By Hoyt H. Houchen
Question: A few years ago I was talking with a Baptist preacher about baptism and he said the passages on baptism were not binding because Acts was written (or events were recorded) in a transitional period from the religion of the Old Testament to the religion of the New Testament. How would you answer that argument in regards to baptism?
Reply: It is true that there was a space of time between the death of Christ and the first gospel sermon that was preached in Acts 2. It is not true that all of the events recorded in Acts were in this interval; therefore, the claim that passages in Acts on baptism are not binding is erroneous.
The old covenant had been abolished by Christ’s death (Rom. 7:4; Col. 2:14) and He had already ascended to heaven when the events recorded in Acts 2 took place. Peter preached a gospel sermon in which he set forth the terms or conditions of the new covenant. In response to the inquiry made by the hearers, as to what they should do, Peter commanded them to repent and be baptized for the remission of their sins (Acts 2:38). When some three thousand souls were baptized, they became members of the church which Jesus had promised to build (Matt. 16:18). Thus it was on the day of Pentecost, the first Pentecost after the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, that the new covenant was inaugurated, and the church had its glorious beginning.
The law that people obeyed on that day is the same law to which people must comply today. And furthermore, that which was set forth for people to do then is that which follows in the remainder of Acts. The teaching and examples of baptism in the book of Acts are no different from that which is found in books of the New Testament that were written later (Rom. 6:3,4; 1 Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:27; 1 Pet. 3:21; etc.)
The events recorded in Acts 2, beginning with Peter’s sermon and following, are no more transitional than that which is recorded later in other inspired writings. The “argument” made by the Baptist preacher has no merit whatsoever. It is void of scriptural proof and is, therefore, a false assumption. Also, worthy of note is the fact that he denies the essentiality of baptism for salvation, regardless of what New Testament book teaches it. He denies it even in books written by Paul and in other inspired epistles which he would agree are not transitional. Transition, then, is not his real problem. His problem is an attitude toward authority. When man refuse to acknowledge and accept what God says upon matters, they turn to human reasoning (see Matt. 21:25). Passages in Acts on baptism are just as binding as in any other place where God has taught on the subject. It is indeed amazing what people will concoct in their efforts to evade the plain teaching of the Scriptures that we must be baptized in order to be saved.
Guardian of Truth XXIX: 1, p. 4
January 3, 1985