In Acts 2:38, Peter said unto them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. ” Some denominations see the word “for” in this verse as meaning that water baptism itself washes away sins. But, the English word “for” in this verse is the Greek word “eis”, meaning “because of” the remission of sins. Their sins were forgiven already, and their public baptism was a RITUAL to publicly acknowledge what God had already done. If the preceding translation of the English word “for” in Acts 2:38 is the Greek word “eisv meaning “because of, ” how would one explain Matthew 26:28? “for this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins. ”
The passage that you are referring to is as follows:
Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (NASB) Acts 2:38
Peter makes this comment to his listeners after telling about the rejection, death, return to life, and ascension of Jesus Christ. Peter also told them that King David had predicted that Jesus would sit at the right hand of God (Acts 2:14-36). God tells us that the men were pierced in their hearts and asked Peter what they should do.
Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?” (NASB) Acts 2:37
Acts 2:38 is Peter’s response. It is important to notice that the men were pierced in their hearts because they believed. They would not have been pierced in the heart if they did not believe what Peter was saying. Peter knew that they believed that Jesus died for their sins and was Lord. So Peter told them what they needed to do next – repent and be baptized. Baptism is an act of dedication to Jesus.
The Greek word EIS which is translated as “in” in the expression “baptized in the name of” generally has the idea of “in.” It can mean “into, to, in, at, on, upon, by, near; among, against, or concerning.” EIS has the sense of movement into something. That is, Peter called them to repent because of their new belief and relationship with Jesus in order to “move into” forgiveness. Repentance follows belief and baptism is a symbolic act of their new belief and repentance because of Jesus.
EIS is translated as “for” in the phrase “for the forgiveness of sins” in Matt. 26:28.
And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins. Matt 26:27–28 (NASB)
This implies that the verse could have also been translated as “in or into” or “for the purpose of” the forgiveness of sins. The Greek EIS has a range of meanings all of which have the idea of movement into something.
You state that baptism is a ritual. Baptism is a symbolic act, but it should not be a cold ritual act. Baptism should be an act of obedience due to a new heart that loves God and wants to demonstrate to the world that one is committed to Jesus Christ.
1. Newman, B. M., Jr. A Concise Greek-English dictionary of the New Testament. United Bible Societies.1993.
2. Joseph Thayer. The New Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon. Christian Copyrights. 1983. pp. 183-186..
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