Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Baptism in Acts: Into Christ or into the Church?

I am exploring the nature of Biblical Baptism. I am a Baptist by both birth and conviction, but I have decided to re-examine my doctrine because of the current “Baptist Identity” controversy in the SBC. Read the previous post for the background on this.

Most of the key issues are settled in this discussion among Baptists. We agree about the subject (believers only), mode (immersion only) , meaning (symbolic of salvation, not salvific itself) and formula (in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit) of Baptism. But we have some disagreements about other, I think lesser, issues. We disagree on whether baptism is into the universal church, into a local body of believers only, or some combination of the two. The Baptist Identity group is arguing for a more institutional purpose of Baptism, more closely related to the local church. We also disagree as to whether there is much significance attached to the administrator of baptism. Does it matter who did the baptism, or that it was done according to biblical guidelines.

This trigger issue of this discussion has been policies adopted by the International Mission Board discounting baptisms of candidates who were baptized in churches that had significantly flawed doctrine, especially those that believed in the possibility of a Christian losing his salvation. Some argue that it shouldn’t matter, as long as the one baptized was a believer, the baptism was by immersion and person understood it was symbolic, not salvific.

So, what does the Bible say? That is the purpose of this study. We will go through the relevant passages of scripture. I am going to state my opinion strongly and hope that people who disagree will feel welcome to do the same – arguing Biblical evidence, not Baptist history or tradition. I am not ashamed of our Baptist heritage, but one of the tenets of our faith is that we are responsible to the scriptures, not to creed or tradition.

As a Baptist, I have to admit that it is a little surprising that the New Testament says so little about Christian Baptism. Most of the references in both the Gospels and Acts refer to John’s baptism.

I have chosen to largely discount all references to John’s baptism. Those passages help with issues like immersion but really have no impact on the focus of this discussion. Since the church was not established until Pentecost, and since John’s baptism is different from Jesus’ baptism, it does not seem like those passages will help us much in dealing with issues of the value of institutionalism and administrator in baptism.

I have found 8 passages in Acts which I believe are useful to look at, and 6 passages in the epistles. In this post, we will review the 8 passages in Acts, which give us some idea of what happened in the early church. Then, next time, we will deal with the more didactic portions of Paul’s and Peter’s instructions to the churches. After that, I will draw my conclusions, and leave you to do the same.

Passage 1: Acts 3:38-41 Pentecost

And Peter said to them, “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. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

Acts 3:38 is one of the baptismal regenerationist’s favorite verses, but that is not our focus here. There are several answers to the false teaching of salvation through baptism which will wait another time. This is a discussion amongst Baptists, so we will focus on that.

In this passage, on the day of Pentecost, the Spirit falls on the church. Then, Peter preaches and 3000 souls are saved. I am not sure this passage has much to say about whether baptism was into the church or not. The church did not exist before that day.

It also does not say who did the baptism. Did only the apostles baptize? I would make one point. It would take a long time to baptize 3000 folks by immersion, if only Peter, or if only the 12 did the baptisms. I conjecture that many people probably got involved in the baptismal process, but that is conjecture – reading between the lines. It is an opinion, not evidence.

But this is a unique passage. Baptism on that day could not have really been into the church, because it was the inauguration of the church. Those who were baptized became the church.

Passage 2: Acts 8:12-13 Philip in Samaria

But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. 13 Even Simon himself believed, and after being baptized he continued with Philip. And seeing signs and great miracles performed, he was amazed.

Acts 8 is sometimes called the Samaritan Pentecost and has some of the same issues as the Acts 2 passage. There was no organized church in Samaria prior to Philip’s ministry. They were baptized into Christ, received the Holy Spirit, and the Samaritan church was born.

I would point out two things. There is not here, or in any other Acts passage, any clear reference to the church being the focus of baptism. The message was the “kingdom of God” (a universal thing) and the “name of Christ” (again, universal.) There is no reference here or anywhere else to baptism into a church. Baptism is into Christ.

Passage 3: Acts 8: 37-40 Ethiopian Eunuch

And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?” And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he passed through he preached the gospel to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.

This is the favorite passage for those who argue against the Baptist Identity position. Philip is taken by the Holy Spirit out into the wilderness where he meets a lone man. That man comes to faith in Christ and requests baptism. Philip performs the baptism and the man continues his journey. He is then spirited to Azotus and begins preaching the gospel there.

I have heard the Identity folks deal with this passage, but a couple of things are incontrovertible here. Philip was far from any church when he baptized the Eunuch. And there was no church established here. Yes, I am sure the Ethiopian established a church when he went back home. But he was baptized in almost total separation from any significant involvement with any established local church.

Can too much be made of this? Perhaps. But it is hard to argue that baptism must be attached to a local church in this instance.

Before anyone objects, I know BI folks agree that Baptism is into Christ. But the question at hand is how important the local church is in baptism. They place a much higher priority on that than I do.

Passage 4: Acts 9:18-19 Paul’s Baptism

And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; and taking food, he was strengthened.

Very little is gained in this discussion from this passage. Again, there is no mention of the local church, and there is no mention of who baptized him, though I suppose it was Ananias.

Silence is the weakest argument, of course. But I think that those who insist that baptism is into a local fellowship gain the burden of proof to establish that it is consistently true. And it is, in Acts, consistently NOT true, or at least not mentioned.

Passage 5:Acts 10:46-48 Cornelius

For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days.

Again, there was no local church for the people to be baptized into. Some would argue that Peter represented the church in Jerusalem. Fine. But the people being baptized were not being baptized into the church of Jerusalem, were they?

One other trend you see beginning here. Baptism here is “in the name of Jesus Christ.” In other passages, we will see the phrase “into Christ.” It seems to me that baptism in the early church was seen as more into that universal body of Christ than into a local body. They were baptized into Christ, not into the church of Christ.

Passage 6: Acts 16:14-15 Lydia

The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us.

Again, Paul may have operated on the authority of the church in Antioch, but there was no church there to which Lydia was baptized. If formed later (almost immediately after, but after nonetheless.)

Passage 7: Acts 16:30-33 The Philippian Jailer

Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family.

This is the story of the Philippian jailer. It is one of pedobaptists favorite verses. They point out that the jailers whole family was baptized when he believed, and assume that there were children in the household, therefore proving infant baptism. I might point out (cruelly) that if this is one of your best proofs, you might be advocating a teaching without much biblical evidence. But, like baptismal regeneration, pedobaptism is not our focus here.

The point that would be made out of this passage is simple. Acts 16 gives the idea that there was already a small contingent of believers (Lydia’s household and the slave girl) by the time this event took place. But, when the jailer was saved, he was “baptized at once.” There is no evidence that Paul or Silas conferred with the local assembly. They just did the baptism. Once again, baptism seemed to be into Christ more than into a local body of believers.

Passage 8: Acts 19:3-5 Baptism of John’s Disciples

And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They said, “Into John’s baptism.” And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.

The only issue here is that the disciples of John were baptized “in the name of the Lord Jesus.” There is again no mention of a local church involved, though we assume one formed.

The study of baptism in the book of Acts is definitive in answering the questions about which we agree. It clearly establishes baptism of believers by immersion as a symbol of salvation. But, it gives little support to the idea that baptism is strictly into a local church and that one key is the administrator of the baptism.

These issues are basically insignificant in Acts. Again, I know that silence is weak evidence, but it is evidence nonetheless. And I am convinced that if the baptizer or the administration of the local church was a key issue, it would be established in Acts better than it was here.

I invite comment, even disagreement. Again, if I am satisfied that I have made a mistake (horror of horrors – it happened once in the 80’s!) I will amend and revise my arguments.

Next time, Romans, Corinthians and other New Testament epistles – the authoritative evidence.

(NOTE: When I started this post, I had 8 passages copied over from Logos. As I wrote it out, I had only 7, so I changed the numbers. Then, David Rogers pointed out this passage, which must be the one I missed. So, I edited this to reflect the full 8 verses)


David Rogers said...


Excellent, and IMHO, objective presentation of what Scripture actually says!

For some reason, though, you left out the baptism of the Philippian jailer in Acts 16:16-40.

Several important things I find in this passage in relation to the points at hand are:

1. At the time of the baptism of the jailer and his household, there was, from what we can tell, already a fledgling church, or at least, a group of believers who met together, in Philippi. We know this from the story of Lydia, and the baptism of her and her household. We also know that Paul and Silas stayed at Lydia's home for an undetermined amount of time (16:15), and, it is a pretty safe assumption that they engaged in the initial discipleship of the members of Lydia's household (and possibly others) during this time. Also, upon being officially released from prison (after the baptism of the jailer and his household), Paul and Silas immediately returned to the home of Lydia, and "met with the brothers and encouaged them"

What is especially relevant to me about this in relation to the points we are discussing is the fact that Paul and Silas did not wait together the group of believers from Lydia's household before baptizing the jailer and his household. If there were really a special significance linking baptism to initiation in the local church, this is unexplainable to me. Why baptize them immediately in the middle of the night at their home, when you could well have waited till the next day to get all the church together, present the jailer and his household as candidates for baptism, and done the baptisms with the blessing, and under the authority of the "local church"? Apparently, none of this was a concern for Paul and Silas.

David Rogers said...

The last paragraph was supposed to be the second important thing. :-)

David Rogers said...

Also, I meant to say:

"Paul and Silas did not wait to GATHER the group" not "together the group."

Dave Miller said...

I blame computer error. I had counted 8 passages and did a copy/paste thing from my computer program (Logos). Then when I totalled it, it was only seven. I should have checked where the other one went. Thanks.

I think maybe I confused the Lydia and Jailer passages.

Dave Miller said...

I wish a Baptist Identity adherent or two would wander by. But I think they are all mad at me now because of our recent discussions of alcohol.

I Mitchell said...

Dave and David,

I believe that Both of you are “right on” in regard to Baptism and the Authority in Jesus Christ.

Wayne Smith

Tim Guthrie said...

So would you both put this in terms of the growing New Testament church from Acts forward to today. Would it not be important, to have an act so important that Jesus Himself insisted it be done to Him, that we do it right?

As for church issues - should a church accept what is not Biblical?

I think the connection and follow through may be what is missing.

Dave Miller said...

I think the way you frame your response is flawed, Tim.

I spent two lengthy posts dealing with biblical issues. I referenced 8 passages. Yet, somehow, you read a disregard for "doing it right" and "what is biblical".

I have to admit I find that a little confusing.

Every one of us wants to do things biblically and baptize right! The only question is whether biblical baptism requires institutional oversight and how significant the doctrinal stands of the administrator are.

Tim Guthrie said...

Maybe the question should be:

"What happens to the institution when it does not get God's plan right?"

I think you miss my perspective! I do not want to get to heaven and discover that I led a group or any person down a wrong path!

And if our churches are to have the annointing of God on them - we must strive with all that is in us to get it right!

That is why I mentioned that Jesus Himself was incredibly particular as to how it was done - His own Baptism!

Dave Miller said...

Could you clarify your comment on Jesus' baptism? You said he was particular about his baptism. I would wonder about what he was particular.

I chose not to deal with "John's Baptism" because I do not think it has much application to church baptism.

I guess I do not see any "particulars" in Jesus baptism. Of course, it was immersion. But I am not seeing how it applies to the discussion at hand.

Again, I share your desire to do things the right way, exactly as the Bible directs us. But I am not seeing biblical evidence that baptism is as much into the local church as it is into the "body of Christ."

Tim Guthrie said...

The church cannot and will not be right with God if the people are not right with God - thus Baptism is vitally important.

These words speak much to the particular aspects I was refering to:

Matthew 3:15
5 But Jesus answered and said to him, "Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness."

Dave Miller said...

Agreed, that people need to be right with God.

But the question is this: to be right with God, does a person have to be baptized under the auspices of a specific local church, and for that matter, does the church have to be baptist.

If I was baptized in a church that believes I can lose my salvation, but have come to see the truth of security, will my baptism negatively impact my walk with Christ, or the purity of the church of which I am a part.

I say no. If I have followed Christ in baptism, by immersion, understanding it as a picture of my salvation by grace, I cannot see how it is a problem that an arminian did the baptism.

Tim Guthrie said...

I have not questioned the argument you just made. I have differed with David Rogers use of a Mormon etc. and I still do. His idea is from ???? I do not know! :)

But I am still asking how do you incorporate your position into the church when you look at the big picture and thus see the very words of Jesus pertaining to His perspective.

David Rogers said...


My use of a Mormon???

I am sorry, but reading your comments here (both in your answers to Dave, and your aside about me) leaves me wondering whether or not you read very clearly. There is a lot of innuendo flying around the blogs these days. I would ask you to please be more careful and precise in your use of language. Otherwise, it is hard to take you seriously.

I Mitchell said...

That may be the problem in regard to The one that Baptized into the Church. The Regenerate Ones are Baptized into Jesus Christ. I believe you have settled all the Arguments on this Subject.

Wayne Smith

I Mitchell said...

The Church or those Present are the Witness to the Public Confession of Faith in Jesus Christ.

Wayne Smith

Dave Miller said...


You asked, "But I am still asking how do you incorporate your position into the church when you look at the big picture and thus see the very words of Jesus pertaining to His perspective."

Could you clarify. I am not sure what you are asking.

Tim Guthrie said...

David R,
Last I checked, I read fairly well. Sarcasm is becomming your standard lately - why is that?

You seem to have lost your touch and grace in these conversations.

Tim Guthrie said...

P.S. David,
As to whether or not you take me serious, did not know it really mattered. But, I am trying to figure out how to take you as well on this end.

Dave Miller said...

Tim, I think he is upset about the remark you made about Mormons.

I haven't read all that he wrote, so could you maybe reference what he said about mormonism, so I could be a little more informed?

It would be very helpful.

Tim Guthrie said...

From SBCImpact, David Rogers commented with the following:

"If, when they were baptized, they did it with the motive of being obedient to Christ, and as a testimony to their faith in Christ, and they believed a true gospel (not the false Mormon version of the gospel), I believe they were validly baptized, even though the doctrine of the one actually holding their body, and dipping them under the water was defective. In such a case, it was not a “Mormon baptism,” but merely performed by someone who happened to be a Mormon."

I happen to think that this goes way over the line, even for me.

Dave Miller said...

Tim, David can, I am sure, defend himself and explain his comment. However, let me mention how I read this one.

I don't think he is in any way approving of Mormon doctrine or practice (he is pretty clear on that). He is using an extreme example to make a point.

The point is that the essence of biblical baptism is not so much WHO did the baptism, but HOW it was done (immersion of a believer) and WHAT the person being baptized understood.

I believe that the key is the understanding and intent of the person being baptized, not so much the person DOING the baptism.

That is why, as long as the person being baptized understands that baptism is symbolic, and as long as they are baptized by immersion as a believer, I would probably accept the baptism as valid.

I would not accept a Mormon baptism as valid. I really don't think David would either.

I think his illustration was meant to make a point, not to authorized Mormon baptism.

Again, he will speak for himself.

Tim Guthrie said...

I agree with you on your perspective of David R's comment yet it is the use of the illustration when applied that would not nor will not fly in most churches (even non baptist).

David Rogers said...

I didn't realize this comment thread was still active. So pardon the delay in replying.

The only reason I even said anything at all about hypothetical baptisms performed by a Mormon was because I was asked a specific question by Tim Rogers on his blog, and didn't want to evade the question. By no means am I on a campaign to promote Mormon baptism. Quite the contrary.

Actually, I think the whole scenario of an authentically saved individual authentically wanting to obey the Lord's command to be baptized going to a Mormon in order to be baptized is highly contrived and very, very, very unlikely. However, down through history, many people have been authentically saved and authentically sincere in their desire to be obedient to the Lord's command to be baptized. But, then, when all was done and told, the person, or group, that baptized them ended up being immoral or heretical. Some of them even masqueraded under the name "Baptist" before it came to light they were really immoral or heretical. Does this mean that all the people who were baptized by these people all of the sudden find their baptisms invalidated?

I say no, because the validity of their baptism never depended on the doctrinal correctness or moral testimony of the one who baptized them in the first place. In their baptism, they are declaring their identification with Christ, not with the group or person who is baptizing them.

That has been my point all along. However, it seems some people are quick to want to read into an answer I made to a very pointed question, and condemn me for supporting "Mormon baptism." I think a careful reading of what I have said will show this to be disingenuous.

And Tim,

Sorry if what I wrote came across as sarcastic. Honestly, I was having trouble understanding what you were trying to say. And, apparently, Dave was as well. And, it seemed to me that perhaps you had not read very carefully what I was saying. That's all.

Anonymous said...


I have been following this discussion on the blogs for months, even wrote a post on my own blog about my own baptism in an effort to gain an understanding on what all is being said. I am starting to draw some conclusions, but I am not at the point yet of saying I fully understand the issue and will go one direction over another.

A burning question that I have, that I don't know if you or anyone else has considered, takes us back to Matt 28 & the Great Commission. I may be out in left field here, if I am just let me know, but do it Biblically.

The requirement to witness to the lost is for all believer's and is based on the Great Commission. A Christian who does not witness or does not do regularly witnessing is looked down upon by others who believe Matt 28 was intended for everyone. I have not heard instructions or guidelines about how evangelism comes under the guidelines of the church. I have not heard that if a member of a Baptist church goes out and witnesses to someone and that person accepts Christ, then they have believed themselves into that church because they believed as a result of the witnessing experience. This can be carried to many different scenarios, but I think you see where I am going. The church itself is not directly involved in the evangelism efforts and results, but when it comes to Baptism, all of a sudden the church is a critical element - yet the same passage appears to be used to justify that the baptism is into the church. I see a big inconsistency here, can you help me out? Do you, or someone else have answers that I have not learned? I think I really need to make peace with this discrepancy before I can come to any conclusions on this topic.

Thanks for your help - I hope I was clear in what I am asking, if not, email me and we can work it through email.

David Rogers said...


I think you ask an excellent question here. I think the Great Commission, including the part about witnessing (or "making disciples") and the part about baptism, is for all believers. And, it is indeed hard to separate them, since they were not given as separate commands.

However, if you were to ask Dr. Yarnell, he may very well tell you that even evangelism should be reserved exclusively for "legitimate" local churches as well. This is evidenced from the following quote excerpted from a comment he left on a blog recently here:

"Thus, the only form of cooperation that seems possible when working with Pentecostal Christians is co-belligerancy with regard to public policy (standing against abortion, for the family, etc.). Evangelism, because its proper end is the planting of New Testament churches confessing New Testament doctrine, should be ruled out of the picture, definitively, whether here in the United States or abroad."

Anonymous said...


Thanks for your answer. I agree, I don't see how they can be separated, yet there seems to be a separation between them in today's church - at least in the blog discussions about baptism and the church.

I hadn't made the connection with Dr. Yarnell's remark on Peter's blog as a tight view of evangelism and the church. Thanks for pointing that out. It's not something that came up in class this semester, but I will have him again in the fall. Maybe by then I'll have studied this more and can stand on my own when asking questions. He's a wonderful man and an excellent teacher, but he can be intimidating with his knowledge :-). I enjoyed learning under him and look forward to it again - I just don't always see how he and others come to their conclusions. Because I have such respect for them I am really trying hard to see where they are coming from, but have not been able to do it yet, but I keep reading and trying to learn.

Thanks again for taking the time to answer me and for validating the question.


Dave Miller said...

I have been studying Dr. Yarnell's writings in preparation for my next post. Not to get ahead of myself, but I see three things:

1) He seems to be a genuinely good person.

2) He is way more educated than I am. I feel, in arguing with him, that I am looking at a 100 mph Roger Clemens fastball and all I have is a wiffle ball bat.

3) I find absolutely no biblical support for things he states as established biblical facts.

Dave Miller said...


I am thinking that the heart of all of this is the local church/city church argument. Maybe that needs to be where the study is.

Dave Miller said...


I am thinking that the heart of all of this is the local church/city church argument. Maybe that needs to be where the study is.

David Rogers said...


If you have read my blog very much (and I take it you have, at least a bit), you will know that I am an advocate of the "city church" idea. However, I will be the first to admit that it is not without its pragmatic difficulties. It would probably be a little unrealistic right now to try to force that paradigm upon Southern Baptists. If we come to more of a "city church" understanding, it will definitely need to be something the Spirit works in His own time.

I don't think the Baptist Identity baptism arguments rise or fall on the "city church" concept, though. It may be best, therefore, not to build your case on that.

In any case, I would be interested to see where your research leads you, if you want to study up on this some more.

David Rogers said...


I pray the Holy Spirit will continue to guide you as you continue to seek out the truth on these matters. I will be interested to here what conclusions you arive at as well.

It would be interesting for me to see how Dr. Yarnell would respond to the arguments presented in Dave's series of posts here. Maybe you could bring that up to him.

Anonymous said...


I hope you don't mind, but I've copied your 3 posts into a word document so I can print them out, read them, study them, make notes etc. When you put another post up, I'll add that to what I have. I'm very interested in what you are doing here, you've saved me some work that I was planning on doing for myself - thanks a bunch.

David - thanks for your prayers and encouragement. As for Dr. Yarnell, I'm kind of surprised he hasn't found this yet, but I'll let him know next time I talk with him - I know he has wrestled with this stuff and has his reasons for his conclusions, it would be interesting and maybe helpful to know how and why he, and others, arrive at them, because I'm not getting there.


actionsub said...

Bravo, sir!

This whole "Baptist Identity" thing drove me out of the SBC. My daughter was baptized (immersion, post-profession of faith) by a United Methodist minister; hence most SBC folks won't have anything to do with her since it's not "like faith and order"...
What bothers me is that my wife and I insisted it be that way as we had planned to unite with a Baptist church when we moved away from that area, which would have been about two weeks after she was baptized.
After hearing the "like faith and order" mantra once too often, we finally opted for a non-denominational church. Sometimes this whole "traditions of men" routine is more trouble than it's worth.

David said...

I am just a sunday school enrollee in a baptist church and probably have no business posting, but I was interested in this blogpost and have few questions. Obviously with a Phd. you will make light work of these questions and I'm looking forward to your answers. I was saved only four years ago, so forgive me if these thoughts seem rather elementary. I'm sure you are a very busy person, so if no respone to my questions is receieved I completely understand.

Why did you choose to discount all references to John's baptism regarding this discussion? Jesus and the 12 had no other right? Were they never baptized in to Christ or might this give credence to Christ's church, not the Holy Spirit's, starting before Pentecost? Were they improperly baptized disciples?

We agree that baptists are to measure all doctrine with scripture and not historical identity/distictives...with that said...where exactly does the bible say Christ's church started at pentecost? Certainly the notes in a Schofield Reference Bible aren't inspired...haha...just playing.

You say, "In this passage, on the day of Pentecost, the Spirit falls on the church."

How could the Holy Spirit fall on something that doesn't exist already? The bible says that about 3000 were "added" to the church...how could they be added to something that doesn't exist already?

When did the Lord's Supper become a church ordinance? Before Pentecost...after Pentecost...or never?

I believe Christ did like He said and built His institution of the local church (Matt. 16:18) which was up and running according to scripture by Matt 18:17(local church discipline)...given the Lord's Supper and the Great Commission. All this before that most precious day at Pentecost...when the church Jesus built was filled and empowered by the Holy Spirit.

I say all of this because you stated...

"But this is a unique passage. Baptism on that day could not have really been into the church, because it was the inauguration of the church. Those who were baptized became the church."

Inauguration of the church? Please expound with scripture.

Those who were baptized "became the church"? From what scripture is this derived? Clearly those who were baptized were "added to the church"...by no stretch of dynamic equivalence may we conclude otherwise.
The apostles weren't baptized that day...were they not a part of the church?

Before I delve futher I would just like to see if you will respond thus far. I have some interesting ideas about these baptism passages, so don't K.O me :)

Florence, SC

Dave Miller said...

David, many of the folks who comment on blogs are laymen. It is not a pastors/scholars-only club. You are welcome to post.

You said, "Why did you choose to discount all references to John's baptism regarding this discussion? Jesus and the 12 had no other right? Were they never baptized in to Christ or might this give credence to Christ's church, not the Holy Spirit's, starting before Pentecost? Were they improperly baptized disciples?"

My focus was on the relationship between baptism and the church. John's baptism was more of a Jewish cleansing ritual - a "baptism of repentance." It was not intended to memorialize the death and resurrection of Christ. Also, in Acts 19, Paul makes a clear distinction between John's baptism and baptism into Christ. John's baptism was a good thing, but it was not sufficient in the church era.

You asked, "How could the Holy Spirit fall on something that doesn't exist already?"

If you look at 1 Corinthians 12:13 it says that we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body. The idea is that the act of Spirit baptism, which Jesus promised before he left earth WAS the founding act of the church. When the Spirit fell, he baptized (spiritually) all believers into the Body of Christ and thus instituted the church. There is no church apart from the Spirit and it was his coming in Acts 2 that got things started.

That also answers your other question. As soon as the Spirit fell, there was a church of 120 or so. Then, 3000 were added to that number.

It is our Spirit-baptism (at conversion) that includes us in the Body of Christ. Our water baptism pictures that Spirit-baptism.

I think that picture answers most of your questions. I will try to respond to others if you have specific questions, or if you want further clarification. However, I am out of town the next few days, so I will respond when I can.

When I pastored in Virginia I used to go down I-95 to visit family in Florida. Always made a point to stop at the "Thunderbird" buffet, if I remember the name right. Makes my mouth water just to think of it.

David said...

Good Morning, yes, the thunderbird is still here and one of our finest grease buffetts :)

Your original post stated...
"But this is a unique passage. Baptism on that day could not have really been into the church, because it was the inauguration of the church. Those who were baptized became the church."

you responded
"That also answers your other question. As soon as the Spirit fell, there was a church of 120 or so. Then, 3000 were added to that number."

I will try to keep my questions concise. I don't agree that I Cor. 12:13 refers to spirit baptism of all believers up to the present. I would like to discuss this later. First off...all I see that the bible says happened "that day" is the 3000 being added but lets say that you are correct and there was a church of 120 created when the spirit fell. Then 3000 were added to this. Wouldn't you agree that your first statement is erroneous since there was a church of 120 for the 3000 to be baptized into??

Dave Miller said...

The issue is at point is church oversight of baptism. There was a nascent church - just established at the moment of the Spirit's baptism.

But it was not an established church that could provide oversight to the baptism process - no structure, etc.

1) At Pentecost, God established the universal Body of Christ.

2) That church, while spiritually established, was not an established local church for the purposes of church oversight.

David said...

You pointed out...
1) At Pentecost, God established the universal Body of Christ.
Where does it say this in the Acts account? (Miller Quotes) -->"I know that silence is weak evidence, but it is evidence nonetheless." :)
This fictitious universal body of Christ, I believe, is the byproduct of the unfortunate KJV rendering of I Cor. 12:13. The correct rendering would be as follows..."In one spirit (a spirit of unity) were we all baptized (in water) into one body (the local church). If you find it hard to swallow that the local church is the body of Christ just read I Cor. 12 where Paul moves from His abstract illustration and particularly applies the concept he has established to the church at Corinth, "the" or "a" body of Christ. I Cor. 12:27 "Now you (church at Corinth)are the body of Christ and members individually". "By one Spirit" ...should have been translated "in one spirit" as it was in Phil. 1:27. But for the sake of argument lets assume this indeed refers to the baptism in the Holy Spirit by Jesus (Matt. 3:11). It is my amateur, babe in Christ opinion, that the Bible mentions nothing of a baptism "by" the Spirit. The R.V. renders I Cor. 12:13 "For in one Spirit were we all baptized into one body". I don't believe this is referring to the Holy Spirit but lets just say it is. Paul is clear in Ephesians 4:5 that there is only one baptism that unites all believers in the faith. When there is nothing to describe baptism, it is referring to water baptism...as is the case in Gal. 3:27 and Eph. 4:5. The baptism in the Holy Spirit occurred once, or maybe a few times after Pentecost..but by the time Paul writes his letter to the Ephesians, it is no more because there is only one baptism...immersion in obedience to Christ. Sir, we weren't baptized by the Holy Spirit into the invisible, mystical Body of Christ presently composed of all the regenerate up until now..or from Pentecost until now. The body is the the church which is always an assembly of regenerated, baptized believers gathered together to fulfill the Great Commission. The best picture of this can been seen in Revelation where Christ is walking in the midst of His church...which is the churches. The context of I Cor. 12 seems to me local and earthly only and doesn't allow for a universal figment of the imagination.
I Cor. 12:25 "that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another"
This is obviously a local and earthly body.

David said...

How could there be a schism in an invisible, universal church? The only schism I see is that part of the body would be in glory and part would be here...but that is something we have no control over. Why does Paul say there should be no schism and God provides one? How am I to care for the part of the body, which according to your theory, is in glory now? This should be read within the context of the local church to whom the letter was written, otherwise it is meaningless.

I Cor. 12:26 "And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it"

How am I to suffer with my Chinese brother in Christ of whom I've never met? How is he to suffer with me? How am I to rejoice in his honor and vice verso? Not only this, but according to the theory of the Universal Church...we are presently one with all of the regenerate..even those received up in glory. How does my grandmother in glory suffer with me? How does she rejoice with me? How do I suffer or rejoice with her? This verse only makes sense within the confines of the local assembly to whom the letter was written...which is the body of Christ according to the next verse.

2) That church, while spiritually established, was not an established local church for the purposes of church oversight.

I beg to differ, Christ was risen and He said He would build a church, I would like to respond to this thought tom. hopefully, but I have a bunch of exams coming up in school, If I respond to this tom....please rebuke my procrastination in secular studies :)

Dave Miller said...

Paul says, "we were all" - he was not a "member" of the local church at Corinth.

And your view that 1 Cor 12:13 refers to water baptism would stand against just about every credible Bible commentator.

It also violates the Greek construction of the passage.

You said, "The correct rendering would be as follows...'In one spirit (a spirit of unity) were we all baptized (in water) into one body (the local church.'"

Are you an expert in Greek? I would not agree with your translation of that passage.

First of all, to say that "spirit" there refers to a spirit of unity instead of the Holy Spirit is remarkable.

Second, the Spirit here is not the one doing the baptism, he is the material into which we are baptized. We are not baptized by the Spirit, but in the Spirit.

It is clear here that water baptism is NOT the focus. It is our immersion in the Holy Spirit.

Dave Miller said...

I am interested in your authority for your very dogmatic and opinionated statements?

Dave Miller said...

Here's the thing, Anonymous David. You do not seem to want to learn, you just want to argue.

After long study, I am convinced of the biblical fidelity of what I have written.

You do not seem interested in learning anything or in discussing issues, just in arguing with what I have written.

Feel free to write whatever you want here. If it is not ungodly, I will leave it up. But I do not have the time to pursue pointless arguments.

David said...

I thought we were discussing the first passage of baptism in Acts. I was interested in a discussion..I'm sorry if my post came across unloving or immature. My goal was to illustrate these individuals were indeed baptized under the authority of the local church that Jesus built and the Spirit filled. The veiws expressed in the post are a collaboration of thoughts from various baptist authors...Mostly B.H. Carroll and Arthur Pink...haha...I'm just a 26 yr old sunday school enrollee..my apologies for my unearned dogmatism. This discussion would take years to get through these passages so I won't post anymore. When we make it to glory, I'll just find you a say told you so..hahaha...if you ever eat at the Thunderbird again shoot an e-mail...

David Campbell
Florence, SC

Dave Miller said...

Mr. Campbell,

I have pretty much written what I believe in these posts. If you have questions, I would be glad to try to answer them.

But you are not going to convince me of a position I believe is contrary to scripture.

I did not get the impression you were interested in what I was saying, except to try to prove me wrong.

If you have comments, you are welcome to leave them.

If you have questions, I will answer them.

But I just don't have time for an argument.