As our moderator has noted, closing statements are a time for summarizing our positions, not further rebuttal. It is my desire to honor that even though it may leave a few challenges yet unanswered. I believe the weight of Scripture has fallen clearly on the side that baptism, while important, is not necessary for salvation.
(A quick side note: I will not be answering the true/false questions provided by James in his last rebuttal because 1.) It goes outside the moderators stated desire for a succinct summary of our position in this closing statement and 2.) The line of questioning is unfair. Demanding a simple true or false answer to questions worded in just such a way is not legitimate because there are several case where regardless of how I answer “true” or “false” I am in a catch 22. So I refuse to get caught up in clever word games of one word answers to rigged questions.)
Time and again my opponent, James, has seemed bewildered by the notion that baptism could be important and a command of our Lord and yet not be necessary for salvation, yet I fail to see what is so bewildering about this. An apple tree is an apple tree even before it yields its first fruit, is it not? In the same way a person is a Christian when they trust/believe in Jesus as their Lord and Savior and they bear fruit in keeping with repentance/faith when they are baptized, when they give to and serve the poor, when they read their Bibles and pray, when they share the name of Jesus. James constantly confuses the fruit of salvation with the notion of meriting it. The reason I stated that a person who refuses to get baptized may not be a believer is not because baptism saves them but because a believer would have a changed heart that would want to obey Christ!
I have listed numerous passages that have illustrated that justification comes by faith in Christ and not by any works (such as water baptism or any other). There is no need to rehash them here once again, please go back and read them (John 3:16; Romans 3-4; Ephesians 1:13-14; 2:8-9, etc.). James’ position insists that water baptism is necessary or justification and yet, as I have shown, people were filled with God’s Holy Spirit prior to water baptism (see Acts 10). If James is correct and a person cannot be saved/justified apart from water baptism then you have a case of God pouring out His holy Spirit, filling unbelievers! Now that is truly an untenable position!
It is true that Baptism is necessary for salvation, but not water baptism. It is the baptism of the Holy Spirit that John the Baptist prophesied Jesus would bring that is what applies the finished work of Christ to our soul. It is this baptism of the Spirit, brought about by faith in the message of the gospel, that seals us into our salvation. It is this baptism of the Spirit that Cornelius and those with him experienced by faith in the gospel when Peter preached to them in Acts 10 and Peter recounts this baptism of the Spirit in Acts 11. Such is truly the nail in the coffin for the view that water baptism is necessary for justification/salvation because it is the sealing of the Spirit by faith that saves us (Eph. 1:13-14) and the people at Joppa received the spirit prior to water baptism.
Much of James’ confusion about baptism seems to be a result of failing to recognize that the New Testament speaks of both water baptism and baptism of the Spirit. James constantly applies passages about baptism of the Spirit as if they were talking about water baptism which leads a person into serious error.
As I illustrated with 1 Corinthians, Paul makes a distinction between the gospel and baptism as a subsequent act. James scoffed at that but I believe that point stands alone pretty strong and I will leave you, the reader, to decide for yourself what Paul meant by “For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel” because it seems pretty straight forward to me. But if I did not make this point strongly enough, how about this. If water baptism is necessary for salvation, and therefore a part of gospel proclamation, then why is it that any mention of water baptism is absent from 2 Corinthians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Hebrews, James, 2 Peter, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, Jude and Revelation? Yes, 16 of 27 books of the New Testament never once even address the issue of water baptism…16! Clearly there are not 16 books of the New Testament that fail to speak of salvation in Christ and yet there are 16 that don’t even brush the subject of water baptism. But how then could that be if water baptism is a part of the gospel proclamation?
I have dealt with the subject Acts 2:38 and the Greek word “eis” and clearly explained that the word can mean “for” or “because of.” I cited A.T. Robertson, an eminent Greek New Testament scholar who demonstrated that this passage could legitimately read either way and, therefore, does not prove that water baptism is necessary for salvation. James obviously misunderstood Robertson because Robertson was not saying that there are only three cases where “eis” means “because of” but that there are three places where in the New Testament where “eis” cannot mean anything but “because of”. Many passages with the word “eis” clearly mean “for”, several clearly mean “because of” and some of the passages are ambiguous and could read either way and therefore the meaning depends on the context and teaching of Scripture. Acts 2:38 is an example of the ambiguous use “eis” and therefore does not prove my case nor James. It could mean either, so this passage is not the proving ground.
As I have argued, every time the New Testament speaks of a person being justified it points to faith/repentance as what applies salvation to the believer, never water baptism. Yes it is true that justification is linked to grace and the blood of Christ, but we should not confuse the means of our justification (what Christ did on the cross) and the reason that anyone will be justified (God’s grace) with the thing that applies justification to us personally, namely, faith.
The passage in James that speaks about justification by works gives Abraham as the example and yet speaks of his offering up his son Isaac. However it was Abraham’s faith in God’s promise to make him the father of many nations through his own descendants (e.g. Isaac) that made him already declared righteous long before he ever even had his son. So then James speaks not of justification for salvation by works, but the justification of ones faith by works. In other words, like I have been arguing all the while, if a person really believes and is justified, there works will justify/prove that they have faith.
Faith is the trigger by which justification occurs in our lives. It is faith alone that applies salvation to us through the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Faith alone is how we receive salvation, but that is not to say that God isn’t busy in our lives beforehand preparing our hearts and minds, but none of the things we do in life applies Christ’s sacrifice to us, no work, just trusting in Jesus and what He has done. It happens by God’s grace at a moment in time when we believe the gospel.
Many will expose themselves as false believers because they will not follow Christ and seek to obey him. James (the epistle writer) made clear that there is a faith that saves and a faith that does not save. Faith that leads a person to live a life of obedience is saving faith, faith that merely acknowledges propositions about Jesus as true but does not trust him and live in light of who He is does not save. But biblical faith, that which gives way to good works is the faith that we have been speaking of when I have said “faith alone” saves. Surely there will be people in hell who believed propositional truth about Jesus, but those who believed him in the sense that they trusted in Him will not see Hell.I encourage you all to carefully examine the exchange that has taken place here, go to the Scriptures and search diligently everywhere it speaks of how a person is saved and decide for yourself what the Scripture teach. I stand on God’s word and declare that no one will enter Heaven believing that they had to accomplish a task in order to be justified. It is by faith in Jesus that we receive His righteousness and are justified by His grace as a gift.
I am grateful that I had the opportunity to participate in this debate. I am thankful to my opponent Jacob for his willingness to present his position on the subject. I am thankful to Mr. Shelby Cade for arranging the debate and taking care of posting the writings each week on his website. I am also grateful for anyone reading this debate now or in the future. I encourage anyone reading through this debate to study God's word with the full intent to understand, know and obey God's will (Eph. 5:17; Matt. 7:21ff). If you are a preacher or teacher, remember you have the responsibility to teach the truth of God's word (2 Tim. 4:2; Jonah 3:2; Gal. 1:6-9). Truth has the power to set man free (John 8:32).
As I mentioned previously, there are issues with a written debate that can be overcome in an oral debate. So, I hope and pray Jacob will arrange for an oral debate at a place of his choosing. I will gladly travel to any reasonable place to debate this subject. Prior to that occasion, both sides would agree on terms, pass questions and agree on a moderator, etc.
Again, both sides cannot be correct. I firmly believe Jacob is incorrect in his understanding as evidenced by his eliminating passages, twisting words, and misusing of texts. He has clearly stated, “I am a Baptist” so he must be careful to hold true to the teaching of that denomination. A.T. Robertson, a Baptist, also sought to find a view consistent with his Baptist theology as he stated in his Historical Grammar (see my 2nd rebuttal). However, one must remember not one person in God's word was a Baptist, Methodist, Catholic, etc. It is imperative that we allow truth to trump denominational creeds and thinking. We must go forward, back to the Bible. As one preacher often said, “if its new its not true; it has to be two thousand years old”.
I am going to divide this summary into two parts. In the first part, I am going to go through Jacob's 2nd rebuttal answering his disagreements and showing further why his position is incorrect. In the 2nd part, I will revisit my introduction and summarize the debate.
Part I – A Careful Refutation of Jacob's 2nd Rebuttal
As suspected Jacob was unable to produce a passage indicating one is saved by “faith only” or “faith alone”. He writes, “you are right, the Bible doesn't coin it in that exact phrase.” He suggests that his inability to find the words “faith alone” or “faith only” is similar to a man's inability to find the word “Trinity”. The word “Trinity” is not found but the concept of the “Trinity” is found studying various texts across the whole Bible. Similarly, one searches throughout the New Testament to understand salvation. In so doing, one discovers that God expects more than just faith in becoming a child of God. So, not only is the phrase “faith only” or “faith alone” not found in the pages of God's inerrant word but neither is the concept.
Jacob states one is not saved by works (Eph. 2:8) and concludes that baptism is the kind of work described in that passage. One would be silly to imagine that he could somehow erase his sins by his own meritorious deeds. Our meritorious works are like “filthy sanitary napkins/ tampons” to God (Is. 64:6). In Luke 17:10, Jesus exclaimed, So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, 'We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.'”
Jacob has yet to prove that baptism is a work. In his introduction he wrote, “Baptism, which is something we must do willfully achieve, set out to get done, is a work.” Several times in this debate he has referred to straw-men, etc. However, I have yet to see a reference in God's word that says baptism is a work. I submit to you that baptism is not a meritorious work (i.e. to brag or boast) rather one who submits to it is trusting in the working of God (Col. 2:1112) who is able to remit sin. I have never known one person to brag or boast because he or she was immersed. Not one!
Jacob later ridicules my argument concerning Naaman (2 Kings 5:1); however, I was simply using his account to help show that baptism into Christ is not a work; its not a means to braggadocio. Paul used Moses (1 Cor. 12:13) and Peter used Noah (1 Peter 3:21) to teach on the subject of baptism. The Apostle Paul taught that the Old Testament could be used for instruction (Rom. 15:4).
Naaman had a horrible, disfiguring disease called leprosy. He heard words from God's prophet Elisha. His leprosy was not removed by faith only, rather it was only removed when he submitted to God's will by being immersed in the Jordan River. The cleaner waters in his homeland and four times would not suffice. It had to coincide with God's will. Once he obeyed God, his leprosy was removed and his skin was like a child. I do not recall any bragging or boasting on his part. If Naaman had boasted it would have been in vain. Also, there was nothing magical in the water. God did all the work but first set out the stipulations for Naaman to obey.
Similarly, a sinner comes to God. His sin is actually worse than leprosy and removal of it required the torture and subsequent death of the Son of God (Is. 53; Acts 8:26ff). His powerful, perfect blood was shed so that sin could be removed and God could be both “Just and the Justifier (Rom. 3:26)”. Those in Acts 2:37 heard the message of Christ and Him Crucified and they were cut to the heart (or pricked). They asked the Apostle Peter who was recently immersed into the Holy Spirit and guided into all truth (John 16:13; Acts 2:1ff), “brothers what shall we do?”. Peter tells them what they must do, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Act 2:38 ESV).” With further words Peter exclaimed, “'Save yourselves from this crooked generation.' So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.” Those people were told to do something but it was not a work worthy of bragging, boasting, etc.
Again, as I stated in my 2nd rebuttal, Jacob grossly misuses 1 Corinthians 1:17 to try and prove that baptism is not part of salvation (or unnecessary). However, isn't it interesting that something not part of salvation and supposedly unnecessary found its way into the “summary” account of the first post-resurrection gospel sermon? Jacob wrote at the conclusion of his 1st rebuttal - “As Paul says so very plainly baptism is not part of the gospel message, it is subsequent to salvation”. The Holy Spirit, part of the “Trinity”, disagrees and places baptism right there on Pentecost Sunday during the 1st Gospel sermon.
Jacob says there is nothing you must do except have “faith only”. Those people in Acts 2 had incredible faith (2:47) and they still said, “Brothers what shall we do?” I am sure Jacob would reply, “well, they were baptized to obey God as just a declaration”. No, that does not fit the context of this passage. He has approached this passage believing in “faith only” just like A.T. Robertson (recall quote from my 2nd rebuttal) and just like many other people who believe and teach the same thing. Yet, it does not fit the context. Peter, a divinely inspired Apostle is commanding them to be immersed so that they might receive two specific blessings: the remission of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit (2:38; c.f. Eph. 1:13-14). You almost have to have help to misunderstand that.
There is something else here that has happened that has barely been mentioned in this debate. I mentioned it in my introduction only. In Acts 2, the church of the Lord Jesus Christ was established fulfilling the words of the Lord Jesus Christ (Matt. 16:16-18). Three thousand souls heard the 1st post-resurrection Gospel sermon and they obeyed the Gospel and become God's people later known as Christians (Acts 11:26; 26:28). The church is the blood bought work of Almighty God (Acts 20:28). Sinners immersed were added to the church which is the Lord's body (Col. 1:18; 1 Cor. 12:13). It is interesting to note that upon immersion, the individual is cleansed by blood and added to the blood bought church at the same time. Also, one cannot be saved unless he or she is in the church which is the kingdom (1 Cor. 15:24; Matt. 16:19). Yes, there is a Kingdom today and Jesus is “King of Kings and Lord of Lords”. He was literally raised to reign! One day He will return to receive the Kingdom, the Church to Himself.
Jacob, it amazes me to hear you say “there is nothing you must do except have faith.” He also throws repentance in their suggesting it is the opposite side of a coin or something. Faith does not come by osmosis, otherwise everyone would be saved and Universalism would be true. Faith comes by hearing the truth of God's word (Rom. 10:17), accepting it and obeying it. Dr. Luke records, “And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem exceedingly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith (Acts 6:7 ASV; c.f. Rom. 1:5 & 16:26). Not everyone who hears has faith. One must choose to believe. Some refused to believe (Acts 5:33, 7:54, 13:46, etc.) and individuals refusing to believe would never be immersed (Mark 16:15-16). Remember, believing and refusing to obey is actually disbelieving - “He that believeth on the Son hath eternal life; but he that obeyeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him (John 3:36).”
According to the biographical information, Jacob did something in view of his own personal salvation. He provided the information, just as I did, to Mr. Cade who recorded, “Jacob called out to God”. So, Jacob had to do something in order to accept the saving grace of God. To argue against that is to promote the erroneous position of “Universalism”. Now, he will water it down suggesting it is of the mind, etc. He can water it down all he wants but the fact is he did something to accept or receive it. It is interesting that no one in the book of Acts (the book of conversions) did what Jacob did to accept the saving grace of God. Personally, that would bother me as I contemplated my own eternal well-being.
Jacob then makes up a phrase “baptism is necessary for salvation” and concludes since that phrase is not in the Bible then James' argument is unbiblical and illogical.” Jacob, God's word clearly states that baptism is part of God's plan for saving man (Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Acts). Again, it is ironic that you say it is unnecessary but necessary. In fact, several times you have suggested that one's salvation may be in question if they refused immersion. It is essential for salvation because God CHOSE that in that moment sins would be remitted.
Jacob's position on “eis” in Acts 2:38 is false. He even admits if he is wrong in his understanding on “eis” then his position is incorrect. Isn't it amazing that Jacob's whole position could crumble in the dust if his position on Acts 2:38 is incorrect and he admits it. It seems that Jacob has placed his faith in Robertson and not the Holy Spirit. Robertson even admitted that his view was based on his theological position as a Baptist.
Speaking of Acts 2:38 and Jacob's misunderstanding of eis. It will be interesting to see what he does (if anything) with Mark 1:4 and Matt. 26:28. In my 2nd rebuttal, I showed that those 3 passages are identical in the New Testament Greek. Yet even the esteemed A.T. Robertson left them alone. He only changed the one that immediately conflicted with his Baptist doctrine. It boggles my mind that Jacob is willing to fall in line with an individual who supposedly found 3/1773 where eis is used to indicate “because of”. Jacob wrote, “According to A.T. Robertson, this usage 'occurs at least three times' where it cannot be purpose or aim, but rather the basis or ground.”
Also, note the following, Acts 2:38 says, "Repent AND be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ FOR the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (emp. mine).” Jacob says that repentance is basically faith - “Repentance and faith are like the opposite sides of the same coin and should not/cannot be separated from one another (2nd Rebuttal).” So, if he changes “eis” the meaning or the actual word from FOR to Because Of” he has some serious issues to overcome. Whatever he does to immersion he must also do to repentance. So, is he now suggesting that one REPENT and be BAPTIZED “because of” the forgiveness of sins? Is he willing to suggest that belief/faith occurs because one's sins have already been forgiven? If so, then Universalism is correct.
Jacob then writes the following concerning Galatians 3:27, “Now here James exposes a false assumption, namely, that this passage refers to water baptism. This passage actually does not refer to water baptism but to the baptism of the Holy Spirit.” Jacob says I am incorrect for assuming its water baptism but then turns and makes the assumption that it is actually Holy Spirit baptism. He then leaves the book and goes to Mark 1:8 and Eph. 1:13-14 suggesting that proves it.
Earlier, I wrote a few things concerning the blood purchased church (Acts 20:28) that began in Act 2 on the day of Pentecost. There were scores of people in Jerusalem, possibly millions, but only 3,000 people allowed the word of God to prick their heart to the point that they inquired, “brothers, what shall we do?”. Their faith moved them to action. Isn't that similar to the passage in Galatians 3:27?
The Apostle Paul wrote, Gal 3:25-29:
But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, (The Faith vs. the Law of Moses) (26) for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through (dia:Strong A primary preposition denoting the channel of an act; through ) faith. (27) For (gar – seeing then) as many of you as were baptized into Christ (Matt. 28:18-20) have put on Christ. (28) There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one (made up the churches in Galatia) in Christ Jesus. (29) And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise.
Jacob repeatedly makes reference to Eph. 1:13-14 so let's take a look at what is happening or rather what has happened in those verses and notice how similar it is to Acts 2:1-41. Paul wrote, “in whom ye also, having heard the word of the truth, the gospel of your salvation, - in whom, having also believed, ye were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, which is an earnest of our inheritance, unto the redemption of God's own possession, unto the praise of his glory.”
- The people in Ephesus “heard the word of the truth”
- The word of truth = the gospel of your salvation
- “having believed” (synecdoche: part put for a whole)
- “sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise”
- praise of his glory
- All Spiritual blessings in Christ (Eph. 1:3ff): Holy, without blemish, forgiveness of sins, adoption, redemption through his blood, etc.
Those in Acts 2:1-41
- The people in Jerusalem “heard the word of truth”
- Gospel: death, burial, and resurrection
- Believed (pricked, cut to the heart)
- Inquired - “Brothers, what shall we do?”
- “Repent and be immersed”
- Blessings: Remission of sins and Gift of Holy Spirit
Jacob, based on his writing, believes that there is more than one baptism: Holy Spirit Baptism and Water baptism. Yet, Paul in the book of Ephesians says there is only one baptism (4:5). The baptism of the “Great Commission” is the baptism that will last till the end of the world (Matt. 28:20). So, when Paul wrote the Ephesians from prision, he says clearly there is only one baptism. It is the baptism for the remission of sins and to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). It is also the baptism that places one into the church of the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 2:41; 1 Cor. 12:13).
Jacob has spent a lot of time in this debate referring to the conversion of the first Gentiles, Cornelius and those with him. Jacob, based on his observation of Acts 10 & 11 believes that at the moment of one's saving faith, the individual also receives the baptism of the Holy Spirit. I am pretty sure he would conclude the same event happens to people today. An individual hears some words about Christ, chooses to believe them, and then he or she is immersed into the Holy Spirit where he receives remissions of sins, the gift of the Holy Spirit, etc. I disagree.
Jacob makes a distinction between “Holy Spirit Baptism” and “Water Baptism”. However, God's word says there is just “one baptism” (Eph. 4:5). It is that one baptism that will last to the end of the world (Matt. 28:18-20) – right? So, which baptism is it? Is it John's baptism, Holy Spirit Baptism, or the baptism in water that will last to the end of the world?
One needs to remember that it was always God's intention that the whole gospel would go to the whole world. Jesus indicated this in the “Great Commission” (Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16. However, this was simply not done at one time. Bias and prejudice existed among the followers of Jesus and hindered the Gospel from going to the Gentile world (Acts 11:1-3). A vision is given to Peter three times (10:9-16) to convince him that the Gentiles were eligible to hear and obey the Gospel of Christ. Subsequent to the vision, the Holy Spirit spoke to Peter saying, “Behold, three men are looking for you” (10:19)
After the vision he travels with six Jewish brethren (11:12) and entered the house of Cornelius in Caesarea. He preaches the message “Christ and Him Crucified” to all those made present by Cornelius. “While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. And the believers from among the circumcised (the 6 Jewish brethren who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles” (Acts 10:44-45).
The baptism of the Holy Spirit was given to them was not for salvation, rather it was to further show that the Gentiles were eligible candidates for God's mercy and forgiveness. Notice the words of Peter as recorded in Acts 11:15-18:
As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning (i.e. Acts 2:1ff) (16) And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, 'John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.' (i.e. Mark 1:8; Acts 1:5) (17) If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God's way?" (18) When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, "Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life."
Jacob inquires, “I ask you did God give the Holy Spirit to unsaved people?” Was Cornelius lost? The descriptions concerning him show that he was a God-fearing man, etc. God listened to his prayers and even interceded with an angel, etc. Read Acts 10 & 11 and notice all of the references to who Cornelius was as a man. It is ESSENTIAL that one realize that a very unique time period is being dealt with in that passage. There is a transition of Covenants underway. If Cornelius had died the day before, would he have been lost? He had an obligation to God but it was not the Law of Moses and the Gospel of Christ had not been taken to the Gentiles. He was under a different law as a Gentile in which very little information Is given. Under that Law he was a God-fearing man.
Jacob quotes Act 11:15-18 just as I did above. Did you notice the gem of truth in 11:18? It says - When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, "Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life." Jacob's position on Acts 2:38 has problems here. Here we see “repentance leads to life” not you have life so repent. Remember the conjunction AND in Acts 2:38 as discussed previously.
In reading through the remaining part of his rebuttal I see so many things that I would like to ask him questions to find out exactly what he means. It would be interesting to see his responses to some simple questions. I sent questions at the end of my 2nd rebuttal but I never received a response for them. I figured he would answer them in just a few minutes and send them back to me but he did not. If this turns into an oral debate, I would certainly have many questions for him to answer which would help greatly in this debate. His answers would help narrow down his position rather than jumping all over the place.
I could easily continue answering his questions about Apollos and his teaching, the Philippian Jailer, etc. However, I am already over 10 pages in this Summary and so I will stop for now. Again, I will gladly debate this subject at a reasonable time and place of Jacob's choosing.
Part II – Summarizing Things
Salvation is important to the “Trinity”; God the Father, Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit. That concept is taught from Bible cover to Bible cover. Many pages of Holy Writ are dedicated to showing God's great love and eternal purpose for man (John 3:16; Eph. 3:11, etc.). God supervised the divine plan through the Garden of Eden, the life of Abraham, the Law and life of Moses, through the sins and rebellion of men, etc. Satan himself could not thwart God's efforts to bring Jesus to the world. He tried but he failed miserably.
My sincere concern for souls was my motive for participating in this debate. I believe firmly that God's plan for saving man includes baptism (immersion) in water for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38). God commanded baptism for the remission of sins (Lk. 3:2-3). Jesus observed and approved its practice while on Earth (Matt. 21:25; John 3:22, 4:5) and then commanded its practice prior to ascending to Heaven (Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16). The Holy Spirit guided the Apostles to preach it and write about it (John 14:26, 15:26, 16:13; Acts 2:38, etc.). Everyone that has ever become a Christian has submitted to it. Those that have refused it, post-resurrection, or still in their sins and lost.
One must remember that it was Jesus who commanded the baptism of what has become known as the “Great Commission”. Following Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection (1 Cor. 15:4), He walked on Earth for 40 days allowing His resurrected body to be seen by the Apostles and scores of other people (1 Cor. 15:4-8).
It was during this time that Jesus further instructed the Apostles to further prepare them for the work that they were about to begin. He carefully instructed them that He was going to leave but in His place the Holy Spirit would be sent to teach them all things and bring to remembrance the things taught to them by Him (John 14:26).
Furthermore, the Holy Spirit would testify of Christ (John 15:26) and guide the Apostles into “all truth”. This occurred in Acts 2 in the city of Jerusalem as the Apostles were “filled with the Holy Spirit” (2:4). The Apostles were the first, but not the last, to receive the “baptism of the Holy Spirit” (1:4-5, cf. 11:15-16).
Prior to leaving Earth, Jesus gave the Apostles their final instructions, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I havecommanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Mat 28:18-20). In addition, Luke 24:46-47 - "Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”
And this is exactly what the Apostles did. They observed the ascension of the Lord into the clouds and then they went to Jerusalem and waited for the “baptism of the Holy Spirit”. Approximately, ten days later on the day of Pentecost the Apostles received it. The miraculous occasion and the subsequent speaking in tongues created a stir and allowed the Apostles to stand and preach the first post-resurrection message.
The thrust of their message was Christ crucified. They were witnesses of the events and they proclaimed them making reference to the Old Testament again and again to build their case. In the end, 3,000 precious souls were “cut to the heart” (Acts 2:37) and inquired “Brothers,what shall we do?” Peter simply told them, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Act 2:38).
Jesus will be preached in Jerusalem and Judea (Acts 1-7), in Samaria (8), and finally to the uttermost parts of the world (13-28). The theme of their preaching was Christ and Him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2; Gal. 6:14). And each time baptism played an essential part in the redemption of man (Acts 3, 8, 9, 16, 18, 22, etc.).
I am glad that Jacob and I can agree on the following things:
- The Godhead or Trinity
- The Inspired Word of God, the Bible
- God's Desire to Save Us
- We Are Not Saved By Meritorious Works (?)
- Baptism is necessary (?)
- The importance of faith (?)
- The “sinner's prayer” as an invention of man
- Justification by God
- The powerful work of the cross
These are problems I see in Jacob's Understanding on this subject:
- When he sees faith he almost always sees “faith only” - many of the passages he references he uses in that fashion. Faith is used in several different ways, sometimes the one word is used to describe the whole process of salvation.to describe the whole process of salvation.
- He believes baptism is an outward sign, a declaration of one's faith ONLY – that concept is not taught anywhere in God's word. He believes it so every time he sees a baptism he concludes it is a declaration of faith to others.
- His understanding of Acts 2:38 is flawed and based again on preconceived notions (i.e. Baptist theology). He even admits that if he is wrong on his understanding of “eis” then his position is false. His understanding of “eis” is based on one man and 3 supposed occurrences. I suspect, if Jacob changed his position on Acts 2:38 he would also change his understanding on faith, repentance, the outward declaration, etc.
- He believes baptism is a meritorious work. It would then be something to brag or boast about. He has not produced one passage to prove baptism is a meritorious work.
- A misuse of several texts that he believes solidifies his case: 1 Cor. 1:17 where he suggests baptism is not part of the Gospel and unimportant. Also, the account of Cornelius and the Philippian Jailer (Acts 10, 11, 16). God's word does not contradict itself.
In Conclusion, I am grateful for the opportunity to participate in this debate. I would like the opportunity to continue this study with Jacob in an oral debate at a reasonable time and place of his choosing. This written debate will help a lot in narrowing down the subject and therefore producing a quality debate where people can decide for themselves what the truth is on this very important matter.
Sincerely & Respectfully,
James Haynes Jr.