers may have indeed listened to John firsthand.

Full text available here.

As for the phrase, "the filth of the flesh," it does not of course mean to say that baptism isn't for washing--who would think that it was? Why should Peter have made such a banal point?

The objection is easily refuted. It is not mere washing to which Peter refers, but ritual cleansing, of the type that was common under the Law of Moses. (Remember that the emphasis of Peter's preaching campaign was largely Jewish; he had been sent to the Jews, while Paul had been sent to the Gentiles.) Peter wishes his audience to understand that baptism is not a return to the Law - nor even a part of it - but a new ritual for a new covenant.

Having realised this, we may freely dispense with the unnecessarily convoluted argument which follows (by means of which Turkel attempts to prove that Peter's reference is not literal, but figurative.) Rather than allowing ourselves to become enmired in this unhealthy speculation, let us turn instead to the helpful commentary of our good friend B. W. Johnson:
21. The like figure whereunto.
Literally, "the antitype now saves us, Baptism."

Says Alford, "Water saved them, bearing up the ark; it saves us, becoming to us baptism." As they entered the Ark, we are "baptized into Christ," the Savior. See Galatians 3:27.

Not the putting away of the filth of the flesh.
Not as a Jewish ceremonial washing, which was only a purification of the flesh, but it is the answer of a good conscience. The Revision says, "the interrogation of a good conscience." "Inquiry" would be still better. The soul seeking the forgiveness of sins "inquires" What shall I do to remove the sense of unforgiven sins and make my conscience void of offense? The answer is "Repent and be baptized," etc. See Ac 2:38. He who obeys the word of the Lord has the "inquiry" answered in baptism.

Through the resurrection.
Baptism would be meaningless and vain were it not for the resurrection of Christ. It points directly to the burial and resurrection of the Lord. See Romans 6:1-6.

22. Who is on the right hand of God.
Christ's exaltation followed his death and resurrection. See Eph 1:20-23.

Johnson, B. W. (1891), The People's New Testament.
Here Johnson presents his most powerful argument for the salvific efficacy of baptism.

Let us hear it again:
Baptism would be meaningless and vain were it not for the resurrection of Christ. It points direction to the burial and resurrection of the Lord. See Romans 6:1-6.
This argument is utterly devastating to those who advocate the replacement of water baptism by "spirit baptism."

Observe the consistency of the symbolism in Romans 6:
Romans 6:3-4.
Or are ye ignorant that all we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?
We were buried therefore with him through baptism unto death:
that like as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness of life.
This is a clear reference to water baptism. "Spirit baptism" is not the "baptism" here referred to. How can we be sure?

There are several clues:
  • Paul has used the Greek word baptizo, meaning "to dip or plunge." Now, is water something that you can "dip or plunge" people into? Indeed it is! (But how might we be expected to "dip or plunge" somebody into the Holy Spirit?)
  • We have already seen that baptism involves dipping or plunging - for which a literal liquid is required. (In the case of baptism, this is water.) Can you "dip or plunge" someone into the Holy Spirit? No, you cannot. The Holy Spirit is only ever said to be "poured." This makes it an "annointing", not a baptism. Now, if this is what Jesus had meant, he would have said "annoint them in the name of... etc." But he doesn't. He says "dip or plunge." Ergo we require a liquid for baptism - and that liquid is water.
So the apostle Paul clearly states that the baptism of which he speaks, is symbolic of death and resurrection - and only water baptism can fulfil this typology. But how can we be so sure? Could "Spirit baptism" ever fulfil the necessary symbolism of death, burial, and resurrection?

Let us compare the two:
  • Are there three stages to "Spirit baptism"? (There are with water baptism.)
  • Is there a stage in which death is represented? (There is with water baptism.)
  • Is there a stage in which burial is represented? (There is with water baptism.)
  • Is there a stage in which resurrection is represented? (There is with water baptism.)
  • We descend into the water (death.)
  • We remain under the water for a moment (burial.)
  • We rise from the water (resurrection.)
  • None of this occurs in so-called "Spirit baptism" - which is why the only baptism by which we can be "buried with Christ", is water baptism.
Identification with Christ - his death, burial and resurrection - is made possible by the two simple rituals that he instituted. One of these was the partaking of the memorial emblems - bread and wine.

The other was water baptism in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, for the remission of sins.
'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.


#3 Evangelion



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Posted 24 January 2003 - 02:56 PM

For those who may be interested, a refreshing discussion on the significance of baptism can be found here. :)
'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.


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