Acts 2:38 – Is Water Baptism Necessary For Salvation?

37 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?”
38 Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.”
40 And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” 41 Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.

Acts 2:37-41 (NKJV)

Acts 2:38 is one of the major proof-texts that those who believe water baptism is necessary for salvation use to support their belief. I disagree with this assessment for three reasons:

  1. There are far too many other passages in the Bible that contradict the notion of water baptism as a requirement for salvation. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” According to this verse, eternal life is based on belief in Jesus Christ – and nothing else. Romans 10:9-10 says “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.  For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” Again, there is no mention of baptism in these verses, nor anywhere else in the chapter. In several other passages in the book of Acts, baptism is mentioned in conjunction with salvation; however, in every one of these passages, baptism always happens immediately after the person has been saved.
  2. There are also many other passages that contradict the notion that water baptism is the means for having sin removed. 1 John 2:1-2 says, “My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.  And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.” Hebrews 9:22 states, “And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission.” It is the blood of Jesus Christ that removes sin, not water baptism.
  3. A careful examination of the text of Acts 2:38 has convinced me that Peter is not talking about physical water baptism, but rather the immersion of the believer in Christ. The Greek word βαπτισθήτω means “dip, submerge, baptize.” When examining the context of Biblical passages concerning baptism, it is important to understand A) who or what is being immersed, and, B) what they are being immersed in? In the case of Acts 2:38, the answer to “who or what is being immersed?” would be the Jews who heard Peter’s sermon, and believed. The answer to the second question, “what they are being immersed in?” would be, “in the name of Jesus Christ.” Peter is telling his audience that in order to be saved, they must be immersed in Jesus Christ; His blood then covers their sin; and then they will receive the Holy Spirit. Peter does not say, “be baptized in water for the remission of sins;” he says, “be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.” When a person receives Jesus Christ as their Savior, they are put into Jesus Christ for the remission of sins. Water baptism is done afterward, as an outward sign of the spiritual transformation that has already taken place (Acts 2:41). In Acts 2:38, the instruction is to be immersed into Jesus’ name, not into a pool of water.

Salvation is based on confessing sin before God, repentance, and placing one’s faith and trust in the atoning blood of Jesus Christ alone for the remission of sin. No ritual or work – including water baptism – can add to or take away from one’s salvation.

Seven Obstacles to Sharing Your Faith, Part 1

While web-surfing the other day, I ran across an article on christianitytoday.com by Chris Lutes entitled Seven Reasons Not to Share Christ (and why we should go ahead and do it anyway).  I thought it would make a good a good blog series.

Lutes writes for his first reason:

1) “I’m not smart enough”

Fact: Jesus’ disciples weren’t known for their brains or theology degrees. They were pretty ordinary guys, really. Take the time Peter and John were telling a hostile crowd of religious leaders about Jesus. Here’s how Acts 4:13 puts it: “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus” (ESV). Look at that last part again: And they recognized that they had been with Jesus. Maybe you’ve heard this saying: “It’s not what you know that counts. It’s who you know.” Knowing Jesus is what matters. You are smart enough to tell others about Jesus because you have a friendship with him. And the closer you get to him, and the better you know him, the more you’ll have to say about him.

It doesn’t take a theology degree to share the Gospel.  In fact, theologians often use so much technical language that nobody understands a word they say.

The Gospel is actually very simple.   All of us are sinners – we all do things that offend God.  Sin separates us from God, and the penalty for sin is death.  There is nothing we can do to get rid of sin – our good works simply cover up the problem.  The only way to for us to get rid of sin was for a perfect substitute to take the penalty in our place.  Jesus Christ was that perfect substitute.  In Jesus Christ, God became a perfect man, who lived a perfect life, and who voluntarily died on the cross as our substitute.  His resurrection is our guarantee of eternal life.  If we repent of our sin and ask Jesus Christ to forgive us, and believe God raised Him from the dead, we will be saved.

Many people want to add a lot of deep, theological stuff to the Gospel message.  While the extra stuff may very well be theologically and Biblically correct, it’s often more information than a person needs in order to be saved.  If you are a young Christian, and don’t understand all the deep, theological stuff, don’t let it stop you from telling others about Jesus.  As you study God’s Word, over time, you’ll start getting a better grip on all the deeper theology the Bible contains.  In the meantime, don’t be afraid to tell others about Jesus.  Just tell them how you were saved, how you came to know Him as your Lord and Savior, and how He has changed your life.  If you’re not comfortable doing this, just ask them to come with you to church, or have a Christian friend talk to the person with you.  Like anything else in life, the more you practice, the easier it gets, and the better you will become at sharing your faith.  If the person you’re talking to starts asking a lot of questions that you don’t know how to answer, don’t panic; just explain that you don’t know the answer yet, and that you’ll get back to them.  Then, have a Christian brother or sister help you find the answers, and then share the answers the next time you talk.

The Word

One of my favorite passages of scripture is from the Gospel of John, Chapter 1.

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it…

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

Before I received Christ as my Savior, I struggled with the question, “Who is/was Jesus Christ?”  I wondered if Jesus was a prophet and a good teacher, or something more.  As I studied this question, I realized that the Bible – and Jesus Himself – claimed he was no mere mortal, but actually God in the flesh.  I also realized that if Jesus was just a man – even a very good man – then the crucifixion and resurrection meant nothing.  If Jesus had been just a man, then he had sin, the same as all men.  The only way Jesus could take away my sin is if he was actually God, come to earth in human form, without a sin nature, and living a sinless life.  Only then could the crucifixion and resurrection take away sin and guarantee eternal life.

One night, as I tried to sleep, these verses from John kept swirling around in my head.  Somehow, through the leading of the Holy Spirit, it suddenly “clicked.”  I understood that Jesus was indeed Who He claimed to be – God, in the flesh.  And, as God, He had the ability and power to take away my sin, and to forgive me.  I re-read John 1, and came to these verses:

10 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. 11 He came to His own,and His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

I understood that all I needed to do was to receive the forgiveness God offered through Jesus Christ’s death, and eternal life through His resurrection.  At 1:04 am, on October 22, 1979, I asked Jesus Christ to come into my life.  I was forever changed.  Thirty-two years later, I am more in love with Jesus than ever before.  He is continuing to change me, continuing to mold me into His image.  I long for the day when I will meet Him face-to-face.  In the meantime, I will continue to serve Him, and to grow in my relationship with Him.

If you have never received Jesus Christ as Savior, contact me.  I’d love to help you to come into a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

If you have already received Christ as Savior, but are struggling with your faith, I’d love to pray for you, and help, if I can.  Contact me.

How I Became A Christian

For my first blog, I have decided to describe how I came to a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

I was raised in a religious family.  I attended the same church my father and his parents had attended for many years.  I more or less believed in God, but never really gave it much thought.  I considered myself to be a Christian; I figured was a basically good person, and had done a lot more good deeds than bad.  Surely, I was acceptable to God.

When I began my freshman year of college, I started hanging around with the Christians on campus.  At one of the Bible studies, another freshman named Chuck stated that he was not a Christian, because he was unsure who Jesus Christ was.  Was he a prophet, a myth, or was he God?  He didn’t know, and because he didn’t know, he could not be a Christian.  I came to the realization that I didn’t know who Jesus Christ was, either.  I realized for the first time that I was not a Christian.  If Jesus Christ was not in fact God, then his crucifixion could not pay for my sins.  One man dying cannot remove the sins of another; only if Jesus was God could the crucifixion and resurrection mean anything.

For the next few weeks, I searched for the answer to the question of Jesus’ identity.  I read a book called More Than A Carpenter, which explained logically why Jesus Christ was not a mere man, but is in fact God in the flesh.  For the first time, I also actually opened my Bible, and read it.  I was struck by the introduction to the Gospel of John:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it… And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:1-4; 14; emphasis added).

On October 22, 1979, while lying in the bed in my dorm room at a little after 1:00 AM, I finally understood that God came to earth as Jesus, in order to die to take away my sin.  I didn’t answer any alter calls, pray any special prayers, or do anything else.  I simply believed.  At that point, Jesus Christ became my savior, and I have never been the same since.

The most noticeable immediate change was a sense of peace.  I sensed that a transformation had occurred within me, and for the first time, I sensed God’s presence in my life.  It was as if a light had been switched on; I became aware of God in a way I had never experienced before.  In the years since I first believed, I have never had any real doubts about my decision.  In a very real way, Jesus Christ has become my best friend.  He has been slowly transforming my attitudes, beliefs, and actions.  I’m certainly not perfect; there is a life-long process that God is accomplishing in me.  He has loved me and been with me through good times and bad; when I have followed Him, and when I haven’t; and I have continued to grow closer in my relationship with Him over the years.  I know without any doubt or hesitation that when I eventually die, I will spend eternity in a close, personal relationship with Him forever.  God loves me as no person ever could, and I have learned to love Him more and more all the time.

How can you have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ?  In order to do this, just talk to God.  You can do this aloud, or silently; alone, or with a friend.  You must admit to Him that you are a sinner, and ask Him to forgive you.  You must believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross to take away your sins, and that He rose again.  You must tell God from your heart that you want Him to change you and direct your life, and ask Him to be your Savior.  That’s all you have to do.  Begin your new life by finding a Bible-believing church to attend, reading the Bible, and talking to God on a regular basis.   As you do this, God will begin the process of transforming your life, and you also will never be the same again.