Baptism: Necessary For Forgiveness Of Sins, Or Because Sins Have Already Been Forgiven?

There is much confusion and division in Christendom about the subject of baptism.

Professed followers of Christ disagree over its definition.  (Is it pouring, sprinkling, or immersion?  Is one baptized in water, or in the Holy Spirit?)  They disagree over its purpose.  (Must it happen in order to have sins forgiven, or because sins have already been forgiven?  Must one be baptized in order to be saved, or is it simply a public confession of faith and obedience after having already been saved?)  There is division over baptism’s recipients.  (Should infants be baptized?  Can anyone be baptized?)  There is confusion over whether a need would ever exist to be re-baptized.  (What if I was baptized as an infant?  What if I was baptized for the wrong reason?  What if I have sinned greatly after being baptized?)

These and many other questions are often asked when the subject of baptism is raised.  All of them are legitimate, and deserve a biblical answer.  This is why if God is willing the next few articles from this writer will be devoted to answering these and other questions related to baptism.  After all, baptism was commanded by Christ himself (Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16), and so it is certainly worthy of careful consideration.  May we all receive what God’s Word has to say about this subject with a desire to at least understand, if at first we do not agree, and then read the Bible carefully to see if the conclusions reached in these articles are true (Acts 17:11).

As mentioned earlier, Christ himself after his death and resurrection commanded his apostles to preach the gospel and baptize believers in their efforts to make disciples everywhere (Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16).  A short time later, the apostle Peter preached the gospel in Jerusalem on the Jewish holiday of Pentecost, and commanded people to repent and be baptized “for the forgiveness of sins” (Acts 2:38).  After exhorting his audience to be saved, many responded by being baptized (Acts 2:40-41).

Some believe that the “for” in Acts 2:38’s “for forgiveness of sins” means “because your sins have been forgiven” rather than “in order for your sins to be forgiven.”  This is because the Greek word translated “for” (eis) sometimes means “because of;” however, in most cases eis means “in order to.”  Which is the proper meaning in Acts 2:38?

Jesus’ thoughts about the cup when he instituted the Lord’s Supper (Matt. 26:28) shed light onto this conundrum.  When defining the fruit of the vine as “my blood of the covenant, which is shed for many…”, he used the identical grammatical construction in the Greek as is used in Acts 2:38“…for forgiveness of sins.”  When he said this…several hours before he died on the cross to provide forgiveness for the sins of mankind…did he intend his phrase “for forgiveness of sins” to mean that his blood had ALREADY provided forgiveness of sins?  Obviously not.  It is clear that he intended to convey that his blood would be shed for many IN ORDER TO provide forgiveness of sins.  Since Acts 2:38 contains the same identical phrase, we can confidently conclude that Peter was telling them that they needed to be baptized IN ORDER TO have their sins forgiven (Acts 2:38), and they responded accordingly (Acts 2:41).

This makes even more sense when one sees that Peter also commanded repentance in addition to baptism in order to have sins forgiven.  The idea that sins could be forgiven BEFORE one repented of them is foreign to Scripture (2 Cor. 7:9-11; Acts 3:19; Luke 13:3, 35; 24:47).  Thus, it is clear that Peter was telling them to repent and be baptized IN ORDER TO  have their sins forgiven, not because their sins had ALREADY been forgiven.

Do you want your sins forgiven by God?  If so, then God’s promise and command through Peter to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for forgiveness of sins applies to you just as it did to Peter’s hearers on Pentecost.  We know this because Peter then said, “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 2:39; cf. 2 Thess. 2:14; Rom. 1:16; Mark 16:15-16).  Why delay?  Repent of your sins, and be baptized to wash them away (Acts 22:16).  Future articles will give more information about this needed topic.

10 thoughts on “Baptism: Necessary For Forgiveness Of Sins, Or Because Sins Have Already Been Forgiven?”

  1. I believe that scripture is being twisted here. I hope that what I say will touch hearts and I am praying over this blog, that indeed, His Truth, will be revealed. I will say this and be done. I will not continue to post comments but instead pray that the eyes and hearts of those who read would see and know, and that the scales would fall away.
    If baptism is used for forgiveness of sin, then the need for Christ to come and die was nil. Nothing but the blood of Christ saves us. John 14:6 “Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” When we accept His gift we are saved and by nothing else can we be. Scripture also states that grace alone is sufficient and there is not need for works. Eph. 2:8-9 “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God– not because of works, lest any man should boast.” Did His death sanctify water? Or does it sanctify the souls of those who seek Him, confess, and live for Him? Is water so blessed now that during baptism it washes our very soul? Or is our soul washed clean by the Spirit because of Jesus death? Matt. 3:11 “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” Scripture DOES tell us to be baptized and so we should, but it is to show the world that we are set apart (just as the Jews were circumcised to show that they were set apart). Romans 3:27-31 “Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. Because of what law? The law that requires works? No, because of the law that requires faith. For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law.” So we are saved by faith alone in the blood of Christ, and by law we show our salvation and the example of our new birth by being baptized. I for one am thankful it is this way.

    1. A lot of what the responder has said is true (we are saved by the blood of Christ, we are saved by the grace of God), but that is not counter indicative of a need for baptism. Look at Naaman. Did dipping in the Jordan cleanse him of his leprosy or was it the power of God? Now if Naaman had said and believed in his heart, “I trust in You God and know You have power to cleanse me of my leprosy and ask that You now show Your power,” would he have been cleansed? The answer is no. His works did not save him but his obedience to God’s word saved him. In like manner, it is not getting wet that saves us, but the obedience of God’s word that allows us access to the blood of Christ. Look at 1 Peter 3:21 “Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” While that verse speaks for itself, Peter was talking about Noah and his family had been saved by God by being brought through water and in 1 Corinthians, there is a discussion about how the Israelites were brought through water (Red Sea and the cloud) to their salvation (seems to be a theme here).
      Also, just look at the examples in the Bible. Let’s start with the Ethiopian Eunuch. He is riding along, presumably with just a driver and Philip appears. After preaching Christ to him, what did the Ethiopian Eunuch do? Did he thank Philip for teaching him, say he accepted Christ’s gift and will be baptized at a convenient time? No, he said, “Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?” He wanted to be saved right then. It is interesting to note that in this the Eunuch did not “go on his way rejoicing” until after he was baptized. The Philippian jailor also did not rejoice until after he was baptized (which he also immediately did after hearing the word of the Lord). Why would you stop in the wilderness or be baptized in the dead of night if it was not necessary? There are many more examples but I will sum up. The blood of Christ, faith in God and that Jesus Christ is His Son, repentance from your old life of sin, confession of your faith in Christ as God’s Son are necessary for salvation. However, baptism, not as a work that we perform to “earn” any kind of salvation but as obedience to God’s word is also necessary for salvation. It’s all there in the Bible in black and white (and red) and in many examples. I do not say this to be superior or accusatory (and it is difficult to get away from what you have always been taught), but if you truly study the Bible for what it actually says, you will come to the conclusion that baptism is necessary.

      1. Necessary for salvation or obedience for sanctification? And which baptism? there are 7 biblical baptisms, not just water baptism. Three are wet, and four are dry. And baptism means simply “identification with.” So which one is more efficacious than faith in Christ’s redemptive work on the cross? It cannot be following Jesus in his baptism because the water there identified him with the work He would do on the cross – the Father’s salvific plan. None of us can therefore “follow Christ” in His baptism because we are born in sin and therefore not qualified to go to the cross to provide the payment required for our sins. Did the tetalestai (sp)finished work of Christ propitiate the Father or does the act of water baptism propitiate Him? At the point of faith alone in Christ alone, we are baptized into Christ by the Holy Spirit – a dry baptism, but a baptism which cannot be revoked by anything we could ever do. The sacrificial work of Jesus Christ on the cross is the rock I stand on. In obedience to His command, I was immersed in water baptism to show world in ritual manner that the real baptism had taken place in my soul. I had to go to some Baptismal candidate classes to learn what that meant before my ritual baptism took place. That baptism was about ME and my desire to get on the road to become His disciple and to witness for my Savior ; but if I had been taken out of life before that ritual, I would not have gone to hades to await the Lake of Fire because the baptism I received at the point of faith in Christ was ALL about Him and my identification with Him (accepted in the beloved). . . and I could never thank Him to the fulness of my joy- there are not enough words.

      2. Hi Linda. Thanks for reading and taking the time to reply. You raise some very relevant questions. Let’s go to Scripture to find the answers to them.

        You asked if baptism was necessary for salvation or obedience for sanctification. The Bible teaches that baptism is necessary for both, and that both are in fact correlated with each other. Baptism is necessary for salvation (Mark 16:16; 1 Pet. 3:21), and obedience is also necessary for salvation (Heb. 5:9; Matt. 7:21). Jesus commanded baptism (Mark 16:16), as did his apostles (Acts 2:38), so when one is baptized, one is obeying Christ, and thus is doing something necessary for salvation. When one is baptized into Christ, he becomes a new creation (Rom. 6:3-5), and thus is sanctified, or set apart, from how he used to be, and from the rest of the world. This is why Paul mentioned washing (a reference to baptism) and sanctification interchangeably (1 Cor. 6:11; Eph. 5:26).

        You then mentioned seven biblical baptisms and asked which one. While I am aware of a plurality of baptisms mentioned in Scripture, I can’t in my mind remember defining seven. Your help in specifying them even more than you already have would be appreciated. In the meantime, I’d like to go to Scripture to talk about the ones which I’m aware of.

        There was John’s baptism, which was in water (Mark 1:5) and was a baptism of repentance for forgiveness of sins (Mark 1:4). This baptism was administered before Christ came for the purpose of causing faith in Christ (Acts 19:4), but those who were baptized by John were required after the church began to be baptized again, this time in the name of Jesus (Acts 19:1-5).

        There was also John’s prophecy of Jesus baptizing with the Holy Spirit and with fire (Matt. 3:11). The baptism of the Holy Spirit was administered to the apostles on the day of Pentecost (Acts 1:5, 8; 2:1-4), which was when they received power from the Holy Spirit to work miracles. The baptism of fire mentioned by John is referring contextually to the punishment of hell waiting for his listeners who were unrepentant in their sins (Matt. 3:7-10, 12).

        And then there is Jesus’ reference to Nicodemus of being “born again” “of water and the Spirit” (John 3:3-5). This is a reference to being baptized in Jesus’ name for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38) after the church began. After the church began, there would be only one baptism as far as God is concerned (Eph. 4:5), and this one would be it. It would be in water (Acts 8:36-38; 10:47-48), it would be part of the process of becoming a disciple (Matt. 28:19-20), it would be for salvation (Mark 16:16; 1 Pet. 3:21), it would referred to as a washing (Acts 22:16; 1 Cor. 6:11; Eph. 5:26; Tit. 3:5), and it would be into Christ (Rom. 6:3-4; Gal. 3:27) and into his body (1 Cor. 12:13). In Acts, each person who we read of becoming a disciple was baptized (Acts 2:41; 8:12, 35-38; 9:18; 10:47-48; 16:30-33; etc.) This is the baptism I was speaking of in my article, and it is necessary in order to be saved, forgiven of sins, and to become a Christian.

        You mentioned that baptism means “identification with.” Respectfully, the word itself literally in the original Greek means “to dip, to plunge, to immerse.”

        You then asked, “So which one is more efficacious than faith in Christ’s redemptive work on the cross?” Without Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, not only would baptism be meaningless, but also our faith, repentance, obedience, good works, all of it. We need Christ to take our place on that cross and be the propitiation for our sins because none of us, no matter how faithful, repentant, and obedient we are, are perfect. We all have sinned, and God’s justice and wrath demand that we be punished (Rom. 3:23; 6:23; 1:18ff). But Christ took our place on the cross, thankfully. However, even though he died on the cross, he still commands that we have faith, repent of sins, and have our sins washed away in baptism in order to be saved.

        You then mentioned that baptism “cannot be following Jesus in his baptism because the water there identified him with the work He would do on the cross – the Father’s salvific plan. None of us can therefore “follow Christ” in His baptism because we are born in sin and therefore not qualified to go to the cross to provide the payment required for our sins.” Respectfully, the reason Jesus was baptized is clearly stated in Scripture: “in order to fulfill all righteousness” (Matt. 3:15). There is no mention of the water he was baptized in identifying him with what he was to do on the cross. We are baptized simply because Christ commanded that we be baptized. It is part of Christ’s plan for our redemption. If we want to be redeemed, we will follow that plan. (As a sidenote, the Bible plainly teaches that we are NOT “born in sin.” See Ezek. 18:1-20.)

        You then asked, “Did the tetalestai (sp)finished work of Christ propitiate the Father or does the act of water baptism propitiate Him?” Propitiation means “appeasing sacrifice,” and is a reference to Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, not his baptism.

        You then mentioned, “At the point of faith alone in Christ alone, we are baptized into Christ by the Holy Spirit – a dry baptism, but a baptism which cannot be revoked by anything we could ever do.” You might be interested to know that there is only one time in Scripture that the phrase “faith alone” is used, and that is in James 2:24, where God tells us that we are justified by works, and not by faith alone. Faith is needed, but faith without works of obedience is not a living faith, but a dead one (James 2:14-26). And if the baptism into Christ does not involve water, then why was the eunuch so interested in being baptized in water when he believed in Jesus (Acts 8:35-38)? Why did Jesus himself mention water (John 3:5), along with Peter (Acts 10:47-48) and Paul (Eph. 5:26)? Respectfully, the Bible teaches that baptism into Christ involves water.

        You then mentioned, “The sacrificial work of Jesus Christ on the cross is the rock I stand on. In obedience to His command, I was immersed in water baptism to show world in ritual manner that the real baptism had taken place in my soul. I had to go to some Baptismal candidate classes to learn what that meant before my ritual baptism took place. That baptism was about ME and my desire to get on the road to become His disciple and to witness for my Savior ; but if I had been taken out of life before that ritual, I would not have gone to hades to await the Lake of Fire because the baptism I received at the point of faith in Christ was ALL about Him and my identification with Him (accepted in the beloved). . .”

        Respectfully, the Bible teaches that one is baptized in water in order to be saved, forgiven, and be added to the church. There is no mention of being baptized to show the world that you had been already baptized spiritually. The Bible teaches that salvation comes to those who are faithfully, penitently, baptized (immersed) in water for the forgiveness of sins into Christ and his body. Those who die without doing so are not saved, just as those who die without having faith, or repenting of their sins, would not be saved. I know that sounds harsh, but it is nothing more than what the Bible teaches, and it is said in love.

        Again, thanks for reading and taking the time to write. I hope you continue to read and follow my blog.

    2. A, I’m sorry to hear that you will no longer comment. I hope you change your mind, and that you continue to follow my blog. If not, I want to thank you for taking the time that you have.

      A lot of people, including yourself, have this mistaken notion that obeying God’s commands somehow makes it so that we earn or merit our own salvation and thus nullify what Christ did on the cross and God’s grace. Such could not be further from the truth. None of us have ever been without sin or ever will be without sin; that means that no matter how much of God’s will we obey, we would still be lost due to our sin. That means that we NEED the grace of God, and we NEED Christ to be the propitiation for our sins on the cross.

      However, God still tells us that those who obey him will be saved (Heb. 5:9; Matt. 7:21-23). Does that mean that those who obey him will get into heaven on their own merit? No, because all have sinned and thus deserve hell, not heaven; that’s where God’s grace comes in.

      With that in mind, examine Titus 2:11-12. God’s grace is being talked about here, but notice that the Bible says that God’s grace “instructs” us to DO certain things, namely to deny ungodliness and worldly passions and to live soberly, righteously, and godly. Now, what if we refuse to do what God’s grace instructs us to do? Will God’s grace save us?

      Not according to what is specifically stated in Heb. 10:26-31 and what is implied in Rom. 6:1-2.

      I am promoting that one must be baptized in order to have their sins forgiven because that is what God said in his Word. If God had not said so, then you wouldn’t hear it from me. God has also told us that we must believe in order to be saved and have our sins forgiven. He has also told us that we must repent of our sins in order to be saved and have our sins forgiven. In Matt. 25:31-46, he tells people that they are going to heaven because of the benevolent deeds that they did while living. Did those people not need God’s grace? Did they not need Christ’s sacrifice? Certainly not. They were saved by God’s grace and Christ’s death, but their obedience is what made God’s grace and Christ’s death not in vain on their behalf. They believed, they repented, they were baptized, they did good deeds, they basically obeyed God. Perfectly? No, and that’s where God’s grace and Christ’s sacrifice come in.

      Again, thanks for reading and having this discussion with me. I would encourage everyone, concerning baptism, to simply take the Bible for what it says.

    3. It is apparent that the responder does not understand how to interpret scripture. I don’t say that to be mean, but to point out that many people just repeat what they have been taught. The responder would do well to study the subject of baptism from the scriptures and then notice all of the examples of conversion involving baptism. My questions to him/her would be: 1. Where is the scripture that says we are saved when we accept His gift? 2. Does a person have to repent in order to be saved? What about confession? 3. Where is the verse that states that grace alone is sufficient and there is no need for works? 4. Where is the verse that says baptism is to show the world we are set apart? 5. Where is the verse that says we are saved by faith alone? 6. Where is the verse that says that by law we show our salvation. 7. Where is the verse that says we show our new birth by being baptized? This person most definitely does not know what the true meaning of the verses he/she qouted. This person took the verses way out of context. If the person happens to come back and read this, I would appreciate the locations of the verses to prove what he/she says.

    4. THE BAPTISM OF JOHN VERSUS CHRISTIAN BAPTISM BY STEVE FINNELL
      POINT: Those who reject the Scriptures concerning the purpose of Christian baptism, readily accepts the Biblical account as to the purpose of water baptism performed by John the Baptist.

      Christian Baptism: Men are told to believe in Jesus Christ, repent, and be baptized in water for the forgiveness of their sins and they will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

      Mark 16:16 He who has believed and who has been baptized shall be saved..
      Acts 2:38…”Repent, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins;and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

      In Christian baptism men are clothed with Christ.
      Galatians 3:27 For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

      John’s Baptism: Men are told to repent and be baptized in water for the forgiveness of their sins and to believe in Jesus who was to come. (The Holy Spirit had yet been given).

      Luke 3:3 And he came into all the district around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins;
      Acts 19:4 Paul said, “John baptized with a baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in Him who was coming after him, that is, in Jesus.”

      Christian baptism follows believing in Jesus, and repentance, (repentance means to make the commitment to turn away from sin and turn toward God).

      The baptism of John followed repentance, (resolving to sin no more).

      Luke 7:30 But the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected God’s purpose for themselves, not having been baptized by John.

      If the Pharisees and lawyers rejected God’s purpose by failing to be baptized by John the Baptist; what will be the consequences for those who reject the baptism commanded by Jesus?

      Did you ever notice that the proponents of the “faith only” doctrine no not say that “for” in Luke 3:3 means “because of”?

      John’s baptism was not because their sin were already forgiven. Christian baptism preached on the Day of Pentecost was not because their sins were already forgiven. (Acts 2:38)

      Luke 3:7 So he began saying to the crowds who were going to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come.

      John’s baptism in water was essential to spare them of the wrath to come.

      Christian baptism in water is essential to spare us all, of the wrath to come.(Mark 16:16…baptized shall be saved….)

      The baptism of John became obsolete on the Day of Pentecost.

      CHRISTIAN BAPTISM IS AVAILABLE UNTIL JESUS RETURNS.

      YOU ARE INVITED TO FOLLOW MY BLOG. http://steve-finnell.blogspot.com

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