I write this blog post with two audiences in mind, admittedly. But, I choose to write it centered around (not based off of) one text of Scripture. I do so for the sake of brevity. Many passages have been weighed and examined before choosing this one. [If you have comment or question, please feel free to “reply” a comment below or contact me.]
Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation. So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.”
First, I write to the one who is confused about baptism and its place in the Christian life. It is undeniable that the Lord Jesus required his disciples to teach and baptize (Matt. 28:19-20). So, without being baptized, one cannot claim to be obedient to the Lord. Baptism, in ancient times (and today) is a matter of identity. If you identify yourself with Christ the Savior, believing he has redeemed you, then baptism is the proper way to show the world who you believe and follow. According to passages like Acts 2:41 and 8:36, believing and having water nearby are the only prerequisites for baptism–not a monetary fee to the church, not a set of “discipleship lessons” or chatechism, just plain faith that Christ has redeemed you and the desire to show that to the world.
It is also true that Baptizo is an ancient Greek word transliterated (spelled out with equivalent phonetic letters) into modern Bible translations. Hence, we have “baptize.” And, it does originally mean “to dip.” 2000 years ago, everyone understood that being baptized in the name of another meant whatever the water touches belongs to (or is identified with) the name signified by that baptism. Apparently, rivers and bodies of water were the mode of Jesus’ day, but there is no mystical power in getting dipped. It is just water. On the other hand, if you understand what baptism meant to those of Christ’s day, then you’ll also see the significance of being fully immersed in the water.
These things being said, who cares if you don’t have a stream or body of water deep enough to dip in?! Whether you need to pour the water, or if you only have enough to sprinkle the water (as in a 3rd world country where it is scarce and precious), then the better part of reason says, “just get it done.”
Secondly, I write to the studied critic who argues that it is water baptism which removes sin and not the grace purchased by the blood (sacrificial atonment) of Jesus Christ. For that audience, please see below. Mr. Zuck and Mr. Walvoord do a far better job than I ever could. I will say the below quote proves grammatically that repentance and faith are the prerequisites for forgiveness of sins, not baptism. However, if one has received the word of the Gospel as those in Acts 2:41 (which an infant cannot – 1 Pet. 1:21-25; http://blb.sc/000Czr), then baptism must follow for the sake of obedience to the Lord. It must also follow in order to show the equivalence of what it means to repent (of one’s fallen [sin] nature) and to place faith in Christ for reconciliation to God and regeneration. Great contradiction arises when one says he/she has renounced the identity of his/her fallen nature and self-governance for the imparted divine nature (putting off of the old man for the new creature “in Christ”) and governance of the Spirit, yet he/she does not wish to proclaim that exchange of identity by baptism.
“A problem revolves around the command “be baptized” and its connection with the remainder of 2:38. There are several views:
(1) One is that both repentance and baptism result in remission of sins. In this view, baptism is essential for salvation. The problem with this interpretation is that elsewhere in Scripture forgiveness of sins is based on faith alone (John 3:16, 36; Rom. 4:1-17; 11:6; Gal. 3:8-9; Eph. 2:8-9; etc.). Furthermore Peter, the same speaker, later promised forgiveness of sins on the basis of faith alone (Acts 5:31; 10:43; 13:38; 26:18).
(2) A second interpretation translates 2:38, “Be baptized … on the basis of the remission of your sins.” The preposition used here is eis which, with the accusative case, may mean “on account of, on the basis of.” It is used in this way in Matthew 3:11; 12:41; and Mark 1:4. Though it is possible for this construction to mean “on the basis of,” this is not its normal meaning; eis with the accusative case usually describes purpose or direction.
(3) A third view takes the clause and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ as parenthetical. Several factors support this interpretation: (a) The verb makes a distinction between singular and plural verbs and nouns. The verb “repent” is plural and so is the pronoun “your” in the clause so that your sins may be forgiven (lit., “unto the remission of your sins,” eis aphesin tōn hamartiōn hymōn). Therefore the verb “repent” must go with the purpose of forgiveness of sins. On the other hand the imperative “be baptized” is singular, setting it off from the rest of the sentence. (b) This concept fits with Peter’s proclamation in Acts 10:43 in which the same expression “sins may be forgiven” (aphesin hamartiōn) occurs. There it is granted on the basis of faith alone. (c) In Luke 24:47 and Acts 5:31 the same writer, Luke, indicates that repentance results in remission of sins.”
(Bible Knowledge Commentary, Walvoord; Zuck — Volume 2, Page 359, bold mine, underscore mine)