The Expository Files

For the Remission of Sins

Acts 2:38

Baptism is not an obscure Bible topic. It is featured very prominently in the pages of the New Testament. We do not have to wonder what the purpose for baptism is in God's mind because He has plainly indicated its purpose already. We do not have to wonder who a proper subject for baptism is because the Bible tells us. We do not have to guess about the proper mode of baptism because the Bible reveals exactly what that is. Baptism is found in numerous passages in the New Testament, and the teachings found there relating to baptism are consistent.There is no excuse for not accepting what God has revealed in His word about baptism. There is no good reason to deny what the Scriptures say in favor of some religious creed that some church leaders somewhere have egotistically legislated.The Holy Spirit revealed the purpose of baptism during the very first gospel sermon preached following the ascension of Jesus back into heaven. By the Spirit Peter answers the peoples' plea, "What must we do?" He says, "Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." (ACTS 2:38).

THE DIFFICULT TASK AND THE SOLUTION
"...which the untaught and the unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction." (II PETER 3:16). It is indeed a difficult thing to read such a plain passage as ACTS 2:38 and then try to explain to others why baptism is not necessary to be forgiven of one's sins. And yet, that is exactly what the overwhelming majority of denominations teach in their various creed books.Why take such an awkward view of baptism? Because they must support the doctrine of salvation by faith alone. Rather than restudy "faith alone" they simply explain away every passage in the New Testament which shows the necessity of baptism in God's plan of redemption.Let me simply quote their distortion of ACTS 2:38 in their attempt to make the passage say something other than baptism in the name of Jesus Christ is for the forgiveness of sins. They say that "This baptism would also be for (eis) the forgiveness of sins. 'Eis' here means 'because of." Do you see what they are saying? They are contending that one is not baptized "for" (i.e. in order to have) the remission of sins but "for" (i.e. because of the fact) their sins have been forgiven; that they were forgiven before baptism and were baptized because of forgiveness.

"FOR THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS"
"...this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins" (MATTHEW 26:28). In determining the meaning of the phrase "for the forgiveness of sins" we can look for the phrase in other places. In the above verse, Jesus is speaking with His apostles at the last supper. The exact same Greek phrase is used. Does Jesus mean to say that His blood is poured out "because" sins have already been forgiven or that His blood is poured out "in order that" our sins may be forgiven? Everyone understands that Jesus is saying that His blood is being shed so that we may have our sins forgiven. So why is it so easy to understand here and so difficult in ACTS 2:38?

WHAT THE TRANSLATIONS SAY
"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit" (MATTHEW 28:18). Teaching the gospel to all nations makes translating the Scriptures into various languages necessary. We have English translations because we speak English. How do the various English versions translate ACTS 2:38 from Greek to English? How many say the Greek word "eis" (for) means "because of" or something similar? Which translation do you use? What does it say?

"..and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.." (King James).
"..let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.." (New American Standard).
"..let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins.." (New King James).
"..and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, so that your sins will be forgiven.." (Today's English).
"..be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.." (Challoner-Rheims).
"..be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven.." (New International - 1978 edition).
"..be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins.." (American Standard).
"..be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.." (Revised Standard).
".. each one of you must be immersed by the authority of Jesus the Messiah, so that your sins may be forgiven.." (Simple English Bible).


The version you use is probably listed above. None of them translate "eis" into "because of". These constitute the major works of the best Greek scholars of the past several centuries.

REPENTANCE AND BAPTISM ARE "FOR" THE SAME PURPOSE
"...Unless you repent you will all likewise perish" (LUKE 13:3). Very few would say that one is forgiven of his sins even before he repents of them. They would not say that one repents because his sins have already been forgiven. And they are right because the Bible says one must repent in order to receive forgiveness.

Interestingly enough, one of the verses of Scripture that teach this about repentance is ACTS 2:38. Even more to the point, it mentions two prerequisites to the remission of sins. One is repentance and the other is baptism! How can one split the verse down the middle accepting that repentance is necessary but not baptism? Maybe instead of playing such games we had better respect God enough just to take Him at His word. Amen!

By Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 7.9; September 2000


 

 

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