Efficacy of Baptism



“18 For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: 19 By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; 20 Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. 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: 22 Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him.” 1 Peter 3:18-22 KJV


Above is one of the passages that ultimately led to me becoming a Lutheran.  The reason is that they are the only ones I have seen that can seem to properly teach the passage in line with the normal rules of grammar and language.  Everyone else seems to twist it horribly.  That said, the passage wasn’t easy for me either and in this post I will explain my analysis of it past and present as I wrestled with the text.


When I first started examining this passage I was against the plain reading of it and was trying to find ways to force it to say something else.  The first thing that I did was focus on the phrase “like figure”.  The NKJV renders this as “antitype” which can mean symbol.  So I argued that it was saying baptism is a symbol of salvation.


The problem with that is it ignores the previous verse entirely.  Grammatically the anitype is the story of Noah and how eight were saved by water.  An antitype pointing to baptism, which the text says saves us.


After that I tried to understand appealing to God for a clean conscience as saving us.  Afterall, the text says we are not saved by the “putting away of filth from the flesh” but by “the answer of a good conscience toward God”.  I was happy with this reading for a while.


Unfortunately that doesn’t work either.  You are in effect saying that a request and appeal to God for a clean conscience is what saves you.  To understand the text this way would mean that we help God save us by appealing to him, thus adopting synergism by means of works righteousness.  Might as well become a Roman Catholic at that point.


There is only one other option to save Creedo Baptism as far as I saw it, and it is to confess that there are two (2) baptisms.  One of the Spirit and one of the Water.  In this model you would then argue that 1 Peter 3:21 must only be speaking of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.  This framework helps for all those other pesky verses teaching a salvific baptism as well.  One can simply discern that when the Bible refers to baptism in an efficacious sense it is talking about the Baptism of the Holy Spirit (Matt 28:19) (John 3:5) (Acts 2:38-39)  (Acts 22:16)  (Gal 3:27) (Rom 6:3-5) (Eph 5:25-27) (Col 2:11-12)  (Titus 3:4-7).  And when one reads a verse saying that Baptism totally does nothing and its just a sign one has made a decision for Jesus they can understand it as water baptism (No Biblical Texts).


Ultimately the reason I reject the above hermeneutic, aside from the lack of a single text to support its thesis, is the fact that the Bible is clear there is only one Baptism.


“One Lord, one faith, one baptism” Eph 4:5 KJV


Lest there be any confusion Jesus Christ does in fact teach that water Baptism is Baptism.  This means one cannot simply delete water baptism from the Bible either.


“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:;  Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” Matt 28:19-20 KJV


So with only one (1) Baptism as an option, Jesus defining said Baptism, and Peter clearly stating Baptism saves you, there is no other option.  One must accept what the scripture says here or nullify it with a systematic theology that they impose over and against the text.


I simply refuse to do that


About ACTheologian

I am a layman who blogs my Biblical studies. Enjoy, please read with an open Bible and do double check with your pastor.
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14 Responses to Efficacy of Baptism

  1. prince.dc93 says:

    I have more of a question than a comment. I am not sure if you have written it but I am yet to see in my reading so far anything about the “procedure,” for lack of a better word, for baptism. There seems to be 2 different arguments 1. Baptism in the name of the father, son and holy spirit and 2. Baptism in the Name of Jesus. Coments.


    • ACTheologian says:

      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,
      Matthew 28:19 ESV

      And that is how the church has always done it. A short time ago a few cultic groups started to baptize only in the name of Jesus. They abuse the descriptive narrative of Acts for this.

      Peter is simply distinguishing between old covenant ritual baptisms for gentile converts to Judaism and Baptism into the death burial and resurrection of Christ that Jews and gentiles require.

      Even without that understanding, one should distinguish between descriptive and prescriptive narrative. And in Matt 28 it is Christ himself issuing the prescriptive directions for baptism.


  2. Grace ambassador says:

    GRACE And Peace, actheologian! I Praise The LORD JESUS that you have seen the Light And have “come out” (as God Commands in 2 Cor 6 : 17) of SDA (SAD?)! I have “tried” to discuss “Prophecy/Sabbath” with them, but it seems “pride/arrogance” are obstacles to reaching them!
    I see that you have “struggled” with “baptism” Passages in order to become a Lutheran! I can “identify” with that as I myself have also “come out” of more than one “religious organization” that were “corrupting” The Word Of God about this Very Important Doctrine, although they did preach:
    The Gospel Of The GRACE Of God!
    I believe you will agree with me that we both must “Agree” With God About This Very Important
    Doctrine. I also agree with “Clear Governs Unclear!” With this in mind, I would like to present
    what may seem “distasteful” to believe (yes, I know what it is to be called names, especially “heretic,” for what I have “concluded God Has for me.”)! But, this is the Only “View” That I have found in Scripture, to Answer (for me) what has “plagued” the Church, and left it powerless! =
    ………………………………………. Division Over “Water” Baptism!
    If this causes an “earthquake” in your present theology, we may have to go “deeper” with our
    research, and find out, In A Larger Context, If God Actually Has Two “Different” Programs (of which Most are not aware), And find If That Gives us Even Better Scriptural Answers to “solve” this “Division,” so that we would obey God by “Endeavouring For Unity In The Body Of CHRIST!”
    ……………………………………………………………… (Ephesians 4 : 3)
    actheologian, please Be Richly Blessed In HIM, our Blessed Saviour!
    Is Baptism A “Spiritual” Identification With JESUS CHRIST?
    I believe, By The Scriptures, that we are “spiritually identified with” (baptized into) CHRIST, HIS Crucifixion, HIS Death, HIS Burial, and HIS Resurrection! (Sounds like The Greatest News I’ve Ever heard!), so….. some of the Confirming Scriptures:
    Rom 6 : 3 “…baptized into JESUS CHRIST …baptized into HIS Death”
    Rom 6 : 4 “…buried with HIM by baptism into Death”
    Rom 6 : 6 “…crucified (JESUS’ Baptism?) With HIM,” And also:
    “For as many of you as have been BAPTIZED into
    CHRIST have put on CHRIST!” (Galatians 3 : 27)
    { Major NOTE: NO “water” Found “In The Context” Of Any Of These Passages! }
    With The SuperNatural Help of The Blessed Holy Spirit, And Comparing
    spiritual Scripture WITH spiritual Scriptures (1 Corinthians 2 : 13),
    This Baptism makes us “spiritually”:
    “COMPLETE in HIM, WHO Is The Head Of
    ALL principality and power!” (Colossians 2 : 10)
    “…the circumcision made WITHOUT HANDS (God?)
    …the CIRCUMCISION of CHRIST!” (Colossians 2 : 11)
    “Buried with HIM in BAPTISM, wherein also ye are risen With
    HIM through the Faith [ Faithfulness ] of THE OPERATION of God,
    WHO hath RAISED HIM from the dead!” (Colossians 2 : 12), AND,
    “Not by works of righteousness which we have done,
    But According To His Mercy HE SAVED us By The WASHING of
    REGENERATION, and RENEWING of The Holy Ghost!” (Titus 3 : 5)
    “Which HE Shed on us Abundantly Through JESUS CHRIST our SAVIOUR!”
    (Titus 3 : 6) { Is This TRUE for you, or is “religion your saviour”? }
    What? “Dirty Earth water” washing of regeneration? = Error!
    …………………….. God’s Correction Is Written:
    “That HE Might Sanctify And CLEANSE it (HIS Church) With:
    (Ephesians 5 : 26 cp 1 Corinthians 6 : 11; Psalm 119 : 140;
    Psalm 12 : 6 = KJV Bible? = 7 Revisions of purification?)
    { Does Not God Know How To “Preserve” HIS Word? }
    Even Peter { after receiving The “understanding Of The Truth Of The
    Mystery, From The Holy Spirit” (Ephesians 3 : 5) }, AGREES With Paul
    on The New Birth BY “The Incorruptible Seed = The Word Of God!” Amen?
    { Why Is Not This Washing BY Pure Water (HIS Word)? (1 Peter 1 : 23)
    Our choices, “saved” by men’s “words” OR Saved BY God’s Word And HIS Spiritual Operation!
    Now, This Should “Complete The ‘Spiritual’ OPERATION” of The Triune GodHead,
    BUT, Are we done “Comparing ALL The Scriptures” Of Baptism?
    (can’t believe it is this involved, eh? When men think “baptism” should just be simple/simply “water!,” which they then “turn” into “complex confusion!!”)
    Well, let’s see: In The Revelation of The Mystery (Gospel of GRACE for
    “us today”), a Prayerful and Careful study, Rightly Divided, we find:
    Ephesians 4 : 5 – “…One LORD, one faith, ONE BAPTISM…”
    So, What Saith The Scriptures “In It’s Context,” about The One Baptism?:
    “Endeavouring to keep The Unity of The Spirit in the bond of peace!
    There is one Body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope
    of your calling; One LORD, one faith, ONE Baptism, One God and Father
    of all, Who is above all, and through all, and in you all!” (Ephesians 4 : 3-6)
    (Are we All Really “endeavouring for this “Unity””?)
    Now, unless I am mistaken, we have 3 choices:
    1) all “physical” = Destruction of “the context”, agreed?
    2) “combo” of 6 Spiritual + 1 “physical,” lifted “out, and”
    …………………………………. “isolated”
    from the context, to be interpreted as “water” baptism =
    …………. Destruction of the context, agreed?
    3) These Seven Unities of God’s Spirit are All “Spiritual,”
    so now we kindly ask, Is God’s ONE Baptism “Spiritual”?
    Make One More Scriptural Comparison (1 Cor 2 : 13!), And Ask,
    “What Saith The Scripture?” And, The Scriptural Answer you Get,
    From God, In Today’s Dispensation Of God’s Amazing GRACE, Is:
    “For By ONE [Holy] Spirit are we all Baptized {Spiritually Identified with
    CHRIST} into ONE Body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we
    be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into ONE [Holy] Spirit.”
    …………………………….. (1 Corinthians 12 : 13)
    If this ONE BAPTISM Is Not = “The Operation Of God,” then we would have to
    “concede” that it is “men & religion with ‘water’” that saves us – any takers?
    Thus, All “True” Believers who come to God In The Way God Has
    Prescribed In His HOLY WORD, By The Gospel Of The Grace Of God,
    And Place Complete 100% faith in The LORD JESUS CHRIST And In
    HIS Precious BLOOD, And In HIS Resurrection Will ALWAYS have:
    God’s “Spiritual Operation” Of ETERNAL Salvation For EverMore! Amen?
    Be Richly Blessed!
    GRACE/repentance And faith, Found In SCRIPTURE, to The Honor And Glory
    Of GOD The Father, Through The LORD and SAVIOUR, JESUS CHRIST! Amen.
    Sincerely yours and SECURE-ly HIS!
    Grace ambassador
    Saint Christopher (Bro Chris)
    (1) plenty of “baptism experiences”
    (2) PDF file with ALL 13 “BIBLE Baptisms,” Rightly Divided
    (3) PDF file available with Basic Distinctions In *God’s Two (2) “Different” Programs!*


    • ACTheologian says:

      The word baptize means simply to wash. Water is included. That’s how John did it, that’s how the apostles did it, and that’s what Jesus told them to do in the great commission.
      Also eph 4:5 teaches there is only one baptism. Which is the same one that Peter says saves us in 1 Peter 3:21.
      There are no other baptisms. That’s the one.
      This doesn’t equal works righteousness. It’s simply one of several means by which God gives us faith. Just like he does with the preaching of the word Rom 10:17.


  3. Mike says:

    Hey ACTheo,
    As promised, here’s my attempt to explain away the 1 Peter 3 passage 🙂
    I’m beginning with the premise that the anti-type is defined by the type and can only be rightly understood by a contextual explanation of the type
    Firstly, it’s not the best rendering to say 8 people were saved BY water for two reasons:
    1) The water was God’s judgement upon the world not the means of salvation. They were
    actually saved from or through the water in a positive sense or because of the water in a
    causative sense.
    2) the ‘wherein’ of verse 20, which indicates the location or means of the salvation, is referring
    to the ark and not the water.
    So when baptism (the anti-type) is said to save us in like fashion to the ark and flood scenario (the type) it cannot be drawing a parallel between the waters of baptism and the waters of the flood. It would be more accurate to say that baptism here is like getting in the ark and having God seal you in and save you from His judgement of sin.
    Aha!, you might say (I actually don’t know if you are an Aha! type of guy), if they hadn’t gotten in the ark they wouldn’t have been saved so if you don’t get baptized you won’t be saved either. It’s a valid Aha! by the way. Have I proven your point here in different terms? I hope I have and I also hope I’ve taken the water out of it.
    I baptize you with water but there’s a guy coming who’s going to baptize you with something other than water, something better than water.
    There are times, I believe, when it is inaccurate to assume water when the word baptize is used. There are other times when the two cannot be separated. For instance, it’s tricky to reference prophetic mention of washing, cleansing, sprinkling, etc.(e.g. Eze 36, Isa 4, and lots others), as though these things must mean only literal water application when the literal water applications they do actually refer to, as prescribed in the Mosaic system, were ultimately given as symbols and types themselves pointing forward to a heavenly reality that was yet to come (Exodus 25:40, Heb 8:5). The prophets were often talking symbolically about actual, material things that were given as symbols. Kind of a weird loop. Maybe that’s why they themselves longed to understand what they were saying. Angels, too. (1 Peter 1:10-12)
    That brings me to Matthew 28. “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.” Did you know that the only imperative in these verses is “make disciples”? Baptizing and teaching obedience are connected but they are not commands. “Baptize” often has water associations but it can also simply mean to plunge under or overwhelm with. “in the name of” is interesting also. ‘In’ here indicates destination and ‘name’ represents authority and character. So, “In the name of” doesn’t really mean something like “By the power vested in me by the State of Blah, blah, blah.” Just like praying in Jesus’ name isn’t simply adding that phrase on to the end as a closing line. If we can halt the knee-jerk water association that follows the word baptize we might render these verses like this: “As you go, make disciples, plunging them under and into the authority and character of God and teaching them obedience”.
    These folks then, rather than looking back to some watery ablutions will be straining forward, earnestly desiring a good conscience before God, which is what Peter parenthetically says the salvation of baptism is: (not the removal of outward dirt but the earnest desire for a good conscience before God). Looking on a timeline, on the left side of the cross we have type followed by anti-type and on the right side of the cross we have anti-type followed by type. Like this: Creation………..type…………anti-type/Christ/anti-type………..type…………Consummation
    In this way I express Baptism as both type and anti-type. I entered the ark of safety by plunging myself under the work Christ finished on my behalf (anti-type). Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. The Holy Spirit then came and regenerated my heart, indwelling and implanting faith (The promise of the Father and the new birth). Part of that faith includes bowing to His authority as Lord, seeking to learn of Him, take on His character, live in obedience, confessing and being forgiven so much it’s embarrassing, etc. Part of that obedience is partaking in water baptism one time as a sign of the new covenant (type).
    Kinda long. Sorry.

    Liked by 1 person

    • ACTheologian says:

      I know it’s kinda long but you had a lot to say, and it was gernmane to the topic. So I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it. If someone is ranting a false gospel and obviously just trying to deceive people I will shut them down. But reading your comments is kind of a break from that to be honest. This is stuff everyone needs to study. I must apologize though, my response is also long.

      I feel I’ve already made my argument about this passage and why I read it the way I do so I’m not gonna retread it. With respect, I’ll mostly address why I wouldn’t feel comfortable making the argument you’re making. I’ll attempt to do so by interacting with and representing your points as accurately as I understand them. I’ll also offer what I think is a better one I think for Baptist theology that you are free to borrow. You allude to it but you didn’t really dive in from what I saw. I got it from other Baptists while I was studying this stuff, and it was the last thing kinda holding me back from going Lutheran for a while.

      And of course I’ll also share why I now reject it 😛

      You said

      1) The water was God’s judgement upon the world not the means of salvation. They were
      actually saved from or through the water in a positive sense or because of the water in a
      causative sense.

      I don’t see a difference with “by” or “through”. For example, I could say I am saved by Jesus or I could say I am saved through his atoning sacrifice. My point is preferring one word doesn’t alter the meaning Peter is making. The water did certainly save Noah from the wicked people of that era, and the boat did certainly save him from drowning. In the sense of type / antitype fulfilment this works as type and shadow is supposed to be unclear and fuzzy anyways.

      Basically my point is while I do believe we have some water typology, I don’t need it. I just need the word “baptism” to be referencing a water baptism. I’ll be revisiting this.

      You said

      2) the ‘wherein’ of verse 20, which indicates the location or means of the salvation, is referring to the ark and not the water.

      Why does it have to be either or? Why can’t it be both? If I was making this argument I would feel as if it was my theology forcing the either/or dichotomy. That said, even if you insist I don’t need it to be just the water or even the water and the boat. If you’re going to insist that it’s only the boat then I’ll simply point out that water baptism saves you in an antitype fulfillment just as the boat did in type and shadow. I maintain that a boat referent is correct, it’s just not the only referent.

      You said

      3) It would be more accurate to say that baptism here is like getting in the ark and having God seal you in and save you from His judgement of sin.

      I disagree with this statement altogether. You can’t baptize yourself. You can’t do it anymore than you can choose to be born the first time. Water is merely water and words are merely words. It is what God has promised to do in with and under this water and word that is the baptism.

      I would refrain from interacting with the ark philosophically when it comes to the finer points of soteriology. In a broad sense we can bring it up and point to it, and the water, as type and shadow. More on that later when I am responding to one of your other points.

      To interact with your point anyways though, I would say that Noah didn’t know a flood was even coming, thus the need to build a boat, until God told him. The acts we do in baptism don’t do anything, it is what God does in baptism to us when we are baptized that saves us.

      For example, the same actions of requesting baptism and driving to church would do you no good at a Jehovah’s Witnesses congregation. You would not be receiving a trinitarian baptism, even though what you did on your end is materially the same. Mans actions here are salvifically irrelevant.

      To give another example, this time with preaching the word (rom 10:17). You cannot fly in the same sense you cannot give yourself faith. You can walk into an airplane though in the same sense you can walk into a church. But if Joel Osteen is the pilot….. the word isn’t going to be preached and thus no faith will be given by God.

      You Said

      4) There are times, I believe, when it is inaccurate to assume water when the word baptize is used.

      I disagree when applied in principle rather than exegetically, the word itself means to wash. The most natural understanding of baptism is to include water just as the most natural understanding of washing includes water. I would need a very clear exegetical reason to not grant that. I wouldn’t be willing to use a tradition or even a hermeneutic formed in other passages to carry that over.

      I see no reason to dehydrate the hermeneutic. It’s not either water or God the Holy Spirit is my point. There is no reason to insist on that dichotomy. He promises to come to us in the waters of our baptism. A clear benefit experienced of this is to me that there is no questioning it. In my weakest moments I could doubt my sanctification for example as it’s a subjective thing. But I can never question whether or not I was physically baptized, and I can hold to Christ in this baptism because I know based on his promises that he did save me by giving me faith Just as sure as I am that I felt the water pour over me.
      My point is though, that when we see type and shadow of being made clean and sprinkled with water I do read that as involving water. When I see Paul speaking of God the Holy Spirit being “poured” over us I see water also in that word. When Jesus says to baptize people I read it as involving water, which is corroborated by the fact that many times water is clearly referenced. There is no reason to take out the water so I simply don’t do it. I would not feel comfortable making this argument because I have no exegetical reason to remove water from a word that means wash. I’m not saying I limit it to water, I’m just saying I wont take that out either.

      You rightly pointed out this verse, it was a good point and I’ll address it:

      “’I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: ‘ Matt 3:11 KJV

      I would of course distinguish between John’s baptism and Jesus baptism. Water is included in the latter though which beyond simply being implied by the word baptism, is seen carried out in the narrative. If you wish to insist it’s carried out in immersion too that’s fine, I don’t think so but I like immersion baptisms too. I see them as the same.

      To be clear, when one is baptized they are receiving God the Holy Spirit in with and under the water. So it is correct to understand him as being “poured”…. Or immersed that’s fine too 😛

      5) You referenced Matt 28…

      I agree that teaching and making disciples is a part of baptism. You can’t separate these things from it. Like I alluded to in a previous comment on another post I would never take a fire hose into town and spray everyone in the name of the father, son, and holy spirit. They would probably just run away, and I might get a lawsuit or land in jail. In either case no teaching would follow. Whatever seed was planted would be very unlikely to land in good soil (matt 13).

      My point is though, that your argument here wouldn’t work for me because Jesus clearly does reference baptism. Which we see in Acts and other places involving water.

      Using the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit is the way that Jesus presents it. If someone is refusing to do this my concern is that they might not be Trinitarian and may be worshipping an idol. I’m not saying I would label them as heretics right away but I would have some questions for the ones doing the teaching.

      Even if they are trinitarian and mean their baptisms in a trinitarian sense, in such an age where antitrinitarian teachings persist to the extent that they do I would prefer to take my family to a church that isn’t ashamed to declare it in their baptisms. There’s certainly no rule that says you can’t. That’s just how I feel about it.

      Confessional Lutherans won’t baptize a new convert who has been baptized already unless the church that did it isn’t trinitarian. This was complicated for me by the fact that Adventists perform baptisms as presented in Matt 28. They say the words is my point. But they don’t confess the Trinity in their creeds (they call them the fundamental beliefs because they don’t like the word creed). They kinda try to, but they leave out the thesis of “same substance” because it conflicts with Ellen White’s teachings. Which is why I did get baptized as an adult in the Lutheran church even though I had been baptized SDA as a kid.

      My point is it’s not the words so much as the teaching behind them. Hence “baptize and teach”. So to a certain extent we likely agree on this point you’re making about using the words. I wouldn’t understand it like a abra kadabra spell. Fair enough?

      You said

      6) “These folks then, rather than looking back to some watery ablutions will be straining forward, earnestly desiring a good conscience before God, which is what Peter parenthetically says the salvation of baptism is: (not the removal of outward dirt but the earnest desire for a good conscience before God)”

      I’m concerned by this statement, maybe you can clarify for me. You say they are straining and desiring and clean conscience before they have been given faith? Wouldn’t that not be some form of Pelagianism? How is someone who is totally depraved and has not faith desiring such spiritually good things?
      If you mean to say they had already received faith by the preaching of the word and now wanted baptism to symbolize it then that’s fine. It just doesn’t make your point though because the text says “baptism saves you”. Also, it doesn’t move me because I believe that saved people can still receive faith over and over again through word and sacrament.

      Maybe it’s an effective argument for you, but I wouldn’t be able to make it if I held to your understanding. Fair enough?

      I would agree that it is not just the water, but the water with the word in which God promises to give faith.

      Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” Ephesians 5:25-27 ESV

      7) Your last point on type/antitype/type….

      We do fundamentally disagree here. I would say that I see type and shadow more like I do foreshadow in works of fiction. Bear with me….
      Have you read “To Kill a Mockingbird”? Remember when Atticus tells his son

      “Shoot all the blue jays you want, if you can hit ’em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird”?

      Later in the novel we see that was a foreshadow of Tom Robinson, and innocent man, being slain. What happened to Tom was the theme of the whole book, the bird comment was very minor. Even the part that Atticus says it was cut out of the movie and they had to move it because it was just this minor side quest in the novel.

      What am I saying though? This book was fiction the Bible is true. Apples and oranges right? Not really. Just as God gave us his word in human languages he also used human genres of literature. And it would seem, human literary devices as well. The amazing part is he does it with history itself not just on the pages of a book.

      I am sure David had no idea that there would be any significance to his collecting five stones to slay goliath, thus preserving the line of Christ, who died on the cross slaying death and the devil with five piercing wounds on his body. If it were fiction I would say foreshadow. It’s not fiction though so I say type and shadow instead. Literary devices employed with history itself though? Only the hand of God could do such a thing.

      There are other examples more germane to what we are discussing. For example, Paul validates that the red sea crossing was type and shadow of baptism. How they were delivered from pharaoh and his army (bondage to sin) by water (1 Cor 10:1-6). I would even go on to make a parallel with going to the promised land (heaven). Notice they are sustained by bread from heaven during the process too which has strong parallels with John 6 and other places. We are talking about baptism though so sorry for the Eucharist side show.

      My point is, in sacrament you are receiving Jesus literally. You are receiving the antitype not the type and shadow.

      With respect, why I wouldn’t be comfortable with your argument here is that to hold to it you must assume your conclusion. What do I mean by that? You must assume that baptism is just a symbol, thus a new testament type, thus antitype rolls back to type. The plainest reading of scripture is that baptism is something God does to you and that he literally saves you in it. Why would I want to rationalize that as a type due to a perceived logical conflict with sola fide (as some do) rather than accept both as true and admit I don’t understand?

      Better argument that I recommend

      If you use this argument I think it would be better for you, if you disagree that’s fine. I’ll share it though. With the one you’re presenting you have to convince me that 1 Peter 3:21 is only referencing the ark and that antitype reverts to type. You’re also having to convince me that in places where it’s convenient to a particular hermeneutic baptism doesn’t include water. That is a hard sell I don’t recommend it.

      The best Baptist argument I have seen is that baptism in the new testament after the cross is ONLY the transformed life. Baptists usually use the term “born again” to describe this. Thus 1 Peter 3:21 can be read as this transformative experience of God entering you with water only being a figurative thing in all new covenant occurances.

      I see you kind of making that argument, but you’re making a lot of points that aren’t necessary for it. You could simply insist that every didactic passage where Paul cites baptism, washing, and water he meant it symbolically just as John meant “baptized by fire” in a symbolic sense for hell (that last part of which I would agree with).

      I ended up rejecting that argument for three reasons.

      One, I feel that it is special pleading.

      It’s unreasonable in my assessment to assume that everytime baptism and water is mentioned in ways it is inconvenient for a particular theology that it must not include water. And that everytime it appears in a way that is convenient for a particular theology then it does include water. For example, as I said above when John talked about Jesus baptizing people with fire he likely meant figuratively for bathing in hell as one would water. Why? Well I have some very good exegetical reasons to conclude this:

      ‘I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: Whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire. ‘ Matthew 3:11-12 KJV

      I think I can safely use verse 12 to contend hell is in view here. I don’t need to establish a hermeneutic elsewhere and come back to it. Without something that obvious I am going to assume a metaphor is not in play and just read it as I would the word “wash” and thus includes water.

      Here is a more extreme example of what I am getting at. SDA insist that everytime wine is mentioned in a positive sense it means grape juice and everytime it’s mentioned in a negative sense it means fermented wine. I know that even most Baptists who strongly advocate Biblical temperance don’t get that absurd with wine passages. But understand that I see this as an extreme example of the same reason I wouldn’t apply a unilateral principle to dehydrate baptism, particularly if I discern that unilateral principal is based on rationalism rather than exegesis.

      Two, I’m convinced that Jesus was referencing water baptism in matt 28.

      Or at the very least, that the baptism he was referencing included water. Thus when Eph 4:5 says there is only “one baptism” I am forced to read other passages that speak on baptism saving you as being the same baptism Jesus is referencing in Matt 28. So I don’t see it as two baptisms like some pentacostals do, and I won’t dehydrate the hermeneutic either like this Baptist argument I once held to appears to do. Therefore by scripture I’m compelled against my will, culture, and American Baptist tradition to conflate the word and read all these passages (cited in my first baptism post) on speaking to water baptism.

      Three, I can’t exegete the material principal of Baptist theology (on baptism) from scripture

      This was the final thing for me that made me drop the Baptist hermeneutic. I had been taught my whole life the following words (even in non-sda circles):
      “Baptism totally does nothing, it’s just a sign to tell the world that you have made a decision for Jesus”

      I’m not saying I need to see a verse that plainly states all those words in that order. That would not be fair. But I do need to see the following theses plainly exegeted (not rationalized)

      1) Baptism totally does nothing, it’s just a symbol
      I’ve seen this rationalized but I haven’t seen it exegeted. It’s a bold thesis and I want some bold exegesis on the topic of baptism before I’ll go with it. Fair enough?

      2) You have made a decision for Jesus

      Not down with decision theology. I’ve written a few posts on it and you’re welcome to review them if you like. Just type decision theology into the search bar and something will come up. If that doesn’t work though and you’re curious let me know and I’ll send a few links.
      For me though that’s ding #2.

      I can’t prove that it’s symbolic, I can only assume it must be with tradition and look for ways to read that in to all the passages that clearly seem to indicate it isn’t.

      When I started examining Baptist theology with the same scrutiny and prejudice that I did those “Waayyy too Catholic Lutherans” my goose was cooked.
      That wasn’t easy though because it meant giving up a cherished tradition. I know we usually associate tradition with Rome. Protestants (and I include Lutherans here) have their sacred cows / traditions too. They usually just tend to be newer that’s all.

      Final Thoughts

      I’m sorry if I came on too strong, I hope I didn’t make you angry or anything. Please understand my comments as a reflection on my own thoughts. This isn’t one of those things we should be anathematizing each other, or going to war over which was sadly done many years ago.
      For me, the lightbulb hit when I realized I should be rationalizing the text as infrequently as possible. Only to connect dots, not to form core theses. For example:

      1) The Bible teaches that we are saved by faith alone (Rom 3:28)
      2) The Bible teaches that baptism saves (1 Pet 3:21)

      Both are true whether I like it or not. Instead of pitting one against the other I say “both are certainly true… so how??”. Even if I arrive at a paradox or as some say, contradiction, after doing that then I just accept it. I don’t feel I have to do that with baptism though. I use reason to connect the dots here and confess that it saves you by God giving you faith in baptism.


      • mike says:

        Hey man, No worries about me being angered or put off. I am so encouraged by the entire tenor of this dialogue. I hold you as a brother in the Lord and that we are endeavoring toward unity of the spirit in the bonds of peace. At the end of the day, each one of us from merest layman to most advanced theologian are going to be corrected and surprised in many points when we finally see Him as He is and are made like him. I do not reckon that the Lord ultimately favors denominations, ists, and isms as much as we, who sometimes are of Paul and sometimes of Apollos, are prone to do. Thanks for the lengthy and thorough reply. I’ve read it a few times and want to respond to all of it but feel that batting each point back and forth in each response might grow cumbersome (plus my brain is small) so I just wanted to hit one experiential thing and one sort of foundational thing. If we remain divided on the foundational thing we’ll never come together on the rest anyway. Line upon line and precept upon precept don’t ya know.

        You’ve mentioned a number of times how that, when you’re feeling weak and unsanctified, you are able to look back to your baptism as an actual event and, tying in God’s promise to save you in those waters (as you understand it), you gain assurance to strengthen you through those vulnerable times. What a gracious blessing! I wonder how much that experience colors your theology and interpretation of scripture as I sometimes wonder how much my experience colors mine? When I am feeling those self same low and weak moments (and when the Psalms cannot lift me up) I often look back as well but not to my baptism. I was baptized more than 2 years after I was born again. What I look back to is 7:30 (ish) am on June 12, 2002. I was all alone in my work van in the parking lot at work. The nightmare in my head and spirit had been building for many months. I was reading the bible as though my life depended on it as I had become convinced that I was going to hell, that it was entirely just, and that there was nothing I could do about it. I couldn’t figure out just what it was the bible was trying to get across about Jesus (obviously He was inescapably prominent). Even had the pastor over to the house. I laid my whole deal on the line and he took me through scripture after scripture. I was like, “Yup, I saw that one. Yup, saw that one too.” Eventually the poor guy had to go home. I walked him to the door and he looked at me and said, “All I can tell you is to pray. Ask God to reveal Jesus to you.” I said, “Yeah. Thanks for trying.” Lots of increasingly sleepless nights later I am in my van at the very end of my rope. I gave up completely. I begged out loud for God to show me Jesus. He did in a very sudden and wordless sort of way that is hard to describe. I instantly cried out for Him to take me, to save me, to come inside and do whatever He wanted: To leave whatever, to change whatever. It wasn’t any kind of “sinner’s prayer”. It was far too visceral. I could liken it to a kind of spiritual projectile vomiting if that wasn’t such a gross picture (whoops! It slipped out anyways 🙂 ). From that moment on the scriptural picture began to coalesce. So I look back on that and tie in scriptural promises like “whoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved” or “They will seek me and find me when they seek me with their whole heart” and I gain assurance to help me through vulnerable times. I know that the Holy Spirit of God was within me long before my water baptism for this and many other various reasons.

        I’m not saying this to downplay your experience at all nor to elevate mine (It is God who does the saving and I praise Him) but just to wonder how much theology is colored by such things. While I value Christian experience as I obey and test and approve God’s good, perfect, and pleasing will, I have also seen firsthand the damage done to scripture caused by clinging foremost to a theological school and I have seen theological schools colored deeply by experience. I sometimes fear this in me and watch for it carefully (I think) and I wonder if you do as well. Enough said.

        On to the foundational thing.
        I think if baptize always means to wash with physical water then you are correct in saying, “Do you want to be born again? Get baptized.” I will not dispute that something important happens in the waters of baptism. To state that it is a meaningless symbol is way off the mark (sorry my Baptist brothers). But I do not think that what happens is the imputation of faith. I think it is an act of obedience and, therefore, is preceded by faith.

        John the Baptist presented the dichotomy: “I baptize with water BUT…” He literally took the water out of it by mentioning water. He drew a distinction between water baptism and Holy Spirit baptism if we just read it plainly. Both John and Jesus baptize. They both baptize WITH something. One is water unto repentance and the other is the Holy Spirit. If water washing is always to be associated with baptism then why the repetition? Did John actually say, “I water wash with water but Jesus will water wash with the Holy Spirit”? I can’t buy that. I think it renders better as “I submerge/immerse you in water unto repentance but He will submerge/immerse you in the Holy Spirit.”

        There’s two different words rendered baptize. One means to dip and is temporary. The other means to submerge as in a sunken vessel and is not temporary. Both can involve water or some liquid but neither has to. The word itself is not tied to water but to dipping or submerging. It is interesting to study, with the help of a good concordance, which word is used where and in which contexts. The clearest example that shows the difference is a text from the Greek poet and physician Nicander, who lived about 200 B.C. It is a recipe for making pickles and is helpful because it uses both words. Nicander says that in order to make a pickle, the vegetable should first be ‘dipped’ (bapto) into boiling water and then ‘submerged’ (baptizo) in the vinegar solution. Both verbs concern the immersing of vegetables in a solution. But the first is temporary. The second, the act of baptising the vegetable, produces a permanent change.

        Washing with water is a definition of baptize but it is not the only definition and may not even be the main meaning. The primary meaning is most likely to be submerge or overwhelm, with water being a common practical application. Either way, context must be king or it ends up as roadkill. For instance, a good brother insists that leaven is always used as a picture of sin. If that is the case, then “The kingdom of heaven is like sin which a woman took and hid in 3 measures of flour until it was all influenced by sin.” I think that rigidity of meaning derails the intention here.

        Similarly, when I look at 1 Corinthians 10; “For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea; and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and all ate the same spiritual food; and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ.” I notice a few things:
        1) The word ‘under’ implies inferiority more than physical location, as in under authority
        2) The fathers were never actually in the cloud; there was no water involved If this reference is to the cloud upon Sinai, then it was Moses who went in and when he had come down and relayed God’s commands all the people said, “We will keep all the Lord’s commands just as you have said.” And so, in the cloud, the Lord exalted Moses in the sight of Israel and the fathers were plunged under Moses’ authority. If the cloud refers to the pillar of smoke that led the Israelites by day, then it is referencing the authority of God. I prefer the former because they were baptized into Moses.
        3) The fathers never touched any water in the sea. They walked through on dry land with water piled up on both sides of them. It was the Egyptians who went into the water. Judgement is in view in these waters as in Noah’s day. Again, the Lord exalted Moses in their sight and they were plunged under his authority as God’s mediator.
        4) The manna is spiritualized and the water from the rock is spiritualized so it’s not against the law to spiritualize things when context allows and when it doesn’t upend the whole counsel of scripture.

        In summary, it is okay to dehydrate baptism (I LOVE this phrase by the way. Thank you. Very catchy.) when context allows or even demands. Hydration is allowed in the definitions of the words themselves but it is not demanded there and so such a demand should not be carried over into context unless the demand arises from the context, in which case it should not be ignored. I believe John the Baptist dehydrated it!


        Liked by 1 person

      • ACTheologian says:

        I agree, I would not want to confess sola fide in a way that denies sola fide. For example, sometimes the “pulpit and pen” likes to put out these articles declaring people to be damned….. who are confessing Trinitarian Christians… I mean… yeah we (Christians) disagree on things, but no reason to go there with it that’s all.

        As for your personal salvation experience I just want to say that’s amazing. I don’t want you to think I am denying that. I’ve had similar, not the same, but certainly similar. And I would agree (theologically speaking) you had faith before your baptism. That’s normal for adults anyways. Here is the difference in how we see it though.

        For starters, my kid’s story doesn’t start out that way, it starts with their baptism. They may or may not have a similar experience to yours when they grow older. Not everyone initially comes to faith as an adult. I think that the focus on adult conversions in American Christianity hearkens back to the revivalist movement of the 19th century. It’s just part of our cultural heritage and tradition. It’s not technically wrong either, it’s just incomplete that’s all.

        The benefit of a sacramental understanding though, which I was getting at, is that there is no subjectivity to it. For example, have you ever been to an altar call? I grew up SDA and they are really into the decision theology thing, I don’t know how down with that you are. But you’re probably familiar with Billy Graham. At the end the sappy music plays and you have to walk up front and make a decision to get saved. See, the thing that always got to me was I was too afraid to be the first one to walk up. I would always commit to go first next time and I would always chicken out.

        See the subjectivity in that? In my subjective personal experience I felt doubt pressing in. Since being saved required making a decision for Jesus then what if I wasn’t decisive enough?

        Now of course that is a bunch of baloney. But that’s not my point. My point is that even in the most profound faith building experiences we have there is always 1% of doubt. Maybe even .00001% of doubt. The thing is it’s there because there is a filter between you and the experience and that’s your interpretation of it. For the most part this is fine, Baptists are generally well rounded centered enough people that they seem to be able to slug it out with that.

        Not all of them though, some look far too closely to their piety and good works as assurance that they are being sanctified and thus are saved. Usually the more wacky fundamentalist variants of them, which I would not label all Baptists as being. But I’m sure you’ve seen it and that would be the extreme end of what I’m getting at.

        All I am saying is with a sacramental understanding there is 0% doubt that I was baptized and that’s because I played no part in it. I wasn’t coming half way on a decision and it wasn’t purely a spiritual thing, there was physical water involved that I did indeed feel. Does that make sense? Not asking you to agree just asking you to see what I’m getting at that’s all. Having such an understanding doesn’t take away personal faith affirming experiences either. Some are quite profound. But baptism is physical, objective, and sacramental in a way that the others are just not.

        On to your other points though.

        I think your point with John would make sense to me if there were no examples of the disciples baptizing with water. I am sure you are aware that they exist right? Philip and the eunich come to mind off the top of my head. There are others. Since there is only one baptism (eph 4:5) then that one baptism is a water baptism.

        That said I would not remove God the Holy Spirit from other means of faith (Rom 10:17) as we were discussing earlier. I would not discount the operation of him and say those who received by other means were less saved or not saved. I would just distinguish between one operation and the other. One being baptism and the other being preaching.

        In my research I found that the word baptize can mean to immerse and it can also mean to sprinkle or pour. I have a post on that if you like. To be honest I believe both are legit. I’ve read Baptist arguments for all examples in the New Testament to be immersion and I just don’t agree, I think they can be fairly read either way. If you see my post on that you will understand why.

        I would agree that immersion baptism is a better image of Christ’s death, decent, and resurrection. Luther even affirms this. The reason we don’t do it ourselves (mostly) is because we don’t want people to confuse theology with practice in this regard. For example, you and I may understand these distinctions but your average visitor probably won’t and will assume we believe the same thing.

        As far as 1 Cor 10 goes, there likely would have been some kind of mist floating about while they walked through the water there…. Sprinkling??? Yeah it wouldn’t have been immersion. Even still they pass through water so even if they walked out with their skin chapped and dry as a bone (doubtful) it would still convey the same imagery in type and shadow.

        Like I said, I respect the dehydrated view when it’s applied monolithically to all baptism passages. It makes more sense, I just think if Baptists were 100% consistent with it and kept in line with Eph 4:5 then they would never do water baptisms at all.

        I do kinda worry about yall’s kids I won’t lie. But if you’re taking your wife to church she is going to be hearing the word and (presumably) so will your kids in the womb so there’s that. 😀


      • mike says:

        Hey man, what happened? My most recent response didn’t get posted and the most recent one under Baptismal Regeneration, which had been posted, went up in smoke. The counter says there are 9 replies in that thread but actually only 8 are there. I just tried to email you at actheologian@outlook.com but it got rejected by a robot or something.

        I sincerely hope I have not offended you.

        I realize you won’t post this and then reply to it. If you care to you can e-mail me at mikeborden@comcast.net


      • ACTheologian says:

        I don’t know what you’re talking about sorry. I didn’t delete anything if that’s what you mean. Been afk for a while so maybe I just hadn’t approved it yet.


        Yeah I see now, one of your posts was caught by the spam filter. That happens, I restored it. I’ll respond later it’s kinda long. 😛


  4. mike says:

    It’s funny how many different roads I’ve been down. I was baptized as an infant in the Roman Catholic faith…1st communion, confirmation…the whole deal. I don’t know what your take on that baptism might be but I know now that, prior to 6/12/02, I was going to hell. Roman Catholic baptism did not absolve me of anything. Around 7th grade I went with a friend to a Southern Baptist “basketball camp”. Late in the week I became one of their salvation statistics (my poor Catholic mother was horrified!). My friend said to me during a group meeting where every head was bowed, “Whatever you do, don’t look up.” Of course I looked up. Didn’t want to miss something. I got whisked into a back room and got asked all sorts of questions. A Roman Catholic can answer them all correctly. When we were done they told me I had been saved. That was not the case but I know I made the statistics.

    Youth events at our church always conclude with a report being given: 73 kids gave their lives to Christ, or made a decision for Jesus, or whatever. I don’t put much stock in it on the statistical side but the notion of preaching the gospel so that some might hear and believe is fine. Maybe most of the decisions are insincere (Only God knows that sort of stuff) but if even one genuine conversion takes place it has all been worthwhile. I believe no one comes unless they are drawn. I believe we are commanded to volitionally repent and believe.

    On another note, I read back through your Baptism posts looking for where you explain why the one baptism of Ephesians 4:5 has to be water baptism. You state that it is several times but I see no reason not to state that the one baptism is Holy Spirit baptism. I agree that scripture is clear that there is just one. John the baptist said he does it with water BUT Jesus will do it with the Holy Spirit. That’s either two different baptisms (which is how it reads: not this BUT that) or they are referring to the very same thing (somehow against all logic and grammar). Holding Holy Spirit baptism as the ‘one’ does not rule out the practice of water baptism as an act of faith and obedience. Holding water baptism as the ‘one’, however, might rule out baptism in the Holy Spirit any time it is not directly linked to water baptism and that is difficult to maintain looking through the book of Acts.

    I’m curious. Why do you think that Jesus got baptized? He certainly did not receive faith there and he certainly did not have any sin expiated there.

    Liked by 1 person

    • ACTheologian says:

      To answer your question, I would believe that any Trinitarian baptism is a baptism. So a roman catholic baptism counts. But as we discussed earlier baptism and teaching go hand in hand. I too am not fond of turning evangelism into a game of statistics. We want to treat it like how we would manage a business or something and I just feel that’s ill conceived. One could reason that you’re experience in 6/12/2 was a culmination of God grabbing you by your baptism. Ever think of it that way?


      Good point, like I think I said, since the baptisms we see the disciples doing are water baptism, and since they do this as an extension of Jesus command to baptize all nations, then logically I conclude that the Ephesians 4:5 one baptism is in fact water baptism. Thus instead of making a distinction between [water baptism] and [baptism of the Holy Spirit] I distinguish between [Water baptism of the Holy Spirit] and the [preaching of the Word]. Since the way I divide it the word “baptism” only falls into one of those distinctions, I believe I am only confessing one baptism rather than two.

      To respond to John, I see your point I just am not getting everything out of the word “but” that I see you getting out of it. There does need to be a distinction between John’s baptism and Jesus baptism. On that I would agree. However, there is no reason to remove water from it, notice he doesn’t say Jesus baptism will be without water. Since Jesus does later include water then so do I. Fair enough?


      • Michael Borden says:

        I have been encouraged to think about my baptism as an infant and also my supposed 7th grade conversion as actually salvatory or as stepping stones many times. What keeps me from buying in is the fact that it was the terrifying knowledge (before any church entered the picture) that I was going to hell that drove me to the Scripture, church, and ultimately to Christ. If I had already been born again God would not have revealed such condemnation to me (Romans 8:1).

        It’s true John does not specifically say that Jesus’ baptism with the Holy Spirit will not include water but that argument kind of takes the but out of the but. Where does Jesus later include water?

        I don’t want this to come off as snarky; I don’t know if it can be avoided but I’m not intending snark. If trinitarian baptism is so effective, why aren’t the comatose baptized? Why aren’t there leagues of trinitarian folks in ICU, neonatal, and maternity wards baptizing like crazy? Why aren’t there leagues of babysitters, midwives, nannies, home health aides, etc. doing the same? It should be a massive ministerial endeavor. Have you ever baptized a relative’s or friend’s baby on the sly? Why not? Is the will of the parents somehow involved? Is there a certain age, location, or minister needed?
        Conversely, what is the fate of the still born…the aborted…the crib deaths that precede baptism? Is there no mercy or grace for them? I can’t get any traction this way…my theological tires never touch the road.


      • ACTheologian says:

        Good questions, the answer is that we do baptize them. The family has to allow it of course. That’s one of the awesome things about baptism is you can just do it. And yes the pastor will even visit people who are too sick to to go church and proclaim the gospel to them, even if they are comatose. Too many protestants lose focus on the ones who can’t make it to church every sunday (not all) but many do. Lutherans are pretty good about that. It’s not snarky at all btw it’s a legit question.

        With regards to babies dying early, I would say your confession there is at least semi pelagian. In a sense you have to deny original sin to hold to it as we are shaped in iniquity (psa 51:5). Some baptists go as far as to straight up admit that original sin doesn’t include guilt which is a denial of original sin.

        The answer to abortions and still births is we don’t know. That’s the answer. We can hope that God has given them faith by means he has not revealed to us in the cases of unbelieving parents. For believing parents there is always hope for their children because they were likely going to church during the pregnancy and hearing the word preached.

        I disagree on the “but”. The word there does require a distinction between the two. That is correct. It doesn’t require the dehydration of the other though. And even if you insist that it does, you’re causing contradictions in scripture because the apostles did baptize with water, and they said there is only one baptism, so logically that is the “one baptism” eph 4:5. With respect, they would likely disagree with your handling of John.

        I recognize your personal experience I really do. In my observation, part of the Baptist tradition is interpreting scripture through the lens of personal experience. I get that. In a sense I see them as confessing that the scriptures are real to them in that way. I just think it’s going backwards that’s all, I disagree with the approach. I would rather start with the scriptures and then interpret my experiences through that lens, even if it doesn’t make sense to me. That’s all.


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