REFUTATION OF THE SINGULAR-PLURAL ARGUMENT
An old argument goes like this: "Repent," in the Gr., is 2nd person, plural, while "be baptized" is 3rd person, singular. Since the rule is that a verb must agree with its subject in number and person, it is argued that repent and be baptized cannot have the same subject; i.e., those told to repent are a different group from those told to be baptized. The point of it all, I guess, is to ultimately deny that baptism is for the remission of sins.
The best answer to this I've ever seen is contained in G.C. Brewer's "Contending For the Faith" (185-186). Here's the relevant paragraph: "Peter has charged this multitude [in Acts 2] with the crime of crucifying an innocent man, and tells them that God has now made that 'same Jesus both Lord and Christ.' What effect did this have upon them? They were 'pricked in their heart,' and cried out to Peter and the others: 'Brethren, what shall we do?' Do for what? Why, to escape this guilt, to be released from this sin, of course. What did Peter tell them to do to escape this sin? He told them to do two things. What were they? (1) Repent and (2) be baptized. What for? Why were they told to do anything? To be released or forgiven or to escape their sins, we repeat. Hence, the apostle told them, 'Repent ye, and be baptized unto the remission of your sins.' But were the same persons told to be baptized who were told to repent? Of course. Then the same individuals were to do both these things, and they were the subjects of repentance and baptism, regardless of what words stand as the grammatical subject. But how many of them were told to repent? All of them-'ye,' plural, says our brother [the "brother" is a Baptist preacher Brewer is answering known as "Judge Edwards"]. Well, how many were told to be baptized? 'One,' singular, says the judge. What? Will he say that Peter told all of them to repent and only one of them to be baptized? No, he says, 'every' modifies 'one'; hence, he told 'everyone' of them to be baptized. Every one of whom? Why, everyone of those who had asked what to do. Then if all of them were told to repent and every one of them was told to be baptized, what is the difference in the subjects of repentance and baptism? In fact, none at all. Considering the grammar, they are collectively told to repent, then they are distributed by the words 'every one of you' and told to be baptized, which makes this all the more emphatic."
Brewer concluded by noting a number of Baptist scholars (Hackett, Hovey, Harkness, Broadus, and Wilmarth) who agreed with this analysis. He also notes that J.W. Shepherd put out a tract on this grammatical quibble in 1908 that he calls "one of the best treatments of this subject that was ever written." (Maybe somebody can come up with the tract.)
For more information on this topic go to www.piney.com
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