Spirit Baptism: Other Alleged References in the Epistles:
Romans 6:3-4; Galatians 3:27; Colossians 2:12; 1 Peter 3:21[i]
It is very rare for one who recognizes that 1 Corinthians 12:13 refers to immersion in water and the Lord’s Supper to consider any other references to baptism in the epistles as setting forth the baptism of Holy Ghost. The natural sense of all the other texts sometimes alleged to refer to Spirit baptism is to the church ordinance of immersion. The position of the Philadelphia Baptist Association in 1802, as quoted extensively above, is still true: “As for sundry other Scriptures, such as Romans 6:3, 4; Colossians 2:12; 1 Peter 3:21; Galatians 3:27; they have an evident relation to water baptism, and are no way connected with, nor yet refer to, the work of grace in the heart.” The only substantive reason typically given to attempt to prove that these passages refer to Spirit baptism is that, were a reference to immersion in water in view, the heresy of baptismal regeneration would allegedly follow. Having dispelled this notion, and demonstrated the entire compatibility of justification by faith alone with a reference to the church ordinance of baptism in these texts, no reasons remains to deviate from their normal sense as references to immersion. Romans 6:3-4; Galatians 3:27; Colossians 2:12; and 1 Peter 3:21 should consequently be analyzed in order, and the entire compatibility of interpreting them as references to immersion in water with justification by faith alone demonstrated. Indeed, affirming the necessity of considering these texts as references to Spirit baptism, because of a supposedly unavoidable necessity of affirming baptismal regeneration if they are recognized as simple verses about immersion, gives far too much exegetical favor to the baptismal regeneration heresy—indeed, since the simple fact of the matter is that the verses are about immersion in water, not Spirit baptism, employing this argument would in fact go far to establish, rather than refute, baptismal regeneration.[ii]
I am actually not planning to post material on all of these passages here; one can see them all dealt with in Heaven Only for the Baptized? at http://sites.google.com/site/thross7. I will only deal with Romans 6:3-4, as a representative examination.
Baptismal regenerationists allege that Romans 6:3-4 teaches that baptism is the literal means through which one is united to Christ. They argue that spiritual blessings are said to be “in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3), and these verses say that one is “baptized into Jesus Christ” (Romans 6:3), so until one is baptized he is out of Christ, and through baptism “into” Christ he gets “in” Christ, and so begins to receive spiritual blessing for the first time. However, an exposition of the passage in its context demonstrates the fallacious nature of this claim. It also cannot be supported by an analysis of the phrases “into Christ” and “in Christ” found throughout the Bible. One is “in Christ” at the moment of faith, prior to baptism.
In chapters 1-5 of the book of Romans, Paul clearly explains that the gospel, “the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth,” is “that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law,” that “to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness,” so that “being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 1:16, 3:28, 4:5, 5:1). Having explained that sinners are justified by faith alone in these chapters (where the words believe and faith are found almost fifty times, and baptism is never mentioned), in Romans 6-8 Paul begins to explain the implications of justification by faith in the life of the saved individual. He naturally mentions baptism early in this section of his discourse, since it publicly identifies the saint with the people of God, and is one of the first acts of obedience for the newly regenerate. Romans 9-11 then surveys God’s relationship to Israel, while chapters 12-16 discuss God’s righteousness at work in the believer’s life. The greater context of the book of Romans supports the conclusion that baptism, as mentioned in 6:3-4, is not the means through which one is declared just before God, for it appears in a section dealing with the Christian life, not the reconciliation of the lost. A careful examination of the passage also yields the same conclusion.
Romans 6:1-11 reads as follows:
1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? 2 God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? 3 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? 4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: 6 Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. 7 For he that is dead is freed from sin. 8 Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: 9 Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. 10 For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. 11 Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.
In v. 1-2, Paul deals with the slander that his doctrine of justification by faith alone, and the eternal security of the believer, provides a license to sin; the enemies of the gospel had affirmed as much (Romans 3:8). He counters that one who dies to sin[iii] at the time he is justified by faith (as expounded in chapters 1-5, cf. Galatians 2:19-21) and so is now “dead to sin” cannot “live any longer therein” (v. 2). A dead man is not influenced or affected by the affairs of this life; its sounds, tastes, pleasures, ambitions, and all else mean nothing to him. God gives a man a new heart and nature at the moment of regeneration (2 Corinthians 5:17, Hebrews 8:10-12), so that, his “old man” now “crucified” with Christ, he henceforth will “not serve sin” (Romans 6:6). Paul argues that, since God breaks the dominion of sin over men when they believe, justification by faith leads to a holy life, not lawlessness. He then reminds his readers that their baptism was a symbol or “likeness” (v. 5) of their death to the old life of sin and resurrection to a new holy life in Christ at the moment when they trusted in Him. They were “baptized into [Greek eis, “with reference to”][iv] Jesus Christ,” and so were “baptized into [Greek eis, “with reference to”][v] his death” (v. 3). They were “buried with him[vi] by baptism into [Greek eis, “with reference to”] death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so [they] also should walk in newness of life.” Since Paul taught justification by faith, not baptismal regeneration, he affirmed, as Baptists do today, that baptism is given that men might “walk in newness of life,” not “that men might obtain the remission of past sins.” Romans 6 never affirms anything of the sort, nor does it state that baptism is the act that makes one dead to sin; on the contrary, it states baptism is a picture or “likeness” (v. 5) of Christ’s atoning work, which really justifies. Indeed, baptismal regenerationists must affirm the incongruity that one buries a man in baptism in order to kill him to sin, rather than burying in baptism one who is already dead to sin, as true churches affirm. One hopes that the advocates of forgiveness through water bury people in order to kill them only when they attempt to prove their views from Romans 6. When baptismal regenerationists affirm that one dies to sin when one is buried in baptism, the ordinance is no longer a true likeness of Christ’s death (v. 5), for Christ died before He was buried, just as in Baptist baptism one is dead to sin before he is buried beneath the baptismal waters. Furthermore, v. 5 states that those Biblically baptized (“planted together in the likeness of his death”) “shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection.” Since only true believers can be baptized, and all true believers are eternally secure, this certain promise of resurrection with Christ for the Scripturally baptized fits well within the Biblical view of baptism. However, baptismal regenerationists almost always deny that those they baptize are eternally secure, so the “shall be” guarantee of v. 5 creates a significant problem for them. Paul’s argument in v. 6-10 also gives no solace to advocates of water salvation; the passage never states that one actually dies to sin in baptism, while the use of the Greek perfect tense to state that one dead “is freed”[vii] from sin (v. 7) buttresses the fact that those so dead will never be alive to sin again, and so are eternally secure. Finally, v. 11 commands believers to constantly “reckon . . . yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” The dominion of sin having been shattered when justified by faith, the saints are to count themselves dead indeed to sin as they grow in holiness day by day. Nothing in Romans six affirms that one gains forgiveness of sin or is literally made dead to sin at the moment of baptism—the passage, on the contrary, invalidates baptismal regeneration.
[i] Note that Ephesians 4:5 has been evaluated earlier in the section “Was Spirit baptism a completed historical phenomenon at the time Paul wrote 1 Corinthians, or is it a event that takes place regularly throughout the entire dispensation of grace?”
[ii] Since the author of this paper has demolished the doctrine of baptismal regeneration in the book Heaven Only For the Baptized? The Gospel of Christ versus Baptismal Regeneration (est. pub. 2009; currently available at http://thross7.googlepages.com), he sees no reason to rewrite what he has already composed. The exposition of the passages below is heavily dependent upon what was written in this earlier volume.
[iii] apethanomen te hamartiai, second aorist active of apothnesko, “to die.”
[iv] Romans 6:2, apethanomen te hamartia, “are dead to sin” or “died [with reference to] sin,” provides contextual support for a rendering of eis as “with reference to” in Romans 6:3-4, as it is a “dative of reference/respect [with reference to] . . . instead of the word to, supply the phrase with reference to before the dative . . . illustrations [of this use include] . . . Romans 6:2 [and] Romans 6:11” (Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, pgs. 144-146).
[v] It is noteworthy that the baptismal regenerationists who so vehemently insist upon eis signifying “in order to obtain” in Acts 2:38 (“eis the remission of sins”) cry out for a sense of penetration or literal entry into Christ in Romans 6:3-4, since if the preposition has any other of the ten main senses and twenty-nine subheadings with different senses listed in the Greek lexicon BDAG for its 1,767 appearances in the New Testament, the case for remission of sins through baptism in these passages is obliterated. Obviously one is not baptized “in order to obtain” Jesus Christ’s death in Romans 6:3-4, for Christ died nearly two thousand years ago and His death is a historical fact that is in no way contingent upon anyone submitting to baptism—therefore the advocates of salvation by baptism argue eis signifies “penetration into” in this passage. However, in Acts 2:38 one cannot possibly penetrate into the remission of sins, so a meaning of “in order to obtain” remission of sins is insisted upon for eis. Happily, the defender of justification by faith can appeal to vast numbers of clear, unambiguous passages to support his view, rather than hanging his hope for eternity upon a particular sense of a preposition with a very broad range of meaning in a handful of texts, as the baptismal regenerationist must do. Note that eis signifying “on account of” or “with reference to” in Acts 2:38 and Romans 6:3-4 makes sense in both passages (Acts 2:38, “be baptized . . . with reference to/on account of the remission of sins,” Romans 6:3-4, “baptized with reference to/on account of Jesus Christ . . . baptized with reference to/on account of his death . . . buried with him by baptism with reference to/on account of his death.”), and certainly fits better with the other passages where the verb baptize is used with eis (e. g., 1 Corinthians 10:2, “baptized unto (eis) Moses” can hardly mean “baptized in order to obtain Moses” or “baptized in order to penetrate into Moses,” but “baptized with reference to Moses.”).
[vi] Note that only immersion pictures death, burial, and resurrection. If sprinkling and pouring are acceptable pictures of burial, one wonders why the graveyards for denominations that practice “baptism” in these modes are not filled with bodies with a little dirt sprinkled or poured on their heads, rather than completely covered with earth. It seems that at funerals all know that burial requires immersion, but at baptisms many find a way to deny it.
[vii] Dedikaiotai, Perfect passive indicative, third person singular of dikaioo. The implication, supported clearly elsewhere in Scripture, is that this “freeing” that took place at a particular time in the past has abiding results; once justified and freed from sin, one remains so, and will certainly enter eternal glory (Romans 8:30). “The perfect . . . unites in itself as it were present and aorist, since it expresses the continuance of completed action . . . the perfect is both punctiliar and durative” (A. T. Robertson, A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research, Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1934, pg. 893).