5

In Acts 22, Paul is recounting his conversion, and uses the phrase

Having arisen, be baptised and wash away your sins, calling on His name.

ἀναστὰς βάπτισαι καὶ ἀπόλουσαι τὰς ἁμαρτίας σου, ἐπικαλεσάμενος τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ.

interlinear text from biblehub.com

How do you rightly divide the commands of the text here - is it the baptism or the calling which wash the sins?

  1. Is it split by the kai: "Having arisen, | be baptised | and | wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord", synonymous to 'be baptised' and 'be cleansed by calling on the name' as two separate actions?

  2. Or is it to "Having arisen, | be baptised and wash away your sins | calling on the name of the Lord", as in 'baptism will wash away your sins, and involves calling on the name of the Lord'. My Greek is very rusty, but the tenses of baptism and washing away of sins seem to match up with one another, whilst the calling is in a different form.

Related question: Is "calling on the name of the Lord" in Acts 9 literal or figurative?

  • - Steve; A.) Could you help clarify a little? B.) As Susan and I have mentioned, (Susan much more effectively) - the syntax here indicates that there are participle relationships; And, they connect: "Baptism with Stand" - & - "Washing with Calling"; C.) However, those two participle phrases are connected by an "Inclusive And" - is this what underlies your question? D.) How are "Baptism" and "Washing" linked? Is "Baptism" the first action necessary for "Washing"? Or, Are they two distinct actions occurring simultaneously? Or, is one the method of how the other is accomplished? – elika kohen Mar 6 '16 at 5:33
  • Hi Elika, thanks for all your time on this! Yes, I am basically trying to understand the relationship of the 'washing' to the surrounding verbs. I understand in the context of Acts, these things are more or less inseparable: it was standard practise to confess and be baptised, in one order or another, and that order was never particularly important. The practise is definitely normative, but I'm trying to understand if the washing of sins was seen as linked more to the confession or the baptism. I think all the questions you list there do fold nicely into what I'm asking, and are all relevant. – Steve Taylor Mar 7 '16 at 9:08
  • I think it's more like #2 but I see "calling on the name of the Lord" to be somewhat redundant since "the name" (Ha Shem) and "the Lord" (if YHWH is used, not kyrios) are synonymous... Clicked on your name to see what Q you asked. – Daisy Apr 14 '16 at 15:22
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Acts 22:16:

ἀναστὰς βάπτισαι καὶ ἀπόλουσαι τὰς ἁμαρτίας σου, ἐπικαλεσάμενος τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ. (NA28)

Rising, be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name. (mine)

We have four verbs:1

  1. ἀναστὰς = participle from ἀνίστημι (to rise)
  2. βάπτισαι = imperative from βαπτίζω (to baptize)
  3. ἀπόλουσαι = imperative from ἀπολούω (to wash)
  4. ἐπικαλεσάμενος = participle from ἐπικαλέω (to call)

Each participle is grammatically dependent on a finite verb. I think it would be fairly uncontroversial to pair each with its proximate imperative (i.e. 1 depends on 2; 4 depends on 3). As the Accordance syntax module has it (red numbers mine):2

caption

To deal with the pairs sequentially:

  1. ἀναστὰς βάπτισαι

The first pair is fairly transparent. This use of the ἀναστὰς before a finite verb is idiomatic. In this case the participle

serves an introductory function, doing little more than preparing the reader for the main action.3

Although this usage was known in ancient Greek (the above comment refers to Greek literature), its over-representation in Luke-Acts4 probably reflects Luke's habit of Septuagintalizing, ἀναστὰς being the standard LXX translation of the introductory qûm [lēk]....5 This first pair, then, just means, "get baptized".

  1. ἀπόλουσαι ἐπικαλεσάμενος

We can be confident that these two verbs "go together" ("wash away, calling..."). However, this doesn't necessarily entail that the calling effects the washing of sins as suggested in the question. A "participle of means" is indeed one common use of the participle and may be the sense here, but a simple temporal sense is also possible ("be baptized as you are calling on his name..."). The grammar does not inform this distinction.

To understand the relationship between removal ("washing away") of sins and calling upon "his name" at the time of baptism, the remainder of the book of Acts can provide some help. On one hand we have Peter's words as reported in 2:38:

μετανοήσατε καὶ βαπτισθήτω ἕκαστος ὑμῶν ἐπὶ τῷ ὀνόματι Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ εἰς ἄφεσιν τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ὑμῶν... (NA28)

"Repent and be baptized each of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins..."(ESV)

Here repentance effects forgiveness (~"wash away"; cf. 3:19), and baptism (apparently following naturally from repentance) is conceived as being "in the name..." (~"calling on the name"). This invocation of "the name of the Lord" during baptism forms a subset of a larger theme of "calling on the name of the Lord" in Acts. This is also a Septuagintism, most directly connected to the Hebrew scriptures via Acts 2:21, quoting Joel 3:5 (EVV 2:32):

wᵉhāyāh kōl ʾᵃšer-yiqrāʾ bᵉšēm yhwh yimmālēṭ (MT)

καὶ ἔσται πᾶς ὃς ἂν ἐπικαλέσηται τὸ ὄνομα κυρίου σωθήσεται· (LXX Rahlfs = Acts NA28)

And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the LORD (Gk. Lord) shall be saved. (ESV)

In both Joel and Acts, the sense seems to be that "calling on the name" is effective. It is in consideration of this proclamation that Peter issues to the exhortation to baptism quoted above (2:38), so it's not hard to make the connection between being "saved" and the washing of sins that comes about by means of calling on his name, consistently pictured here as simultaneous with the act of bapstim.

  1. καὶ

Above we have addressed two clauses. For completeness, the conjunction that joins them ("and") should also be explained. This has a surprisingly wide range of meanings, and the grammar alone can not decide the issue. My own impression is that καὶ here is epexegetical (see BDAG, "καὶ", c.), i.e. (awkwardly), "be baptized, which is to say, wash away...". A result nuance is also possible, particularly in light of 2:38 (above; see BDAG b.ζ.).

Whatever the precise sense of καὶ, it seems to me that a single action is in view both within and between clauses, the profundity of which is apparently best served by four verbs.


1. Both of these are middle imperatives, and the commentaries seem to be mostly interested in teasing out the nuance of the middle voice here, but this is beyond the interests of the OP. It will also be noted that the participles are aorist, as are the imperatives, leaving us with little clue about the aspectual relationship between them (Wallace, Greek Grammar... [Zondervan, 1996], 624-5).

2. Tagged by Marco V. Fabbri. This is by no means authoritative, but it provides a nice illustration and I think there's really no other way to parse this. I don't think you need to understand the abbreviations to see the subordination structure, but if you're curious please comment and I can explain.

3. "ἀνίστημι", in New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Exegesis. Ed. Moises Silva (Zondervan, 2014), 1:309-310.

4. See Luke 17:19; 22:46; Acts 9:11; 10:13, 20; 11:7; 22:10, 16, vs. nowhere else in the NT. For a review of Septuagint language in Luke-Acts, see J. Fitzmyer, The Gospel According to Luke I-IX (Doubleday, 1985), 114-125.

5. See, e.g., Gen 13:17, 19:15, 27:19, 27:43, 28:2, 35:1, 43:13, 44:4, et passim.

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  • Susan - A.) I agree about the participle connections, (between stand/baptism and wash(release)/call; B.) Is this a correct understanding? By interpreting one of the two clauses, [which?] as a Temporal Participle - then there are two separate, actions, (one before the other, or occurring at the same time).? C.) If so, and if neither are Means/Purpose participles - then how does one "Call on the Name of the Lord"? Is this formulaic, or described in Scripture? D.) You state - "calling & baptism" are consistently pictured as simultaneous" - but isn't this the only place? – elika kohen Mar 6 '16 at 2:26
  • "Consistently" referred to 2:38 ("in the name"; likewise 10:48, 19:5) in addition to 22:16; the parallel account in 9:18-20 has the same sense ("immediately"). I tend to think "calling on the name..." is from the Hebrew Bible, but see also from Acts. Edited to address B. – Susan Mar 6 '16 at 3:20
  • @Susan - Thanks! A.) The verses you cited mention: "Baptism in the Name" but not "Call upon the Name". B.) However, the question revolves around whether "Calling on the Name" is distinct from "Baptism in the Name". C.) Is Baptism a Method/Means for the Purpose of "Calling upon the Name"? D.) If so, is only one main action being described, or is "Calling upon the Name" something different from being "Baptized in the Name"? E.) I am hoping you can syntactically show the adverbial connection between the two MAJOR clauses, which I tried to do in #3 of mine. – elika kohen Mar 6 '16 at 6:35
  • I don't think there are two different concepts of baptism described in Acts (the weirdness of 8:13ff notwithstanding). I have already made explicit in the answer my opinion that those two phrases have a similar sense in this context. That's as clear as I can be at the moment. – Susan Mar 6 '16 at 6:58
  • 1
    @Steve Glad it was helpful. Re. "concepts of baptism": in context (responding to Elika's comment), I only meant to support the idea that cross-referencing the events in 2:38, 9:18-20, 10:48, and 19:5 was meaningful for understanding 22:16. Unfortunately, brevity in comments isn't always conducive to optimal clarity in communication! – Susan Mar 7 '16 at 9:08
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Please pardon a bit of a rant. And please consider what I write because it is the result of a lot of thought over a period of more than 50 years in ministry.

All aspects of Acts 22:16 are grammatically "linked" (the term used in the original question) and are not to be separated. However, they are - only - grammatically linked. The internal logical, psychological and theological relationships are not explained.

For theological reasons, some want to separate them in clever ways. And for - other - theological reasons, some want to explain the connection of baptism and forgiveness as "legally" or otherwise "necessarily" connected.

But neither group should feel comfortable. The full context of Acts (as with the broader contexts of Scripture) does not support either a neat distinction of what is and is not involved (in some way) in forgiveness.

The gospel is obviously not a legally-structured proposition. In Acts 2:38, the gift of the Holy Spirit follows baptism immediately. But as evidenced in Acts 8:17, there might be a long delay between being baptized in water (8:12) and "receiving the Holy Spirit". And according to Acts 15:8-9, the hearts of Cornelius and his household were cleansed by faith, and they were given the Holy Spirit - before - they were baptized in water (10:47-48).

Some want to say that these are "exceptions to the rule". But I cannot locate the rule, in the first place, and prefer to think the whole body of Scripture indicates that God does things outside of the restrictions of theological rules that are imposed on the Scriptures (rather than drawn them).

When I baptize a person, I tell them they are being buried with Christ - just as they have been crucified with him - not in the moment of baptism but back then. When Christ died, was buried and then raised; so were we. In baptism, time is not a factor. It is as if all is happening now. But the cross, burial and resurrection of Christ are the acts of deliverance, not the act of baptism. We are to put our faith in him and what he has done - not - in ourselves and what we have done, including being baptized.

If some come and say they want to be baptized in order to be forgiven and in order to receive the Holy Spirit, I baptize them. If some others come along and say they want to be baptized because they are already children of God, cleansed and empowered by the Holy Spirit, then I baptize them. In both kinds of circumstances, I explain the significance of the act just as I always do, urging faith in Christ, not in me as a baptizer or in themselves as the ones being baptized.

If after baptism, at some point in the future, someone questions their experience of the Holy Spirit, then we will pray together that they might receive the Spirit.

God is doing a lot of things in ways that do not fit someone's theological prerequisites. I think, we would be better off just letting certain kinds of theology go - or at least loosening up our theology in ways that honor the Scriptures to the fullest extent.

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1

I am deeply indebted to Charles Granderson Finney for his excellent teaching on the difference between the "grounds" of justification and the "conditions". I believe that his teaching on the subject will make the relationship of water baptism to justification crystal clear.

The basis of justification is faith. The conditions of justification include:

  • repentance (a return to obedience)
  • forgiving others
  • water baptism

There are others.

So one might repent, forgive others and be baptized but none of these will bring about justification apart from faith. Faith is what God counts as righteousness:

Rom 10:9 If you declare with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. Rom 10:10 For one believes with his heart and is justified, and declares with his mouth and is saved. Rom 10:11 The Scripture says, "Everyone who believes in him will never be ashamed."

However, one might believe but if they do not return to obedience, forgive others and be baptized then their faith will avail them nothing. For example:

Mat 6:15 But if you do not forgive people their offenses, your Father will not forgive your offenses."

You can forgive others and not be justified because justification is on the basis of faith (believing God's report) but conversely you can believe but if you don't forgive others you will not be justified. Faith is the grounds and these other things are conditions.

Gal_3:27 For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

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  • I voted for you. After voting I realized that you excluded belief in Christ. Was this an oversight? Repentance, forgiving others and baptism are all results (or should be) of genuine underlying faith in Jesus Christ. – Jesus Saves Mar 5 '16 at 16:51
  • Faith that God raised Jesus from the dead is the basis for justification while obedience, baptism, perseverance, etc. are the conditions. – user10231 Mar 5 '16 at 17:48
  • Thanks for your clarification. So many people seem unwilling to include baptism in the salvation package. Maybe it's out of concern for trusting in Baptism and not on Christ. I like how you qualified genuine faith with conditions such as repentance, forgiving others, baptism, etc. God bless you. – Jesus Saves Mar 5 '16 at 18:02
  • I think a good comparison is if someone sends you a gift in the mail and you have to sign for it. The gift is a gift and the signing for it isn't payment for the gift but it is something that if you don't do, you don't get the gift. A "basis" says "if you do this then x" but a condition says "if you don't do this then not x". – user10231 Mar 5 '16 at 19:38
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Outline: 1.) Question Restatement; 2.) Peter's Answer; 3.) The Greek - Syntax Tree & Participles; 4.) The Greek - ἀπόλουσαι and The Jewish Mikveh; 5.) Objections - Feel Free to Edit


1. Question Restatement:

In Acts 22:15-16 - What actually washes away sin?

NASB, Acts 22:15-16: - Now why do you delay? (B.) Get up and (C.) be baptized, and wash away your sins, (D.) calling [ἐπικαλεσάμενος] on His name.’

Which began in (A.) Trust:

NASB, Acts 22:10 - And I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’


2. Peter's Answer:

NASB, 1 Peter 3:21 - Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal [ἐπερώτημα] to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

This substantiates that Calling Upon the Name ἐπικαλεσάμενος is Idiomatic for A Legal Appeal ἐπερώτημα.

Therefore, all of the actions, (Trust, Taking a Stand, Baptism, Calling Upon the Name) -- indicate necessary procedure to succeed in a legal appeal - to be cleared of the sin/charges and judgment, salvation:


3.The Greek - Syntax Tree & Participles:

Participles And Associations:

Participles are verbs that describe other verbs, in some way. (See Link 1, Link 2, Link 3)

The Minor Participle Clauses are Clear:

  1. "Stand" (Participle) with "Baptize" (Command); and
  2. "Calling" (Participle) with "Washing" (Command);

Adverb Phrase Connections:

More important, is how / if the major clauses modify each other:

  1. Are they the same? Is Baptism the Method for "Calling upon the Name"?
  2. Are they Distinct, Temporally Related Actions? Which order do they occur in, Simultaneous? How do you "Call Upon the Name"?

Specifically: Participle with Imperative + AND + Imperative with Participle

Acts 10:20, the Same Construction indicates a Sequence of Events:

NASB, Acts 10:20 - But get up, go downstairs and accompany them without misgivings, for I have sent them Myself.”

Nestle, Acts 10:20: - ἀλλὰ ἀναστὰς[Participle], κατάβηθι[Imperative], καὶ πορεύου[Imperative] σὺν αὐτοῖς μηδὲν διακρινόμενος[Participle], ὅτι ἐγὼ ἀπέσταλκα αὐτούς.

Nestle, Acts 22:16 - καὶ νῦν τί μέλλεις; ἀναστὰς[Participle], βάπτισαι[Imperative] καὶ ἀπόλουσαι[Imperative] τὰς ἁμαρτίας σου, ἐπικαλεσάμενος[Participle] τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ.


4.The Greek - ἀπόλουσαι and The Jewish Mikveh:

ἀπόλλυμι, or ἀπολύω:

ἀπολούω:

NASB, 1 Peter 3:21 - Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh ...

Understanding ἀπόλουσαι to carry the sense of "release from charges", reinforces that the entire action is within the context of a "Legal Appeal", necessitating that all requirements be fulfilled to be delivered from a judgement.


5.Objections - Feel free to Edit:

Please include references. :)

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  • Thanks! It's always fair and right to use the wider context of scripture, but this answer seems more like a list of carefully arranged verses with select commentary: Yes in many cases there are key words and phrases which match, but the 'legal' approach of escaping judgement and appealing for an over-rule runs in opposition to the language of the passage: "wash away your sins", not 'escape judgement via the judge'. Even as Paul appeals and is baptised into the death and resurrection of Christ, his sins are "washed away", somehow or another. Thus the law is upheld and fulfilled, not annulled. – Steve Taylor Mar 3 '16 at 14:45
  • @SteveTaylor - Great comment! A.) There is a very common argument that "annulling judgment under the law" -- means the same as "annulling the expectation to do right" -- I believe there is a big difference; B.) "Escape via the Judge's heart" is all over Scripture; C.) I actually removed that to loose from / ἀπόλουσαι is being used instead of wash / νίπτω; I will add it back -- but, if it had been νίπτω, you would be right; D.) Are you suggesting that: baptism fulfills the law's requirement to impute death? Or that: the law is fulfilled by loving each other? Thanks! – elika kohen Mar 3 '16 at 16:17
  • A) To me, there's no annulling at all. As per your Rom 6:3/7:1, we are immersed into Jesus' death & resurrection, and the law is fulfilled because the penalty of our sins is paid through him (Rom 4:25/2 Cor 5:21/Is 53:6) D) I'm suggesting the law's requirement is fulfilled by Jesus' perfect life, death and resurrection, and the Holy Spirit then empowers us to fulfil the perfect law (Rom 8:4) C) ἀπόλουσαι is literally away-from-wash, not loose from. But coming back to my question, you're saying that it's all three components which allow for the 'washing away'? (ps. not my -1!) – Steve Taylor Mar 4 '16 at 8:37
  • @SteveTaylor - (Your A.): Your thoughts on annulling Law are clear to me - personally - intimately; but I see it as a completely different topic; - (Your C.1.): I am still trying to make the ἀπόλουσαι explanation readable, will add it soon; (Your C.2): Yes - I added an explanation on participles -- and how the words are describing each other: Trust, Taking a Stance, Baptism; and Calling on the Name; – elika kohen Mar 5 '16 at 4:45
  • @SteveTaylor - A.) As requested, I clarified ἀπόλουσαι, which I hope is helpful - although ultimately, I "punted" to "metaphor" - which I believe is valid in this case; B.) Although I tossed around Greek Syntax - I don't feel confident that any "certain" conclusion can be derived from the Syntax - specifically how the two major clauses relate, rather than the minor participle phrases; – elika kohen Mar 6 '16 at 5:28

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