Article - Baptism for the Remission of Sins

One of the major purposes for baptism is for the remission of sins. In direct response to the greatest question ever asked (Acts 2:37) Peter said, “Repent and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” A key word in this passage is remission. Remission means to take away or forgive. Notice how the New Testament teaches that one must be baptized for the remission of sins.

The Bible teaches that God is able to remember our sins no more (Hebrews 8:12), to cast our sins into the depths of the sea (Micah 7:18), and to remove our sins as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:10-12). But for God to do this we must repent and be baptized (Mark 16:16). Another vitally important word in this verse is the world “for”. This word is used to represent a going into, an indication of purpose, or going in the direction of a goal. Hence, the purpose or goal of baptism is the forgiveness of sins. However, it is important to discuss a major false doctrine spawned involving Acts 2:38. Certain false teachers have tried to make the word “for” mean “because of”. Therefore, Peter would be saying to the Jews, repent and be baptized because you have already received the remission of sins. While this view may sound good to those trying to propagate faith only doctrine, it has several glaring errors that prove it false. (1). Logic demands that this view of Acts 2:38 cannot be true. Is Peter here telling the Jews that they need to repent and be baptized because they have already been forgiven of their sins? Wait just a minute Peter. If I have already been forgiven of my sins, I do not have to do anything. It is highly illogical for someone to ask you what do to be saved (The question of Acts 2:37), then you tell them they have to do two things, not to be saved but because they are already saved. If this view of Acts 2:38 is correct then Peter completely ignores the Jews question! (2) This view of Acts 2:38 is in contradiction with the very words of Jesus. Jesus taught that for a man to be saved he had to repent before, not after he had been forgiven of his sins. In Luke 13:3 Jesus told certain people who were still in sin that they had to repent to get out of sin. Jesus simply said, “I tell you no, but unless you repent you shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3). If the causal view of Acts 2:38 is true then Peter and Jesus are in disagreement on what one must do before salvation. Not only that, but this would make the infallible Bible not so infallible. Does the Bible contradict itself, or does the false doctrine of men contradict the Bible?

In the New Testament, the act of baptism is also the point one’s sins are washed away or removed (Acts 22:16, 2:38). It is a biblical fact that all men have sinned, been separated from God and are lost (Romans 3:23, 6:23). Isaiah said that “your sins have separated you from your God and your iniquities have hidden His face from you” (Isaiah 59:1-2). Here is the problem: God is too holy to look upon sin (Habakkuk 1:13). Man is stained grossly with sin (Genesis 3). Therefore, sin must be removed from man’s conscience before he can have a relationship with God. When is this stain of sin removed from my spirit?

If we can find in the New Testament at what point a person’s sins are washed away, we can know of a surety that is the point of salvation and reconciliation to God. The Bible does tell us very clearly when that our sins are washed away. In Acts 9:6 the blinded Apostle Paul cried out to God, “Lord what would you have me to do?” The answer to Paul’s question is found in Acts 22:16, “Arise and be baptized and wash away your sins calling on the name of the Lord.” This text clearly teaches the point where sins are washed away is baptism, not a moment before or a moment after.

I really wonder how people can say that they were saved when they prayed Jesus into their heart, and then they were baptized two weeks later. Why would anyone say baptism is just an outward sign that you have already been saved? I do not know what they were saved from (i.e. from knowing the truth, going to heaven, obeying God) but it sure was not the salvation from sin and a devil’s hell. We need to wake up and reexamine our “conversion experiences” according to the word of God and not according to what our catechism, confession of faith, discipline book, or “Pastor” says. I want to encourage you to stop right now and think back to your own conversion. Would you say you were saved before or after baptism? If you said before, then friend, we would kindly but firmly say to you that after reading the New Testament teaching on baptism (See Acts 2:38; Mark 16:16; 1 Peter 3:21; John 3:1-5) you were not correctly baptized and desperately need to obey the gospel as the Bible teaches. 

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