Baptism Essential for Salvation? Part 3
From Douglas Jacoby
In this article I am replying to a memo emailed to me…
“I recently read an article on baptism and its purpose. I fully believe baptism is necessary, but some of what I read makes me wonder if why one is baptized (for the forgiveness of sins) is the true purpose indicated by the Bible. The writer of the article said the Greek word for “for” was eis. Apparently, there are multiple meanings — and which one is correct? The writer said, “With so many meanings for eis, it is clear that Acts 2:38 does not necessarily mean that baptism is ‘for the purpose of the forgiveness of sins.'”
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?” 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. For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.” And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation!” So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. (Acts 2:37-41 NASB)
“Let’s consider one parallel use of eis: “I baptize you with water for eis repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry…” (Matthew 3:11) Using this verse for comparison to Acts 2:38, Leiter writes: “Baptism in the name of Christ ‘for’ the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38) no more means that baptism effects forgiveness than that John’s baptism in water ‘for’ repentance (Mt 3:11) caused those who were baptized to repent – John’s baptism was rather a baptism that signified repentance on the part of those baptized.” Using Leiter’s argument, one could speculate that baptism in Acts 2:38 is actually a result of forgiveness rather than a precondition for it. For example, if someone says, “I was dunked for stealing Bill’s towel,” it does not mean he or she was dunked for the purpose of stealing Bill’s towel, but rather as a result of it. So, I was a bit confused as to whether baptism is a result of forgiveness or just a prerequisite for it. I don’t believe God is confusing, nor would he give us a confusing Word. — Sandy”
Douglas’ response (Douglas is a Greek scholar):
“The phrase in Acts 2:38 is universally rendered “for the forgiveness of sins,” or “so that your sins may be forgiven.” This is the translation even in Bibles produced by teams of evangelical scholars (such as the NIV), a number of whom do not agree that baptism today is for the purpose of forgiveness. This fact alone should make us extremely cautious about tampering with the translation, or playing games with prepositions in order to justify our theological biases.
It is true that some prepositions can have more than one meaning. Consider the sentence, “For lack of organization, the project failed.” Here for does not mean “for the purpose of,” but “owing to,” or “on account of.” Yet even in English this is a somewhat rare use of for. (Perhaps it’s even rare in Greek.)
Let me make a few further comments about “eis”:
* John’s baptism is not only for repentance, but also for forgiveness (Mark 1:4). Someone who was baptized by John repented and received forgiveness. Beware of artificially separating the two.
* Prepositions in Greek have just as many senses or possible meanings as prepositions in English. Think back to your English grammar. In a single passage, a single word cannot mean everything it could possibly mean in other contexts! You are right, the confusion lies not with God, but with those who are playing fast and loose with his word.
* Paraphrases (such as the Living Bible), which are not true translations, may suggest other understandings of the passages on baptism. But since they are only paraphrases, they have no authority, nor any bearing on the discussion.
* In Greek, if one were being “dunked” for theft, the word would be dia (on account of), not eis (into, for, etc).
* While God is the final judge, the Bible makes it very clear that he will hold us accountable for the revelation we have. Since Bibles render Acts 2:38 so as to suggest baptism is required for forgiveness, surely this will be the standard — not uninspired articles written by uninspired persons. I would not want to stake my salvation on a possibility — the possibility that Bible translators worldwide have missed the mark.
Accordingly, Acts 2:38 has indeed been properly translated “for the forgiveness of sins.” You can take that to the bank.”
End of article.
* I don’t like all the tone and slights about other people’s opinion on the matter in the above article but I think the Greek part is helpful. Here are some other translations of the verses:
Peter replied, “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. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” (Acts 2:38, 39 NIV)
When the day of Pentecost had arrived, “Repent,” Peter said to them, “and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” (Acts 2:1, 38, 39 HCSB)
Then 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. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. (Acts 2:38, 39 KJV)
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. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” (Acts 2:38, 39 ESV)
Peter said to them, “Repent, and each one 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. For the promise is for you and your children, and for all who are far away, as many as the Lord our God will call to himself.” (Acts 2:38, 39 NET)
* There are currently no translations that say “Repent and be baptized because of the forgiveness of your sins” even though many of the scholars who translated the Bibles hold that theology!