You need to know what is wrong with this argument.

A denominational preacher on TV, Adrian Rogers, in an effort to show that baptism is not UNTO the remission of sins, put forth an argument I have heard others use, including some of my own brethren. He said that in Acts 2:38 Peter commanded the people to be baptized BECAUSE OF the remission of sins, not “in order to” remission. He said that the Greek preposition “eis” means “because of.” What did he offer as proof? He cited Mat. 12:41 where Jesus said that Ninevah repented “at the preaching of Jonah” and the word is “eis” as it is in Acts 2:38. He interpreted Jesus as saying that Ninevah repented because of the preaching of Jonah.

Here is what is wrong with this argument:

(1) It contradicts the definition of the word. Denominational theologians take it upon themselves to arbitrarily redefine this word to mean “because of” or some other meaning. Responsible lexicographers do not concur. No recognized lexicographer ever defined “eis”as meaning “because of.” It is defined in every lexicon, dictionary, or commentary as meaning “into” or “unto” or “in the direction of.” It means that in Acts 2:38 and it means that in Mat. 12:41. If you read the book of Jonah you will find that the Ninevites repented “in the direction of” Jonah’s preaching. That record sets forth the adjustments the Ninevites made in their repenting. They changed from what they had been doing over to what Jonah preached. Thus they repented “UNTO” or INTO the preaching of Jonah. What Jesus said about it is correct.

(2) Try reading Mat. 26:28 with the “because of” definition. Jesus said, “This is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for (“eis”) the remission of sins.” If “eis” means “because of” then Jesus shed His blood because sins had already been remitted. That, of course, is flagrantly false and so is the perverting of Acts 2:38 to accomodate an anti-baptism theory. What those who preach that theory need to look at is what else Jesus said in that passage. He said the men of Ninevah will rise up in judgment against men like you, who do not respond to God’s message as they did, but argue with it instead.

But someone says “Cornelius and the Gentiles with him received the gift of the Holy Spirit before they were baptized.” No, the text says they received the Holy Spirit Himself, not the gift of the Spirit” i.e. the gift given by the Spirit. “While Peter was yet speaking the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word.” (Verse 44) Then Peter “commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord.” (Verse 48) This, as in Acts 2:38, was to receive the “gift of the Holy Spirit,” which is the new birth into the family of God. This is the purpose of baptism and Jesus said it cannot be achieved any other way. “Most assuredly I say to you, unless a man be born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” (John 3:5) Teaching that salvation occurs before and without baptism is a mistake with eternal consequences.

Jesus also said in Matthew 7:21, “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father in heaven.” Regardless of what arguments men may devise to try to prove that baptism is not appointed as a condition to salvation, these facts of scripture remain. They will still be true after the world has ended and we all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.

No, this does not mean that in obeying this command we earn salvation. It simply means that, as Jesus said, we do the will of the Father in heaven and the Lord saves those who do that. (Heb. 5:9) For a more thorough discussion of this point read our companion article “setting the record straight.”





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Marc Taylor Says:

I believe that “eis” does mean in order to attain the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2:38. Cornelius and the Gentiles with him received the gift of the Holy Spirit before their water baptism (Acts 10:44-48).

Olan Says:

Olan’s reply:
Cornelius received the Holy Spirit Himself before he was baptized, not the gift of the Spirit. (Acts 10:44) “…the Holy Spirit fell on those who heard the word.” But then Peter “commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord.” (Verse 48) This, as in Acts 2:38, was to receive the “gift of the Holy Spirit,” which is the new birth into the family of God.

gary Says:

I’ve lost track of the number of times that a Baptist or evangelical has told me that Acts 2:38 was mistranslated; that the “for” in that passage of God’s Holy Word should be removed and replaced with “because of”.

It doesn’t matter to them that every English translation of the Bible translates this word in Acts 2:38 as “for” or “into” and never “because of”, because these Christians know in their hearts that God would never, ever say that baptism has anything to do with the forgiveness of sins.

Below is an excellent article by Lutheran pastor, Matt Richards on this subject:

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