My question concerns the use of a figure of speech known as a synecdoche. That is a figure of speech in which a part is made to represent the whole or vice versa. In the scripture I have referenced the apostles Paul and Barnabas are traveling on their first missionary journey and have answered the request of one Sergius Paulus to come and share with him the word of the Lord. There was a evil sorcerer present that Paul had to blind because he was trying to prevent the truth from taking it's course in a mans life. When Sergius saw the miracle the scripture says he believed. Can the word "believe" be understood as a synecdoche. It is the one part that represents the whole process of repentance and baptism for salvation?


3 Answers 3


What a question. Thank you for this.

This statement would not fall into the category of a synecdoche. It's fairly clear when a form of synecdoche is expressed.

Acts 2:21 is an example of using synecdoche

And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.

Unlike Acts 2:21, Acts 13:12 is simply an account of Sergius reaction to the teaching of The Lord

Acts 13:12 (KJV)

Then the deputy, when he saw what was done, believed, being astonished at the doctrine of the Lord.

Acts 13:12 Greek

τότε ἰδὼν ὁ ἀνθύπατος τὸ γεγονὸς ἐπίστευσεν ἐκπλησσόμενος ἐπὶ τῇ διδαχῇ τοῦ κυρίου

First I'd like to point out it was not because of a 'miracle' that Sergius Paulus believed. The Gr. word used is διδαχῇ did-akh-ay which is teaching, that which is taught, doctrine etc

So Luke here in Acts 13:12 is not trying to abbreviate Sergius' entire testimony, but rather reporting his literal immediate reaction. Sergius believed ἐπίστευσεν pist-yoo'-o to think to be true, to credit, place confidence in etc

Greek Resources:

Novum Testamentum Graece, Nestle-Aland 26th edition © 1979, Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart; The Greek New Testament, 3rd edition © 1975, United Bible Societies, London


Ignoring the terminology, you are asking whether "believe" (e.g. Acts 13:12) was understood to represent the whole process of repentance and baptism in Acts.

I think if this were true, then we would not see baptism or anything else mentioned in conjunction with belief. This doesn't appear to be the case, though. In at least a half-dozen cases, Acts describes how after confessing their belief, believers either confessed (19:18), were baptized (8:12-13; 16:34; 18:8), or were baptized and received the Holy Spirit (19:2). Further, there are a large number of occasions where believers are baptized without any mention being made of their belief (e.g. 2:41; 10:48).

Looking through how Paul refers to belief and baptism in his other writings, it doesn't seem as though he takes "belief" to refer to the entire process of becoming part of the Church. While he does seem to write a great deal more, for example, about belief than baptism, he stresses the importance of baptism in and of itself (e.g. As many of you has have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ - Galatians 3:27). We also have James' famous verse, The demons also believe, and tremble (2:19).


Your question in its context is answered in the affirmative. There are many, many examples of this in the New Testament. Every "believer", for example, from the Day of Pentecost onwards, was a baptized one -- without exception. A synecdoche is explained in this three minute video is like a "packaged word," or (for your specific question) is one word which involves a substitution of one of the terms of a phrase that requires a conceptual link.

For understanding a very short but applicable example is found here.

Notable Scriptures would be as follows but outside the scope of your question (not answered here) is an objection that the Holy Spirit was only received by the laying on of the Apostles hands when Peter initially said, ". . . and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" in Acts 2:38. There is a necessity to understand the three measures of the Holy Spirit, (a) baptismal, (b) indwelling & (c) laying on of Apostolic hands outside the dimension of this answer.

Here is a clear example of "believed" being used interchangeably with "baptized."

"Believed" or "Baptized" could be used interchangeably.

Exegetical study is always required to know the Holy Spirit's intent of Scripture, and here's a lengthy, perhaps difficult, but necessary example of how the Antiochians were saved. Turning first to the end of that account,

The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.” Acts 11:21

No specific mention of water baptism is here, but its neccesity cannot be contextually ignored.

Peter at Cornelius’ House

Acts 10:23 - 11:21 New International Version (NIV) The next day Peter started out with them, and some of the brothers from Joppa went along. 24 The following day he arrived in Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends. 25 As Peter entered the house, Cornelius met him and fell at his feet in reverence. 26 But Peter made him get up. “Stand up,” he said, “I am only a man myself.” 27 Talking with him, Peter went inside (!!) and found a large gathering of people. 28 He said to them: “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with a Gentile or visit him. [We’ll find out in a minute that this law was due to the Jewish dietary and other laws.] But God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean. 29 So when I was sent for, I came without raising any objection. May I ask why you sent for me?” 30 Cornelius answered: “Four days ago I was in my house praying at this hour, at three in the afternoon. Suddenly a man in shining clothes stood before me 31 and said, ‘Cornelius, God has heard your prayer and remembered your gifts to the poor. 32 Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. He is a guest in the home of Simon the tanner, who lives by the sea.’ 33 So I sent for you immediately, and it was good of you to come. Now we are all here in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to tell us.” 34 Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism 35 but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right. 36 You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, telling the good news [gospel] of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. 37 You know what has happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached— 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him. 39 “We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree, 40 but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. 41 He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen—by us [the apostles] who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. 43 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” [NOTE what “believes” meant below!] 44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. 45 The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. 46 For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God. [That means the baptism of the Holy Spirit which was only promised to the Apostles in Acts 1 - 2 astonished them because it had never happened since the Day of Pentecost.] Then Peter said, 47 “Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water?” [“Water” is a superfluous word and not used everywhere, because when we read the word “baptize,” which in Greek really means “to dip”, we don’t need the word “water” everywhere as it’s understood to be nothing less than water. Dip in water became “baptize.” Where we read, “dip or baptize into Christ” the act is symbolic of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection and it is not by faith only as faith is a noun and requires its verb. One cannot be “faith into Christ” one must by faith be baptized into Christ. ]. They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” 48 So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.

Note how in verse 43, above, “everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name”, which is repeated in the phrases, “Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? . . . So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus. . . “ We clearly see that “believe” is what the dictionary calls a “synecdoche” for being saved or becoming a Christian. One word, which is a part of the whole idea or conceptual link, is used as a shortcut, “lingo,” like simply, “baptize”, without mentioning the obvious “water.” Sometimes this “shortcut, synecdoche or packaged word” changes into, “saved, [born again], anointed, believers, brought to the Lord, [eternal life], faith, [The faith], good news, gospel, received the word of God, a Christian or grace, etc,” all of which we will witness below.

The reason we know they all mean the same thing is proven in this study of all those who were saved, born again, anointed, and who became believers, said to have been brought to the Lord, and who received eternal life by faith, believing the good news or gospel because they had received the word of God or His grace, etc. In every case we’ll notice the whole formula of “The Faith” (The Direct Article, “The” is used more than 30 times in the NT), is HEARING the good news (gospel message), which causes us to BELIEVE it or to have FAITH in it. Our faith makes us very sorry and want to really apologize or REPENT of all our sins, and with all our heart. Realizing how desperate we are that our eternal destiny is jeopardized by our sins, we are happy to CONFESS with our mouths that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, just as Peter did, Matthew 16:16-18 which Jesus said was the rock upon which His church would be built. See also Romans 10:9-13 and 1 Timothy 6:12. So, it’s easy to find a common thread with all of these accounts that we’re studying. We now have the full formula that all these people obeyed, HEARING, BELIEVING, REPENTING, CONFESSING and BAPTISM for forgiveness of sins to receive the indwelling gift (anointing) of the Holy Spirit which made them CHRISTIANS. The usual synecdoche for a person that has been through all of these things is to call them “believers.” And we shall find out that every believer from the Day of Pentecost onwards is a baptized one. That is, they have been dipped in water in the name / authority of Jesus for forgiveness of their sins to receive the indwelling Holy Spirit.

Before we continue in context, let’s ask a question of ourselves. If someone only HEARD the gospel, would they be saved OR be a Christian? No, of course not. What if they had HEARD and BELIEVED it by FAITH ONLY? NO! They wouldn’t have REPENTED as all these cases require, and so it would have been incomplete. Our sins would still be on us as the Scripture says it’s the obedience to water baptism that “removes, remits, forgives, or washes away sin, or puts us in a good relationship with God,” [see those Scripture] so everyone needs to obey the whole formula. So, now let’s continue to examine these things until we get back to Antiochians:

Peter Required to Explain His Actions!

11 The apostles and the brothers throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. 2 So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised [Jewish baptized] believers (Acts 2:1-47) criticized him 3 and said, “You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them!” 4 Peter began and explained everything to them precisely as it had happened: 5 “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision. I saw something like a large sheet being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came down to where I was. 6 I looked into it and saw four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, reptiles, and birds of the air. 7 Then I heard a voice telling me, ‘Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.’ 8 “I replied, ‘Surely not, Lord! Nothing impure or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’ 9 “The voice spoke from heaven a second time, ‘Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.’ 10 This happened three times, and then it was all pulled up to heaven again. 11 “Right then three men who had been sent to me from Caesarea stopped at the house where I was staying. 12 The Spirit told me to have no hesitation about going with them. These six brothers also went with me, and we entered the man’s house. 13 He told us how he had seen an angel appear in his house and say, ‘Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. 14 He will bring you a message through which you and all your household will be saved.’ 15 “As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us [apostles] at the beginning [Day of Pentecost]. 16 Then I remembered what the Lord had said: ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17 So if God gave them the same gift as he gave us, who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could oppose God?”

[Clearly, “believed” is the synecdoche we will find in several places and it always means they were baptized even where water baptism isn’t explicitly mentioned, because we know it was explicitly mentioned earlier (verse 47 and 48) and is now the synecdoche or “packaged word or shortcut,” where “believed” is used. Go back above now if this isn’t completely clear. Also, when we see the word baptism, we should ask, “Into what?” Water is the only thing that comes to mind. The figurative use only used for the apostles and household of Cornelius “to be baptized into the Holy Spirit is done by God and not by any man laying hands on him or immersing that person into water, and then raising him up again.]

18 When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, “So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life.” (Another synecdoche.)

The Church in Antioch

19 Now those who had been scattered by the persecution in connection with Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, telling the message only to Jews. 20 Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. 21 The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord. 22 News of this reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. 24 He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord. 25 Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 26 and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.

Therefore, we know that these “believers” were all baptized believers which made them Christians with the necessary indwelling gift of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Bible: New International Version. (1984). (Ac 10:23–11:26). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

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