(C) Reception, Repentance and Immersion are Essential to Salvation:
And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. (Acts 2.40-41 ESV)
The initial response by the Jews to the sermon is to ask a significant question, “Brothers, what shall we do?” (2.37). The Jews felt compelled to do something. Luke describes what happens when they acted upon their convictions. He writes, “So those who received his word were baptized” (2.41). The words are of critical importance.
Reception Leads to Repentance
Peter had commanded them to change their heart, to turn from their sins, and to change their ways. It is demand to accept God’s will by the mind, instead of rejecting Him.
Those, then, that “received” his words were prepared for “a change of the will produced by sorrow for sin and leading to reformation.” Reception of the Gospel message leads one to repent from sin.
Reception Leads to Immersion
Reception of the gospel message led the penitent Jews to baptism. Baptism and its related forms derive their basic meaning from the Greek stem bapto. Its common lexical form is baptizo, meaning in essence “to dip.” There is not a standard lexicon that defines the term differently.
It is used describes things dipped or placed under water to soak, such as clothing for washing and dyeing, washing dishes, dipping bodies for baths; moreover, like many words it lent itself to figurative – everyday uses (i.e. “overwhelmed”, “inundated”, cf. Mark 10.38).
Despite its common use (cf. twice in Mark 7.4), the term took on a technical meaning by the early church. Joseph Thayer comment upon this technical use by the church under the guidance of Apostolic leadership; namely, it was (Lexicon 94):
[A]n immersion in water, performed as a sign of the removal of sin, and administered to those who, implied by a desire for salvation, sought salvation to the benefits of the Messiah’s kingdom.
Notice that “immersion” is an act of putting someone under water. This agrees with the fact that in most instances the verb baptizo is used in the passive (i.e. someone is being plunged into water by another person, cf. Mark 16.16; Acts 2.41, 8.12ff, 36, 38; 9.18).
Biblical “baptism” for a potential convert to the Christ is described as an act of being put under water. The mode is essential.
The Forgiveness Connection
The reception of the gospel compelled the Jews to be immersed in water”; but we ask why? The immediate verses explain that immersion is connected to forgiveness of sins, the promise of the gift of the Holy Spirit, and salvation – a rescuing from God’s wrath upon sin (Acts 2.38-40).
Peter compels the Jews to respond in baptism was the following, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2.38). This is the exact parallel to the words of the Savior in Matthew 26.28 in Greek even as in English.
Some attempt to reduce the force of this passage which affirms that immersion is – as part of God’s totally plan – a response of faith in Christ as what effects “forgiveness of sins”.
Men such as A.T. Robertson, Boyce Blackwelder, Julius Mantey argue that a critical preposition in Acts 2.38 (Grk. eis) should be translated as “because of” rather than “in order to obtain/enter in/towards” forgiveness sins.
However, in a debate between Julius Mantey and Ralph Marcus in the Journal of Biblical Literature (1951-1952), Marcus ably showed that “the causal use” of eis groundless on linguistic terms within biblical Greek.
The debate forced Daniel B. Wallace, of Dallas Theological Seminary, to agree in 1996 with Marcus writing that the “because of” translation for Acts 2.38 “fell short of proof”.
Unfortunately, Wallace resorts to four “other” approaches all of which are designed to deny immersion as an essential element to the overall plan to save humanity from the problem of sin.
Acts 2.38 and Matthew 26.28 are clearly parallels and serve as a biblical commentary on the two sides of salvation. In Matthew 26.28, the Lord explains that his shed blood is given to gain access to “forgiveness”.
Whereas Matthew 26.26 reveals the work of Jesus on the cross to extend salvation potentially to all mankind, Acts 2.38 sets forth how one personally gains access into forgiveness (i.e. immersion in water). We observe that Jesus “set the table” (shed his blood) so to speak, that we may enjoy its blessings (salvation).
To be continued…
- Barclay M. Newman, Jr., 1993, A Concise Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellshaft), 115.
- Alexander Souter, 1917, A Pocket Lexicon to the Greek New Testament (Oxford: Clarendon Press), 157.
- John W. McGarvey, “Repentance”, Lard’s Quarterly 1: 176-77.
- Joseph H. Thayer, 1889, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (New York: American Book Co.) 94.
- A.T. Robertson, 1919, Grammar of the Greek New Testament in th eLight of Historical Research, 3rd edition (London: Hodder & Stoughton). In several occasions Robertson is uncharacteristically uncertain and claims that theology and interpretation take precedent over grammar especially in light of Acts 2.38 (389, 592, 595); combine this with his New Testament Words Studies comments on Acts 2.38 (cf. e-Sword edition). Boyce W. Blackwelder, 1958, Light from the Greek New Testament (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker). Blackwelder devotes a considerable amount of attention on “causal” eis but ignores or finds the Mantey-Marcus’ discussion unpersuasive (84-92). Julius R. Mantey in Harvey E. Dana and Julius R. Mantey, 1927, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament (New York: Macmillan). Mantey argues briefly for causal eis in Acts 2.38, Luke 12.32, and Matt. 3.11 (104-105).
- The debate occurred in the following issues of the Journal of Biblical Literature: Julius R. Mantey, “The Causal Use of Eis in the New Testament”, JBL 70.1 (March 1951): 45-48; Ralph Marcus, “On Causal Eis”, JBL 70.2 (Jun. 1951): 129-30; Julius R. Mantey, “On Causal Eis Again”, JBL 70.4 (Dec. 1951): 309-11; Ralph Marcus, “The Elusive Causal Eis”, JBL 71.1 (March 1952): 43-44. Marcus does not argue that causal eis does not exist in non-biblical Greek; instead, that within the New Testament document the use of the causal eis has not been established and cannot be established from outside means (“The Elusive Causal Eis”44).
- Daniel B. Wallace, 1996, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan), 370.
- Daniel B. Wallace, 1996, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, 370-71.