Holy Spirit Baptism & Acts 2:38-39

Howard Denham

October 30, 2014

Notes on Holy Spirit Baptism

Acts 2:38-39 – HS-35


1)     Another big problem for the Mac Deaver theory relative to Holy Spirit baptism is the construction of Acts 2:38-39. The text reads: “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, for the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.

2)     Mac’s theory holds that: (1) one is first immersed in water; (2) then receives cleansing from or for forgiveness of his sins; (3) then has his human spirit immersed in the literal essence of the Holy Spirit; (4) and this immersion in the Spirit is perpetual lest one “lose the benefit or the effect of this {latter} element”; thereupon, (5) after the sinner is determined by God to be a saint, the Spirit moves from the outside into the human spirit in order to indwell the candidate; and finally (6) the candidate is raised from the watery grave to “walk in newness of life.”

3)     Mac’s theory, further, holds that the remission of sins is received in the water at some point prior to one receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Further, it holds that the action of this Spirit baptism is perpetual or ongoing rather than punctiliar in nature.

4)     And it is even acknowledged by Mac that Spirit baptism cannot be commanded, even though he says it is necessary for the New Birth, but is really a promise as opposed to a command.

5)     Mac also admits that water is involved in obedience to Acts 2:38.

6)     Now, it will be observed that the verb tense for “be baptized” demands that the baptism contemplated is that which can be and must be fully completed. The verb is baptistheeto. It is an aorist passive imperative. The verbal aspect of the aorist in the imperative mood is that of completion of action. It carries the emphatic force, “Get it done!” This indicates punctiliar action. If Peter commanded a continual process then the present imperative would have been used. The present tense stem is that which is used principally to express linear or ongoing action in some sense. It may be iterative, habitual, or some other form of progressive action. But that is not what Peter used! Neither is it what the Holy Spirit inspired Peter to use! He inspired him to use the aorist imperative stressing the essentiality of the completion of the action for it to accomplish the desired purpose.

7)     The action of the verb is said to be “unto” or “into” the remission of sins. The spatial idea of the preposition eis stresses the terminus of the action as involving entrance into the state or condition of having the forgiveness of one’s sins. Even Mac must admit that the end point in verse 38 as concerns the preposition is the forgiveness of sins. Thus, the verb, modified by the prepositional phrase showing purpose of the action, terminates in the receiving of that remission. That is what the inquiry of verse 37 concerned – “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” The idea especially is “What shall we do about the sin of rejecting and killing the Messiah?” They were guilty of sin, and knew it! They had been convicted by the Holy Spirit, which is indicated clearly by the statement of Luke, “Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart…

8)     Most certainly, then, the remission of sins was uppermost in their minds and framed the context for Peter’s inspired answer. He then addresses their pressing need with a command that demanded swift and complete adherence.

9)     Thus, on the basis of the implications of Mac’s own description of things, it can be affirmed as certain that the command did not entail Holy Spirit baptism, but water baptism only. Again, the command is just that – a command, as opposed to a promise as in the case of Holy Spirit baptism. Also, it is a command that involved the need for completion of action into a specific terminal point or place, as the aorist stem coupled with the adverbial prepositional phrase shows. And that terminal point or place was the condition of having the remission of sins, which Mac has stated comes before Spirit baptism!

10) Thus, Mac himself wrote relative to Acts 2:38: “These sinners are told to repent. They can then be immersed in water, and then and only then are they promised the Holy Spirit” (The Holy Spirit, p. 307).

11) This means that if Mac is to contend that Acts 2:38-39 in any way contemplates Spirit baptism it is not in the verb “be baptized” that it does so. He must contend that the construction “the gift of the Holy Spirit” refers to Spirit baptism as well as to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. He must make that phrase do double duty with reference to two actions – namely, the immersion in and indwelling by the Holy Spirit.

12) Yet the definite article stresses a singular idea. It is a specific gift that is contemplated – whether one from the Holy Spirit or the Holy Spirit Himself in some sense.

13) Furthermore, the fact that this promise is stated as coming after the baptism in water as shown above implies a separation in some fashion with the action of the baptism of verse 38. The force is this: the act of being baptized to receive the remission of sins is completed prior to receiving whatever the phrase “the gift of the Holy Spirit” contemplates. Mac, however, has the baptism of the Holy Spirit beginning while the act of being baptized in water as per Acts 2:38 is still in process and then going on after the act of water baptism has finished.

14) Some T F Questions for Mac on Acts 2:38-39:

1. T  F   The specific command to be baptized in Acts 2:38 concerned immersion in water alone.

2. T  F   The specific command to be baptized in Acts 2:38 contemplates an action that is punctiliar in nature.

3. T  F   The specific command to be baptized in Acts 2:38 also includes the perpetual action of being baptized in the Holy Spirit.

4. T  F   The specific command to be baptized in Acts 2:38 is never completely consummated due to the ongoing immersion in the Holy Spirit.

5. T  F   The specific command to be baptized in Acts 2:38 implies that Holy Spirit baptism coincides with water baptism in one becoming a Christian.

6. T  F   The phrase “the gift of the Holy Spirit” contemplates both the baptism in the Holy Spirit and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

7. T  F   The phrase “the gift of the Holy Spirit” only contemplates one thing.

8. T  F   The phrase “the gift of the Holy Spirit” is the exact same thing as that contemplated by the phrase in Acts 10:45.

9. T  F   The phrase “the gift of the Holy Spirit” refers to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit only.

10. T  F  The phrase “the gift of the Holy Spirit” refers to Holy Spirit baptism.

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