Baptism Is The Real Sinner’s Prayer

It is written:

And it shall come to pass That whoever calls on the name of the LORD Shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be deliverance, As the LORD has said, Among the remnant whom the LORD calls. (Joel 2:32)

On the Day of Pentecost, the Apostle quoted this passage of Scripture from the Greek Old Testaemnt:


What did it mean for the people on Pentecost to “call on the name of the Lord?”

Peter told them:

Acts 2:38-Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Many in our world teach that a sinner is saved by calling on the name of the Lord, yet they do not teach what the Bible does about this subject.

Three times in Acts the question is asked, “What must I do to be saved?” (Acts 2:37; 9:6; 16:30). What were they told to do?

Believers in Jesus Christ were told that they needed to repent and be baptized (Acts 2:38);

A believer in Jesus who had repented was told to be baptized to have his sins washed away (Acts 22:16; especially interesting here because he had been praying for three days and nights and was still in his sins-Acts 9:9-11);

An unbeliever was told to believe (Acts 16:31), and then repented and was baptized when he heard the Word of God (Acts 16:30-34).

Nowhere in Acts is a sinner told to be saved by praying a sinner’s prayer at an altar-yet this is the popular teaching of our day and age.

As we know, “popular” does not always mean “correct.”

Interestingly enough, the same Apostle Peter teaches us about how baptism is the REAL sinner’s prayer!

In 1 Peter 3;21, Peter says that it is in baptism that we make an “appeal” to God to have our sins forgiven.

1 Peter 3:21-There is also an antitype which now saves us—baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the ANSWER of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,

Notice that word “answer,” and how it is translated in different translations:

1 Peter 3:21 (ERV)-And that water is like baptism, which now saves you. Baptism is not the washing of dirt from the body. It is ASKING God for a clean conscience. It saves you because Jesus Christ was raised from death.

1 Peter 3:21 (ESV)-Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,

1 Peter 3:21 (GW)-Baptism, which is like that water, now saves you. Baptism doesn’t save by removing dirt from the body. Rather, baptism is a REQUEST to God for a clear conscience. It saves you through Jesus Christ, who came back from death to life.

1 Peter 3:21 (NIV)-“and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the PLEDGE of a clear conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ,”

Now, that word is translated differently in all of these Bible versions because the Greek word used here (eperotema) in Greek literature could mean answer, appeal, and pledge.

There is much evidence for this word carrying with it the idea of a pledge:

“The other difficult word in 1 Peter 3: 20-21 is what I have translated “pledge.” The noun’s basic meaning is “question,” from which comes the meaning “request” and so the usual translation of “appeal to God for a good conscience.” However, the word could be used for the “answer” to an inquiry. Accordingly, many prefer the translation “a pledge to God.” 602 The papyri contain instances where the word is the equivalent of the Latin stipulatio, the demand (in question form) made by a prospective creditor of a debtor and then the contract resulting from a positive response….A decisive consideration is the prepositional phrase “toward God,” placed with the word for “pledge” (or “appeal”) and not with “good conscience.” Whatever is indicated by the word under consideration, it is directed toward God, not received from him. Hence, I would opt for the secondary meaning of a stipulatio, the contract or pledge made in response to what is required. If this legal background is behind the usage in 1 Peter 3: 21, then the translation “pledge” (or something comparable, such as “agreement” or “undertaking to be loyal”) is established.” (Everett Ferguson, Baptism In The Early Church: History, Theology, And Liturgy In The First Five Centuries, 4093-4115 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company)

However, the word also had the idea of making a request of others-even a prayer!

Cottrell has written:

“The key word here is appeal, which translates the Greek word eperotema (pronounced ep-eh-ROE-tay-mah). Unfortunately the word eperotema is not easy to translate, and it occurs nowhere else in the New Testament so that comparisons might be made with its use in I Peter 3:21…“A final view is that the word basically means an appeal to God for or by a good conscience (as in the NASB, the RSV, and the NEB). Variations of this are prayer (Moffatt’s translation) and request (Rotherham’s Emphasized New Testament). With so many variations suggested it is difficult to be dogmatic in our translation of the word, but my firm conviction is that the last view is the correct one. The NASB translation is correct; baptism saves as “an appeal to God for a good conscience.” The first reason for this choice is the fact that the common meaning for the verb forms of this word is “to ask, to inquire, to request,” both inside and outside the New Testament….“In the final analysis the meaning both warranted by the lexicons and consistent with the contextual requirements is that of baptism as an appeal or prayer to God for a good conscience. (In this understanding the phrase “to God” or “toward God” [Greek, eis theon] goes with “appeal,” not “conscience.” It is not “a good conscience toward God” but “an appeal to God,” as the Greek word order itself suggests.) An appeal is a kind of question, in the sense of a request. Greeven says this meaning may be seen in the verb in Matthew 16: 1, and that the noun form in I Peter 3: 21 may be translated “prayer.” 6 Thus baptism is a prayer to God for a good conscience. Even though this prayer is something done by the human participant in baptism, it is consistent with salvation by grace because by its very nature it points beyond itself to God and simply underscores the divine working that is the heart and essence of baptism. The person who submits to baptism is by that very act calling upon God to do what he has promised to do in that moment. Baptism saves because it is the prayer of the human heart crying out to God for spiritual cleansing by His grace. From the standpoint of the human participant this is the most that it can be, but that is enough. God himself does the rest. This leads to the third and final reason why appeal is the preferred meaning of eperotema in I Peter 3: 21, namely, because this idea is equivalent to the “calling on His name” of Acts 22: 16. As we saw in the study of this passage above, in connection with his baptism the sinner Saul was exhorted to call upon the name of the Lord for salvation. That is exactly the point of I Peter 3: 21. Baptism saves us not because it is something we ourselves are doing but just because it is a prayer that calls upon the name of the only one who has the power to save, our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Jack Cottrell, Baptism: A Biblical Study by Jack Cottrell, 2225-2277 (Kindle Edition); Joplin, Missouri; College Press Publishing Company)

In studying the word family of eperotema, we learn:

“ἐρωτάω (erōtaō), ask, ask a question, request (2263); ἐπερωτάω (eperōtaō), ask (2089); ἐπερώτημα (eperōtēma), question, request, appeal (2090). CL & OT 1. In cl. Gk. erōtaō means to ask, ask a question. eperōtaō means to consult a person or to put a question. Later Gk. used it technically for putting a formal question at a meeting or in the process of making a contract. It may even mean to accept the terms of a treaty. In religious contexts both vbs. can mean to put a question to an oracle or a god. The noun eperōtēma can mean a question put to another person or to someone in authority for a formal, binding answer. 2. In the LXX erōtaō commonly means ask (e.g., Gen. 24: 47, 57; Exod. 3: 13; Isa. 41: 28). eperōtaō is used for the same idea (e.g., Gen. 24: 23; 26: 7; Isa. 19: 3), including inquiry of God (e.g., 65: 1). eperōtēma occurs only in Theodotion’s version of Dan. 4: 14 and in Sir. 33: 3….“3. The noun eperōtēma is found in the NT only at 1 Pet. 3: 21 in respect of baptism: “This water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge [eperōtēma] of a good conscience toward God.” If “pledge” is an accurate meaning here, it denotes a statement of faith given by the one being baptized in answer to a formal question. This person should make such a statement with a clear conscience. Possibly it also means that baptism itself is a prayer to God for a good conscience. Or again, it may mean the answer by God to a such a question, i.e., the granting of a clear conscience toward God (cf. Heb 10: 19–25).” (Verlyn D. Verbrugge, New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology: Abridged Edition, 209-210 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; Zondervan)

Baptism is the real “sinner’s prayer.”

It is in the act of baptism that we seek forgiveness from God, in the way that He has authorized (Mark 16:15-16).

It is in the watery grave of baptism that we “call upon the name of the Lord,” and where we pledge ourselves to follow the Lord Jesus.

Many teach that “calling on the name of the Lord’ means to recite some kind of sinner’s prayer with the lips: the Apostle Peter teaches that we call upon the name of the Lord as a sinner by being baptized into Christ.

Have you called upon the name of the Lord?

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen.

Leave a Reply

Powered by

Up ↑