The attempts to debunk the gospel of Christ as heresy are numerous. Though great in number, such opposition to the Gospel cannot stand to the power of God unto salvation, the gospel (Rom 1:16; 1 Cor 15:1–4). One such false rebuttal against the Gospel is to reject being saved by grace and raised with Christ from being buried with Christ in baptism (Eph 2:4–6; Col 2:12–13).
Take for example the position of Kirk Cameron with his associate Ray Comfort in their affirmation that baptism in the name of Jesus Christ is not “into” and to receive the forgiveness of sins, but it is to be done “because of” the forgiveness of sins. After perusing through one of Cameron and Comfort’s books at a bookstore, I found a misleading error. I was surprised since I have already read the affirmation of Cameron and Comfort for the necessity of water baptism and its necessity “for the remission of sins” on their website Living Waters. However, this book framed Acts 2:38 to exclude forgiveness of sins. In Acts 2:38, Peter instructs baptism in the name of Jesus Christ “for the remission of sins.” Likewise, Paul taught the same in Colossians 2:12–13. The false teaching promotes “because of the remission of sins” rather than “to receive the forgiveness of sins” or in an even better translation “into forgiveness of sins.”
I recently came across the blog, “Baptist College Student,” affirming that “Belief alone results in everlasting life” in which the writer has neglected James 2:24, “You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.” However, many people claim that one is saved and justified by faith alone to mean that the faithful do not need to work. Christians are saved and raised as God’s workmanship (Eph 2:10). With all of this said, there are some essential things that everyone should know about baptism and Acts 2:38. The faithful do good works. Furthermore, the Bible never refers to baptism as a work.
For the Remission of Sins
The phrase “for the forgiveness of sins” in Acts 2:38 is significant. The issue has to do with the definition of the word “for” from the Greek word eis meaning “into,” which some say could be translated “because of” rather than “for” or “into.” The exact phrase in Greek behind the translation “for forgiveness of sins” is in three other scriptures. Mark 1:4 and Luke 3:3 present that John the Baptist’s baptism was “of repentance for forgiveness of sins.” The same interpretation for Acts 2:38‘s baptism in Jesus’s name would be the same for John’s baptism of repentance. Both would be for the forgiveness of sins in the same way. The only other passage with this exact phrase is Matthew 26:28. In the context of the Lord’s Supper, Christ stated, “for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.” Jesus’s blood washes and justifies believers according to the Scriptures (Acts 20:28; Rom 3:25, 5:9; Eph 1:7, 2:13; Col 1:20; Heb 9; 13:12; 1 John 1:7; Rev 1:5; 7:14). This verse resolves this whole controversy. Jesus’s blood was not “because of” forgiveness of sins, but His blood was “for” or “into” the forgiveness of sins.
In fact, there are 1,695 occurrences of eis in the Greek New Testament and not one usage means “because of.” On top of this, there are some other uses of eis around Acts 2:38 that show that the word means “into.” After doing a simple word-study and going through the list of words, the definition of the word is abundantly clear. One can fill in “because of” instead of “for” or “into” to see that “because of” will not work. As one can note in the following the list, the Greek eis refers to persons entering a place so that using the phrase “because of” is an absurdity. The word eis refers to changing into something or speaking to someone, and again translating eis as “because of” is fallacious.
Here is a list of occurrences of the word around Acts 2:38 from Acts chapters 1–3:
*Acts 1:10, “And while they were looking steadfastly into [not because of] heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel;”
*Acts 1:11, “who also said, You men of Galilee, why are you stand looking into heaven? this Jesus, who was received up from you into heaven shall so come in like manner as you beheld him going into heaven.”
*Acts 1:12, “Then returned they into [not because of] Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near unto Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey off.”
*Acts 1:13, “And when they were come in, they went up into the upper room, where they were abiding; both Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas the son of James.”
*Acts 1:25, “to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas fell away, that he might go into his own place.”
*Acts 2:20, “The sun shall be turned into darkness, And the moon into blood, Before the day of the Lord come, That great and notable day.”
*Acts 2:22, “You men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God into you by mighty works and wonders and signs which God did by him in the midst of you, even as you yourselves know;”
*Acts 2:25, “For David said into [not because of] him, I beheld the Lord always before my face; For he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved:”
*Acts 2:27, “Because you will not leave my soul into Hades, Neither will you give your Holy One to see corruption.”
*Acts 2:31, “he foreseeing this spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that neither was He left into [not because of] Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption.”
*Acts 2:34, “For David ascended not into the heavens: but he says himself, ‘The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit you on my right hand,'”
*Acts 2:39, “For to you is the promise, and to your children, and to all that are into afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call to him.”
*Acts 3:1, “Now Peter and John were going up into the temple at the hour of prayer, being the ninth hour.”
*Acts 3:2, “And a certain man that was lame from his mother’s womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the door of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms of them that entered into the temple;”
*Acts 3:3, “who seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, asked to receive an alms.”
*Acts 3:4, “And Peter, fastening his eyes into him, with John, said, ‘Look on us.'”
*Acts 3:8, “And leaping up, he stood, and began to walk; and he entered with them unto the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God.”
The truth is that when a believer repents and is baptized, that believer is baptized into the forgiveness of sins. Acts 2:38 states,
“And Peter said to them, ‘Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ into the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’.”
Baptism in Jesus’s Name
The command is clearly for every one to be baptized “in the name of Jesus Christ,” which is not Holy Spirit baptism (Acts 8:14–16). Baptism in the name of Jesus Christ is water baptism according to Peter in Acts 10:47–48 where he speaks, “‘Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?’ And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then they asked him to stay a few days.” Baptism in Jesus’s name is the baptism that Jesus commanded in the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19, which says, “While going, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” This is the same baptism that Christ established in His resurrection when Jesus said in Mark 16:16, “Whoever believes and is baptized shall be saved.” This baptism is the moment that Christ saves. This is the “one baptism” of that Paul noted in Ephesians 4:5. This baptism is the “washing of water” in Ephesians 5:26 by which Christ sanctified and cleansed the church. This washing is that of Titus 3:5 “He saved us…by the washing of regeneration…” This regeneration and rebirth that is “through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet 1:3). For “baptism now saves us” “through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet 3:21). Baptism is to be born again of water as in John 3:3 and 5,
"Jesus answered him, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God'... Jesus answered, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.'"
This is why the apostle Paul was told to “Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” in Acts 22:16. Sins are forgiven when one has buried old person of sin and has been raised with Christ. The Apostle revealed in Colossians 2:12–13,
"Buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses,"
The Moment of Salvation
When is a believer saved? When someone is humble enough to accept the grace of Christ and not his own works, and humble oneself to Christ’s command to be baptized. Baptism is of faith, “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Gal 3:26–27). With baptism being commanded, the Scriptures also teach that obedience is necessary for salvation. The writer revealed in Hebrews 5:9, “And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him,” and Jesus said in Matthew 7:21, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”
God’s Work of Salvation through Baptism
Who or what does the saving by baptism in Titus 3:5 and Ephesians 5:26? Being submerged in water alone does not regenerates, but the Spirit regenerates and Christ cleanses repentant believers at baptism. Christ regenerates the believer who is born of Christ being born of the water and the Spirit. Christ is the One who saves and “not because of works done by us in righteousness” according to Titus 3:5, but “being justified by His grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life” in Titus 3:7. Baptism is not “works-salvation” to be saved by Christ via baptism in His name. The one baptized does not even baptize oneself, so it is not one’s own working. Baptism in Jesus’s name is not the effort of any person to save oneself by works as so many would like to attach to Christ’s baptism.
Because “when we were dead in trespasses, [God] made us alive together with Christ, by grace you have been saved, and raised us up together,” this does not deny or reject the truth that “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; salvation is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph 2:4–7, 8–9).