Baptism for the Remission of Sins

Baptism as a necessity for salvation has been clearly established, the reason baptism is essential for salvation is because baptism is for the remission of sins! Through deception by Calvinistic doctrine many have been blinded to this clear truth. The work of the reformers, especially John Calvin and John Knox, was courageous and noble. For all the good they accomplished they failed in properly evaluating and understanding the scheme of redemption. Their erroneous views are still the tinted glasses which much of modern denominationalism views salvation. In contrast to denominational dogma, the Bible displays a beautiful harmony in explaining salvation by grace, mercy, the blood, faith, repentance, confession and baptism.

On the day of Pentecost, in the first gospel sermon, Peter preached to convict sinners of their sin. In covering some of the greatest themes of Scripture—sin, judgment, salvation, the resurrection and exhortation—it arguably was the most effective ever spoken. It was a heart wrenching yet a heart reaching oration for it prompted the question, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Act 2:37)—the most important question any person can ask. Peter’s response, guided by the Holy Spirit, is the pattern for salvation from the beginning of Christianity until the Lord’s return. T. W. Brents said in reference to this passage,

If there was ever a time when a plain, unambiguous answer was demanded, this was the time. His answer not only concerned the thousands then present, but as to him was committed the keys of the kingdom, and he was, for the first time, proclaiming the terms of admission, his answer must constitute a law of entrance for those who would become subjects of the kingdom until it shall have been delivered up to God even the Father. A plain answer was demanded, and we insist that such was the character of the answer given.

Peter, without hesitation, responded, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:38). The sermon produced the desired faith yet something was lacking—repentance and baptism were needed on the part of the sinner. Only such would lead to “the remission of sins.”

Baptism for the remission of sins is the answer to their, as well as our, dilemma. Much argumentation and debate swirl around the meaning of one little word—“for.” Such a simple word, yet it has occasioned much grief and division. The word “for” comes from the Greek word eis. We shall define it from reputable sources:

  1. Arndt & Gingrich: “Indicating motion into a thing or into its immediate vicinity…4. To indicate the goal…f. to denote purpose in order to, to:…for forgiveness of sins, so that sins might be forgiven Mt 26:28; cf. Mk 1:4, Lk 3:3, Act 2:38…”
  2. Thayer: “a Prep. Governing the Accusative, and denoting entrance into, or direction and limit; into, to, towards, for, among.”
  3. Strong’s Greek Dictionary: “a primary preposition; to or into (indicating the point reached or entered), of place, time, or (figuratively) purpose (result, etc.)”
  4. Axtell: “The preposition eis in Acts ii:38 may be rendered by several prepositions, or prepositional phrases, as for instance; unto, for, in order to, with a view to. The noun which it governs denotes the object or end toward which the action expressed by the predicate verbs was to be directed; or to state it from the other point of view, the results which he would attain who should repent and be baptized.”
  5. Bonet-Maury: “Be baptized every one of you, in (epi) the name of Jesus Christ unto (eis) the remission of your sins,” e. that the sinners who believe give up the world and its pomps and seductions and call on = believe in Christ as the only Savior, get all their sins washed away by the baptism.”

These, along with many other learned and scholarly minds, are in agreement on the definition of the term eis.

The act of baptism is “for” or “in order” to receive the remission of sins. The two terms laid forth by Peter, repent and be baptized, are connected together by the coordinate conjunction and. Therefore the prepositional phrase “for” shows, grammatically, the same end or purpose for both. It is impossible eis holds a meaning for one while different for the other.  What is true of repentance is true of baptism. One has not found forgiveness of sin until the act of repentance; likewise one has not found the forgiveness of sin until the act of baptism. The one word (eis) cannot hold different meanings at the same time; it possesses the same meaning for both actions. Brents makes the following logical analysis:

“…were it shown that men must be baptized because their sins are pardoned, it would follow that they must repent for the same thing, i.e., because their sins are pardoned. As before stated, the preposition for can not mean in order to and because of at the same time and place. More than this, for is from the Greek preposition eis, which looks forward, not backward.

The Greek phrase “for the remission of sins” (eis aphesis hamartia), is exactly the same in Acts 2:38 as in Matthew 26:28. In Matthew’s account, Jesus said, “For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (26:28). It would be silly to argue Jesus shed His blood because the sins of people had already been forgiven. It is accepted by all that Jesus shed His blood in order to forgive the sins of the people. Therefore, when Peter told those on Pentecost to repent and be baptized “for the remission of sins” it was in order for them to obtain the remission of sins.

Furthermore, the immediate context bears the interpretation that baptism is for the forgiveness of sins. The audience just heard a powerful sermon convicting them of their sin. The response, based on guilt, was to do something about their condition, i.e. sins. Peter’s answer allowed them to understand what to do about their sinful condition, not what to do because they had already been forgiven! They were told to be baptized in order to receive the remission of sins. To that end “…they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls” (2:41).

It is for this reason Saul of Tarsus was told, “And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). Saul understood the instruction and was baptized (Acts 9:18). Johnny Stringer notes,

The water of baptism, of course, has no power to remove sins; sins are forgiven on the basis of the blood of Christ. Nevertheless, God forgives our sins only when we have the faith to meet his conditions, and his conditions include baptism (2:38). Hence, through being baptized, the sinner is doing what he must do in order for his sins to be removed. Baptism is an immersion in water, hence, a washing. This fact suggests the figurative description of forgiveness as the washing away of sins.

The most prevalent objection against baptism for the remission of sins is, “Jesus was baptized, He committed no sin, therefore baptism is not for the remission of sins!” Jesus was baptized and John the Baptizer was the one who performed it. However, Jesus was not baptized for the remission of sins. The Scriptures state, “Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him” (Mt. 3:13-15).

John recognized the sinless nature of Christ. Remember the profound statement, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (Jn. 1:29)? John understood Jesus did not need to be baptized in the same sense as those whom John was baptizing, however Jesus reassured John. Jesus said, “…for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness.” The reason for His baptism is to fulfill all righteousness. John was performing the act of baptism with Divine sanction, thus Jesus confirms the importance of John’s work. Moreover, Jesus shows His obedience to Heaven’s commands. God willed John’s work of baptism. Jesus, though sinless, obeyed the command. Jesus was perfectly obedient to all Divine directives. In a great Christological passage, Paul wrote,

“But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:7-8).

Jesus willingly submitted Himself to baptism to be in perfect obedience to God’s mandate. By submitting to the will of the Father, Jesus sets an example for others and fulfills all righteousness.

Despite the political jockeying to stay true to one’s denominational dogma, the Bible still rest as the authority to answer spiritual matters.  It should always be the Scriptures to which we turn, never a creed, confession of faith or manual.  When considering baptism the Bible teaches in uniformity it is for the remission of sins.


Article by: Brad Shockley