047 – Conversion of the Ethiopian Eunuch

Conversion of the Ethiopian Eunuch in Baptism.
Baptism of the Eunuch – Rembrandt – Circa 1626

Simon the Sorcerer stands as a classic example of a person who fails to truly convert because of the unrepentant pride and arrogance in his heart. Immediately after we witness the washout of Simon, we discover the determination of the Ethiopian Eunuch. God serves up a picture perfect example of how a humble, hungry heart accepts the word of God and obeys it. These two conversion stories stand in immediate succession and in stark contrast. Here’s what happened.

After Philip the Deacon finishes his work in Samaria he is called by an Angel of the Lord and told to head south and find a road which winds through the desert connecting Jerusalem to Gaza. This was a pretty good distance from where he had been working but off he goes in obedience to the angel’s command.

Acts 8:26-31
Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road–the desert road–that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians. This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the book of Isaiah the prophet. The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.”

Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked.

“How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.

Why Such Great Detail about One Man?

Why do we have so much detail about who this man was, where he was from and what he was doing? For some reason, God thought it important to make sure these tidbits of information made it into the Bible.

Sometimes, I think we read a passage of Scripture, like this one, and skim over it far too quickly. When we don’t spend some time contemplating the details, the story becomes fixed or wooden. Ask some questions and the scripture comes alive!

Did you notice that the man was not going to Jerusalem, he was leaving? He had been to Jerusalem to worship. Does this mean he is a Jew? Not necessarily! Why did he go? Was it a Passover or some other special feast? Is he alone? Would that be safe? Philip is invited to sit with him. Did you know a chariot had seats? I didn’t. What was the day like? Was it hot? Was it cold? What is the attitude of this man? He is quite powerful. Why would he have a complete stranger join him in his chariot? He must have been impressed with Philip’s knowledge of word of God. He seems to be pretty humble.

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046 – Baptism of Simon the Sorcerer

Simon the Sorcerer was never truly converted. He was never a Christian.
Peter’s Conflict with Simon Magus
Avanzino Nucci 1620

In our last seven lessons, we studied a variety of scriptures speaking specifically about baptism; scriptures which present an accurate doctrinal picture of the purpose, practice and execution of this Biblical command. These scriptures are rich in information and fairly direct in their presentation and claims. Now, let’s begin looking at a number of scriptures which again, directly mention and use the word baptism, but this time, our revelations unfold in narratives. These are Biblical stories where baptisms occur. We begin with the baptism of Simon the Sorcerer.

Acts 8:9-25
Now for some time a man named Simon had practiced sorcery in the city and amazed all the people of Samaria. He boasted that he was someone great, and all the people, both high and low, gave him their attention and exclaimed, “This man is the divine power known as the Great Power.” They followed him because he had amazed them for a long time with his magic. But when they believed Philip as he preached the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw.

When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. When they arrived, they prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them; they had simply been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money and said, “Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”

Peter answered: “May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps he will forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.”

Then Simon answered, “Pray to the Lord for me so that nothing you have said may happen to me.”

When they had testified and proclaimed the word of the Lord, Peter and John returned to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel in many Samaritan villages.”

This is quite a story! When we first meet Simon, he is in Samaria and in business for himself… literally. He is an arrogant, blustering carnival barker, charlatan; amazing people with what many people suspect was sleight of hand magic and grand illusions. Simon is the David Copperfield of his time… albeit sans the Copperfield class! Some people speculate that since Simon was doing such great and amazing things, he may have had some kind of demonic power. All this is to say… “Simon ain’t a great guy.” At the top of his sin list are greed and self promotion.

One day, Philip, one of the first church deacons, shows up in Samaria and preaches the good news about Jesus. How do we know this is Philip the Deacon and not Philip the Apostle and why is that even important?

We know this is Philip the Deacon because of what we learn in Acts 8:1-5. A great persecution had broken out against the church after the stoning of Stephen. It was a tumultuous time and caused the church to scatter far and wide.

Acts 8:1-5
On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off men and women and put them in prison.

Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Christ there.

So, persecution hits and everyone is scattered…. EXCEPT the Apostles. The Apostles stay in Jerusalem. This would have included Philip, the Apostle. So, what we see happening in Samaria cannot be about him!

Philip, the deacon who had been appointed to that office in Acts 6:1-6, is the man who goes down to Samaria. As to why this is important, we’ll see that in a minute.

Phillip’s preaching is powerful and effective. As a result, people obey the Gospel in water baptism. Even Simon the Sorcerer believes and is baptized! He follows Phillip everywhere and is astonished by the great signs and miracles Philip is doing. Whatever was happening must have been truly amazing.

Let’s pause for a moment and recall the purpose of Philip’s miracles. Remember, miracles, signs and wonders were done by Jesus, the Apostles and a limited number of other disciples for one express purpose – confirming the word of God.

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045 – Baptism in John 3

Jesus and Nicodemus - It's not about baptism. It's about being Born Again.
Jesus and Nicodemus by Crijn Hendricksz, Circa 1640

The Pro-Baptism proponents often point to a conversation between Nicodemus and Jesus as one of their favorite proof texts supporting the belief that baptism is necessary for salvation. I have to admit, I have not been completely comfortable with this conclusion, but I couldn’t tell you exactly why until now. After carefully researching this issue for this podcast, I am now confident this passage is not about baptism. By the end of this podcast, I suspect even the most ardent supporter of this view will change their mind too. Here are a couple of thoughts, just to whet your appetite.

First of all, the conversation happens long before Christian baptism ever exists and second, Jesus’ commands are directed specifically to Nicodemus. Let’s see if we can dissect the details and uncover the truth.

Nicodemus Meets Jesus

John 3:1-12
Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.”

In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is Born Again.’”

“How can a man be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!”

Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be Born Again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

“How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.

“You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony I have spoken to you about earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?

Who is Nicodemus?

Nicodemus is a Pharisee. He is a religious leader for the Jewish people. We are first introduced to him here, in John 3. Later we meet him again in John 7, where he defends Jesus before some furious Pharisees. Next, we meet him again when he and Joseph of Arimathaea recover the body of Jesus from the cross and bury him in Joseph’s tomb. It is probably safe to say; most people believe Nicodemus is a pretty decent guy. He always seems to be trying to do the right thing.

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044 – Baptism in Mark 16

Mark 16 links salvation to baptism.
Mark 16 links salvation to baptism.

I love the Gospel of Mark. It is penned by John Mark who was the cousin of Barnabas and a sometimes traveling companion of the Apostle Paul. Historians speculate that John Mark was probably more associated with Peter than Paul and as a young man, would have been very close to him back in Jerusalem. For this reason, most of the information in the Gospel of Mark is probably gleaned from the stories Peter told.

Three Important Claims

As Mark’s Gospel closes out in chapter 16, there are some statements made which two different religious movements claim as important proof texts for their doctrines. The Charismatic Movement points to the disciples being told they will be able to do miracles and the pro-baptism groups point to Jesus comments about baptism.

Both groups bump into a road block when they turn to these scriptures because scholars do not believe this portion of Mark was ever in the original texts. They believe it was added later. Using this claim, their detractors dismiss any doctrinal conclusions which may spring from this neighborhood by diminishing the validity of this section of scripture. Take a look at your Bible and notice that Mark 16:9-20 has a seemingly ominous warning… “The two most reliable early manuscripts do not contain Mark 16:9-20.”

If we are having a discussion about the miraculous gifts of the Spirit or water baptism and someone wants question the authenticity of this passage of scripture, there is really no point in using it in the debate. In fact, it is probably better to just drop it and move on. So, that’s what we are going to do here at A Faith that Obeys. Let’s not add this particular scripture to our growing collection of scriptures which demonstrate the Biblical requirement of baptism for the forgiveness of sins, the gift of the Holy Spirit and the gift of e ternal life.

We will not use it!

But, you really should at least be familiar with the arguments… so let’s dive in.

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043 – Acts 2:38

Baptism leads to salvation.

Acts 2 holds one of the clearest and most detailed explanations of water baptism in the New Testament. It’s the first time in history we see Christian baptism occur. As we know from our previous podcasts, theologians go to great lengths to explain why this passage of scripture is not about water baptism by parsing prepositions and verifying verbs. But, I think the passage is pretty easy to understand and completely uncomplicated. There is no need to dive into Greek linguistics and confusing explanations. Just read the passage with the heart of a child and it will all make sense.

So, what’s the context of our Acts passage? Peter is preaching the very first Gospel message. He is filled with the Holy Spirit and is quite bold! His audience is thousands of Jewish pilgrims gathered in Jerusalem for the feast of Pentecost, which is just 50 days after the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

Peter presents a great deal of information about Jesus and explains all about the Messiah by offering proofs from the Old Testament scriptures. At the end of his sermon, in verse 36 he places the guilt and the blame of killing the promised Messiah, squarely on the shoulders of the onlookers. Let’s tune in and listen as he concludes his sermon.

The First Baptisms Ever

Acts 2:36-41
Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”

When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”

Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off–for all whom the Lord our God will call.”

With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.”

Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.

Peter tells these people, “You killed the Christ!” Now, let’s stop right here. Isn’t that a little presumptuous of Peter? After all, many of these folks were not even in Jerusalem 50 days earlier and even if they were, probably none of them had anything to do with the execution of Jesus. In fact, the argument could be made that it was the Romans who actually killed the Christ. What’s going on here?

Some clues are found in what happens next.

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042 – 1 Peter 3:18-22

The Flood wiped away all the sin in the world. Baptism does the same thing.
Noah’s Ark (1846), Edward Hicks.

Here is our next scripture which speaks specifically about baptism using that word and even references water as integral in the process. It’s 1 Peter 3:18 and following.

1 Peter 3:18-22
For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also–not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand–with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.

Let’s start with the Gospel Message!

When Peter begins teaching us about water baptism, he begins in a really great place. He begins by reminding us about the Gospel. Christ died for sins, once for all, the righteous or the unrighteous to bring us to God. That’s awesome. He leaves no doubt in our minds regarding Jesus sacrifice for us and he does it in a succinct and thorough manner. He’s almost poetic and lyrical in his presentation of the Gospel!

Next, he says something curious. He tells us Christ was made alive by the Spirit and it is through this Spirit he goes and preaches to “the spirits in prison.” Which spirits are those? They are the spirits “who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built.”

Wow, that would have been a very long time ago! We don’t know exactly who these spirits were and there is tons of speculation we might offer but when we think of the who, what, when, where, how and why, we have most of it locked down. We just don’t know specifically why Jesus went and preached. Now, regarding these spirits there is one thing we know for sure… we do know they had been disobedient! Also, with certainty, we know their time in history. They were from a time during the construction of Noah’s Ark.

Then suddenly, Noah’s Ark becomes the central figure in Peter’s lesson. He goes on to explain… “In it, only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water.”

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041 – Galatians 3

Baptism is clothing yourself with Christ.

Galatians 3 offers a very short, very to-the-point, two verse lesson on baptism; in which nearly every word is absolutely packed with germane information. Let’s read it.

Galatians 3:26-27
You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus,
for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

Paul, in this letter to the Galatians, is writing once again about an event which happened in the past. He is reminding them about something… and what is that something? It is the Galatians’ baptisms. Let’s get some context.

The Judaizers

The Galatian church had been infiltrated by dangerous teachers and Paul is over-the-top ticked about it. No other letter in the New Testament demonstrates the Apostle’s wrath better than Galatians. These false brothers had persuaded some in the church to fall back into Old Testament rituals which depended on “works of the flesh,” namely, circumcision. These “Judaizers,” as they were called, taught people they must be circumcised and follow the Law of Moses in order to become Christians. Paul, in furious manner, declares, trying to obey the Old Testament Law for salvation, was of absolutely no value. In fact, he tells them, if you give into this teaching, your relationship with Christ is worthless.

Galatians 5:2
Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all.

Back in Galatians 3, Paul spends a good amount of time explaining the Galatians must have faith in Christ, not circumcision. And, it is in this context, he makes his statement about baptism.

He tells them, “You are all sons of God…” This means they are saved. Their sins were already forgiven. They could not be “sons” if they had not been adopted into the family. He next explains exactly how that happened. “Through faith in Christ Jesus.”

Steps of Faith

The only way people become “sons of God” is through this thing Paul calls “faith.” But what kind of faith is this? Is this simple, intellectual belief or assent? Does the kind of faith Paul is talking about stop at mental cognition and agreement with the message of the Gospel? No. Faith is never faith until there is some kind of commitment or action which backs it up. Listen, even the best Evangelical agrees with that statement. Let me show you.

In the Evangelical world, preachers present a final step of faith, necessary to become a “son of God.” Some churches teach that we simply and quietly need to accept Christ into our heart. Some churches use “The Sinner’s Prayer” as the final step of faith. Some ask people to raise their hand in the service or come forward during an alter call. Once the person has performed the prescribed method, this “step of faith,” they are considered saved. They would never be considered saved prior to this step of faith. So, even in the denominational world where human works are decried as invalid, we see some step of faith is required before salvation. No one claims these are rituals or works of man. We are told they are acts of faith or steps of faith.

Paul points the Galatians back to a different step of faith. He says…

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040 – Colossians 2

Baptism is where the circumcision done by Christ happens.
Baptism: The circumcision done by Christ.

During our last podcast about Romans 6, we saw that baptism is a participation in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is the final step of faith a person takes who is ready to completely surrender their life to the Lordship of Jesus. To be sure… baptism is an act of faith, it is not a human work.

In this podcast, let’s take a look at Colossians 2:11-13. Here, we will see the forgiveness of sins referred to as a “circumcision.” This scripture, probably more than any other, leads people to the erroneous conclude baptism is “like” circumcision or there is some kind of metaphorical link between baptism and circumcision. We’ll talk about that shortly. Now, let’s listen to…

Colossians 2:11-13
“In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins…”

Clear and Simple

Honestly, this scripture is pretty straight forward. First of all, it is about baptism (among other things) and it specifically uses that word. Notice, Paul is talking to people who have previously experienced everything he is about to review. It has already happened to them. This entire passage is written in the past tense. So, what happened?

First, in Christ, they were circumcised. Ok, so… What, when, where, why and how? What did this circumcision do? What was the effect? Paul said it, “put off the sinful nature”… it cast off their sins. Was this a physical circumcision? No. It is a spiritual circumcision. Who does the circumcision? It is “done by Christ” not by human hands. This is how we know it can not be a physical circumcision because Jesus was not physically there. Is this a symbolic circumcision? No. It is something Christ really does to the obedient believer. It is the exact moment sins are forgiven.

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039 – Romans 6

Romans 6 - Death, Burial and Resurrection with Christ

Here is the first scripture we use to argue that water baptism is necessary for salvation. It’s Romans 6:1-11. This is a long passage holding wonderful treasures, the first of which harkens back to our lesson about the correct method of baptism. Let’s listen to it.

Romans 6:1-11
“What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?

We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin–because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.

Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.

In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.”

Romans 6 – Verse by Verse

Wow. What a rich passage of scripture. Let’s dissect this verse by verse.

Verse 1-2
“What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?”

The first part of this verse addresses a misunderstanding in the early church where some people thought that if they sinned more, God’s grace was revealed even more. Paul says, in effect, “That dog don’t hunt so stop thinking that way.”

But notice something. Paul is addressing people who are already saved. How do we know this? Because all of it is in the past tense. He identifies them as people who have (past tense) “died to sin.” If someone has “died to sin” that means that their sins have been forgiven and they are no longer living a life of sin. These are people who have died and been raised again to their new life in Christ. They have been Born Again. Let’s dig a little deeper and ask the critical questions: “When did this happen and where did it happen.” Paul answers these questions in verse three.

“Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?”

Baptized into His Death

In this sentence, Paul tells us this “death to sin” occurred when these people were baptized into Christ. He tells us they were “baptized into his death.” Ah… two critical truths! First, we get “into” Christ through something called “baptism.” Second, we learn this “baptism” places us “into Christ’s death.” These are important truths to understand.

There is no other way, in all of scripture to get “into” Christ or “into his death.” And to be clear… these are not symbolic things. These are, what I like to call, “reality things;” things which are really happening. At the time of baptism, we are put into Christ and into his death by the Holy Spirit. But the process does not stop there. We are not left dead and buried, just as Christ was not left dead and buried.

Verse 4

“We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”

Buried with Him

There is a lot here! This verse begins with the word, “therefore.” In my early years as a disciple, I was taught that whenever you see the word “therefore” in a scripture, you should always back up a few verses and find out what it is there for! If we do that, we must read verse four in light of verses 1-3.

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038 – Introduction to Baptism

Introduction to water baptism.

Hello and welcome to A Faith that Obeys Podcast. If you are just joining us here, let me bring you up to speed on where we are in our lengthy series about water baptism which we started back in Podcast 012 – The Proponents.

We began by reviewing a good number of objections to baptism as a part of the salvation experience, then we looked at infant baptism and original sin, followed by the methods of baptism in our last podcast. Today, we enter the home stretch of our series as we begin to discuss the purpose of water baptism as revealed in the New Testament.

In our last Podcast, we learned the correct method of baptism is by complete immersion in water. A person submits themselves to this activity after they experience the four other steps in the Biblical Plan of Salvation. In this plan, we see that someone who wants to become a disciple of Jesus must hear the Gospel, accept the Gospel, repent of their sin, confess with their mouth (and with their repentant lifestyle) “Jesus is Lord,” and then make the decision to take the final step of obedience to Christ’s command and be baptized.

Before we begin our study about the pro-proponents side of the argument, I want to do a little reset and take a 30,000 foot review of our debate topic and then move into the scriptures which teach us about the nature and purpose of water baptism.

As we have seen in our study about the debate of whether water baptism is necessary for salvation, we find two clearly defined responses to that question. “Yes it is.” And. “no it is not.”

A Quick Review

In the first part of this series, we took a long, careful, honest and thoughtful look at the reasons our first group of proponents say “No, water baptism is not necessary.” We used a really good article from GotQuestions.Org as our framework. I think the author did an admirable job of presenting the classic argument and used a good number of scriptures to support his view. Even before I discovered his article, I was very familiar with each of the claims and very familiar with the approach. The information was nothing new or surprising. He used the same common answers and common scriptures evangelicals usually employ for this debate but I think it was organized very well.

Three Problematic Tactics

In this debate, Evangelicals use three tactics to form their conclusions. The first tactic is they label baptism a “work of man” and dismiss it as a requirement based on that claim. As we have seen, it is impossible for baptism to be a command of Christ and a work of man at the same time. The two are mutually exclusive. If we start our reasoning with that false premise, “baptism is a work,” the conclusion is false as well.

The second tactic involves the scriptures they choose to explain why baptism is not necessary. These scriptures, by-and-large, are not about baptism at all. In fact, in all but one of the scriptures our author used in his presentation, the word baptism was never even mentioned. Anti-baptism proponents tend to avoid the multitude of scriptures which speak directly and specifically about baptism. How can we possibly build a credible case while avoiding the very scriptures which speak clearly on that topic, using that word?

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