‘Because of’ not ‘for’
Minister, Church of Christ Northside
This common objection to baptism tries to make a case from the Greek word translated “for” in Acts 2:38. That verse has Peter answering the question, “what must we do?” (Acts 2:37), with the command, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins….”
Any unbiased reader would understand Peter’s statement to mean that a person must be baptized in order to receive the remission of sins. However, those that read Peter’s statement from the biased view that baptism is not necessary for salvation have to explain away the word “for” (Greek, eis). They say that the Greek word used here means “because of,” and not “for.”
They would have Peter saying “Repent, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ because of the remission of sins.” And, if a person is baptized “because of” the remission of sins then they are baptized because they have already been saved, not in order to be saved. Therefore, according to this reasoning, baptism is not necessary for salvation.
Acts 2:38 isn’t the only place that statement is made. It is nearly identical to the statement Jesus made in Matthew 26:28. So, if we are to understand the word “for” (Greek, eis) as “because of” in Acts 2:38, what would that do to Matthew 26:28? Comparing the two passages, Acts 2:38 says, eis aphesin ton hamartion [into sending off of the sins]. In Matthew 26:28, Jesus says His blood was shed eis aphesin hamartion [into sending off of sin]. In English, baptism is for the remission of sins and the blood of Christ is for the remission of sins. The wording in the Greek is nearly identical. So, if “for the remission of sins” in Acts 2:38 means because of the remission of sins, why doesn’t it mean because of the remission of sins in Matthew 26:28? If baptism is because of the remission of sins, then the blood of Christ is because of the remission of sins. If not, why not? And, if those objecting to the necessity of baptism will say that baptism being because of the remission of sins means that baptism is not essential to salvation then neither would the blood of Christ be essential for salvation! This treatment of the Greek in Acts 2:38 actually has them denying the essential blood of Christ for our salvation.
When we see the connection that baptism has to the blood of Christ, it is easy to see how both the blood of Christ and baptism could be said to be for the remission of sins. Paul said that he was baptized to have his sins washed away (Acts 22:16), and Revelation 1:5 says Christ is the one who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood. Paul recognized the point at which he was washed in the blood of Christ as being the point of his baptism.
That’s exactly what he wrote in Romans 6:3-5.
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