Baptism for the forgiveness of sins” is a statement Peter makes in his sermon on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:38). The preposition “for” comes from the Greek word “eis” which is defined by Strong’s to mean, “to or into (indicating the point reached or entered, of place, time, fig. purpose, result).”

There are those that argue the Bible translations should translate the Greek preposition “because of” instead of “for”. Understanding baptism to be “because of the forgiveness of your sins” would force a consequential change to the purpose of baptism. It would shift the forgiveness of sins to be something that happened before baptism, relegating the act to a pure ceremonial display.

It [Gr “eis”] is used over 1,700 times in the New Testament and it shows movement toward a goal. It indicates purpose. (radicallychristian.com)

When reviewing the actual Greek definition of “eis” and its use throughout Scripture, arguing for its translation to be “because of” is a stretch (to say the least). But what if those counter-arguments were less clear? What if the translation of “eis” were a little more vague or inconsistent? How would Scripture interpret Scripture in this case?

how Scripture answers "Is baptism for the forgiveness of sins?"

Baptism is for, not because of, the forgiveness of sins1. This is consistent with the purpose of John’s baptism3 that prepared the way. Jesus’ blood is the cleansing agent2,5,7,8,9 of sin and it’s only through “death” (e.g. baptism) that an individual contacts His blood6,7. It’s just as Paul asked rhetorically, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?”6 and why Peter directly linked baptism to what saves us4.

the answer above is based on and footnoted with the following Scripture Blocks
1
Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, Brothers, what shall we do? And Peter said to them, 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. 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.

When they heard these words, they were pierced in the heart and asked Peter and the other apostles what they should do [to be saved].  Peter told them that they each should repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of their sins, and they would then receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  This “gift” was the promise made for all that the Lord calls to himself, even those far off.

Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost where he recalled several prophetic statements from Joel and David (vss 16-36). By divine inspiration, Peter interpreted these statements to apply their fulfillment to Jesus and the ushering in of the “last days.”

On believing his message (that Jesus was the Christ), they asked what they needed to do to be saved. More were continuing to be saved and they began meeting together as the Lord’s church (

vss 41-47
).

How does it inform?

The passage called into question the translation of the Greek word “eis” into “for” instead of “because of”. The former makes forgiveness of sins a result of baptism; the latter makes baptism an afterthought of sins already forgiven.

Does it apply? Yes

2
And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.
[Jesus] took a cup and after giving thanks he passed it to them saying, “Each one of you drink this which represents my blood of the new covenant which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of their sins.”

Jesus and his disciples in the upper room on the night of his betrayal and trial.
How does it inform?

Jesus uses the same preposition (“eis” translated “for”) and prepositional phrase (“for the forgiveness of sins”). In this case, it’s the pouring out of his blood that results in the forgivness of sins.

Does it apply? Yes

3
John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
John appeared baptizing in the wilderness proclaiming that it was a baptism of repentance for remission of sins.

Mark’s quick gospel introduction giving account of John the Baptist’s fulfilling the Isaiah prophesy that he would “prepare the way of the Lord” (vss 2-3).

How does it inform?

Part of John the Baptist’s preparation for the Christ included a baptism that was for the forgiveness of sins.

Does it apply? Yes

4

Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.

Baptism, like Noah being saved through the water, isn’t a bath in the physical sense of bathing. It “saves you” and is your commitment to God for a good conscience by Jesus’ resurrection, the same Jesus that ascended to heaven and is at God’s right hand, with all angels, authorities, and powers made in subjection to Him.

Peter is comparing the way in which Noah and his family were saved (through water) to the way baptism now saves (also through water).

How does it inform?

Baptism is a physical act, but isn’t for a physical purpose (“removal of dirt from the body”). Instead, it serves as an appeal to God that saves us.

Does it apply? Yes

5
John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
John addressing the seven churches in Asia: Grace and peace from Him who is and was and is to come, and from the seven spirits before His thorn, and from Jesus the true witness, firstborn of the dead and ruler of kings on earth.  To Him who loves and freed us from our sins by His blood and made us a kingdom, priests to His God and Father.  To Him be glory and dominion forever. Amen.

John’s opening address to his audience.

How does it inform?

Jesus’ blood being shed is what sets us free from our sins.

Does it apply? Yes

6
We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin.
Since anyone that’s died has been set free from sin, we know that when our body of sin was crucified with him it was done away with so that we would no longer be enslaved to it.

Paul is making the broader point of the richness and fullness of God’s grace toward sinful man (chap 5) before turning to man’s response (and responsibility) for salvation.  He states the absurdity of continuing “in sin” (vs 1) because they killed off their old self through baptism (vs 3).

How does it inform?

Only those that have died have “been set free from sin.” How do we die? Verse 3, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?”

!! study note: context is extra important here !!

Does it apply? Yes

7
For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a young cow sprinkled on those who are defiled consecrated them and provided ritual purity, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our consciences from dead works to worship the living God.

The blood of animals, when sprinkled on those that had sinned, cleansed them and purified them ritualistically. Far greater is Christ’s blood offered to God through the Spirit; offered in order to purify individuals from dead works (sin) for worship to the living God.

Hebrews is a letter encouraging Jewish Christians to “hold fast” because their faith in Christ is “better” than the Mosaic law they were under in numerous ways.

How does it inform?

Under the Old Law, people were “consecrated” by the sprinkling of blood from animals (Exodus 24), but Christ’s blood is now what cleanses us.

!! study note: context is extra important here !!

The context for this passage continues well down into chapter 10 (and beyond), but for this question the conclusion of his point in this passage is noted in Hebrews 10:19-22– “our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water”.

Does it apply? Yes

8
Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.

From Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ. To the Christians scattered throughout Asia Minor in accordance with the foreknowledge of God the Father, set apart by the Holy Spirit to be obedient to the word of Christ and to be sprinkled with His blood.  May you be granted abundant grace and peace.

The Apostle Peter’s first letter to Christians throughout the region.
How does it inform?

The sanctification or setting apart of the “elect” (e.g. Christians) is for the purpose of obedience to Jesus and the sprinkling of His blood.

Does it apply? Yes

9
If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

We are lying if we say we are partnered with God when we walk in worldly ways and ignore the truth.  However, if we walk in righteousness, as he is righteous, we have fellowhip with each other and the blood of Jesus washes away our sins.

The Apostle John’s opening in a letter written to Christians encouraging them to love each other (as God loves) and resist false teaching.  His instruction appears to be to individual Christians (not a particular church).

How does it inform?

Jesus’ blood “cleanses us from all sin”.

Does it apply? Yes

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