Response to Matt Slick on Acts 2:38, Part 3

 The first two blog posts responding to Matt Slick's article "Acts 2:38 and Baptism" can be found here:



As in these previous posts, Slick's words will be in quotes followed by my responses here.

"On the contrary, baptism is excluded from the gospel message.  Paul said that he came to preach the gospel--not to baptize: 'I am thankful that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, so no one can say that you were baptized into my name.  (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don't remember if I baptized anyone else). For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel...' (1 Cor. 1:14-17)."

Except that Slick totally missed Paul's point here. The apostle's point wasn't that baptism doesn't save, but that Paul didn't  save anybody, and the fact Paul didn't baptize hardly anyone proved that.

If baptism isn't salvation, using the argument he didn't baptize but a few would be immaterial to his point salvation wasn't of Paul. The context of the whole passage wasn't dealing whether or not baptism saves but dealing with cliques in the church where some were saying they were saved by Paul, Apollos, or Peter.

For context, back up to verse 12: "What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, "I follow Apollos'; another, 'I follow Cephas[b]'; still another, 'I follow Christ.'"

And Paul responded in verse 13: "Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius."

The context wasn't Paul didn't baptize because baptism doesn't save anyone but he didn't baptize to keep folks from thinking Paul did the saving. He was trying to show that they weren't saved by the name of Paul in baptism. In fact, he said just as he wasn't crucified for their sins,  baptism wasn't administered in his name. If Paul not baptizing in this context meant baptism doesn't save, by that logic, the fact Paul didn't die for our sins meant what was done on the Cross wasn't saving.

The text is saying the exact opposite of what Slick wanted it to say. More, it is fallacious to make the claim just because Paul didn't baptize, that meant they weren't baptized for the forgiveness of sins. The apostle wasn't minimizing the role of baptism in our salvation but was minimizing his own role.

In fact in the same epistle (chapter 6, verse 11), he would go on to say they were washed in the name of Jesus and by the Holy Spirit. Throughout Acts, they were baptized in Jesus' name (that isn't denial baptism is done in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, by the way). Paul indeed was alluding to baptism in saying it is the Visible means God used to wash away sins by joining those baptized to Christ, by the Holy Spirit.

That is seemingly the usual go to passage folks use to try to explain away many other baptismal texts that say baptism is indeed God's grace to unite us with Christ and His forgiveness, through faith. Sad.

"Likewise, Paul told us exactly what the gospel that saves is; he said in 1 Cor. 15:1-4, 'Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, 2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.  3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.'
Note what Paul states in the gospel, and that he did not include baptism in the definition of the gospel."

Paul did in 1 Corinthians 6:11 (and other places) include baptism in his definition of the gospel. And he did so blatantly, but not in the way Slick caricatured baptismal regenerationists. It isn't grace plus baptism. Nor faith plus baptism. But God's free and pure grace of baptism that delivers Christ's forgiveness to us and delivers the faith to receive that forgiveness.

And as pointed out repeatedly, Slick refuted himself earlier in the article when he said to be baptized means to passively receive.

And, yes, Paul did use the word "receive" in the text he cited here. So, if we go by what he said baptism really means which is to receive in passive way (and Slick was more right then he realized), then the Pauline passage does tell us of baptismal grace which means passive receiving of the good news that Christ died for us.

Not to mention Paul spoke of baptism in terms of gospel as in regards to Christ crucified and His forgiveness many times: Acts 22:16 (in regards to in a speech recoded by Luke describing his own baptism washing away his sins while he called on Christ), Romans 6:1-4, 1 Corinthians 6:11, Galatians 3:26-29, Colossians 2:11-13, Ephesians 5:25-27 and Titus 3:4-7.

Not to mention other parts of the New Testament treat baptism, not law and not our works: 1 Peter 3:21, Mark 16:16, Hebrews 10:22, 1 John 5:7, and Revelation 22:17.

"So, we must ask if baptism is necessary for salvation, then why did Paul downplay it and even exclude it from the description of what is required for salvation?  It is because baptism isn't necessary for salvation."

Paul didn't downplayed baptism but downplayed himself in regards to our salvation. That is like saying he downplayed the role of the Cross when  he denied he died for us in same context he denied we were baptized  in the name of Paul.

So he didn't exclude baptism from salvation. He excluded himself from the one who did the saving. At no point did he denied they got baptized in saving manner, but simply denied he was the one who administered it so no one can say, "Paul's the Savior."

"Further proof that baptism is not a requirement of salvation can be found in Acts 10:44-46.  Peter was preaching the gospel, people became saved, and then they were baptized. Acts 10:44-48 says,

'While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message.  The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles.  For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.  Then Peter said, Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water?  They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.'  So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.  Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.' NIV).

"These people were saved.  The gift of the Holy Spirit was on the Gentiles, and they were speaking in tongues.  This is significant because tongues is a gift given to believers, see 1 Cor. 14:1-5.  Also, unbelievers don't praise God.  They can't because praise to the true God is a deep spiritual matter that is foreign to the unsaved (1 Cor. 2:14).  Therefore, the ones in Acts 10:44-46 who are speaking in tongues and praising God are definitely saved, and they are saved before they are baptized.  This isn't an exception.  It is a reality.  This proves that baptism is not necessary for salvation, and that Acts 2:38 is not teaching it is necessity either.  But, if it isn't saying that, then why is baptism mentioned here?"

Except that this isn't the only baptismal example in Acts, is it?

To simply use this one example then say that proves in every case in Acts and everywhere else in the Bible, reception of forgiveness of sins and the Holy Spirit precedes baptism so as to say baptism has nothing to do with any's salvation is not only unsound but very highly irresponsible use of the passage. It is simply flat out not true.

All this passage shows is that not in all cases does rebirth occurs in baptism. The vast majority of those who affirmed baptismal regeneration don't even hold to regeneration must always take place in baptism, so Slick was arguing against a strawman.

Let's cite two examples that show Slick was wrong to make it out as if regeneration and reception of the Holy Spirit only takes place prior to baptism

One example actually had faith receiving baptism prior to reception of the Holy Spirit:

Acts 19
5 On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues[b] and prophesied.

Another example had the washing away of sins and even faith itself in Christ taking place in baptism:

Acts 22
14 “Then he said: ‘The God of our ancestors has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and to hear words from his mouth. 15 You will be his witness to all people of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.’"

So pretty much Slick had to pick and choose from Acts to the exclusion of all other baptismal examples and then passed it off as the same rule for all of them when that wasn't the case.

Another examples prove him wrong.

Acts 2:38 still meant what it says.

Baptism is a means of grace by which we receive Christ alone for our salvation. Such passages were never intended to add works to our salvation but show us how we can be objectively sure in real time and in real place   by grace alone through faith alone, we are joined to Christ and His forgiveness alone.

Here we stand.


Response to Matt Slick on Acts 2:38, Part 2

The previous post response to Matt Slick's article entitled "Baptism and Acts 2:38" can be found here:


As in that, the format is the same: Slick's words are in quotes, followed by my response.

"All people are commanded to repent for their sins.  This is what believers have already done by becoming Christians. "

Except Acts 2:38 says repent and be baptized, for the forgiveness of sins.

Can't say "for the forgiveness of sins" doesn't mean actually to receive forgiveness of sins, to get around that statement connected to "be baptized" for that purpose, then turn around and say "for" is to have sins forgiven in regards to repent in the same context.

"Baptism, then, is the outward identification with being a Christian for those who have already repented."

Except that isn't what the text says. And making mutually contradictory arguments don't begin to demonstrate that at all.

"Also, as the Israelites were 'baptized into Moses' (1 Cor. 10:2), so too, Christians are baptized into Jesus.  That is, they are identifying themselves, publicly, with Christ."

It's having it both ways.

If to be baptized  is to passively receive how is it at the same time us doing something to publicly identify ourselves with Christ?

Can't have it both ways. If baptism isn't what we do (which is true) but is passive reception (also true), then it isn't us giving ourselves to display our faith (and nowhere does Acts 2:38 or any other text suggest that).

If to be baptized  is to passively receive, not our own doing, as he pointed out at the beginning of his article, then to be baptized into Christ is to passively received Christ Himself.

That's why it is stated in the previous blog response, that Slick actually is making our case rather than refuting it by arguing for the phrase "be baptized" means passive reception, not our doing.

"Likewise, in Rom. 6:1-5 where baptism is related to death, burial, and resurrection, it is again an identification with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection. "

Except Romans 6:1-5 doesn't actually say baptism is related to death, burial and resurrection. It says we are buried with Christ in  baptism itself and raised with Him to newness of life.

The text says the exact opposite of what Matt Slick wished it to say.

"That is why it is said of Christians that we have died to sin (Rom. 6:2, 11; Gal. 2:19-20; Col. 2:20; Col. 3:3; 1 Pet. 2:24)."

Paul said we die to sins daily as result of being buried with Christ in baptism and raised with Him to newness of life.

"Justification is the work of God where the righteousness of Jesus is reckoned to the sinner; so the sinner is declared, by God, as being righteous under the Law (Rom. 4:3; 5:1,9; Gal. 2:16; 3:11).  This righteousness is not earned or retained by any effort of the saved.  Justification is an instantaneous occurrence with the result being eternal life.  It is based completely and solely upon Jesus' sacrifice on the cross (1 Pet. 2:24) and is received by faith alone (Rom. 4:5; 5:1; Eph. 2:8-9).  No works are necessary whatsoever to obtain justification. Otherwise, it is not a gift (Rom. 6:23).  Therefore, we are justified by faith (Rom. 5:1)."

While what he stated there is biblically true, he was using that to erect a strawman that those who affirm baptismal regeneration automatically hold to baptism as adding our works to be saved and justified.

The problem is this: he refuted any idea baptism is a good work we do when we are baptized the moment he correctly said at the beginning of his article that to be baptized is in passive sense of us receiving. If we are passively receiving, we aren't doing. That means it isn't our good work when we are baptized.

"Nowhere in the Bible does it state that we are justified by grace and baptism or faith and baptism or faith and anything else."

Complete and utter strawman that Lutherans and other Christians, who historically affirm baptismal regeneration, don't remotely even hold to.

The view is baptism itself God's grace to us by which He delivers forgiveness of sins won by Christ at the Cross to us. Faith passively receives what God gives by His grace in baptism. It is not faith plus baptism, but faith receives passively the benefits God brings us via such outward means, which is delivery of Christ's forgiveness to us.

Luther himself saw baptism as outward means of reception of Christ's forgiveness as in fact safeguarding grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. It's purely God's grace to us.

And there are indeed passages that do  speak of baptism as God's regenerating grace to join us to Christ and to work faith unto us to receive Christ.

For example, Colossians 2:11-13 states to be buried with Christ and raised with Him to newness of life is to made alive with Christ when we are dead in our sins. What does it mean for God to make us alive with Christ when we are dead in sins? Ephesians 2:1-8 answers by saying to be made alive with Christ when we are to be dead in sins is God's grace, and God's grace is what gives us faith as a gift, not of ourselves. Baptism is God's grace. And it is God's grace alone to us to give us faith that joins us to Christ.

More rebuttals to his other claims will be forthcoming.

Here we stand.


Response to Matt Slick on Acts 2:38, Part 1

While discussing the issue of baptism with several friends online, some have posted an article by Matthew Slick of CARM entitled  "Baptism and Acts 2:38".

Slick made a lot of fallacious and strawman arguments, that will be addressed here and in future articles, against baptismal regeneration as held to by Lutherans as well as by historic Christianity.

The format in this response  will be that Slick's each of statements from his article will be in quotes followed by my response.

 "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." (Acts 2:38).

"Acts 2:38 is one of the more controversial verses in the Bible regarding baptism and whether or not it is the requirement for salvation.  Some use this verse to say that one must be baptized in order to be saved.  But when you look at the verse, and others, you will see that it does not teach baptismal regeneration, that baptism saves, or that baptism is necessary for salvation."

And I like to point out the biblical data gives us the exact opposite conclusion from what the article is claiming.

"First of all, rarely is doctrine ever made from a single verse."

And Slick starts out with a complete and utter strawman. No one, who holds to baptismal regeneration, base their view on that one passage alone, and he ought to know that if he is an apologist. Many other texts are cited including 1 Peter 3:21, Mark 16:16, Romans 6:1-4, Colossians 2:11-13, Galatians 3:27-29, Ephesians 5:25-27, etc.

Simply making a spurious claim as he did to make the view look easily refutable as if it is based on one verse actually says more against his position than what he is trying to refute.

"We need to look at all of what God's words says about a subject in order to accurately understand what it teaches."

Exactly, and there are many baptismal texts that consistently speak of baptism in a saving manner.

"In Acts 2:38 the main verb is metanoesate (change mind), the aorist direct imperative (a command) of metanoeo which means to repent (change mind).  This refers to that initial repentance of the sinner unto salvation.  The verb translated "
'be baptized' is in the indirect passive imperative (a command to receive; hence, passive voice in Greek1) of baptizo, which does not give it the same direct command implied in "repent.' The preposition "for' in the phrase 'for the remission of sins' in Greek is 'eis,' unto or into, and it is in the accusative case (direct object).  It can mean 'for the purpose of identifying you with the remission of sins.' It is the same preposition we find in 1 Cor. 10:2 in the phrase 'and were baptized unto Moses.' Note that both contexts are dealing with baptism and identification.  In 1 Cor. 10:2 the people were baptized or spiritually identifying themselves with the purposes and vision of Moses.'"

Slick doesn't realize this, but he actually proved baptismal regeneration with his arguments.

Consider first he said the clause  "be baptized" is in the passive sense to mean receive. He didn't even deny the word "for" really does mean for (many Baptists argue it really means "because of" to get around the text). So if he said (correctly) to be baptized is in passive sense to mean receive and if he connected that  to for forgiveness of sins, he can't then turn around and then claimed as he did "be baptized" in passive sense once one repents isn't for forgiveness of sins.

His suggestion was that it can be mean for the purpose of identifying with forgiveness of sins. He tried to use 1 Corinthians 10:1-4 where the same word is used in regards to them being baptized unto Moses. Problem is unto and for still mean unto and for, and when connected to the phrase "forgiveness of sins," you end up with the statement "be baptized unto forgiveness of sins" or "be baptized for forgiveness of sins."  Such an argument actually proves what baptismal regenerationists historically assert: one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.

He said 1 Corinthians 10:1-4 means spiritually identified themselves with purposes and visions of Moses. If we apply that line of argument to Acts 2:38, be baptized would be identifying spiritually with forgiveness of sins.

So that proves be baptized isn't for forgiveness of sins? Here's the problem. If we accept his argument, that actually results in digging a bigger hole for his position.

It is not  spiritually identified with forgiveness that Christ gives if it is not salvation by grace through faith itself. When we are saved, we are joined to Christ and we are identified spiritually with Christ, as Galatians 3:27-29. (And that text indeed does say, baptism through faith joins us to Christ and clothes us with Him.)

His arguments so far from refuting baptismal regeneration actually validated it.

"Repentance, therefore, is presented as identifying an individual with the remission of his sins even as baptism following repentance provides an external identification visible by others."

Slick said in the previous paragraph  the clause "be baptized" is in passive sense for or unto forgiveness of sins as meaning to be spiritually identified with forgiveness of sins. Now he said baptism isn't to identity spiritually with forgiveness of sins  (contradicting the last sentence of the previous paragraph especially) but external identification for others to see. Besides contradicting everything he just said, the text does not  (nor any other text) say baptism is for external identification visible by others.

Perhaps, he realized the logical implications of what he said in the previous paragraph would validate baptismal regeneration so has to deny what he just said.

But that is exactly the problem when he can't take the text at face value. He was forced to try use arguments to get around it, even if the arguments are self-contradictory, self-refuting, and even times have implications that actually go against what he is trying to argue.

" That is why baptistheto (let be immersed) is in the passive voice indicating that one does not baptize himself but is baptized by another usually in the presence of others.  Repentance, however, is an act taking place within a person's heart as the Holy Spirit moves in the sinner."

There are several problems: 1) not every baptismal examples in Acts are done in the presence of others, 2) the fact baptism is passive reception actually refutes his arguments of baptismal regeneration adding works to our salvation, 3) what follows repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins in Acts 2:38 is the actual reception of the Holy Spirit so his claim the Holy Spirit does not work via baptism is refuted there, as is dividing the water of baptism from the Holy Spirit.

The rest of his article will be dealt with in future responses but let's add the fact to be baptized is in the passive for reception removes it from being our work (so any argument used to that effect that to hold to baptism saves adds works to our salvation is null and void on that basis). We are the receivers. It is faith that receives forgiveness of sins.

Ever wonder why the text doesn't say repent and believe but repent and be baptized?

Faith itself is passive reception of forgiveness of sins Christ won for us. Since baptism is itself passive receiving, that makes it faith itself that passively receives Christ's forgiveness and the Holy Spirit as a result as well.

Here we stand.

Luther's doctrine of election

The Lutheran approach to election is that such passages on the topic are written for our assurance, that in Christ, salvation lies entirely outside of our powers (hence alien/imputed righteousness) and in the hand of God. We didn't choose Christ, but Christ chose us.

We hold to while the elect are those who will in the end be saved, it does not mean we can speculate and go beyond what is hidden to us in regards to God's inscrutable will. What does that mean? The rational approach would be to assume since salvation is all of God and election is of some, it must mean God doesn't desire to save all.

Luther rejected that. He warned against such thinking in his Bondage of the Will, his sermons, his Commentary on Genesis, etc. To him the hidden God must be distinguished from the revealed God. The revealed God is the Incarnate God who took on flesh via the virgin birth, obeyed the law on our behalf, and paid the penalty for our sins on the Cross. That revealed God is our Gospel who comes to us in Word and Sacrament. And He desires to save all yet not all are saved.

Why are some saved and some aren't if God wants to save all and salvation is entirely all of God, not of anything in our fallen enslaved wills? That is where Luther said we are to shut our mouth since it is forbidden for us to inquire into. To him, the hidden God is the God of law who hides Himself from us sinners, since no one can see Him and live.

So in that very sense, his distinction between the hidden God and the revealed God is tied to his distinction between law and gospel.

To him, the gospel is Christ crucified for us. And that is the Word of salvation that Christ comes to all with in the mean of grace. And the fault rests with those who does not receive Him. In other words, while salvation is all of God, damnation is entirely on us. God's will to save is indeed earnest.

Luther refused to get into the thinking  if God doesn't save all, He must be a weak God. It is enough for us to know that He who elects us is able to both convert and keep us.

And for Luther, holding to salvation is all of God while affirming He wants all to be saved are actually twin ways he saw as assurance to us.

In his view, even if God's word that Christ died for us is rejected when God works grace on us via Word and Sacrament , it still stands. It isn't contingent on our faith or not for it to be true. Why is it assurance to him?

In his view, what's true for all (God's atonement and saving will/grace) becomes objectively true for us personally. In other words, in his view, we can only know Christ died for us personally only if He died for all. Likewise, we can only know He desires to save us with His grace if He truly wants to do so for all.

Luther rejected any idea we can have assurance God wants to save us or Christ died for us if we look to own faith. To him, that would be faith in own faith. In his view, faith alone looks outside ourselves. Look outside to what? To the salvation that lies outside as given unto us in Word and Sacrament.

To him, salvation being all of God tells us we can't look inwards to be assured given if we are honest with ourselves, we can only see the very sinners that needed to be redeemed in the first place which isn't assuring. Likewise, God's earnest desire to save and His providing atonement for all means we don't have to look at own faith or anything insides ourselves to see if He died for us or wants to save. It is objectively true based on fact it is for all. And what is objectively true means we can look outside ourselves, not inwards. Hence, faith alone clings to what God gives and offers in Word and Sacrament, that is Christ's work being delivered.

And that brings me to my next point: Lutheran election is both Christological and sacramental. In Luther's view, our predestination shines when we can say, "I am baptized. I am God's dear child because of that." Or when the words of absolution are spoken to assure forgiveness that Christ won at the Cross is still with us. Or when He delivers His Body and Blood in the Eucharist. He is truly present in Word and Sacrament to deliver Himself and His forgiveness for our outwards, objective assurance. And we rest assured in Christ given unto from outside ourselves in Word and Sacrament, we have assurance we are of the elect- in Christ.

Finally, Luther's doctrine of a true believer can fall away in the end and be lost, but God will preserve His elect is an extension of his doctrines of hidden God/revealed God distinction, law and gospel distinction, and understanding of the objective Word being true and remaining true for all even if rejected.

He affirmed that if a person falls away in the end, it isn't because God doesn't desire to save such a person if we go by revealed will. Why some remain in the faith and some aren't is again none of our business.

The passages exist on assurance and apostasy as law and gospel passages. Apostasy warning passages are really law passages to warn a believer who has fallen into sin and is comfortable in that sin to afflict him with need for contrition and desire for forgiveness. Assurance passages (including election ones) are really gospel passages to assure and comfort those who feel weigh of their sin and desire the forgiveness the gospel offers.

This law and gospel message also applies to how to preach to the lost as well. And the two go hand in hand in that instance. The lost needs law to know need for forgiveness and needs to hear gospel that shows God's love to have forgiveness provided and available to them if they repent and receive by grace through faith alone.

That was Luther's view of what God's word of salvation say. And such Word in his view makes the sacrament. And it remains true even if one takes it in bad or no faith (as in Judas).

Luther, while predestinarian in view, would have us look to God's objective word given to us from outside ourselves in the means of grace. And we find comfort in Christ crucified for our sins with us, we found and locate our predestination. What he opposed doing is make predestination the central focus and in fact forbid debating over the subject. He feared speculations into it leading to either freewill synergism or limited atonement can undercut assurance (and indeed railed against both).

That's Luther's and Lutheran election doctrine in a nutshell.

Here we stand.