By: Mark Tabata (Evangelist)
The Scriptures are very clear that a believer must repent of his sins and be baptized into Christ in order to be forgiven and saved (cf. Mark 16:16; Acts 22:16; Romans 6:3-4; Colossians 2:12; 1 Peter 3:20-21, etc.).
One of the passages of Scripture which clearly affirms this truth is found in Luke’s inspired account of the beginning of the church.
When believers asked what they needed to do, Peter responded:
Acts 2:38-Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
This passage of Scripture is crystal clear that a believer must repent of his sins and be baptized by the authority of Chris to receive remission of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit.
This does not sit well with our denominational friends who proclaim that we are saved by faith only and the sinners’ prayer; as such, through the years, they have attempted to find ways and “get around” this passage.
In that light, some have claimed that the command to “be baptized” cannot be joined to the phrase “for the remission of sins.”
It is claimed that because the command “repent” is second person plural, and because the command “be baptized” is third person singular, they both cannot be joined to the phrase “for the remission of sins.”
Thus, it is claimed that only “repentance” is needed “for the remission of sins.”
A number of years ago, brother Thomas B. Warren entered into public debate with a gentleman named L..S. Ballard.
The discussion centered on the subject of salvation by faith alone and the place of baptism in God’s plan of redemption.
When Ballard raised this objection to Acts 2:38, brother Warren produced a mass of scholarship on the matter.
I quote the following from his second affirmative:
“All right. Next he came up here and brought up an argument on Acts 2:38, that we could not connect both of those verbs with the expression “unto the remission of sins.” Now, I went to the trouble to find out what men who are real grammarians say about that. These men are recognized in the outstanding schools of our nation. They are men who, by reason of academic attainment, are recognized by their fellow- men to be the greatest among us today. I want to show you what they say about it. I have never put myself up as a Greek scholar, but I here and now say that I shall not allow Mr. Ballard to misuse it. I am not a Greek scholar, but I know where to go to those men who are scholars on these technical points. Mr. John Reumann of Luthern Theological Seminary, “In that passage cited, Acts 2:38, I see no grammatical reason why one couldn’t take the phrase ‘eis aphesin hamartion,’ ‘for the forgiveness of sins,’ with both verbs, repentance and baptism.” Marvin K. Franzmann, Concordia Seminary, “As regards the expression in Acts 2:38, it is grammatically possible to connect ‘eis aphesin’ with both verbs.” D. A. Penick of the University of Texas, in reference to my diagram where I’ve connected both of those verbs with the expression “unto the remission of sins,” says, “your diagram is correct.” Carl H. Morgan, dean of Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary, “I would agree with the statement which you quote from Mr. H. B. Hackett, where he says, ‘we connect naturally with both the preceding verbs’.” Notice again the statement of Thayer in which he says, “the ‘eis’ expressing the end aimed at and secured by”— what— “by repentance and baptism, just previously enjoined.” Again, D. A. Penick, University of Texas, ” ‘Repent ye,’ the writer then wishes to be more emphatic, so he says ‘hekastos baptistheto’ ‘let each one of you be baptized.’ This distribution of a plural subject and predicate by the use of ‘hekastos’ and a third person singular is quite common in all Greek, and is frequently used in the New Testament.” H. B. Hackett, foremost Baptist Commentator, says in his Commentary on Acts, “We connect naturally with both the preceding verbs.” J. W. Wilmarth, a great outstanding Baptist scholar, “This interpretation compels us”— that is, to try to separate the two verbs— “either to do violence to the construction, or to throw the argument or the course of thought in the context into complete confusion. Indeed we can hardly escape the latter alternative if we choose the former. For those who contend for the interpretation ‘on account of remission’ will hardly be willing to admit that Peter said ‘Repent’ as well as ‘be baptized on account of remission of sins.’ This is too great an in- version of natural sequence. Yet to escape it we must violently dissever ‘repent’ and ‘be baptized’ and deny that ‘eis’ expresses the relation of ‘repentance’ as well as ‘baptism’ to forgiveness of sins. But the natural construction connects the latter with both the preceding verbs. It enforces the entire exhortation, not one part of it to the exclusion of the other, as Hackett says.” Ballard says you can’t, but these men— scholars, recognized to be among the greatest in the world— have said that you can connect, that it is possible, to connect both of them. Henry J. Cadbury, member of the Revised Standard Version Committee, which Ballard introduced a moment ago, has this to say, (reading from a letter) “The gram- mar of the sentence in Acts 2:38 is perfectly regular and better Greek than if the author had kept the second person plural ‘baptize’ after using the singular ‘each.’ I have no doubt that another author would have written ‘Do ye repent,’ and ‘be ye baptized,’ each of you. But this writer seems to have preferred the less loose construction. I think that there would be no essential difference in meaning.” Whether you said “Do ye repent, and be ye baptized each of you,” or as it stands exactly, there would be no essential difference in meaning. Now, Mr. Ballard says, “Why, you can’t do that! According to Greek grammar you can’t do it.” Well, it’s strange that all of these men who are outstanding in their field— Greek grammar— say that you can. They say that there is absolutely no reason why you couldn’t do it!” (Thomas B. Warren & L.S. Ballard, Warren-Ballard Debate On The Plan Of Salvation, 2040-2070 (Kindle Edition); Glasgow, KY; National Christian Press)
This argument against the plain teaching of Acts 2:38 demonstrates the lengths may will go to in order to try and escape the plain teaching of Scripture. While many do not like to accept the place of baptism in the plan of salvation, the Scriptures are very clear about the matter!
My friend, have you been baptized into Christ? It is only in Christ that we have remission of sins and access to all spiritual blessings (Ephesians 1:3, 7). Since the Son of God loves you so much that He died for you, was buried, and rose again on the third day (1 Corinthians 15:1-8), will you not today accept His gracious invitation to be saved? If the churches of Christ may assist you in any way, we stand ready to assist you.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.