MY BOOKS ON
Some of our most frequent inquiries are about the
teachings of the "Church of Christ," or "Campbellism." Over the years we have
dealt with practically all of their basic views and practices, and these are
available in book form.
My books on Campbellism are as
__ Acts 2:38 and Baptismal Remission (Bob L. Ross), $4
__ Campbellism -- Its History and Heresies (Ross), $6
Campbellites, Cowbells, Rosary Beads
and Snake Handling
[on Instrumental Music] (Ross), $5
__ The Restoration Movement (Ross),
Minimum postage on any order, $3.
All 4 books for $17.00
plus $3 postage. We are eliminating as much paperwork as possible, so
please send payment with order, or order by email or phone with payment by
Credit Card. (713) 477-2329. Thank you very much. -- Bob L.
REPLY TO A BROTHER WHO WANTS COMMENT ON
THE REMISSION OF SINS," ACTS 2:38
I received the following question
on Acts 2:38:
Those who assert that baptism by immersion in
water is an element of our salvation point to the book of Acts (I believe it's
2:38), where Peter states to a group to whom he was preaching, "Repent and be
Brother, how do we get around
We don't get around Acts 2:38, WE ACCEPT IT, but
we differ with the interpretation which makes baptism a means of actual or
literal remission of sins. We believe baptism has REFERENCE to the remission of
sin, but in a REPRESENTATIVE and DECLARATIVE sense rather than a procurative
Acts 2:38 is the "sugarstick" for those who believe that baptism
is literally "in order to" the real, actual, experimental remission of sins, and
is an essential ingredient of salvation. We do not accept this view. Baptism
DOES remit sins, but the entire issue is, IN WHAT SENSE does -- or can --
baptism remit sins?
And the answer is, the ONLY sense in which it CAN
remit -- as we elsewhere understand from Scripture -- is as a "LIKENESS" and a
"FIGURE" (Romans 6:4-6; 1 Peter 3:21). This is the representative
The remission of sins in the representative sense is a very common
biblical concept, especially in the Old Testament. Baptism is much like the
animal sacrifices of the Old Testament, which did not really or literally atone
for sin but were representations of Jesus Christ who would eventually come into
the world and actually atone for sin by the sacrifice of Himself. See Hebrews
In language of the figurative category, there is the device called
"trope," which means the attribution of something which is "real" to that which
is only a symbol, an emblem, or a representation. For example, when you show a
picture of your mother and say, "This is my mother," you are using "trope." The
photo simply represents or illustrates your mother. It is not really your
For a Biblical example of this, consider the
Christ said, "This IS my body" when He took the bread. When He
took the cup, He said, "This IS my blood."
Of course, His literal body
was His fleshly body, and not the bread itself. His literal blood was still
circulating in His literal body, and was not the liquid in the cup. He was using
"trope" in His teaching -- attributing the reality to the emblem.
it is not possible for an external ordinance to do an INTERNAL work on the heart
or to render real satisfaction (atonement) to the broken Law of God (Hebrews
10:1-4), baptism cannot do these things except in the "trope" sense -- it
represents the remission of sins by the death of Christ, which was the REAL
remission (Matthew 26:28; Hebrews 9:22, 26, 28). He put away sins by the
sacrifice of Himself. Baptism no more literally remits sins than the animal
sacrifices of the Old Testament.
In spiritual EXPERIENCE, this remission
of sins comes to us in our hearts through FAITH (Romans 3:24-26; Acts 13:38,
"Remission of Sins" may be considered in three
(1) Literally, by the Death of Christ -- Matthew 26:26-28
(2) Experimentally, by faith in Christ -- Acts 10:43
Representatively, by Baptism -- Acts 2:38; 22:16; 1 Peter 3:21
As a born
again believer, no longer condemned, but passed from death to life, never to
perish, with my old man dead and my life hid with Christ in God, I was baptized
for the remission of sins, and so was every other child of God who has been
baptized. Baptism is the likeness of my death to sin and resurrection to new
life in Jesus Christ.
If you have access to the following books, you may
find a more extensive exposition of baptism "eis" (with reference to) the
remission of sins:
AN INTEREPRETATION OF THE ENGLISH BIBLE by B. H.
Carroll (two chapters on Acts 2:38), and THE NASHVILLE DEBATE (J. B. Moody,
Baptist vs. James A. Harding, Church of Christ).
These sources contend
that the Greek preposition "eis" means "with reference to," and that the sense
of reference in Acts 2:38 is the representative sense, as I have explained
"BORN OF WATER" IN JOHN 3 CANNOT
BE USED BY THE CAMPBELLITES ON
In the large, entire page advertisement which
the Church of Christ folks published awhile back in the Dallas Morning News and
the Fort Worth Star Telegram, the Church of Christ writer used John 3:5 (column
4, bottom half of the page), as if that verse substantiates their contention
that baptism is "necessary for salvation."
the fact is, the Church of Christ cannot use John 3:5 and remain consistent with
their own hermeneutics. I learned a long time ago that one of the most
effective ways to refute an erroneous teaching is to use one of the other
teachings by these errorists which is contradictory to the argument they are
making. In other words, in most cases one can simple accept or stay
within Church of Christ "hermeneutics" and refute their errors with their own
This is certainly the case on John 3:5. Some
Church of Christ ministers I have debated realize the problem, and won't even
attempt to use the verse. In my debate with Garland Elkins, for instance,
he had previously read my writings on this, so he never even mentioned John 3:5
in his attempt to prove the necessity of baptism for salvation. But
to the naive and uninformed, since "water" [note: not baptism] is mentioned in
John 3, some folks seem to be drawn to it like a moth to a porchlight. Most
everywhere "water" appears in the Bible, those who over-emphasize the
signficance of baptism are attracted to it if they think they can somehow use it
to help their view on baptism for the remission of sins.
What is their problem on John chapter three?
Church of Christ ministers I have met teach that what they call the "Gospel" was
FIRST preached on the Day of Pentecost and the Kingdom was established on
Pentecost. It was on this occasion (Acts chapter 2), so they say, that the
gospel of "baptism for (in order to obtain) the remission of sins" was FIRST
preached and administered as a necessary act of obedience in the "steps" which
must be taken by a sinner for "contacting the blood of Jesus" as a means of
forgiveness and entering the Kingdom. According to them, both the
Gospel and the Church had their origination on the Day of
Therefore, if the foregoing teaching were true,
it would obviously mean that Jesus was not teaching and could not have possibly
been teaching that same "gospel" of baptismal remissions of sins to Nicodemus in
John chapter three for one simple reason: If the gospel was not in existence at
the time Jesus spoke to Nicodemus, and would not arrive on the scene until
Pentecost, it is clear that Jesus was not teaching the non-existent gospel to
this man as a means of salvation.
Thus, whatever is meant by
"born of water" in John 3 could logically have no bearing upon salvation AFTER
the Day of Pentecost, and would not be applicable for salvation today.
Jesus was explaining to Nicodemus the necessity of the new birth in John 3, but
according to the baptismal remissionists' theory, this could not have been the
Gospel, for the Gospel did not arrive until the Day of Pentecost, if their
theory is true.
The fact is, according to the
Church of Christ, Jesus NEVER preached the Gospel during His
ministry! They teach that men were under the Old Testament Law as the
way of salvation during the ministry of Christ! It was only after His
death, they say, that one could "contact the blood" by means of baptism!
As for the true meaning of the verse, I have a separate
article available on that, plus it is duly considered in my books on the Church
-- Bob L.
3:5 -- WHY IT DOES NOT
TEACH THE NEW BIRTH IS BY BAPTISM
has often been misused as if being born again is somehow related to the act of
water baptism. It is assumed, without any proof whatsoever, that "water"
signifies baptism. If "water" is arbitrarily defined as baptism, then we could
just as justifiably say, "Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living baptism"
in John 7:38. If this sounds foolish, it is no more so
than the idea that
baptism is the source or the means of being born again.
Here is how I
understand John 3:5:
(1) The Greek reads: "born of water and [kai]
Spirit." It is not born of water and of the Spirit, as if there are
two sources. But the fact is, there is only one source of the new birth in this
passage: the Spirit: "born ek water kai Spirit," which can read,
"born out of water even the Spirit."
(2) The Greek word
kai is often rendered even, and "born of water even the Spirit" is what W. E.
Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testement Words calls "the epexagetic or
explanatory use" (Vol. IV, page 252). Similar in use to "God even (kai) the
Father" and "Jesus even (kai) our Saviour."
(3) The same writer,
John, in a near context, makes "water" synonymous with the Spirit: "Out
of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. But this spake he of the Spirit
. . . " (John 7:38, 39). This shows that water is emblematical of the
In every place where men are said to be "born" spiritually, the
word EK [out of] is used, which indicates SOURCE. When "means" are in view, the
word DIA [by or through] is used. And in no place in the Bible is any one said
to born ek baptism or dia baptism. Baptism is neither the source nor the means
of the new birth. -- Bob Ross
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