Soteriology 010
John 3:5 • Dr. Andy Woods • March 23, 2016 • Soteriology


Andy Woods

Soteriology 10, John 3:5

March 23, 2016

It’s good to see everybody as always.  It’s always a fun time of the year, getting ready for Good Friday or some people think Jesus was crucified on Wednesday, so you can celebrate Good Wednesday, I’m going to celebrate Good Friday.  But we all agree He came out of the grave on Sunday, right.  So I look forward to that this weekend and the hope it gives us.

We’re picking up again our study of salvation.  We didn’t meet last week because of the Chafer Conference so kind of dialing back a couple of weeks ago you might remember that we were talking about the one condition of salvation.  Anybody remember what that was?  Belief, or faith.  And we’ve been working through… and the reason we’re going through this slow is there’s a lot of controversy about this in the body of Christ today.   The Bible, about 200 times says we’re saved by faith by itself.  So that’s the clear teaching of Scripture, the bulk of the Scripture goes in that direction.

But there are a handful of verses that seem to teach something different and what we’re learning to do in this unit called Belief, God’s One Condition of Salvation, is harmonize the isolated verses with the clearer ones so we don’t lose the clarity of the gospel.  So some people camp on the word “repent,” and we went through that and I tried to show you that repent is really, if you understand it correctly, is a synonym for believe because repent means change of mind.  And then other people camp on the concept of Lordship, you have to make Jesus Lord of every area of your life.  That’s called Lordship salvation, and we spent a lot of  time there, and I tried to show you that Lordship really has more to do with your growth in Christ, what we call progressive sanctification than how you initially get saved.  So we spent about three weeks on that.

We talked about receive and accept Christ; are those terms we use with the unsaved?  And  yes, sometimes the Bible uses that expression, as in John 1:12, but even in that verse you’ll see that receive or accept is a synonym for believe.  [John 1:12, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.”]  And then other verses say believe and work, and I tried to show you a couple of weeks ago that works come when?  Not before salvation but after.

So let’s move on to our next set of problem passages.  There is a collection of passages that make it look at first glance as if someone has to be baptized to get to heaven.  And it’s shocking how many people think this way.  I  was just in Spokane, Washington and somebody kind of cornered me and tried to convince me that if you’re not baptized you’re not going to heaven.  And he used one of the verses that I’ll show you tonight. But at first glance there’s a handful of verses that look like you have to be baptized in order to have a right relationship with God.  So let’s give a little context to these, if we could.

First of all, number 1, there are 200 clear ones, crystal clear, that say you’re saved totally on the basis of faith.  For example, you might know John 3:16, you probably have that memorized, “Whosoever” what? “believes,” there’s not a shred of evidence in that verse that baptism is somehow a requirement to get to heaven.  And if you make baptism a requirement to get to heaven then you just taught salvation by what?  Works!  And that’s the biggest problem with that belief system.  Ephesians 2:8-9 is very clear, we are not saved on the basis of works whatsoever.  [Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; [9] not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”]

And beyond that, as you study the pattern in the Bible what you’ll discover is that baptism, and I’m not minimizing baptism, baptism is important, I’m just saying the Bible is saying it’s not salvific, it’s snot a requirement to get to heaven.   Baptism, every time you see baptism practiced in the New Testament what you’ll discover is baptism always comes after a person has trusted in Christ for salvation.  So let’s just kind of take a look at a handful of verses.

You know the great commission verse, Matthew 28:19, if you have a copy of your Bible you might just want to follow me around here a little bit.  Matthew 28:19, the great commission, Jesus says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations,” and then the next clause says “baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.”  So you’ll notice that baptism follows making someone a disciple.  And this is pretty much the pattern as you go through the Scripture: first people are saved and then secondly they’re baptized.

Take a look at Acts 8:12.  The book of Acts records the salvation of a lot of different people and Acts 8:12 says, “But when they believed Philip preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were being baptized, men and women alike.”  So again  you see the chronology, first they believed Philip’s message and then they were baptized.  Baptism never comes before faith.

If you go over to Acts 10:45-47, this is the conversion of Cornelius, the first Gentile that was won to Christ in the church age, you see the exact same pattern.  It says, “All the circumcised believers who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. [46] For they were hearing them speaking with tongues and exalting God. Then Peter answered,[47] ‘“Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?’” So you see, they received the Spirit of God first on the basis of faith and then they were baptized; it’s always the same order.

Notice Acts 16:14-17, I think this is the conversion of Lydia in Philippi.  It says, “A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul. [15] And when she and her household had been baptized, she urged us, saying, ‘If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house and stay.’”  But you’ll notice that the Lord opened her heart first to receive the message, presumably by faith, and then she was baptized.  It’s the same chronology.

Going to the end of the passage, Acts 16:30-33, this is the conversion of the Philippian jailor, and after he brought them out, he said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’  It says, “and after he brought them out, he said,’ ‘ Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’  [31] They said,” what? “‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.’”   And then it says, “And they spoke the word of the Lord to him together with all who were in his house.  [33] And he took them that very hour of the night and washed their wounds, and immediately he was baptized, he and all his household.  So again the Philippian jailor believes and then baptism follows.

And one more just for good measure, Acts 18:8, you’ll see Paul actually practicing baptism. It says, “Crispus, the leader of the synagogue, believed in the Lord with all his household, and many of the Corinthians when they heard were believing and being baptized.”  So you see how baptism is always following believing.  So that’s the natural order of things.

And really the Achilles’ heel, one of the verses that’s really the Achilles’ heel of people that believe you have to be baptized to get to heaven is the thief on the cross.  Remember Jesus was crucified between the two thieves one thief was cursing Christ to the very end of his life and one thief was penitent or repentant.  And you remember what Jesus said to that latter thief, “Today you will be with me” in what? “Paradise.”   Luke 23:43.

Now did the thief on the cross get baptized?  Obviously not, you don’t really have an option to get baptized when you’re nailed to a cross, right?  So he didn’t have time to go down and get the nails out of his hands and feet and get baptized.  Jesus didn’t say quick, throw water on this guy before he dies so he can go to heaven.  Obviously he was saved totally on the basis of God’s grace and his trust in God’s promises, and baptism was something that he never did and yet Jesus said to him, “Today you will be with me in Paradise.”  So if a person receives Christ by faith and then they’re hit by a car or die of a heart attack or something and they never have an opportunity to get baptized we do not believe that such a person went to hell any more than we believe the people on the cross went to hell.

And what you’ll discover is Paul makes a lot of very strange statements, statements that don’t make any sense if somehow baptism contributed to our justification.  Take a look at what he says over in 1 Corinthians 1:14-17, as he’s speaking there to the Corinthians.  Paul says, “I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius,” now would Paul say something like that if baptism was part of our salvation?  The statement doesn’t make any sense; why would he say I thank God that I baptized none of you except for a couple of guys.  And the reason Paul is talking like this is people are idolizing Paul and he’s saying why are you idolizing me, I just baptized a few of you.  He says, “I thank God that I baptized” just a couple of you.  And then he says in verse 15, “so that no one would say you were baptized in my name. [16] Now I did baptize also the household of Stephanas;” and then you’ll notice Paul has kind of a senior moment here, have you ever had a senior moment where you can’t remember exactly things clearly, he says in verse 15, “Now I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized any other.”  I don’t even remember who I baptized.  And then in verse 17 he says, “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void.”

Now those are very, very strange statements if baptism contributed something to our justification before God.  So then, what is baptism?  Baptism, speaking of water baptism now, is simply an outward symbol of an inward reality.  Baptism does not save anybody, it is a sign of obedience that we submit to as Christians to testify to the public that we belong to Jesus Christ now by way of faith.

So I like to analogize baptism to a wedding ring.  Here’s my wedding ring here, what does this ring symbolize?  Well, it symbolizes my union with my wife, my marriage.  This wedding ring does not make me married; it’s a symbol that I am married.  And in fact, I’ve lost my wedding ring before, misplaced it.  Has that ever happen to anybody?  When I misplace my wedding ring I don’t say oh my gosh, I’m not married any more.  My wife may want that but we’re still married regardless of whether I have my wedding ring or lost my wedding ring or can find my wedding ring.  So the wedding ring doesn’t make me married at all.  What’s the wedding ring there for?  It’s just symbolizes the fact that I am married.  So that’s what baptism is.

Baptism is a sign of obedience that we submit to, to symbolize to the public that we officially belong to Jesus Christ.  That’s all baptism is, but it has absolutely no saving power at all.  If it did the Bible would be teaching salvation by works and it would be contradicting the 200 crystal clear passage that say belief is the only condition of salvation.

So that is, I think, the correct teaching on baptism.  Now having said that, when you get into this discussion with people what you’ll discover is that there are a few verses that if you look at them at first glance it looks like you’ve got to be baptized to get to heaven.  So take a look at Mark 16 for a minute, the very end of Mark’s Gospel.  Mark 16:15-16, and here’s what it says.  Jesus is speaking, “And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.  He who has believed” watch this, “and has been baptized shall be saved;” wow, “but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.”  So people that believe you have to be baptized to get to heaven love to quote this verse because you read it and it says you’ve got to do two things to get to be saved, you’ve got to believe and be baptized.

So how would we harmonize a verse like this with the 200 clear ones that teach salvation by faith alone.  Well, one thing to think about is you’ll notice in Mark 16, if you’re reading out of the New American Standard Bible, for example, there’s a little bracket off to the side usually, or sometimes it shows up in your study Bible notes and it will says something to this extent.  It will say “these verses do not appear in the most trustworthy manuscripts of the New Testament.”  And people look at this and say oh my gosh, what kind of Bible is this that we believe in, I mean, is the Bible God’s Word or not?  And what do we do with these brackets that say these verses are not found in the most trustworthy manuscripts?   When you study the woman caught in adultery in John 8 you’ll see the same thing there, it says this story is not found in the most trustworthy manuscripts.

So let me kind of open the door to this a little bit and explain to you what is happening here.  We do not have the original New Testament manuscripts. We don’t have an original Gospel of Mark.  We don’t have an original Gospel of Matthew, or John, or any other New Testament book.  What we have are copies of the originals.  Now don’t let that bother you because when you think about it, God did us a great service by not allowing us to retain the originals. What do people do when they think they find a splinter of the cross or something?  They start to worship it, they become idolaters.  And that may be the reason why God, in His providence did not allow us to retain the original manuscripts.

And beyond that, if you have the original manuscript and that manuscript is damaged the whole cause of Christ is destroyed.  See?  Or if it’s stolen the whole cause of Christ is destroyed.  So God, in His sovereignty, did not allow us to retain the original manuscripts.  What we have are copies of the original manuscripts.  And Christianity, from its origin, has always been a missionary evangelistic faith.  So the goal was to share the message with as many people as we can.  And so what we do have are manuscripts of the originals AND compared to any other work of antiquity we come out way ahead; we come out smelling like a rose because we have more copies of the original manuscripts than any other work of antiquity.  And beyond that, the distance of time between the first copy that we have and when the original manuscript was supposedly written is shorter in time compared to any other work of antiquity.   For example, we have something called John Rylands Papyrus, which is a little fragment of John 18 and it is closer in time to the original than any other work of antiquity that we have.  So if you’re going to disparage Christianity on the basis of the fact that we don’t have the original manuscripts you have to throw out every other work of antiquity, whether it be Greek poets, Greek writers, because we have more copies of our original and the distance between the earliest copy we have and the original is shorter in comparison to all other works of antiquity.

So that’s what we do have and we come out smelling like a rose on these things.  However, these manuscripts that we do have, they generally agree with each other, about 99% of the time; they agree with each other on all significant doctrinal or theological issues.  However, about 1% of the time, perhaps even less, the manuscripts that we do have contradict each other, in a very small percentage.  So for example, some of the manuscripts would include the statement that I just read from, Mark 16 that I have here on the screen; some would not. [Mark 16:15-16 (NASB) “And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.”]

The issue is when you get into these contradictions and you’re trying to piece together what the original said which theory do you follow?  And this gets into a very vast area of New Testament scholarship called text criticism.  And there are basically two different views.  Some people say when there’s a contradiction between manuscripts you go with the earlier manuscripts.  And that is the theory of the New American Standard Bible and that’s why if you’re reading out of the New American Standard Bible it says there, “this is not found in the most trustworthy manuscripts” and they’re talking about the earliest manuscripts.  So the New American Standard Bible basically says the earlier manuscripts are the better.

If you’re reading out of the King James Bible, or the New King James Bible what you’ll notice is those brackets do not appear in those King James or New King James Scriptures because they are operating off of a totally different theory of textual criticism; they’re not saying the earlier is the better, they go with what’s called the majority.  In other words, if the Mark 16 story shows up in the majority of manuscripts then that’s what we go with because they basically have trust in the early Christian community; the early Christian community wouldn’t have disseminated something so massively and voluminously if the story had not been authentic.  So all of this to say that if you’re reading out of the NASB you see these funny brackets there, this is not found in the earlier manuscripts.  If you’re reading out of the King James Bible it doesn’t have that little bracket there and you can’t really understand what’s happening unless you know a little tiny bit about what I just described, text criticism.

So all of that to say you should not build a major doctrinal point off something that’s disputed or challenged as inauthentic.  So the New American Standard Bible is saying earlier is better and Mark 16:15-16 doesn’t even show up in some of the earlier manuscripts.  So why would I go to this passage here that’s disputed and build a major doctrinal point off that passage?  That’s the only point I’m trying to make here. That’s one way of handling Mark 16:15-16.

Now having said that, take a look at this verse a little bit more carefully.  Let’s assume that this is an authentic statement, which is a viable point; the King James Bible believes this is an authentic statement.  Notice what it says: “And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.  [16] He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved;” but look at the last clause there, “but he who has” what? “disbelieved shall be condemned.”  According to that last clause there, assuming it’s authentic, what is the one thing that condemns you?  Not lack of baptism but unbelief, lack of faith.  And that’s something that needs to be pointed out when people use this to teach you’ve got to be baptized to get to heaven.

I mean, the first argument to use in response to people using this verse is number 1, this is a disputed passage, so don’t build your doctrinal system off of a disputed passage.  And the second thing to point out is yes, it does say you have to believe and be baptized to be saved but it’s also very clear that the only thing that condemns you is disbelief. So what I think this passage is saying is God wants both, for us to be saved, not just justified but what? Progressively sanctified.  God wants both, that’s the normal ordering of things.  However, the only thing that will send you into hell is not a lack of baptism but a lack of what?  A lack of faith.  So that’s just a little background on this and you kind of have to think about a little ahead of time or people will throw it at you and it will kind of catch you off guard.  Hopefully that made some sense.

Let me take you to another one.  Let’s go to John 3:5, this is another passage that people use to say that you’ve got to be baptized to get to heaven.  It’s the conversation that Jesus had with Nicodemus.  John 3:5, “Jesus answered,” he’s speaking to Nicodemus, I call this chapter Nick at night because he’s speaking to Nicodemus at night.  “Jesus answered, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”  So people say well, there it is right there, you’ve got to be born of water (water baptized) and you also have to have the Holy Spirit inside of you or you’re not going to heaven.

Now let try to explain why I don’t think that’s the right interpretation of this passage.  And there are many other interpretations of this that are more preferable to interpreting water as water baptism.  One additional or another more possible interpretation is that the “born of water” is in reference to physical birth because we’re told that, I think it’s called the amniotic sac surrounds the unborn child when a woman is… we’ve got several ladies in here that have more practice at this than I do, but when a child is about to come forth that sac breaks and water comes forth.  So Jesus could be using this expression “water” to refer to physical birth.  And then of course, born of the Spirit is spiritual birth.

So Jesus, I think, is not saying you’ve got to be water baptized, and you’ve got to be a believer to get to heaven, He’s saying the only way to get to heaven is you’ve got to be physically born into the world and spiritually born into the world. So “water” there is a reference to physical birth, it’s the old expression if you’re born once you’ll die twice; if you’re born twice you’ll die once.   In other words, if you’re born once physically, by water, but you never reach a point in your life where you trust Christ as Savior, then you will die twice.  Not only will you physically die but your soul will go into what John calls in the book of Revelation the second death.  You’ll find a reference to second death in Revelation 20:11-15, it’s the lake of fire.

[Revelation 20:11-15, “Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. [12] And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. [13] And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. [14] Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. [25] And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”]

Conversely, if a person is born twice, I’m born physically into the world and then I reach a point where I actually trust Christ as my Savior and I’m born spiritually, then the very worst thing that can happen to me is I’ll die just one time, and I might not even have to die once if we’re the rapture generation.  But the very worst thing that can happen to me is I’ll physically die but my soul has no place in the lake of fire.  And that’s a far more preferable interpretation than interpreting water as the waters of baptism.

Another possible interpretation of this passage is that the water is a symbol of the what?  The Holy Spirit.  If you hold your place here in John 3 and go back to the book of Ezekiel for just a minute, this, I believe, is what  Jesus is referring to when He makes a reference there to water.  Ezekiel 36, this is Israel’s conversion in the end times, it says in Ezekiel 36:25, God says, “”Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols.  [25] Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new” what? “spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.  [26] I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.”

That’s Israel’s conversion by spiritual birth in the end times and notice that it’s analogized to God sprinkling them with water.  The water here is metaphorical because it talks about sprinkling them from their uncleanness of their idols.  So when Jesus makes a reference to water and the spirit I believe he’s probably dialing back to Ezekiel 36, and that’s why He says to Nicodemus, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these [simple] things?” [John 3:10]  In other words, Nic, Nic using a short version of his name, you should know exactly what the new birth is because you’re a Pharisee, in fact, you’re the lead Pharisee over the nation of Israel and you should be familiar with Ezekiel 36:25-27.  So water there is simply a metaphor for the spiritual birth.  That’s, again, far more preferable than leaping to the conclusion that water is talking about the waters of baptism.

Another possibility is that the water here could be a reference to the Word of God.  The Word of God frequently is analogized to water in the Bible.   You might take a look at Isaiah 55 for just a minute, Isaiah 55 and notice, if you will, verses 10 and 11.  It says, “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, And do not return there without” what? “watering the earth” see the “water, “and making it bear and sprout, and furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater;  [11] So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.”  So you’ll notice that God is sending out His Word and it always accomplishes the purposes for which God sent it and you’ll notice that the sending out of that Word is analogized to watering the earth.

Notice Ephesians 5 for just a moment, now we are in the New Testament, Ephesians 5 and notice, if you will, verse 26, it’s talking about the husband’s role in marriage, “so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the” what? “word.”  So the Word’s impact on us is analogized many times in the Scripture to being washed with water metaphorically.  So when Jesus says you’ve got to be “born of water and the spirit” another possibility here might be you must hear the Word of God, because “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the” what, “the Word of God,” Romans 10:17.  You must hear the word of God, respond to it by faith and experience the new birth.  There are many, many verses that say we are born again through the living and enduring Word.  You might jot down James 1:18, 1 Peter 1:23.   [James 1:18, “In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures.”  I Peter 1:23, “for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God.”]

A person does not get saved simply by listening to a motivational talk, a humanistic talk.  They get saved by hearing the Word of God and responding to it.  The Word of God in the Scripture is analogized to water; “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God,” Jesus could simply, by using this imagery of water, could be simply saying Nicodemus, you must hear the Word, respond to it by faith, and be born spiritually.  Again, that’s a much more preferable option than leaping to the conclusion that water there is somehow a reference to water baptism.

Let me just give you one more possibility.  If you go back to the very beginning of the Bible, Genesis 1:2, and John frequently does this, he analogizes backwards to original creation. He analogizes spiritual creation to physical creation.  You remember what was present at original creation, when God brought the heavens and the earth into existence?  Look at Genesis 1:2, “The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the” what? “waters.”  What do you have at original creation?   You have, number 1, “Spirit,” number 2, “water.”

Now John/Christ as recorded early on John’s Gospel uses physical creation as a metaphor for spiritual creation all of the time.  So Jesus could be saying  just as at original creation there was water and Spirit, in the same way that when you’re born of the Spirit, born again, born spiritually, there is involved in it, metaphorically, water also and the Spirit.  So he could be making a reference to regeneration and analogizing it to original creation.

So what I’ve just done there is I’ve given you I think four other possibilities for interpreting John 3:5, other than leaping to the conclusion that water somehow is a reference to water baptism.  So it could be referring to physical birth with the breaking of the amniotic sack.  It could be a reference to the Spirit’s work, the water.  The water could be a reference to the Word of God.  Or the water and the Spirit could both be a reference to original creation, sort of as analogy, analogizing original creation to spiritual creation.  So we’ve got a lot of options on the table here.  All of those four options that I just gave are far preferable than saying that water here is water baptism.  But that is another problem passage that you’ll run into.

Let me take you to another one, let’s go over to the book of Acts, chapter 2, verse 38; this is a biggie here.  People use this quite frequently to argue that you’ve got to be water baptized to get to heaven.  This is Peter’s opening sermon on the day of Pentecost.  And notice what Acts 2:38 says:  “Peter said to them, ‘Repent,” now these are the unbelieving Jews he’s preaching to and repent means to what?  Change your mind, which is a synonym for faith, as we’ve studied.  “Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for” now “for” is the Greek preposition (eis), I’ve got it in parenthesis there,  “for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

So people look at this and they say well, there it is, you’ve got to change your mind about Christ and you’ve also got to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.  And if you have not, they interpret baptism there correctly as water baptism because many people at the end of Acts 2 got water baptized, and they say there it is, you’ve got to do two things, you have to change your mind about Christ and you’ve got to be water baptized and if you don’t do both then you’re not going to heaven.

The debate here is what is meant by “for,” that Greek preposition eis.  Let me give you another possible interpretation of this.   “For” could very well easily be interpreted because of, for example, we say in English: the police arrested him for his shoplifting.  “For” there is we arrested him because of his shoplifting.  See that?  If “for” means because of that changes the whole meaning to this verse, doesn’t it?  “Peter said to them, ‘Repent and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ” what’s the proper interpretation, “because of the forgiveness of your sins.”  In other words, you get baptized because your sins have already been forgiven by faith alone in Christ alone.  “For” legitimately can be interpreted  “because of.”

Now just so you don’t think I’m making this up, Matthew 12:41 interprets eis, that Greek preposition translated into English “for” in exactly the same way.  Matthew 12:41 says, “The men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment, and will condemn it because they repented at,” brackets, in the face of, because of, those are translations of eis, same Greek preposition, “because of  the preaching of Jonah; and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.”  So Matthew 12:41 interprets eis as “because of.”  So what I’m trying to say is translating eis as “because of” is a very legitimate rendering of eis.  And if all of that is true, the problem of Acts 2:38 totally disappears.   Acts 2:38 is not saying you’re saved by repentance and baptism.  What it’s saying is you get baptized because your sins have already been forgiven.  Do you see the difference there.

Let me throw something else into the mix.  Go over to Acts 15:11 and I notice that people that use Acts 2:38 to teach you’ve got to be baptized to get to heaven never bring up Acts 15:11.  Peter, in Acts 15:11 is speaking at what we call the Jerusalem Council and he is explaining why these Gentiles are saved and have been saved, because they were saved the same way we Jews were saved at the beginning.  And notice how Peter talks about the original salvation of the Jews, no doubt going back to Acts 2.  He says, “But we believe that we” that’s us Jews, “are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are.”

So the whole debate in Acts 15 is do these Gentiles need to go under the Law of Moses to join the church and Peter says no, you don’t have to go under the Law of Moses to join the church because these Gentiles,” and remember on Paul’s first missionary journey, Acts 13 and 14 Gentiles started getting saved like crazy.  The first Gentile saved in the church was Cornelius, Acts 10, and then after that the church, particularly on the first missionary journey starts to become overwhelmingly Gentile.  Peter says, and that’s why they’re having this meeting in Acts 15, what are we going to do with all these non-Jews that are coming into the church?  Do we make them go under the Law of Moses, like as happened in the prior dispensation?  In the Old Testament if you wanted to really walk with God and you were a Gentile believer, you became what’s called a proselyte, and you volitionally submitted yourself to the Law of Moses, to grow in the knowledge of Yahweh.

One of the most famous proselytes in the Bible is Ruth, in the book of Ruth.  Ruth, the Moabitess, and remember what she said to her mother-in-law, Naomi?  “Your God will be my God, your people will be my people.  [Ruth 1:16, “But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God.”]  So she’s an example of a Gentile that to grow in the knowledge of God she became a proselyte to the Law of Moses.

And so what you have going on in Acts 13 and 14 is all these Gentiles are getting saved like crazy, the leadership of the church at this time was still Jewish, is trying to figure out well gosh, do we make them submit to the Law of Moses, like happened in the prior age, or not.  Their answer was no.  And Peter, as he’s explaining his point here in Acts 15 says these Gentiles were saved just like we Jews were saved from the beginning.  Now in the process he explained how he, as a Jew, and all of these Jews that were saved on the day of Pentecost, how were they saved in the beginning?  Notice what it says, “saved through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Do you see baptism in here at all?  NO!  So he’s making a statement that we were saved, not by baptism, we were saved by faith alone; these Gentiles are saved the exact same way, so therefore we’re not going to make them submit to the Law of Moses to grow in the knowledge of Christ the way Gentiles submitted to the Law of Moses in Old Testament times.

So when you put Acts 15:11 together with understanding that “for” there means because of, suddenly, the argument, you suddenly have to be baptized to get to heaven on the basis of Acts 2:38 disappears.  And if you’re going to interpret this in a different way you’re interpreting the Bible in a way that contradicts all of the other 200 clear passages.

The Philippian jailor, “What must I do to be saved?”  Acts 16:30-31.  What was the answer?  Believe, he never said believe and be baptized.  But if you want Acts 2:38 to say you’ve got to believe, repent and be baptized then suddenly Acts 2:38 contradicts Acts 16:30-31.  [Acts 2:38, “Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’”]  See I choose to interpret a problem passage like this in a way that’s in harmony or consistently with the 200 clear passages.  And if you go another route on this suddenly you’ve got a contradiction in the Bible and we know that God cannot contradict Himself; His Word will not contradict itself.

Let me take you to another passage, let’s go to Colossians 2:11-12, this is yet another passage that people use to argue that you’ve got to be baptized to get to heaven.  Colossians 2:11-12 says this: “and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; [12] having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.”

Jot down Romans 6:3-4, which is a parallel passage, it says the exact same thing.  By parallel passage what I mean is two passages from different parts of the Bible that are basically saying the same thing.  And people look at Romans 6:3-4 and they look at Colossians 2:11-12 and they see the word “faith” in there and they see the word “baptism” in there, and they try to develop this theology that it’s a two-part operation to get to God.  Not only do I believe in Him but I’ve got to be baptized.  [Romans 6:3, “Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? [4] Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.”]

Now listen to me very carefully.  Every time you see baptism in the Bible it is not always speaking of water baptism.  We, when we use the word “baptism” typically think of water baptism; that’s what comes up into our minds.  But that is not the way the New Testament is written.  There are different kinds of baptism.  The short answer to the misuse of Colossians 2:11-12 and Romans 6:3-4 is that these verses are not talking about water baptism but what?  Spirit baptism.  Now you say what is Spirit baptism?  Take your Bible and go to 1 Corinthians 12:13. 1 Corinthians 12:13 is probably the best verse in the entire New Testament that talks about something that has already happened to you called Spirit baptism.

1 Corinthians 12:13 says this, “For by one Spirit we were” what? “all” not some of us, all of us, “we were all baptized” past tense, see that, it already happened to us, “we were all baptized into one body,” that would be the body of Christ, the church, “whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.”  The word “baptism, baptizmo, in the New Testament, the word simply means identification.   The moment  you trusted Christ is the moment the Holy Spirit took you and connected you to the body of Christ.  It is not something you have to go out and get.

I have many, many students that believe that they need to go out and get a second work of grace and get baptized in the Spirit.  The Pentecostal theology is very big on this idea that you get some kind of extra blessing to those who ask for it and they call it a baptism of the Holy Spirit.  That is not what baptism of the Holy Spirit is.  Baptism of the Holy Spirit is something that is a one-time event that already happened to you at the point of personal faith in Christ.  You have already been baptized or baptizmo means identification, you have already been identified with the body of Christ.

Now, you get saved, you trust Christ, you don’t even know what church you’re going to go to yet. As far as you’re concerned you’re a Metho-Catho-Bapterian or a Bapitcostal Fundematic or whatever you are, you don’t even know where you’re going to church yet but the Holy Spirit, at the point of faith, has already taken you and connected you or identified you to the body of Christ. He has already determined what role you’re going to play in the body of Christ, because Paul, in this chapter talks about the body of Christ as an analogy to body parts.  Some are hands, some are feet, some are mouths, and so forth.  The Holy Spirit has already made that determination the moment you trusted in Christ.

The baptism of the Spirit is not something you have to go out and get.  You’ll notice it’s all in the past tense here.  It is something that already happened to you.  So water baptism, which is a sign of obedience, not salvation, symbolizes that.  It’s the wedding ring analogy, it’s an outward symbol of an inward reality.  1 Corinthians 12:13 is not talking about water baptism at all.  Colossians 2:11-12 is not talking about water baptism at all.  Romans 6:3-4 is not talking about water baptism at all.  Many times in the New Testament baptism does mean water baptism but not always.

The word “baptism” is not a technical word; a technical word means a word that means the same thing everywhere it’s used.  That is not the way baptism is used in the New Testament.  It has different meanings depending on what?  The context that you’re dealing with.  The three rules of real estate are location, location, location.  The three rules of Bible study are what?  Context, context, context.  If I’m over in Acts 2 it’s talking about water baptism.  If I’m in Colossians 2 or Romans 6 it’s not talking about water baptism at all, it’s talking about Spirit baptism.  So the short answer is this passage has zero to do with water baptism.  It’s talking about something that has already happened to you.

Let me take you to a final, and of course this happens to me a lot, I do a  lot of talking and then the verse that I was supposed to have up there as I was talking shows up later in my slides because I forgot to push the forward button, but there’s 1 Corinthians 12:13, “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.”  It’s not talking about water baptism at all, its Spirit baptism.  So you interpret Colossians 2 and Romans 6 through the lens of 1 Corinthians 12:13 and you’ll get the proper meaning and  you won’t be confused by people who misuse verses like this, to say you’ve got to be baptized to get to heaven, water baptized to get to heaven.  To get to heaven you must be Spirit baptized; you do not have to be water baptized to get to heaven.  If you have never had a chance to be water baptized, as long as you’re Spirit baptized, which happens by faith one time, at the point of salvation and initial faith in Christ, then you’re going to heaven.

And one more that people use to argue that you’ve got to be baptized to get to heaven, now when I was in Spokane this is the verse the fellow used on me.  He didn’t know that I teach soteriology in college, so I was ready for him. But this is very common, for people to use this.  Go over to 1 Peter 3:20-21.  Now you look at this, at first glance it’s like wow, that does look like you’ve got to be water baptized to get to heaven.  So notice what it says: “who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah,” now Peter talks more about the flood than any other apostle.  Does anybody know why that’s true?   Because Peter was a fisherman, he likes water and God used these people that wrote the New Testament and the Old Testament, He used their personalities.  He didn’t override who they were because after all God is the author of their personalities and their life circumstances also. So that’s why we hold to dual authorship of Scripture, there the Spirit of God came upon these individuals and propelled them along, using their unique literary perspectives and gifts and life’s circumstances.

Luke  talks more about the prenatal activities of Jesus and John the Baptist than any other Gospel writer.  Why is that so?  Because Luke was a physician.  As a matter of fact, Luke tells you things that’s like why is he telling me this?  In Acts 1 Luke says Judas committed suicide and his body fell off a cliff and as his body was plummeting down this cliff the rocks tore open his corpse and his intestines gushed out.  And I read that and I say that’s more information than I really want. But to Luke that kind of thing is very interesting because Luke is a physician.

Matthew talks more about monetary issues, finances, “talents” for example, which are not abilities but monetary denominations, than any other Gospel writer.  In fact, Matthew is the only Gospel writer that gives you the story about Jesus and Peter going fishing, and then they pull a fish out of the water and there’s a coin in the fish’s mouth.  And Jesus says use that to pay the temple tax.  I say Lord, I wish I could pay my taxes that way, that’s pretty cool.  But only Matthew records that story because Matthew is a tax collector.

So Peter is being used by God to talk about the flood as a fisherman, and so that’s why he talks about the water and Noah and things like that.  “Who once were disobedient when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water. [21] Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”  Now the troubling expression here is baptism that now saves you.  And people isolate that one verse and they say there it is in the Bible, you’ve got to be baptized to get to heaven.

Let me make a couple of brief comments.  First of all, the word “that,” when you interpret the word “that” you have to go to the nearest antecedent, and the nearest antecedent is “water,” the flood water, and “that” and “water” agree with each other in the original Greek in terms of gender.  So “that” refers to water.  Notice this word corresponding, the Greek is antitupon, which means a correspondence or an analogy that Peter is going to draw with the water, the water being the flood water.  So he’s drawing an analogy between the flood waters that the ark was protected through, and water baptism.  And then notice towards the end of the verse this word “appeal,” which means a pledge.

So with that in mind let me give you another option to this verse besides simply interpreting this that you’ve got to be baptized to be saved.  So here’s a better interpretation, I think.  “Noah’s passage” he mentions Noah and the eight saved in the ark, “Noah’s passage through the flood waters allowed him to break with the past world.  The flood waters broke Noah from the wicked generation that was destroyed in the flood and as he and the seven others in the ark passed through the flood waters in the ark they were officially broken from the old world, which was destroyed by God in the great deluge, and they were brought into the new world.  So Noah’s passage through the flood waters allowed him to break with the past world.

In the same way, by correspondence, antitupon, by way of analogy, the believer’s baptism is his public, or her public stand for Jesus Christ, which saves him… now remember anything about the word “save?”   The word doesn’t always mean justification but it can also mean what?  Middle tense salvation, progressive sanctification.  Remember we went through that at the very beginning of the class, not today but ten weeks ago.  I have been saved, I am being saved, I will be saved.  Justification, I’m saved from sin’s penalty at the point of faith; sanctification I am being saved from sin’s power as I grow in Christ, and glorification, I will be saved from sin’s very presence.

When Peter is using the word “saved” here he is not talking about justification but he’s talking about what?  Sanctification.  How do I know that?  Because Peter is writing here to Christians.  In fact, go back, just for a moment, to 1 Peter 1:2, “…by the sanctifying work of the Spirit to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be  yours in the fullest measure.”   He’s talking about people who have already been sprinkled with the blood of Christ.  He’s talking to people who have already received the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Take a look at 1 Peter 3:15; 1 Peter 3:15 says, “but sanctify Christ as Lord” here’s where Lordship relates, not justification but sanctification, “sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense” an apologia “a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you….”  See, sanctification here is not something that happens, “saved” is not something that happens here as an unbeliever transitions to believer, that’s foreign to the context.  This book is written to help believers grow.  So when Peter uses the word “saves,” “baptism that now saves you” he is not making a statement that you have to be baptized to get to heaven.  What he’s saying is baptism is a sign of obedience; it’s an outward symbol of an inward reality and as you obey God’s command to be water baptized you’re not going to heaven but what’s happening to your Christian faith?  It’s maturing; it’s growing.

And you have to have some sophistication with this word “save” and most people when they see the word “save” they think it simply means  you trust Christ and go to heaven.  But that’s foreign to the context and if some of this is new to you I would encourage you to go back and listen to lesson 1 because we carefully went through the three tenses of salvation.  Peter is not using “saved” here in the first tense but he’s using it in the middle tense.

So what, then, is the analogy.  Here we go: Noah’s passage through the flood waters allowed him to break with the past world. In the same way, the believer’s water baptism is his or her public stand for Jesus Christ which contributes, not to his justification, but to his what?  Sanctification.  What happens when you’re water baptized?  It does not get you to heaven, but let me tell you what it does do.  Typically when you’re water baptized it takes place in public, right?  And you invite family and friends to attend that event, we’re not a Baptist church so we don’t have a baptismal here but we do do a public baptism at a Jacuzzi/pool at one of our church members and it’s a public event, a lot of people come, unsaved people come, and they watch the candidate being baptized.

Now what kind of message do you think that sends to your unsaved friends and family?  They say wow, so and so got water baptized, they’re pretty serious about this Jesus thing.  And they start treating  you differently.  Have you noticed that?  If people know that you’re a Christian and they’re in the office telling a dirty joke, if you walk in the room they’ll say something like “Oh, I’m sorry, we didn’t mean to tell that joke in front of you.”  Has that happened to anybody?   They start treating you a little differently because you have made a public stand for Jesus Christ.  And typically you make your public stand for Jesus Christ at your water baptism; that’s why water baptism, although it doesn’t get you to heaven it’s an important step in a person’s development and growth.  And that act plays a role of breaking you with the unsaved world, your former drinking buddies, and carousing buddies, they are no longer asking you to go out and go bar hopping and things like that because they say wow, you’re really serious about this Jesus thing, you got water baptized, you even invited me to your baptism.

So the baptism has contributed, not to your justification but to your progressive sanctification.  See that?  So just as the flood waters broke Noah with the pre-flood world that was destroyed, the believer’s water baptism plays a role in breaking them with their former unsaved lifestyle, which plays a role in contributing to their progressive sanctification.  That is the only point that Peter is making.  He is not saying that baptism is somehow necessary for one’s justification.

And we’re not even going to get into confession tonight.  We’ll have to save that for next time since I went a little over.  So hopefully that helps a little bit with what baptism is and some of the problem passages.  I went over a little bit so we will dismiss folks that need to pick up their children and if anybody has any questions we can open up the floor for questions.