Baptismal Regeneration?

Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
-Acts 2:38

Does Acts 2:38 teach baptismal regeneration?  Is Acts 2:38 the proof-text for the idea that baptism saves you or that you must be baptized to be saved?

The short answer is no.  

Forgiveness of sins, salvation through Christ, and regeneration, is by and through grace alone:
For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift— not from works, so that no one can boast.
-Ephesians 2:8-9

How is a person saved?  By God's grace.  How does a person lay hold of God's grace?  Through faith.  That faith is not something that merits favor, because grace is God's unmerited favor.  

Faith is a like a hand open and reaching out to receive a gift offered.  That hand has done nothing to earn the gift.

In these three verses, Peter speaks about how salvation is through Christ:

God exalted this man to his right hand as ruler and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.

All the prophets testify about him that through his name everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins.

Therefore, let it be known to you, brothers and sisters, that through this man forgiveness of sins is being proclaimed to you.

-Acts  5:31; 10:43; 13:38

Water baptism does not result in the forgiveness of sins, but rather, it is an expression of faith and commitment to Jesus Christ as Lord.

Jesus instructed his disciples to baptize:

Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
-Matthew 28:19-20

Most all Christians have sought to obey Jesus command, in Matthew 28, to baptize and be baptized.  One way or another, most Christian groups have developed traditions about when, who, and how people are to be baptized in water.

Some Christian groups have abstained from water baptism: Two examples are The Quakers or Friends, and The Salvation Army; who both place an emphasis on Holy Spirit baptism.

Lanny T. Tanton, in, “The Gospel and Water Baptism: A Study of Acts 2:38", wrote:

The Society of Friends has generally taught that outward rites are not necessary to the spiritually advanced. This includes the ordinances of baptism and the Lord's Supper. The vast majority of people, however, strongly disagree. Aside from our Lord's command, most professing believers feel the need for tangible, observable helps to express their faith.

The Quaker teaching sprang from an over-reaction to the ritualistic formalism of the 'Establishment' (Church of England) in the 1600's.  George Fox and his followers felt that they were more advanced spiritually than their Protestant and Roman Catholic neighbors, and so did not need "the sacraments".

The Salvation Army

This great evangelistic movement, patterned after a military organization, has done great charitable work and won many converts.  Early Salvationists did practice the ordinances of water baptism and communion but because they were accused of becoming another denomination and also because they reacted to the extreme denominational divisions of the nineteenth century, General William Booth decided in 1882 that the practice of the ordinances should be discontinued.

Before we look at interpreting Peter's words in Acts 2:38, I want to point out that it is assumed by most people that Peter is talking about water baptism.  It is assumed that when Peter says, "be baptized", he means water baptism.  But he does not say water baptism.

The context of Acts chapter 2 is Holy Spirit baptism.  Some or perhaps most of us assume Acts is short for "Acts of The Apostles", but isn't the book really Luke's account of "The Acts of The Holy Spirit"?  

What leads up to and is the context for Acts 2:38 is Holy Spirit baptism:

for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit in a few days."

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Then they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them.

And it will be in the last days, says God,

that I will pour out my Spirit on all people;

then your sons and your daughters will prophesy,

your young men will see visions,

and your old men will dream dreams.

I will even pour out my Spirit

on my servants in those days, both men and women

and they will prophesy.

Therefore, since he has been exalted to the right hand of God and has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit, he has poured out what you both see and hear. 

Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

-Acts 1:5, 8; 2:4, 1-18, 33, 38

Is water mentioned in Acts 1 and 2?  Yes, but only to tell readers that he (Luke) is about to describe or give accounts of Spirit Baptism:

for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit in a few days.”
-Acts 1:5

After this one time in chapter one, as a contrast to what Luke is about to describe, the word 'water' does not occur again until the baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch in chapter 8.  All total, the word water is used 6 times in Acts, describing a grand total of 2 water baptismal instances (8:36-39 and 10:47).  In chapter 11 (verses 15 to18), Gentiles were baptized by the Holy Spirit after they heard the message of salvation.  And Paul's baptism is recorded in 9:18, without the mention of water.

Being baptized with water and baptized with the Holy Spirit are both something experienced. Peter lays baptism with the Holy Spirt next to water baptism sided by side. Today, some Christians debate about how to baptize with water, when to do it, and what it means. But being baptized with the Holy Spirit is given short shrift. Both baptisms are experiences. And one has to be far more important and significant than the other, because being baptized by the Holy Spirit is an experience directly from God.

Some Christians talk and ask about the how, when, and what of water baptism; but deemphasize Holy Spirit baptism.  John, Jesus, Peter, and Luke emphasized Holy Spirit baptism; but many Christians today do not.  

Back to Acts chapter 2

You might have always assumed, maybe because you have always been taught or preached to, that there was this giant water baptism of the thousands of people on the day of Pentecost.  Did they all go to down to the Jordan river, or was there water in Jerusalem to immerse thousands of people?  We are not told.  Logistically, how did thousands of people get baptized?

The same people who can not see or imagine children being baptized, believe that thousands of adults were baptized in water on the day of Pentecost, when the text does not say that.  We make assumptions. And when we read 'baptized' we assume water baptism, but it does not say that. The context is Holy Spirit baptism. 

What if we have never seen, felt, heard, or experienced the Holy Spirit baptizing ourselves, or a group of people?  If that is so, then Holy Spirit baptism is, like it or not, something foreign to us.

We know about the day of Pentecost in Acts 2 and we know about the Corinthian church, because these are described in scripture; but many of us have never seen, heard, or experienced the Holy Spirt baptizing us or others.  Some of us might say that Holy Spirit baptism happened to us when we were born again, but there really was no event or experience of being baptized with the Holy Spirt.

Sadly, Pentecostal Christians and Charismatics who value the experience of the baptism of the Holy Spirit are often derided by other Christians

We know that Jesus told the disciples to go and wait for the promised Holy Spirit baptism.  The Spirit came and the disciples were baptized with the Spirit.

If you read through all of Acts, it seems that the experience of Holy Spirit baptism becomes the norm, but not always, event in a person's life, at the occasion of their salvation. In Acts 10, we have the account of people being baptized with the Holy Spirit and then afterwards being offered water baptism.

In Acts 19, there is the account of people who received and believed the gospel, but did not know that there was a Holy Spirit baptism.  They had partaken of John's baptism of repentance (the word water is not used but certainly implied). Paul taught them about the Holy Spirit and these people then received the baptism of the Spirt by Paul's laying hands on them:
While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul traveled through the interior regions and came to Ephesus. He found some disciples and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”

“No,” they told him, “we haven’t even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”

“Into what then were you baptized?” he asked them.

“Into John’s baptism,” they replied.

Paul said, “John baptized with a baptism of repentance, telling the people that they should believe in the one who would come after him, that is, in Jesus.”

When they heard this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began to speak in tongues and to prophesy.
-Acts 19:1-6

When a person is baptized as a child, their baptism is a dedicational act of the parent(s).  And my understanding is that Catholics and some others, perhaps, see water baptism as imparting salvation to the child.

Can a child be born again? Yes!  The belief that water baptism procures salvation for a child seems to many to be out of line with scripture. But, is it possible that a parent's dedication of their child, to the Lord, is such a powerful thing to God, that He saves the child or brings that child to salvation as the child grows up? I am not saying that the act of baptism, the water itself, is salvific, or that the work of the parent bringing that child to be baptized in water is what saves the child; but that it is a dedication to be brought into Christ's finished work of salvation.

A person of any age is not saved by the act or the water of baptism; but by Christ.  Baptism in water points to salvation by Christ, whatever the age of the person.

If a person is sees water baptism as only being valid in one way, for example 'believers baptism'; they might be missing the 'what' of baptism: what it means. What water baptism symbolizes saves us. Water baptism does not save us.

You might want to argue about the 'how' and the 'when' of water baptism, but the 'what' is the most important thing. The what is, "what does it mean?" And the answer is Christ.  What is water baptism all about?  It's not about us or our children, but it's about Christ.

Water baptism is an expression of faith in salvation through Christ.  The person being baptized is stating their faith and the little child getting baptized at the behest of their parent(s) is being baptized as an act of faith by the parent(s) for the child's salvation.  And while baptize means submerge, as in sink; non-submersion baptism points to submersion.  

The water of baptism whichever amount is administered does not regenerate a person, but is an act of faith and expression of testimony from the one baptized or the parent(s) bringing their children to be baptized, toward the Savior.

Acts 2:38 is a statement to a particular group of people.  It is descriptive.  It is a statement made in a context.  It is meaningful in the context to the original hearers and it has an application for us today.

The Evangelical consensus is that water baptism is not necessary for salvation.  The term “evangelical” comes from the Greek word euangelion, meaning “the good news” or the “gospel.” Evangelical faith focuses on the “good news” of salvation brought to sinners by Jesus Christ.  Evangelical is defined as people who believe in the gospel message presented in the four gospels of the New Testament (National Assoc. of Evangelicals).  Evangelical is defined as, "emphasizing salvation by faith in the atoning death of Jesus Christ through personal conversion, the authority of Scripture, and the importance of preaching as contrasted with ritual", according to Websters dictionary.

But, there is great debate and disagreement among Evangelicals as to the administration of water baptism: Who should be or can be water baptized?  When should one be water baptized?  And how should we water baptize?  Most evangelicals strongly affirm obedience to the commandment by Jesus to baptize, but all agree that water baptism confers no saving grace.  

To look at someone who claims to follow Christ and say they are not a Christian (not saved) because they have not been baptized in water or baptized in the way you believe, is also to also say that you do not believe in salvation by grace and faith alone.

The idea of baptismal regeneration is that you must be water baptized and in a certain way to actually be saved.  

But, the gospel is salvation though Christ alone.

If water baptism does not save, then what is the meaning of baptism?  The broad meaning of water baptism is to identify with Christ and His people.  

What Christians believe about baptism is not an absolute.  The deity of Christ is an absolute, while baptism is an interpretation.  You can not be a Christian without believing in the deity of Christ, while there have been various interpretations of what baptism means.

Alexander Campbell (1788-1866), was a Scots-Irish immigrant who became an ordained minister in the United States and joined his father Thomas Campbell as a leader of a reform effort that is historically known as the Restoration Movement, and by some as the "Stone-Campbell Movement." It resulted in the development of non-denominational Christian churches, which stressed reliance on scripture and few essentials.  
Several church groups have some historical ties with Campbell's efforts. The three main groups are the Churches of Christ, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), and the independent Christian churches and churches of Christ.

Did you know that Alexander Campbell published a translation of the New Testament?  Here is how he translated Acts 2:38 -
And Peter said, Reform, and be each of you immersed in the name of Jesus Christ, in order to the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Campbell was not dogmatic on salvation through water baptism.  In the famous Lunenburg Letter (7/8/1837), Campbell expresses that a Christian is a person who, "believes in his heart that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah, the Son of God; repents of his sins, and obeys him in all things according to his measure of knowledge of his will."  And about baptism, he wrote this: 
Should I find a Pedobaptist more intelligent in the Christian Scriptures, more spiritually minded and more devoted to the Lord than a Baptist, or one immersed on a profession of the ancient faith, I could not hesitate a moment in giving the preference of my heart to him that loveth most. Did I act otherwise, I would be a pure sectarian, a Pharisee among Christians. Still I will be asked, How do I know that any one loves my Master but by his obedience to his commandments? I answer, in no other way. But mark, I do not substitute obedience to one commandment, for universal or even for general obedience. And should I see a sectarian Baptist or a Pedobaptist more spiritually minded, more generally conformed to the requisitions of the Messiah, than one who precisely acquiesces with me in the theory or practice of immersion as I teach, doubtless the former, rather than the latter, would have my cordial approbation and love as a Christian. So I judge, and so I feel. It is the image of Christ the Christian looks for and loves; and this does not consist in being exact in a few items, but in general devotion to the whole truth as far as known.

Salvation or regeneration is through Christ alone:

They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.”  And they spoke the word of the Lord to him along with everyone in his house.  He took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds. Right away he and all his family were baptized.  He brought them into his house, set a meal before them, and rejoiced because he had come to believe in God with his entire household.
-Acts 16:31-34

All the prophets testify about him that through his name everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins.”

While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came down on all those who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were amazed because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and declaring the greatness of God.

Then Peter responded, “Can anyone withhold water and prevent these people from being baptized, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” He commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to stay for a few days.
-Acts 10:43-48
Therefore, let it be known to you, brothers and sisters, that through this man forgiveness of sins is being proclaimed to you.  Everyone who believes is justified through him from everything that you could not be justified from through the law of Moses.
-Acts 13:38-39

(See also, Acts 26:18; Luke 24:47; John 3:16, 36; Rom. 4:1-17; 11:6; Gal. 3:8-9; Eph. 2:8-9)

John and Paul teach regeneration through faith in Christ alone.  So, then why does it sound like Peter is saying that being baptized is what you need to do to be regenerated?

In Acts 2:38, Peter is not telling us how to be saved or how regeneration happens.  Before verse 38, the people that Peter replies to were already saved, already regenerated, already born again, already given enteral life, and already justified in Christ by faith alone.

Is the book of Acts and is Acts chapter 2 prescriptive or descriptive?  Do we still cast lots?  Was the day of Pentecost "once and for all" or a repeatable event?  And is the call to be baptized in Acts 2:38 the model, for baptism, for all time?

Since we know that baptism does not regenerate us, based on the rest of the New Testament, then Peter must not be prescribing a theological framework for baptism and the passage is descriptive.

Let's try to discover the meaning of Acts 2:38 by looking at the context:

“Therefore let all the house of Israel know with certainty that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”

When they heard this, they were pierced to the heart and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?”

Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” With many other words he testified and strongly urged them, saying, “Be saved from this corrupt generation!”
-Acts 2:33-40
What's the context of this passage?

The rejection of Jesus by the Jews of the time, was a grave sin.  Peter demands of them public baptism.  The crucifying of Jesus brought great guilt onto that generation of Jews.  Baptism was a very public break with Judaism that crucified Jesus.  The converts were saying, and being commanded by Peter to symbolically say, through public baptism; that they were breaking with and dying to the old life of being the most sinful generation and professing their new allegiance to Christ.

1 Peter 3:21

Does baptism save you?

Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you (not as the removal of dirt from the body, but the pledge of a good conscience toward God) through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,
-1 Peter 3:21

Doesn't this verse say, clear as day, that water baptism is regenerative?  And conversely, doesn't it say that you can not be saved without it?

Wayne Grudem, in his book on 1 Peter, paraphrases this verse:

'Baptism now saves you - not the outward physical ceremony of baptism but the inward spiritual reality which baptism represents.'

This text is about what baptism represents, as Peter just illustrated with Noah and the flood.

Let's zoom out and see the context:

For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.

For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit, in which he also went and made proclamation to the spirits in prison who in the past were disobedient, when God patiently waited in the days of Noah while the ark was being prepared. In it a few—that is, eight people—were saved through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you (not as the removal of dirt from the body, but the pledge of a good conscience toward God) through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God with angels, authorities, and powers subject to him.
-1 Peter 3:17-22
What is this section about?  Suffering.  Suffering for righteousness.  Peter teaches that Christ also suffered and was put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit.  Noah and the flood illustrates this, and our baptism in water corresponds to this.  Just as Noah and his family were the only ones who made it through the flood, we who are Christians are the only ones saved in our day: by Christ.

Noah and the flood is an analogy illustrating Christ's work of salvation, which Peter draws upon.

The baptismal waters do not magically save us.  Christians are saved through being joined to Christ and his resurrection.  The ritual, ceremony, or occasion of baptism is not what saves a person; but their commitment that they make to Jesus as Lord, for the forgiveness that they ask of Jesus; all by faith and through grace.  

Just as a wedding does not make a marriage, water baptism does not make you a Christian.  A wedding is a public ceremony, where the couple pledge their commitment to one another before witnesses.  But you don't have to have a wedding to be married.  The private commitment and covenant before God, if you are Christians, is what makes you married.  Baptism is a public commitment ceremony declaring publicly a relationship to and with Christ.  

How does this work when babies or children are baptized?  What water baptism is about is Christ and his work for us.  Simply put, parents and the faith community are pledging (1 Peter 3:21) for the child, on behalf of the child.  That child is not now saved for ever, but is pledged to be saved.  Baptism does not save adults or children.  Christ does, by faith and grace alone.  Baptism does not save you.  Baptism points to the one who saves you and that is what Peter means when it says in our English translated Bibles, "Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you".

Does getting baptized forgive your sins?

Peter's language in Acts 2 seems to echo the description of John the Baptist:

Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
-Acts 2:38

During the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, God’s word came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the vicinity of the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins,
-Luke 3:2-3

Now John had a camel-hair garment with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then people from Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the vicinity of the Jordan were going out to him, and they were baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins.

I baptize you with water for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is more powerful than I. I am not worthy to remove his sandals. He himself will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
-Matthew 3:4-6, 11

John came baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
-Mark 1:4
Did the waters of the Jordan river regenerate people?  Were they saved?  Or, does God do the regenerating and saving of people, and water baptism by John and perhaps in Acts 2 was an act demanded by John and then by Peter, to the people who were repentant?

Baptism was and still is a public declaration of repentance.  This is one meaning of baptism, but not the sole and singular meaning.

What about Jesus disciples baptizing during Jesus' three or so years of ministry, before the cross?

When Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard he was making and baptizing more disciples than John (though Jesus himself was not baptizing, but his disciples were), he left Judea and went again to Galilee. 
-John 4:1-2

Were the waters of baptism saving people here, or was baptism part of becoming a disciple here?  Is this passage descriptive or prescriptive?

John 3

I have always believed that in John chapter 3, when Jesus was talking to Nicodemus about being born again, and Jesus said that you have to be born of water and of the Spirit; that he was referring to being born here from your mother and being born from above, in order to enter or see the kingdom of God.

Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, unless someone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

“How can anyone be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked him. “Can he enter his mother’s womb a second time and be born?”
Jesus answered, “Truly I tell you, unless someone is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. Whatever is born of the flesh is flesh, and whatever is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I told you that you must be born again. The wind blows where it pleases, and you hear its sound, but you don’t know where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
-John 3:5-8
Nicodemus asks about one's mother.  And Jesus clarifies that "born of water" = "born of flesh" and "born of the Spirit = born of the Spirit".  Jesus says that you must be born again (born from above).  This is not water baptism.

What's the context here in John?  In chapter 1, we are introduced to John the baptizer.  He was baptizing people in the river Jordan.

So they asked him, “Why then do you baptize if you aren’t the Messiah, or Elijah, or the Prophet?”

I baptize with water,” John answered them. “Someone stands among you, but you don’t know him. He is the one coming after me, whose sandal strap I’m not worthy to untie.” All this happened in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one I told you about: ‘After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me, because he existed before me.’ I didn’t know him, but I came baptizing with water so that he might be revealed to Israel.” And John testified, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and he rested on him. I didn’t know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The one you see the Spirit descending and resting on—he is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’
-John 1:25-33

Were people getting saved here?  Did the water regenerate them?  How was getting baptized in water by John preparing people for the revelation of Jesus?

After Jesus had the conversation with Nicodemus, John writes this:
After this, Jesus and his disciples went to the Judean countryside, where he spent time with them and baptized.

John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was plenty of water there. People were coming and being baptized, since John had not yet been thrown into prison.

Then a dispute arose between John’s disciples and a Jew about purification. So they came to John and told him, “Rabbi, the one you testified about, and who was with you across the Jordan, is baptizing—and everyone is going to him.”
-John 3:22-26

And at the beginning of chapter 4, we read this:

When Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard he was making and baptizing more disciples than John (though Jesus himself was not baptizing, but his disciples were), he left Judea and went again to Galilee.
-John 4:1-3

Being baptized was something the disciples did.  Jesus seems to have carried forward what John was doing.  What is a disciple? 

What about Jesus?

Jesus was baptized by John:

Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. But John tried to stop him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and yet you come to me?”

Jesus answered him, “Allow it for now, because this is the way for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John allowed him to be baptized.

When Jesus was baptized, he went up immediately from the water. The heavens suddenly opened for him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming down on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased.”
-Matthew 3:13-17

Did Jesus get baptized in water because he needed to be saved?  Did the water regenerate him?  Jesus refused to baptize John and as far as we know, John was never baptized, but requested it of Jesus.  Why?  Did John need to repent or get saved?

If Jesus was not repenting, since he had nothing to repent of; and since Jesus was not getting saved, then what is he doing getting baptized and why did he get baptized?

As we just read, Jesus disciples baptized people, and before his ascension, Jesus gives the command to baptize, as part of the great commission:

The eleven disciples traveled to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped, but some doubted. Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
-Matthew 28:16-20

Baptism must be important and meaningful for Jesus to mention it here where again it is inextricably linked to discipleship and the "go" of missions.  

But, the more important baptism is Spirit baptism, according to John the Baptist.  Think about the accolades that Jesus laid on John, saying he is the greatest prophet (Matthew 11:11).  What was John's message?  It was not about baptism, but he baptized and was called The Baptist.  

Is Acts chapter 2 a prescription, including Peter's sermon and statements, for all of church history?  Or, is it descriptive for a specific group of people on a specific, very particular and remarkable day?  


In conclusion, let us concede that baptism is not a major doctrine of the Christian faith.  We should endeavor to live with other Christian's different views on the matter, and not allow differences over baptism to cause division in the body of Christ.  We should allow differences of opinion and both views (believers baptism and "covenant community", child baptism) to be taught, believed, and carried out in the church.  To do this, we would have to give up dividing over doctrines that are not the center of our faith in Christ.  One's view and practice of baptism should not be a barrier to church membership, office, or ordination.

Christians who have differing views can graciously debate and seek to persuade one another in love, then let others have their own conscience before God, and decide for themselves what they believe about baptism and how they will practice it in their life and for their household.  



The Gospel and Water Baptism: A Study of Acts 2:38; Larry Thomas Tanton: Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society, Vol. 3, No. 1; Spring 1990. pp. 27-52

1 Peter, TNTC, Wayne Grudem, 1988. pp. 162-164

The Book of Acts, TNICNT, F.F. Bruce, 1979 (14th ed.), pp. 75-78

The Gospel According to St. John, second ed., C.K. Barret, 1978, pp. 202-218

Systematic Theology, Wayne Grudem, 1994, pp. 966-987

For further reading

It Takes a Church to Baptize, Scott McKnight, 2018

Baptism in the New Testament, G.R. Beasley-Murray; 1962

Understanding Four Views on Baptism, John H. Armstrong, Paul E. Engle; editors; 2007

Baptism: It's Purpose and Power, Michael Green, 1987