Baptism: A Response of Faith


For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths. (2 Timothy 4:3, 4)

Comments that are made in most study Bibles would lead the readers to conclude that plain statements of Scripture do not mean what hey say about baptism. Most commentaries are sometimes more careful in explaining the text than the study Bibles.

For a fuller discussion of most of these passages quoted from the study Bibles, consult earlier statements in this work or Baptism, New Birth or Empty Ritual, by Owen D. Olbricht, (Delight, Ark.: Gospel Light Pub. Co., 1994).

The following are quotations taken from study Bibles:


“The original word translated baptize meant to dip, immerse, or wash, so some insist that immersion is the required method for Christian baptism. Others think the word is used as a metaphor (Luke 12:50; 1 Corinthians 10:2) and emphasize the significance rather than the method.” The Quest Study Bible (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1994), 1379.

Baptism means only dip and immerse and does not lend its meaning to some other method.

In Matthew 28:19 Jesus commanded the disciples to baptize people. Were they to metaphorically baptize people? Bible examples of baptism show baptism is an act and not simply a metaphor. John was baptizing where there was much water, (John 3:23); Jesus was baptizing where there was much water, (John 3:23); Jesus was baptized in the river Jordan (Matthew 3:13-17); and the Ethiopian went into and come out of the water (Acts 8:38, 39). These are God’s interpretation of what is meant by baptism.

MARK 16:16

“It is not he water of baptism that saves, but God’s grace accepted through faith in Christ. Because of Jesus; response to the thief on the cross who died with him, we know it is possible to be saved without being baptized (Luke 23:43). Baptism alone without our faith does not automatically bring a person to heaven. Those who refuse to believe will be condemned, regardless of whether or not they have been baptized.” Life Application Bible (Wheaton, Ill., Tyndale House Pub., 1986), 1699.

“This may be a reference to the baptism of the Holy Spirit.” The Ryrie Study Bible (Chicago, Ill.: Moody Press, 1978), 1762.

“It does not teach that baptism saves, since the lost are condemned for unbelief, not for not being baptized.” The MacArthur Study Bible (Nashville, Tenn.: Word Bible, 1997), 1503.

“However, in order that no one may think that baptism by itself saves or will save anyone, the Lord adds, ‘But he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.’ … The negative statement does not include baptism. It does not say he who did not believe and who was not baptized is condemned.’ Therefore, it is absolutely clear that what saves a person is living faith in Jesus Christ which may be followed by baptism. However, there surely were people who were baptized and whose baptism was not the true outward demonstration of their inner, saving faith (Acts 8:19-25). These people will perish. We never find the expression in the N.T. that he who was not baptized will perish.” The Hebrew-Greek Key Study Bible, compiled and edited by Spiros Zodhiates (Chattanooga, Tenn.: AMG Publishers, 1990), 1651.

“It is not the water of baptism that saves, but God’s grace accepted through faith in Christ. Because of Jesus’ response to the criminal on the cross who died with him, we know it is possible to be saved without being baptized.” Life Application Bible (Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House, 1991), 1780.

To state, “It is not the water of baptism that saves,” is to put a smoke screen over the issue. Perhaps no one would affirm that the water or the act by itself saves, but this would not negate the fact that baptism is a necessary requirement before the blood of Jesus will save. This would be compared with the statement, “It is not he faith of a person that saves.” This is true but does not set aside the necessity of faith before the blood of Jesus will save. Salvation is not produced by anything we believe or do. The blood of Jesus is what washes away our sins (Matthew 26:28; Revelation 1:5). Jesus has obtained salvation for us through His obedience. Based on this fact He gives salvation to all those who obey Him (Hebrews 5:8, 9).

Jesus and the inspired writers did not have to say that the one who is “not baptized will be condemned.” The one who fails to believe will be condemned regardless how many times he is baptized. Jesus said unless one is born of water and Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God (John 3:3-5) which indicates, “he that is baptized not shall be condemned.”

In Mark 16:16 the Greek aorist participles translated, “has believed and has been baptized” (NAS) suggest that the action of “believed” and “baptized” is completed before the action of the main verb, “shall be saved.” Also the one article associated with the two participles suggests that the action of the two verbs, “believed” and “baptized” is conjoined. They are two separate actions that are to take place together. In this passage Jesus is saying that the person who has believed while being baptized will be saved. These to “shall be saved.” They cannot be separated without doing injustice to the aorist participles and the implications of the one article.

The argument based on the criminal on the cross would also probe that one does not need to believe in the shed blood of Jesus (Romans 3:25) or His resurrection (Romans 10:9) for the thief on the cross could not have believed in these for they were not yet accomplished. Baptism was not required of those who lived under the first covenant so would not be required of the thief. However he did not obey the terms of pardon required under the first or the second covenant.

The thief on the cross is not our example of salvation any more than is the paralytic (Matthew 9:1-7) or the sinful woman Jesus forgave (Luke 7:48). None of these fulfilled the requirements forgiveness of the law under which they lived (Leviticus 4:27-35). While on earth Jesus could forgive based on any condition He chose (Matthew 9:6). All three of these lived before forgiveness of sins began to be preached in Jesus name beginning from Jerusalem (Luke 24:46, 47) and before the new covenant had been dedicated with the blood of Jesus (Hebrews 9:16, 17). Those who were saved confessed faith in Jesus, and were baptized (Acts 2:41; 8:12; 18:8).

JOHN 3:3-5

“There are several interpretations of the phrase born of water and the Spirit. (1) Jesus was referring to water baptism (see Acts 10:43-47). (2) Water was to be understood as a symbol for the Holy Spirit. Thus the phrase could be translated ‘born of water, event the Spirit.’ (3) Water is to be understood as a symbol of the Word of God. Similar imagery can be found in other New Testament passages, specifically Ephesians 5:26; 1 Peter 1:23. (4) Jesus used the phrase ‘born of water’ to refer to physical birth. He then used the contrasting phrase ‘of the Spirit’ to refer to spiritual birth. (5) Jesus used the phrase ‘born of water’ to refer to John the Baptist’s baptism. (6) Jesus used the Old Testament imagery of ‘water’ and ‘wind’ to refer to the work of God from above (see Isaiah 44:3-5; Ezekiel 37:9, 10). The Nelson Study Bible, Earl D. Radmacher, General Editor; Ronald B. Allen, Old Testament Editor; H. Wayne House, New Testament Editor (Nashville, Tenn.: Thomas Nelson Pub., 1997), 1763.

“This could refer to physical birth (accompanied by ‘water breaking’) and spiritual birth (the dawning of the spiritual awareness) or to baptism (repentance symbolized by water) and life in the Spirit (awakening to the reality of God’s Spirit working in a person’s life).” The Quest Study Bible, 1469.

“It cannot refer to Christian baptism at this point in Jesus’ ministry because it had not been given or commanded yet. Because the Greek has no article (‘the’) with Spirit, it would be ungrammatical to separate water from Spirit.” Disciple’s Study Bible (Nashville, Tenn.: Broadman and Holman, 1988), 139.

The statement is true that water and Spirit cannot grammatically be separated which means that Jesus is talking about one birth and not tow. The argument that Jesus could not be referring to water baptism because it was not yet given or commanded would also eliminate Holy Spirit baptism because it was not yet given and never was commanded, but only promised.

Placed in the context of the book or Acts (Acts 2:38; 8:12, 38, 39; 22:16), water baptism of the new covenant is the birth of water and Spirit to which Jesus is making reference. Jesus is not referring to tow separate births, one of water and the other of the Spirit, but to one birth brought about by water and Spirit.

Frederick Dale Bruner correctly wrote,

John does not place a second ‘of’ (ex) before ‘Spirit” as he would if he were describing two different events. The single ex describes the single occasion. This singularity is then completely established by the aorist subjunctive passive gennethe which means literally ‘once born’ of water and Spirit.

These facts taken together should caution against any tendency to find a reference in John 3:5 to tow baptism or births (after natural birth), namely ‘water-baptism’ and a later ‘Spirit-baptism’ or a prior ‘regeneration’ of justification and a later ‘Spirit-baptism; of sanctification. Frederick Dale Bruner, Theology of the Holy Spirit: The Pentecostal Experience and the New Testament Witness (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1970. Reprint 1986), 257-58.

Another consideration is presented by Homer A. Kent, Jr. as follows:

Furthermore, the Greek expression exhudatos kai pneumatos (‘out of water and Spirit’) uses two nouns without articles and joined by kai as objects of one preposition, thus suggesting that hey are not entirely separate but are aspects of one concept. Homer A. Kent, Jr., Light in the Darkness (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker, 1974), 59.

The one birth of water and Spirit is brought about when the word (1 Peter 1:23), the agency of the Spirit (John 6:63), motivates a sinner to die to a past life to enter into a new life in association with Jesus’ burial and resurrection in baptism (Romans 6:4; Galatians 3:26, 27; Colossians 2:12, 13).

ACTS 2:38

“Is Peter saying that we must be baptized to receive forgiveness of our sins? Scripture clearly teaches that we are justified by faith alone, not by works (Rom. 4:1-8; Eph. 2:8, 9). The critical word in this phrase is the word for, which may also be translated ‘with a view to.’ A comparison of Peter’s message in 10:34-43 makes it clear that ‘remission of sins’ comes to ‘whoever believes.’ Believers are baptized in view of God’s work of forgiveness in declaration that a person’s sins have been forgiven because of the finished work of Christ on the Cross.” Nelson Study Bible, 1819.

“Water baptism is an outward sign of repentance and remission of sins. The remission is through faith in Christ, not through the act of baptism (for may here mean ‘because of’ as in Matthew 12:41). The Ryrie Study Bible, 1762.

“This might better be translated ‘because of the remission of sins.’” The MacArthur Study Bible, 1637.

“Baptism is the outward, public symbol of repentance and confession. … The persons baptized must have repented and received the Word. The meaning is that their sins had been forgiven, and they had received the Holy Spirit.” Disciple’s Study Bible, 1365.

The statement “their sins had been forgiven,” is a very strange comment. Surely Peter is not telling these Jewish people their sins were already forgiven because they had already repented for he told them thy needed to repent, which they evidently had not done or Peter would not have told them to repent. They had not yet received the Holy Spirit because Peter told them id they would repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins they would receive the Holy Spirit.

The phrase “for the forgiveness of sins” as used in Acts 2:38 appears in (Matthew 26:28; Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3; 24:47). The argument that “for” in Acts 2:38 means “because of” or “with a view to” if applied to identical phrases (Matthew 26:28; Luke 24:47) would mean that Jesus shed His blood and people are to repent because their sins are already forgiven. In these passages “for” means “in order ot “ obtain forgiveness of sins. If it means “in order to” in these two passages, why would it not mean the same in identical phrases?

If baptism is simply a public demonstration that one has faith and is already forgiven, who is the public that was present when the Ethiopian (Acts 8:26-39) or the jailer (Acts 16:33) were baptized?

ACTS 22:16

“Baptism is the outward sign of an inward work of grace. The reality and the symbol are closely associated in the New Testament (see Acts 2:38; Titus 3:5; 1 Peter 3:21). The outward rite, however, does not produce the inward grace.” The NIV Study Bible; Kenneth Baker, general editor; Donald Burdick, John Stek, Walter Wessel, Ronald Youngblood, associate editors (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1995), 1693.

“Baptism does not wash away sins.” The Ryrie Study Bible, 1581.

“Christian baptism symbolizes the washing away of sins.” Disciple’s Study Bible, 1402.

No scripture teaches that baptism is the “outward sign of an inward work of grace.” This is theology and eisegesis instead of exegesis. Jesus has provided salvation through His blood which is what saves us. Nothing on man’s part can produce salvation (Ephesians 2:8, 9). The when of salvation is a faith that motivates us to repent, confess Jesus, and be baptized. This is to be compared to the turning on a light. The electricity is what causes the illumination of the light bulb. The light comes on when we flip the switch. The switch is not what causes the illumination of the bulb but rather provides the connection that makes the illumination possible when the switch is flipped. So also nothing on our part is what produces our forgiveness but rather forgiveness through the blood of Jesus is given to us when we respond to the will of Jesus. “He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation” (Hebrews 5:9).

“Grammatically this phrase, ‘calling on the name of the Lord,’ precedes ‘arise and be baptized.’ Salvation comes through calling on the name of the Lord … not from being baptized.” The MacArthur Study Bible, 1676.

If the phrase is incorrectly placed, then almost every Bible that has been printed is grammatically incorrect for all of them place “calling on the name of the Lord” after baptism, not before, as also does the Greek text in all manuscripts.

“Paul was converted and saved on the Damascus road (see 9:5 note). His baptism was his public testimony of forgiveness and commitment to forsake all sin and identify himself with the cause of Christ.” The Full Life Study Bible, Donald Stamps, gen. ed.; J. Wesley Adams, assoc. ed. (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1992), 1711.

The note on Acts 9:5 that is referred in the above quotation states, “Verses 3-9 record the conversion of Paul outside the city of Damascus … Paul is called ‘brother Saul’ by Ananias (v. 17). Ananias assumes Paul is a believer who has experienced the new birth (John 3:3-5).” 1677.

The highly respected F.F. Bruce made a similar statement concerning Paul: “If he were asked where and when he received justification by faith, he would have pointed to the Damascus road at the moment when the Lord appeared to him; his baptism, which took place some days later, could have been no more than a seal of what had happened there and then. (Even in Acts 9:17f, it is implied that his baptism followed his filling with the Spirit.) … The creative agency, however, is the Spirit. Baptism in water per se is no guarantee of salvation … as the indwelling presence of the Spirit is…” F.F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Galatians: A Commentary on the Greek Text (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1982), 185-86.

Significant facts have been overlooked in these statements.

(1) If the Holy Spirit is given at the moment of salvation, then Paul did not have salvation until three days (Acts 9:9) after his experience on the road to Damascus and after Ananias came to him. Since it is evident Paul did not receive the Holy Spirit on the road to Damascus, we more reasonably should conclude that Paul did not receive the Holy Spirit until after his baptism, obedience, and receipt of sonship which was the norm (Acts 2:38; 5:32; Galatians 4:6).

(2) Concluding Paul was saved when Jesus appeared to him and before baptism makes Ananias contradict himself. Three days after Paul saw Jesus on the Damascus road, Ananias told Paul to, “Arise, and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name” (Acts 22:16). Evidently, he thought Paul still had his sins.

(3) Others were called brothers before they were forgiven of their sins. After Peter called the unsaved Jews who had crucified Jesus, “brethren” (the marginal note says, brothers), he told them to “Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:38). See also Acts 3:17; 7:2; 13:26, 38; 22:1; 23:1, 5, 6; 28:17 where non-believing Jews are called “brethren” (the plural of the Greek word anthropos “brother” is “brethren” or “brothers”). Evidently, these are brethren, “brothers,” without implying “brothers” in Christ, evidence that Ananias did not mean that Paul was already a Christian brother.


“Baptism with the Holy Spirit joins the believer to Christ, separating him from the old life and association him with the new. He is not longer ‘in Adam’ but ‘in Christ.’ Water baptism is a reminder of this truth.” The Ryrie Study Bible, 1603.

“This does not refer to water baptism. Paul is actually using the word ‘baptized’ in a metaphorical sense, as we might in saying someone was immersed in his work, or underwent his baptism of fire when experiencing some trouble.” The MacArthur Study Bible, 1702.

“This is a reference to the work of the Holy Spirit at salvation. Waster baptism symbolizes this union.” The King James Study Bible (Nashville, Tenn.: Thomas Nelson, 1988), 1740.

Why state that baptism in this passage refers to Holy Spirit baptism? Is there anything in the context that would demand it? As has been earlier pointed out (Study again chapter 9 which discusses Romans 6:3-6) baptism refers to water baptism unless the context demands another meaning.


“Not water baptism but Spirit baptism, which bring s believers into a living union with Christ.” The Ryrie Study Bible (Chicago, Ill.: Moody Press, 1978), 1667.

“This is not water baptism, which cannot save… Paul used the word “baptized’ in a metaphorical manner to speak of being ‘immersed’ or ‘placed into’ Christ c.f. (Galatians 3:27) by the spiritual miracle of union with Him in His death and resurrection.” The MacArthur Study Bible, 1794.

Paul is writing to those in Galatia who are “all” sons of God. They “all” had received the baptism being mentioned by Paul. The baptism that is common to all is water baptism which Jesus commanded for all nations (Matthew 28:19). Holy Spirit baptism was only given to the apostles (Acts 2), Cornelius’ household (Acts 10), and most likely to Paul. All others who are mentioned in the book of Acts received water baptism which must mean that the baptism Paul alluded to is water baptism. (Study again chapter 10 which discusses Galatians 3:26, 27).


“Water baptism itself does not bring forgiveness of sins, but Paul used the rite to help explain the work of the Spirit. The Nelson Study Bible, 2015.

“This is not water baptism but Spirit baptism, by which Christ brings the believer into an intimate relation with Himself and with His people (the church), through the Holy Spirit.” The King James Study Bible, 1864.

“(The old nature, which is corrupt in its unregenerate state of rebellion against God) is illustrated in the rite of circumcision and the ordinance of baptism, but is accomplished by a spiritual circumcision and Spirit baptism.” The Ryrie Study Bible, 1693.

“It is the power of God working thought the faith of the believer which actually bring about this spiritual death and resurrection, but baptism is the outward sign of it.” Disciple’s Study Bible, 1528-29.

Study again chapter 10 which discusses Colossians 2:11-13.

I PETER 3:21

Most study Bibles state that baptism is only symbolic in Peter’s writings.

“Though water itself cannot save, baptism with water is the vivid symbol of the changed life of one who has a conscience at peace with God through faith in Christ. The Ryrie Study Bible, 1762.

“It is not the ceremony that save us, but faith in Christ’s death and resurrection. Baptism is ht symbol of the transformation that happened in the heart of those who believe.” Life Application Bible, 2263.

“This verse emphasizes that baptism is a pledge (The original word was a technical term used to endorse a business contract). It is a sign of or outward symbol of our commitment to Jesus.” The Quest Study Bible, 1688.

“The symbolic act of baptism is the answer of a good conscience of one who has been saved from the penalty of sin (see Romans 4:1-6) by trusting in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ (see Romans 6:4, 5). The floodwaters symbolize the baptismal waters, which in turn symbolize the salvation that can be obtained through Christ’s death (see Matt. 28:19, 20; Acts 2:38).” Nelson Study Bible, 2123.

“In the New Testament, an antitype is an earthly expression of a spiritual reality. It indicates a symbol, picture, or pattern of some spiritual truth. Peter is teaching that he fact that eight people were in an ark and went through the whole judgment and yet were unharmed, is analogous to the Christian’s experience in salvation by being in Christ, the ark of one’s salvation. … Peter is not at all referring to water baptism here, but rather a figurative immersion into union with Christ as an ark of safety from the judgment of God. … To be sure he is not misunderstood, Peter clearly stays he i not speaking of water baptism. In Noah’s flood they were kept out of the water while those who went into the water were destroyed.” The MacArthur Study Bible, 1946.

The Greek in 1 Peter 3:21 states that baptism is an “antitype” of the deliverance of Noah and his family during the flood. Spiros Zodhiates commented: “An antitype is something represented by an earlier type or symbol of salvation, an affirmation of living faith in Christ.”

A little later he states, “An antitype is something which stands instead of the real thing. … Therefore, baptism in v. 21 is called the antitype of salvation. In this context, baptism does not refer to the water at all, but to the ark in which Noah and his family found their salvation through the water. The water in the case of the flood symbolized not salvation, but the means of destruction used by God. Therefore, baptism, which is a symbol of our having been rescued by God through our voluntary entrance into the ark of His salvation, is here called the symbol that saves us.” The Hebrew-Greek Key Study Bible, 1652.

A careful reading of thee above statements reveal a very clear contradiction. Notice the statement, “An antitype is something represented by an earlier type or symbol.” Place baptism in the this definition and it would read, “Baptism, the antitype, is represented by an earlier type or symbol.” This is correct. Noah’s salvation in the ark is a type or symbol of the antitype, baptism, which is the reality that now saves us. Baptism is the reality, the antitype, and not the symbol.

Ignoring his definition of an antitype, Zodhiates then wrote, “Therefore, baptism, which is a symbol.” He cannot have it both ways. Either baptism is an antitype, the reality which has an earlier symbol representing it, or it is the symbol of an earlier reality. Which usage is correct? The former is correct because Peter stated baptism is the antitype therefore not the symbol but the reality of which Noah in the ark is the symbol.

Other writers help us know which conclusion we should accept concerning the antitype, whether it is the reality that is symbolized by an earlier type or is a symbol of an earlier reality.

The “type” foreshadows the “antitype,” that is, it [the type, insertion mine] is an imperfect symbol of a reality [antitype, insertion mine] which is now revealed fully in the Christian faith. Daniel C. Archea and Eugene A. Nida, A Translator’s Handbook on the First Letter from Peter (New York: United Bible Societies, 1980), 119-120.

An “antitype” is a thing or event which is considered to be referred to by a previous thing or event, which is known as a “type.” THe water of the Flood was a “type” of baptism, so various ways can be used to translate this. TEV “which was a symbol pointing to baptism”; others have “That water represented the water of baptism”; “it was a figure of baptism”; “this water symbolized baptism.” Robert G. Bratcher, A Translator’s Guide to the Letters from James, Peter, and Jude, (New York: United Bible Societies, 1984), 109.

The definition of antitupos is given in the Bauer-Danker lexicon, “corresponding to something that has gone before.” The following comment in defining an antitype is then given, “Thus in 1 Peter 3:21 … means baptism, which is a fulfillment (of the type), now saves you, i.e., the saving of Noah from the flood is a tupos, or ‘foreshadowing’ (hardly the ‘original’ in the full Platonic sense 2 below), and baptism corresponds to it.” Walter Bauer’s, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, 5th ed., 1958, second edition revised and augmented by F. Wilbur Gingrich and Frederick W. Danker (Chicago, Ill.: University of Chicago, 1979), 76.

The obvious conclusion is that baptism is not a symbol but is the reality which is symbolized by Noah and the flood. But some would object that Noah’s family was saved from the water instead of through dia the water. The text states, “the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through, (dia, a preposition, dative of means) water” (1 Peter 3:20; RSV). Water was the agency needed to make the ark a means of rescue from destruction and punishment would have made the ark useless, but water was the agency needed to bring Noah to safety in the ark. This is a shadow-like symbol or type of the water of baptism that saves us from the peril of punishment because of our sins. The fact that thee water punished the evil world and caused it to perish does not diminish the fact that water was necessary for the ark to bring deliverance to Noah’s family. In this way their salvation by the water of baptism, the antitype.

As pointed out earlier, the water that destroyed the Egyptian army is what saved Israel (Exodus 14:13, 28-30) and the water that destroyed the wicked would in the days of Noah is what saved Israel. This water prefigured, symbolized baptism which is the reality that saves us.


Caution should be exercised in using study Bibles. Comments in them are sometimes correct and sometimes inaccurate because they are the ideas of men and not the revelation of God. They can be valuable aids in Bible study or a hindrance. Even though study Bibles make baptism a symbol or metaphor, Jesus made it an act fro us to submit to because of faith in HIs blood so that our sins will be forgiven. God has associated faith, repentance, confession, and baptism with the forgiveness of sins. “What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate” (Matthew 19:6).

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