Francis Chan Simple Truth About Baptism

Below is a video clip of Francis Chan trying to address the confusion about his teaching on the Holy Spirit and baptism. In it, he makes a several errors with this explanation of his exegesis of Acts 2:38.

His first mistake is on quoting only one scripture for his defense. Chan acts as if the only passage that discusses the issue is Acts 2:38. If that were true, it would indeed be simple. But it is not. Not only do other Scriptures address the same questions and events, the order and answer are not always the same. We will discuss that later.

The second mistake is making a straw man for his argument. He acts as if those who question the passage automatically assume that these events are somehow not important. He says he got questions that ask can you be a Christian without being baptized, repenting, or having the Holy Spirit? I actually know of very few denominations, if any, that teach you can be a Christian without having the Holy Spirit. In fact, even those who like us teach that baptism is not required for salvation itself, teach that it would be something a true follower would do. Maybe he did receive a few letters to that effect, but I doubt that was the issue most of them had with his teaching. Therefore speaking about an audience that doesn't really exist, makes his argument seem more justifiable, but it does not mean that the answer is therefore true.

So, let us go through his statements and discuss them according to the whole teaching and context of Scripture. We need to let Scripture interpret Scripture, not Francis Chan interpret it for you. If you look closely you will see that it is Scripture itself, not our unwillingness to obey, that makes us stop and ask if Acts 2:38 is the order and ordinary method of salvation.  If it is, why does it contradict other passages within the very same book, written by the same author, and spoken by the same apostle?

In the beginning when Chan is speaking about the confusion he asks what is actually the real problem most people had with what he said, "When does the Holy Spirit actually come in? Do I get the Holy Spirit without being baptized?" He then answers with a question rather than a clear statement to clarify what he believes. He simply asks, "Why do you ask?"

For the next 5 minutes or so he goes on to speak about the question, but he never really answers these specific issues while doing so. He also presupposes he knows why we ask. He thinks we are asking because we simply want to disobey Acts 2:38 because it does not support our personal doctrine. What he doesn't address is why we actually ask. So let me tell him.

Francis Chan, I want to know if you teach that one must repent and be baptized with water in order to receive the Holy Spirit. Is that what you are teaching? Be clear and answer with yes, or no.

Why do I ask? Because to say that water baptism is necessary before one receives the Holy Spirit contradicts Scripture, specifically Acts chapter 10.  Let us go there for a moment.
Acts 10:44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell on all those who heard the message. 45 The circumcised believers who had accompanied Peter were greatly astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles, 46 for they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God. Then Peter said, 47 “No one can withhold the water for these people to be baptized, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?” 48 So he gave orders to have them baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to stay for several days.
It is apparent here that these believers received the Holy Spirit before they were baptized with water. Therefore that makes me question whether one can use Acts 2:38 as a standard order method of salvation. The same Peter who said so simply, "“Repent, and each one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." also said, "No one can withhold the water for these people to be baptized, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?"

Is Peter contradicting himself? Is Scripture contradicting itself? I ask this because it needs to be answered and understood, not because I simply don't like what Peter said. In fact I very much respect what Peter said, but you have to listen to ALL of his sermons, not just one, in order to get correct doctrine.

Francis then goes on to say that in the early church they didn't ask any questions after that, they just did it. But what did they do? According to Chan he says they "repented, got baptized and were filled with the Holy Spirit" as if that order was specifically followed. However, Scripture merely says, "So those who accepted his message were baptized." The order is not specifically addressed.

Then he goes on to chastise those who "ask a bunch of questions" as if checking to see if what you are being taught is truth is somehow wrong. According to Chan, in the New Testament, the early believers just obeyed. Well some of them did, but if they all simply obeyed then many of the New Testament books wouldn't have even been written because some were written specifically because there was much division and arguing in the early church. However, later in Acts 17:11 we read of the Bereans who were searching the Scriptures carefully to see if what Paul was teaching was true. They were called noble for doing this, they were not criticized for it. So what is wrong with looking at Acts chapter 10 and comparing that to what Peter said in Acts chapter 2?

Speaking of Paul we read, still in the same book of Acts, that he was once asked the same question Peter was. "What must I do to be saved?" According to Francis Chan you would think that his answer would be the same as Peter's since it is so simple. As Chan said, "Peter's response was you need to repent, be baptized, and be filled with the Holy Spirit." And yet, Paul responds differently.  He merely says, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, you and your household.” Is he suggesting that Paul was wrong?

You don't have to be a great scholar to obey the message and be saved, but you do need to know what the message is to go and preach it. To do that you need to examine the whole of Scripture, not merely one verse.

Then Chan goes back to his straw-man argument suggesting that people who tell you to say a prayer to receive Christ are suggesting that repentance and the Holy Spirit are not necessary for salvation. Who says that?! That couldn't be further from the truth. But just because their presentation method is different does not mean what they are asking people to do is incorrect. The one common thread throughout the book of Acts is that the experience of being saved looked different for them all. Some were told to repent, others merely to believe. Some were told to be baptized, some asked to be baptized. You see these differences because Acts is a historical narrative, not a theological guidebook. It is not about how it is to be done, but rather what happened. Since historically each experience was different we are left with the how unanswered. The method with which to reach people is left up to us, the message, however is not.

Then for a moment Chan almost gets it. He says "it was simultaneous to them." With that I can almost agree, when they believed, they were filled with the Holy Spirit. It is a simultaneous action. However, only 2 of the actions can happen simultaneously. Something has to compel you to go into the water and be baptized. The question is, is it your desire to repent and believe or because you have already repented and believed?

It is either your desire to repent and believe that compels you to follow in water baptism and when you are baptized with the water you simultaneously receive the spirit but your repentance has already taken place.


You believe (repent) and are filled simultaneously with the Spirit and that then compels you to get baptized with water. That is what we see happened in Acts chapter 10. That is the order we have a clear picture for in the Word of God. So what is wrong with teaching this to be true and correcting those who do not?

It sounds to me like Francis Chan either believes that water baptism is necessary to receive the Holy Spirit which is hard to explain in light of Acts chapter 10. Or it could simply be that he doesn't want to take a stand either way for fear of offending some of his followers. Whatever the reason you can't simply suggest that questioning is wrong and that the truth of the matter is not important. Especially when many are using the confusion to lead people into a false conversion and reliance upon their act of baptism by water, rather than on the blood of Christ alone.

Paul didn't immediately baptize everyone who he preached to and he was glad about that. He was called to preach the gospel, not baptize, because the gospel is not tied to baptism. Nor does it suggest that a baptismal pool must always be available for salvation to take place.
1 Corinthians 1:14 I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so that no one can say that you were baptized in my name! 16 (I also baptized the household of Stephanus. Otherwise, I do not remember whether I baptized anyone else.) 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—and not with clever speech, so that the cross of Christ would not become useless.
Yes, many were baptized immediately and that is what we should desire to do. However, salvation was not dependent upon it for salvation is not of works.

Ephesians 1:13 And when you heard the word of truth (the gospel of your salvation)—when you believed in Christ—you were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the down payment of our inheritance, until the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of his glory.