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Twisted Scripture: Acts 2:37-38

• Greg Boyd

In this continuation of the Twisted Scripture series, Greg explores the various differences in opinion about baptism, and clarifies where WHC falls in this spectrum.

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Baptism has long been a point of contention between various Christian denominations. Whether baptism should be done for infants, or as adults, and exactly what role in salvation baptism plays, has challenged Christians almost since the beginning.

In Acts 2:37-38, Peter is asked what they must do to be saved. He answers them “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.”

An argument against original sin:
Many people interpret this verse to mean that baptism is a requirement for salvation. This is fueled partly by a belief in original sin, a view made popular by Saint Augustine in the 5th century, who taught that humans were tainted with Adam’s sin. He believed that babies, if not baptized, were destined for hell (technically called “Limbo”).

But whenever considering a theological position, we must ask what picture of God does this presuppose? We know that Jesus loved kids, for example in Matthew 19:14 he said let the little children come to him. Also, we don’t see anything in scripture to support view that were born guilty. By contrast, Ezekiel 18:20 says that guilt or righteousness is only for the individual person. Finally God forgives freely throughout the bible. All people are asked to do is repent. In Acts 3:19 Peter simply says repent and turn to God. So we feel that a more accurate picture of God is one who loves children, judges people only by their own actions, and asks primarily that we repent and turn to him.

Digging deeper into what it does mean:
This interpretation of baptism being a requirement for salvation all rests on the word “for” which is what most translations use in this verse. But the Greek word is “???” (pronounced “ace”) which commonly means “in light of” or “in the context of.” It is not a cause, it’s simply in reference to.

Another question has to do with the phrase “in the name of Jesus Christ.” Many feel this is an important part of a “formula” for forgiveness. But in Colossians 3:17 Paul says to do everything in name of Jesus. This would be ridiculous if taken literally. We believe the same is true here. The phrase In Jesus’ name is not a formula. It simply means “under authority of.” Therefore just as Paul means do everything under the authority of Jesus Christ, Peter simply means to be baptized under the authority of Jesus.

So baptism is not magical and is not a cause or part of a formula for salvation. However this is not to say that it is unimportant.

Throughout the Bible, whenever God (or people) entered into covenant, there would be a ceremony. The ceremony was an integral part of the covenant. It was the inauguration and expressed the terms of and served as a permanent reminder of the covenant. This is exactly what baptism is. It is also like another popular covenant, Marriage. The wedding is the beginning of the covenant. It serves as a permanent reminder, outlines the terms, and marks the time when the covenant began, and the moment when your identity changed from being a single person to a married person.

It is also the reason that in Rom 6:2-4,11 Paul calls upon their baptism as the signifier of their new identity. Starting at that moment, the baptized person is dead to sin and resurrected with Christ. It changes our identity (even though we often forget this fact. So a major part of discipleship is trying to remember this fact and live like it is true).
In this way, baptism is like the tombstone of the old self, and the birth certificate of your new self.
They are not the cause, just the commemoration.

This leaves two other important questions that people commonly ask:

First, what about infant baptism?

WHC believes baptism should be reserved for people old enough to enter into covenant.
In Matt 28:19-20 Baptism was the first act of discipleship. It assumes you are old enough to choose and understand the commitment you are entering into.
Infant baptism is like an arranged marriage. But the wedding ceremony is where the couple owns it for themselves. similarly we view adult baptism as the believer fully owning their dedication and covenant. It does not negate the dedication or the pledge, rather it affirms it. WHC encourages all believers to own their commitment for themselves and get baptized, if they have never done so as an adult. To that end, WHC is having a group baptism July 26. It will take place at Lake Phalen after the second service. And, since it is like wedding, there are three “marriage precounseling” classes that we ask you to attend. Those take place July 12,19 and 26. We ask that people go to all three classes. (They will be taped if you cannot attend one).

Second, do you baptize by sprinkling or immersion?

We baptize by Immersion. We believe this is the more biblical way to perform baptisms because the Greek word for baptism, “?????,” (“bapto”) means submerge or dunk. In John 13:26 we can see from the context of this verse that it means dipped. Also in John 3:23 John the Baptist needed plenty of water to perform baptisms. If they were only sprinkling it, they would not need much water at all. People always had flasks of water on them, so they could have just used that. Since that was not an option, it indicates that they did not sprinkle. Finally in Romans 6 Paul says we are”buried” with Christ. Being buried presupposes being dunked under water, which is much closer to burial than a simple sprinkling would be.

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Topics: Baptism

Sermon Series: Twisted Scripture: Season 2

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Focus Scripture:

  • Acts 2:37-38

    37 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?” 38 Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

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12 thoughts on “Twisted Scripture: Acts 2:37-38

  1. kevin says:

    Maybe i missed it in the message, so i’m wondering; do you guys dunk in the name of Jesus or do you say FS&H? i’ve heard preachers say both at the same time. 🙂

    1. Naomi says:

      Colossians 3:17 saids Whatsoever you do in Word or in deed do ALL in the name of Jesus. Baptism is NO exception. Without Jesus name it, the Baptism is not valid. Acts 4:12, Philippians 2:9-11….You must use the highest name of God to be saved and that name is Jesus….Luke 24:47, Acts 2:38……Matthew 28:19 was created by the Catholic Church in the 2nd and finalized in the 3rd centuries…See Catholic Dictionary 2 page 263 and the Brittanica Encyclopedia 11th edition….also William Tyndale and other Religious Encyclopedia’s say the exact same thing. Also, see the writings of Eusebius, who quotes the original form of 28:19 before the emperor Constantine made him change it…in Jesus name.. Amen…

  2. Tracy Grant says:

    If baptism is so important as Greg suggests, why didn’t Jesus or Paul baptize? The passage of scripture Greg uses makes far more sense to me – if we place it alongside other scriptures that tell us the meaning of what happens when we become Christians.

    Gal 3:27 says we are baptized INTO Christ
    1 Cor 12:13 we were all baptized by the one Spirit

    Baptism is done not by pastors, but by the HOLY SPIRIT. So in light of that fact, if we look at Acts 2:37-38 – and read it that when we are baptized by the Holy Spirit into Jesus – we have forgiveness of sins. Which of course we do. Water Baptism is a shadow of the reality found in Christ. What do other think? I am open to being corrected, but that is what I see clearly in scripture.

    1. Naomi says:

      Philip took the Eunuch to the water in Acts. And the Book of Acts details the “Water Baptisms of All believers. And Jesus’s disciples Baptized more people in water than did John’s. Also Jesus himself was Water Baptized. We ought to do what Jesus did. Jesus said in Mark 16 he that believeth and is Baptized shall be saved and he also set you will speak with new tongues as well. To different events. Also, John 3:5 saids you must be Born of Water and Spirit to enter the Kingdom of God. 1st Peter 3:21: Baptism doth now save us. Romans 6:3; Colossians 2:9: We are buried with Christ in Baptism. Galatians 3:20-27: The Baptism of Christ…. Baptism is Essential to our Salvation per Jesus, who was Baptized as well. I hope you receive this. In Jesus name…Amen…But Jesus said men love darkness rather than the light…..Amen…

  3. Connor Unger says:

    Hi Kevin,

    Thanks for the question! We don’t have a standard phrase we use. Whether we say “Jesus” or “FS&H” varies depending on who’s performing the baptism.

    Let me know if there’s anything else I can clarify.

    1. Naomi says:

      Just ask the person Baptizing you to say in Jesus name…Rembering the Book of Acts, Luke 24:47, Colossians 3:17, Acts 4:12, Galatians 3:17-27, Colossians 2:9, Romans 6, Hebrews 6, and Jesus said use his name in Everything….Amen…

  4. Dave Pritchard says:


    This question brings to mind the Separatist Reformer John Smyth (1570 –1612) Smyth was originally a Anglican priest who became disgruntled over what he saw as extra-biblical methodologies within the church of England. Influenced by Puritan teachings and basically fed up, he and a small group of followers went to Holland and linked up with the Waterlander Mennonites in Amsterdam. Once there and possibly before that time, he came to teach and believe like many others, in “Believers Baptism” as opposed to the traditional “infant baptism” practice.

    He immediately felt the urgency to re-baptize himself and his fledgling congregation. As the story goes, since there was no one else he felt actually qualified to do the job adequately, he did HIMSELF first, supposedly with a large wooden bucket and silver ladle standing in the river – Ha! Then, the rest of the group lined up. This later earned him the title – “The Se-Baptist,” from the Latin word “se” – oneself.

    Supposedly their mode was similar to the Waterlander’s method in that they poured water over the head 3 times in the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Later, his once good friend Thomas Helwys, lead a congregational split from the Smyth group over what he saw as ever increasing eccentricities in Smyth’s theology – rote memorization of passages and narratives preached to the group; never to be read from an actual version of the Bible because THAT was constructed through sinful satanically influenced men – tense times! Helwys’ group, as well as many others more practically adopted a once dunking “full immersion” in the name of the F,S & HS.

    Any slight dig into the history of this topic unearths horrendous violence perpetrated on “Anabaptist” in general. By modern standards it seems bizarrely ludicrous that people would actually burn, drown, hang and hack one another over this issue. Personally, any variety of respectable methods and locations seems plausible – ocean, lake, river, swimming pool, bathtub, font, fountain, etc… Three dunks, One dunk,….. Slam dunk – well… not that last one! All good ☺

  5. Vince says:


    1 Corinthians 1:14 shows that Paul did, in fact, baptize. John 3:22 shows that Jesus baptized, and I’m pretty sure I read someplace else where Jesus’ disciples were baptising.

    I do not know how the command to baptize came to be for pastors only. I’ve always understood Matthew 28:19 as a command for all followers of Jesus. Baptism is important because it is a public proclamation of your new relationship with Jesus! I love that Woodland Hills does this in a public place because it creates opportunities to share the gospel. Those being baptized can invite unsaved friends and family to come, and maybe they will begin to ask questions. Those planning to show up can also invite others. In this way, even brand new believers are allowing themselves to be used by God in a really significant way to advance His kingdom.

  6. Tom Torbeyns says:

    Greg Boyd

    I believe we create our sinful nature and aren’t born with that either. (Another false teaching of Augustine, I think. I think Pelagius was right.)

    You can find more information here:

  7. Runar Liodden says:

    I am a podrishioner from Norway and love to listen to the sermons from Woodland Hills. I am a part of a Lutheran church and was challenged by the message about baptism. I totally agree with Greg that baptism starts the covenant of salvation with God, but why don´t offer this covenant to the new borns? The apostle Paul uses the Jews covenant practise of circumcision as a metaphor for baptism in Romans 2. The Jews offered the covenant to new born boys when the were 8 days old, like they did to Jesus in Luke 2,21. Are every new born automatically a member of Christ covenant? If that is so, why do we need the baptism later if they are already in it? Are the newborns from a muslim family also a member of Christ´s covenant?

  8. Blaine Stone says:

    After listening to Greg’s message, two things came to mind: 1) Greg pointed out that Jesus called all the children to himself – and they weren’t baptized; 2) the Thief on the cross believed in Jesus and He told him that they would be together in Paradise. Clearly the Thief was not baptized, or was he 😉 As Greg pointed out, while baptism is the sign of marriage to Jesus as our bridegroom, He doesn’t deny any who have experienced the pouring out of His grace.

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