I get a lot of questions about baptism: what is it, how should it be done, when should it be done, what does it accomplish, why do the [insert the name of your pet peeve denomination here] do it wrong, and so on. The question below is one of the more interesting ones I've received on this topic, so I've chosen it to set forth my own approach and what I see in the New Testament regarding this sadly divisive topic. The question has several parts: I have posted it here just the way I replied to it originally.

I hope you can help me with the Greek translation of Acts 2:38. My family grew up in the Quaker (Friends) Church and do not believe that it is necessary to be baptized with water--we believe in the baptism of the Holy Spirit.  My brother has recently started going to a Church of Christ and now believes that you must be baptized (immersed) to be saved. I do not believe that baptism is necessary for salvation, but possibly an act of obedience. There are so many verses that state that if we "believe" we will have everlasting life. I do not believe that the Bible is a book of half- truths and that all those verses failed to mention that we must also be baptized.

Agreed. At the same time, pretty much all of the conversions that take place in the book of Acts are immediately followed by baptism. The jailer asks what to do to be saved and they tell him "believe." What happens next? He and his family are baptized. So the question is not, is baptism necessary for salvation, but why be baptized at all? Why did they do it? I think the answer is that it's an act of obedience. The first act demonstrating the new faith is one that beautifully illustrates death to the old life and resurrection to the new (that's why I don't like sprinkling, though I don't think sprinkling is wrong or evil). It's not the water, or the hands that dunk you, or any of that, it's the obedience in the heart that matters. If baptism isn't possible, as in the case of the thief on the cross, then so be it: he expressed his faith by rebuking the other thief and crying out to Jesus right there where he was. An act of obedience.

A co-worker's minister is a professor at Cedarville College and stated that the Greek translation of Acts 2:38 separates "repent" and "be baptized" into two separate sentences.

Yes, it's two separate clauses, but I'm not sure how that's significant. "Arise and go" is two separate clauses (or sentences, if you will) since each has its own verb. But that has nothing to do with it. In fact, if he insists on taking them as absolutely separate and unrelated, he's in trouble because "repent" is separated from all the rest. If we follow that approach, baptism brings the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit! The verse translates "Repent, and be baptized each one of you unto forgiveness of your sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." So I'd be careful about calling for too sharp a separation between these two clauses.