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Questions & Answers I
About Baptism
Copyright © Tim Warner  01-05

Aaron wrote:
You may already know, but I've pretty much all but accepted your position on water baptism since I last wrote you. The more I studied it, the more convinced I became (for better or worse!).

There are just a few questions that I have that have prevented me from fully accepting the position and getting water baptized myself, however, and I was hoping you could answer them - or, if you don't have the time right now to send me a response, perhaps if you could at least include them with answers in the article in which you answer objections to your position (the one you mentioned in your "what's new" section, as possibly being next).

Ok, here goes. My first question concerns covenant symbolism. The idea of Covenants is a strong theme throughout the Bible. From what I understand, circumcision was the covenant symbol of the Old Covenant for the nation of Israel. However, many would say that water baptism is the covenant symbol of the New Covenant of Christ to be administered to believers, for symbolic identification with Christ and his covenant (and since there is no more need for the shedding of blood, that is one reason why water is used, etc.), but that, like circumcision, it is not an absolute requirement for salvation, though still important for what it stands for. They would say that the Jewish believers at the time, standing in a long tradition of a covenant understanding of God's relationship to man, would've justifiably expected a symbol to accompany the New Covenant of their Messiah (since circumcision was of no "value" anymore). Though nowhere explicitly stated (though some believe it is inferred from placed like Colossians 2:11-12, where a relationship appears to be made), the assumption is made that the sign of the Covenant made a transition from circumcision to water baptism, and that this was how both the Jewish believing world and later the Gentiles, understood the ritual - partly because there was no early church conflict at all regarding the continuance of covenant symbolism and what it was, and water baptism seems to be the only plausible candidate to replace the covenant symbol (with obvious differences, of course, since now it would be linked to spiritual identification with Christ and not just ethnic descent). They say that, if baptism wasn't the new covenant symbol, then what was? And if there wasn't one, why the sudden, abrupt change in the "momentum," with no resulting conflict or upheaval within the church that we know of (that many think should've and would've occurred had this been the case)?

Our Reply:
There are some similarities between circumcision and baptism, as symbols of the covenant. But, don't forget that the natural seed of Abraham were BORN into this relationship through no free-will decision of their own. Circumcision was NOT optional if one wished to REMAIN one of "Abraham's seed." It MUST be carried out on the 8th day for all naturally born Israelites. All proselytes MUST be circumcised as well upon their conversion. No Jewish boy was considered to have any inheritance among the 12 tribes until he was circumcised. If he remained uncircumcised, he was no longer considered among the seed of Israel. He was broken off from the covenant people.

Gen 17:10-14
10 "This is My covenant which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: Every male child among you shall be circumcised;
11 "and you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and you.
12 "He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised, every male child in your generations, he who is born in your house or bought with money from any foreigner who is not your descendant.
13 "He who is born in your house and he who is bought with your money must be circumcised, and My covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant.
14 "And the uncircumcised male child, who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant."

As you can see, failure to be circumcised was to break the covenant relationship between God and that individual. That does not sound like something that was optional. I think we should consider baptism the same way, particularly since Paul seems to indicate that baptism is Christian "circumcision." "In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses" (Col. 2:11-13 NKJ).

Aaron wrote:
My next question is concerning the word "eis." We are told in Matthew 3:11 that John's baptism was a baptism "with water for (eis) repentance." Some believe this to be equivalent to the phrase "for (or unto) the forgiveness of sins" [Acts 2:38]. But since we know that being baptized didn't bring about repentance, why believe baptism brought about forgiveness of sins? And at least one verse (1 Cor 10:2) seems to imply "baptism eis..." has more to do simply with identification with something (in this case, the Hebrews being identified with their leader, Moses).

Our Reply:
First of all, keep in mind that "eis" is used nearly two thousand times in the NT. If you examine even a small portion of this evidence fairly, you will see that "eis" consistently means "unto." Even IF you could produce a few examples that seem to be exceptions to this, they must be considered very rare. You cannot rightly use a very rare and obscure understanding of a word like this, that has nearly two thousand examples to the contrary, to get around Acts 2:38 UNLESS you can prove from the context that such an obscure meaning is demanded. If Peter had such a meaning in mind, you must show from the context WHY his readers would understand this word in such an unusual way in this context. The context absolutely REFUTES such an understanding, as I have shown in my article on Acts 2:38. So, even IF you are right about there being exceptions (which you are not), such exceptions do not work in Acts 2:38.

My contention is that "eis" ALWAYS means "unto," implying progress to a point reached. Regarding Matt. 3:11, there is no conflict with this meaning in that verse. "Repentance" must be viewed as a process. James says that "faith without works is dead." He goes on to say that "faith" proceeding from "works" is "faith made perfect" (or complete). This indicates that "faith" is MORE than a mere point in time when one "believes." Faith is something that must be "perfected" or "finished" in order for it to be valid. James says that the act of faith perfects the faith. Repentance is the same. One can have a change of mind, only to waver afterwards, and never really carry such "repentance" to completion.  If one wavers after "repentance" does that mean he did not repent? I think what John the Baptist was saying in Matt. 3:11 is that water baptism sealed one's repentance. Hence, "repentance" was "complete" or "perfected" through the act of baptism. What good is it to have a change of mind if it is not accompanied by a change of action? Real repentance is more than a change of thinking. It is a change of course. Hence, the act of public baptism by John was a kind of sealing that change of course, because once someone went through with it, they could not waver and back out. It is precisely because baptism was an integral part of "repentance" that John could say that people were baptized UNTO repentance. That is, unto the completion or sealing of their repentance.  
Aaron wrote:
Also, just a few chapters later in the same book, we are told that with one Spirit believers are baptized into (eis) one body (1 Cor 12:13). Again, they would say that this seems to be speaking more of our identification with the Body of Christ made possible by the Holy Spirit, not water baptism. And because Ephesians 4:5 tells us that, at least by the time of Paul's writing this, there was only one baptism that was essential, wouldn't that mean that the baptism which identifies us with the Body of Christ is by the Spirit alone?

Our Reply:
First, the "one baptism" in Scripture consists of ONE occasion, when one is baptized in BOTH water and Spirit at the same instant. Hence, it is "one baptism" even though it consists of man's part and God's part. Furthermore, "with one Spirit" is a mistranslation of that passage. The Greek preposition is "en" meaning "in." The proper translation is, "IN one spirit we are all baptized into one body." This passage is misunderstood because we have a theological presupposition that makes us want to separate "Spirit" and "water" baptism as distinct events. We should not separate them when the Bible connects them. Acts 2:38 plainly indicates that the repentant believer receives the Spirit when baptized in water. That is, he is baptized IN water and Spirit at the same instant. Peter went on to say that this "promise" is for ALL, "even as many as the Lord our God shall call." (v. 39). So, when Paul refers to "baptism," there is no reason for him to have "either/or" thinking regarding "water" and "Spirit." It is both simultaneously. So, when He says, "in one Spirit" he is referring to the aspect of baptism that relates to Jesus' promise, that He would baptize us IN the Holy Spirit. But, the passage also relates to water baptism IF we approach it from the mentality of Peter's promise in Acts 2. In other words, Paul was writing about "baptism" into Christ. This baptism is defined as being immersed in water AND the Spirit simultaneously. It is really ONE baptism, not two. But it has two aspects. One is our part, IN water. The other is God's part, IN His Spirit. If you approach this passage from the perspective of Peter's promise, and do not assume that "water" and "Spirit" baptism must always be isolated, there is no conflict at all. I submit to you that the Corinthians would have had this perspective, and would have understood Paul this way. If our presupposition is that there is ONE baptism, that is, ONE occasion when one is "baptized" in BOTH water and Spirit, then all the passages fit together just fine with no conflicts.

Aaron wrote:
Finally, I've heard that in John 3:5, the word "and" (kai) [in the clause "born from water and spirit"] can mean "even," "indeed," "namely," or "that is" (which all mean basically the same). A few examples from the KJV would be Rom 15:6, 1 Cor 15:24, 2 Cor 1:3, 1 Thes 3:13, 2 Thes 2:16 and James 3:9. [If this is so, could not "water" and "spirit" refer to the same Spirit baptism?]

Our Reply:
[The normal meaning of "kai" is "and" or "also."] It is true that on rare occasions "kai" does have such a meaning ["even," "indeed," "namely," or "that is" -- the second noun restating the same thing as the first]. But it is rare, and it is always clear from the syntax that "kai" is being used to restate. The construction of such clauses form a "Sharp TSKS" construction. That is, they fit Granville Sharp's first rule. Sharp's first rule states that when two nouns are connected by "kai," if the first noun has the article (the) but the second does not, the second noun is referring to the same thing as the first. (This is always true of personal singular nouns. When plural or impersonal nouns are used, some kind of unity is being expressed, not always absolute identity).

ALL of your examples above fit Sharp's first rule, and therefore "kai" is being used to identify the second noun with the first. Let's take Rom. 15:6 for example. This is a Sharp TSKS construction.
ton theon kai patera
THE God and Father   
Notice that "God" has the definite article but Father does not. If Paul wished to DISTINGUISH between the two nouns by the use of "kai," he could have done it in two ways. He could have followed Sharp's 5th rule or Sharp's 6th rule. If he followed the 5th rule, he would have written:
theon kai patera
God and Father
In this construction, with NO definite article before either noun, it indicates that "kai" is distinguishing between the nouns. That is, "Father" would be in addition to "God," distinct from God.
Or, he could have followed Sharp's 6th rule,
ton theon kai ton patera
THE God and THE Father
According to Sharp's 6th rule, when both nouns use the article, "kai" is being used to distinguish the nouns, exactly as in the 5th rule.  When we look at the Greek text of John 3:5, it meets the criterion for Sharp's 5th rule.
The clause reads, "hudatoV kai pneumatoV" (water and spirit). Neither noun has the article. According to Sharp's 5th rule, "when there is no article before the first noun, the insertion of the copulative kai before the next noun, or name, of the same case, denotes a different person or thing from the first."   
It is therefore CONCLUSIVE that "water and spirit" in this verse refer to DIFFERENT things. If Jesus wanted to convey the idea of "even" or "namely," He would have said "THE water and Spirit." That is the ONLY way to use "kai" in this sentence with the meaning you suggest in koine Greek. But, both nouns are attached to a single verb (born), and a single preposition (ex - "from") implying that they are closely associated in this context.

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