Tuesday, May 07, 2013

“FOR” the Forgiveness of Sins?

Acts 2:38 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.”

    Salvation is a free gift, purchased by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. We cannot purchase it, earn it, or achieve it. But how do we receive it? Acts 2:38 records Simon Peter’s response to those who asked, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
    Recently several have inquired, “Could the phrase, ‘for the forgiveness of sins,’ actually mean, ‘because of the forgiveness of sins’? Could Acts 2:38 teach, as many teach today, that baptism follows salvation, as a public statement that one has already been forgiven?” 
    The Greek preposition eis, translated “for” in English translations of this verse, typically points to some object. It means “toward, into, to,” etc. Some, however, have claimed that the use of eis in Acts 2:38 is exceptional and means “because of.” They note that in Matt 12:41 Jesus said, “The men of Nineveh … repented at (eis) the preaching of Jonah.” They suggest that here eis means “because of.” This argument has been made often. Is it valid? Please consider the following.
  • The Greek text of Acts 2:38 grammatically links baptism and repentance together. So the next phrase (“eis the forgiveness of sins”) must refer to both. Most would agree that repentance precedes the forgiveness of sins and is prerequisite to it. Would anyone say that the lost are to repent because they have already been forgiven? 
  • In Matt 26:28 Jesus said, “this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for (eis) the forgiveness of sins.” No one has suggested “because of” for this verse, even though the Greek text in the last phrase is letter-for-letter identical to that of Acts 2:38. See also Mark 1:4.
  • Rom 10:10 notes that with the heart one believes eis (unto, to, toward) righteousness and that with the mouth one confesses eis (unto, to, toward) salvation. No one has suggested “because of” in either clause. Faith and confession precede and seek salvation from sin. The Greek phrase parallels that of Acts 2:38.
  • The immediate response of some 3000 people in Acts 2:41 implies that they sensed an urgency connected to repentance and baptism. They were baptized that very day because they apparently understood the necessity of acting without delay. They wanted to receive God’s forgiveness.
  • Matt 12:41 is not an exception after all. The people of Nineveh repented “toward,” “in order to,” or even “into” Jonah’s message. Once again eis points toward an object or purpose. Their repentance was their response toward the message they heard.
  • No English translation (to my knowledge) ever translates eis as “because of” in Acts 2:38, in Matt 12:41, or anywhere else in the entire New Testament. This includes even the Holman Christian Standard Bible, published by the Southern Baptists at Lifeway. http://www.biblestudytools.com/acts/2-38-compare.html. In fact, the 1973 (original) New International Version (NIV) read: "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, so that your sins may be forgiven."
  • For 1500 years it was accepted among those who believed in Christ that baptism was “for” the forgiveness of sins. It was the Swiss reformer Huldrych Zwingli (1484-1531) who first argued that, because salvation is a free gift, God could not require anything from man in order to receive it. Zwingli influenced John Calvin (1509-1564), who spread this new belief throughout the world. However, Scripture does not support Zwingli or Calvin in this matter. For example, Jesus required the man born blind (in John 9) to go to the Pool of Siloam to wash and receive healing. The healing was still a free gift of grace.
  • For many people the “Sinner’s Prayer” serves as an expression of faith which precedes and seeks forgiveness of sins. Those who promote this prayer (which is not found in Scripture) do not believe that it contradicts the fact that salvation is a free gift. What they say about the “Sinner’s Prayer” is what the New Testament teaches about baptism. It is an expression of faith which precedes and seeks forgiveness of sins. It does not achieve; it receives. 
  • While teaching the importance of baptism for the forgiveness of sins, the New Testament clearly distinguishes baptism from human works of merit. Note Tit 3:5, which says, “ … he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit …”
  • Other New Testament passages reinforce the connection between baptism and receiving the forgiveness of sins. Ananias told Saul of Tarsus in Acts 22:16, “And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.”
    Repentance and baptism do not earn or achieve salvation. Jesus paid that price in full with His blood. Salvation is by grace through faith. Repentance and baptism, however, by faith receive God’s free gift. Acts 2 exhorts those pricked in the heart to repent and be baptized, not to earn or purchase, but to accept and claim forgiveness. That’s how some 3,000 souls called on the name of the Lord that very day. They were saved, forgiven, and added to their number because they accepted God’s free gift.

    And now … why do you wait?

Cory Collins

1 comment:

Lynda Morstain said...

Cory, thank you so much for the thorough & easy-to-understand explanation on baptism! This topic causes so much anger among those who do not wish to truly obey God. Yet Scripture makes it so clear that it shouldn't be debatable.