Is There A Natural Or Physical Baptism That Remits One’s Sins?
For generations there has been discussion over water baptism and what it actually does for the believer. In the early 19th Century the concept of what is known as regenerative baptism was presented as a tenet of the American Restoration Movement or the Stone-Campbell Movement, which was born out of the Second Great Awakening. This movement, in general, sought to restore and unify the Church of Christ, removing the driving force of doctrine from creeds, restoring individuals back to the bible and biblically based positions, views and practices.
One of the great orators and ministers within this movement was Walter Scott. He wrote this:
“It is not intended, in this article, to discuss the import of the term baptism, as that term is well known to mean, in the New Testament, when used literally, nothing else than immersion in water. But the intention is to ascertain what this immersion signifies, and what are the uses and purposes for which it was appointed. This can only be done by observing what is said concerning it in Holy Scripture. (Here follows an induction of quotations familiar to our readers. C. A. Y.) From these several passages (Mark 1:4, 5; John 3:5; Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16; Rom. 6:2-11; Gal. 3:26-28; Eph. 5:25, 27; Eph. 4:4, 6; Col. 2:12, 13; Titus 3:3, 6; 1 Peter 3:21), we may learn how baptism was viewed in the beginning by those who were qualified to understand its meaning best. No one who has been in the habit of considering it merely as an ordinance can read these passages with attention without being surprised at the wonderful powers, qualities, and effects, and uses, which are there apparently ascribed to it, if the language employed respecting it, in many of the passages, were taken literally, it would import, that remission of sins is to be obtained by baptism, and that an escape from the wrath to come is effected in baptism, that men are born the children of God by baptism;” … “that men wash away their sins by baptism; that men become dead to sin and alive to God by baptism; that the church of God is sanctified and cleansed by baptism; that men are regenerated by baptism; and that the answer of a good conscience is obtained by baptism. All these things, if the passages were construed literally, would be ascribed to baptism. And it was a literal construction of these passages, which led professed Christianity in the early ages, to believe that baptism was necessary to salvation. Hence arose infant baptism, and other customs equally unauthorized. And from a like literal construction of the words of the Lord Jesus, at the last supper, arose the awful notion of transubstantiation.” [From ‘Extra Remission’, by Alexander Campbell, 1820 quoting Walter Scott]
Some of the tenets taught within the Stone-Campbell movement included the belief that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; that Christians should celebrate the Lord’s Supper on the first day of each week; and that baptism of adult believers by immersion in water is a necessary condition for salvation. Some of their doctrinal tenets regarding baptism could be outlined as follows:
- Baptism by immersion is a necessary part of salvation without which one cannot enter into the kingdom of God, (John 3:3–5; 1 Peter 3:21)
- The church, set up by Christ with the keys given to the Apostles (Matthew 16:16–18, 18:18) was established on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2 and required baptism for “remission of sins” amongst the penitent believers and promised the “gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38)
- Without the indwelling Holy Spirit obtained at the time of immersion, there is no salvation, (Acts 5:32, Romans 8:9–11, 16)
The progression of teaching that one might hear would go something like this:
Jesus received baptism at the hands of John the Baptist (John 3:26; 4:2). Jesus taught baptism to his apostles (Mt. 28:13) . His apostles taught baptism as a part of their message (Acts 2:38). That Apostle Paul also taught baptism as being related to salvation (Rom. 6:4) The conclusion drawn from this would be that baptism is not simply representative of one that has received salvation but essential to one being saved themselves.
Cultism And Fundamentalist Belief System
This movement cannot be faulted for its desire to get back to the bible and bible basics, however it seems, as a whole, to have overlooked some of the types and shadows associated with certain aspects of scripture. This has led to some awkward if not cultic fundamental beliefs. For example, some churches that are part of the “International Churches Of Christ” , who are a product of the restorationist movement, have set forth that if one is not baptized by them and or their organization that one is not saved. Therefore every member that joins their organization must be rebaptized by them in order for the baptism to be authentic.
Yet other organizations such as the Apostolic churches associated with the United Pentecostal Church (UPC) and the Pentecostal Assemblies of The World (PAW) for instance, say that baptism is not only for remission of sins but must be done using the formula “In Jesus Name” as prescribed in Acts 2:38 and other scriptures.
Although based on a totally different premise, the Catholic church invalidates the baptism of believers by any other church other than itself. Although they recognize baptism to be a representative sign of inclusion in the church, the point is clear, baptism other than by them seems to be invalid under their current papal authority and missives.
I note these things to demonstrate that there are some borderline cultic opinions on this topic and some which do not facilitate unity of the church, which was, surprisingly, one of the primary objectives of the restorationist movement. In short, what are we to make of these things that seem to have such a firm root in scripture? Is there an alternative to these teachings and how are these assertions countered? Surprisingly enough, the greatest answer and refutation against these things is found within the bible itself.
Regenerative Baptism, A Biblical Response
There are five lines of biblically centered teaching that I believe refutes baptismal regeneration and the issues surrounding it for New Testament believers. Those five lines are summarized as follows:
The Typology Of Baptism
What Water Represents Within Baptism
The Source And Method Of True Salvation
When Did The New Testament Church Begin?
Why Baptism Is Associated With Conversion In The New Testament
I: The Typology Of Baptism:
Ceremonial washings and purifications are found in the Old Testament and were initially associated with cleansing and ritual purification of the priest in performing God’s service. In fact when God was establishing the temple system, he gave the priests a prescription for cleaning by means of washings and purifications that was to be strictly adhered to:
Ex. 30:17-21 ~ ” 17- And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, 18- Thou shalt also make a laver [of] brass, and his foot [also of] brass, to wash [withal]: and thou shalt put it between the tabernacle of the congregation and the altar, and thou shalt put water therein. 19- For Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet thereat: 20- When they go into the tabernacle of the congregation, they shall wash with water, that they die not; or when they come near to the altar to minister, to burn offering made by fire unto the LORD: 21- So they shall wash their hands and their feet, that they die not: and it shall be a statute for ever to them, [even] to him and to his seed throughout their generations.”
This washing of the priest was not only representative of the individual relationship to God, but was also a prescriptive command in that it was to be followed, adhered to and not violated. The washing of the feet represented the cleansing or integrity of the “walk” or lifestyle of the priest. His feet and steps had to be right and honoring of the one who had called him to service. His intents and virtual tracks would have to be clean and holy. He had to intend to be involved in holy things, or things that would be pleasing to God. The washing of the hands represented the priests interactions, associations and dealings. The Priest was to be pure in his interactions with others and not subdued by flesh, trickery, the lust for money or the dishonesty associated with worldly dealings and selfish interactions. These washings prepared the priest for service and without them and the prepared heart to go along with it, service rendered to God would not be honored.
The baptism or washing found in the Old Testament (OT) and under the OT system itself was like all other “types” and “shadows” found in the OT pertaining to salvation. They were a “shadow” and a “type” of what was to be fulfilled in Christ and or HIS church under the new covenant when it would be established through the shed blood of Jesus. The OT system would exist as long as the tabernacle of God was with man on an external basis.
John’s baptism was a variation of what was prescribed by God in the OT. Whereas in the OT the priests were told to baptize and more specifically wash, in order to serve, John’s baptism was for all men (common man and priest alike) unto remission of sins and was done by complete immersion in water. Scholars do not know when this progression came about and or whether it was exclusive to John’s teaching and practice. John’s baptism also introduced the coming “Kingdom of God” which was also associated with it. We find John baptizing individuals in the Jordan in the NT. Remember, when we observe John, Jesus has not died for the remissions of sins and John himself is still acting under this particular OT “type and shadow” which has its fulfillment and revelation in Christ. This is the key, where there is an external ceremonial need for righteousness there was a need for external cleansing. John alludes to and even prophesies regarding a further progression in the application of baptism through recognizing the mission of Jesus himself:
Matthew 3:11 ~”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:”
John doesn’t associate the coming baptism of Jesus with water but rather with the “Holy Ghost” and with “fire”. These terms indicate and are symbolic of the spiritual elements of both power and judgement, rather than purely physical elements of water for physical or even spiritual cleansing.
Why is Jesus baptized under John’s baptism since it is for remission of sins?
The bible declared that John’s baptism was for the remission of sins (Mk. 1:4) Jesus was however, without sin (2Cor.5:21). It is certainly not the best theology to assert that John’s baptism had any implication on the expiation of Jesus sin or his spiritual condition. Yet, when this is brought up by John himself as Jesus stands in the Jordan, Jesus encourages John to complete his mission by saying that John’s act of baptism upon him “fulfills all righteousness”. (Mt. 3:15). There are two things being done by Jesus here:
1- Jesus is validating John’s baptism as being authentic and from God. John was a spectacle for those who didn’t understand what God was doing through him, causing many to consider his purpose and intent. God, through Jesus, appears and personally validates John, his actions and his ministry before all men.
2- The baptism that Jesus was experiencing through John was prophetic and would be representative of the life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus before the world. That he would die (eg: descend beneath the water) and that he would be raised again unto life were only shadows of what was to come in the very life of Jesus. Therefore, the baptism of John was symbolic and prophetic of what would be witnessed in the messiah.
John’s baptism was significant in that it fulfilled the command of God and further pointed, as a type and shadow, to a newness of life and resurrection that would be found in Jesus. Although John’s baptism is in operation under the OT it is yet profound because it is different in both nature and scope than any prior baptism or baptismal method found under the OT covenant or system.
II: What Water Represents Within Baptism
Water often represents the Spirit of the Lord, the regenerative work of God, a refreshing agent and certainly no less than a cleansing agent throughout the Old and New Testaments. Water is also an agent whereby the world is both formed and destroyed in Genesis. The latter, although not emphasized under the Old Testament construct of baptism was established within the New Testament based on the death and resurrection of Jesus. In the NT one of the most notable discourses on water, applying it to salvation, was the discourse of Nicodemus with Jesus as recorded in John 3:
John 3:3-6 ~ “3- Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. 4- Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? 5- Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and [of] the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6- That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”
There are two parallels being draw here at least on the surface. A natural birth (flesh) is being compared to a spiritual rebirth (born of the Spirit) It would seem that Jesus is stating that unless a man is living in the world (“born of the water”- water which fills the placental sac surrounding the fetus) and subsequently experiences a “rebirth” of spirit (an internal work of spiritual regeneration) that he cannot be saved. This makes sense as a person who is not born does not need salvation.(Ps. 58:3) Only a person, once born, needs to be born again. The problem is that without warrant, many have taken this verse to indicate or suggest a physical water baptism. Nothing is further from the truth. As we will discover the spiritual dimension of this verse and it’s association to water is far beyond the concept of a literalistic pool of water.
The scripture reveals that the word of God is the agent by which the soul is cleansed and whereby we are saved.
Job esteems the word of God more essential than his “necessary food”( Job 23:12) In Psalm 119, which is heavily rooted in the topic of God’s word, David declares that a young man can cleanse his way by taking heed to the word of God. (Ps.119:9). In other words the word is a sanctifier or cleaner. Paul declares that the word of God or the gospel “is the power of God unto salvation” (Rom. 1:16) Repeatedly, we are reminded of the power, significance and strength of the word of God throughout scripture. In the New Testament, before his death, Jesus turns to his disciples and declares that his word was the agent by which they would be and were cleansed from their sins and purged unto righteousness:
John 15:3~ “Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.”
This cleansing is a spiritual one that would benefit the soul of man in relationship and fellowship to God himself. For God has said that his words are spirit and life. (John 6:36) Paul affirms that the word of God is more than mere sayings, but that it is yet living (2 Cor.3:6) and as previously stated, the power of God unto salvation (Rom.1:16) for everyone and anyone. Paul also solidifies this notion by comparing cleansing, preparation and spiritual purity that the word of God provides to his body, the church, to the fidelity of the marital union and sacrificial care and love that a husband should show his wife:
Ephes. 5:25-27 ~ “25- Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; 26- That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, 27- That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.”
The word was the agent of restoration, cleansing, help and healing and the method by which man is restored unto God. Remember, as I have already stated, John the Baptist alludes to the fact that the baptism of Jesus would not be a “water baptism” but one “with fire and the Holy Ghost” (Mt. 3:11). With these things in mind it becomes much more clear that the actual baptism that is used by Jesus to bring individuals into fellowship with him, is the baptism of the Spirit through and by the venue of his word. Therefore, the baptism of Christ is not a water baptism, it is a spiritual baptism whereby the soul is regenerated and saved from sins through by the work of the Spirit, by the word of the Lord, and that is done unto belief or faith in the work of Christ on the cross which we will discuss shortly.
The fulfillment of the word of God is the refreshing that Peter speaks of when discussing the current ministry of the resurrected Jesus in the world:
Acts 3:19 ~ “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord;”
Here Peter speaks using prophetic language regarding what has been prophetically fulfilled in Christ. The “times of refreshing’ was present and upon the people. The term “shall come” once again is prophetic language but does not denote a future event. The same or similar type of language is used in Mt. 17:11 concerning Elijah whom we are all aware that had lived in the past as Jesus indicates in verse 12 following.
Therefore, we are confronted with ample scriptural evidence that “water” represents the word of God which provides spiritual regeneration, cleansing, restoration and refreshing, and the cleansing agent was greater than a baptismal pool that simply cleaned the external. It was the spiritual and living word of God that was able to effect change within the soul. Now, there are two forces at work and represented by the water. One force representing the destruction the old works(descending into the water) and another representing the birth of new life. (ascension from the water) This is exactly what Christ does through his word. The old is buried, while the new life lives unto Christ.
The tabernacle of God had moved from an external position housed by a tent to being with and in men. the heart of men had once again become his temple (John 14:17, Rom. 8:11, 1 Cor. 6:19) therefore outward purification from that point on would be inadequate and insufficient in cleansing men from his sins. This is the method or agent whereby a man is born again of the “water and of the spirit”. It is through and by the word of God itself coupled with faith. The OT system did not incorporate this element though it pointed toward it as a type and shadow using physical water to signify the spiritual cleansing that would be present in Jesus through and by his word rooted in his sacrificial atonement upon Calvary.
Two of the most spiritually disturbing parts of the doctrine of baptismal regeneration is the demotion of the work of Christ on the cross for salvation and secondly, the addition of some human physical act whereby salvation is gained. Neither of these teachings are biblically sound and neither should be enjoined by members of the New Testament (NT) church. The teaching and understanding of the NT church was that all devils and works of the enemy was defeated through the triumph of Jesus on the cross. Paul emphasizes this symbolizing baptism (eg: death or “buried with him”) and resurrection (eg: “risen”) as an experience that what the believer has shared with Christ. Yet the cross of Christ was the place at which the victory was obtained. It was the cross upon which the emphasis was laid and not the physical method or operation of baptism itself.
Col. 2:9-15 ~ ” 9-For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. 10-And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power: 11-In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: 12-Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. 13-And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; 14-Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; 15-And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.”
The operation of salvation was completed upon the cross by the substitutional atonement of Jesus. Apostle Paul encourages the Ephesians:
Ephes. 2:8-9 ~ “8- For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: [it is] the gift of God: 9- Not of works, lest any man should boast.”
Ultimately, every act of God in the process of salvation is by his grace, however, the point of this scripture was to indicate that there was no external “work”, alluding to the ceremonial forms of righteousness found within the OT, that could save one from their sins. As God single-handedly established his covenant with Abraham from the beginning, (Gen. 15:17) God was reminding us that the covenant that he was establishing could not be bridged by the actions, acts and ceremonial purifications of man.(Heb. 10:4) As the writer of Hebrews states, even the God prescribed acts and ceremonies contained within the OT could not keep man clean and purified from sin. Those things had no ability to justify man before God in light of the sacrificial atonement of Jesus on the Cross. In other words, this is a declaration that God rejects anything and anyone that considers that they can and have “done something” to provide salvation for themselves.
Rom. 5:1-2 ~ “1-Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: 2- By whom also we have access by
faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”
To conclude this section, Paul is highly consistent that access to the father is by faith in Jesus and his finished work on the cross. It is Jesus Christ that has performed the work of salvation unto the glory of God the Father. In Romans Paul offers a clear declaration that salvation is gained by faith in Jesus with no mention of a requirement of a ceremonial baptism:
Romans 10:8-11~ “8-But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, [even] in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach;9- That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. 10- For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 11- For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.”
It is scripturally sound to conclude that the source of salvation is Jesus atoning work on the cross and that the method of salvation is the exercise of faith in him and what he has done. This produces a change of heart which indicates and inward washing or cleansing whereby man is able to stand before God justified and at peace. Baptism is important as we will affirm in section V, however when scripture is properly applied we find that there is no practice, including baptism, that should be used to add to the work of Christ on the cross.
IV: When Did The New Testament Church Begin?
I will provide a brief summary in this area as this subject is tangential to our discussion but yet important enough that it should be included. The reason to include it stems from the fact that many associate Acts 2 and the subsequent baptism and preaching of Peter (Acts 2:38) with the institution or establishment of the NT church. The assumption is that the church did not exist and its initial 120 adherents were not saved until Acts 2 (with the baptism of the Holy Ghost) and the subsequent physical baptism “for” remissions of sins.
As I have stated in this writing, the NT church was predicated on the sacrificial work of atonement of Jesus on the cross. On that cross Jesus said, “It is finished” (Corn. Gk: Tetelestai) This phrase is summed up in the Matthew Henry Concise commentary in the following manner among others:
- It is finished, that is, all the types and prophecies of the Old Testament, which pointed at the sufferings of the Messiah, were accomplished and answered. He speaks as if, now that they had given him the vinegar, he could not bethink himself of any word in the Old Testament that was to be fulfilled between him and his death but it had its accomplishment; such as, his being sold for thirty pieces of silver, his hands and feet being pierced, his garments divided, etc.; and now that this is done. It is finished.
- It is finished, that is, the ceremonial law is abolished, and a period put to the obligation of it. The substance is now come, and all the shadows are done away. Just now the veil is rent, the wall of partition is taken down, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances, Eph. 2:14, 15. The Mosaic economy is dissolved, to make way for a better hope.
- It is finished, that is, the work of man’s redemption and salvation is now completed, at least the hardest part of the undertaking is over; a full satisfaction is made to the justice of God, a fatal blow given to the power of Satan, a fountain of grace opened that shall ever flow, a foundation of peace and happiness laid that shall never fail. Christ had now gone through with his work, and finished it, ch. 17:4. For, as for God, his work is perfect; when I begin, saith he, I will also make an end. And, as in the purchase, so in the application of the redemption, he that has begun a good work will perform it; the mystery of God shall be finished.
The NT church had to have begun when the Old Covenant was fulfilled of “finished”. This is the point and place when Jesus “finished” his work. That work as recorded was complete on the cross. It was the thief that was the first recipient of that finished work without ever having experienced any external baptism. (Lk. 23:43) All that was necessary from the dawn of the NT church was repentance or change of heart and the exercise of faith in the work of Christ.
If the thief was the first who entered into eternity through the NT church by faith in Jesus, then we know that the entity existed at that moment. In addition anyone obedient to the call of Jesus from that point on would certainly be exercising faith, not to be saved, but because they were or are saved and subject to the Lordship of Christ and obedient to his direction. Therefore, we have a church that does not begin at Pentecost, but that actually begins on the cross with the shed blood of Jesus and his atoning death for sin.
Acts 2 is too late for the spiritual church or the true body of Christ to begin. Therefore, Acts 2 is the first display of power that the new church experiences according to the promise of the one who has instituted the church. When the church met in Acts 2, those that were there were already saved and free from the penalty of their sins, through the faith that they had exercised in their risen savior Jesus Christ.
Having this understanding clears up much confusion. We do not observe any of the 120 receiving baptism on the day of Pentecost. The fact is that they, the 120, were not the object of Peter’s preaching. If that were the case then there would be noone left to baptize the 3,000 unless one believes that after being baptized that the 120 then began to baptize the 3,000 new converts. That position is intellectually unsatisfying and scripturally lacking as none of those actions or supported by or even hinted to anywhere within NT scripture.
V: Why Was Baptism Associated With Conversion In The New Testament?
This question is one that continues to come up no matter what else is said on the topic. Why did Peter baptize? Why was Cornelius baptized ? Why was the eunuch baptized? And so on. There are various reasons that could be offered but the primary reason baptism was done was because it was a command of Jesus (Mt. 28:19). This cannot be understated as the commands of Jesus should be adhered to at all costs and by all means whenever possible. Within the NT however, we observe Peter calling for baptism (Acts 2:38), while Paul saying that he was not sent to baptize but to preach the gospel. (1 Cor. 1:17) This seems no less than a conflict in missions. So what are we to make of this?
First, there is Peter’s conversion experience. In Lk. 22:32 Jesus instructs that he was to “strengthen thy brethern” after he was converted or changed. Peter goes on to betray Jesus and ends up in a very depressed condition. In fact when we find him in John 21:7 he is naked, fishing in a boat. This indicates that he is under certain and severe mental distress and spiritual agony. Yet, when he is restored, he goes on to direct the NT church in its first 6 acts in ministry. At no point was there a physical baptism associated with his “conversion” or change, but he yet clearly calls for those who believe in Jesus and his atoning work to experience and receive baptism.
Secondly, there is Paul’s ministry. Remember, Paul records that he was a chief or leading Pharisee, zealous after the law trying his best to rid the world of the new heresy of Christians (Phil. 3:4-6). During his ministry, after his conversion (after which he himself was baptized), he comes across “certain disciples” in Acts 19 and asks if they have received the promise of the Holy Ghost. They go on to tell him that they were baptized under the baptism of John (a baptism for the remission of sins) and had not heard about any future promise of the Holy Ghost. Remember, I previously stated that the baptism of John was not a spiritual baptism, but an external washing based on an external covenant relationship. Paul then preached to them about the glory of God in Jesus Christ (the internal and new covenant), rebaptizes them, and lays hands on them. In response they begin to speak with tongues and prophesy (the Kingdom of God has come) like the 120 had done in Acts 2 and in other sections of the book of Acts. As stated above, Paul later affirms however, that he is yet not sent to baptize, (1 Cor. 1:17) but clearly does so in Acts 19.
What are we to make of these seeming acts of baptism associated with conversion?
I believe that I have presented ample evidence to debunk the argument that the baptism observed throughout NT scripture AFTER Jesus died and was resurrected, had anything to do with the remission of sins. I believe that I have established that the NT baptism was associated with a command of Jesus and the association with the NT church. I believe that I have also established that the cleansing agent of the should of the believer, was not a baptismal pool, but the word of God whereby he washes and sanctifies the church on a consistent and continual basis. So, what is the significance of NT baptism? This association must be examined.
There are two things to note:
1- As stated, it is clear that the baptism of the New Testament believer was to publically symbolize and affirm the individual committment to the NT church through identification with Jesus’s death, burial, and resurrection. Both Paul and Peter were clear on these declarations and do not confuse the issue of salvation with a past or prior OT ceremony. To be clear ceremonialism was not condemned, it was merely understood in the proper context.
2- Since we identify that both Peter and Paul were steeped in the understanding of Jewish history, scripture and tradition, it becomes more easy to understand why both of them would associate salvation to ceremonial washings and purifications or as a sign of inward cleansing. Both Apostles seemed to have understood that the Kingdom Of God had created the “Priesthood of believers” (1 Pet. 2:9). This is important because the Law was clear that admission of the priest into the “camp” came after a ceremonial purification and specifically after the scapegoat had been set free on the Day of Atonement:
Leviticus 16:26 ~ “And he that let go the goat for the scapegoat shall wash his clothes, and bathe his flesh in water, and afterward come into the camp.”
This is currently celebrated as part of a Jewish celebration called Yom Kippur. If we interpret the ceremonialism specified in the OT as types and shadows, that are fulfilled in Jesus and the NT church, it is clear to see that Jesus was not only the lamb slain as scripture has recorded, but also the lamb upon which our sins have been laid (Is. 53:6), and therefore ultimately the scapegoat for us. Both Peter and Paul being Jews, would have had perfect understanding in this ritualism and type. The requirement of baptism would be something that would make sense in this context especially since both Apostles taught that the kingdom of God had come, that the believers were now the priesthood in Jesus, and that all sins had been placed upon Jesus.
2 Cor. 5:21: ~ “For he hath made him [to be] sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”
If both men also understood the New Testament church to now be equivalent to the “camp” according to scripture, this would satisfy our desire to understand why both men looked for water so readily after certain conversion experiences were affirmed. In addition, Peter’s encouragements to baptism seemed especially pointed toward getting individuals to openly and publically identify themselves with the one that many of the same believers had asked to be crucified only a month and a half prior.
This article has traced the roots of regenerative baptism back to its ancient and modern understanding. The admonition should be clear:
Nothing should be added to the cross to satisfy the grace and extension of God in salvation. It is solely the cross of Christ that saves and not a pool of baptism no matter what formula is used. Only the blood of Christ can wash away sins and that is done through and by faith in the substitutionary atonement of Jesus on the cross. The restorationist movement had a good desire to get back to the things that mattered and glorify God through his word, but unfortunately, in doing so, they forged something through a literal and stringent interpretation that the Apostles warned against. This movement has inadvertently created another gospel, whereby salvation is solidified in a pool of water, rather than a figurative pool of blood contained within the preaching of the cross found at Golgotha’s hill. For them the water is given a power to save. This is something that no Apostle or otherwise taught that would exist. If it is our intent to truly go back to bible belief, then I believe that we should go back to the application of biblical principles and understanding what the church actually knew, taught and were familiar with.
Heb. 6:1-3 ~ “1Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, 2Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. 3And this will we do, if God permit.”
What can wash away my sin?-NOTHING but the blood of Jesus!