WHY BE WATER BAPTIZED?
by Ed Stevens
Acts 2:38 is considered by nearly all to be a command to be water baptized. While admitting the Bible does not contradict itself, they make it do so by putting works of water baptism in this verse: "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."
Few seem to notice that in similar preaching in Acts 3:19 Peter said, "Repent ye therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out . . .". Why did he here say, "be converted" and in 2:38, "be baptized"? Simply because in both instances the meaning is the same—"become saved in a spiritual baptism into Jesus Christ". There is no allusion to water in either of these verses where the message was to "men of Judea and all that dwell at Jerusalem" (v.14). These had all been water-baptized of John according to Luke 3:21; Mark 1:5 and Matt. 3:5,6—"Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judea, and all the region round about Jordan. And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins". No one believes two water baptizings were necessary then, or now. Here is clue number one showing Acts 2:38 does not speak of water baptism but a baptism as truly dry as that found in Luke 12:50; Matt. 20:22,23; I Cor. 10:2; I Cor. 12:13; Rom. 6:4,5; Gal. 3:27 and Col. 2:12.
No contradiction of Scripture is found in Acts 2:38. Please remember that the Bible nowhere teaches that remission of sins can possibly be obtained otherwise than through faith in Christ alone, entirely apart from works of man's doing. Water baptizing is as truly works as the Jewish rite of circumcision, or keeping the ten commandments.
The water-salvationists avidly quote Acts 2:38-41 along with Acts 10:47,48 (about Cornelius' water baptism), when they preach on remission of sins and church joining, but they ignore the truth of verse 43 in Acts 10: "To Him give all the prophets witness that through His name, whosoever BELIEVETH in Him (nothing else included) shall receive remission of sins". Thus it happened with Cornelius and his company, for they believed Peter's message about Christ (vs. 38-43), and "God which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Spirit . . . purifying their hearts by faith", in full salvation, with remission of sins, BEFORE, they were water-baptized by Peter! Acts 15:8,9;11:14,
Also, the water-salvationists have no use for. Acts 13:33,39—"Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this Man (Christ) is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins, and by Him all that BELIEVE are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses"--by works. Let us remember there were "divers baptizings imposed on Israel" in this "law of Moses" and that John's water baptism was "the counsel of God against them", not the church. Heb. 9:10; Luke 7:30.
Both the Campbellites and Baptists will say "salvation is free", or "by grace" (unmerited favor) but they flatly contradict this in their making water baptism works necessary for the remission of sins, by making Acts 2:38 mean water baptism. Also, they say one must "obey the commands of Christ to be in that select order, His church"—more works! What hopeless confusion is placed before the public!! Confusion is increased by these and a host of others claiming their particular organization to be the true church of Jesus Christ!
No sane Bible reader will find in it, or will believe the blasphemously false statement of a woman Bible teacher that, "God, the Father, gave the name The Baptist' to His church . . . thus, the true church of God is the Baptist church"! No reference supplied, of course! This organization also was formed far too late to be the true church of the Bible.
To understand Acts 2:38 it is helpful to see in I Cor. 10:2 a parallel passage—the Jewish "Fathers were all baptized unto (`into', R.V.) Moses in the cloud and in the sea". Exodus 14:31 explains how this baptism occurred. Israel "believed the Lord and His servant Moses", accepting Moses as their God-sent deliverer and leader after beholding the miracle of passing through the Red Sea on dry land, under the cloud. Thus Peter exhorted Israel to believe on and to accept their ascended Messiah whom they had crucified: that "this Jesus hath God raised up . . . being at the right hand of God exalted". In their BELIEVING they would be "converted" or "baptized in the name of Jesus Christ". "Then they that gladly received his word (believed) were baptized" spiritually in the name, or into the Person, Jesus Christ. "And the same day there were added about 3,000 souls". "To them" is in italics. They were added instantly by the Lord to His church. Acts 2:41,47.
Peter plainly stated that "whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved" —no works required! Acts 2:21. It was God's special "promise" to Israel that He would freely grant them "remission of sins" and "the gift of the Holy Spirit". God foreknew Israel, as a nation, would reject the promise, so later had Paul write in Rom.11:25-27 that "after the fullness of the Gentiles be come in, all Israel (as a remnant) shall be saved .. . for this is my covenant with them when I shall take away their sins". He works required also in that future "time of Jacob's trouble" Per 30:7), when they will in repentance simply "call on the name of the Lord" and be saved. Then, fully upon them "the Spirit will be poured from on high". Isa. 32:15; 44:3; Ezek. 36:27.
In that the Spirit was "shed forth" on but a few at Pentecost, in God's foreknowledge of Israel's national hardening of heart, here is proof that a new economy, or dispensation, began at Pentecost—the church which is Christ's body. Matt. 16:18; Acts 11:15; 2:47. John the Baptist did not minister to the church, nor speak of it, for it was a "mystery of Christ which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men", but was revealed by the apostle Paul. Eph. 3:1-11. The word "church" in Matt. 18:17 refers to a synagogue assembly.
Again, if Acts 2:38 refers to water baptism then the Holy Spirit is not given as an unearned "gift" but because of works, contradicting Scripture which nowhere teaches works of any kind to be necessary in order to receive the Holy Spirit. "Received ye the Spirit by works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?" Gal. 3:2. The Lord Jesus had spoken of the gift of the Holy Spirit that "they that believe on Him should receive". John 7:38.
Please remember how significantly it is repeated in Matt. 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:26,33: and stated once more by the Lord as in Acts 1:5, that "John truly baptized with water, but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit". Peter belatedly "remembered the word of the Lord" when he had water-baptized the first Gentile converts, Cornelius and his company. Acts 11:15,16; 15:7,14. To see that Peter never taught salvation by works for either Jew or Gentile read Acts 15:9-11; I Pet. 1:9,18-25.
That all converts from Acts 2 to Acts 10 were either Jews or Jewish proselytes, including the water-baptized Ethiopian eunuch of Acts 8, is indisputably proved in Acts 15:7, 14. Here we read that by Peter's mouth "the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. Simeon hath rehearsed how FIRST God did visit the Gentiles ... " (R.V.).
To sum up: Acts 2:38 is NOT a command for believers to be baptized with water. Neither did Paul, "the apostle to the Gentiles" (Rom. 11:13; 15:16; I Tim. 2:7) give any such command in his writings which "are the commandments of the Lord" for the church. I Cor. 14:37. During the Acts period water baptism was "imposed on Israel until a time of reformation" (Heb. 9:10), which time came when Paul wrote his post-Acts prison epistles. Eph. 2:14,15; Phil. 3:3; Col. 2:14,16,17. Gentile believers were not to "observe" Judaistic rites. Acts 15:1929; 21:25. "ONE BAPTISM", which is "in one Spirit" alone remained after the Acts period. Eph. 4:5; I Cor., 12:13, R.V. Yours "for the truth's sake". II John 2: II Cor., 13:3.
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