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Messianic Learning 

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“… out of Tziyon will go forth Torah, the word of ADONAI from Yerushalayim.”
(Isaiah 2:3)
Jew and Gentile (Synagogue and Church), one in Messiah. (Ephesians 2:14)
“For He is our peace, Who made both one, and broke down the middle wall of partition, …”

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Developing a
Systematic Messianic Theology

“The purpose of careful theological formulations is not to put barriers in the way of people who are seeking salvation, but to define clearly the truths upon which genuine [Biblical] faith rests, so that people will not be misled by false doctrines.” [Robert M. Bowman, Jr. Why You Should Believe in the Trinity: An Answer to Jehovah's Witnesses. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1989, p. 18.]

What the Bible Teaches About
Believer’s Baptism
Dr. Ari Levitt-Sawyer

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ContentsLesson 1Lesson 2Lesson 3Lesson 4GlossaryAppendix

And the Debate Goes On

The following exchange (a very real exchange) is very typical of the type of email message I used to receive several times each week in response to the “salvation page” on my web site, and is typical of the answers that I have prepared in response to those messages. In the following exchange of messages, the name of my correspondent has been changed to protect his/her privacy. (I have used the false name “Carl Christian,” but I could have just as appropriately used “Phred Pharisee” or “Sammy Sadducee.") The messages, however, are unedited.

For almost two years, I attempted to respond to every single person who emailed me for additional information or to discuss the information that I have presented. After spending several hours in trying to prepare a personalized answer to the questions asked, I usually wind up receiving a curt, usually very rude response that says, in effect, that the person who contacted me is unable to get me to change my interpretation of the Scriptures, and condemns me as an unbeliever, a heretic, or worse because I refuse to “convert” to their way of thinking.

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From:  Carl Christian
To:  Rabbi Ari
Sent:  Friday, August 27, 1999 10:12 PM
Subject:  Salvation Page

If what you say on this page is all of it, how do you explain Matt. 28:18-20, Mark 16:16, Acts 2:38, 22:16, Romans 6:3-11, Galatians 3:27, Ephesians 4:4, Colossians 2:10-13, 1 Peter 3:21, and other scripture of that nature?

From:  Rabbi Ari
To:  Carl Christian
Date:  Friday, August 27, 1999 9:45 PM
Subject:  Salvation Page

Are you seeking instruction or do you just want to argue theology?

If you would like clarification, could you please be a bit more specific?

I don’t try to “explain” scripture addresses, but I do try to honestly and thoughtfully all earnest questions.

Rabbi Ari

From:  Carl Christian
To:  Rabbi Ari
Date:  Saturday, August 28, 1999 12:52 AM
Subject:  Salvation Page

Understand that I do not and will not “argue theology.”

The question I asked was serious. I really want to know how someone who has the knowledge and intellect to earn the title “doctor” can ignore certain parts of the scripture.

On your page you never mentioned any requirement for baptism, while our Lord emphatically states that those who believe AND are baptized, etc.

If you are truly following Him, you must believe that the Bible is His written word. If you really believe the Bible is His written word, you have to believe it all. If you believe it all, you must believe that baptism is part of it. If you believe one part, why do you not believe the rest?

Back to my question. If you would be so kind, how do you explain the requirement for baptism as stated in the scripture I listed?

Thank you for your attention.

From:  Rabbi Ari
To:  Carl Christian
Date:  Monday, August 30, 1999 9:45 PM
Subject:  Salvation Page

The reason that I do not have a requirement for water baptism on my salvation page is very simple. The Scriptures do not require water baptism for salvation. Why should I tell people about a “requirement” that man has established and that God has not?

Your problem is a rather simple one, but it does not have a simple solution: “You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures, or the power of God” (Matt 22:29). You apparently have not cared enough about the Word of God to take the time to learn to “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth.” (2 Tim. 2:15).

Not only do you fail to have an adequate grasp of the Scriptures, you also appear to have a rather inadequate grasp of the Standard English language, or you would know that a “title” is a “word or phrase attached, usually as a prefix, to the name of a person to denote his office, social dignity or status, especially a status of nobility.” The word “doctor” refers to an academic degree that can only be earned by a minimum of eight years of intense study in a particular field of study. My two doctorates in Theology and Ministry represent a total of fifteen years of intense, full-time academic studies that were accomplished during the same period of time in which I carried a full-time secular occupation in addition to a nearly full-time pastoral ministry. I wanted to know the Scriptures enough that I devoted a very large portion of my adult life to learning how to “handle accurately the word of truth.”

You claim that you do not desire to “argue theology” but the tone of your letter clearly indicates that its intent is not to seek the truth but to denounce me personally because you erroneously feel that I ignorantly “ignore certain parts of Scripture.” You also arrogantly suggest that I cannot possibly be a true Christian because I obviously do not believe the Bible. Again, you are grossly mistaken and uninformed, and have chosen to set yourself up as my judge. You should heed the words of the Scriptures more carefully:

“Do not judge lest you be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. And why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” (Matt. 7:1-5)

“And do not judge and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned.” (Luke 6:37)

“Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” (John 7:24)

“Our Law does not judge a man, unless it first hears from him and knows what he is doing, does it?” (John 7:51)

“Therefore you are without excuse, every man of you who passes judgment, for in that you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things.” (Rom. 2:1)

“Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and stand he will, for the Lord is able to make him stand. … But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God.” (Rom. 14:4, 10)

“There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy; but who are you who judge your neighbor?” (James 4:12)

“Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy. But to me it is a very small thing that I should be examined by you, or by any human court; in fact, I do not even examine myself. For I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord. Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God.” (1 Cor. 4:1-5)

“And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to babes in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, for you are still fleshly. …” (1 Cor. 3:1-3)

“Concerning him [Christ Jesus] we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of G-d, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil. Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of instruction about washings [baptisms], and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And this we shall do, if God permits. (Heb. 5:11-6:3)

The Apostles considered the teaching of baptism to be “elementary principles” and foundational instruction (milk) that should be clearly grasped by the youngest babes in Christ, yet there is so much confusion in “churchianity” today because ill-equipped Bible teachers would rather cling to “the traditions of men” and their sacred historical denominational position than to simply study and “rightly divide” the Scriptures to discover for themselves what God says about baptism.

You claim that “our Lord emphatically states that those who believe AND are baptized, etc.” but you fail to cite the passages of Scripture in which our Lord allegedly “emphatically” teaches that particular doctrine. In the several versions and translations of the Scriptures that I checked, this phrase appears only once, in Mark 16:16.

Mark 16 16“He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned. 17And these signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues; 18they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it shall not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

First of all, the best available manuscripts do not include verses 9 through 20 of Mark’s Gospel, and so those verses should not be considered as part of inspired Scripture, and no doctrinal truths can be drawn from them (if it is “Truth” there will be a minimum of two other “witnesses” [supporting scriptures] elsewhere in the Bible).[1] But, even if these disputed verses were to be considered as Scripture, and if verse 16 applies to all Christians, then so do verses 17 and 18; conversely, if verses 17 and 18 do not apply to all Christians, then neither does verse 16.

According to this passage, if you do not cast out demons, and speak with new tongues, and pick up serpents, and drink poison without harm, and heal the sick by laying on your hands, — if you do not exhibit all these signs — then you do not believe (even though you may have been baptized) and you are therefore not saved. This interpretation is contrary to the remaining body of Scripture (there are no other “witnesses”) and must, therefore, be rejected as error when “rightly dividing the Word of Truth.”

If our Lord intended us to believe “that those who believe AND are baptized, etc.” then he would have clearly taught it more than once and the Holy Spirit, who superintended the writing and collection of God’s Word into its written form, would have made very sure that it was recorded (at least two or three times) in the accepted body of Scripture and not in one obscure and questionable passage.

Beyond that, you still have not clearly asked a single question in your entire letter, other than to say: “Back to my question. If you would be so kind, how do you explain the requirement for baptism as stated in the scripture I listed?”

The answer to your only stated question is very simple: Since the Scripture passages that you listed to not teach a requirement for baptism, there is nothing to explain.

However, apparently what you really want (though you have not so stated) is an exposition of those passages of Scripture, I will be more than happy to accommodate your unspoken request.

Before you can possibly learn to “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth” there are a few basic rules of Bible interpretation that you must first understand:

1. No passage of Scripture stands alone, but must be understood in its proper context. Context includes all of the following:

a. Words are in the context of sentences.

b. Sentences are in the context of paragraphs.

c. Paragraphs are in the context of books (chapter and verse divisions are not inspired, they are man-made tools to make it easier to find and reference Scripture).

d. Books are in the context of the “Testament” in which they appear.

e. All Scripture is in the context of history.

2. Scripture is the best commentary on Scripture.

a. Difficult passages of Scripture are best interpreted by understanding what the clear passages of Scripture teach.

b. Scripture cannot disagree with Scripture.

c. If a particular passage seems to teach something that is contrary to what the rest of the entire body of Scripture teaches, we must re-evaluate our understanding of the passage in question.

3. Scripture must always be interpreted in its best literal, grammatical, and historical sense:

a. What was said?

b. To whom was it said?

c. Why was it said (what were the immediate circumstances)?

d. How much revelation had the hearers received prior to the time it was said (how would the hearers have understood what was said based on what they had already previously been taught)?

e. Was what was said intended as allegory or illustrative? For example:

(1) Jesus said, “I am the door.” Did he mean that he was made of wood, had hinges and a doorknob?

(2) Jesus said, “I am the bread of life.” Did he mean that he was made of dough? (And if so, was it leavened or unleavened?)

(3) Jesus said, “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life.” Be careful not to accuse Christ of teaching that only cannibals can be saved. [Also, while we are taking concepts totally out of context, based on this one verse alone, all that is necessary for salvation is to take “communion” — no baptism, no faith, no changed life.]

As someone has said, “If the obvious sense makes good sense, then to seek any other sense is nonsense.” Also keep this good advise in mind: “Any text taken out of context is pretext.”

The Great Commission — Matt. 28:18-20

Matt 28: 18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Jesus commissioned the Apostles (and, it is assumed, those who would come after them) to do four things in this order:

(1) go;

(2) make talmidim (disciples) [by presenting to them the truth of the gospel for their consideration and acceptance by faith]; only then are they to

(3) baptize them [those who have now already become talmidim through their belief in the Lordship and deity of Christ Jesus and acceptance of His completed work of redemption on their behalf]; and then

(4) teach them to be obedient to the Lord.[2]

There is no suggestion whatsoever in this section of Scripture that there is the slightest cause-and-effect relationship between baptism and salvation. It does not say to make talmidim by baptizing them. It does say to baptize and to teach those who have already been made talmidim.

Mark 16:16 is Probably Not Even Scripture

Mark 16  16“He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned. 17And these signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues; 18they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it shall not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

First of all, as any good Bible will clearly indicate, the best available Bible manuscripts do not contain verses 9 thru 20 of Mark’s gospel; those verses should therefore not be considered as inspired, and no doctrinal position can be based on them. However, if you want to insist that Mark 16:16 is part of the inspired text, then you must also accept the following points:

• When read carefully, Mark 16:16-17 does not teach that baptism is necessary for salvation, only that belief is necessary. In this sentence the cause of condemnation is given as disbelief; conversely, the cause of being saved is given as belief. It is simply assumed that if one believes that one will also be baptized. In order to clearly teach that baptism is essential for salvation, verse 17 would have to read “but he who has disbelieved and has not been baptized shall be condemned.” It is simply not there!

• If you still continue to insist that this passage of scripture is the inspired Word of God and that verse 16 requires baptism for salvation, then you must also accept verses 17 and 18 which teach that everybody who believes in Jesus must demonstrate the signs of casting out demons, speaking with new tongues, picking up serpents, drinking poison without being harmed, and healing the sick through the laying on of hands. Until you are baptized and do all these other signs you cannot be saved because according to verses 17 and 18 you have not yet believed.

Peter’s First Sermon — Acts 2:38-41

Acts 2 38And Peter said to them, “Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39For the promise is for you and your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God shall call to Himself.” 40and with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation!” 41So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

The whole argument for baptismal regeneration in this passage is based on the word “for” in verse 38. Those who would make baptism a requirement for salvation try to make “for” mean “in order to obtain.” Although “for” can have an “in order to” meaning, it does not always have that meaning.

For example: “The judge sentenced him to life imprisonment for murder.” Did the judge sentence him in order to murder, or because of murder? The context demands the proper interpretation of the word “for” as “because of” in both the case of the relationship of murder to imprisonment and in the case of the relationship of forgiveness to baptism.

Let us assume, just for a moment, that “in order to obtain” is the intended meaning of “for” in this sentence (even though it clearly is not). If that were the case, then it would certainly seem that Peter is teaching to “be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ in order to obtain the forgiveness of your sins.”

Remember that Scripture cannot contradict Scripture, and that Scripture is best interpreted by the rest of Scripture. If verse 38 does, in fact, say that baptism is necessary to obtain salvation (and it does not), then of more than 200 sections of the New Testament that speak of salvation, it is the only verse that does so (but it does not). If verse 38 says that baptism is necessary to obtain salvation (and it does not), then all of the other sections that speak of salvation are incomplete, and every single time that Christ or one of the Apostles spoke or wrote of salvation and “neglected” to mention that baptism was a requirement, they were not telling the whole truth.

Since we dare not doubt the integrity of either Jesus Christ or the Apostles, then we must of necessity assume that there is a problem with any interpretation of verse 38 that would try to make baptism a requirement for salvation.

So how do we resolve this apparent conflict without doing damage to the integrity of Christ, or the Apostles, or of all the rest of Scripture?

We first must read verse 38 (above) in its complete context.

Verse 39 speaks of a promise. What is the promise and to whom was the promise made? If we carefully read verses 38 thru 41, we find that there are only two items that could be taken as promise: the forgiveness of sin and the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Specifically to whom is the promise made? The promise is made only to “as many as the Lord our God shall call to Himself.” Notice that it is God who does the calling. Jesus said that nobody could come to Him without first having been called by the Father. And those whom the Father draws to Christ have already been taught by God, have already learned (believed), and already have eternal life as their present possession. That is the reason why they come to Christ.

John 6 37“All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. … 44No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. 45It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught of God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me. 46Not that any man has seen the Father, except the One who is from God; He has seen the Father. 47Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes [at a point in time] has eternal life [as a present possession].”

Let us now consider the gift of the Holy Spirit. If we understand the rest of the New Testament, we understand that the Holy Spirit is given only to those who have been saved; the Holy Spirit of God will only inhabit those who have been made clean by regeneration. Those who have been made clean by regeneration have already had their sins forgiven. So we don’t have to look very hard to see that forgiveness of sin and the gift of the Holy Spirit are closely related. So let us say that the promise is forgiveness of sin and the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Now, to whom was that promise made? Acts 2:39 clearly says that the promise is made only to those whom “the Lord our God shall call to Himself.” Man cannot and will not come to God until after God has completed the work of redemption in those whom He has chosen.[3]

So God’s dual promise of forgiveness and the Holy Spirit is made to those whom God has chosen. When we come to the realization that we are among the chosen ones of God, our immediate reaction is to repent (change our mind and agree with God), and demonstrate that change of mind and be obedient to the command of baptism as a public testimony of the change that God has already caused to occur within us. So we are baptized because of our forgiveness, not in order to receive it.

Kenneth Wuest is acknowledged by all competent Bible scholars as one of the leading authorities on the Greek language of the 20th century. In his literal expanded translation of the New Testament, he translates the paragraph this way:

Now, having heard this, they were stung to the heart with poignant sorrow. And they said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, What shall we do, men, brothers? And Peter said to them, Have a change of mind, that change of mind being accompanied by abhorrence of and sorrow for your deed, and let each one of you be baptized on the ground of your confession of belief in the sum total of all that Jesus Christ is in His glorious Person, this baptismal testimony being in relation to the fact that your sins have been put away [an already completed act that has already occurred in the past], and you shall receive the gratuitous gift of the Holy Spirit, for to you is the promise and to your children and to all who are at a distance, as many as the Lord our God shall with a divine summons call to himself. And with many other words he solemnly affirmed, and kept on exhorting them, saying, Be saved from this perverse generation. Then those who received his word with approval were immersed. And there were added to their number on that day about three thousand souls. (My emphasis and my comment in brackets.)

Notice very carefully what this passage actually teaches:

1. Hearing of the word comes first. The word includes information about the true Person of Jesus Christ and His completed work of redemption and “putting away” of sin.

2. Then follows a change of mind (repentance) in response to the hearing of the word.

3. This new belief in the Person and completed work of Christ is to be confessed.

4. Confession is to be followed by immersion in water as a testimony to the fact that your sins have already been put away.

5. This promise is made only to those whom “the Lord our God shall with a divine summons call to Himself.”

6. Those who the Lord God has called to Himself with the divine summons shall receive the gratuitous (absolutely and totally free without any conditions attached) gift of the Holy Spirit.

Paul’s Baptism — Acts 22:16

“And now why do you delay? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.”

First of all, in this sentence “be baptized” and “wash away your sins” are two different actions that are connected by the word “and.” Grammatically, “wash away your sins” is connected to “calling on His name.” It says to do two things: one, be baptized; two, wash away your sins by calling on His name.

Additionally, consider that Ananias was not an Apostle. He did not teach a message received directly from God as did the Apostles. He was not instructing Paul how to be saved. He was simply suggesting to Paul what he should do next.

More important, however, is the fact that presenting this verse as teaching baptismal regeneration is typical of those who twist Scripture to try to make it say what it does not by taking “proof-text” verses out of their context. Context! This is not a doctrinal passage. It is not instruction given by Paul or by anyone else. Paul is simply quoting what Ananias said to him, and Paul neither confirms nor contradicts the accuracy of what Ananias said. See Acts 9:10-20 for the circumstances. If we accept this passage as teaching a doctrinal truth, then we must take every other passage where a person is quoted as equally doctrinal truth. For example:

Baptism into Christ (Romans 6:3-11 and Galatians 3:27)

Read these passages very carefully. They simply do not teach that salvation comes by immersion in water, and there is no way that any thinking, rational person can so interpret them without doing severe damage to the basic rules of language.

Romans 6 1“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace might increase? 2May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? 3Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? 4Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. 5For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection, 6knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin; 7for he who has died is freed from sin. 8Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, 9knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. 10For the death that He died, He died to sin, once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. 11Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.”

Paul has just spent all of chapters 4 and 5 discussing how we are saved through faith in Christ and not through any of our works (such as circumcision as a sign of the old covenant or water baptism as a sign of the new covenant). He is talking about our position in Christ that was accomplished through the work of the Holy Spirit when He took us out of the world and placed (baptized) us into the Body of Christ. Read the two verses immediately preceding your “proof text” (verse 3). Paul wants to know something: if you have believed in Christ Jesus, and if you have been baptized in water as a testimony to your new position in Christ, then why in the world do you continue to live as if you were still in bondage to sin?! Quit it!

Remember? The context of a sentence is a paragraph, the context of a paragraph is the whole book, but especially the paragraphs immediately preceding and following itself. Go back and re-read chapters 4, 5, and 6 and you will see that 6:3 and following have nothing to do with salvation being gained through water baptism.

Romans Chapters 4, 5, and 6

Romans 4 1What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found? 2For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about; but not before God. 3For what does the Scripture say? “And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.” 4Now to the one who works, his wage is not reckoned as a favor, but as what is due. 5But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness, 6just as David also speaks of the blessing upon the man to whom God reckons righteousness apart from works: 7Blessed are those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven, and whose sins have been covered. 8Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account.” 9Is this blessing then upon the circumcised [baptized], or upon the uncircumcised [unbaptized] also? For we say, “Faith was reckoned to Abraham as righteousness.” 10How then was it reckoned? While he was circumcised [baptized], or uncircumcised [unbaptized]? Not while circumcised [baptized], but while uncircumcised [unbaptized]; 11and he received the sign of circumcision [baptism], a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while uncircumcised [unbaptized], that he might be the father of all who believe without being circumcised [or baptized], that righteousness might be reckoned to them, 12and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also follow in the steps of the faith of our father Abraham which he had while uncircumcised [unbaptized]. 13For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world was not through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith. 14For if those who are of the Law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise is nullified; 15for the Law brings about wrath, but where there is no law, neither is there violation.

16For this reason it is by faith, that it might be in accordance with grace, in order that the promise may be certain to all the descendants, not only to those who are of the Law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, 17(as it is written, “A father of many nations have I made you”) in the sight of Him whom he believed, even God, who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist. 18In hope against hope he believed, in order that he might become a father of many nations, according to that which had been spoken, “So shall your descendants be.”

19And without becoming weak in faith he contemplated his own body, now as good as dead since he was about a hundred years old, and the deadness of Sarah’s womb; 20yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief, but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, 21and being fully assured that what He had promised, He was able also to perform. 22Therefore also it was reckoned to him as righteousness.

23Now not for his sake only was it written, that it was reckoned to him, 24but for our sake also, to whom it will be reckoned, as those who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, 25He who was delivered up because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification.”

Paul says that he gave the illustration of how Abraham was saved by faith without the outward sign of that faith (circumcision) in order that so that you may understand that you are saved by your faith and not by the outward sign of that faith (immersion in water). This entire passage of nearly three chapters is about how you are saved without any outward works, and some want to try to take one single phrase out of this entire section of Scripture and make it teach exactly the opposite—that you are saved through baptism!

Romans 5  1Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. 3And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; 4and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; 5and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. 6For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. 8But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.

10For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. 11And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation. 12Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned — 13for until the Law sin was in the world; but sin is not imputed when there is no law. 14Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come. 15But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many.

16And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification. 17For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.

18So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. 19For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous. [Righteousness comes though the obedience of Christ to the Father, not through our obedience to baptism.] 20And the Law came in that the transgression might increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Romans 6 1What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace might increase? 2May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?

Now let us give our attention to the Galatians passage.

Galatians 3  27For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

In Galatians 3:27 Paul is talking about the same people that he was talking about in Romans 6:3, which we have just discussed at length. They are “heirs according to promise” and not heirs by virtue of water baptism.

Ephesians 4:4 — One Baptism

Ephesians 4 4There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all. 7But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8Therefore it says, “When He ascended on high, He led captive a host of captives, and He gave gifts to men.”

Ephesians 4:4 simply states that there is only one true baptism, just as there is only one Body of Christ, one Holy Spirit, one Sovereign Lord God, and only one true faith. It says nothing at all about baptism saving anyone. If there is only one true baptism, it has to be the baptism by which the Holy Spirit places us into the Body of Christ, of which water baptism is the outward witness. Therefore, instead of supporting salvation by water baptism, this passage of Scripture actually teaches the opposite. There cannot be two or three baptisms: the true baptism just mentioned, water baptism which supposedly saves us, and Holy Spirit baptism by which some believe they receive the power of the “sign gifts” … but that’s a completely separate study.

Colossians 2:10-14

Colossians 2  10and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority; 11and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; 12having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. 13And when you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, 14having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us and which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.

If you want to teach that verse 12 requires that you must be baptized in water to be saved, then you must also teach that verses 11 and 13 requires you to be circumcised in the flesh in order to be saved. Don’t be ridiculous! Read verse 14 and the rest of the entire chapter. Christ did the work! He canceled out the certificate of death and has taken it away on His own cross.

Read and heed verse 8:

8See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.

“Philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world” teaches that you must do something in order to be worthy of salvation. The Bible teaches that Christ has already done it all for you if you but believe Him. The Pharisees of the older covenant taught that circumcision saved you; the Pharisees of the newer covenant teach that baptism saves you. Both are wrong! It is Christ who does now and who always has saved everyone who has ever been saved or who ever will be saved. It is His completed work! And it is the uttermost heresy to teach that His completed work is insufficient without our puny and worthless works being added to the formula! The teaching that water baptism saves you is nothing but the philosophy, deception, and tradition of men, and it is designed to take you captive and to hold you under their control.

Historically, the doctrine arose when the Roman church controlled the governments of Europe. Kings and emperors were coerced into obedience to bishops and cardinals through the threat of excommunication or through the refusal of the “sacraments.” The Roman church falsely taught that salvation came only through the partaking of the church’s various “sacraments” which included baptism, confirmation, confession and penance, the eucharist (communion), holy orders, marriage, and unction. When a leader of a government refused to obey the orders of his bishop, the bishop would threaten to refuse him the sacraments or worse, excommunicate him, thereby condemning him to hell.

And there are many false shepherds within “churchianity” today who try to manipulate and control their congregations using similar tactics: defining “authorized” translations of the Scriptures that can be read; dictating what kind of clothing may be worn; demanding attendance at all three “worship” services each week; requiring abstinence from certain foods, beverages, and practices; placing burdens upon God’s people that Christ does not require of them.

Read the entire passage again in its entire context:

6As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, 7having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude. 9For in Him all the fulness of Deity dwells in bodily form, 10and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority; 11and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; 12having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.

13And when you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, 14having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us and which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.

15When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him. 16Therefore let no one act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day — 17things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ. 18Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind, 19and not holding fast to the head, from whom the entire body, being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments, grows with a growth which is from God.

20If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, 21“Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!” 22(which all refer to things destined to perish with the using)— in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? 23These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence.

It is all about what Christ has done — His completed work on our behalf. Nowhere in this passage does it teach that baptism is necessary for our salvation. What it teaches is that the true Christian is in Christ through faith, and free from works of all kinds. Baptism is only an outward sign of obedience to that faith, and as such it is a picture of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. It is not His literal death, burial, and resurrection. When the believer participates in baptism he demonstrates his identification with the completed work of Christ through His death, burial, and resurrection, and verse 12 says that we are “raised up with Him through faith in the working of God” — not through water or through faith in water.

1 Peter 3:21 — “baptism now saves you”

Once again, the passage must be read in its context to understand what is being taught.

18For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, in order that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; 19in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, 20who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water. 21And corresponding to that, baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22who is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him.

Verse 21 says that baptism is “corresponding to that.” Corresponding to what? The illustration that Peter gives is the salvation of Noah and his family from the judgment of the flood. So our spiritual salvation is somehow related to Noah’s physical salvation.

• Noah was saved because he believed God.

• We are saved because we believe God.

• Because Noah believed God he was saved from the judgment that was to come.

• Because we believe God we shall be saved from the judgment that is yet to come.

• As Noah found safety because of his position in the ark,

• so we find our safety because of our position in Christ.

It was God who designed the ark, it was God who told Noah and his family to enter the ark, it was God who called all the animals who entered the ark, it was God who sealed the doors to the ark, it was God who provided salvation for Noah and his family. It is God who designed our salvation, it is God who tells us to enter the safety of Christ, it is God who calls us to enter into that safety in Christ, it is God who sealed our salvation with the blood of God the Son, and it is God who provides for our salvation.

In the primary source language of the “English New Testament” (Koine Greek)[4], verse 21 reads: “Which figure [picture, illustration] also now saves us, baptism, not a putting away of filth of the flesh, but the answer toward God of a good conscience through the resurrection of Jesus Christ who is at the right hand of God …”

What this says is that baptism is the answer (obedience) of our good conscience toward God, and that our conscience is made good because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Baptism, then, is what we do in obedience to God when our conscience has been made clean by the completed work of Christ. Again, it is the completed redemptive work of Christ that saves us, and baptism is our act of obedience to that redemption.

Now that your “problem passages” have been dealt with, there are some additional items (in no particular order) that are worthy of your additional consideration.

Some Additional Passages for Consideration

The word “baptism” in the New Testament does not always refer to water baptism.

Mark 10 35And James and John, the two sons of Zebedee, came up to Him, saying to Him, “Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask of You.” 36And He said to them, “What do you want Me to do for you?” 37And they said to Him, “Grant that we may sit in Your glory, one on Your right, and one on Your left.” 38But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking for. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” 39And they said to Him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you shall drink; and you shall be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized [martyrdom]. 40But to sit on My right or on My left, this is not Mine to give; but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”

Luke 12 49I have come to cast fire upon the earth; and how I wish it were already kindled! 50But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is accomplished! 51Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather division; 52for from now on five members in one household will be divided, three against two, and two against three.

1 Corinthians 10 1For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; 2and in the cloud and in the sea; 3and all ate the same spiritual food; 4and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ.

The Agency of Christ’s Baptism is the Holy Spirit

Matt. 3:11 As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

Mark 1 6And John was clothed with camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist, and his diet was locusts and wild honey. 7And he was preaching, and saying, “After me One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to stoop down and untie the thong of His sandals. 8I baptized you with water; but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

Luke 3:16 John answered and said to them all, “As for me, I baptize you with water; but One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to untie the thong of His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

Acts 1 1The first account I composed, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach, 2until the day when He was taken up, after He had by the Holy Spirit given orders to the apostles whom He had chosen. 3To these He also presented Himself alive, after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days, and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God. 4And gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, “Which,” He said, “you heard of from Me; 5for John baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

God the Father has given the Elect to God the Son (John 6:37-40)

37All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. 38For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 39And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. 40For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him, may have eternal life; and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.

The Elect are Chosen by God the Father and/or God the Son — They Do Not Come by Free Will

John 15 14“You are My friends, if you do what I command you. 15No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose Me, but I chose you, and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask of the Father in My name, He may give to you. 17This I command you, that you love one another.”

Colossians 3:12 And so, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience;

We are made sons of God (saved) through faith in Christ Jesus, and we are at that time baptized into Christ by the Holy Spirit, not saved by water baptism.

Galatians 3 26For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

1 Corinthians 12 13For by one Spirit [the Holy Spirit, not the pastor or the water] we were all baptized into one body [the body of Christ], whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

The Philippian jailer and his household were baptized after they believed and were saved.

Acts 16 30and after he brought them out, he said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved, you and your household.” 32And they spoke the word of the Lord to him together with all who were in his house. 33And he took them that very hour of the night and washed their wounds, and immediately he was baptized, he and all his household. 34And he brought them into his house and set food before them, and rejoiced greatly, having believed in God with his whole household.

The household of Crispus and other Corinthians baptized after they believed and were saved.

Acts 18 7And he departed from there and went to the house of a certain man named Titius Justus, a worshiper of God, whose house was next to the synagogue. 8And Crispus, the leader of the synagogue, believed in the Lord with all his household, and many of the Corinthians when they heard were believing and being baptized.

Paul was not commissioned to baptize, but only to preach the gospel.

If baptism were an essential part of salvation, would not Paul be also commissioned to baptize? If the “Great Commission” required the Apostles to baptize, then was not Paul unfaithful to that commission?

1 Corinthians 1:17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, that the cross of Christ should not be made void.

It is my sincere prayer that this instruction has been beneficial to you, that you may no longer be a slave to the traditions of men, but rather that you might be set free in the Spirit through Him who has loved you, called you, and saved you since before the foundation of the World.

From:  Carl Christian
To:  Rabbi Ari
Sent:  Saturday, September 25, 1999 9:16 PM
Subject:  Salvation Page

Thank you very much for the time and effort you utilized in answering my questions concerning water baptism. Also, I apologize if my use of the word “title” to describe your academic attainments insulted you.

I could tell that you are a very learned man and that you must have many degrees from several schools by the casual way that you dismissed any knowledge that I may have of the scripture and also your obvious mastery of the proper usage of the English language, which you say I do not have. I could also tell it by the masterful way that you are able to twist and turn semantically to achieve the ends you desire. I have to say that you used several arguments in ways that I have not previously seen in my twenty-five years as a child of our Lord.

For the record, I learned about the sinner’s prayer and the error that goes with it from man. I learned of the true way to salvation from my diligent study of the scripture with the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

I can see that with your high knowledge and understanding of the doctrines that you teach that there is nothing I can say that would ever make you think any different. You have on the blinders of Satan, Doctor Sawyer, and he rules your world. Too bad about all of the people you are going to take with you. This is not me judging you, but the word that we both have available to us.

You should check out the credibility of Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus, however. If you looked at them with open and honest eyes you would realize that they are not older or more correct manuscripts, but rather apostate trash with strikeovers, deletions, and modifications that would not be acceptable to an honest scholar. Sinaiticus should have stayed in the can from which it was rescued and the name of Vaticanus says all that needs to be said. The Greek manuscripts that are derived from them are apostate as were the leaders, Westcott and Hort, of the “new translational effort” aimed at discrediting the Textus Receptus and related manuscripts in favor of Roman Catholic oriented material.

I don’t believe that there will be any useful purpose served in further communication, so you needn’t answer this email. My prayer is that you will remove your blinders and come into the body so that you will learn and be able to teach the truth to all who will listen.[5]


Carl Christian


For those who insist on taking scripture passages out of their linguistic context in order to promote their own personal opinions, to “prove” their doctrinal error, and to attempt thereby to place back into bondage those for whom Yeshua HaMashiach died to set free, effectively negating the work of Redemption, I offer the following example which serves to demonstrate the spiritual danger of taking verses out of their proper textual and historical context and applying them in a manner that Ruach HaKodesh (the Holy Spirit) never intended:

Out-of-context verses for spiritual Pharisees
“… and [Judas] went and hanged himself.” (Matt 27:5)
“… Go, and do thou likewise.” (Luke 10:37)
“… That thou doest, do quickly. (John 13:27)


  1. Always remember the “three witness” rule: “Every fact is to be confirmed by the testimony of two or three witnesses.” (2 Cor. 13:1; cf. Deut. 17:6; Deut. 19:15b; Matt. 18:16; 1 Tim. 5:19; Heb. 10:28). While the Torah gives this rule for bringing any kind of accusation against an individual, applying this to Bible interpretation — to the far more important matter of determining what God says about our immortal soul and our relationship to Him — it is unsafe and unwise to establish anything as “doctrine” without a minimum of three clear, unambiguous, supporting Scriptures. [RETURN]

  2. If God actually gave Moses and Israel the Torah (and He did), and if Yeshua is God come in the flesh (and He is), then it was Yeshua Who gave the Torah to Moses and Israel. All of the commandments in Torah were therefore given to mankind by Yeshua. It must therefore follow that when Yeshua said “teaching them to observe all that I commanded you,” He was clearly saying that all who would follow Him are to be taught to observe the whole Torah. For anyone who would attempt to duck this issue by erroneously claiming that it was God the Father as Sinai, may I suggest that even if that were true — and it is not, for God spoke face-to-face with Moses as a man speaks to a friend (Exod 33:11), and no one has ever seen God at any time (John 1:18, 1 John 4:12a) — Yeshua said, “I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak” (John 12:49). [RETURN]

  3. For God’s unilateral choosing of those who are to be saved, see Matt. 9:13; Matt. 22:14; Mark 2:17; Luke 5:32; John 13:18; John 15:16, Acts 10:41; Rom. 1:1-7; Rom. 5:6-11; Rom. 8:28-30; Rom. 9:21-28; Rom. 11:7; 1 Cor. 1:1-9, 21-29; 1 Cor. 7:16-24; Gal. 1:6,15; Gal. 5:13; Eph. 1:4; Eph. 4:1-7; Col. 3:12-15; 1 Thess. 1:1-4; 2 Thess. 2:13-14; 2 Tim. 1:8-9; 2 Tim. 2:10; Titus 1:1; Heb. 9:15; 1 Pet. 1:1-2; 1 Pet. 1:14-16; 1 Pet. 2:9-10; 1 Pet. 2:21; 1 Pet. 3:9; 1 Pet. 5:10; 2 Pet. 1:2-3; 2 John 1:1; Jude 1; Rev. 13:8; Rev. 17:8. Those who are unsaved are called slaves to sin; those who are saved are called slaves to righteousness. Slaves have no choice in whether or not they serve their master. Rom. 6:20; Rom. 16:18; Gal. 4:8; Eph. 6:5-8; 2 Pet. 2:18-22. [RETURN]

  4. Please note that I said that Koine Greek is the primary source language of the “English New Testament.” It is my strongly considered opinion that the autographs (the original hand-written parchements by the hands of the Apostles) of all of the documents that are included among the Apostolic Scriptures — erroneously referred to as “the New Testament” — were originally penned in Hebrew and immediately translated into Koine Greek for distribution to the Believers in the Diaspora. During the fourth and fifth centuries there was a concentrate6d effort by the Roman “Christian” cult to eradicate the world of all things Jewish, and most of the then-extant Hebrew copies of Torah and, I believe, virtually all of the original Hebrew Apostolic Writings were destroyed by the Roman “Church.” [More information here] [RETURN]

  5. This argumentative attitude is why I no longer am willing do discuss theological issues with readers of this website. Nearly all who contact me about the website do not have valid questions or concerns. Their only reason for contacting me is to argue. See HERE. [RETURN]

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