“Because Of” or “Into”?

by Terry Wane Benton

The Argument:

"In addition to Acts 2:38, there are three other verses where the Greek word eis is used in conjunction with the word “baptize” or “baptism.” The first of these is Matthew 3:11, “baptize you with water for repentance.” Clearly the Greek word eis cannot mean “in order to get” in this passage. They were not baptized “in order to get repentance,” but were “baptized because they had repented.” The second passage is Romans 6:3, where we have the phrase “baptized into (eis) His death.” This again fits with the meaning “because of” or in "regard to." The third and final passage is I Corinthians 10:2 and the phrase “baptized into (eis) Moses in the cloud and in the sea.” Again, eis cannot mean “in order to get” in this passage because the Israelites were not baptized in order to get Moses to be their leader, but because he was their leader and had led them out of Egypt. If one is consistent with the way the preposition eis is used in conjunction with baptism, we must conclude that Acts 2:38 is indeed referring to their being baptized “because” they had received forgiveness of their sins."

The Argument Answered:

Matthew 3:11 Examined

Matthew 3:11 is “baptism unto (eis) repentance.” Does this really mean “baptism because of repentance” already completed? No! It is John’s baptism, which was a baptism into a commitment of repentance, a life of change to get ready for the Messianic kingdom. In John’s baptism, you were baptized to show a commitment to change that prepared you for the coming Messiah and His kingdom. Baptism was not into Christ yet, but into a penitent life, transforming faith in the coming Messiah, and thus baptism “unto repentance”. It was not baptism “because of” repentance already completed, but a baptism into the repentance they committed to begin and continue. As they learned more about the Messiah they would change more. Baptism is into a repentance that commits to the change of preparing for the Messiah, and a change that will accept and serve Him when He comes into His kingdom. So, this is not a one-moment repentance already completed, but a preparation for change now and a change under His kingship when He is presented to them. John preached to repent for the kingdom is at hand, so a change now to start to get ready for the kingdom and a change ahead when the kingdom arrived. So, this was a baptism into repentance, a change to begin to get ready and a change that will accept the King and enter His kingdom when His kingdom is manifest (Pentecost of Acts 2). So “eis” retains its forward look into change that is still ahead, not a look back at a change already completed.

Craig Blomberg, in his commentary on Matthew, observes:

“A venerable tradition of Baptist interpreters has seen the ‘for’(eis) as actually meaning ‘because’ here, but more recent grammatical analysis makes this unlikely”.

Another observed:

“It would seem that most scholars consider that “eis” always has a forward-looking concept, never a backward-looking one. The words “into,” “to,” and “unto” (the most common translations of eis) carry that idea. I think “into” could be a good translation here (Matthew 3:11). Yes, the people being baptized had already repented, but it was not a one-time-done-deal. They were beginning a life guided by repentance, not only continuing on the new road (“fruits of repentance”) but also repenting anew when called for. They were baptized into a repentant form of life. This does not contradict any other teaching and allows us to preserve the most common meaning rather than reach for the rarest one.”

A Lutheran scholar wrote the following:

"What does this mean? Simply stated, J.R. Mantey was taken to task by Ralph Marcus. When the dust settled, Wallace concedes that Marcus, “ably demonstrated that the linguistic evidence for a casual εἰς fell short of proof.” Now, what makes Wallace’s insights on this so valuable is that he makes this observation not from a Lutheran perspective. Wallace is not only the founder and executive director of The Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts, but a former graduate of Biola University and a professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, a non-denominational Evangelical Seminary. Thus, it is reasonable to say that Wallace rejects translating εἰς in the causal sense not on the basis of a so-called bias Lutheran theological lens but on the basis of solid linguistic criteria. Keep in mind though that Wallace is not saying that baptism is essential for salvation but he does assert that the argument of translating εἰς as ‘because of’ is not linguistically feasible. All of this said, a proper rendering of Acts 2:38 is that Peter is calling forth for his hearers to repent and be baptized ‘for’ the forgiveness of sins, not ‘because.’

"While the debates will continue on the issues of baptismal regeneration, the one clear thing is that Acts 2:38 shows that Peter is calling forth for his hearers to be baptized ‘for’ the forgiveness of sins. Yes, forgiveness of sins is connected to baptism, for the promise is for them and for their children and for all who are far off.

"Is there forgiveness of sins in baptism? Yes, according to Acts 2:38 there is."

So, this is not a bias of my peers in churches of Christ, but something that many others outside my associations have seen in the pattern of the word “eis” in Greek. It is usually pointing forward to a desired end.

In Acts 2:36-41 it is definitely pointing to the desired result. They were not already saved when they asked, “What shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). Therefore, they were instructed to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for (eis) the desired end of having remission of sins. They were not already saved when they were told this, for Peter further encouraged them to “be saved” (Acts 2:40). If they were already saved before repenting and being baptized, then:

  1. Salvation is enjoyed before repentance,
  2. it is enjoyed before baptism, and
  3. Peter told saved people to repent, to be baptized, and to “be saved” when they were already saved.

That requires a lot of twists to make it fit the false notion of salvation by faith alone, which doctrine is refuted by James 2:14-24. There is not one verse that speaks of ‘faith alone,” but some say, “not by faith alone.” So be careful to listen to the inspired writers above denominational preachers who tend to pervert the scriptures in an agenda to protect their denominational doctrine.

Does Matthew 3:11 mean “baptism because of repentance?” Not necessarily! John was teaching a baptism into repentance that would keep producing fruit and repentance that would prepare them for the more significant change from the earthly kingdom of Israel to the heavenly kingdom of Jesus. Thus, this baptism was into repentance as a transforming way of life. In other words, we can begin our repentance, and be baptized into that repentant life. There are “fruits worthy of repentance” (Matthew 3:8). Is all the fruit of repentance already fully produced before baptism? If not, then repentance is not fully over before baptism. Baptism is, therefore, into repentance as a new life ahead that will prepare for the coming kingdom (which came on Pentecost of Acts 2).

Paul spoke of dying to sin (isn’t that started with repentance? Then burial in baptism, then rising to walk in newness of life as slaves of righteousness (Romans 6:1-18)). That is repentance leading to baptism which is in turn into repentance as a newness of life direction. So, Matthew 3:11 is not proof that eis is causal rather than purposeful here. The above writer said they were not baptized “in order to get repentance.” No! But rather, they were baptized to prove further their repentance was still before them, and they were still committing to it. John’s baptism was into repentance as a commitment to bringing forth fruit of a changing life. Since there was fruit to bear in proving repentance is genuine and real, it is not over before baptism.

Romans 6:3 Examined

Romans 6:3 does not mean to be baptized “because of” His death but rather to be baptized into union with His death. In our burial, we are leaving the old life behind, uniting with the benefits of His death for our sins, and committing to rise up with Him to a new life. Thus, we are baptized into His death to appropriate His blood benefits.

I Corinthians 10:2 Examined

I Corinthians 10:2 does not mean they were “baptized because of Moses”, but instead were baptized into Moses as their only leader of influence. They had been torn between Moses and Pharoah, and now they entered the cloud and sea with total commitment to Moses, baptized into union with him as their leader, leaving behind their old connections to Pharoah of Egypt. Again, they were looking forward to a new life ahead as they committed to Moses. We likewise leave a former self behind as we commit to Jesus as our new leader, and we are baptized into Him to begin a new life under His leadership. The “eis” still looks forward and does not mean “because of” in any of those verses.

The above writer was subtle in saying it does not mean “in order to get Moses.” No! But it does mean in order to enter into union with Moses as their leader exclusive of Pharoah’s power to hold them captive. Likewise, we are baptized in order to leave the bondage of sin and enter into union with Jesus as our leader exclusive of Satan’s power to hold us captive. Pharoah and Egypt’s power over the Israelites was not broken until they were “baptized unto Moses” in the cloud and in the sea where the hold of Pharoah was broken and left behind with a new life ahead for them. That is why Paul put rising to newness of life as one comes up from burial in baptism (Romans 6:3-6). Newness of life is not before baptism. It is after baptism completes the form of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. We are “then made free from sin” (Romans 6:17-18; Acts 2:38; 22:16).

These truths are like goads to prod us. Let us not “kick against the pricks” in stubbornness! Commit to Jesus and be baptized into union with Him!

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