A dear friend of mine who has been a disciple for ten years is about to leave the Lord. She e-mailed me this question in an effort to resolve an issue. Her husband believes the doctrine of baptism for forgiveness of sins on baptism is false. He says that even though the NIV translation reads "for the forgiveness of sins," in the Greek, it says "because of the forgiveness of sins." She says he has studied it out painstakingly. I have done research on Acts 2:38 and the Greek Interlinear gives the phrase "with a view to forgiveness." Any thoughts you share on this issue will be most appreciated. -- Mary Anderson (Nashville)

Yes, a minuscule number of commentators prefer "with a view to," but it is interesting that essentially 100% of all translators from all denominational backgrounds render the Greek in the way the NIV, RSV, etc. do.

As you know, words are usually best interpreted in grammatical context. In English, for example, the word "for" could mean: in place of (She went for me), in favor of (I am for it), in order to receive (I'm here for your rent check), in support of (One for all and all for one), and so forth. Personally, I think it is a ploy of the theologically desperate to play games with possible dictionary definitions of words, without careful study of grammatical and historical context.

For a perfect parallel, take Matthew 26:28, Here the same Greek word appears (eis). Is Jesus saying his blood is poured out because of the forgiveness of our sins, or for the forgiveness of our sins? Clearly the latter is the correct interpretation. So it is in Acts 2:38.

Quite simply, the folks in Acts 2:37 are asking how to get themselves out of their horrible predicament (verse 36). They want to be saved and they ask what to do. If baptism is not for forgiveness of sins, we are entitled to ask why in the world Peter mentioned it in connection with the command to repent. He would have been confusing and possibly misleading people. The face value reading of Acts 2:38 -- that baptism is essential to salvation -- must remain the preferred understanding.

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