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Context

Lately, when the topic of Baptism comes up on SE, there there seems to be a rush to disallow a view that would conclude that baptism conveys the forgiveness of sins.

My Researched Conclusion

God's word seems to be very clear on the topic. Consider the following passages:

“«25» Οἱ ἄνδρες, ἀγαπᾶτε τὰς γυναῖκας καθὼς καὶ ὁ χριστὸς ἠγάπησεν τὴν ἐκκλησίαν καὶ ἑαυτὸν παρέδωκεν ὑπὲρ αὐτῆς «26» ἵνα αὐτὴν ἁγιάσῃ καθαρίσας τῷ λουτρῷ τοῦ ὕδατος ἐν ῥήματι, «27» ἵνα παραστήσῃ αὐτὸς ἑαυτῷ ἔνδοξον τὴν ἐκκλησίαν μὴ ἔχουσαν σπίλον ἢ ῥυτίδα ἤ τι τῶν τοιούτων, ἀλλ’ ἵνα ᾖ ἁγία καὶ ἄμωμος.” (Ἐφεσίους 5·25-27 THGNT-T)

In this passage, we note that water and word (Baptism) do something. They wash. And, in context, they wash from stains & blemishes, and present her (the church) as holy. Thus, they wash away sins.

Likewise in 1 Peter 3:21 we have the exceedingly clear words:

“ὃ καὶ ὑμᾶς ἀντίτυπον νῦν σώζει βάπτισμα, οὐ σαρκὸς ἀπόθεσις ῥύπου, ἀλλὰ συνειδήσεως ἀγαθῆς ἐπερώτημα εἰς θεόν, δι’ ἀναστάσεως Ἰησοῦ χριστοῦ,” (Πέτρου α 3·21 THGNT-T)

Baptism saves. And notice the context: it doesn't rescue one from dirt and grime. Instead, it delivers a good conscience (salvation from sin). And even more so, its foundation is based on Christ's resurrection. That's what gives Baptism the power to actually save from sin.

So also, in Acts 2, we read:

“«38» Πέτρος δὲ πρὸς αὐτούς· μετανοήσατε φησὶν καὶ βαπτισθήτω ἕκαστος ὑμῶν ἐπὶ τῷ ὀνόματι Ἰησοῦ χριστοῦ εἰς ἄφεσιν τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ὑμῶν καὶ λήμψεσθε τὴν δωρεὰν τοῦ ἁγίου πνεύματος· «39» ὑμῖν γάρ ἐστιν ἡ ἐπαγγελία καὶ τοῖς τέκνοις ὑμῶν καὶ πᾶσι τοῖς εἰς μακράν, ὅσους ἂν προσκαλέσηται κύριος ὁ θεὸς ἡμῶν.” (Πράξεις 2·38-39 THGNT-T)

The point that Peter makes here is that a person gets baptized for the purpose of the forgiveness of sins. (BDAG, s.v. “εἰς,” 290.) This is exceedingly clear.

Finally, we look at Romans 6:

“συνετάφημεν οὖν αὐτῷ διὰ τοῦ βαπτίσματος εἰς τὸν θάνατον, ἵνα ὥσπερ ἠγέρθη χριστὸς ἐκ νεκρῶν διὰ τῆς δόξης τοῦ πατρός, οὕτως καὶ ἡμεῖς ἐν καινότητι ζωῆς περιπατήσωμεν.” (Ῥωμαίους 6·4 THGNT-T)

Paul lets us know that, through Baptism, we were buried into death. Then he gives us the intended purpose clause: So that through Baptism we would walk in newness of life. We note that the instrument used is not ones own will in this sentence. Instead, it is Baptism. Through Baptism we are enabled to walk in newness of life.

Notice then, in all these passages, Baptism isn't a good work that we perform for God. Baptism is a good work that he performs for/in us. In all of these passages we look at simple subject — verb — object constructions and see that, in Baptism, God is washing/forgiving/saving/giving newness of life through Baptism.

Question

If the Bible here is so clear, then how/why do some Christian groups disallow the conclusion that Baptism conveys the forgiveness of sins?

Boundaries

The following are contexts for answers I will consider off-limits:

  • Evidence not from the Greek NT. (e.g. based on English translations)
  • Evidence from the Church Fathers (while the early church clearly and obviously concluded that Baptism saved, our faith rests on the Bible first)
  • Evidence from the creeds (again, while the Nicene Creed, for example, clearly says that there's "one baptism for the forgiveness of sins" (the Telic use of ⲉⲓⲥ), creeds are the norma normata (the rule that is ruled), not the norma normans (the rule that rules: God's word))
  • Evidence from extra biblical literature (e.g. not from Jewish commentaries, Apocryphal, and especially not Gnostic Gospel literature)
  • Evidence from the book of Acts in the middle section where, seemingly no one can accurately conclude what was going on there. We look at the clear passages first and then let them shed light on the less clear ones.
  • Evidence from Dogmatics, rather than Exegesis. (i.e. From the original text we find the meaning. Out of that meaning, we develop theology. Out of bounds is a view point that puts the conclusion first before the evidence. There is a place for Dogmatics. But Dogmatics flows from Exegesis)

With those healthy boundaries, I welcome answers.


In my comments I asked what the best way to respond to responses to my question might be. I didn’t receive an answer. So, lacking any clear guidance, I’m just simply going to edit my original posts with appendices. The following are then responses to the responses I received.


Rationale for Boundaries

There have been some complaints about the the number and types of boundaries I have put in place. I worked hard to make sure that the boundaries were tangible and approachable. The first and last of the boundaries are the most important. There were many responses that didn’t engage in the Greek. And as a result, they had to resort to making their case on conclusions drawn from the English translation that cannot be supported by the Greek NT. Likewise, in the last bullet point, for the sake of clarifying, I did not say that there was no room for Dogmatics (and hermeneutics). As one commentator put it: “We examine the text to see what the text says.” I only mentioned that the Exegesis comes first. Feel free to answer away. But put the horse before the cart. Do a thorough exegesis on the text. Then apply it (please).

Problematic Responses

The following is a list of responses that are problematic (within the framework I provided earlier: Greek first, exegesis first). Dē 1 Peter 3

  • “1 Peter 3:21 does not say that baptism conveys forgiveness. It does say that the water symbolizes the baptism, that saves you. No forgiveness is mentioned. It also says that salvation is secured "through the resurrection of Jesus Christ", not baptism”

There are a couple of problems with this assessment:

Peter does say that Baptism saves. Saying "Baptism doesn’t save" doesn’t explain the text. Rather, it explains away the text. How so? Notice the flow of thought thus far in 1 Peter 3:

  • Right before this Peter said God used water to save people
  • Here in this verse (21) he connects the dots: “ὃ καὶ ὑμᾶς ἀντίτυπον” (Πέτρου α 3·21 THGNT-T): God uses water to save people.. We note the language of type and antitype. Baptism is a symbol. But, according to Peter, it's more. It fulfills what was pre-shadowed earlier. Water saves eight. So also, water saves you.
  • Then he clarifies, saying that Baptism is not just some empty, external ceremony dealing with dirt and hygiene. It cleanses the conscience because it does just what Peter promises: it delivers from sin.

Here, though, is where there is usually a response that is given. And it doesn’t surprise me that it’s given in some of these responses. If any person reads these words and concludes that what Peter says, he actually means, (Baptism saves: “νῦν σώζει βάπτισμα,” (Πέτρου α 3·21 THGNT-T)), then the quick response is, “Baptism doesn’t save. No, instead, Peter says that the Resurrection saves.” The difficulty with this is that, instead of grappling with the text as it is, it seeks to explain it away. It creates an either/or conclusion instead of a both/and conclusion. A better approach would be to understand that, yes, baptism saves (keeping Peter’s words). But how does Baptism save? Its power is not found in water. Its power is found in Christ’s resurrection.

Finally, there is the issue of the words, “ἐπερώτημα εἰς θεόν” (Πέτρου α 3·21 THGNT-T). The word, “ἐπερώτημα” is a ⲁⲡⲁⲝ ⲗⲉⲅⲟⲙⲉⲛⲟⲛ. It is a word that only occurs once in the entire New Testament. And this is why I made the clear, expressed, concrete point of setting the boundary of not seeking evidence from the English first. What does “ἐπερώτημα” mean? Here are some of the options given in lexicons:

  • a formal request, appeal (BDAG, s.v. “ἐπερώτημα,” 362.)
  • solemn promise, pledge (The Brill Dictionary of Ancient Greek, s.v. “επερωτημα,” 751.)

There are two challenges in dealing with a ⲁⲡⲁⲝ ⲗⲉⲅⲟⲙⲉⲛⲟⲛ:

  • First, what does the word mean?
  • Second, what does it mean in context?

So, notice, as we look at the meaning of the word, contrary to what some have concluded, we can factor out the meaning of “response” for the word (contra NLT). There is no lexicon I could find that would give that as a definition.

So, since this word only occurs once in the entire NT, we depend on context to begin to sort it out. Exegetically, it could be that Baptism is either a pledge or appeal from a person to God (▲). But, in context, it could also be a pledge or appeal from God to me (▼). What is the context in this portion of 1 Peter? Is the focus on what I am doing for God? Or is the context what God is doing for/to me? Previously he has just mentioned that Jesus died/suffered for the sins of the whole world (Jesus is doing this for me). He has just mentioned that he used water to save 8 people (not 8 people using water to show their faithfulness to God). While it is exegetically possible to take ἐπερώτημα as a pledge/appeal that one take before God. It would be just as good, if not better, to keep the same context as the preceding verses: Baptism is a pledge that God makes to me that my sins are forgiven in those waters connected to Christ’s resurrection.

Dē “Other Considerations”

I’m going to respond to these bullet points. But, as a preface, I have to admit, these are really weird, strange considerations. I have spoken to Roman Catholics, to Eastern Orthodox, to Lutherans, to Anglicans (who all hold to the conviction and conclusion that baptism saves from sin) and none of them arrive at the weird conclusions that are posited in these responses. These are the sort of responses that tend to be shared when people in one church body thoroughly speak with people in the same church body about people in other church bodies and assume they know what these church bodies teach, but never actually cross the bridge and speak to a pastor/priest face to face. For the sake of dispelling myths, I’ll take up these Considerations in the order they are presented:

  • “If forgiveness is secured by baptism, does this mean that the thief on the cross was not forgiven?”

First, Jesus says “you will be with me in paradise.” That should speak to the man’s salvation. Second, we know nothing about his history. So asking whether he received some kind of baptism is a question the bible doesn’t answer. Third, Jesus did not institute Baptism when he was dying on the cross. He instituted Baptism later. It wasn’t even possible for the Thief to have the same Baptism as we have now, since it hadn’t been instituted yet.

  • “If forgiveness is conveyed by baptism, does that mean we must be baptized regularly for the sins we commit after baptism?”

Paul writes: “<4> There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; <5> one Lord, one faith, one baptism; <6> one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:4–6 NIV11-GKE) All the church bodies that conclude that baptism delivers forgiveness only baptize once, in keeping with these clear words of God.

  • “If forgiveness is conveyed by baptism, does that mean that the OT faithful were not forgiven?”

There is no church body I am familiar that teaches this (!!). Believers in the OT were saved the same way those in the NT are: Through faith in Christ. Consider Paul’s word to the Corinthians: “<3> They all ate the same spiritual food <4> and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.” (1 Corinthians 10:3–4 NIV11-GKE) Notice the point: the rock that accompanied them was Christ. Consider Jude’s words: “Υπομνῆσαι δὲ ὑμᾶς βούλομαι, εἰδότας ἅπαξ πάντα, ὅτι Ἰησοῦς λαὸν ἐκ γῆς Αἰγύπτου σώσας τὸ δεύτερον τοὺς μὴ πιστεύσαντας ἀπώλεσεν.” (Ἰούδα 1·5 THGNT-T) Jesus was the one who delivered them out of Egypt. Nobody that I know of teaches what you seemingly think other church bodies teach.

  • “If forgiveness is conveyed by baptism, does that mean that we can force God to forgive merely by being baptized?”

With this ‘consideration’ we’ve gotten off the hermeneutical and exegetical road and have started to camp out in the side-show carnival. There is no church body I know of anywhere that teaches this ‘consideration.’ Think this consideration through from the perspective of someone who concludes that Baptism actually conveys the forgiveness of sins. What reason or incentive would there be in trying to force forgiveness? In all of these church bodies I listed, on a weekly basis, they confess that they are sinners in deep need of being saved from sin. And the sheer fact that they conclude that Baptism delivers this forgiveness should lead you away from this sort of bizarre, unfounded sort of ‘consideration.’

Concluding Thoughts

For those who took an attempt at answering the question based on God’s word, I appreciate your openness and sincerity.

Likewise, I dearly and deeply appreciate hermeneutics (and dogmatics). Please feel free to share exactly that. But please go to the Greek first so that we’re on the same page and don’t have to compare various English wordings so as to find the wording we might like the best.

Finally, if you’re going to include “other considerations,” please make sure (and provide evidence) that other church bodies teach what you posit that they might. So very many of these sorts of questions will quickly evaporate when you actually just sit down with a pastor/priest (etc.) who is well-trained and ask him questions.

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    -1 I rarely downvote questions... but in this case the OP declares the scriptures to be unambiguous in favor of his opinion and then rules out anything that does not confirm his own viewpoint. Oct 9, 2023 at 1:30
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    This question (If the Bible here is so clear, then how/why do some Christian groups disallow the conclusion that Baptism conveys the forgiveness of sins?) is asking why do certain people . . . . . etc . . . . etc ? That is not the purpose of an hermeneutical site. Nor do we posit theories (Does Baptism . . . . etc ?). We examine the text to see what the text says.
    – Nigel J
    Oct 10, 2023 at 18:56
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    You are clearly wanting a debate - I refuse to engage. That is not what this site is for. You are welcome to you point of view.
    – Dottard
    Oct 11, 2023 at 8:38
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    @OldeEnglish My point is that I don't have a problem with church bodies. I think it's fine to cite theologians from them. I do have a problem with saying that it's not allowed (as was communicated earlier) and the have that same person give verbiage with a high correspondence to official statements from official church bodies/denominations. Where's the consistency and honesty? Everyone has been taught by someone (Acts 8:31).
    – Epimanes
    Oct 12, 2023 at 12:44
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    @Epimanes It might be because the question just got closed. Oct 12, 2023 at 14:20

6 Answers 6

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Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. - 1 Peter 3:21 ESV

Epimanes asked:

If the Bible here is so clear, then how/why do some Christian groups disallow the conclusion that Baptism conveys the forgiveness of sins?

Yes, the Bible is clear on this subject, but the answer to your question directly involves historical, extra-biblical perspectives from gnostics, mystics, and Greek philosophy.

A major theme of the aforementioned perspectives includes the denigration of the physical versus intellectual or spiritual realms resulting in such things as the denial that the Messiah came in the flesh, that the Messiah died at all, that the Messiah was resurrected physically, that the Messiah came uniquely in a single human, that people would be resurrected physically from the dead, that sexuality has a spiritual component, that immersion in the name of Jesus Christ should have spiritual significance, and so on.

The truth of the matter is that according to Ephesians 6:12 (ESV), evil originated in the spiritual realm rather than the physical realm:

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

This includes the temptation and fall of humanity, which ultimately had a spiritual source resulting in a physical expression and consequences that were both spiritual and physical.

Likewise, in overreaction against the heresy of salvation by good works, many churches avoid embracing Paul’s admonition in Ephesians 2:10 (ESV):

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

So, baptism doesn’t save by removal of dirt from the body, by rather is a physical demonstration and witness of our turning to and trusting in Jesus for our salvation.

Are their deathbed exceptions? Yes, I’m sure God looks at the heart. Are there insincere baptisms? Yes, same answer.

A similar answer is applicable to the communion elements which originally were unleavened bread and wine in context with celebrating the Passover.

Could one leave out the rest of the Passover celebration? Could one substitute grape juice and leavened crackers as is often the case? Okay, and how about Coke and pizza crust? You might notice that you have mixed feelings only about the last substitution. Ask yourself why.

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    The noun επερωτημα (eperotema), which may refer to a question or inquiry or even a whole matter of inquiry, but it may also denote the response to a request or the answer to an inquiry given back to whatever authority posed the question or made the request in the first place. This is why KJV is able to render the verse as "the answer of a good conscience toward God". Oct 10, 2023 at 12:41
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    Thank you, Mike. The APB translates this verse literally (using English word order) as, "Which antitype [to Noah's ark] also now delivers us--immersion (not flesh getting rid of filth, but the response of a good conscience towards God) through the resurrection of Jesus Christ . . ." I agree that the KJV uses a good choice of the word, "answer" here.
    – Dieter
    Oct 10, 2023 at 16:56
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There are several considerations that argue against the idea that "baptism conveys forgiveness" (to quote the OP). By this I will presume that the OP means that baptism is the means by which forgiveness is administered, and, concomitantly, forgiveness is not possible without baptism.

I note the following:

  • Eph 5:25-27 does not mention baptism, only washing AND for the purpose of sanctification (setting apart) and NOT forgiveness.
  • 1 Peter 3:21 does not say that baptism conveys forgiveness. It does say that the water symbolizes the baptism, that saves you. No forgiveness is mentioned. It also says that salvation is secured "through the resurrection of Jesus Christ", not baptism.
  • Acts 2:38 & 39 does discuss "Repent and be baptized" but does not mention forgiveness. Note that baptism follows repentance.
  • Rom 6:4 does not mention forgiveness. It does say that baptism is a metaphor of a spiritual death in order to begin a new spiritual life in Christ. That is, baptism becomes a symbol/metaphor of a life dedicated to Christ.

Other Considerations:

  • If forgiveness is secured by baptism, does this mean that the thief on the cross was not forgiven?
  • If forgiveness is conveyed by baptism, does that mean we must be baptized regularly for the sins we commit after baptism?
  • If forgiveness is conveyed by baptism, does that mean that the OT faithful were not forgiven?
  • If forgiveness is conveyed by baptism, does that mean that we can force God to forgive merely by being baptized?
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    God attaching forgiveness to baptism doesn't preclude Him using other avenues to do so. That answers your last three objections. Also Romans 6 explicitly portrays baptism as a union with Jesus's death. Oct 9, 2023 at 14:37
  • John's physical baptism in water was for a traditional expression of repentance and dedication. John said that Jesus would baptize in the Holy Spirit and fire. The gospel writers mention baptism in the name of Jesus or into Jesus' death. This was to differentiate this baptism from other traditional immersions practiced at that time. The order is our repentance, God's immediate forgiveness, and our continuous sanctification by means of the Holy Spirit and fire. No, we don't need repetitive baptisms for our sins. Only "foot washings." The thief on the cross repented and was forgiven by Jesus.
    – Dieter
    Oct 9, 2023 at 17:50
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    It is shed blood that remits sin. +1 Oct 10, 2023 at 12:37
  • I like this answer, + 1. I would just add that as a result of what Jesus did for mankind, by way of the Ransom Sacrifice, it became possible for our sins to be forgiven, whereas before the RS they could not be. While still under the influence of Satan, the vast majority of us are still sinning but unlike before, we can be forgiven of same. "Repentance", I believe, is an ongoing concept. Oct 11, 2023 at 0:46
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From a fair look at the Biblical data, yes.

One needs to reference Ezekiel 36, Titus 3, and John 3.

In His words to Ezekiel about the restoration of Israel God says:

Ezekiel 36:24-27 NIV

24 For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. 25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. 26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.

This is seen to link to Jesus and Paul's comments about the new birth, for Jesus, who says one "must be born of water and the Spirit" (John 3:5) and Paul, who says. "[God] saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit." (Titus 3:5)

If the Spirit is literal in this passage, why not the water?

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  • In John 3 water and spirit are connected to flesh begets flesh and spirit begets spirit. To see and enter the Kingdom one must be born of water (natural birth) and Spirit (born from above). It is clear that sins are remitted only by blood. Titus' washing is "regeneration and renewal' of the Holy Spirit...these are not two separate things. Oct 10, 2023 at 12:35
  • @MikeBorden John explicitly ties "anothen" to water and the Spirit. To say one must be born naturally when Jesus answers Nicodemus's question about a second natural birth doesn't jive with this. The text you quote says WITHOUT blood there is no remission, not that sins are forgiven only by blood. You still have Ezekiel to contend with. Oct 10, 2023 at 14:52
  • The clean water in Ezekiel is most likely what is referred to in the New Testament as the 'water of the word'. Ephesians 5:25-27. Also John 15:3 - "Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.". Blood remits sin, the Word cleanses, the Spirit sanctifies. Oct 10, 2023 at 17:21
  • @MikeBorden My text says water WITH the Word. Either way, the Name of Jesus is invoked in baptism. Does the Name have power except in this course? Oct 12, 2023 at 13:45
  • The word is "en" which can be rendered as "in, by, or with". It denotes instrumentality so when it is rendered as 'with' it does not mean accompaniment, as in 'both water and word'. In John 13, Peter wanted his whole body washed and Jesus told him he was already clean and then in John 15:3 he says the disciples are clean through the word which He had spoken to them. Oct 12, 2023 at 14:11
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Baptism concerns a covenant with God.

The OT records God’s covenant with an entire nation - whereas the NT records God’s covenant with all believers. The class of those who are in covenant with God changed from a nation (Israel) to a class of people who personally decide something. Both the rite and mark of the covenant changed; in the OT it was given to any male born into Israel. In the NT, only to those who are “born again” into Jesus Christ (John 3:5) by 'baptism'.

Yet there is continuity between OT and NT Covenants. The Abrahamic Covenant is fulfilled in the New Covenant, for example as Paul summarises:

Galations 3:6-9 NIV

6 So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” 7 Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham. 8 Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” 9 So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

In Romans 2: 29 Paul summarises that what matters to God is in the hearts of those who enter the covenant.

Romans 2:29 NIV

No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a person's praise is not from other people, but from God.

That is to say, 'to be included in the class of people in covenant with God, happens inwardly'. The true mark of the covenant is about the sincere heart of a person. True circumcision (or ‘baptism’) is "by the Spirit, not by the letter".

To address the OP question, the benefits of the new covenant, including forgiveness, therefore follow the mark of the covenant (baptism) within the heart of the believer, not the rites of baptism or circumcision per se - which might also be very important for cultural and anthopolical reasons historically and even today. References to cleansing, likewise of great spiritual truth, might also be seen as internal, as can only be repentance upon which the covenant is predicated.

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  • Nice spiritual answer, + 1. Very intellectual, but then again, you are a "Physicist". Love your monkey in the spacesuit motif. Very ethereal. Oct 10, 2023 at 18:50
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    @Olde English - thank you. Perhaps hermeneutics resembles physics in that when there are loose ends or paradoxes it means one's understanding isn't complete.
    – user59096
    Oct 12, 2023 at 12:04
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Does Baptism convey the forgiveness of sins? (But please go to the Greek first so that we’re on the same page and don’t have to compare various English wordings).

The verb βαπτιζω (baptizo), which is really the same verb as the parent but with more dynamic, deliberate or willful action: to do an immersion, to plunge in. This verb is used in the classics to describe the deliberate sinking of ships, the "inundating" of a city by throngs of people, or a being up to the ears in debt. It's used 80 times in the New Testament but translators should avoid using the verb "to baptize", since in English that verb doesn't do anything other than refer to a relatively modern religious ritual, namely Christianity's ritual of water baptism. As we describe above, there are quite a few mediums into which one may be immersed, and it's the willful and total immersing that this verb speaks about, not the medium. - Abarim Publications

The answer depends upon the medium into which one is immersed, since the verb itself does not specify any medium. If it is baptism into water that is in view, then the answer is no. Water baptism is symbolic of complete identification with the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus:

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. - Romans 6:1-11

Water is not in view in Romans 6. What is in view is the death of the old self through immersion (baptism) in the death of Christ and new life through union with Him in His resurrection. We are justified by faith.

If Christ Jesus Himself is the medium into which one is baptized then the answer is yes. He it is who baptizes with the Holy Spirit and with fire:

For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. - Galatians 3:27

This does not say that as many of you as were baptized in water have put on Christ. Christ is the medium into which one is baptized (fully, deliberately immersed) for the crucifixion of the old life and the delivery into the new. This baptism takes place at the point of belief:

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. - John 5:24

Water baptism is symbolic of a new life in Christ not the vehicle. The vehicle is Grace through faith.

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    @Mike Borden. Dē Romans 6: Did Jesus metaphorically die? Was he metaphorically crucified? Did Jesus symbolically rise from the dead? Now I hope you see the difficulty I have in your rationale. Wouldn't a better understanding be that our real baptisms really connect us to Jesus' real death and resurrection? And through that resurrection, our baptisms give us power to walk in 'newness of life.'
    – Epimanes
    Oct 11, 2023 at 15:01
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    @OldeEnglish OP asks "Does Baptism convey forgiveness?" My answer is, if it is water baptism that is in view the answer is no. Oct 12, 2023 at 13:30
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    @Epimanes The death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus are actual and a believers full immersion in the same are actual as well. "I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." This is not metaphor ... it is actual and is not the result of a ritual but of re-birth through faith. Oct 12, 2023 at 13:45
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    @Epimanes We are probably going to get bumped into chat but, if water baptism conveys forgiveness, why would Paul be glad that he hadn't baptized (read that as 'conveyed forgiveness to') very many at all? Why was he not sent to baptize but to preach the Gospel? Why was he sent to stop short of bringing folk to salvation? Oct 12, 2023 at 13:51
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    @MikeBorden 1 Cor 1 says very little about the necessity of baptism. Paul is simply avoiding a 'cult of personality'. It would be perfectly in line with a "necessity of baptism" point of view to have Paul plant churches (by preaching) and then have a permanent pastor baptize so that they can nurture the faith created when the person was baptized. But, at least, if I'm understanding you correctly, you are asking another question too.
    – Epimanes
    Oct 12, 2023 at 14:13
1

Baptism and the Good Conscience

IVP Bible Commentary by Craig Keener, writes on 1 Peter 3:21.

The act of faith indicated in *baptism, rather than the physical cleansing, was what was significant; baptism was an act of conversion in ancient Judaism, but Judaism insisted on the sincerity of *repentance for it to be efficacious.

Where Baptism is described as follows in the glossary:

Baptism. The *Old Testament and the ancient world emphasized ceremonial washings to remove various kinds of impurity; Judaism had developed these washings more fully by the time of Jesus, and some sects (particularly the community that authored the *Dead Sea Scrolls) were especially scrupulous. One once-for-all ritual designed to purify *Gentiles of pagan impurity when they converted to Judaism (attested in the *rabbis, in *Epictetus and elsewhere) may have provided the most significant model for John the Baptist’s and subsequently Christian baptism: it indicated an act of conversion, of turning from the old life to the new. This conversion-baptism, like regular Jewish washings in purity pools, involved immersion. Scholars generally presume that this practice was continued by the earliest Christians (though exceptions soon came to be allowed where needed; see Didache 7.1-3, probably from the late first century).

Considering the text alone for hermeneutics, it is clear that no verse in the NT can be used to support to overemphasize the importance of the act of baptism or water itself. The apostles made it clear, following the teachings of Christ that they deep any ritual of no significance in ultimate salvation or justification. A man cannot rely and boast on any ritual, sacrament or his ancestry (Matt 3:9) to reserve the crown of life, according to his own righteousness.

This is why some often use Rom 2:25-29 and Gal 5:6 to prove that "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision amounts to anything, nor uncircumcision, but faith working through love". Concluding from this principle, no ritual actually has any power in itself, not even faith, but faith that works through love. That is to say, works of righteousness (love) is the greatest (1Cor 13:13). Also compare Mark 7:1-13 on the superstition on washing.

Focusing on the main verse in question 1Peter 3:20-21, we see that it doesn't state anywhere that water saves.

[1Pet 3:20-21 SBL] ἀπειθήσασίν ποτε ὅτε ἀπεξεδέχετο ἡ τοῦ θεοῦ μακροθυμία ἐν ἡμέραις Νῶε κατασκευαζομένης κιβωτοῦ εἰς ἣν ὀλίγοι, τοῦτ’ ἔστιν ὀκτὼ ψυχαί, διεσώθησαν δι’ ὕδατος. ὃ καὶ ὑμᾶς ἀντίτυπον νῦν σῴζει βάπτισμα, οὐ σαρκὸς ἀπόθεσις ῥύπου ἀλλὰ συνειδήσεως ἀγαθῆς ἐπερώτημα εἰς θεόν, δι’ ἀναστάσεως Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ,

Disciple's Literal NT [1Pet 3:20-21 DL] ones having disobeyed formerly when the patience of God was waiting in the days of Noah while an ark was being prepared, ... in which a few (that is, eight souls) were brought-safely through the water, ... which also as to you a corresponding-thing now saves— baptism (not a putting-off of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience) through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,

It says baptism saves, which is not the physical water washing off dirt from the body, but the appeal to have a good, clean conscience in the name of Christ's resurrection. The author defines baptism as the act of repentance and reconciliation with God. Baptism is an act of man's, not God's; so, to say, it's God taking baptism for us that it could "be a pledge or appeal from God to me". Such a fatalistic/reformed reversed view is highly absurd like the modern mistranslations of the Bible which turns the phrases "faith of Christ" to faithfulness of Christ, faithfulness of God, which are unbelievably absurd and Gnostic. I don't wish to even address such interpretations which turns God into a slave to the ritual, like Aladdin's genie depends on the rubbing of the magic lamp. God doesn't repent and have faith in us. He has always appealed to man to repent to be saved (Ezek 18:32; Ezek 33:11; Hos 11:8; 1Tim 2:4; 2Pet 3:9). Thus, baptism is man's act of obedience and submission, seeking the confirmation of a good conscience to remain pure in this pledge. The NLT "a response to God", is a good paraphrase rendering.

Saved them out of water

ἐπερώτημα has a plain meaning. You have attempted to twist the meaning of the word by equating the analogy of the Noah's salvation by God. This is a misguided approach to derive semantics by applying the analogy in context. Secondly, the context is clear, God did not use water to save people. God used water to destroy them (2Pet 3:6). While appealing to the original Greek, you have performed some eisegesis by presenting your own thoughts as Peter's words. The phrase "through water"δι’ ὕδατος in v20, is a subject to abuse. It is in the same sense as escaping and passing through fire: 1Co 3:15 σωθήσεται οὕτω δὲ ὡς διὰ πυρός (barely escaping); it doesn't relate to instrumental means. They were saved through out of water. See Thayer's lexicon on dia G1223, the first entry is of place.

BDAG3 has 1st entry ① marker of extension through an area or object, via, through. Target is redundant here (saved from flood to land, death to life). Being saved is already a verb of motion or transition, however Diasozo διασώζω is conjugated with dia, further emphasising the processional or motional meaning. BDAG3 details on Diasozo using this phrase of the verse:

διασῴζω (on the orthography s. B-D-F §26; Mlt-H. 84; W-S. §5:11a; Mayser 134) 1 aor. διέσωσα. Pass. 1 fut. διασωθήσομαι LXX; 1 aor. διεσώθην; pf. διασέσω(ς)μαι 2 Km 1:3 (s. σῳζω; Eur., Hdt.+) to rescue or deliver from a hazard or danger, bring safely through, also save, rescue without special feeling for the mng. of διά (X., Mem. 2, 10, 2; PGM 4, 1936; 8, 32; En 100:6; Philo, Aet. M. 35) act. and pass. διʼ ὕδατος (s. διά A1b) 1 Pt 3:20; cp. 1 Cl 9:4 (Jos., C. Ap. 1, 130 περὶ τῆς λάρνακος, ἐν ᾗ Νῶχος διεσώθη, Ant. 1, 78; Did., Gen. 139, 8). 1 Pt 3:20 has a phrase w. εἰς in connection w. δ. (like Lucian, Ver. Hist. 2, 35). ἐκ τῆς θαλάσσης fr. the shipwreck Ac 28:4 (Witkowski 36, 6f=White, LAC 35, 6f=UPZ 60, 6f: διασεσῶισθαι ἐγ μεγάλων κινδύνων; SIG 528, 10; Philo, Vi. 3); cp. vs. 1. ἐπὶ τὴν γῆν bring safely to land 27:44 (δ. ἐπί τι as Polyaenus 7:12; cp. εἰς τὰ ὑψηλὰ ὄρη Did., Gen. 192, 13). ἵνα τὸν Παῦλον διασώσωσι πρὸς Φήλικα that they might bring Paul safely to Felix 23:24 (δ. πρός τινα as Jos., Ant. 5, 15); save fr. danger (Jon 1:6) 27:43; 1 Cl 12:5f.—Pass. escape death (EpJer 54; Jos., Ant. 9, 141) MPol 8:2. Of sick persons be cured Mt 14:36; also act. Lk 7:3.—M-M. TW.

Samuel Thomas Bloomfield writes The Greek Testament, with English notes, critical, philological and exegetical 1855, Vol. 2, p. 719 on this verse:

quote

Filos Pergamos Modern Greek translation rightly renders (from the water; apo to nero):

τα οποία κάποτε απείθησαν, όταν η μακροθυμία τού Θεού, στις ημέρες τού Νώε, τους πρόσμενε, καθώς κατασκευαζόταν η κιβωτός, στην οποία διασώθηκαν από το νερό λίγες (δηλαδή, οκτώ) ψυχές

also, another LMGNT version:

μέσα στην οποία λίγες, δηλαδή οχτώ μόνο ζωές διασώθηκαν μέσα από το νερό.

Hence, correctly reading of the passage and Noah's story makes it clear that God saved them by the means of the ark as they passed through the water. Water was not the means of salvation, but the ark/ship. The Christian Baptism symbolises that act of faithful procession of obedience as demonstrated by Noah. The translators should use "out of water" instead of the ambiguous "through water".

While I would agree the general statements concerning faith saves, blood of Jesus saves, baptism saves. I disagree with giving any sacrament and dogma unnecessary and wrong importance, especially when the very text clarifies by defining baptism by stating that submission of heart is the true sense, rather than the washing. Exactly as Paul defined circumcision in Romans 2; also keeping in mind that "we do not wrestle with flesh and blood", but it's a spiritual matter.

1Cor 7:19 For neither circumcision (or baptism and communion food) counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but keeping the commandments of God.
1Cor8:8 But food (or water) will not commend us to God. For neither, if we do not eat, are we the worse; nor, if we eat, are we the better.

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  • Very well put. But, just like with my comment to MB, do you think that "water" baptism is still a necessity, that should go along with what is outlined in Romans 10:9,10", as I have made reference to, or are you advocating for it to be no longer a requirement. Oct 11, 2023 at 14:44
  • I dont believe in any sacraments being required. It's not a necessity.
    – Michael16
    Oct 11, 2023 at 14:49
  • Thank you for that. It's an upvote from me. Oct 11, 2023 at 14:59
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    check the Thayer's lexicon on dia, the first entry is "of place" blueletterbible.org/lexicon/g1223/kjv/tr/0-1
    – Michael16
    Oct 11, 2023 at 15:37
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    I added more details. Meanwhile you should find the Josephus quote (in the screenshot I posted from the book) with the link and translation if you can, because I couldn't. It will be helpful.
    – Michael16
    Oct 12, 2023 at 6:49

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