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Saturday, December 17, 2011

A response to a challenge on baptism

A few days ago the following e-mail arrived...
"Chris you are WRONG. Baptism is required for salvation! Acts 2:38 has Peter commanding that we be baptized FOR THE REMISSION OF SINS. Mark 16:16 commands baptism and without it we are damned."
There was more to it but that's the heartmeat of this individual's contention. I don't know what precipitated this correspondence. Maybe it was the "Meditation on Baptism" post nearly three years ago. Maybe it was one of the numerous posts I've had to make about a certain cult operating in this area: a group that has among other things harassed others who have met to worship in peace.

Okay, fine. I'll respond to it.

Here is Acts 2:38, as translated in the 1611 Authorized Version (AKA the King James Bible):

Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

For all the beauty of the King James Version, it is rife with problems. Those stem from two primary factors: that the Authorized Version was a project that King James used to placate the Puritan faction of the Church of England (i.e. it was a political stunt, plain and simple) and the fact that the primary source material of Greek manuscript for the Authorized Version was apparently the Textus Receptus of Desiderius Erasmus. Now, Erasmus was otherwise a brilliant scholar, no doubt about it. But the Textus Receptus was hands-down his sloppiest piece of work ever (he was rushing to win a contest... and he didn't have that many manuscripts to draw from to begin with). Combined with the aforementioned purpose of affirming in approved canon the doctrines and ordinances of the Church of England over all others and you get the idea of what is wrong with the King James Version (though I still love the overall beauty of its language).

But anyhoo, let's look at the passage that this reader (and others) have attempted to use to insist that water baptism is necessary for salvation: "Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins..." I emphasized the word "for" because in the Greek the original word is "eis". And "eis" does NOT easily translate into "in order to receive..." Rather, the more accurate rendition is "because of".

So let's translate Peter's statement again, this time with "eis" correctly translated...

"Then Peter said unto them: Repent, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ because your sins have been remitted."
That makes much more sense. It also reconciles that bit of scripture with the story of Cornelius, the first Gentile to become a Christian (recorded in Acts 10) who along with his household had already believed in Christ. That Peter baptized them was outward affirmation that Christ came for all nations, and not merely the Jewish people (per the vision that he received as recorded earlier in the chapter). Here also, we find that baptism is not for salvation, but is rather for all of those who are already in Christ and His church.

That might seem a small matter today, but in those heated days of the early church the issue of non-Jewish converts to the Way (as Christianity was called in the beginning) was a serious controversy. Peter baptizing Cornelius and his family was a threshold moment for Christianity. They were baptized because they had faith in Christ and because of that faith, their sins were already forgiven. Hence, they were fully entitled to baptism, without any regard whatsoever for their nationality.

So that takes care of Acts 2:38. But what about Mark 16:16? Here is what that passage has Jesus telling His followers...

Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.
Y'all want the "nice" reason first why this verse doesn't mean that baptism is a requisite for salvation, or do you want the "nasty" reason?

Fine. I'll start off polite. Here it is: this verse does not say at all that the absence of baptism equals damnation. It only states that "whoever does not believe will be condemned". Downright obvious, actually.

But here's the biggest reason why Mark 16:16 can not be used to claim that baptism is a requirement for salvation...

Mark 16:16 doesn't belong in the Bible to begin with.

Feel free to read that again after you've come down from the initial shock.

The Gospel of Mark is apparently the oldest of the four gospels, perhaps composed only about 35 years or so after General Titus and his boys laid waste to Jerusalem and the Temple there. But of all the oldest manuscripts that we have for Mark's book, none of them contain verses 9 through 20 of Chapter 16! The last thing that can credibly be ascribed to the Gospel of Mark is that "...the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid." And if you only have the King James Version to go on, it jumps from there to a sudden re-introduction of Jesus and an ending that is wildly different from the context of the rest of Mark's writing.

Long story short: Mark 16:16 and everything else from 16:9 onward is a later addition. Much later. Perhaps by a century or so. I've tried to find anything that demands why these verses do belong in Mark but as of yet, such justification has eluded me. If anyone has something that I might have missed, leave a comment here or shoot me an e-mail at theknightshift@gmail.com.

Does that mean that your friend and humble blogger is committing sacrilege by ignoring part of the Bible? Nope, not at all. Indeed it is quite the opposite: I am striving for nothing more and nothing less than to understand what the Word of God does teach, in spite of all that man has inevitably attempted to do with it during these two millenia out of either well-meaning or malicious intent.

And however one chooses to adhere to the matter of baptism, it must be acknowledged by all that the endurance of the Word of God - the Truth of God, of which the verbiage of scripture can be but a rough covering - is in and of itself nothing short of a miracle.


Lynn said...

Superb scholarship on this one Chris.

Scrannik said...

Surprised you didn't cover the eunuch from Ethiopia because he also was saved before baptism. I know the cult you are referring to and that group doesn't believe in Acts 2:38 in full because they don't believe in the Holy Ghost being within us. Some would call that grave blasphemy.

johnny said...

can you find one translation chris that will translate eis as "because"? Good luck trying

johnny said...

while you search look at this boys

Jason said...

Chris you've got a rabid rodent infestation. That is Johnny Robertson who left the two comments above. He doesn't know Bible, he doesn't know Greek, he can barely spell and use proper grammar, and well you know what a pest he is.

Chris your writing must be hitting him where it hurts. You didn't even speak that devil's name and he still appeared here!

Anonymous said...

eis can be translated a few ways, including _both_ as "to cause" and "because of". Based on the context of the Bible however I have also concluded that Peter is saying "be baptized because your sins have been remitted".

There is not one verse in all the Bible which states that baptism is required for salvation and that without it there is damnation.

Anonymous said...

Paul said he was sent "NOT to baptize" but to preach Christ. That there also shows that baptism is not needed to be in Christ. Not water baptism anyway. There is the Holy Spirit that baptizes us into Christ, but water is just water and can't save anyone.

Anonymous said...

Johnny have you repented of your lies to Jackie Poe? Have you repented of your lies about the church in Kernersville?

johnny said...

whitman or someone says I must be hurting? Let us see how Kris is doing Jason....Christ lost his wife his home and sanity, and last I heard he was back at moms house.
Has he really hurt us?
Which od you posted that eis is translated @because of@ but didnt give a single proof.
who is hurting?
well it is sunny here in corpus

johnny said...

how was my spelling Jason

PenceyJ said...

If baptism is needed for salvation then who baptized the disciples for remission of sins? None of them were.

And whoever "johnny" is he sounds like a psycho. Put him back in Arkham with the other freaks.

Anonymous said...

Right you are, Johnny.

walkinginlove said...

I'll bet John will tell you Simon in Acts 8 was saved, if you read carefully you will clearly see that Simon was looking for an angle to get his hands on the power they had,there was no change in the man and water did nothing for him.

He did not have the Holy Spirit with him, and clearly he was the same man as he was before Baptism.

But if you speak to one of the water worshipers, you will see them go nuts if you suggest that Simon was not saved.

As another example see Johnny's attempt to cause Chris pain in the above posts, clearly John is still the same man he was when he used a gun to try and control others, his weapon of choice now is the Bible.

Same Johnny, different gun!

Oh Johnny we miss you on the Topix forums, sorry you have had to run away from them guess a fair and balanced system isn't to your liking!

How is your father John? Called him lately?

Ps. the Woman at the well debate is still waiting what 3 years now for you to answer on how Jesus could lie to her!

Anonymous said...

Just a quick question, Why were all of those baptized in Acts baptized for? Even Paul?

Lynn said...

Baptism was always a Jewish ritual - the mikvah - and when the church came around it became a ritual for marking entrance into it. That's all. Baptism doesn't make a person a Christian anymore than the mikvah makes a person a Jew. Mikvah is still performed for those who convert to Judaism. That is why they were baptized in Acts, including the Gentiles which Peter and the other Jewish believers in Christ Jesus did not know what to do with in the beginning.

Aaron said...

johnny said...

whitman or someone says I must be hurting? Let us see how Kris is doing Jason....Christ lost his wife his home and sanity, and last I heard he was back at moms house.
Has he really hurt us?
Which od you posted that eis is translated @because of@ but didnt give a single proof.
who is hurting?
well it is sunny here in corpus

One: Johnny Robertson isn't a real Christian and this proves it. Two: I can't take anyone seriously who claims to know about Greek but can't spell "of" correctly.

Anonymous said...

Ok Lynn Lets look at what Acts 22 says according to Paul. Now arise and be baptized and this joins you to the church.......... Opps thats wrong...

Paul said arise and be baptized and "wash away your sins"

Nothing there about a jewish ritual of entering the church.

Anonymous said...

Paul also says later that he wasn't sent to baptize that he was sent to preach Christ. You can have Christ without being water baptized. It doesn't say in Bible that water is needed to have Christ.

Anonymous said...

Christians see salvation in the cross. Legalists like Johnny Robertson see salvation in a tank of water!

Anonymous said...

Chris, have you ever looked at second century writings between early Christians like Ignatius of Antioch, etc? Though they do not point to the CoC but they do point to a belief of baptism being an integral step in salvation.

Chris Knight said...

As best as I understand it, after many hundreds of hours of study and contemplation and prayer, I do believe that baptism is an important part of the life of the believer. I believe that as Peter himself writes in 1st Peter 3:21...

The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ...

Baptism is "the answer of a good conscience toward God". It is a pledge to God. It is a mark of being in Christ. And it puts us within the church.

Yes, I meant to write that. Baptism has always been how we come into the church as the body of Christ on this earth. However baptism is still NOT required for salvation.

It's like this: there are those who have found Christ. For such as these, baptism is something that will be desired and sought. But there are also those who are still seeking for Christ, who have not found Him yet. And these, are NOT lost to Him. The Ethiopian eunuch did not know Christ and yet he was looking for Him, without even understanding it. But when he discovered who Christ was, he insisted upon being baptized.

We are taught from scripture that "ask, seek, and ye shall find." Do I believe in universal salvation? No, I do not. Scripture is adamant that there will be many who choose against God. But there are also very many who are seeking God, who don't have Christ as perhaps I or someone else might understand Him.

God will not forsake or condemn those who seek after the same Christ, who lack my own understanding of Him. Just so, He will not condemn me if I lack "sufficient" understanding of Him according to the measure of any man.

Baptism is for those who have found Christ and have chosen to follow Him. Indeed, I cannot see how those who have chosen Christ would refuse to be baptized. Baptism is for those in the church. But for those who are seeking Christ but have not found Him yet, baptism is not necessary. All baptism would do for them would get them wet, and there would be no pledge of good conscience possible at all. But they do not need baptism to be saved, just as we who are in the church do not require baptism to be saved.


Anonymous said...

I could not disagree more with most of what your study has brought you to believe. First God said "30 Therefore having (A)overlooked (B)the times of ignorance, God is (C)now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent,

You can not also claim that a person is ok that is seeking God anymore than I could claim that a person is lost or saved that is up to God.

You also claim that baptism puts us in the church. Therefore are you also saying that if your not baptized your outside the church? You are getting me confused here.

Another question would be, Why would a person desire and seek something that has nothing to do with salvation? Would that not put them in the same boat as those who seek to do things to make them appear good before men?

You also make a contradiction when you say that baptism is for those in the church when earlier you said it was to put you in the church. Make up your mind please.

No I dont understand your thoughts they go every direction. I would suggest simply say what the bible says and leave it alone yet you have to explain away why God said to wash away your sins in baptism.

God gave clear conditions to his grace if a person chooses to obey him.

Chris Knight said...

I can put it no more plain than this: that God is the judge of salvation, and none among men. Therefore I defer to His judgment of others, and lean not on my own understanding.

Chris Knight said...

Scripture tells us to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. I have more than enough to handle doing that: I don't need to work out the salvation of others as well :-)

Friend in Turners Falls said...

You made me think of something that I never thought before Chris. I understand what you've said. If you interpret that there is a taking away of the church aka the rapture then the Bible does make clear that there is the church of all believers on Christ but there is also a group that is and will be saved that isn't necessarily the church. As you noted God is the only one who can determine who those people will be. Right?