Mar 18, 2009

Baptism For Remission

The debate over Acts 2: 38, and the relation of water baptism to the "remission of sins," is a long standing one within the Christian community. Many honest souls believe that the Apostle Peter made water baptism as much a condition for pardon as he did for repentance and faith. They believe that the prepositional phrase "for the remission of your sins" connects with both two previous clauses, the first that says "repent ye," and the second that says "each one of you be baptized," so that both repentance and baptism are made equal requirements. But, however honest, they are nevertheless mistaken in this interpretation.

Much of the historic debate on Acts 2: 38 has centered on the precise meaning of the Greek preposition that begins the phrase, the word "eis" ('for' in KJV). But, it should not have been, nor need be.

The greater debate should center on the relationship of this important prepositional phrase to the two previous clauses. Is the phrase "for (eis) the remission of your sins" the object of both clauses? Or, only one of them? If only one of the clauses, which? Is he saying "repent ye for the remission of your sins" or "each of you be baptized for the remission of your sins"?

In order to prove that water baptism is required for remission of sins, one must 1) show how the phrase "for the remission of your sins" is the object of "each of you be baptized" and 2) that the word "for" ('eis') means "in order to obtain."

Greek scholars have demonstrated that the preposition does not universally denote purpose, and that it does not always look forward. But, as I have shown in previous writings, "eis" may look backwards, and sideways, and forward, depending on context. To say it always looks forward, and never backwards or sideways, is an error. Thus, two burdens are on the shoulders of those who seek to prove that Acts 2: 38 teaches that water baptism is a requirement for remission of sins.

First, they must show that the phrase "for the remission of your sins" is the object of the clause "each of you be baptized" as well as with "repent ye," and then, secondly, they must show that "eis" means "in order to obtain."

Both of the leading clauses are not identical, for the first clause, "repent ye," is second person plural, while the second clause, "each one of you be baptized," is third person singular. There is a change of both person and number between the verbs and pronouns in these two clauses.

Now, when we look at the prepositional phrase, "for the remission or YOUR sins," the pronoun “your” is second person plural. An important distinction is thus made and one that helps us understand this passage.

The effect of this change from second person plural to third person singular, and then back again, shows that the phrase connects directly with the command to “repent.” Essentially what you have is - “You (plural) repent for the forgiveness of your (plural) sins, and let each one (singular) of you be baptized (singular).” Or, “You all repent for the forgiveness of all of your sins, and let each one of you be baptized.”

Penitent faith, not water baptism, is essential for pardon. This is clearly seen in Peter’s very next sermon, where he exhorts —“Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out.” (Acts 3: 19)

Notice how Peter says nothing about water baptism in his extending to the people the terms of pardon. If water baptism is necessary for pardon, then why did Peter not include it in Acts 3:19? If water baptism is essential for pardon, then why did Peter say nothing about this also in Acts 10:43?

“To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.”

A simple parenthesis helps us to understand what Acts 2:38 is really saying, “Then Peter said unto them, Repent (and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ) for the remission of your sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”

This is exactly what Acts 3:19 teaches except that Peter omits the parenthesis. In Acts 3:19 Peter could have said, "Repent (and be baptized in the Name of Jesus Christ) so that your sins may be blotted out."

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