Acts 2:38

Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one
of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins,
and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Is the remission of sins dependent on repentance and baptism? And if so, in what sense? For we know that Jesus shed His blood for the remission of sins (Matt 26:28; Rom 3:25; Heb 10:18).

The followers of Thomas and Alexander Campbell, father and son renegades from the Presbyterians and Baptists, have taken this verse as their mission statement. Calling themselves the Church of Christ, they generally work this verse into most every sermon they preach.

From this verse they teach baptismal regeneration, just like their Roman mother. But they have added a modern twist, by requiring the baptism to be by immersion in conjunction with repentance. So there is now another denomination in the Roman brothel, which makes regeneration and salvation dependent on baptism by immersion.

These upstarts are so confident, they have said, “Give me an axe and two .38s, and I’ll whip any Baptist preacher in the world,” referring to this oh-so-favorite verse of theirs.

Is baptism the means for the remission of sins? Or is baptism simply the testimony of how a person believes his sins were remitted? There is a huge difference here – the difference between heresy and truth. Either men are saved by Jesus Christ, or they are saved by their baptism.

The Bible declares several axioms regarding salvation. First, the will of the flesh and the will of man are not involved (John 1:13; 3:8; Rom 9:16). Second, the Lord Jesus Christ finished the work of purging our sins all by Himself (John 19:30; Heb 1:3; 10:10-14). Third, baptism is the answer to God from a person already saved (I Pet 3:21; Acts 10:47; Luke 7:29-30).

With these axioms in mind and reading the context, we know exactly what Peter was teaching on Pentecost. He had just been asked by men pricked in their hearts as to what they could do to show their faith in Jesus Christ (Acts 2:37). These men were obviously already born again, for only regenerate men respond like this (Acts 5:33; 7:54; Rom 3:11; I Cor 1:18).

Peter told the Jews to repent and show their faith in Jesus Christ for the remission of sins by being buried and raised from water in His name. Baptism was their testimony of confidence in Jesus Christ for the remission of their sins, just as Peter so carefully explains in I Peter 3:21.

The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:

Peter declares here baptism is a mere figure, not the reality. Baptism is only a figurative salvation, by showing a picture of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, which truly did save. Baptism does not put away sins – the filth of the flesh! Baptism is the answer of a good conscience, not an act of obedience to get a good conscience! Let God be true! Can you see three reasons why Campbellites don’t like to use this definitive verse of Peter?

They hang their whole religion on the preposition “for” in Acts 2:38, presuming that it always means, “in order to obtain.” But consider the leper in Mark 1:42-44. After Jesus had cleansed him, He told him to go make an offering for his cleansing. Was this offering “in order to obtain” cleansing? Or in testimony of his cleansing? Clearly the latter, as Jesus said, “for a testimony unto them.”

Men are born again by the life-giving voice of the Son of God (John 5:25-29) and the sovereign work of the Holy Spirit (John 3:8). Until they are born again, they cannot even see the kingdom of God (John 3:3), hear its King (John 8:47), or understand His gospel (I Cor 2:14). Once a man is born again, he sees, hears, and understands. He wants to obey His new Lord, just as Cornelius did. And baptism is the means by which he shows his faith and allegiance to the One Who has saved him by Himself!

More Difficult Verses

Mark 16:16

He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.

John 3:5

Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

Acts 22:16

And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.

I Corinthians 15:29

Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?