Proposition: “The New Testament Scriptures teach that, for the penitent believer, water baptism is for, unto, or in order to the remission of sins.” Allan Turner affirms; Keith Saare denies.
Negative(posted 07/02/06): My interest to engage Mr. Turner in this discussion was
sparked when I read his invitation for feedback regarding his Re:Thinking
online magazine. From reading Mr. Turner’s articles, in my opinion, there is no
better candidate to affirm this proposition than him. He is very knowledgeable
in the subject matter and demonstrates the qualities of a fine author with his
eloquent writing style. My gratitude goes out to him for his polite tone in
defending his view and for doing a fine job at taking the lead in organizing
the format of our debate.
The Grammatico-Historical Method
As I perceive our differences regarding baptism and
salvation, the source of our disagreement is not the Scriptures. As a Baptist I
was baptized “for the remission of sins.” I was forgiven the moment I believed
(Acts ), and for that reason, I
was baptized per Acts (a verse distinctly owned by Baptists).
It was a beautiful symbol of my salvation as described in 1 Peter 3:21, and it
signified the previous cleansing of my sins in the same manner demanded by Acts
22:16. As I shall demonstrate within the course of our debate, my baptism was
nothing more than an outward expression of an inward reality, hence an
The fact is that Mr. Turner and I both claim the same verses
as supporting our doctrine. Our differences, therefore, are hermeneutical in
nature. To make sense out of the Scriptures that I will be discussing, I will
seek to employ the consistent use of the grammatico-historical method of
interpretation. Also known as “literal interpretation,” this method focuses on
matters of grammar and syntax in relation to a passage’s respective historical
and cultural contexts. Although it recognizes the biblical use of figures of
speech and takes them into consideration to discover literal truth, it does not
allegorize that which is meant to be literal. My opponent, however, has
demonstrated in his first affirmative that he has not been schooled in this
time-honored method (or at least that he does not seek to employ it with consistency). As I shall cite specific
cases during our discussions and explain more in my critique of Mr. Turner’s
position, a sample from some of his exegetical fallacies (thus discarding literal
interpretation) is as follows:
1.Appeal to selective evidence: Citing a
portion of Scripture in one’s favor, but with the illegitimate exclusion of
evidence contrary to one’s viewpoint.
2.Double meaning: Scripture may have two
contradictory and yet “correct” interpretations—literal interpretation only
affirms one true meaning.
3.The figurative fallacy: Figurative
language is confused for literal language, and/or vice versa.
fallacy: The difficult task of exegesis is discarded and substituted
instead with words like obviously,
clearly, undoubtedly, certainly, any thinking person could see that, etc.
contexts:Two or more verses,
which have little in common or no parallel at all, are juxtaposed as if one
were a commentary on the other.
6.Abuse of the
“analogy of faith” principle.The
principle that “Scripture interprets Scripture” should be the last step, not
the first, in the exegetical process as a
checking deviceto avoid
contradictions—it most certainly is not a license to build a chain of
unrelated texts to form a doctrine.
Mr. Turner’s Proposition
When viewed through a biblical lens, his proposition is
self-refuting. Biblically, a “penitent believer” is one who already has the remission of sins. He
does not need baptism in order to obtain this remission. Acts bears this truth in which Peter stated:
“Of Him all the prophets bear witness
that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of
sins” (all Scripture quotations from the NAU unless otherwise noted).
I highlight Peter’s use of “everyone” in “everyone who believes.” This reference most
certainly includes those who believe and may be baptized, and it definitely
includes those who believe but may not be baptized. One may believe with or
without water baptism. [In fact, ministers within the Restoration Movement are
fond of outlining the sequence of events leading up to salvation as: (1) hear,
(2) believe, (3) repent, (4) confess, (5) baptism. In this scheme, believing is
three steps prior to final baptism.] Either way (with or without baptism), the
believer—one who believes—receives the remission of sins. Unfortunately, Mr.
Turner’s proposition is at odds with the logic of Peter’s proclamation; it naturally
prohibits the remission of sins for those who believe but are not baptized.
Understanding this literally (i.e., grammatico-historical hermeneutics) without
squeezing in baptism will just not fit Mr. Turner’s system.
As the reader will take note, it is necessary for my
opponent to defend a proposition containing a couple of modifiers for the
preposition “for” when used in relation to water baptism and the remission of
sins. That is, “for” means “unto” or “in order to” as stated by his
proposition. It is quite insufficient for him to defend “for the remission of
sins” without additional modifiers since—as he has admitted—the English word
“for” can also mean because of. Therefore,
by virtue of these modifiers, Mr. Turner must add his own degree of
interpretation to baptism “for the remission of sins.” We both must do this. As
a Baptist, I will affirm that baptism is “for the remission of sins.” But I
must deny that baptism is “in order to” obtain the remission of sins because of
a literal interpretation of John ,
for there my Lord stated:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who
hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not
come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.”
Jesus prefaced His explanation of how one receives eternal life with the two
words “truly, truly.” The Greek amēn,
amēn is that which accompanies a
solemn affirmation. In other words, Jesus was making an emphatic exclamation to
draw attention to what he was about to say. If He had said one amēn, it would have been enough.
But he repeated another amēn as
if to say, “Hey, all of you listen up! What I’m about to say is very, very
important, so you better not miss this.”
The word translated “hear” is from acouō and implies more than just a mere audible perception of
sound. It is that hearing with understanding which penetrates deep within the
heart. An examination of other verses in John’s gospel brings this out where I
have emphasized this word as used again by Jesus:
John 8:43: “Why do you not understand what I am
saying? It isbecause
you cannot hear My word.”
John 10:27: “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they
Connected with the act of hearing in John is the essential condition of believing (from
the Greek pisteuō). This word pisteuō is a very important concept
in John’s gospel indeed. Matthew and Mark use the verb ten times, and Luke uses
it nine, but John a staggering ninety-nine times! To miss the message of pisteuō is to miss the message of
eternal life in John’s gospel (cf. John -31).
It is the act of believing, understanding
in the heart, placing one’s confidence in, and trusting the Lord. The
corresponding noun pistis, whence we
get “faith,” is shown in James 2:14-26 to be such that is accompanied by good
works. True faith always produces good works—they are the natural outcome of a
saving relationship according to Ephesians 2:8-10. However, these good works
are done because one is saved, not in
order to make one saved. (Can a child of the devil really do good works that please God?) Perhaps another survey to
demonstrate the force of pisteuō is appropriate:
John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he
gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth
in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (KJV).
John 6:40: “For this is the will of My Father,
that everyone who beholds the Son and believes
in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.”
Because of the special Greek construction in John , the Granville Sharp rule applies in
which only one individual is being specified by Jesus. The person who hears is
the one who believes, and vice versa.
So when I speak about one who believes below, I do not mean to exclude hearing
as an integral part.
Detrimental to my opponent’s proposition is the fact that
one who believes, according to John 5:24, “has eternal life.” Again I focus
attention on the Greek grammar underlying the English translation, for the verb
“has” is the present active indicative from echō.
This brings back sweet memories from that first night of beginning Greek class
many years ago! I recall sweet Dr. Ware (an old time Southern Baptist)
explaining from Machen’s grammar about the parsing of the verb echō. In John the tense of echei
(the third person, singular conjugation from echō) is present, the progressive present to be exact and not
a habitual present. Jesus was not talking about an event to occur in the
future, nor one in the past, but rather He was speaking about the “right now!...and
on a continuing basis.” The voice of the verb is active, meaning the subject is
doing the action. And, finally, the mood is indicative, a statement of reality
or fact. It is not wishful thinking or volition that Jesus was discussing. When
put altogether, it simply means…has!
Not meaning to skip ahead to our third proposition to debate
eternal security, the fact is, however, eternal life is a present possession of
the one who exercises faith alone. Though my opponent may identify other
portions of Scripture that speak about eternal life as a future blessing, John
5:24 describes it as a PRESENT possession for the one believes. Eternal life is
a quality of life that emanates from the Son (vide 1 John -12 ).
Its duration is forever and ever, never coming to an end (this is what
“eternal” means). And by virtue of the
present active indicative verb, since believing comes before baptism, eternal
life also comes before baptism. There cannot be a lapse of time from the
moment one believes until the moment he receives eternal life, which coincides
with the remission of sins. If Mr. Turner still wishes to press this issue,
then he does so for reasons that are non-grammatical, and he may wish to review
the third chapter of Machen regarding verbs of the present active indicative.
(To his credit though, he did a fine job exegeting the participles in Matthew
The Present Active Indicative in John 5:24
The Crucial Gospel
Just what is the
gospel? is the essential question that we are asking in this debate.
Biblically, one’s view and response to the answer of this question means the
difference between an eternity in Heaven with joyful bliss, or an agonizing
eternity in the lake of fire. This is not a laughing matter that we are trying
to settle here. My love for Mr. Turner and for our reading audience compels me
to proclaim what I believe the Bible teaches in this regard. It behooves us all
to examine ourselves to see if we really walk in the truth. Galatians 1:6-9
gives the terrifying warning:
I am amazed that you are so quickly
deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which
is really not another; only
there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.
But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary
to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before,
so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what
you received, he is to be accursed!
The most alarming statement from Mr. Turner’s first response
regarding the gospel is this: “...there is absolutely no reason to doubt that
the gospel Philip preached to the eunuch was…namely, that one needed to be
baptized in the name of Jesus Christ ‘for the remission of sins.’ ” I am afraid
that Mr. Turner has called down the curse of God upon himself by believing such
heresy. I caution the reader from holding his view no matter how eloquent his
writing style or how convincing he may seem. Several reasons come to mind to which
I now turn my attention.
First, the proper response to the gospel, according to Romans
, is belief. Belief is what
Romans and Mark 16:16 share in
common. According to the Apostle: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it
is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first
and also to the Greek” (Romans ).
Since belief comes before baptism, the power of God for salvation must also
come before baptism (like John ,
there is another present indicative verb in this verse). Notice also that it is
“everyone who believes,”not “only those
who believe and are baptized” (Mr. Turner’s doctrine).
Secondly, the gospel explicitly EXCLUDES water baptism. Paul
wrote, “I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and
Gaius….For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the
gospel” (1 Corinthians -17a). I
could not imagine Mr. Turner making such a bold statement! The logic goes like
this: Paul was sent to do A; he was not sent to do B. Therefore, B is not a
part of A. Paul was sent to preach the gospel; he was not sent to baptize.
Therefore, contra Mr. Turner, baptism is not a part of the gospel. Paul did not
minimize the beautiful symbol of baptism, but neither did he elevate it to a
position above its rightful, God-honoring significance.
Finally, the gospel is defined in 1 Corinthians 15, and
there we do not see baptism in God’s plan for obtaining salvation (although we
do see belief):
Now I make known to you, brethren,
the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you
stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached
to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first
importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the
Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day
according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve
(1 Corinthians 15:1-5).
To add baptism to the gospel is to make a blatant attempt to
distort it. To say that baptism is the gospel is to tell a lie. Let me quote Mr.
Turner again, “...there is absolutely no reason to doubt that the gospel Philip
preached to the eunuch was…namely, that one needed to be baptized in the name
of Jesus Christ ‘for the remission of sins.’ ” Whatever Philip preached to the
eunuch, we know that his gospel was not baptism, but rather it centered on the
work of Christ. Paul did not include baptism in his list of facts stated in 1
Corinthians 15:1-5, and neither should we.
May God grant Mr. Turner the repentance that leads to life
(cf. Acts ).
Eis Aphesin Hamartiōn, Part
Yet, to be fair to Mr. Turner, he did attempt to make an
argument in favor of his proposition from the Scriptures (and in my follow up
responses, I hope to cover each of these in worthy detail). But we are reminded
that Peter who spoke Acts also
warned in his second epistle that the “untaught and unstable” would distort the
Scriptures to their own destruction. False teachers can do amazing things with
Scripture; even the devil demonstrated that he was somewhat of a Bible scholar
in Matthew 4. In regard to such Scripture twisting, I shall expose one such
example now from how Mr. Turner handles Acts 2:38.
First, it should be evident to all that he is very fond of
abusing this wonderful verse that is cleaved to by every single Baptist. Based
upon his understanding of “for [in order to] the remission of sins,” he uses it
over and over again as a starting point or grid through which the rest of the
Bible is to be interpreted. (His fallacy here is an abuse of the analogy of
faith.) Every other verse in his method must conform to make baptism a
prerequisite to salvation because of Acts 2:38. (The grammatico-historical
method, however, aims to let each verse of the Bible stand on its own merits
and with equal weight.) For example, even though Cornelius was baptized by the
Holy Spirit, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, believed the gospel, had his spiritual
gift and was a member of the body of Christ (only members of Christ’s body
receive spiritual gifts, vide 1
Corinthians 12), he was unsaved until his water baptism. Why? Well, you see, as
Mr. Turner explains, he needed to be water baptized “for [in order to] the
remission of sins.” So even though he had all of the spiritual blessings that
only New Testament Christians receive, he was not saved.
Could it be, Mr. Turner, that you should have remained with
the context of Acts 10 for a little while longer before jumping to conclusions
with a false understanding of Acts 2:38? Were you not aware that Peter also
made reference to how one receives the remission of sins in the same context
dealing with Cornelius? Let me refresh your memory—Acts 10:43: “Of Him all the
prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him
receives forgiveness of sins.” I know why Cornelius spoke in tongues before he
was water baptized. He understood how to get saved and believed the gospel
before Peter had a chance to baptize him! Mr. Turner’s fallacy in handling the
case of Cornelius is the appeal to selective evidence and he purposely ignores
evidence contrary to his proposition by the blatant exclusion of Acts 10:43.
Since Mr. Turner uses Acts 2:38 as a foundation to build an
upside-down pyramid for his sacramental theology, all we need to do is debunk
his understanding of eis aphesin hamartiōn
and his pyramid begins to crumble. His exegetical fallacy in pointing to
Matthew 26:28 as justification for his understanding of Acts 2:38 is twofold:
(1) assuming that the same prepositional phrase eis aphesin hamartiōn must mean the same thing in different
contexts, (2) and collapsing contexts—namely, using Matthew 26:28 and Acts 2:38
together, two verses that have vastly different contexts.
First we deal with the assumption that eis aphesin hamartiōn in Acts 2:38 must mean “in order to
obtain forgiveness of sins” because of the meaning determined in Matthew 26:28.
There is a very good reason why A.T. Robertson was wise to make a distinction
between the different functions of eis
aphesin when used in different contexts (Large Grammar, 595). From just spending two hours on BibleWorks
with a spreadsheet, I was able to document dozens of verses using eis in synonymous prepositional phrases, and yet I found that the meanings for eis may be entirely different based upon
different contexts. To illustrate this frequent New Testament phenomenon, two
English sentences suffice:
·The pupil studied hard for his good grades.
·The pupil was rewarded for his good grades.
In the first sentence, the meaning of the prepositional
phrase “for his good grades” indicates purpose or goal (“in order to obtain
good grades”). In the second, it is causal (meaning “because of”) explaining
why he was rewarded. Although synonymous in vocabulary, it is an absurdity to
assume the meaning of the prepositional phrase in the first sentence means the
same thing in the second. The same holds true for Acts and Matthew 26:28. The New Testament provides many
hierosoluma, “unto Jerusalem,” indicates
a grounds or basis in Matthew 5:35, motion to a location in , and rest in a location in Acts 25:15.
tēn oikian means “into the house” in Matthew 2:11, but in Mark 10:10
it means “in the house.”
gēn means “into the land” in Matthew ,
“for the soil” in Luke , “to
the ground” in Luke 24:5, “on the ground” in John 8:6, and “in the land” in Hebrews
merē indicates motion to a location in Matthew 2:22, but in Revelation
16:19 it indicates a dividing action.
tēn basileian tou theou means “into the kingdom
of God” in John 3:5, but in
Colossians it means “for the kingdom
means “to/for me” in Matthew 26:10, but in Matthew it means “against me.”
huion tou anthrōpou means “against the Son of Man” in Luke 12:10, but
in John 9:35 it means “in the Son of Man.”
This is just a sample of the results I found in my research.
I only looked at a small fraction of the occurrences of eis in the New Testament; the preposition appears some 1,800 times
altogether. Who knows what I could have found if I had looked at every
occurrence or even other prepositions! But I think the point is well made to
refute Mr. Turner’s assumption and to vindicate A.T. Robertson’s wisdom. Eis aphesin hamartiōn does not need
to mean the same thing in Matthew 26:28 and Acts 2:38. It is customary for eis to take on different meanings in
different contexts, even where the
vocabulary of the prepositional phrase is synonymous. This fact leads me now
to refute his second error by bringing attention to the contexts of Acts and Matthew 26:28.
Fortunately for Mr. Turner, it is true that there is a
similarity between Acts and
Matthew 26:28. The similarity is in vocabulary. But that’s all folks.
The differences are tremendous. In Matthew 26:28 Jesus is
instituting the Lord’s Supper, but Acts 2:38 is the implementation of a
different Christian ordinance (baptism). Matthew 26:28 literally states eis aphesin hamartiōn, but Acts
2:38 adds a few more modifiers: eis
aphesin tōn hamartiōn humōn (this is a textual matter, but
likely the best choice because of older manuscripts). Acts 2:38 has baptism for
the remission of sins, but Matthew 26:28 speaks about Christ’s blood and all
the richness that this concept entails from the Levitical sacrificial system
and Hebrews 10 (in other words, Matthew 26:28 has a different basis for the
forgiveness of sins than Acts 2:38). Matthew 26:28 points to the atoning work
of Christ, but Acts 2:38 to a human deed of obedience. (Is it possible for man to atone for his own sins?) Matthew 26:28
records the words of Jesus, Acts
the words of Peter—as everyone knows, different speakers have their own
peculiarities. Matthew 26:28 was before the cross, Acts 2:38 after the cross
(in case the word “dispensation” conjures up too many negative emotions).
With all of these conspicuous differences, is it safe to
assume eis must mean the same thing
in each context with no differences? Mr. Turner seems to believe so.
Mr. Turner is guilty of comparing “apples and oranges” in
which he concludes that, since both are fruits, they must be the same thing. By
comparing Acts and Matthew
26:28 he concludes that, since both mention eis
aphesin hamartiōn, they must mean the same thing. Since he does not
understand that prepositional phrases are to be interpreted foremost by their
immediate context, he should have at least understood that he was pitting Acts
2:38 against John 5:24 and sought to find a more harmonious conclusion.
Clearly, Acts 2:38 and Matthew 26:28 are not a very good
parallel on which to settle for one meaning that can fit in every context for eis aphesin hamartiōn. There is
virtually no correspondence. Oh, I suppose Mr. Turner could add another
similarity and mention that they both are in the New Testament—this is grasping
at straws to find correspondence—but the evidence points out that he has only a
dogmatic assertion for using Matthew 26:28 in conjunction with Acts 2:38. This
is the fallacy of collapsing contexts and demonstrates his disregard for
Since my duty in relation to the proposition is to deny that
water baptism is in order to obtain the remission of sins, I am not necessarily
obligated to answer Mr. Turner point by point. I will address his arguments
when they suit my purposes, but my mission right now is to make a case against
works as a means to obtaining salvation. With the next two opportunities that I
have to deny this proposition, I intend to exegete the other relevant passages
he has presented and to finish my discussion on what the actual interpretation
of eis aphesin hamartiōn should
be in Acts 2:38. Because of the amount of exegetical detail I am accustomed to
presenting, space obviously constrains me from focusing on more issues right
now, so the reader is therefore encouraged to be patient as we progress through
Allan Turner has two weeks to post his response. As soon as he does, a link to it will be posted here.