In the preceding article, “The Concept of Restoration” (September 4, 2016), we examined a portion of an e-mail exchange dealing with the necessity of restoration. The writer, KB, also had asked twice about the need of being baptized “for the remission of sins,” and the second time I told him I would stand by what Peter preached on the Day of Pentecost. In his last communication, he finally got to the main point (apparently) of the discussion. All that he wrote will be examined, but we will consider it a paragraph at a time. After concluding his comments about Catholicism, he wrote:
The audience in Acts 2 was Jewish, or at least they all had a background in Judaism. Peter’s sermon was a murder indictment directed at the house of Israel. This was the generation of Jews that rejected Jesus our Lord. He said Judgment Day would be easier on Sodom and Gomorrah than this generation. Matthew 23. Toward the end, Peter says, “Be saved from this crooked generation.” They had refused to be baptized by John the Baptist. “Repent and be baptized?” That’s straight out of the John the Baptist handbook. Does it apply to us Gentiles for our salvation? Repentance of unbelief in Jesus Christ and belief on the Lord Jesus Christ obviously does. Acts 3:19, Acts 10:43, Acts 16:31.
My first response was: “Well, I must admit I didn’t see where this was heading.” He began to set forth the untenable position that there are two gospels instead of one—one for the Jews and one for the Gentiles. The New Testament speaks constantly about the gospel; nowhere does it discuss two different gospels—one for Jews and one for Gentiles. Consider a multitude of Scriptures, beginning with Matthew 4:23, where it says that Jesus went forth preaching the gospel of the kingdom (cf. Matt. 9:35). Mark says in his very first verse: “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (1:1). The great commission that Jesus gave to His apostles was to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15-16). Isn’t it strange that He did not mention that there were two gospels—one for the Jews and one for the Gentiles?
In addition, there are 6 references to the gospel in Acts and 11 in the Book of Romans—not the least of which is: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation to everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also to the Greek” (1:16). How many gospels does Paul speak of—two—one for Jews and one for Greeks? No, there is only one gospel for both. Paul writes of the gospel 8 times in 1 Corinthians (occasionally 2 or 3 times in a verse), 5 times in 2 Corinthians, 7 times in Galatians, 4 times in Ephesians, 8 times in Philippians, twice in Colossians, 6 times in 1-2 Thessalonians, and three times in 2 Timothy and Philemon. 1 Peter includes it 4 times.
My reply did not mention any of these verses, but they do make it clear, beyond any quibbling, that there is one and only one gospel. Below is what I did write:
The audience of Acts 2 was Jewish, but the goal of Peter’s sermon was not to indict the Jews. That was incidental. To see the point more fully, read Peter’s next sermon. He indicts them all right in Acts 3:14-15 but then adds in verse 17: “Yet now, brethren, I know that you did it in ignorance, as did also your rulers.” The purpose of the sermon on Pentecost was to prove that Jesus rose from the dead, which is the reason that he quotes David’s prophecy. It is the reason that he proclaims in Acts 2:36: “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this same Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” That’s when they asked what to do, and Peter told them to repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of their sins (Acts 2:37-38). It is false to say they had refused John’s baptism. Have you not read Matthew 3:5-6? “Then Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the region around the Jordan went out to him, and were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins.”
In addition to this response, I probably should have told KB that I didn’t know that John the Baptist had a handbook. Apparently, he means that the teaching on baptism in Acts 2:38 is out of the Baptist Manual, but he would be wrong on that, also. They do not teach that baptism is for the forgiveness of sins. They clearly teach that one is saved from sins first and then baptized. Next KB tried to confuse the issue by bringing in Holy Spirit baptism. He wrote:
As for water baptism…a transition was being made from water to the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:1-8)—from John the Baptist to Jesus our Lord—from a Levitical cleansing ritual (which only people with a background in Judaism would understand) to a cleansing done by God the Son himself (Matt. 3:11; 1 Cor. 12:13). In Acts 3:19, the same preacher tells another Jewish audience just to repent of their unbelief, of their having rejected Jesus the Messiah in order to procure the remission of sins. How do we reconcile 3:19 with 2:38?
First of all, no such transition took place. Second, Jesus preached baptism in water, and John’s disciples came to Him (John 3-4). Third, not one verse in the New Testament connects Holy Spirit baptism to cleansing from sins. God never designed Holy Spirit baptism to remove sins, nor did He design it to last. It was only for a time—and to accomplish a specific purpose. After that, it ceased. The answer to this segment of KB’s final e-mail follow:
Your transition theory is greatly flawed. Johnand Jesus were preaching the gospel of the kingdom (Mark 1:1, Matt. 3:2, et al.). Water baptism is part of Christianity; it certainly was not part of the Law of Moses. The way you present it requires two different systems following the Law, but there is only one prophesied (Jer. 31:31-34; Deut. 18:15-19), and only one was installed (Heb. 8:6-7). The New Testament does not teach two new systems—only one.
Baptism has nothing to do with Levitical cleansing. The worldwide Flood was the type of which baptism in water is the antitype (1 Peter 3:21). This is the one baptism (Eph. 4:4-6) for all. The type-antitype model does not work with Holy Spirit baptism, which had ended by the time Paul wrote Ephesians 4:4-6.
KB then went on to make a totally unwarranted parallelism with two concepts that are not parallel:
Acts 2:38 is an example of Jewish parallelism, I’ve read. Repentance of our unbelief in Jesus Christ and believing on the Lord Jesus Christ we can all agree this is required for the remission of sins. “…and be baptized, each one of you in the name of Jesus Christ” goes with “…and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
One can only wonder where he read that, since he does not cite a source. Certainly it was not in a reputable commentary. I answered:
Acts 2:38 is the first time the gospel is defined and obeyed (Acts 2:41). Acts 3:19 must be harmonized with it and all the other passages (Acts 8:35-39; Acts 9:18; 22:16, et al.). It is obvious to most people that “be converted” includes being baptized, since forgiveness of sins is associated with it. The “times of refreshing” are equivalent to the blessings included in the gift and promise of the Holy Spirit. I have never heard anyone try to make equivalent baptism for the remission of sins and receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit. The parallelism is with the gift in verse 38 and the promise of verse 39.
Then he moved on to Cornelius, which most people who do not study the Bible seriously fail to comprehend.
Later, in Acts 10:43-44, God reveals how gracious He’s going to be when the Gentiles receive the Holy Spirit at the point of belief. A person who has received the Holy Spirit is not a lost sinner (Eph. 1:13; 4:30; 1 Cor. 12:13; Matt. 3:11; Rom. 8:9, 14). People received the Holy Spirit in various ways in the book of Acts. How do we receive the Holy Spirit today? Obviously not by the laying on of hands by the apostles. That leaves either “repent and be baptized” or at the point of belief. Paul tells us the answer in his letters to the Gentile churches (Eph. 1:13, Gal. 3:2, 5; Rom. 8:9,14; 1 Cor. 12:13). Grace and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.
Just because someone can string together a bunch of Scriptures does not mean that they prove the point asserted. Quite often, they relate only slightly to the subject. The reader may have noticed that the two sections of Scriptures are almost identical, but he does not explain how any of them relates to his thesis. My reply is set forth below:
You are simply wrong about Cornelius and his family being saved by the Holy Spirit. What makes you think so? Balaam spoke by the Holy Spirit in Numbers, but it is evident that he was not saved. The high priest in John 11:49-51 spoke by the Holy Spirit; do you want to argue that he was saved? Cornelius was not saved because the Holy Spirit came upon him—the purpose for that was to show the Jews that God received the Gentiles. Read carefully Acts 11:1-18. Peter recounts all that happened so they would know that God accepted the Gentiles. They agreed. But also notice that it was not by the Holy Spirit they were saved; verse 14 states: “Peter was to tell them WORDS by which they would be saved.”
Baptism in the Holy Spirit can only be shown in two instances—on Pentecost and at the household of Cornelius. It is not stated that Paul was baptized by the Holy Spirit, but we know that he was (implication). Can you name and prove that one other individual received the Holy Spirit in that manner? Many received miraculous gifts, but these instances are not the same as baptism in the Holy Spirit. Being baptized in the Spirit was a promise, which was fulfilled; baptism in water was a command (Matt. 28:18-20, Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38). And it is still in force.
Jews and Gentiles are all one in Christ Jesus, and they all got there in the same way—through baptism in water (Eph. 4:5), which the Flood prefigured (1 Peter 3:21). The New Testament does not teach two plans of salvation; there is one faith (Eph. 4:5).
I pray these few comments prove helpful.
So—that was it. KB did not respond further. It would seem that he really only wanted to unload the false doctrine that he believes onto someone else rather than engage in a meaningful study. Just looking at the Scriptures declaring that there is one gospel should be sufficient to put the matter to rest. Baptism in the Holy Spirit was never a command, as Matthew 28:18-20 and Mark 16:15-16 are. It is never said to cleanse anyone’s sins, and there is no mention of it after Acts 10. One cannot assume that passages that mention the Holy Spirit are, in fact, referring to baptism in the Holy Spirit, since some received miraculous gifts of the Spirit in various congregations. We must all read carefully the Word of God.