Mar 16, 2009

Baptism & Good Conscience

I found this good writing on I Peter 3:21 and concerning baptism being "the answer (appeal or pledge) of a good conscience towards God..." I agree with what this writer has written and am glad to post it here.

"In some Bible translations, a part of I Peter 3:21, in reference to water baptism, is translated thusly - "an appeal to God for a good conscience." This translation, however, is incorrect. The New International Version (NIV) has the correct translation - "the pledge of a good conscience toward God."

"Answer" (KJV) is from the Greek word "eperotema."

"Liddell and Scott's Greek English Lexicon gives three meanings for the Greek word "eperotema" which has been translated in the RSV as "appeal". The first meaning of the word is a question; the second, an answer to a question, especially an affirmative answer to a question, hence having the meaning of sanction or approval; the third is equivalent to the Latin "stipulatio" which means, an obligation, a contract, or a commitment, or a pledge. This meaning is also supported by Moulton and Milligan's The Vocabulary of the Greek New Testament."

"Now you will notice from this definitive Greek lexicon (i.e. dictionary) that nowhere does it give the meaning of this word as "appeal". A question and an appeal are by no means one and the same thing. They are quite different. An appeal is one thing and a question is quite another thing. In fact, "eperotema" rarely has even the meaning of question. Generally it means a response to a question - a specific response in fact - and from there it went on to have the meaning of agreement, which became further extended to have the meaning of contract, commitment, pledge. For those of you who would like to study the matter technically, you can refer to E.G. Selwyn's standard commentary on 1 Peter which gives a careful discussion of this matter."

"From A Good Conscience"

"What is more, the genitive in the Greek text is correctly translated as the pledge of a good conscience, not for a good conscience. It is a pledge made from a good conscience. Baptism is a pledge to God made from a good conscience. How do we have a good conscience? We have a good conscience when we repent of our sins - when we genuinely, honestly, and sincerely do something with no double-mindedness and no deceitfulness. That is what it means to do something from a good conscience. No fraud, no lies, no untruthfulness - that is a good conscience. You cannot have a good conscience when you are being untruthful, or not wholly truthful. But baptism then is a pledge to God made out of or from a good conscience. When with a genuine heart, with a right attitude, I make my pledge of total commitment to God, that is baptism."

"This word "eperotema" is particularly interesting because it expresses a question and a response. You make a pledge (as those who are about to be baptized are going to do) in answer to a question. The response amounts to a commitment, a pledge. When they say "I do", that is a pledge, a commitment, in response to the question posed to them in baptism. This word is particularly suitable because in the Early Church it was their practice before baptism to ask the baptismal candidate certain specific questions which he or she must answer in the affirmative. And we have noticed that "eperotema" is not only an answer, but an answer in the affirmative. This is very important, and hence the choice of this word here begins to be very clear. This answer constitutes a pledge. This is also the reason why, in the Church, baptism was called a sacrament and is still called a sacrament.

A Sacrament

Do you know what a sacrament is? In the Church we have basically two sacraments: the sacrament of baptism and the sacrament of communion, also known as the Eucharist, or the Lord' s Supper. What does sacrament mean? The English is simply a transliteration of the Latin word "sacramentum" which means an oath. That is the basic meaning of a sacrament. It means an oath, an obligation, a vow. In legal terminology it means a pledge. For example, it means money deposited by the parties before a legal suit. That is, you pledge by paying this money before a legal case.

But this word had a particular meaning. It was used of a military oath of allegiance. A military oath of allegiance was called the sacramento, when the Roman armies made their oath of allegiance to their country and to their emperor. This they sometimes did by the raising of their hands as you see today when a president takes an oath, or when somebody takes an oath in a court of law, symbolizing that he or she is doing this in all honesty and truth, with a good conscience. "I will speak the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth." Sometimes it was done with a clenched fist over the heart, again representing a good conscience, a pure heart. It may at other times be done by soldiers with a drawn sword as they commit their swords and their lives to their nation and to their emperor. The Germans made great use of this. The Nazis, required of every German soldier the military oath of allegiance, the sacramento. So this word sacramento had the particular significance of the military oath of allegiance.

Why is baptism called the sacrament? Precisely because there the pledge is made. We make our oath of allegiance to Jesus as our King. We crown Him King of our lives. We owe our loyalty to Him once and for all at baptism. It is a pledge made to God from a good conscience. It is very important that the conscience is good."

Confessing Christ Before Baptism Vs. At Baptism

"Then you may say, "Did I not already confess Jesus before baptism?" Indeed you did, but that is not the same as the oath of allegiance. That is a very important thing to understand. Does the soldier who makes the oath of allegiance to the country and emperor, not already love his emperor and his country before he makes the oath of allegiance? Indeed he does, but it is at the making of the oath that it takes on a legal aspect of commitment. It becomes a binding vow. He places himself under oath, hence the "sacramento". Up to that point he can say he loves the country but he did not make any vow. Up to that point he loves the emperor but he did not make any commitment, any pledge. But in baptism, the Christian has made his oath of allegiance to his King and God. It is just like two people, who love each other before marriage, but they have not made a commitment in a legal sense until they have made their marriage vows. Of course they love each other before that and they have made some sort of commitment, but that commitment only became legal at the wedding.

In the same way, at baptism your commitment becomes, as it were, legal in God's sight, established forever in the heavens. Now this is the first point that I'd like to make very clear to you, so that you understand what you are doing in baptism. Anyone who is not clear about this should withdraw from baptism. In baptism, you have pledged your oath of allegiance. You have committed yourself wholly to God as King.

So the first thing about baptism is that it is a pledge, a legally binding pledge every bit as marriage is, every bit as the military oath of allegiance is. Any soldier who went back on his oath of allegiance understood and gladly accepted the penalty that the country and the emperor would impose upon him as a breach of faith, as an apostate, as a traitor to his country and his people.

See here

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