Question #11: Where Does The Bible Teach That Water Baptism Is Required In Order To Have One’s Sins Forgiven?
The “Church of Christ” teaches that a sinner is forgiven of sin when he is baptized in water by a CoC elder. Where does the Bible teach that water baptism is required in order to have one’s sins forgiven?
The part of the statement referring to baptism requiring the participation of an elder is false. Whether the questioner included this clause out of ignorance or purposeful maliciousness, to mislead and deceive people, is unclear. However, in response to question number two, this has already been answered and discounted as a falsehood and nothing that I, or any other preacher I know of, has ever taught as part of baptism’s requirement for salvation.
I have said, repeatedly, that it isn’t a matter of what the church of Christ teaches because there is no such thing as “church of Christ doctrine.” The church of Christ is the church of Christ because it follows biblical doctrine. If a congregation does not follow and teach biblical doctrine then it is not the church of Christ, no matter the name on the sign. The Bible doesn’t teach any where that one has to be baptized by a man in the biblical office of the eldership. Because it is not biblical doctrine it is not something that I have ever taught or would ever teach.
This is a common tactic of the skeptic in his attempt to discount biblical doctrine. He will couch something that is biblical, i.e. baptism for the remission of sins, in the context of something that is not biblical, i.e. baptism requires an elder of the church. By making that false connection the biblical statement is made to look false. Whether the one asking the question did this maliciously or simply out of ignorance I do not know, but I have no doubt that such a connection originally arose with someone making a dishonest attempt to malign biblical doctrine.
Now, to the more direct portion of the question, “where does the Bible teach that water baptism is required to have one’s sins forgiven?”
I was having a conversation with someone about Baptism one time when he, all of the sudden, said, “All you guys have is Acts 2:38, don’t you ever use any verses other than Acts 2:38?” Now, I had already referred to numerous other passages but when I made reference to Acts 2:38 it set off an automatic, preconditioned, antagonistic response to that specific verse. I smiled and reminded him of the numerous verses I had quoted before making reference to Acts 2:38.
Why is it that Acts 2:38 would set off such a response in a skeptic of the biblical necessity of Baptism? And what if it was the only verse I had offered? How many verses do you have to have from God before you are willing to obey what he said? Well, I’ll just go ahead and start out with this verse and then offer the numerous others that say the same thing.
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 [Spirit].
In this verse Peter makes an explicit statement of baptism’s necessity for salvation. There is no need for inference or deductive logic from what he said. In responding to the question of “what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37), Peter makes a direct statement, “repent and be baptized.” Their question was in response to the apostle’s sermon on the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. They had proved the deity of Christ and convicted the audience of being party to his crucifixion. When the preaching of the gospel cut them to the heart they wanted to know what they needed to do to be forgiven the guilt of crucifying the Son of God. They obviously believed what they had heard, so Peter started with them where they were; believing the gospel they now needed to repent and be baptized in order to receive the remission of sins. It doesn’t get much clearer than Acts 2:38!
Those who have made the choice of holding to man-made doctrine above biblical doctrine have gone to great lengths to discount Acts 2:38. Even to the point of redefining the Greek words. One of the most common responses to Acts 2:38 is to say that the Greek word ??? (eis), translated “for” in English, actually means “because of” rather than “in order to.” So, according to them, the statement “be baptized for the remission of sins,” would be more properly translated as “be baptized because of the remission of sins.” I’m a big fan of Greek Lexicons and word studies. I collect them and use them more heavily than any other study tools in my library. I have yet to find one that defines ??? (eis), “for,” in this way. Notice a few:
Dictionary of Biblical Languages With Semantic Domains: Greek New Testament – (always in the accusative) to, toward extend to a goal.
Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament Based on Semantic Domains (Louw & Nida) – to, toward, in the direction of.
Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon – into, unto, to, towards, for, among.
Strong’s – into, unto, to, towards, for, among.
New American Standard Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek Dictionaries – to or into (indicating the point reached or entered, of place, time, fig. purpose, result).
These are just a few of the Greek Lexicons I have and they all say the same thing. So, to insert the definition of the word in the verse would have Peter saying, “repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ in order to achieve the goal of and enter into the state of the remission of sins.”
Sometimes the skeptic will go to Matthew 12:41 in an attempt to justify their manufactured definition of the word ??? (eis), “for.” In that verse Jesus tells the scribes and Pharisees that Nineveh would be better off than them in the judgement because Nineveh repented “at” (eis) the preaching of Jonah. They say that this means the Ninevites repented “because of” Jonah’s preaching. However, that was not what Jesus was saying. The Ninevites were not spared from wrath “because of” Jonah’s preaching. That would mean they didn’t need to do anything about what Jonah said, it was just the fact that Jonah preached to them that spared them. Nothing could be further from the truth! The Ninevites were spared because they repented “into” Jonah’s preaching. They changed directions, turned around, to enter into the lifestyle preached by Jonah. Simply hearing Jonah preach didn’t do it, they had to move in the direction of what he preached.
??? (eis) refers to directional movement and it is never movement in a backward direction, i.e. “because of.” The only reason a person would make such an attempt to explain it as such is because of the preconceived notion that baptism is not essential for salvation. Anyone simply reading the text would have no trouble understanding what it says.
Now, even if that was the only verse referring to the necessity of baptism for the remission of sins, wouldn’t that be enough to prompt your obedience to God? But that isn’t any where near the only verse commanding baptism. There are numerous passages showing the same necessity as Acts 2:38.
Jesus said, he who believes and is baptized shall be saved (Mark 16:16). The skeptic of biblical baptism will point out that Christ said he who believes not shall be damned. He didn’t say he who believes not and is baptized not shall be damned and, therefore, it is faith that is essential and not baptism. While this does show that faith is a prerequisite of baptism it does not change the fact that Christ made baptism essential with the first clause of the statement. Baptism is the answer of a good conscience toward God (1 Pet. 3:21). That is, it is a person’s appeal to God for salvation out of a penitent attitude of submission. If a person doesn’t believe that God will forgiven their sins then they won’t do what God said to do in order to receive that forgiveness. Just as Noah would not have built the arc if he didn’t believe that God was going to bring a flood or that the arc would save them from it. He believed God and, therefore, moved with godly fear to obey what God said (Heb. 11:7). He who believes Christ, will be baptized for the remission of sins. If he isn’t baptized for the remission of sins then he really doesn’t believe Christ!
Acts 2:41 says that people are added when they are baptized and Acts 2:47 says that the Lord adds the saved to the church. From this, it is clear that when a person is baptized they enter into salvation and are then added to the church by the Lord.
Having heard the preaching of Jesus (Acts 8:35), the eunuch said, see here is water. What hinders me from being baptized? (Acts 8:36). He knew from hearing the gospel preached by Philip that he had to be baptized in water for his salvation. They stopped right there on the side of the road and Philip baptized him (Acts 8:38).
When God confirmed to Peter, and the Jews with him, that salvation in Christ was also to be preached to the Gentiles, Peter said, “Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy [Spirit] as well as we? (Acts 10:47). God had poured out the Holy Spirit upon those Gentiles to prove to the Jews that the gospel was to be made available to the Gentiles as well as the Jews. So Peter commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord (Acts 10:48). In response to the proof that the gospel was open to the Gentiles as well as the Jews, these first Gentile converts were baptized in water for the remission of their sins.
The Philippian Jailor was baptized the same hour of the night when he heard the preaching of the gospel (Acts 16:25-34). Ironically, this is the very same person that skeptics of baptism use to teach the false doctrine of salvation by faith only. They will point to Acts 16:31 as though nothing else is said in reference to the Jailor’s conversion. However, the example of conversion doesn’t end with verse 31. It begins there! In Acts 16:32 Paul preached the gospel to the Jailor. Then, in verse 33 the Jailor is baptized. To point to verse 31 as the point of the Jailor’s salvation would be to have him saved before he even knew who Jesus was! No, he had to hear the gospel (32) so that he could believe on Christ (31) and repent of his sins (33) and be baptized for the remission of sins (33).
In Acts 22:16 Paul, in recounting his own conversion, tells how Ananias came to him and preached to him, telling him to “arise and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” Paul knew when his sins were washed away by the blood of Christ! He never said anywhere, in any of his writing or in any of his accounts of his conversion, that he was forgiven of his sins on the road to Damascus. Rather, he said that his sins were washed away when he was baptized. This is certainly in harmony with what he wrote about baptism in his letters (Rom. 6:3-5; Gal. 3:26-27). If I was going to take anyone’s word for when Paul put on Christ for salvation it would be his own testimony, not some man who has an axe to grind on baptism!
Just as Paul said that baptism is when sins are washed away, he said in Ephesians that there is one baptism (Eph. 4:5). This is the same book where he says that those in the church have been sanctified with the washing of water by the word (Eph. 5:25-26). That term, washing of water by the word, is parallel with Titus 3:5 and John 3:3, 5. Biblical baptism for the remission of sins is the washing of water for the new birth (regeneration) as instructed by the Holy Spirit in his inspired word!
Many skeptics of biblical baptism attempt to make the verses commanding baptism refer to Holy Spirit baptism rather than water baptism. I’ll deal with that in response to the next question.