By Harley Hitchcock
What's the favorite verse that people use that says you need to be water baptized to be saved?
It's 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." (Acts 2:38)
Which denominations use this verse?
Roman Catholics, Pentecostals, Mormons, Church of Christ, Seventh-Day Adventists, Presbyterians, Church of God, Greek Orthodox, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Lutherans, Episcopalians, Nazarenes, Mennonites, Coptics, Armenians, Charismatics, a few Baptists and all those that add works to getting saved and staying saved.
"Well, aren't they right?"
No, of course not. It says get water baptized "for the remission of sins'', not for the redemption of sins. For redemption, no water baptism is necessary.
"Picky! Picky! To-mart-oes...To-mate-oes! What's your point?"
The phrase "for the remission of sins" is used five times in the New Testament and not once does it mean "so that you can get your sins forgiven". It means "because you have already had your sins forgiven."
Let me explain with an example.
A newspaper headline might read "The man was jailed for stealing." Now, no reader in their right mind would think that this man is being jailed, because he was going to steal. No. The thief is jailed because he stole (past tense). Another example would be "The boy got the cane for throwing a rock through the school window." Similarly, he gets the cane because he has thrown the rock already. He does not get the cane because he is thinking about throwing the rock in the future.
"So what's your point?"
As the thief is jailed because he has stolen, so the Jews in Acts 2:38 are to be water baptized because their sins had already been remitted. Let me explain, the key is Romans 3:25 which says: "Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;"
Put it this way. Saints in the Old Testament had their sins remitted which meant they were temporarily forgiven and covered, but not taken away. These repetitive and ongoing rituals were done by the blood of animals. This is confirmed in Hebrews 10:4 "For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins."
So, Peter says at Pentecost "Look you Jews, your sins have already remitted, but now, you will need to be water baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. This will enable to get the Holy Ghost and in so doing, you will be classed as redeemed."
So where do you get the blood of Jesus is for the redemption of sins if he only says "for the remission of sins"?
The following scriptures say "In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;" (Ephesians 1:7) and "In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:" (Colossians 1:14) and "Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us." (Hebrews 9:12).
To be redeemed means that all sins past, present and future would be taken away as stated in Revelation 1:5 "And from Jesus Christ, ....Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood,"
So in Acts 2:38, Jesus' blood did two things for the Pentecost Jews?
Yes. If they would get water baptized, their past remission + their future redemption would be combined under one umbrella. The blood of Jesus would absorb their past and give them assurance for the future.
Why can believing in Acts 2:38 for today, send people to a burning hell?
Very simple. There are two classes of people. Unlike Pentecost Jews, all people today do not start with remitted, forgiven and covered sins that are past.
At Pentecost, a "water work" was needed to be saved and receive the Holy Ghost. Today, Paul's gospel is to the unforgiven, uncovered and unremitted gentile (and of course to unsaved Jews). Two different gospels and two different ways to be saved. Peter's gospel is dead and buried and no longer relevant. It has been superceded by a "no works needed" belief to get saved. No water baptism needed.
Tell me more?
Until the shed blood of Jesus, saints who died went to Abraham's bosom and did the "dog-paddle" till Jesus came and got them for heaven. Why? They only had their sins remitted. Their sins were still there, being covered only by the blood of animals which couldn't get you into heaven.
"So, what's the difference between 'remission' and 'redemption' again?"
Remission of sins was for sins past. The Jews' sins weren't taken away but only covered by the blood of animals. The best a Jew could do was get to Abraham's bosom. Redemption is not just for past sins, but present and future ones. Today, this can only be had by trusting in the shed blood of Jesus. Those who are redeemed bypass the no-longer relevant Abraham's bosom as eternal rest awaits in heaven.
So what should be the gospel for today?
There have been many gospels. John the Baptist had a gospel for the Jews. Peter had another gospel for the Jews at Pentecost. But the gospel for today is Paul's gospel. It is not addressed to law abiding, blood sacrificing, forgiven Jews with remitted and covered sins. Paul's gospel is all men everywhere - "Believe that the shed blood of Jesus has paid your debt. All sins - past, present and future, have been paid for. Will you believe this?"
Truly, your salvation is to be found in the following verse "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved" (Acts 16:31). Paul's gospel eliminates the "water bit". As Paul states "For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of
Christ should be made of none effect."
Putting it simply, if you think that you must perform this water baptism work to get saved, repent and believe only on the shed blood of Jesus to take care of your debt of past, present and future sins.
Acts 2:38 was God's gospel, through Peter, to the Jews of the nation of Israel at Pentecost. It was a one-off, one-time, special formula for them only. Be warned. Trusting in performing the work of water baptism instead of the shed blood of Christ alone, for your salvation, may see you burn forever.