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Baptism: Water and Spirit V

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Question #1:


Bless you and your ministry.

I have a few comments on your article "Is Water Baptism Required For Salvation?" which are not meant to offend, but to encourage further thought on the question.

After your opening comments to questioner, you state, "Let us start with some pertinent principles." You then cite (1 Cor. 1:17) Paul's comment about being "called to preach the gospel, not to baptize". This (when taken on its own) sets the stage to argue that baptism is in fact, not necessary.

The concern I have with such an approach is two-fold.

1) Paul in the context of verse 17, is not talking about baptism at all--let alone trying to make the case that baptism is not necessary. As you are aware, he in fact did baptize some in Corinth (and he names them).

The issue Paul was addressing (see the whole of chapter 1) was that converts were aligning themselves with which Apostle had baptized them--then boasting about it--thus creating schizms.

Paul's point is that he was thankful he had not baptized many of them, since their behavior was so immature.

Remember, Paul himself was commanded to be baptized (Acts 22:16) to "wash away his sins." This, even after having met Jesus on the road to Damascus and having (no doubt) a profound conversion experience.

So, I do not think that baptism, to Paul, was disconnected with salvation. I believe this is why Jesus (John 4) did not personally baptize, but had His disciples do the act instead. Just imagine the arrogance one could fall into if Jesus personally baptised. So, Paul's comment in 1 Cor. 1:17) is related to the issue of boasiting about who baptized them, as the context clearly seems to suggest.

To suggest the "gospel" and "baptism" are not connected, argues against ample evidence to the contrary. One such example is seen in Acts 8 (Phillip and the Eunuch), where verse 35 says, "Beginning at that point (Isa. 53), Phillip preached unto him (the Eunuch) Jesus." Notice, it does not say Phillip says anything else except to preach "Jesus." Yet, the very next verse (36) the Eunuch says in response to hearing the Gospel, "Here is water--what prevents me from being baptized?"

We must be careful not to make categorical statements such as the gospel and baptism having NOTHING to do with each other, after all Jesus COMMANDED it (Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:15-16).

2) Which brings me to the second concern. Why not start your response to this question, with Jesus' words and work from there? Instead you chose a verse, which, when taken out of context seems to support your position. A basic rule of interpretation is to argue from the "clear" to the "unclear."

What is clear is Jesus commands baptism. He Himself was baptized to "fulfill all righteousness." Further, the principal of "first mention" concerning those who heard the heard the Gospel (Acts 2:37) and asked, "What must we do?" is answered in verse 38 with, "Repent and be baptised ... for the forgiveness of sins, and you will recieve the gift of the Holy Spirit." This is followed in the book of Acts with EVERY person who comes to Christ being baptized. Not a single example of a personal conversion in the NEW TESTAMENT happens without that person being baptized.

I conclude with a restatement of sorts, of the initial question. "Does baptism save us?" Aside from Peter's comment to the affirmative (1 Peter 3:20-21), we allow context to speak. Water itself has no power to save (as Peter clarifies). It is being obediant in faith to God's terms of salvation (see the example of Naaman the leper).

Yet, not even faith saves. We are saved by the GRACE of God alone! We add nothing to our salvation. Yet, when God offers a free gift and puts terms on how we accept it, I think it behooves us to obey Him.

Again, bless you and your ministry.

In Christian love,

Response #1:

I am happy to address your concerns. Let me start by pointing out that the response you reference, "Is Water Baptism Required For Salvation?", is an older file. I certainly stand by every single thing written there, including the way in which it has been written. However you should know that there is so much more that has been subsequently posted at Ichthys on this subject over the years that you have only gotten a glancing view of some of the pertinent points in the irrefutable case against the continued practice of water-baptism. Here are some of the more important links:

Baptism: Water and Spirit I

Baptism: Water and Spirit II

Baptism: Water and Spirit III

Baptism: Water and Spirit IV.

One Baptism: the True Meaning of Peter's Words at Acts 2:38.

John's Water-Baptism versus the Baptism of the Holy Spirit

Is baptism necessary for salvation?

What concerns me most about your email is not your support of the practice of water-baptism, but the spiritually dangerous idea that it is necessary for salvation. Allow me to point out from the start that just because water-baptism occurred in apostolic times does not make it a requirement to be saved – which it is never said to be. But that is the only evidence I see here for this contention you make. In reality of course, the fact that water-baptism occurred in apostolic times proves only that water-baptism occurred in apostolic times. It does not even prove it to be a requirement for the Church as some sort of necessary sacrament (there are no more apostles, the "sign gifts" are no longer being given, the Church has explosively expanded beyond its Jewish roots unto the gentiles in accordance with prophecy, and the canon of the New Testament is now complete – to name but a few of the circumstances that require us not to "copy-cat" everything we find in the book of Acts uncritically).

The problem with your analysis, as I see it, is that anyone who believes that they are saved because they have been immersed in water may well not even be saved at all, because as we all should know from scripture salvation comes by grace through faith "and that not of yourselves: [it is] the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast" (Eph.2:8-9). To the extent that anyone thinks this water-baptism "saves them", they are involved in salvation by works and are no different in their thinking from the countless Roman Catholics who believe that with their good works and their communion in the Roman church they have bought their salvation. Christ bought our salvation. If we assume we have it based upon what we have done rather than based upon what He has done then we misunderstand everything about the truth of the gospel. If we put our works above His work on the cross, we are the very least deeply mired in legalism and going nowhere spiritually – assuming we even belong to Him.

This is a bigger problem when it comes to water-baptism than is generally supposed. That is because water-baptism is a ritual of repentance in anticipation of the coming of the Messiah designed for the revival of the Jewish people. That is to say, John's baptism (all water-baptism cleans the outside symbolically, not the inside spiritually: Heb.6:2; 9:10; 1Pet.3:21; cf. Ex.30:19-21). But the Messiah has now come. Continuing to baptize in water today is to say, in effect, that we are still waiting for the true Messiah. There is only one baptism for the Church, namely, the baptism of the Holy Spirit (Eph.4:5). It is true that water-baptism is recorded on a few occasions in Acts, although these are all early on (only to about half-way through the book in terms of verses and only through the first twenty years or so of the apostolic period); the last instance occurs during Paul's second missionary journey at Corinth – and of course we have his statement of regret about that.

In the early days of the Church evangelism focused on Jewish communities, communities who were well aware of John's baptism, with the result that it was impossible to give the gospel at that time without reference to John and his baptizing in water to herald the Messiah. In such a context, continuing John's baptism temporarily is understandable. After all, the apostles did not realize all of the implications of Christ's fulfilling of the Law right away. They continued to frequent the temple and, on occasion apparently, to be involved in the rituals there that likewise spoke of things to come which had by then already been fulfilled. But by the time of the book of Hebrews, Paul at least was well aware of the spiritual danger and inappropriateness of such things. If engaging in sacrifice was "crucifying the Son of God afresh" (Heb.6:6), what, then, would continuing John's baptism of repentance in anticipation of a Messiah about to come be? Nothing but part and parcel of the same legalistic failure to understand the cross and the coming of the Spirit.

It is all very well to have recourse to scripture to attempt to prove the need for water-baptism, but let me point out that the real reason people continue to do it has nothing to do with the Bible; they continue to do it because others do it and have done it (and because of feelings of guilt based upon ignorance of the scriptures). But even here, there is nothing but confusion. If total immersion is necessary to be saved, then most of the reformers are in hell. Indeed, if that is a requirement for salvation, then no one was saved since Paul until late in the Reformation, and only a small percentage of those who have called themselves Christians since that time. Furthermore, other than agreeing on the need for water-baptism, proponents never agree on why it is necessary or what it does or what it symbolizes (or even how it should be done). One would think that something so important would be clearly spelled out in all of these regards in scripture – we certainly have this information about communion, for example. In fact scripture does spell it out: water-baptism was a "baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel" preparing the way for Jesus Christ's first advent whom "John had first preached before His coming" (Acts 13:24).

As to your specific points:

1) It is true that 1st Corinthians chapter one is concerned mainly with schisms – but water-baptism was a key factor in instigating these schisms at Corinth just as it continues to unnecessarily divide Christians today. It should be no small factor in causing proponents to re-think their position to realize what damage this practice has done to the Church throughout the centuries. That is not proof, but it adds to the weight of the evidence – and it certainly did damage at Corinth. For other true practices, Paul, throughout this epistle, gives correctives but does not end the practice. For example, despite the horrendous abuse, he does not even tell the Corinthians to stop engaging in (true) speaking in tongues, provided it is done appropriately. But he does not say to continue baptizing. What he does say is "I am thankful that I did not baptize any of you except . . .", (1Cor.1:14), and "Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel" (1Cor.1:17). How can these statements be true if water-baptism is required? It certainly can not be true if it is necessary for salvation. Paul deliberately contrasts the gospel – which he was sent to preach and which is necessary for salvation – to water-baptism – which he says he was not sent to do and which by the logic of these words cannot be necessary for salvation since indulging in it is not part of "the gospel" he was sent to preach; for Paul puts water-baptism and the gospel in separate corners here, and very clearly so.

2) Ananias told Paul to "arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord". Paul relates this part of his conversion story while addressing the Jewish crowd which had just tried to kill him at Acts 22:16. Luke does not tell us this when he first relates the story in Acts 9, nor does Paul say this when he later relates the story to Agrippa and company in Acts 26. One would think that he would have done so were this a critical detail. But Ananias is, after all, not God. He told Paul to do what contemporary believing Jews were doing, namely, to engage in John's water-baptism of repentance. For a generation still under the Law – and beyond all argument this generation still held to the Law after the cross . . . until Paul would set them straight many years on – completing the water-baptism of John was important just as sacrificing at the temple was important. We can forgive the early Jewish believers for not understanding immediately all of the implications of Christ's sacrifice and the coming of the Spirit; even the apostles were somewhat slow to pick up on this (e.g., Gal.2:13), and there were reason why God should allow a period of transition (as He did – this is all part of the plan). What is unforgivable is for large parts of the Church to continue in these affronts to the work of Christ nearly two thousand years after the fact. Acts is a historical book. It records what happened. This is what Ananias said. To conclude that this is what we, non-Jews long after the apostolic period has ended and the canon has closed, possessing as we do the entire Bible – which makes clear the difference between the shadows of the Law now fulfilled and the reality and power of our Lord come in the flesh, His work on the cross and gift of the Spirit – should do as Ananias counseled Paul to do would be a grave miscarriage of truth.

3) Our Lord never worried about His words and deeds of truth being taken the wrong way, not, that is, enough that He ever refrained from doing and saying all that was true. Since Jesus is the Agent of salvation, therefore, if water-baptism were necessary for salvation, Jesus would have water-baptized, and without apology. The fact that He did not is a powerful indication that the practice was a ritual appropriate to the time but not a prerequisite for salvation, or even something necessary to do at all once the Messiah had come onto the scene (as would later become clear to those willing to read scripture with an open heart and prefer it to tradition).

4) It is clear that Phillip referenced John's baptism of water in giving the gospel to the Ethiopian. In that time and place, John was more famous than Jesus, and the idea of telling the story of salvation without telling about John was unthinkable. To do so would undermine the proof of the gospel, since every contemporary who was part of the orbit of the Jewish religion had heard about John and knew that he was the Messiah's herald. That is why Jesus asks the Pharisees whether they think John's mandate came from heaven or not – because accepting the truth of John's ministry meant accepting that Jesus was the Messiah. All instances of the gospel being given until the end of the second missionary journey involve giving the good news to Jews or those within the ambit of contemporary Judaism who would know of John. That is why in this period, the early apostolic period, John and his water-baptism are always included and, naturally enough, why the water sometimes continues to be used as a result (compare Paul's giving of the gospel in the synagogue at Pisidian Antioch at Acts 13:16-41).

Water-baptism is John's baptism, and now that we are no longer living in a world where John is more famous than Jesus, and where those receiving the gospel are not primarily Jewish or familiar with John's ministry, it is no longer a necessary part of the gospel. Just as the temple rituals and Christian participation in them did not end immediately, just as tongues and healing and prophecy did not end immediately but instead "came to an end" gradually during the first century (1Cor.13:1ff.), so also the utility of water-baptism quickly turned into a non-necessity and then even to a liability, as Paul points out in 1st Corinthians chapter one. But if water-baptism were not John's baptism, how is it then that we have no indication of the eleven apostles and the rest of the community of faith being water-baptized again after the resurrection?

5) Mark 16:15-16 is not in the Bible (see the link). The long ending of Mark is a satanic fabrication placed in some late manuscripts to deceive the people of God. Blessedly, we have a tremendous amount of manuscript evidence available today testifying to the fact that the final chapter of that book stops at verse eight. There is no point arguing with those who get their information from extra-biblical sources like the Apocrypha or the Talmud or the Book of Mormon or this collection of falsehoods. Christians should have recourse only to the Word of truth and eschew all other sources.

As to Matthew 28:19, our Lord never uses the word "water". In fact, the baptism He refers to here is the baptism of the Holy Spirit, the one baptism of the Church and the way in which we are made one with Him and members of His one true Church (see the link).

"I baptize you with water (i.e., physically) for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire."
Matthew 3:11 NIV

(4) And gathering them together [Jesus] commanded [the disciples] not to depart from Jerusalem, but to await the promise of the Father (i.e., the Holy Spirit) "which you heard about from Me. (5) For John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Spirit not many days from now".
Acts 1:4-5

"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth".
Acts 1:8

6) So the reason why I do not start with our Lord's words is that our Lord never says anything at all about any need for water-baptism.

7) The symbolism for our Lord's water-baptism: the people go down into the water and wash away their sins symbolically. He goes down into the water and dies for them symbolically, immersed in them, as it were, then comes up in resurrection. He then receives the Spirit visibly. Lesson: once the cross is a reality, once Jesus is resurrected, all of the ritual pointed to Jesus' sacrifice will have been fulfilled, and following His actual rising from the dead the Spirit will be given: that same Spirit "with whom" John testified that Messiah would be baptizing us, not with water.

8) As to your contention to the effect that "Not a single example of a personal conversion in the NEW TESTAMENT happens without that person being baptized", let me point out that many people were saved in the book of Acts from chapter 16 forward, but never with any mention of water-baptism.

9) 1st Peter 3:20-21 is likewise speaking about Spirit baptism. Read the context and see: it's all about the Holy Spirit. That is why Peter is quick to assure his readers that he is not speaking of "removal of dirt from the body", that is, actual water, but of what results from an "appeal to God for a good conscience, through [believing in] the resurrection of Jesus Christ", that is the heart response of faith which brings the gift of the Spirit that all who believe in Christ receive (see the links: "The baptism which now saves you" and "Christ's Preaching to the Spirits in Hell").

And it is [this true] baptism [of the Spirit] which saves you (lit. as an "antitype" or analogy to the ark's bringing of "salvation through water": just as they were saved by being "baptized" into the ark, we are saved by being baptized into Christ). Not any [literal] washing away of filth from your flesh, but an appeal to God for a clean conscience through the resurrection of Jesus Christ (i.e., repentance and faith result in Spirit baptism, union with Christ and resultant salvation).
1st Peter 3:21

10) As to your final comments, I certainly agree with their tone and tenor. But I hope by now you may be starting to see that they are completely out of tune with supporting water-baptism. Obedience to God is important, clearly. But to be obedient to God one has to obey what He actually commands and the true spirit of what He commands, not instead give one's obedience to the traditions of men which in fact have nothing to do with God. This is what the Pharisees did, after all, and one couldn't get any farther from the kingdom of heaven.

"This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men."
Matthew 15:8-9 ESV

Water-baptism is not commanded by God. If it were, we should do it. If it were, God would have explained it and would have clearly commanded it. People do it today because others did it yesterday. They don't understand it, neither the reason for it nor the symbolism of it, nor precisely how it should be done, and they can't find anyone to explain it either, because there is no godly explanation, being merely a "commandment of men", not of God. Baptizing someone in water today proclaims that the Messiah has not yet come. But Jesus has come and has washed away all of our sins. It is His "baptism" on the cross is the one to which we should give our attention. For it was by doing so when we first believed that we received the baptism which He was prophesied by John to bless us with: the baptism of the Holy Spirit, the "one baptism" of the true Church of Jesus Christ.

In the Name of our dear Savior, Jesus Christ.

Bob Luginbill

Question #2:

Dear Sir:

I read One Baptism the True Meaning of Acts 2:38. I found it interesting that you spent a lot of time studying baptism and whether it was necessary for salvation. I find this subject somewhat fascinating. I looked up the Holy Spirit and belief connected together. I found it interesting that you had John 7:39, because it is also a verse that I would have used to support receiving the Spirit at belief. I never noticed Galatians 3:14. Also, I might have used Ephesians 1:13-14 and maybe Acts 11:15-17.

I had a question on Acts 2:38, though. I have heard that it doesn't support baptismal regeneration because: 1. The verb repent goes with receiving the forgiveness of sins and with receiving the Holy Spirit. 2. However, I have also heard that it doesn't support baptismal regeneration because the word for (eis) means because of. However, I think these two arguments are incompatible. If one uses the second argument, then the clause for the forgiveness of sins couldn't go with repent. Is there anyway that these two arguments would fit together, and if they could what would be an equivalent sentence in English?


Response #2:

Good to make your acquaintance.

As to your question, I agree with your analysis entirely. Point #1 is correct. Point #2 is incorrect. The use of the preposition eis with an infinitive or a verbal noun, such as we have here, is a standard way to indicate purpose in Greek. The question is, to what does this phrase apply? In my view, point #1 is correct that it goes with repentance (semantically), not with baptism (in terms of what it is that results in the forgiveness: repentance [as demonstrated by a willingness – in this unique instance of the first Pentecost – to be baptized with John's baptism] resulting in forgiveness). There are reasons in the Greek for taking this position, and these are spelled out in how I explain this passage (explanation at the link: "Baptism: Water and Spirit III").

One of the things so misunderstood about water-baptism is that it is and was "John's baptism", and John's baptism was a "baptism of repentance" for the Jewish people for their spiritual revival and preparation for the coming of the Messiah. That is most significant, because Israel is different from the gentiles primarily in that she is the "people of God" (positionally) whereas gentiles are individuals who are "far from God" until being made near through the blood of Christ. So while in practice God does deal with every human being one on one, and while historically there was never a time (after the patriarchs) when all Jews were believers, that was the stance in which the Lord treated them. This is important because it means that water-baptism is not a salvation "thing" but a revival "thing" – for believers, Jewish believers, that is, in preparation for the Messiah who was coming.

Now, however, the Messiah has come. Now, the Messiah has already died for the sins of the world, and He has been resurrected, has ascended to the Father, has been glorified and has sent us His Spirit – the baptism of the Church (Eph.4:5). That is what He and His herald told us would happen (as it did on the day of the passage in question). For us in the church-visible today to continue with water-baptism, therefore, is a double negative. It both proclaims a Messiah yet to come (which is horribly blasphemous of course), and it also focuses on a now phased out ritual to the detriment of the "one baptism" for the Church, the baptism of the Holy Spirit. There is much to say on these issues. Here are some other links which may help (and do feel free to write me back about any of the above):

Baptism: Water and Spirit I

Baptism: Water and Spirit II

Baptism: Water and Spirit III

Baptism: Water and Spirit IV.

One Baptism: the True Meaning of Peter's Words at Acts 2:38.

John's Water-Baptism versus the Baptism of the Holy Spirit

Is baptism necessary for salvation?

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob Luginbill

Question #3:

Dear Robert:

Thank you for your first response. Would an English rendering of Acts 2:38 say, "Repent for the forgiveness of sins and you will receive the Holy Spirit. Be baptized." or would it be better said, "Repent for the forgiveness of your sins and be baptized and you will receive the Holy Spirit?" If it were the second option, it would be hard to see how baptism is not needed for salvation if it is needed for the Holy Spirit.


Response #3:

You're very welcome. Translation is an art rather than a science. In rather nuanced language such as we have at Acts 2:38, there can be no such thing as a perfect translation. Both of these translations are possible; I would prefer the latter to the former – if these were my only two choices – but the former is a better interpretation. What I mean is that there are good translations which can be misleading as to the meaning – because English is not Greek.

The links I gave go into great detail as to the unique grammar here, most of which is overlooked by those who treat the passage, overlooked too in the main by those who translate it. The latter is understandable since it is difficult to bring out everything here and still come up with a readable English translation that also does not stray far from the grammar. The alternative translation you propose is good in that it makes it clear "what goes with what", but poor in that it does not mirror the Greek word order as I would prefer. Peter adds "let each of you be baptized" as an aside; the problem (for translators) is that he places this aside right in the middle of the entire statement (something we avoid in English but a very common occurrence in Greek and also in Latin).

Option A makes it clear that this is an aside by putting it at the end (the problem being that it is not at the end in Greek); option B has things in the right order (the problem is that it does not make clear that in the Greek this is an aside, and actually makes it seem as if baptism is necessary for forgiveness which is not at all what Peter is saying in the Greek). Luke adds "and he says" or "and he added" right before Peter says "let each of you be baptized". Most translations leave this out (or put it in the wrong place), and many translate "be baptized" instead of "let each of you be baptized". The former error reduces the English reader's chances of seeing this bit about baptism as an aside that is not the main thrust of what Peter is commanding; the latter is really egregious because it makes it sound as if Peter is putting a command to be baptized on the same level as the command to repent. That is exactly what he (and his language) do not do – by deliberately distinguishing between a direct command ("repent!") and a third person imperative ("let each one be baptized"), Peter made it clear to his audience at the time that it was the repentance that was important and mandatory for forgiveness. The remark about baptism, since it is a third person command yet directed to people who are present, means that this is meant as permissive rather than obligatory (i.e., they are being allowed to partake of John's baptism).

Bottom line on the grammar: Peter is commanding the assembled crowd to "repent", that is, to come back to God, and the only way for them to do so now that Christ had come was to believe in Him as the true Messiah (which is why Peter adds the Lord's Name). This "repentance" is commanded of a Jewish audience as a sort of "second chance" to do what they should have done before, namely, to accept John's baptism and accept the One he was heralding – that is the sense in which this is meant. What we do not have here is a command for the entire gentile part of the Church. Peter, after all, at this point did not even entertain the idea that the gentiles would be flooding into the Church and this would be what the new age was all about (as we know very well from later events). Indeed, judging from the way in which he quotes the passage from Joel, it seems that he thought that the Lord was going to return very soon.

Here is one translation that attempts to bring out the details of the grammar. It is a teaching translation rather than a literary one:

Then Peter said to them, "Repent [of your unbelief]". He said also (Greek: phesin kai), "Let each of you be baptized in the Name of Jesus as a demonstration of the forgiveness of your sins [which comes as a result of this faith/repentance], [so that] then [as a result of your faith/repentance] you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (i.e., through that laying on of hands in the baptism)."
Acts 2:38

This "demonstration" of forgiveness only works for the generation of Jews and Jewish converts who should have responded to John. Very soon none of this symbolism would apply any longer (and water-baptism would thus be abrogated – in God's economy if not in man's tradition).

As I say, there is much more about all this at the links previously given.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #4:

Hello Dr Luginbill, I know you have dealt with the subject of baptism numerous times. In 1st Corinthians 1 why did Paul baptize anyone if God did not send him to baptize? If the Holy Ghost could be obtained just by the laying on of hands or while the gospel was being preached, why was Paul still baptizing at this point in time? (ie Chrispus, Gaius, and Stephanas). Also, in Acts 9:18 after Paul received the Holy Spirit, he rose and was baptized. Was this baptism water or spirit?

Response #4:

Hello Friend,

Yes, there is a good deal on baptism at Ichthys, the latest being "Baptism: Water and Spirit IV" (you'll find plenty of other links at the link given).

The point that Paul was "not sent to [water]-baptize" is a good one, and one which should be keep in mind – along with the fact that he says also in the first chapter of first Corinthians that he regrets having done it at all. That certainly ought to close the matter as any perceived need for water-baptism goes (sadly, tradition is a powerful force for evil). As you also correctly understand, the apostles had the ability to mediate the baptism of the Spirit – for those who had already believed before the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost (as Paul does so in Acts 19 at Ephesus), and also, apparently, for some other people in the interim between Acts 2 and Acts 10 (e.g., the Samaritans). Water-baptism was not necessary for this mediation, but the more important point is that by Acts 10, when Peter gives the gospel to Cornelius and his associates, Spirit baptism becomes "automatic" for all who believe (so that Paul can say in his letter to the Romans "if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ"; Rom.8:9b NIV; see also: Jn.7:38-39; 14:16-17; Rom.8:11; 1Cor.3:16; 6:19; 2Cor.1:22; Gal.3:2-3; 3:5; 3:14; 4:6; 1Thes.4:8; 2Tim.1:14; Heb.6:4; Jas.4:4-6; Jude 1:19).

So why was Paul still water-baptizing when he got to Corinth? The main reason was because he was very interested in evangelizing not only gentiles but also Jews (e.g., Rom.10:1 NKJV: "my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved"). Contemporary Jews knew well of John the baptist's ministry and that he was the Messiah's herald. To omit John and the baptism for which he was famous, namely, water-baptism, the only water-baptism (e.g., Acts 19:3-4; cf. Matt.3:11, etc.), would be to potentially alienate or otherwise "turn off" the very people Paul cared the most about (whereas connecting Jesus to John might be persuasive in his giving of the gospel). Later, at Corinth, the place where he says he "regretted" doing this, he would say, "We had to speak the word of God to you [i.e., Jews] first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles" (Acts 13:46 NIV).

As to Acts 9:18, Paul was a Jew, and so was Ananias; and Paul would in short order be associating with the believers in Jerusalem who were also all Jews. To embrace John and his water-baptism was not only the natural thing (that is how Ananias saw it), but also a very practical thing (which is why the Lord allowed it): Paul could not very well make progress with the Christians of his day – all of whom at this point were either Jewish or Jewish converts – without this demonstration of his solidarity with the ministry of the Messiah's herald. Up until the cross and Pentecost (and residually for all Jews who were around at the time), the Lord dealt with Israel corporately (as well as individually), so that all Jews were considered to be God's people. What this means for our purposes is that Paul, along with all other Jews who had not accepted Christ, were considered to be "wayward Israelites in need of repentance" as opposed to gentiles who by definition were unbelievers and separated from the covenant (Eph.2:11-22; 1Pet.2:10; cf. Eph.4:17-18; 5:8; Col.1:21). Of course, individually things were then as they are now: everyone is judged by God one-on-one for their own actual spiritual state. The point is that the symbolism of water-baptism was designed for contemporary Jews (who were corporately God's people): "a baptism of repentance" – of coming back to the Lord. Gentiles, corporately speaking, were never close to the Lord in the first place so as to be able to come back, and required a complete spiritual rebirth in Christ, as Paul says . . .

Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called "uncircumcised" by those who call themselves "the circumcision" (which is done in the body by human hands)—remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
Ephesians 2:11-13 NIV

Therefore the symbolism of water-baptism while inappropriate for gentiles was important for Jews – of that generation. When it passed, however, even that symbolism fell away.

I suppose Paul might have water-baptized only the Jews at Corinth and not the gentiles. But then the gentiles might have felt as if they were second class somehow. So he made a judgment-call (one he would later come to regret), and concluded, as Peter did, "Surely no one can stand in the way of their being baptized with water. They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have" (Acts 10:47: NIV). The baptism of the Spirit is the important event. The water added nothing. Indeed, it only "muddied the waters" – and has been doing so ever since.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #5:

Well, if believers as close to Christ as Peter and Paul were, can be confused on the issue of water baptism, it's very easy to understand how many people today are likewise confused and divided on the issue.

Thanks for you help once again

Response #5:

You're very welcome, friend.

I wouldn't put it quite that way. I don't think Paul was confused about water-baptism – he merely put his interest in evangelizing his fellow Jews at a premium (cf. Rom.9:3; 10:1; he would do this same thing to disastrous effect when he defied the Lord's guidance and went up to Jerusalem after the so-called "third missionary journey"; see the link: Paul's Jerusalem error). Also, rather than being confused about water-baptism, Peter was a little slow on the up-take as to what the coming of the Holy Spirit and the influx of the gentiles into the family of God meant (naturally we can see the significance of all this clearly with hindsight, but I would be reluctant to claim that I would have done better or responded to the new reality of Spirit quicker than Peter did!).

Finally, I think the reason for confusion today arises entirely from many years now of a lack of interest in the truth (in our era of Laodicea; see the link); division, on the other hand, comes from putting more stock in tradition than what the Bible actually teaches.

Yours in our dear Lord Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #6:

Hello Bob,

I came across your website recently while doing research on Acts 2:38 and baptismal regeneration and was intrigued by some of your posts. I would be very interested in your exegetical explanation of Acts 2:38 and the grammatical shifts in the Greek that associate forgiveness of sins with repentance as opposed to baptism and, more particularly, why this interpretive method should be preferred and if there are any other examples of this type of shift and accompanying interpretation in the NT.

Of greater intrigue to me are your statements about Matthew 28:19-20 and how it speaks more to Holy Spirit baptism than water as is the norm in thinking today. In fact this is the first time I've ever heard these verses questioned in this way. The idea is not foreign to me as Romans 6:3-4 is advanced both ways. I understand that the command is to make disciples but my question to you would be what in the vss exegetically indicates that the "baptizing" is not in the same context as the "teaching" as it relates to the Apostles to whom Jesus was speaking?

As a little background I came to faith in Christ about 11 years ago and in the process left an ardent baptismal regeneration organization of which I had been involved for 27 years.

Thank you in advance for your time,

Response #6:

Very good to make your acquaintance. As to your questions, as I have written these matters up in much detail elsewhere (and I will give you the links below), I shall give you "nutshell" answers in this email – but do feel free to write back in case anything is unclear from this response and/or the links mentioned.

On Acts 2:38, as I usually try to make clear, there is big difference in terms of how we should handle such passages hermeneutically between something from the book of Acts on the one hand and an epistle of Paul, e.g., on the other. That is because epistles are doctrinal and are giving, under the inspiration of the Spirit, direct teaching. The book of Acts, however, is a historical record of events, and teaching therein is indirect rather than direct. That is, where "teaching" of a sort is in view as it is in the passage you ask about, we have a description of what was said and done at the time, so that this description cannot be divorced from or considered apart from the circumstances under which it was given or the people to whom it was given (as in failing to take into account when reading Exodus that the people of Israel are the recipients of the Law will lead to much misinterpretation).

Acts, under the inspiration of the Spirit, accurately records what people said and what they did. That is significantly different from a prophetic book or a doctrinal epistle. For example, 2nd Kings 19 records the words of the Assyrian Rabshakeh, and does so accurately; however these words are, essentially, lies. The books of Samuel record, among other things, the deeds of David, many of which are admirable, but some of which (notably committing adultery with Bathsheba and murdering Uriah) are not – and many of which are neither particularly spiritual or evidently sinful: we have a record of what did happen and what was said, often without commentary as to the rightness or wrongness or neutral nature of what was said and done. The same is true for Acts. In chapter two, we have what Peter said and did. But that doesn't mean that what he said and did are prescriptive for believers today. We have to take the circumstances into account. For example, when Peter said these things, he said them to a Jewish audience at a time when the Church Age was less than a day old, to a group and a generation who would associate the true Messiah with John and his water-baptism, and in a situation where the Holy Spirit would not yet be given as an indwelling presence without the laying on the apostles' hands (in order to establish apostolic authority: cf. Acts 8:16; 19:2). Today, on the other hand, those to whom we give the gospel will not be a group entirely composed of Jews or proselytes who knew of John personally; nor are there any apostles around any more; nor is there any longer any "lag time" between the Spirit's baptizing of a new believer into Christ and His coming to indwell that person at rebirth (this passed while the apostles were still around: e.g., Rom.8:9). So even if Peter himself were giving the gospel today, he would give it in a different way because the circumstances and the issues and the audience would be completely different (just note how he did it differently only a few years later when summoned to Cornelius' home in Acts 10:1ff.). At that time of the first Pentecost, divorcing the issue of Christ from the issue of John's water-baptism would be poorly received because everyone in the audience knew that John had been the Messiah's herald – and many if not most of them had been water-baptized by John. For these reasons, using Acts 2:38 as a pattern for contemporary Christian practice is a completely flawed and biblically incorrect approach – just as if we all decided that we should shave our heads, go to Jerusalem, and find some young men wanting to be Nazarites so that we might pay their tax to do so (just because Paul – wrongfully – had once done so).

As to the language of Acts 2:38, the main point I would wish to make is that it is improper in any case to take this passage as necessitating water-baptism as essential for salvation. Here is what Peter says a few chapters later:

"Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord,"
Acts 3:19

And a little later:

"All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name."
Acts 10:38 NIV

No water-baptism here (circumstances and audiences have changed). But what all three passages have in common are turning to God (repentance and faith as flip-sides of the same coin of choosing for Christ against the world), and forgiveness resulting from the change of heart and faith in Christ – without water-baptism. But if water-baptism were essential in order to be saved (or even necessary to do), then it has to be explained why it is not mentioned in these other passages where Peter gives the gospel (and dozens of others of course where the gospel is given generally). On the face of it, therefore, that cannot be what Acts 2:38 means, otherwise it would conflict with many scriptures. Here is how KJV translates the passage:

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.
Acts 2:38

Not a bad translation (most versions similar); and although it clouds several important issues in the Greek text, even so it is fair to point out that it is not clear from the English so rendered above whether the remission of sins comes from the repentance (as is the case in all other passages) or the water-baptism (which is never the case elsewhere). If we were to insert a comma after "Christ" in the KJV verse above, that distinction would be even more obvious – and there is of course no original punctuation in the manuscripts (that is all a matter of interpretation in any case). If we connect "remission" with "repentance", then we may still have to consider why Peter wanted any water-baptism at all and need to explain that (the links go into that further question in detail), but there will then be no question of "water-baptism regeneration". In fact, the issue is clearer in the Greek text, because reading the original makes it obvious that English translations have "smoothed out" the syntax here to be more "readable" – but in the process have lent credence unnecessarily to the false doctrine we are discussing here. Here is how I render the passage in order to bring out what the Greek actually has to say:

Then Peter said to them, "Repent [of your unbelief]". He said also (Greek: phesin kai), "Let each of you be baptized in the Name of Jesus as a demonstration of the forgiveness of your sins [which comes as a result of this faith/repentance], [so that] then [as a result of your faith/repentance] you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (i.e., through that laying on of hands in the baptism)."
Acts 2:38

In other words, there is not in fact a smooth connection in the Greek that puts "repentance" and "water-baptism" on an even level. Mind you, even if that were the case, grammatically we would still be within our rights to connect the "remission" with the former and not with the latter – and theologically that is what we would have to do based upon the other passages which interpret this situation for us in an unmistakeable way. But in fact the introduction of the idea of water-baptism with phesin kai ("and he also said") shows that this is an aside and not the main idea that is to be linked with remission; that instead must go with repentance since it is first and not an aside. That interpretation is further buttressed by the fact that Peter uses a different phraseology for the water-baptism. Rather than a direct command (which "repent!" is), we have a "permissive imperative", that is, a third person form ("and let each be [water]-baptized"). Peter is actually saying that water-baptism is not necessary, but allowable, though he clearly wants the rite to take place on this particular occasion – it will result in the apostles mediating the gift of the Spirit which has brought the crowd together in the first place.

Whether Peter understood at this point all the "ins and outs" is unclear (doubtful, in my view, given his need later in the book still to climb the "learning curve" of the new dispensation of grace), Luke accurately records what he said – and nothing he said is inconsistent in any way with what we know from elsewhere in scripture about the gift of the Spirit and the role of water-baptism (rightly interpreted, that is). Here are some links on all this:

One Baptism: the True Meaning of Peter's Words at Acts 2:38

The Exegesis of Acts 2:38

The interpretation of Matthew 28:19-20 is actually an "easier lift" – even though, inexplicably in my view, as you say it is not a commonly well-understood passage. The key point is that our Lord tells the disciples to "baptize them into" the Persons of the Trinity. In other words, the Greek preposition eis here (always "into" in Classical and biblical Greek, pace some who want to import a later devolution in Egyptian demotic Greek to this passage in particular) absolutely rules out these words as a "water-baptismal verbal formula". People can pronounce this or that "in the Name of . . . ", but they cannot baptize someone "into" someone else (which I suppose explains the mis-translations in the versions). The only Person who can do that is the Holy Spirit. We believers are "in Christ". And how did we get there? We got there by the Holy Spirit baptizing us "into" Him . . . and into the Father and the Spirit as well (cf. 2Pet.1:4). That our Lord should in this passage emphasis Spirit baptism as opposed to water-baptism should not be at all surprising given what John had said from the beginning of his ministry and given what Jesus said just before His ascension:

"I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and [with] fire".
Matthew 3:11 KJV

(4) And gathering them together [Jesus] commanded [the disciples] not to depart from Jerusalem, but to await the promise of the Father (i.e., the Holy Spirit) "which you heard about from Me. (5) For John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Spirit not many days from now".
Acts 1:4-5

Then I remembered what the Lord had said: 'John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.'
Acts 11:16 NIV

The Church is all about the baptism of the Spirit; that is our "one baptism". Here are a few other links which deal with most of the other aspects of this important issue:

Baptism: Water and Spirit I

Baptism: Water and Spirit II

Baptism: Water and Spirit III

Baptism: Water and Spirit IV.

Please feel free to write back about any of the above.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob Luginbill

Question #7:

Hi Bob,

Thanks for your reply. I will look into your links above for further info however I have already read as much of your first link (it was the one I stumbled onto in my original search) that I could handle as whoever you were corresponding with sounded like someone from the self described "Oneness, Jesus name only" crowd with most of his answers coming from their template. (I know it well as it was who I was). I must admit that I was impressed with your patient and thorough attempts to inform him on his many questions (challenges really) to why we are not saved through water baptism even though he was condescending towards you and his colossal ignorance was on shining display. It is unfortunate but his lines of "reasoning" are commonly held and portray a very good representation of the thought processes of those who are blind and lost in these cults.

I look forward to the other links,

Response #7:

You are very welcome. Thanks much for your encouraging words, and also for your witness. It is an encouragement for me and a reminder to us all that any good Christian – in fact perhaps more predominantly those who are really out there searching for answers – may get drawn into one or another of these groups temporarily. It's a good reminder for us to keep praying for our loved ones and friends so involved and also to keep the lines of communication open. Jesus loves all His sheep – and has a special care for those who need bringing back to the flock. Oftentimes too that impetus for truth, once it get channeled in the right direction, can have impressive results (Paul is a great example of this).

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #8:

Hey I was just wondering how it is that people who are deadly afraid of water get baptised?

I'm mostly asking for myself but I'm sure others have asked right, I mean I can't be the only one to have asked. Just in case you need this info to help I'm one who has almost drowned once.

Response #8:

Good to make your acquaintance.

If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, then you have indeed been baptized with the only baptism which matters, the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.
Romans 8:9b NIV

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.
1st Corinthians 12:13 NIV

For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
Galatians 3:26-27 NIV

The baptism of the Spirit is the "one baptism" Paul writes about at Ephesians 4:5, the no-water, all-Spirit baptism that occurs when we put our faith in Jesus Christ for salvation. The Holy Spirit enters us into Christ so that we become one with Him, and ever after indwells our bodies to empower our Christian lives.

I do understand that many Christian groups teach that water-baptism is either 1) important, or 2) required of Christians, or even 3) essential for salvation. None of these positions is in fact biblical, however, but only traditional. In truth, water-baptism was a ritual for the Jewish people anticipating the coming of the Messiah (i.e., John's baptism). Now that the Messiah has come, however, and now that the Spirit has been poured out, and now that the gentiles too have become heirs of salvation, that heralding of Christ's coming is no longer in truth even appropriate, because it suggests He has yet to come and die for the sins of the world.

There is a good deal of information available at Ichthys if you wish to pursue it. Here are the best links with which to start:

Baptism: Water and Spirit I

Baptism: Water and Spirit II

Baptism: Water and Spirit III

Baptism: Water and Spirit IV.

One Baptism: the True Meaning of Peter's Words at Acts 2:38.

John's Water-Baptism versus the Baptism of the Holy Spirit

Is baptism necessary for salvation?

Best wishes in your search for the truth of God's Word.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob Luginbill

Question #9:

So basically what your saying is that baptism with water isn't needed to join our father in heaven, because I have family members who would strongly disagree, and have told me several times that being baptised by water is the 1st step in following God.

Response #9:

Salvation comes by God's grace through faith in the Person and the work of Jesus Christ. In fact, if a person thinks they are getting "brownie points" for being water-baptized or joining a church or giving up meat or anything else for that matter, to the extent that said person is relying on their own works, to that extent they are not saved – because salvation comes through faith alone.

If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about – but not before God. What does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness."
Romans 4:2-3 NIV

Justification comes through faith: that is how we get God's righteousness – through faith, not of our own works.

There are plenty of people out there who will tell you that you need to be water-baptized or convert to their denomination or join their church or worship on Saturday or whatever as "the first step in following God". But a genuine born-again relationship with Jesus Christ is a matter of putting one's faith in Him for eternal life, accepting who He is – the unique God-man – and what He has done – dying for the sins of the entire world. Those who do are believers; those who don't are not.

Once we believe, following Jesus means learning His truth through reading the scriptures, exposing oneself to orthodox and substantive Bible teaching, believing the truth, living the truth, and helping others to do the same through the spiritual gifts one has been given. But all ritual and regulation which is in fact extra-biblical is merely going back to the shadows of the Law (either directly or under another name). Water-baptism was a Jewish ritual, uniquely applied in Jesus' day to the repentance of those who anticipated the coming of the Messiah. The Messiah came. And the Law and all of its rituals has been fulfilled. Continuing to baptize with water is the equivalent of saying that the Messiah has yet to come.

I do understand that many groups which water-baptize do not understand this to be the meaning or the purpose of the ritual. But that really is one very big "truth teller". What do they imagine water-baptism today to symbolize? What is its purpose? Those groups that say it is necessary for salvation are in deep spiritual trouble because salvation comes only through faith. Those who say it is not necessary for salvation but necessary to do anyway inevitably cannot tell you the rationale (beyond misquoting and misunderstanding Matthew 28:19), and usually have a number of different and often contradictory explanations of the symbolism. That is understandable since there is no rationale for a ritual now fulfilled. It had its place among Jewish converts in the generation which knew of John's baptism; it has no place in the Church today, not, at least, for those who value scripture and its truth over traditions taught by men.

The previously provided links contain a large amount of information about this subject.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior – into whom we believers have been Spirit-baptized by the Holy Spirit when we believed.

Bob L.

Question #10:

G'Day Brother

Hope your keeping well. Is it biblical that one needs to be baptised in order to be a member of a local church? I've been arguing against this man made "Law". Am I right?

God Bless

Response #10:

Inasmuch as there is only one water-baptism – John's baptism – designed for Jews to prepare them for the coming of the Messiah (see the link: Baptism: Water and Spirit IV), and inasmuch as the Messiah has already come, water-baptism is not a legitimate ritual for the Church. That doesn't stop almost all denominations and churches from practicing it, however. So, no, it is not legitimate to make it a requirement of "membership". On that point, there is only one Church, the Church of Jesus Christ, and membership is available to all through faith in Him. There is nothing in scripture about formalizing membership in some humanly created organization, something which strikes me as a bad idea in any case. Indeed, to the extent that a local church intimates that someone who does not "join" is somehow second-class, or, worse, that their salvation may be in doubt, to that extent it becomes a despicable practice.

In Christ in whom alone we are saved as members of His Body, His Bride the Church,

Bob L.

Question #11:

Hi Bob

I was delighted to read the entire discussion on: https://ichthys.com/mail-One-Baptism.htm (One Baptism: the True Meaning of Peter's Words at Acts 2:38)

A more determined person I cannot imagine. Very tenacious indeed. The logic deplorable and quite scary.

What I just want to say is that I appreciated the fact that you were so patient and went out of you way to explain so many times. In truth I partly forgot the topic and ‘enjoyed’ his steadfast determination to unseat your position.

I have met many people like this and fortunately recognised that I generally have neither the knowledge or skill to engage them but rather to withdraw before irritation raises it’s head. We had such an individual in our Bible study and the end result was number of people withdrawing because of the unpleasantness. The individuals unfettered access to the that wellspring of all truth "Google’ was truly incredible and simultaneously nauseating. I am not entirely sure that knots like this can be untangled. If you keep combing and the knots are becoming worse you are combing in the wrong direction.

Thanks again for the willingness to engage folks like this. From experience I believe that he (if it is a he) will take many of you points, in their own time, and mull over them. Truth tends become self-evident with time.


Response #11:

You're most welcome!

You might also check out Baptism: Water and Spirit IV. There are several other extensive discussions which shed additional light on these topics.

Keep fighting the good fight, my friend. We all have our own gifts and our own ministries, and they are all important to the health of the Body of Christ.

In our dear Lord,

Bob L.

Question #12:

I appreciate your website. It is very informative and I hope Jesus grants you a blessed evening.

By the way, how did the Lord Jesus save you?

Regarding the above link and the topic of the Spirit vs Baptism of the Spirit .....

I was surprised you guys didn't discuss the difference in the apostles or just take Peter as an example when discussing the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. If Peter would have died before Pentecost he would have surely been saved bc he certainly believed Jesus was the Son of God and confessed it. what happened to him at Pentecost when he was baptized with the Holy Spirit didn't change his position as a saved person. It did however give him the boldness to preach to thousands when just a little while before that he was denying Jesus. So what happen then. He got baptized with he Holy Spirit.

Ps. Getting baptized with the Holy Spirit is like going to Disney land. U can read about it all u want but u really have to experience it...like the peace that passes all understanding. U know. ur entire walk changes. I guess bc u realize it's not u walking but Jesus n u that is walking.

If it hasn't happen to u, I would just ask the Jesus to reveal the truth about it to you and if it is real then request Him to white light u. :)


Response #12:

Good to make your acquaintance. Thank you for your email and for your kind words about this ministry. As to my own "salvation experience", here is what I have said before:

My dad was a Presbyterian minister, so I was exposed to the truth from a very early age (and was saved as a child before I even knew what hit me – praise God!).

And . . .

I was saved as a very young child. I don't even remember how or when. All I remember is the great relief of being delivered from the quite scary prospect of death and the grave.

The ministry of the Holy Spirit is blessed beyond our present understanding. Of course, one has to respond to the Spirit to benefit, and the only way to respond is by believing and applying the truth He ministers. The baptism of the Spirit is the fundamental difference between the Church Age and the prior Age of Israel. Consequently, it is amazing to me that so many of my fellow believers think that only some are privileged to have His indwelling presence (cf., Jn.7:38-39; 14:16-17; Rom.8:9-11; 1Cor.3:16; 6:19; 2Cor.1:22; Gal.3:2-3; 3:5; 3:14; 4:6; 1Thes.4:8; 2Tim.1:14; Heb.6:4; Jas.4:4-6; Jude 1:19). And I find it especially odd since scripture is so clear on this point, e.g.:

But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.
Romans 8:9 NKJV

Peter is an excellent example, because while it is true that once baptized with the Spirit at Pentecost (something that could not have happened before because "the Spirit had not yet been given because Christ had not yet been glorified", ), he was empowered as never before. That didn't make him a different person, however, and it certainly did not make him a perfect person (cf. Gal.2:11-12). The Spirit empowers those willing to be empowered – on a day by day, step by step, decision by decision basis. I think that is the main mistake that charismatics make, namely, mistaking the emotion of turning to (or back to) the Lord on the one hand for the baptism of the Holy Spirit on the other, and then finding a (false) basis for this experience in the book of Acts (see the link: "Interpreting the Book of Acts"). The book of Acts relates all manner of wondrous occurrences which were unique to the days of the apostles (and the early days at that), most of which have not been repeated since (e.g., the gift of tongues; see the link: "The Gift of Tongues II").

Finally, there is a big difference between truly "walking with Jesus" and merely feeling emotionally high about one's salvation. The latter is possible to work up artificially (through music, emphatic gestures, and other outward displays); the former requires the hard work of spiritual growth, spiritually progressing and the passing of tests, and ultimately the implementation of the ministry the Lord has called us to individually. The only way to accomplish genuine growth is not through pretending to possess gifts and special experiences that are either not genuine anymore or that are truly the province of the whole Church, but through learning, believing, and applying the Word of God. That is the Spirit's capital, and it is our response to the truth of the Word made real to our hearts by Him that constitutes the real blessing of His ministry to us. When we do respond to Him this way, the right way, it can be emotionally wonderful; but the real wonder is in the truth made real through faith by Him and in our response to it – regardless of how we feel. Don't trust your emotions. They are very often false guides, and they are most assuredly a weak reed upon which to base your spiritual life (please see the links: "Our new orientation as born again believers", "Who Controls our Thoughts and Emotions?" and "The Battlefield within").

Here are a few other links which will be helpful in sorting these things out:

The Baptism of the Holy Spirit

Pneumatology: The Baptism of the Spirit

The Indwelling of the Holy Spirit

The Filling of the Holy Spirit

Spiritual Gifts and Spiritual Growth

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob Luginbill

Question #13:

Great info here. I have read some of your links you put below and find them interesting and true.

Can you thing of a time since you wee saved when the Lord had to break you so he could use you more according to His plan for your life?

Response #13:


It's always an encouragement to hear when these materials have been helpful to my brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ.

As to your question, like all Christians, whenever I have erred, I have been disciplined; whenever I have advanced, I have been tested. God is perfect in His meting out of just the right punishments and trials in each case, and it is a continual process – one hopes with more of the latter than the former of course!

Yours in our dear Lord Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #14:

Dear Professor,

In one of your email responses you have drawn a distinction between "baptism in or with the Spirit" and "baptism by or of the Spirit". I don't think I have every come across this division before on your website and I'm not sure exactly what you meant. What is the scriptural basis for this division and what are the mechanics of each? I'm aware that you provide the explanation in the email (https://ichthys.com/mail-slain%20in%20the%20Spirit.htm, copied below), but I'm not entirely clear and I thought the terms "in or with" and "by or of" you've been using interchangeably.

It should also be pointed out that there is a difference between the gift of the Spirit we receive upon becoming one with Christ (which you have asked about) and the fact of our becoming one with Christ (which may be at the root of the second part of your question), a phenomenon which is also explained in the Bible via the concept of baptism (as indeed the two are inter-related). When we accept Jesus as our Savior, we are not only infused with the Spirit (i.e., the Spirit takes up residence within us), but we are also entered by the Spirit into Christ (Rom.6:3; cf. Matt.28:18-20), and henceforth are one with Him and abide in Him (as His "body" and "bride"). The first of these ministries is generally called "baptism in or with the Spirit" (where the Spirit is the subject who is poured into us rather than the agent who immerses us into Christ), while the second is most often referred to as "baptism by or of the Spirit" (where the Spirit is doing the work of baptizing us into Christ rather than being the "water" or "oil" that anoints us). In both cases, the analogy of water baptism is the point of reference which explains the concept. In the first case, just as when things are dipped into water and become wet, so we who have put our faith in Christ are forever soaked with His Holy Spirit (a notable characteristic of all believers which can be observed the way a wet person stands out in a crowd of dry ones). In the second case, just as when we plunge something into water it is subsumed by the water and sinks down into it, so we who have accepted Jesus are "immersed in Him" (i.e., we are His in an intimate and complete way, completely encompassed by Him). The Holy Spirit is intimately involved in both these aspects of "baptism", but differently in each case. In the former (with/in), He comes into us, while in the latter, He places us into Christ. The combination of these blessed occurrences means that we are, through His Spirit, in Him and He in us forevermore (cf. Jn.14:20: "I in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you"; cf. 1Cor.15:28).

I thought I would include this question with the next set currently being prepared, but because this issue is so important and I'm completely unfamiliar with it, I decided to ask straight away.

In our Lord and with prayer for you,

Response #14:

Good to hear from you, my friend – as always!

This is an issue which can be a bit complicated until it is set straight. Generally speaking, I try to use the term "baptism of the Spirit" as a generic one, referring to every aspect of the Spirit's special ministry to believers since Pentecost. But there really are two distinct parts, as Paul points out:

For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.
1st Corinthians 12:13 NIV

The first part is the "by" part (as I frame it), namely, the Spirit's ministry in forming the Body of Christ. It is often expressed by the Greek preposition en "by", indicating the Agency of the Spirit in doing the baptizing, and followed by the preposition eis "into", indicating the end or goal of the baptism. In the verse above, the Spirit is seen to be baptizing us "into the Body"; in Matthew 28:19, eis "into" has as its goal the Trinity (with the preposition there demonstrating that our Lord was talking in that context also about Spirit baptism). For the vast bulk of the Church Age, this part of the "baptism of the Spirit" has been coincident with being baptized "with the Spirit" (in 1Cor.12:13 quoted above, expressed as being "given of the Spirit to drink"), and the universality of this "gift of the Spirit", the second part, is clear from a variety of scriptures (notably, Romans 8:9). This was not the case in the early days of the Church when the apostles were given the unique (and apparently temporary) ability and authority to mediate the gift of the Spirit as a way of demonstrating their special authority in the incipient Church:

Now when the apostles that were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Spirit: for as yet it was fallen upon none of them: only they had been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus.
Acts 8:14-16 ASV

Most versions here have "in" where highlighted, but the ASV is correct with its "into" since the Greek has eis (not en); and the meaning is that these Samaritans had believed and had been baptized by the Spirit "into" Jesus (and the Trinity and the Body of Christ), but had not yet received the gift of the Spirit (i.e., had not yet been given to "drink of the Spirit" or, been baptized "with" the Spirit so as to have the special, personal ministry of the Spirit and His indwelling presence which is a defining feature of the Church Age and now universal: Jn.7:38-39; 14:16-17; Rom.8:9-11; 1Cor.3:16; 6:19; 2Cor.1:22; Gal.3:2-3; 3:5; 3:14; 4:6; 1Thes.4:8; 2Tim.1:14; Heb.6:4; Jas.4:4-6; Jude 1:19).

This is the essence of the difference. I will admit that the terminology I use, "of", "by" and "with" is not perfect: the first two prepositional uses are the ones the Bible often employs respectively for the entire ministry of the Spirit on the one hand and the Spirit's making the believer one with the Lord (so as to be "in Christ) on the other; however in the case of the third aspect, scripture uses a wider variety of terminology, no doubt because of the widely divergent and wonderful aspects of the ministry of the Spirit to Church Age believers. So one could speak of the "being given to drink" ministry, or the indwelling of the Spirit ministry, or the reception of the Spirit, or the gift of the Spirit, etc., but "with" conveys the notion more economically in my view, so I settled on that after much contemplation of the issue as a way to draw a distinction between the three: A) the baptism of the Spirit ("of"), including 1) the Spirit's entering/baptizing of the believer into union with Christ and the Trinity and so into the Body of Christ, the Church ("by"), and 2) the gift of the Spirit, the Spirit's coming to indwell all believers so that we are all endowed with the Spirit ("with").

These distinctions are important, and I will have much more to say about them in BB 5: Pneumatology – on which I continue to labor. Until that is available, here are some other links where the subject is discussed:

The Baptism of the Holy Spirit

Pneumatology: The Baptism of the Spirit

The Indwelling of the Holy Spirit

The Filling of the Holy Spirit

Spiritual Gifts and Spiritual Growth

As always, my friend, please do feel free to write back about any of this.

Thanks for your prayers so much!

Yours in Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #15:

Dear Professor,

Thank you for your reply. Like you said, terminology might not capture these concepts perfectly, but I can now understand the difference between the "baptism of the Spirit" and the "baptism with the Spirit". The passage from Acts has been very helpful in clarifying this issue and it's been one of those that I have kept at the back of my head for a while, now it finally clicked.

One more question I would like to ask refers to this point:

A) the baptism of the Spirit ("of"), including 1) the Spirit's entering/baptizing of the believer into union with Christ and the Trinity and so into the Body of Christ, the Church ("by"),

I'm not yet able to draw a distinction between "of" and "by", as defined above. It seems they are closely associated with each other, since entering into union with Christ means also entering His Body?

In our Lord,

Response #15:

You are very welcome, my friend.

The "of" is the way scripture describes the ministry of the Spirit to believers in the Church Age as a whole or in its entirety; that is, "of" combines both the union of believers to Christ and also the gift of the indwelling Spirit. For the vast bulk of the Church Age, the two aspects are not split up (that only happened in the very early days of the apostolic period for the purpose of establishing apostolic authority), but happen simultaneously whenever someone believes in Christ. So "of" = "by" + "with" (the way I put these matters, that is).

Yours in the dear Lord who bought us, and whose we are forevermore.

Bob L.

Question #16:

Can you explain Titus 3:5? Isn't it referring to water baptism?

Response #16:

The "washing of regeneration" in Titus 3:5 has to be EITHER water-baptism OR Spirit baptism. It cannot be both, because washing/baptism only occurs once in the language of that passage directly. Since it is this act of "baptism" in Titus 3:5 which results in "regeneration", and since water doesn't save us – only God's grace in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ saves us – Titus 3:5 has to be talking about Spirit baptism (cf. Ephesians 4:5 where there is only "one baptism" – Spirit baptism). Other indications in the context of Titus 3:5 that we have to do there with Spirit baptism are: 1) in this very verse salvation is said to be "not of works" – whereas water-baptism is a work done by us, but Spirit baptism is done by God; 2) this baptism in Titus 3:5 is connected here directly to the "renewal of the Spirit" which means unequivocally that the renewal of the Spirit is part of salvation, so that the baptism has to be Spirit baptism (occurring in documented cases in Acts before any water is administered: e.g., Acts 10:44); 3) in the next verse, Titus 3:6 the Spirit is said to be "poured out" making it clear that the "washing" of v.5 was also metaphorical for the Spirit's cleansing, the spiritual cleansing which follows repentance when a person is born again; 4) in Titus 3:8 this renewal of rebirth is said to be "by grace" which, along with "not of works", make submission to some ritual as a means of salvation impossible; so there is no water in this passage at all; Q.E.D.

All water-baptism cleans the outside, not the inside (e.g., Heb.6:2; 9:10; 1Pet.3:21); that requires the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

Question #17:

Acts 8:36-38

Another example of water baptism carried out after our Lord's departure - why did Philip use water to baptize?

Response #17:

After he gives the gospel (Acts 8:35), Philip is specifically asked by the Ethiopian as they pass by some water, "What hinders me from being baptized?" (Acts 8:36). The precise way in which Philip related the gospel is not given in detail, but it is safe to assume that his method included relating the whole ministry of Christ including of course the prior ministry of John. This, as we know from Paul's accounts given in synagogues in Asia, was an important part of the gospel for Jewish believers of that day as well as for Jewish converts. After all, John's ministry was well-known, and, as he was clearly the forerunner of the Messiah, connecting John to Jesus was an essential part of the message to demonstrate that Jesus was the Messiah. Since John baptized with water, those, like this man, who may not have been so baptized would clearly wish to take part in John's baptism. I also like to think, though the scripture here does not say so one way or another, that Philip agrees because of his experiences in Samaria, and knows that by doing so he will be able to mediate the Spirit to this new convert. The Spirit, after all, has been instrumental in this meeting and will also take Philip to the next stop immediately after, so I think it is probably safe to say that this water-baptism is allowed in order for Philip to place his hands on this man and for the Spirit to be given to the Ethiopian in this way.

Question #18:

Regarding Acts 3:19-21, is what you mean that Peter's 'failure' was to understand the imminence of our Lord's second coming as occurring during Peter's lifetime?

Response #18:

As to the general question, what I mean is that my contention that Peter "had a lot to learn" about many things (including about Spirit versus water-baptism) is born out by the fact that he clearly did not understand at this very time he is continuing to water-baptize in conjunction with administering the Spirit that our Lord would not be coming back for some long time. The quote in Acts 3:19-21, "that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you – even Jesus. He must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets." demonstrates that he envisioned the possibility of a near term 2nd Advent while he was yet alive. He would learn more about eschatology; he would learn more about the gentiles coming into the Church; and he would learn more about water-baptism, namely, that it had been superseded (cf. 2Pet.3:21 which is "dry"). Compare also Galatians 2:11-16.

Question #19:

You wrote about Philip's baptism of the Ethiopian: The Spirit, after all, has been instrumental in this meeting and will also take Philip to the next stop immediately after, so I think it is probably safe to say that this water-baptism is allowed in order for Philip to place his hands on this man and for the Spirit to be given to the Ethiopian in this way.

So do you think that Philip knew water wasn't necessary for baptism? If he knew, why wouldn't he correct the Ethiopian?

Response #19:

No, I'm not sure he necessarily knew. Peter, who seems to have been one the more advanced if not the most advanced of the disciples in those days (cf. Lk.22:32; 1Cor.15:5), did not apparently see any problem with adding water several chapters (and possibly years) later on (Acts 10:47).

Question #20:

Regarding Paul's words about giving the gospel and baptizing you wrote:

Paul and we too are laboring under the dual meaning of the word "baptize/baptism". Actually, it's not as big of a problem in Greek, at least in Paul's day. We know from a variety of NT uses that baptism does not center on water but on identification. The problem is that it did originally mean to "dip X into Y", and in non-metaphorical uses that usually meant water. It is the "into Y" part that most contemporary Christians who teach water-baptism get wrong as a matter of course. When the term is used absolutely (i.e., without any "into WHAT" expressed; Greek uses /eis/ plus the accusative), it can refer to water as well as to something else (usually the Spirit's baptism of us into Christ if water is not in view). The fact that Christ did not send Paul "to baptize" but to "give the gospel" is actually quite telling, because as you point out the latter results in the baptism of the Spirit -- and that is why it is the objective: when unbelievers accept the truth of the gospel through faith, they are immediately baptized by the Spirit into Christ and the Spirit also indwells them (although this second element of the baptism did not become automatic until some years after the first Pentecost in order that the apostle's authority might be established). Much more on all this at the links: "Baptism: water and Spirit" and "Baptism: water and Spirit II".

I'm still unsure about this expression - since you wrote that the baptism is the objective, why does Paul say 'For Christ did not send me to baptize'?

Response #20:

The objective is faith in Christ as explained in the gospel. That is what Christ sent Paul to do, give the gospel so that many would believe and be saved. Salvation is the objective and the objective is accomplished through putting one's faith in the Person and work of Jesus Christ as the gospel makes those truths clear to the person receiving them. Water-baptism has nothing whatsoever to do with the process (and is really the "old wine" of John's water-baptism, completely inappropriate for believers today when rightly understood). Spirit baptism happens automatically now and also apparently did so by the time of Paul's writing of this epistle to the Corinthians. His objective was clear:

"I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me."
Acts 26:17-18 NIV


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