An Important Question:
Is the baptism mentioned in Acts chapter two Christian baptism? In our assembly some are upsetting God’s people by teaching that it is distinctly Jewish, and that it has nothing to do with the Church. They, also, suggest that it was essential to the salvation of the Jew at the beginning of the Christian era.
An Instructive Reply:
This type of teaching is not new; it is the echo of Dr. Bullinger who taught that there are two gospels and two series of instructions in the New Testament, one for the Jew and the other for the Gentile. He limited baptism and the Lord’s supper to what he erroneously called the Jewish Church. He contended that throughout, especially, the first seven chapters of the Book of Acts, we are on Jewish ground; in fact, his ultradispensationalism went so far as to leave us with a Bible for today composed only of Paul’s prison epistles.
Let us notice three important points.
1. The commision of our Lord given to His Apostles is against such teaching for it asserts that there is only one gospel. No matter what appelation may be used to describe it in the Word of God, it is always the same gospel. A comparison of Matt. 28:18-20 with Acts 1:8 shows that the same gospel which was preached in Jerusalem and Judea was also to be preached to the ends of the earth. In fact, the gospel taught by our Lord and recorded by all four Evangelists is the same as the gospel we proclaim today to all mankind. Paul contended vigorously in Gal. 1 for the doctrine of one gospel for said he, “Though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him he accursed.”
2. There is only one Christian baptism. Would our Lord, before His ascension, give His commission to preach the gospel and baptize the converts in the name of the Divine Trinity, and then after His ascension give another command (no where recorded in the Scriptures, but surmised by some) so absolutely contrary to that first commission? If in Acts chapter two Christian baptism is not meant, what is meant? It certainly is not John’s baptism for that ended when John was cast into prison; moreover, it was no longer necessary after Christ had been manifested to Israel.
To insist that the baptism practised in Acts two was essential to the salvation of the Jew is to contradict the whole doctrine of salvation by grace through faith as this is revealed in both the Old and New Testaments. A careful reference to the contents of Romans chapter four will convince one of this. Furthermore, to say that baptism in Acts chapter two was for the purpose of severing a Jew from his association with a nation which God charged with the death of Christ and, therefore, has nothing to do with the Gentile is only a half-truth. We ask, are we not all guilty of the death of Christ? Does not our baptism disconnect us from the world that God charges with the death of His Son? Is it not the symbol of every believer’s identification with a rejected Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection? Most assuredly, to be baptized is the command of God for both Jewish and Gentile converts, and this act has exactly the same significance in both cases. Pentecost teaches that God broke down the middle wall of partition between Jew and Gentile to make of the two one new man, so making peace. Why does the school of ultradispensationalism insist on interposing into the Book of Acts what God had abolished at the cross of Christ?
3. There is only one line of teaching for all of God’s people. Paul makes it perfectly clear that the ministry of Christ in the Gospels is for us (Acts 20:35. 1 Cor. 9:14. 1 Tim. 6:3-4). Some have the mistaken idea that in the progress of doctrine each unfolding of truth annulled what went before. On the contrary, in the making of the New Testament, each unfolding of truth added to what went before and thus enlarged the vision of saints to the unsearchable riches of Christ. Dr. A. T. Pierson has well said, “There is not only harmony but progress in doctrine; truths found in germ in the Gospels are historically illustrated in the Acts, doctrinally unfolded and applied in the Epistles, and symbolically presented in the Apocalypse.” —R. McC.