This past Sunday I answered a question concerning confession and baptism being result of our faith. I didn’t have time to get too technical in my message, so I thought I would follow it up on my blog. I wanted to share some of the technical aspects of the Christian Churches interpretations of Acts 2:38 and Romans 10:9-10. Allow me to give credit to my professor in the class, the Doctrine of Grace, by Dr. Jack Cottrell. Dr. Cottrell is the Professor of Bible and Theology at Cincinnati Christian University.
In my message Sunday we looked two verses of scripture that concerned confession, Romans 10:9-10, then repentance and baptism, Acts 2:38.
Romans 10:9-10 reads, “That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (NIV)
Cottrell notes, “The form of verse 9 makes confession and faith equivalent conditions. The form is, “If X and Y, then Z. Both X and Y are conditions for Z. Paul says, “If you confess and believe, then you will be saved.” In the Greek there is only one if, and it applies to both confession and faith.”
The form of verse 10 also makes faith and confession equal. With the heart one believes unto (eis in Greek), and with the mouth one confesses unto (eis) salvation. The use of the word “unto” requires us to understand confession as part of faith. eis means “for the purpose of, in order to.” (Note, please refer to the sermon and the background of this passage in Deuteronomy.)
Again, I do not want to overlook “believe in your heart.” This is the critical element in a saving faith. You can confess Jesus is Lord and not believe it in your heart. One can lie.
In Acts 2:38 we see Peter say, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
Scripture clearly teaches repentance as a condition for salvation (Mark 1:15; Luke 13:3, 5; Acts 2:38; 3:19; 2 Peter 3:9).
John MacArthur writes in The Gospel According to Jesus ,“Repentance is at the core of saving faith. . . . The Bible does not recognize faith that lacks this element of active repentance” (32). “Repentance is a critical element of saving faith” (162).
Scholar Geisler notes, “Repentance is necessary, but it is NOT “a distinct and second step.” Repentance is “part of faith.” Faith and repentance are “two facets of the same action”; “each is a part of one saving act by which a person receives the gift of everlasting life.” This must be so, since saying they are “two separate acts . . . violates the Protestant (and biblical) principle of ‘faith alone’”.
So most agree that repentance is a part of faith alone. One could say that repentance is a condition of saving faith (like those in the free grace movement), but this would violate the plural of “repentance” and “your” used in Acts 2:38 (see next paragraph). So it is simply said repentance and faith are two sides of the same coin.
The argument against baptism as a part of faith in Acts 2:38 is quite common. It begins by noting that the verb “repent” is plural, and the “your” in “for the remission of your sins” is also plural. But the verb “be baptized” is singular: “Let each one be baptized.” It is argued then that “remission of your (plural) sins” is the result of your (plural) repenting, not each one (singular) being baptized.
John MacArthur agrees with this, “Support for that interpretation comes from the fact that ‘repent’ and ‘your’ are plural, while ‘be baptized’ is singular, thus setting it off from the rest of the sentence [as parenthetical]. If that interpretation is correct, the verse would read ‘Repent (and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ) for the forgiveness of your sins.’ Forgiveness is thus connected with repentance, not baptism.” If this is the case then why does the NIV, NASB, NLT, and other translations not write it out this way?
In the Christian Church we assert that the singular verb “be baptized” is pluralized by the words “each one OF YOU” (plural,) hekastos humon and not parenthetical. (See John 7:53 for a similar combination of a plural verb with a singular hekastos.) This is why we include baptism as a part of faith. Baptism is made plural by the this phrase. Again, at the heart of baptism is your heart. Peter writes that baptism is to be made with a pledge of good conscience. The water does not save you. Faith does.
Chances are if you are in John MacArthur’s camp on this issue I didn’t change your mind. I’m not trying too. I simply wanted to lay out the case given by the Christian Church concerning these issues. Who’s right on this issue? Both sides say they are. I’m not really interested in debating. I like to begin where we can both agree on, that baptism is an action and institution commanded by Jesus for the church to do as part of the Great Commission. In that we can all agree. There are too many people lost to spend time arguing about this simple command.