Does this passage teach that the remission of sins is a result of baptism? At first glance it does appear to, “And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38. All Scriptures taken from the ESV unless otherwise noted). However, orthodox evangelical Christianity holds to the five sola’s (by grace alone, faith alone, Christ alone, Scripture alone, to the glory of God alone). However this passage in Acts appears to contradict the biblical teachings of grace, faith and Christ alone. It is my aim, in this article to attempt to understand Peter’s words in this passage.
The word in this verse ‘for’ is the translation of a Greek word ‘Eis’. Which has a few meanings in English. It can express either ‘aim’/’purpose’ (like in 1 Cor 2:7), or it can express the idea of ‘basis’or ‘ground’ (Like in Matthew 3:11; 10:41; 12:41; Luke 11:32). So the verse can accuretly be read, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ on the basis of the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” ( A more technical Greek analysis and explanation is available upon request)
Another reason reading from the Greek is to notice the singular and plurals of who is being addressed. I will put in the number of people being addressed in brackets of the verse, “Repent (plural; ‘you all repent’) and be baptized every one of you (singular; ‘each individual must be baptised’) in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your (Plural; ‘all of your sins’) sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” By reading the Greek text consistently one would connect the plural action with the plural result, and the single action would stand alone. So it would read something like, “For the forgiveness of your sins repent and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ.” To take baptism here as causing the remission of sins would be to make the text say, “Let him be baptized for the remission of all your sins,” and “Let him (another) be baptized for the remission of all your sins,” and “Let him (yet another) be baptized for the remission of all your sins,” and so on to each person in the group. Thus, each one would be baptized for the remission of the sins of all the people in the group.
Why though am I choosing the second meaning of ‘for? Why am I saying the Greek word ‘Eis’ denotes ‘basis’ and not ‘purpose’. One of the standard rules of interpretation is that Scripture must interpret Scripture (analogy of faith). Some of the first Scriptures I would go to, are those written by the same author. So the moment we hop over to Acts 3:12-4:4 we see Peter not mentioning baptism at all when preaching to a group of unbelievers, yet it says that 5000 men believed and were added to the number of believers (4:4) Acts 3:19 has the command merely to repent and be converted, having your sins and your sins will be blotted out. If Baptism was for the remission of sins, it is rather odd for Peter not to mention such a vital thing here. Furthermore, when did Peter get told, and how was he taught to teach the remission of sin? We read in Luke 24:47, “and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” Notice in Christ’s command to Peter (as well as the rest) that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached, no mention of baptism. (other Scriptures linking repentance to the remission of sins John 3:18; Acts 5:31; 10:43; 13:38; 26:18; Ephesians 5:26)
Having read these passages, and knowing that consistently through Scripture rituals are never taught as being the things which have power to save (Hebrews 10:1-4), it seems to be consistent Peter would not be teaching baptism results in the remission of sins, but rather that baptism is preformed on the basis of someone’s sins already having been forgiven.
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