The Umbrella Nature of the Term “Faith”

by Terry Wane Benton

One preacher (Stephen Whitsett) argued the following:

"In the same way, it would be possible that Acts 2:38 is indeed communicating the fact that they were to be baptized “as the result of” or “because” they already had believed and in doing so had already received forgiveness of their sins (John 1:12; John 3:14-18; John 5:24; John 11:25-26; Acts 10:43; Acts 13:39; Acts 16:31; Acts 26:18; Romans 10:9; Ephesians 1:12-14). This interpretation of the passage is also consistent with the message recorded in Peter’s next two sermons to unbelievers where he associates the forgiveness of sins with the act of repentance and faith in Christ without even mentioning baptism (Acts 3:17-26; Acts 4:8-12)."

In the first part of this paragraph, he says it is possible that the 3000 were baptized “as a result of” already having forgiveness of sins. In the final sentence of his paragraph he was not wise enough to catch that he has forgiveness associated “with the act of repentance and faith in Christ”. He had argued that “repent” is connected to “eis” (which he defines as “because of”), and thus, he has remission of sins in place before repenting. He argues that you must repent because you already have remission of sins. He digs his hole deeper now because if his earlier argument is so, then he has remission of sins before “repentance and faith.” He can’t say Acts 2:38 means “repent because of the remission of sins,” but Acts 3:19 means to repent to have sins blotted out. You can’t have it both ways. Either repentance is to have remission of sins in Acts 2:38 or repentance and faith are because of the remission of sins via his appeal to Acts 3:17-26; 4:8-12. He has tried to argue both ways, but now he is entangled in the contradiction of his own argument.

He argues that the moment a person believes, they “had already received forgiveness of sins” and gives a string of references, none of which say or imply that claim. So, sometimes, he argues that repentance is before the remission of sins, and sometimes, he argues that repentance is after the remission of sins.

  • John 1:12 says that the believer has the right to become children of God. It does not say that they became children of God at some mysterious moment that some faith entered their brain.
  • John 3:14-18 makes no claim about the moment in faith that one is forgiven. John 3:21 shows that it is faith that “does the truth.” So, this passage actually refutes his claim.
  • John 5:24 speaks of the believer passing from death to life but does not describe the moment or how much hearing of Jesus’ word is involved, whereas John 12:42 shows some men who believed but would not confess Jesus. Did their faith cause them to pass from death to life anyway, without confessing Jesus? So, John 5:24 does not say what all is included in faith. If confessing is included, so are repentance and baptism.
  • John 11:25-26 tells us that faith is involved but not what all is involved with faith. Is confession and repentance involved? Are those necessary ingredients of faith? If so, then so is baptism. If confession and repentance don’t have to be mentioned, then baptism does not either. If faith is an umbrella term that automatically includes other ingredients such as confession and repentance, then the word faith is umbrella enough to include baptism and not exclude any of these.
  • Acts 10:43 doesn’t do any better since believing in Jesus includes repentance, confession, and baptism. If confession is included, then faith is an umbrella term that includes other specifics under its generic nature.
  • Acts 13:39 is the same way. If faith must be characterized by repentance and confession, then it must also be characterized by baptism in the name of Jesus.
  • Acts 16:31 goes on to show that it was a faith that needed baptism at the same hour of the night. Again, the nature and content of faith do not exclude baptism but rather include it.
  • Acts 26:18 again uses the umbrella term “faith,” but that word includes repentance, confession, and baptism. You don’t truly believe if you don’t repent and don’t confess Jesus and are not baptized in the name of Jesus. Faith is the general term that includes these elements and does not exclude any of them.
  • Romans 10:9 shows that it is a faith that moves to confession with the mouth. Thus, faith includes confession, which he already showed, including death to sin and burial in baptism in Romans 6:3-6. So, faith includes all these items and does not exclude any of them.
  • Ephesians 1:12-14 does not show a faith that excludes confession, repentance, and baptism. Involved with trusting Him is trusting Him enough to repent and be baptized.

So, there is not one verse that says or implies that there is a magic moment of faith. Besides, what is included in faith? Is salvation given the moment someone says, “Jesus is good?” Do I need more information? Do I believe without knowing about His virgin birth, His being in the flesh, His dying on the cross, His resurrection? How much information magically does the trick? Does it do the trick before repentance? If so, then you have agreed that there is a lot packed in that word faith and that not just any level of faith will do the trick. You have argued to let us know that repentance and confession are involved with faith before it is a faith that saves. But once you admit that repentance, knowledge of Jesus’ fleshly life, sacrifice on the cross, resurrection, and confession are all essential elements and characteristics of saving faith, you have lost any argument that baptism is also not included.

“Faith” is an umbrella term that includes all the elements of knowledge, confession, repentance, and baptism in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins. If you can’t prove how much knowledge is essential, and you can’t prove that confession and repentance are excluded, then you can’t prove that baptism is excluded. You lose the whole argument! Faith is an umbrella term that covers the entire range of things essential to a saving kind of faith. James clearly said it is “not by faith only,” a faith that does not include obedient action (James 2:14-24). So, baptism is part of the faith that brings us into Christ (Galatians 3:26-27). Isolating some verses that mention faith is not enough to establish the exact moment in faith that we enter into Christ. Paul told us the exact moment in faith that our sins are cut off (Colossians 2:12). I believe the Spirit revealed moment!

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