A Correct Interpretation Of Acts 2:38
By David J. Stewart | May 2014
Acts 2:38, “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.”
Our text verse from Acts 2:38 is frequently misinterpreted by sincere but naive students of the holy Bible. To the naive, this Scripture seems to say... Repent and be water baptized to be saved! This is NOT what the Bible is teaching here. We know from the plainest teachings of the Scripture that salvation comes solely by faith in Jesus Christ. Man is incapable of keeping God's commandments as given to Moses in the Old Testament, written in stone. God gave us His law in stone, which cannot be bent without breaking them. You either keep or break God's word, but they cannot be bent.
The Greek word for the word “for” in Acts 2:38 is “EIS” and means “in lieu of.” Thus, the Bible is saying to be water baptized in lieu of the fact that your sins have already been forgiven when you repented and placed your faith in Christ.
Please note that repentance and faith are NOT two separate events in time. They are two separate parts of ONE STEP. Salvation is NOT a process. Repentance and faith are not the same thing, but they happen simultaneously (at the same time). Repentance cannot exist without faith, nor can faith exist without repentance.
A good illustration is electricity. To have electricity you MUST have BOTH voltage and current. Voltage is electrical pressure, much like the water pressure in a garden hose. Current is the flow of electricity, similar to the flow of water in a garden hose. Electricity must have both voltage and current, and they work together at the same time.
Another illustration is a Bible-preaching evangelist who boards a plane to travel from Michigan to Hawaii for a speaking engagement. He doesn't first leave Michigan, and then secondarily head toward Hawaii; but rather, he is moving toward his destination in Hawaii AT THE SAME TIME he is moving away from his origin in Michigan. Likewise, repentance and faith are part of one deal, happening together at the same time. As we turn toward Christ by faith, we have at the same time turned our back against the awfulness of sin.
The apostle Paul said that the law made his sins exceedingly sinful (Romans 7:13). Romans 3:19 teaches that the PURPOSE of God's law is to silence our boasting of any self-righteousness, and show us that we are GUILTY sinners in need of a Savior. Hence, repentance is a “change of mind”—a change of mind about how YOU want to get to Heaven to what GOD says we've got to do to get to Heaven! God tells us to REST in Christ, because of what He has done to pay the price for our sins by His literal blood which He shed upon the cross, which is sprinkled on the Mercy Seat in Heaven (Hebrews 9:12,24;12:24).
Christ died upon the cross for our sins, and was buried, and was resurrected from the dead three days later. This is the gospel (1st Corinthians 15:1-4). We receive eternal life by completely RESTING in Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins, Who is our Sabbath today (Hebrews 4:1-11). YOU ARE A SINNER! Unless you accept Christ's payment for your sins, you will burn in Hell for eternity.
The following helpful words of Biblical exegesis accurately explaining Acts 2:38 are by Dr. Max D. Younce . . .
Contradiction Between Acts 2:38 and John 3:16?
By Dr. Max D. Younce
There is seemingly a contradiction between Acts 2:38, which says "... Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ FOR the remission of sins,..."; and, John 3:16 which says "...whosoever BELIEVETH in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." Both can’t be right! So, what is your answer to this?
The key to getting the proper understanding of Acts 2:38 is found in the little Greek word "eis", translated "for." The Greek "eis" is translated various ways in the New Testament, depending on the context and the usage of the word itself, by demonstrating basis, ground, aim, or purpose.
For example, in I Corinthians 2:7, "eis doxan hemon" is translated "unto our glory." (KJV). In the RSV, it is translated "for our glory." It is translated thus in demonstrating aim or purpose, that being, our glory. In Matthew 12:41, "eis" is translated "at", demonstrating the basis or grounds, that being the preaching of Jonah was the grounds for the repentance of Nineveh. "...because they repented at (or "because of") the preaching of Jonas."
A.T. Robertson, a well-known Greek Scholar, has pointed out that the Greek preposition "eis", translated "for" in the phrase "for the remission of sins," may also mean "because of." An example of this can be found in Luke 11:32, where the text says that the people of Nineveh "...repented at the preaching of Jonas..." The word "at" is a translation of the same Greek term "eis" found in Acts 2:38. The people of Jonah’s day, you see, did not repent for his preaching; but, because of it.
To quote Dr. John R. Rice, a worthy scholar, from his "Filled With the Spirit, The Book of Acts, A Verse-by-Verse Commentary: "The King James translation of Acts 2:38 ‘...be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins...’ is unfortunate and inaccurate. The little Greek preposition eis, translated for, is an indefinite preposition of reference. It does not mean in order to. If Peter had commanded the people to be baptized in order to receive the remission of sins, he would have needed to use the Greek preposition hina, which means in order to He did not.
This little preposition eis, used about 1,800 times in the New Testament in Greek, is variously translated, for, at, toward, unto, into, etc. So it could be translated for, as here, only in the sense of ‘on the basis of,’ or ‘on the ground of,’ so Dr. A.T. Robertson explains.
Even in English the preposition for does not necessarily mean in order to. Often for means ‘on the basis of,’ or ‘on the ground of.’ Thus one is scolded for being late, or arrested for stealing, or praised for beauty, or rewarded for bravery, or paid for work. In that sense only is one ‘baptized for the remission of sins,’ that is baptized for remission of sins already obtained when one repented.
Acts 2:38 does not give a new plan of salvation. Acts 10:43 says, ‘To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.’ So John 3:36 says, ‘He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life.’ So say many other Scriptures. One who trusts in Christ has, immediately, everlasting life."
With this in mind, let us return to Acts 2:38 where the Greek "eis" is translated "for" in the KJV and "unto" in the RSV. In these instances,, the Greek "eis" would be incorrectly translated "for and "unto". The correct translation would be "BECAUSE OF", a more accurate rendering. Therefore, in Acts 2:38, "eis" is showing the "basis or grounds" for baptism, that being their remission of sins BECAUSE of their belief in Jesus Christ. This would then be in perfect agreement with all other Scripture concerning salvation.
Here is how the verse would read in its proper translation, "Then said Peter unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ ("EIS") BECAUSE OF, the remission of sins..."
In other words, "repent" or "change your mind" about the Christ you crucified with wicked hands (hands of unbelief). (Acts 2:23). Receive Him as your Savior; then be baptized, thus publicly identifying yourself with Him in this profession of your faith. There is no contradiction between Acts 2:38 and John 3:16!
SOURCE: Contradiction Between Acts 2:38 and John 3:16?
Here is the full quote by Dr. John R. Rice which Pastor Younce provides in his excellent book, “A BIBLICAL EXAMINATION OF BAPTISM (.pdf)” . . .
"The King James Translation of Acts 2:38"
The King James translation of Acts 2:38, '...be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins...' is unfortunate and inaccurate. The little Greek preposition eis, translated for, is an indefinite preposition of reference. It does not mean in order to. If Peter had commanded the people to be baptized in order to receive the remission of sins, he would have needed to use the Greek preposition hina, which means in order to. He did not use the Greek word.
This little preposition eis, used about 1,800 times in the New testament in Greek, is variously translated, for, at, toward, unto, into, etc. So it could be translated for, as here, only in the sense of 'on the basis of,' or 'on the ground of,' so Dr. A.T. Robertson explains.
Even in English the preposition for does not necessarily mean in order to. Often for means 'on the basis of,' or 'on the ground of.' Thus one is scolded for being late, or arrested for stealing, or praised for beauty, or rewarded for bravery, or paid for work. In that sense only is one 'baptized for the remission of sins,' i.e., baptized for remission of sins already obtained when one repented.
Acts 2:38 does not give a new plan of salvation. Acts 10:43 says, 'To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.' So John 3:36 says, 'He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life." So say many other Scriptures. One who trusts in Christ has, immediately, everlasting life."
Anyone who teaches that a person MUST be water baptized to get to Heaven is preaching a false gospel of works. Likewise, anyone who requires a person to stop sinning, forsake the world, have intent to reform, start a relationship with Jesus, invite Jesus into your heart, keep sacraments, turn from sin, or make full surrender to Christ to be saved is propagating a false plan of salvation that absolutely cannot produce the new birth in Christ Jesus. Contrary to what C.S. Lewis taught, there are no formulas to salvation.
You don't turn from sin to be saved; but rather, to turn to Jesus Christ to be forgiven of your sins. The purpose of the law is to be used as a measuring stick, by which when we are compared, we realize that we are hopeless sinners incapable to saving ourselves. We all fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). But God in His tremendous mercy and love made a way of escape through the sacrifice of His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, Who died upon the cross for our sins, was buried, and then miraculously raised up from the dead three days later (1st Corinthians 15:1-4).
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