Recently, I was discussing the issue of baptism with a friend, specifically, paedobaptism, but it turned to baptismal regeneration.
The most common texts to use for a pro-baptismal regeneration doctrine is Acts 2.38, Romans 6.1-11, and 1st Peter 3.19-21, which baptism is said to be for the remission of sins, a union in the death of Christ, and finally, the completion of the antitype (ἀντίτυπον) of the Flood in which baptism now saves us through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, not because it is a work of ritual purity, but because it demands (ἐπερώτημα) a clean conscience. While we can spend some time on any these passages, I want to look at one not commonly used in these debates.
|Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Act 2:38 NASB)||“Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; (Act 3:19 NASB)|
First, we have to notice the parallels:
|and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ||and return to God (NRSV, NLT)|
|for the forgiveness of sins||so that your sins may be wiped away|
|and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit||in order that the times of refreshing may come upon you from the presence of the Lord|
The Greek word in verse 19 translated as ‘refreshing’ is ἀναψύξεως. It was not used in the NT or the LXX, but I believe that it is connected to the Spirit which is sent from the Lord to His saints.
ἐπιστρέψατε simply means to return, or turn back. For meaning to this, I point to these passages:
But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, And your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear. (Isa 59:2 NASB)
We are separated from God through our sins, but now must return back to Him. How? Paul said that it was through baptism by which we are united to Christ:
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin.
Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. (Rom 6:1-13 NASB)
The key language here is that we have been united with Christ in baptism, or literally planted together with Him. Let us not forget then Paul’s other words on this:
Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, (2Co 5:18 NASB)
We are reconciled to God through Christ, and have been brought back into a walk with God. Further, Paul wrote, concerning the nature of the union,
For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. (Gal 3:26-27 NASB)
For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority; and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. (Col 2:9-14 NASB)
In this, Paul is speaking the same language which we find him using in Romans, that baptism is dying out to sin.
If then we see the three parallels between repent, return, and the removal of sins, the fourth parallel is the giving of the Spirit of God.