Wednesday, October 25, 2006

BEWARE THE INTERPRETATION

"But know this first of all, that no prophecy of
Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation," - 2 Pt.
1:20
In Daniel Wallace's very informative book on Greek Grammar, under his section on prepositions, he devotes almost the entire discussion of eis to its meaning in Acts 2:38. Mantey and others developed the argument that it should not read "for the remission of sins", but it should instead say that baptism is "because" (a causal, retrospective meaning for eis ) of the forgiveness of sins. They come to this opinion though it does not square with the evidence. Wallace refutes their causal meaning for eis, but he still can't bring himself to accept what every translation says that baptism is "for, unto" the remission of sins.

My problem is not with Wallace's scholarship as much as with his interpretation. After he established that a causal meaning of "because" is not supported by the evidence, he then looks for a new way to disassociate Baptism from "for the remission of sins." Why does he do this? In my opinion, he doesn't know how to harmonize the necessity of baptism with the reception of God's grace. Consequently he does what most theologians do and dismisses the Biblical purpose for being baptized. Here is Wallace in his own words:
"If a causal view is not in view, what are we to make of Acts 2:38? There are at least four other interpretations of Acts 2:38. 1) The baptism referred to here is "physical only", and eis has the meaning of "for" or "unto" . . . ."
Let me break in here to say that that is a big "if" he poses since there is no one who believes that baptism is "physical only". That is a straw man. In other words, Wallace perpetuates the same old tired accusation that the church hat "baptism in and of itself" saves. We don't teach or believe that in the church of Christ. If anyone in the church ever taught that baptism was "physical only" then he would be instantly exposed as a false teacher. Since we reject Wallace's premise, we reject his argument as false. Wallace continues:
"Such a view, if this is all there is to it, suggests that salvation is based on works. The basic problem of this view is that it runs squarely in the face of theology of Acts, namely: (a)repentance precedes baptism (cf. Acts 3:19; 26:20), and (b) salvation is entirely a gift of God, not procured via water baptism."
Wallace would be correct if such a view were held.
If someone were to actually teach that Baptism is "physical only", that
if you do the act then God would be bound to wash away sin, then such a
teaching would be contrary to the teaching of the New Testament
teaching of salvation by Grace. Concerning Wallace's point "a", I have
no idea what to make of that because Acts 2:38 shows that repentance
precedes baptism. But it also shows that repentance and baptism precede
forgiveness. So what Wallace's point is I have no clue [I would welcome
your thoughts on this].

But notice how Wallace made a switcheroo, because to say that salvation is procured "via" water baptism is quite a different thing than saying "baptism only". "Baptism only" implies that there is no agent or power beyond the baptism for it to be effective. But to say that salvation comes "via" water baptism is to allow for God's power and mercy to be appropriated at Baptism. But Wallace acts as if they are the same which is really my point in this discussion. Wallace sees only his interpretation of the text and acts as if any other explanation must be opposed to salvation by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8,9).

It is interesting how the Bible can say one thing and men will come up with a hundred different interpretations. It's the main reasons I dislike the Bible study format where everyone is invited to tell what they think the passage in question is saying. If everyone is allowed to think that their interpretation is as good as anyone else's, then teaching has not occurred. God's word means something and it is with diligence that we study and come to understand it.

On whether the Greek eis (translated "for" in Acts 2:38) could have a causal or retrospective meaning, Wallace does well to side with Marcus who "ably demonstrated that the linguistic evidence for a causal eis fell short of proof." (Wallace, 370) Wallace means that there is no proof that eis means "because".

Wallace would do better if he accepted the correct interpretation, the fifth one that he doesn't even consider, and one that fits with the text as we have it. In Acts 2:38, both "repent ye" and "let each of you be baptized" is the command to every individual who asked what they must do. Some people do some funny manipulations to the text to get it to say "Repent for the remission of sins and be baptized too." Wallace says such a view is awkward. But Wallace falls back on 
the unproven and unsupported view that what is being spoken of is two baptisms. That a spiritual baptism occurs and grace is received and then water baptism is done to acknowledge that grace and as a testimony to others. It is not Wallace's scholarship speaking here; but it is more an example of denominational interpretation.

What Wallace and others ignore is that a prospective, forward-looking eis means that the gift of God's salvation is received at Baptism by the person who believes and repents. He falsely characterizes this position as "based on works" where the truth is the salvation is based on faith in Christ at baptism. This interpretation acknowledges the gift of God and it also emphasizes the necessity of faith by the person being baptized. So for Wallace whose primary concern is that we keep intact the gift of God's salvation, no harm is done. It's too bad that he can't see that.

1 comment:

  1. The argument that "eis" is "because of," is very weak, as you know. I have three articles on this at the following site.

    http://tinyurl.com/d3gok

    http://tinyurl.com/8ghb8

    http://tinyurl.com/cvkob

    Thank you for your blog.

    ReplyDelete

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