“Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”
When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off–for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
The Complete Plan of Salvation
When we survey this scripture, we see the complete plan of salvation played out in glorious detail. It’s all here! These people hear the word, they accept it, they are cut to the heart and decide to change or repent, they make Jesus Lord by obeying the message and are baptized for the forgiveness of their sins and then receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Why doesn’t the modern evangelical world just preach the plan of salvation like Peter preached it? When someone comes to the point in their lives where they realize their need for the savior and they humbly ask us, “What must I do?” Why don’t we tell them, “Repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of your sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit?” Instead, we ask them to say a prayer, invite Jesus into their heart or accept Christ as their personal savior.
What’s wrong with using Peter’s prescription? It’s baffling that such a Biblically sound and simple instruction is rarely mentioned in churches today. This salvation instruction, uttered by Peter two thousand years ago, has never changed. It is a promise for all generations and it is so clear, a child can understand it. It would take a Greek scholar to get things confused. And here is exactly what a greek scholar will tell you. They say; and I’m loosely quoting here…
The Greek Scholar
“When Peter uses the word “for” as in “for the forgiveness of your sins,” that word is the Greek word ‘ies.’ This Greek word, ‘eis’ may also be translated ‘because of’, or ‘since.’ Therefore Acts 2:38 could read, ‘Repent and be baptized everyone of you since your sins have been forgiven or because your sins have been forgiven.’” End quote.
They conclude: baptism is not necessary for salvation since sins are already forgiven. Our featured article at GotQuestions.Org discusses this issue in detail.
The evangelical world’s position historically argues the Greek word “eis” means “since” or “because.” They even use a common illustration to help us understand this word use. They say, “If I told you to ‘take an aspirin for your headache,’ everyone understands you are taking an aspirin because you have a headache. You are not taking the aspirin to receive or get a headache’ That’s how the word ‘eis’ is used. It means, ‘be baptized because you already have the forgiveness of your sins. It does not mean be baptized to get the forgiveness of your sins.’”
Take an Aspirin for your Headache!
This sounds like a pretty good illustration until we begin to ask some questions about the analogy.
What does the aspirin do? Hopefully, it relieves my headache. So, everyone understands the purpose of taking the aspirin? We take an aspirin “so that” our headache will go away not for the benefit of the headache itself. When an evangelical uses this aspirin illustration to explain the use of the word ‘for,’ they neglect to frame out the entire illustration. I don’t take an aspirin for my headache, I take and aspirin for the relief of my headache. And, I am baptized for the relief of my sins. The use of the word “for” speaks to the purpose of taking the aspirin, not the desire to get a headache!
If baptism has nothing productive or effectual about it, why would God tack it on after he redeems someone and sins are forgiven? Is it just some ritual or symbolic thing He thinks would be fun. Is it a confirmation of something He has already done? This makes no sense and flies in the face of the fact that there are zero rituals introduced in the New Testament. Baptism is commanded by Peter. It is not introduced as a ritual.
I have read many scholarly articles which present the view that “eis” means “for,” “because of” or “since” and make their case with confidence. This requires a lot of explanation of Greek sentence construction or syntax and the use of singular and plural noun verb agreements, verb tense, voice, mood and number and other linguistic lumberings which the average person would have absolutely no understanding about; including the people Peter is talking to. For them, it was just a simple instruction. They did not need a Greek scholar to help them figure it out. They had a faith that obeys.
Now, if we adopt this erroneous interpretation, we have to ignore some other issues that crop up. Let me show you. Bear in mind as I do this, the erroneous translation is stated like this, “Repent and be baptized, everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ because your sins have been forgiven or since your sins have been forgiven.”
Let’s think this through.
In this interpretation, the forgiveness of sins has already occurred at some unspecified point in time before baptism and the people should be baptized as a response. Modern evangelicalism would call this the “outward sign of an inward grace.” Let’s put this in context using this interpretation.
Peter has just preached the very first Gospel message. The Bible tells us these hearers are cut to the heart and sincerely ask Peter, “What must we do?”
Do for what? “Do to appease our conscience. Do to correct the sin of us killing the Messiah. We want to be forgiven. How do we fix this? Is there any possibility hope for us? Is there a remedy?”
They clearly understand they are guilty of the blood of the Christ. That was the entire point of Peter’s sermon, right? “You are guilty of killing the Messiah.”
Now why would they ask what to do… if their sins were already forgiven and their guilt was already gone? This is an indication that the forgiveness of sins has not occurred by this point in the timeline… when Peter gives his answer. His answer is the solution to their questions. He gives the prescription and it will be up to each individual whether or not to obey the instruction. So, this is confirmation that sins have not been forgiven when they ask their question and they are told there is something which they must do as a response. So, even after Peter answers their question, their sins are still apparently intact.
But there’s more.
Two commands, not one
It is not just one thing contained in Peter’s prescription. Peter tells them to do two things in response to his message. He tells them to repent and be baptized. “And” is a conjunction. It knits two things together. We can not separate these two commands. Both must be obeyed. We can’t pick and choose the ones we want or like. If we say that the greek word “ies” means “because of” or “since,” then that would mean Peter is telling them not only to be baptized because their sins have been forgiven but they should also repent because their sins were previously forgiven. Does that make sense to you?
You know, the Bible never reports the forgiveness of sins before repentance. It always depicts forgiveness of sins following repentance where ever the two things are mentioned together. Once again, why would they even be asking what to do if they had already been saved, and why would Peter later, in verse 40, tell them “Save yourselves?” if they were, already saved?
The people asked a straight forward question, “What must we do?” Peter replied with a very simple and clear answer. This is the same answer we should offer seeking souls today. It has never changed. Why didn’t Peter just tell them to say a prayer and invite Jesus into their heart? That would have certainly been much easier than baptizing 3000 people. If salvation occurs when they accepted Christ, there would be no need to rush into the baptistry that very same day. Somebody must have considered baptism pretty important! And please, remember, just because Peter does not mention it in later sermons does not mean that the command was absent. After all, he was fulfilling the Great Commission. If he, or any of us, omits baptism, we put ourself in the position of rejecting the Lord’s very specific instructions.
While it is true that the Greek word “eis” may be translated “since” or “because of,” it is also translated “for” and “into” a number of times as well. This erroneous application of the Greek word “eis” has become so pervasive, it has even affected some Bible translations.
Two cases come to mind. In the 2004 edition of “The New Living Translation” of the Bible, The NLT was so bold in its attempt to present salvation as occurring before obedience to the Gospel, it rendered the passage as follows:
Acts 2:38 (NLT-2004)
Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins, turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ to show that you have received forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
I discovered this wild translation in 2017 when I was listening to a denominational preacher. I was stunned when he used this translation. I was so surprised, I went home and reviewed over twenty other translations of the passage at BibleStudyTools.com. I discovered not one other legitimate translation ever rendered the word “eis” so as to present such a distorted interpretation. How could this happen?
I suspect the Bible software, which the Pastor was quoting from, had never been updated, so this really bad translation was making its way into the church bulletins, sermons and other presentations. I think Tyndale, the publisher of the NLT, recognized this denominational bias and corrected it in the 2007 translation. They now render “eis” as “for.”
The second example of publishers changing the meaning of this word occurred in the New International Version. When it was first published, the 1978 version of Acts 2:38 read as follows:
Acts 2:38 (NIV-1978)
Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins will be forgiven and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
That was a good translation. I think the publisher later realized that it was too strict and in the 1984 version changed the phrase from “so that” to the word “for” which obviously does not have the same impact.
In Acts 2:38, we see God’s amazing grand plan of salvation presented in living color. When someone hears the message, accepts it and is baptized, we see two separate and distinct things happen. Sins are forgiven and they receive the indwelling gift of the Holy Spirit. Peter tells them, this is a promise, and not just for them but for all generations.
The Proper Order
This leads us to the next problem in interpretation of the word “eis” as meaning “since” or “because.” Have you noticed; receiving the promised Holy Spirit seems like it is separated from repentance and baptism? All translations present it this way. Some translations separate repentance and baptism from receiving the Holy Spirit, by starting a new sentence. Others connect them by joining the clauses with the word “and.” Some make the separation even stronger, like that bad translation of the NLT.
It almost goes out of its way to present the Holy Spirit as being received after baptism, not before. Listen to it again.
Acts 2:38 (NLT-2004)
Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins, turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ to show that you have received forgiveness of your sins. Period. New sentence… Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
No translation, even bad ones, ever present the Holy Spirit as being received before repentance and baptism. They all get this timing right. The Holy Spirit is promised as a future event? “You will receive…” In other words, there is a logical progression presented in all translations; repent, be baptized, sins are forgiven, then receive the Holy Spirit. The people who are listening to Peter, do not yet have the Holy Spirit. There should be no debate about that.
The fact that every translation of the Bible presents receiving the Holy Spirit at the end of this pattern exposes another huge flaw in interpreting the Greek work EIS as “because of” or “since.”
The very definition of a Christian is someone who has the Holy Spirit indwelling them. The Holy Spirit is only given to a person who’s sins have been forgiven. The Holy Spirit never indwells an individual who’s sins have not been forgiven. The house must be swept clean first.
If “eis” really means “since” in Acts 2:38 and people were repenting and being baptized “since” their sins were forgiven, they were still not Christians! The Holy Spirit does not enter the picture until after obedience to Peter’s commands which include repentance and water baptism.
The fact that God’s Holy Spirit indwells a believer after baptism… in every translation of the bible… should be proof enough that “eis” is correctly translated “for” or “so that” and we do not become Christian’s before baptism. This is consistent with every other passage in the Bible which speaks specifically about baptism.
We don’t need to be a Greek scholar to understand Acts 2:38. Go find a nine year old and ask them what Acts 2:38 means. Let the little children come to you. God made it that simple.
Now, there are a couple of other important and interesting points we might consider about this passage for even deeper confirmation. Notice that 3000 were “added to their number.” Who was added, baptized or unbaptized people? Obviously it is referring only to those who were baptized.
What does “added to their number” mean? Added to the church… the very first church. How are people added to the church today? They place membership or fill out a card. That’s not how the first century church did it. They are added to the Lord’s church when they gave up everything and made Jesus Lord through obedience to Peter’s commands.
Here is another confirming point. How did Peter know people accepted the message? They were baptized. If they did not accept the message they were not baptized. Suddenly, we understand that accepting the message, the second step in the Biblical Plan of Salvation, absolutely includes baptism!
How do we accept the message today? By saying a prayer, going forward in a church service, raising our hand to accept Christ? None of those traditions of modern evangelicalism have a foundation in scripture. Don’t rely on them.
In a Christian church, when someone accepts the message, they are immediately baptized. Why would anyone fight against this if they humbly want to obey Christ? Why not just tell people to respond to the Gospel the same way Peter told them to respond. His message was clear, concise, easy to understand, easy to obey, not open to interpretation, and became scripture. Stop fighting this. Just repent and be baptized.
I’m learning even more!
Finally, I have something very interesting to share with you.
For years, I believed the possible meanings of the word “ies.” Included “for,” “so that,” “because,” and “since.” But, in preparing for this lesson, and willing to be open to the possibility that I could be wrong, I went back and looked at this word in Strong’s Greek Concordance once again. Here’s what I re-discovered. Strong’s says the word is used to mean, “into, in, unto, to, upon, towards, for, and among.” In addition to Strong’s, I looked at Thayer’s dictionary and others. Here is the link to the Greek definition at BibleHub.com. Read through it and see what you think. Do you see this word frequently being used as “since” or “because?” https://biblehub.com/greek/1519.htm.
If you are listening to the podcast, go to my website to find the link in the page for this podcast.
I’m now quite skeptical that the meaning of “eis” is translated “because of” or “since.” Now, when I hear this claim, I am less likely to give it much credibility. It sort of leaves me cold as ice.
Sorry! I just want to have a humble faith that obeys.