For (eis) the Remission of Sins

by Terry Wane Benton

It is argued by some that “for” the remission of sins, as used in Acts 2:38, should be understood to mean “because of” the remission of sins you already have. They say it is like we use the term when saying, “Take some ibuprofen for your headache.” In that case, “for” would not mean “in order to” have a headache, but rather “because of” (you already have a headache), and you are taking the ibuprofen “because of” the headache.

However, the illustration does not hold up in the text of Acts 2:38 nor in the illustration itself. Let me start with the illustration itself. You take the ibuprofen to solve a headache, not to celebrate “because of” a headache. Peter is not telling you to be baptized because you already have remission of sins, or he would be celebrating the remission of sins already obtained. You have sins and need them to be remitted or removed. What shall we do? Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus for the remission you need. They were not told to repent because of the remission of sins they already have, but to have the remission of sins, you need to have. So, the illustration of the headache and taking ibuprofen for the headache does not fit the situation of Acts 2:38. What you find in Acts 2:40 is further encouragement to “be saved” from this perverse generation. Suppose baptism is celebratory of already being saved from sin. In that case, the rejoicing should already be going on, and they should have been saved before they were told to repent and were commanded to be “baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.”

Were they told to “repent” because of the remission of sins you already have? Or, did he command them to repent unto or in order to have the remission of sins? It is clear that repentance must precede (come before) remission of sins is given. God grants “repentance unto life” (Acts 11:18). Is this repentance because you already have life? No! It is repentance that leads to life. Without repentance, there is no life. There is only perishing in sins (Luke 13:3). “Except you repent you will all likewise perish.” Repentance is to escape condemnation and enter into life. Did Peter change the place of repentance in Acts 3:19? There it has, again, repent and be converted that your sins may be blotted out.” Remission of sins and blotting out sins is the same thing, and repentance is in the same place in both Acts 2:38 and 3:19. Remission of sins does not come before repentance. Peter did not tell the 3000 to repent “because of” the remission of sins you already have, but to have the remission of sins you need.

Godly sorrow produces repentance to salvation” (II Corinthians 7:10). Acts 2:38 does not say you are already saved, so now you need to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Repentance and baptism are unto the remission of sins you need.

Given the place repentance has, it is clear that the “eis” (for) holds its usual meaning of a forward look to the desired blessing. Jesus gave His blood “for the remission of sins” (Matthew 26:28). That is the same “eis” you find in Acts 2:38. Jesus did not die on the cross because we already had remission of sins, but rather He died to give us the needed remission of sins.

The illustration of the ibuprofen for a headache is a bad illustration that does not fit the usage of Acts 2:38. A better illustration is, “What shall we do (for a headache)? Take ibuprofen for relief of the headache.” See how that fits Peter's point in Acts 2:38? You have sins that need remitting, so you should repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus for the remission of those sins you seek to have removed. That is a proper illustration that fits what Peter told unsaved people to do to be saved. Eis (the Greek word) is here pointing to the relief needed, not back to relief already experienced. If they already had it, they didn’t know it, and Peter didn’t know it because he encouraged them further to “be saved” from this perverse generation. Repentance and baptism in the name of Jesus is for the remission of sins needed by everyone.

No translation rightfully puts “because of” remission of sins. Only a very few “scholars” with an agenda to protect their man-made doctrine would agree that “eis” means “because of” in Acts 2:38.

Some have, in desperation, used Matthew 12:41 to say that the people of Nineveh “repented at the preaching of Jonah” and say this is an example of this meaning “because of.” They repented because of the preaching of Jonah, not in order for Jonah to preach. So, here is the problem with that idea: repenting at the preaching of Jonah is still best rendered “into” the preaching of Jonah. In other words, they moved their lives into the preaching of Jonah. He had preached repentance to be saved. Since they wanted to be saved from wrath, they repented at his preaching to have the salvation he preached. Salvation was not first theirs, but then they repented because they were saved. So, repenting did not come after salvation but before salvation. They repented for the salvation Jonah preached. They repented to comply with Jonah’s preaching. The direction was forward into the preaching of Jonah, availing their lives to complicity with Jonah’s message. They repented into the preaching that made salvation available.

Tracy White observed:

“Even renowned Baptist scholar, A. T. Robertson, who attempted to twist Acts 2:38 into conformity with his own theological bias, was forced to relinquish his position that eis aphesin hamartion means “because of” when explaining Matthew 26:28. Of the phrase in this text, he stated: “The purpose of the shedding of his blood of the New Covenant was precisely to remove (forgive) sins” (1930, p. 210). If it means “to remove (forgive) sins” in Matthew 26:28, why does the identical phrase not mean the same in Acts 2:38?”

Indeed, the context of Acts 2:38 calls for the standard forward-looking definition of eis. Suppose they wanted to know what they should do (Acts 2:37), and they are still not saved in Acts 2:40. In that case, Acts 2:38 is pointing forward to the remission of sins they needed, so when they “gladly received his word and were baptized” (Acts 2:41) and the celebration begins afterward. Repentance is always before salvation, and then the two things -- repentance and baptism -- are joined together for the same desired result of remission of sins. Only a person with an agenda to support human tradition can say otherwise.

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