Many believe that water baptism is required in order to
secure one's everlasting salvation. This is the result of a failure to "cut
straight the word of truth" in several passages of scripture.
THE TEACHING OF JOHN THE BAPTIZER
John did not teach, "be baptized." He taught,
"repent, for the kingdom of God has drawn near." (Mat. 3:2).
The repentance (change of mind) that is is involved is, "believe in
the Messiah," as is indicated at Acts 19:4.
"believe in Him (the Messiah) who is coming after
him," who is,
"the Lamb of God who lifts up the sin of the world," (John 1:29).
Forgiveness of sins is accomplished by "repentance,"
not by baptism.
One hears the message about the Messiah, ("Behold
the Lamb of God who lifts up the sin of the world," John 1:29) changes
his mind (repents) toward the Messiah and God's plan for salvation, and
at that moment of time, receives forgiveness of sins. Then he is baptized
as an expression of devotion to the kingdom of God which he has entered.
Thus, it is baptism "because of" repentance.
The confusion revolves around the translation of the word
rendered "for." The word is eis, which is a preposition that has
a variety of uses: to, toward, for, unto, because of - context must determine.
A. As confirmation that "because of" is a bona fide
option for "eis," compare the use at Mat. 12:41,
"They repented 'at' (eis) the preaching of Jonah.
They repented because of the preaching of Jonah.
B. So the question is asked: is baptism "for"
the forgiveness of sins or "because of" forgiveness of sins?
C. In other words, do I get baptized in order to receive
forgiveness or in order to testify to the forgiveness I received when I
trusted in Christ?
Mat 3:11, should read, "I baptize you with water because
of repentance," rather than, "for repentance."
In this situation, the attitude of changing the mind about
The Messiah is already a reality.
That is why at verses 7-8, when the Pharisees sought baptism from John,
he said, "produce fruit indicative of repentance."
In other words, demonstrate the reality of your change of mind about the
Messiah by a reversal of your "anti-Messiah" activity.
If this change of mind or "faith" in the Messiah is not present,
there is no need to be baptized.
"John the baptizer came into the wilderness,
proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins."
Here, as Mark narrates the reality, he describes it as
repentance "for" forgiveness. This describes it accurately. It
is repentance that produces forgiveness.
Luke describes it the same way, at Luke 3:3,
"proclaiming a baptism of repentance FOR the forgiveness
And he summarizes it at Luke 3:18,
"So with many other exhortations also, he proclaimed
the gospel to the people."
We have already seen what constitutes that "gospel"
at Acts 19:4,
"telling the people to believe in Him who was coming
The difference in the use of the preposition, "eis"
in these passages is the location of the preposition in the construction.
In Matthew, the speech of John is recorded where he uses it to follow the
word, "baptism." Here then, the idea of "reason" is
utilized. The reason for baptism is "because of repentance."
In Mark and Luke, the writer is simply narrating what happened and the preposition
follows the word, "repentance," to indicate "direction,"
as in, "for" or "unto" forgiveness.
THE TEACHING OF JESUS
Jesus nowhere mentions baptism as having anything to do
with forgiveness of sins. The suggestion that John 3:5 refers to water baptism
by the use of the word, "water" has no substance. It is far more
consistent with Old testament teachings to recognize "water" as
symbolic for the "word" which, when believed produces within the
soul, spiritual life.
Out from water and the Spirit:
A. Because Nic is in a human viewpoint rut, Jesus must
give him information based on the Old Testament, with which he should be
B. Water should take him back to Isaiah 55:1-5 and Ezek.
C. It refers to the ministry of the truth of God's word
as the means of the new birth.
Cf. John 4:14; 1 Pet. 1:23; James 1:18; Eph. 5:26
D. Spirit should take him back to Ezek. 36:25-27.
The Holy Spirit is the agent of the new birth. Titus 3:5
E. The "new birth" is not something NEW to God's
plan of salvation.
It too is referenced at Ezekiel 36:26 by the terms, "a new heart and
a new spirit within you."
Forgiveness of sins has always been based on entering into
spiritual life through a covenant relationship with God based on faith or
"TRUST" in the person and work of the Messiah. In the Old Testament,
it was faith in the "promise" of a coming Messiah-Savior who would
be "pierced through for our transgressions," (Isaiah 53:5).
In the days of Adam it was "calling on the name of
Yahweh," (Gen. 4:26).
In the days of Paul the apostle, it was "by calling
on His name, (Acts 22:16).
And the wrath of God is poured out "on the nations
which do not know You, and upon the kingdoms which do NOT call upon Your
name, (Ps. 79:6).
Thus, the invitation stated at Joel 2:32 is restated by
Paul, since the Lord abounds "in riches for all who call upon Him,
for whoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved, (Rom. 10:12-13).
And at Isaiah 55:6,
"Seek the LORD while He may be found; Call upon Him
while He is near."
During the public ministry of Christ, it was faith in His
personal presence and ministry that demonstrated Him to be "the Lamb
of God who lifts up the sin of the world," (John 1:29). "For everyone
who beholds the Son and believes in Him, may have everlasting life, (John
Since the resurrection of Christ, it is faith in the historical
reality of Christ's sacrifice, "who carried our sins in His own body
on the tree," (1 Pet. 2:24).
But at all times the issue is always a change of mind and
trust in God's salvation provision, just as Jesus summarized at Mark 1:14-15,
"Now after John had been incarcerated, Jesus came
proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, the time is fulfilled
and the kingdom of God has arrived. Change your thinking and
believe in the gospel." (BFT)
Jesus never makes baptism a factor for entering into a
saving relationship with God. There is therefore, no justification for taking
the word "water," at John 3:5 and giving it a meaning that Jesus
never mentions anywhere else. In reference to this, Wuest writes:
"Others interpret the word "water" as referring
to the rite of water baptism. But we submit that this is pure eisegesis,
reading into the text something that is not there. Surely, the word 'water'
in itself, does not include within its meaning the idea of baptism. Furthermore,
the only proper recipient of water baptism is one who has already been
born gain, the new-birth preceding water baptism, not the rite preceding
the new birth. Again, the question arises as to how such a supernatural
change as regeneration produces, could be the resultt of a mere ceremony."
(Great Truths to Live By, page 55, by Kenneth Wuest)
No, it seems that Jesus clearly uses "water"
to refer to the content of the message, which must be believed in order
to be saved just as He does just a little later in talking to the Samaritan
Woman, (John 4:14).
"But whoever drinks of the water that I shall give
him shall never thirst;
but the water that I shall give him shall become a well of water
springing up to everlasting life."
Some have suggested that "water" here in John
4, refers to the Holy Spirit, but Jesus was NOT offering the Holy Spirit
to this woman, but offering her everlasting life through the word of truth
as the "seed" of regeneration. When she drinks of the water that
He gives to her, she will be trusting in His words, just as the men of the
city did later.
"And many more believed because of His word . . .
for we have heard for ourselves and know that this One is indeed the Savior
of the world," (John 4:41-42).
Neither can we appeal to Mark 16:16 ("He who has believed
and has been baptized shall be saved.") to suggest that Jesus teaches
otherwise, for that passage is not part of the inspired text of scripture.
Mark 16:9-20, is not in the best manuscripts and should
not be viewed as part of the word of God. See Scripture
Reference Mark 16:9-20 for amplification via The Textual Commentary
of the Greek New Testament.
THE TEACHING IN THE BOOK OF ACTS
1. And Peter said to them: The Jews who were listening
2. Repent: metanoeo = aorist active imperative, 2nd person
plural, ("you all").
It means to change the mind, thus, "change your thinking."
This is what is required to receive forgiveness of sins.
Although repentance and faith are technically TWO different things, often
repentance is mentioned with the implication that it will lead to belief
in the gospel.
"Proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness
It is NOT baptism which accomplished forgiveness, but
repentance, which is a change of mind about the Messiah, (Acts 19:4, "believe
in Him who was coming after him.")
3. and let each one be baptized: aorist passive imperative,
3rd person singular, which provides a SYNTACTICAL break and introduces
a separate idea.
a. The reason there is a syntactical break is because
of the change from the 2nd person plural to the 3rd
b. The 2nd person occurs again in the word, you shall
c. What that does is to provide a parenthesis between
the word repent and the word receive, as follows -
d. Repent y'all (and let each one be baptized "because
of" the forgiveness of sins) and y'all shall
receive the gift of the H.S.
e. The Greek has a 3rd person for the imperative - and
it is best rendered as "let him or her"
- but here we have a personal adjective, hekastos,
which = each, thus, "let each one be baptized."
f. The passive voice simply indicates that the subject
must receive the action of the verb "baptize."
4. FOR (eis) the forgiveness of your sins: As previously
discussed, the use of the preposition, "eis" provides a small
difficulty. But it has also been demonstrated that forgiveness of sins
is based on (because of) repentance and not based on baptism. This is further
demonstrated at Acts 10:43-48, for which, see below.
5. And you shall receive: now we return to the 2nd person
plural which ends the parenthesis and continues the
thought from the first verb "repent."
a. In other words, let's read it and skip the parenthesis.
Repent and you shall receive the gift . . .
b. What is the basis for receiving the gift of the
repentance or baptism? Clearly, it is repentance alone.
This is one of the many places where repentance implies
a subsequent faith in the gospel.
6. The reason Peter even mentions being baptized, and
so closely in connection with receiving the H.S. (being
saved in this instance) is because water baptism was
a testimonial required as evidence of one's repentance
(change of mind or faith). 1 Peter 3:21.
7. Paul however, does not place that kind of emphasis
on water baptism because its purpose had been distorted
and abused (like so many other things within the early
church). 1 Cor. 1:14-17
8. Nowhere else in Acts is even a "similar"
command or invitation extended to those who are unbelievers. Including
the instructions given to Paul at Acts 22:16, which indicates that forgiveness
of sins results from "calling on His name," which is trust in
the person and work of the Messiah.
Acts 22:16, does not say "be baptized in order to
wash away your sins." It says, "be baptized, AND wash away your
sins BY calling on His name." (aorist middle participle of ephkaleo).
Acts 10:43-48 indicates not only the true means of saving
forgiveness, but also places water baptism AFTER that salvation.
1. v.43, "Everyone who believes in Him, receives
forgiveness of sins."
2. v.44, while they heard the message they believed and
the Holy Spirit came upon them.
3. v. 47-48, After they are saved as witnessed by the
indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, they are THEN baptized.
THE TEACHING OF PETER
1 Peter 3:21, says that baptism "as a type" now
saves you. That is, baptism does not save you, but
"typifies" what does save you. Ie, "not
the removal of dirt from the flesh, but a pledge to God of a good conscience."
1. The "pledge to God" is the faith commitment
of trusting in Christ as savior which "cleanses" the conscience
2. Water baptism is a "symbol" (type) of that
cleansing that takes place in the soul through faith in Christ.
Kenneth Wuest's comments on this verse are quite valuable.
The words "the like figure" are in the Greek
The question as to whether the word "figure" refers back
to the word "ark" or the word "water," is easily settled
by the Greek grammar involved in this expression, for the relative pronoun
ho is neuter, the word "ark" is feminine, and the word
"water" neuter. The relative pronoun agrees with its antecedent
in gender. Therefore the word "figure" which is neuter and construed
grammatically with the pronoun ho goes back to the word "water."
The word "figure" is the translation of antitupon which
means "the counterpart of reality." The Greek word "baptism"
is in apposition with the word "figure." Our translation so far
reads, "Which (water) also (as a) counterpart now saves you, (namely)
baptism." Water baptism is clearly in the apostle's mind, not the
baptism of the Holy Spirit, for he speaks of the waters of the flood as
saving the inmates of the ark, and in this verse, of baptism saving believers.
But he says that it saves them only as a counterpart. That is, water baptism
is the counterpart of the reality, salvation. It can only save as a counterpart,
not actually. The Old Testament sacrifices were counterparts of the reality,
the Lord Jesus. They did not actually save the believer, only in type.
It is not argued here that these sacrifices are analogous to Christian
The author is merely using them as an
illustration of the use of the word "counterpart." So water baptism only saves
the believer in type. The Old Testament Jew was saved before he brought the
offering. That offering was only his outward testimony that he was placing his
faith in the Lamb of God of whom these sacrifices were a type. The moment he
conceived in his heart that he would bring his offering to the Tabernacle, his
faith leaped the centuries to the time when God would offer the Sacrifice that
would pay for his sin. Our Lord said, "Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he
saw it, and was glad" (John 8:56). The act of bringing the sacrifice was his outward expression and testimony
of his inward faith. Water baptism is the outward testimony of the believer's
inward faith. The person is saved the moment he places his faith in the
Lord Jesus. Water baptism is his visible testimony to his faith and the
salvation he was given in answer to that faith.
Peter is careful to inform his readers that he is not
teaching baptismal regeneration, namely, that a person who submits to baptism
is thereby regenerated, for he says, "not the putting away of the
filth of the flesh."
Baptism, Peter explains, does not wash away the filth
of the flesh, either in a literal sense as a bath for the body, nor in
a metaphorical sense as a cleansing for the soul. No ceremonies really
affect the conscience. But he defines what he means by salvation, in the
words, "the answer of a good conscience toward God," and he explains
how this is accomplished, namely "by the resurrection of Jesus Christ"
in that the believing sinner is identified with Him in that resurrection.
(Wuest's Word Studies, Commentary on 1 Peter, page 108-109)
THE TEACHING OF PAUL
Paul did not emphasize water baptism for salvation, in
fact quite the opposite, he "downplayed" the importance of baptism
by the language at 1 Cor. 1:13-31.
"I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus
"For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to proclaim
If baptism is crucial to the new birth, it is indeed, strange
that Paul would set it up in contrast to proclaiming the gospel.
And no where else does Paul even "hint" that water baptism has
value in reference to producing salvation.
To finalize this article, I appeal to the summary of the
salvation process as outlined by Paul at Ephesians 1:13,
Step one: "After hearing the word of truth, the gospel
of your salvation."
Step two: "Having also believed"
Step three: "You were sealed with the Holy Spirit
of promise, who is the down payment of our salvation."
Hear, believe, sealed by the Spirit. Just like what happened
to the Gentiles at Acts 10:43-48. And then they were baptized in water.