I have a question for you! I have thoroughly studied out baptism and the significance of the saving act for a believer. I also have examined every article on baptism on your website. I was at a recent baptism of a friend.  I posted a picture on social media, saying we baptized my friend for the forgiveness of her sins and she received the gift of the Holy Spirit- Acts 2:38.    I had a friend send me a message and he said this: “My understanding of Acts 2:38 in the original language is that little word “for” in the part that says “be baptized for the forgiveness of your sins” is a little word in the Greek kai meaning, be baptized “because of” the forgivenss of your sins not be baptized for forgiveness or to receive the Holy Spirit. We are forgiven when we received Jesus. I encourage you to check this out and see if it agrees with the text of the New Testament. Let me know what your research discovers.”


The little preposition in question is eis, not kai. Your friend is simply wrong about the word used for “for.” Even so, his allies make this same claim about the use of the word eis. Therefore, even though he is wrong, his claim deserves a response.  The word used for “for” in Acts 2:38, eis, means for, into, in order that, etc….

This attempt to get around the implications of Acts 2:38 is really one of the weakest arguments by those who reject the need for baptism. I was in Greece a few years ago. On the highways, the exits are literally called exodus. The entrances to highways and stores are called eisodus. In other words, the normal meaning of the word eis is into or means of entrance. If you look at the word eis in a Greek concordance the translations of the word are: in order, to, toward, into, on, at, so that, among, with, before, until…   Translations which could at least possibly support your friend’s contention such as “in regard to” is dozens down the list. Even in this case, if you look at the context of the translation it does not mean “because of.” The meaning in these cases is more like “in reference to”, which has a less exact meaning as to cause and effect, but the context never implies that the thing after the word eis is the cause rather than the effect. The word after eis is always the effect and never the cause (or in rare cases the relationship of cause and effect is ambiguous). Here is the bottom line, those who make this argument are committing a rather blatant example of eisegesis. Ironically, this word means reading into the text, whereas exegesis means reading from the text. The very word for what this person is doing, eisegesis–reading into not out of the text–comes from the preposition in question. This argument is so weak that it actually makes the one making it look foolish, in my opinion.

A more accurate translation of Acts 2:38 (although not as readable or natural in English) would be “Repent and be baptized in order to the forgiveness of sins.” This expresses the meaning more accurately, but it does not sound right in English, so the translators use the word for. In other places, the relationship between baptism and salvation is more explicit in the translations. For example, in Romans 6:4 and Galatians 3:26 we find that we are baptized into Christ. Again, this is the word eis. Here to say we are baptized for Christ would not work as a translation, so the translators unanimously say we are baptized into Christ. In this case, to translate that we are baptized “because of” Christ would be to reverse the meaning of the text. How do we get into Christ? How are we forgiven of our sins? By repenting and being baptized into Christ. This is unambiguous in the New Testament.

The reason many reject the rather obvious linguistic meaning of Acts 2:38 is not because of language (as your friend is implying) but because of a theological presupposition that 1. baptism is a work of man (which it certainly is not!) and 2. that no work of man can have any role whatsoever in the process of our being saved (also not biblical). Based on this presupposition, many evangelicals read into (ie apply eisegesis) Acts 2:38 to reach the conclusion that they had before they even began to ask the question of what this text means.  Hopefully you and I will not become guilty of such poor interpretation of the scriptures.

John Oakes

Comments are closed.