Acts 22:16And now, why tarriest thou? Arise and be baptized and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.
by John R. Daily
by John R. Daily
Acts xxii. 16. The washing away of sins in baptism is figurative and ceremonial and not literal. Peter speaks of two figures, the ark and baptism, saying, 'Wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us, not the putting away the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.' I Peter iii. 20, 21. He tells us that baptism is not the putting away the filth of the flesh. The word filth does not refer to literal dirt, but to a sinful nature. This is clear from the Greek word (rhupon) from which it is translated. This word is found in its adjective form in Rev. xxii. 11. 'He that. is righteous, let him be righteous still and he that is filthy ( rhuparos ), let him be filthy still.' The word is used as the opposite of righteous in this text. It must, therefore, mean sinful. These are the only places in the New Testament in which this word rhupos is found. Its use in Revelations must be regarded as a correct interpretation of its meaning as used by inspiration. The irresistible conclusion is that Peter meant sinfulness of the flesh. Baptism is not the putting away of the sinfulness of the flesh. Flesh is used here in reference to ones state before being born of the Spirit, because that which is born only of the flesh, or born only once. is merely flesh. Then baptism is not the putting away of the sinfulness of unregenerate sinners. Josephus, the learned Jewish historian, who lived in the first century, wrote the following statement concerning the doctrine taught by John the Baptist: 'Now, some of the Jews thought that the destruction of Herod"s army came from God, and that very justly, as a punishment of what he did against John, that was called the Baptist, for Herod slew him who was a good man, and commanded the Jews to exercise virtue, both as to righteousness towards one another, and piety towards God, and so to come to baptism; for that the washing [with water] would be acceptable to him, if they made use of it, not in order to the putting away [or the remission] of some sins [only], but for the purification of the body; supposing the soul was thoroughly purified beforehand by righteousness.' Antiq. Of The Jews, Book xviii., Chap. v., Sec. 2. This is a fairly good statement of the doctrine of our church as taught then and now. Though written by a Jew it harmonizes remarkably well with the teaching of Peter. Baptism is the answer of a good conscience toward God. It is not to answer the conscience, as some say, but the answer which the good conscience gives. The conscience must be good before it can give an answer as a good conscience. If a person is baptized having an evil conscience he does not give the answer of a good conscience in the act. In Heb. ix. 14 we are told how the conscience is made good. 'For if the blood of bulls and goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without Spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God.' Serving God follows the purging of the conscience by the blood of Christ. The conscience being purified is made good, and can give the answer of a good conscience in baptism. Besides being the answer of a good conscience, baptism saves us in a figurative sense. It is a figure of our salvation. Salvation by the ark was a figure of salvation in Christ, and baptism being a like figure is a figure of the same thing. Sins are washed away by baptism, therefore, in a figurative or ceremonial sense. In being baptized we renounce our former course and conduct, and thus we practically and professionally put our sins away and start on a new course. What a lovely sight it is to witness a humble, devoted, sincere follower of the Lamb going down into the water, just as our Saviour and his early disciples did! How happy are those who thus sincerely walk! The day of our baptism is so fresh in our memory! Our dear parents, now sleeping in the grave, were there. The old fathers and mothers in Israel, a few younger soldiers of the cross, and many of our youthful associates were there. Above all and best of all, we realized that our precious Savior was there.
Reader, if you have never obeyed, arise, and be baptized.
J. R. D.