A third argument that "pastor" Melton makes against the obvious force of Acts 2:38 is one which has been often used. Once again, however, it reveals the dishonesty of the one who uses it.
The third thing to notice about Acts 2:38 is that the term "for" does not always mean "in order to," [Is this an admission that it sometimes does?--GWS] like the Church of Christ teaches. A good example of this is found in Luke 15:14 where the Lord Jesus tells the cleansed leper to go and offer a sacrifice "for thy cleansing." The man wasn't offering a sacrifice IN ORDER TO be cleansed, because he had already been cleansed in verse 13. He was offering a sacrifice BECAUSE OF the cleansing that he already had. For example, if you go to jail for stealing, is it IN ORDER for you to steal, or is it BECAUSE OF the stealing that you've already done? Also notice how "remission of sins" FOLLOWS belief in Acts 10:43, and PRECEDES water baptism.
There is much more wrong in this quotation than the fact that Melton quoted the wrong verse; the text is Luke 5:14--not 15:14. It is true that the English word for may mean "on account of" or "because of" depending on the context. What Melton neglected to tell his readers is that in the Greek language (from which the King James was translated), there are two different Greek prepositions used in the two verses cited. In Luke 5:14 the preposition translated "for" is peri; however, in Acts 2:38, the preposition is eis. If Melton did not want to consult a famous "cult leader" like Thayer on this matter, the least he could have done was to pick up an interlinear translation and check to see if the two prepositions were the same. [The ASV uses "unto."]
Why did he not do so when it only takes about a minute? Perhaps it was that lack of emphasis upon Greek wherever he attended school. Or maybe he did look up the words and just decided to ignore them in order to deceive his readers--again.
The point is that eis does not mean BECAUSE OF, but rather IN ORDER TO. The Bible student seeking a parallel usage should look at Matthew 26:28: "For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins." Did Jesus die for people's sins BECAUSE they were already forgiven? No, He died IN ORDER TO OBTAIN their remission. The first for in the verse is the Greek conjunction gar. The second one is from peri, and the third one is eis. The English translated all three as "for," just as it translates both agapao and phileo as "love" in John 21:15-17, though there is a difference in meaning. What Melton needs to prove his case is to find an example of eis which is translated as "because of." He will never find such a usage in the Holy Scriptures; for that reason he focused on the English word for instead of the Greek word eis.
Acts 10:43 is another general statement about salvation, such as John 1:13. It certainly is not describing the process of salvation nor affirming that one can be saved without repentance and baptism.
We cannot help wondering what Melton's congregation will think of his dishonesty in handling the Scriptures (not to mention misrepresenting us). Will they blindly continue to follow him or call upon him to give an account of his errors (deliberate or otherwise)?
Melton offers one more objection to the teaching of Acts 2:38.
Number four, the Jews were told to be baptized "in the name of Jesus Christ," but WE were told to be baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost in Matthew 28:19. Acts 2:38 is obviously a special baptism for the first century Jews who had rejected Christ. They were told to be baptized in His name to show that they now RECEIVED Him.
Once again an interlinear translation would have helped our "scholarly" critic. Had he checked, he might have discovered that the preposition translated "in" in Matthew 28:19 is once again eis. Probably the best translation would be "into." In Acts 2:38 the Greek preposition translated "in" is epi (some manuscripts have en). Most commentators recognize that "in the name of Christ" in Acts 2:38 means by His authority, whereas Jesus in Matthew 28:19 is emphasizing that we are baptized into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
The Pulpit Commentary (not written by members of the churches of Christ) says of this phrase:
It signifies into the power and influence of the Holy Trinity, into faith in the three Persons of God, and the duties and privileges consequent on that faith, into the family of God and obedience unto its Head. The "into" shows the end and aim of the consecration of baptism (15:645).
Thus there is no contradiction between the two verses (since each one is emphasizing a different point). But where is the verse that says people were baptized merely to show that they had received Christ? It is not found in Acts 2:38 or Matthew 28:19. That assertion springs from Baptist doctrine, not the Scriptures.
Members of the churches of Christ would never try to diminish the importance of faith or the relevance of repentance, but Melton and others do try to destroy or negate the role and position of baptism in God's plan of salvation. An HONEST consideration of Mark 16:16 and Acts 2:38 will convince one of its necessity--of the fact that it PRECEDES salvation.
Melton argues that Cornelius received the Holy Spirit before he was baptized; therefore, baptism is not necessary for salvation. Again, it is vital to consider the context. Peter was criticized for going to the Gentiles. Even though salvation was promised to both Jew and Gentile in Isaiah 2:2-4, the Jews did not understand it. Even the high priest, who spoke by inspiration, did not comprehend what he said. Caiaphas said:
"You know nothing at all, nor do you consider that it is expedient for us that one man die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish" (John 11:50).
The interpretation of these words follows:
Now this he did not say on his own authority; but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for that nation only, but also that He would gather together in one the children of God who were scattered abroad (John 11:51-52).
Isaiah had said that "all nations" would flow to the "Lord's house," the church. [For this reason there is only one plan of salvation for both Jew and Gentile (Gal. 3:28; 1 Cor. 12:13).] But the Jews, even Jewish Christians, were slow, reluctant, and resistant in allowing Gentiles to share the riches of salvation. Peter had to be shown that God had accepted them before he would even go speak to them (Acts 10:9-22).
When Peter returned to Jerusalem, he was asked to give an account of the reason he had gone to the Gentiles. He recounted his vision, the upshot of which was that Peter learned that God shows no partiality. "But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him" (Acts 10:35).
To dramatically demonstrate this point, the Holy Spirit fell on Cornelius and his household. Peter used this unusual event to convince the Jews in Jerusalem that God accepted the Gentiles: "If therefore God gave them the same gift He gave us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God?" (Acts 11:17).
The Jews could say nothing in rebuttal: "When they heard these things they became silent; and they glorified God, saying, 'Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance unto life'" (Acts 11:18). The problem is resolved; the Gentiles are allowed to be Christians also. They can all be one in Jesus (Eph. 2:15).
Their receiving of the Holy Spirit was not proof that they were already saved, but rather that God would accept them equally when they obeyed the gospel. For that reason Peter asks, "Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?" (Acts 10:47). God has shown acceptance of them; therefore, the Jews cannot forbid to baptize them so that they can be saved from their sins. In the next verse Peter commands them to be baptized in [en] the name of the Lord.
Someone might object that if the Holy Spirit was in these people, then they had to be saved. But Balaam spoke the words that the Spirit put in his mouth; yet he was not saved. The high priest spoke by inspiration, as cited above, yet he rejected Jesus as the Christ. Surely no one would argue that he was saved. Cornelius spoke in tongues, but he was not yet saved. We know that he was not saved by this outpouring of the Spirit because Peter was sent to his house to tell him WORDS by which he and his household would be saved (Acts 11:14); these words were not spoken until Acts 10:47-48.
Melton's twisting of Acts 22:16 is similar to his other perversions of the Scriptures. He calls the integrity of Ananias into question and asserts that, like Peter, he did not yet have an understanding of "Salvation by Grace." Actually, it is Melton, not the inspired writers and prophets in the New Testament, who does not understand salvation by grace. Seldom does the arrogance of even a partisan lead him so far as to denounce the inspired Scriptures because they disagree with his interpretation of them. He also disavows 1 Peter 3:21.
The Church of Christ also uses 1 Peter 3:21 to teach that water baptism saves people, but, as anyone can clearly see, the verse says that it is a "figure," not a doctrine. Water baptism PICTURES the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. When a believer is baptized he is being identified with Jesus Christ, but it is his BELIEF that brings Salvation, as we've already seen.
The King James uses the word figure, but Melton has made no effort to understand the Greek word antitupos (literally, antitype), which is translated "figure." Type and antitype are mirror images--identical opposites. Vincent says they correspond "as of a stamp to a die" (1:313). Anyone who owns a stamp can understand the relationship of the type (the die) to the antitype (the image the die produces). In the case of the flood (the type), those under the water drowned while those above the water (in the safety of the ark) were saved. The antitype (baptism) reverses the image. Those who are immersed for the forgiveness of their sins are saved and added to the New Testament "ark of safety" (the church). Those who refuse to be buried with Christ in baptism for the forgiveness of their sins (in other words, those who stay dry) will be lost.
Jesse Whitlock, in a debate with a Baptist, asked him to mark one of the following two statements true.
1. "Baptism doth also NOW save us."
2. Baptism doth also NOT save us.
The first sentence is Scripture (1 Peter 3:21); the second one is Baptist doctrine. Melton all through his Internet document has been arguing the latter. He has gone to great (and absurd) lengths to deny the former, but there it stands--and long after Peter's supposed "understanding" of Salvation by Grace which he allegedly did not comprehend on the day of Pentecost though he was inspired by the Holy Spirit.
Melton thinks we trust in water baptism for salvation, but rather we trust in the blood of Christ, which cleanses us WHEN we are baptized (Acts 22:16; Rev. 1:5). The Scriptures refer to baptism as "the operation of God" (Col. 2:12). We do not trust in water; rather we trust in the truth of the Word of God and God's promise to forgive us when we obey the gospel.
*Send comments or questions concerning this article to Gary Summers. Please refer to this article as: "MELTON'S SKEWED VIEW OF SALVATION (PART 4) (12/14/97)."