What is the Baptism of Repentance for the Forgiveness of Sins?

On the Day of Pentecost, Peter invited the Jewish people who responded to his message to repent and be baptized for the remission of sins.

What does this mean, and is this how people get saved today?

What is Repentance?

Repentance (Gk. metanoia) literally means “to change the mind.”

It usually refers to changing the mind regarding your former beliefs and behaviors, and turning to a new way of believing and behaving. This change, of course, is exactly what John’s baptism represented for the Jewish people. When they came to be baptized by John in the Jordan, they were turning away from the corrupt forms of religious Judaism, and turning to a new way of living according to the loving and forgiving ways of God. In this way, repentance and baptism have nothing to do with receiving eternal life, or even receiving the forgiveness of sins. Both are just a way of turning away from the past and turning toward a new life for the future.
Baptism in Acts 2 38

What is the Remission of Sins?

The term “remission” (Gk. aphesis) does not refer to “forgiveness” but is closer to “liberty” or “freedom” (cf. Luke 3:3; 4:18-19; 25:47).

Again, it is crucial to understand how Jewish people would have understood this term. At this time, the Jewish people were under the occupation of the Roman Empire. Yet many Jewish people understood that while Rome was their physical enemy, their greater enemy was their own sin and rebellion as a nation. In fact, the Jewish people believed that it was because of their sin and rebellion as a nation that God had allowed the Roman Empire to occupy and control Israel.

This is why the Jewish religious leaders of that time became so focused on properly keeping the Law of Moses. It was thought that if the nation could perfectly keep the law, then God would finally deliver Israel from the Romans and restore Israel to her rightful place among the nations.

So in other words, to be delivered from sin was to be delivered from the Romans, and vice versa. National sin and enemy occupation were one and the same. If the nation was delivered from one, it must logically have deliverance from the other as well. So when John the Baptist, and later Peter at Pentecost, speak about “the remission of sins,” they are not talking about gaining eternal life and entrance into heaven, but about the great Jewish hope of finally being freed from the twin enemies of sin and Roman occupation. Remission from sins is both freedom from the captivating and addictive power of sin and from the dire political and national consequences of sin for the people of Israel.

This idea is seen clearly in Jeremiah 31, where New Covenant language ties forgiveness of sins with the Israelite expectations for God’s rule on earth. During this time, God would reign in righteousness over all the earth from Jerusalem, Israel would be delivered, and evil destroyed. It is for this hope the Messiah would come.

It is for this hope that John preached. This was his message about the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.

It is the arrival of this hope that Peter now proclaimed. And the Jewish people who heard the message of Peter and who wanted to participate with this arrival of the Kingdom of God in Jesus Christ indicated this desire publicly by receiving the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins, just as others had done with John about three years earlier. They wanted deliverance and freedom, not only from Rome, but also from the controlling and captivating power of sin.

So again, the baptism of these Jewish people on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2 is a thoroughly Jewish form of baptism. This helps explain what happens next in the book of Acts….

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  1. says

    Thank you.

    I guess I would go the opposite way, and say that there is no historical evidence in the Scriptures that anyone believed that water baptism helped accomplish justification.

    Certainly, the baptism of the Spirit is one of the gifts that accompanies justification, but we must not make the mistake of confusing water baptism and Spirit baptism.

  2. says


    As I wrote in a different comment, I guess I would go the opposite way, and say that there is no historical evidence in the Scriptures that anyone believed that water baptism helped accomplish justification.

    Certainly, the baptism of the Spirit is one of the gifts that accompanies justification, but we must not make the mistake of confusing water baptism and Spirit baptism.

    I have written some on this elsewhere… here for example: http://redeeminggod.com/what-is-baptism/

    • Gary says

      Acts 2:38-42 (ESV)

      38 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. 39 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.” 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

      It takes a pretty big stretch of the imagination to believe that this text is talking about a spiritual baptism and not water baptism. Most Baptists and evangelicals I talk to believe that this passage IS talking about water baptism. The problem, they say, is that the translation is incorrect or the sentence structure in English is incorrect.
      Many Baptists/evangelicals believe that the “for” in verse 38 was mistranslated. It should have been translated as “because”.
      I believe that when God promised to preserve his Word he didn’t just mean he would preserve it in the original Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek on 2,000 year old papyrus and parchment, but he would preserve his words/the message of the Gospel in the common languages of the people of the world, for all ages. There is no translation of the Bible on planet earth that uses “because” instead of “for” in Acts 2:38!
      But for argument sake, let’s say that these Baptists/evangelicals are correct. Let’s replace the “for” in verse 38 in Acts chapter 2 with “because”. What do we get:
      “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ BECAUSE OF the forgiveness of your sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
      So to paraphrase: Your sins are already forgiven, so repent and be baptized and then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit??? Do Baptists and evangelicals really believe that sinner’s have already had their sins washed spotless in the blood of Christ, however, they still need to repent and be baptized in water to receive the Holy Ghost???
      See what happens when we start questioning God’s choice of words?
      Wouldn’t it be better to just believe the plain, simple reading of God’s Word and THEN establish your doctrine? Baptists and evangelicals cannot read this passage and believe the simple English because they have already made up their minds that water baptism cannot be involved in any way with salvation.

      • Jonathan Schull says

        In the TLV which is a direct translation from Hebrew by 70 Rabbi’s to include the Dead Sea Scrolls: Acts 2:38 Peter said to them”Repent and let each of you be immersed in the name of Messiah Yeshua for the removal of your sins and you will receive the gift of the Ruach Ha Kodesh.

        Ruach Ha Kodesh_Holy Spirit

  3. Gary says

    In this Baptist/evangelical plan of salvation, I am told I cannot do good deeds to be saved, but then I am told I must do my part in the act of salvation for God to then do his part and give me eternal life. In the Baptist/evangelical plan of Salvation, my salvation is ultimately dependent on ME initiating and then Christ completing our salvation “transaction” for me to be saved!

    Where did Baptists and evangelicals get the idea that the sinner is capable of making a free will decision to receive faith that enables him to believe and be saved?

    Ephesians, Colossians and Romans make it very clear that sinners do not seek God. Sinners do not seek after righteousness. In fact, the sinner is spiritually dead, according to Scripture! Dead men cannot make a decision to do anything, let alone “accept” God into his heart!

    This is where Baptists and evangelicals go wrong and why they can’t comprehend baptismal regeneration and infant baptism. No matter how many times the Bible states in plain, simple language that God forgives sins in (water) Baptism, Baptists and evangelicals will refuse to believe this since it contradicts their concept of faith.

    “For by grace are you saved, through faith, it is a gift of God, not of works lest any man should boast.”

    FAITH is a gift! Faith is something given to you by God…FREELY…without any strings attached!

    In salvation, the sinner doesn’t ask for Christ to come into his heart. He is spiritually dead! But God in his mercy predestined his children, before the creation of the world, to be his. And at the time of his choosing, he quickens his elect, gives them the gift of faith, and they believe. They are saved! They are saved by God’s grace, received through faith. But the faith in our salvation is a gift from God, it is not something we sinners conjure up on our own by our intelligence and maturity, and then make a decision, based on our reasoned decision making, to believe.

    That is works righteousness, my friend!

    The Lutheran doctrine of Salvation is 100% God. He saves who he wants, when he wants, but he always saves through the power of his Word. By the power of his Word he can save the older child or adult who hears or reads the Gospel and believes, and he can save/cleanse by the power of his Word spoken at Baptism, even an infant, in the same manner that he did for Naaman of old.

    That is how God saves!

    In the true plan of salvation, your assurance of salvation is not based on your feelings of whether YOU did it right! Your assurance of salvation is based on knowing that our God keeps his promises, and his Word promises that HE saved you, by the power of his Word, received by HIS gift of faith.

    • says

      Ephesians 2:8-9 does not actually say that “faith” is a gift. In Greek, the pronouns must agree with their antecedent in gender and number. In Eph 2:8-9, the word “it” in “it is a gift” is neuter, and “faith” is feminine.

      So it seems more likely that the “it” refers to the whole “salvation by grace through faith” package.

      • gary says

        Yes, the whole package is a gift: Grace is a gift. Faith is a gift. Salvation is a gift.
        Faith is not something that the sinner, who is spiritually dead according to Ephesians and Colossians chapter 2, can produce by his own intelligence and maturity. God quickens the spiritually dead sinner, gives him grace (unmerited favor) and faith to believe and repent.
        Salvation is completely free! The sinner is a passive participant in his salvation. God saves! He doesn’t need your assistance in a “decision” to accept him. He accepts you!
        If salvation depends on YOU making an informed, mature, free-will decision for Christ…salvation is no longer free. It is dependent on something YOU must do first!
        God quickens you, gives you the faith to believe and repent…you are saved! You then are free to reject God and return to a life of willful sin…and perish in hell.
        That is the Biblical plan of salvation. NOTHNG man does can assist in his salvation. Not a decision to be good. Not a decision to be baptized. Not a decision to want God and his righteousness.

        • says


          Well, faith would not be something we “do” since faith is not a work, but is the opposite of a work (Rom 4:5).

          Also, I wasn’t saying that “Grace is a gift. Faith is a gift. Salvation is a gift.” That once again turns grammar upside down in Eph 2:8-9. What is a gift is God’s idea to grant eternal life to anyone who believes in Jesus for it.

          We humans would never come up with a plan like this. We either want God to control every little detail, OR we want eternal life to depend on our own good works.

          God’s plan is neither of those.

          • gary says

            Decision Theology is false doctrine.
            If God says that a sinner is spiritually dead, as he does in the second chapters of Ephesians and Colossians, then the sinner cannot choose anything related to spirituality. Dead men can’t choose to believe.
            Your doctrine is an invention of sixteenth century Swiss Anabaptists.

          • says

            Hmm. I don’t think I ever used the word decision. I think you might be confusing my beliefs with something you heard from somewhere else.

            Remember, faith is not a work. It is the opposite of work.

    • Jonathan Schull says

      It appears you must be a Lutheran since you believe that they are the only ones who have it right. Don’t you think that it is arrogant to believe you or your denomination is the only one that is correct? The reality is not any one denomination is 100% as you say on any subject. Denominations create their own doctrine which makes it flawed. God’s doctrine is His Word and is unflawed and pure.

      There are many different churches that believe their way is the only way. Some say that if you speak in tongues it is from the devil, others that their church won’t use musical instruments and that they are the only ones that teach the word correctly. Others that if you sin you are going to hell unless you repent.

      I submit to you as a believer that unless you are maintaining a log every time you sin and happen to miss one by that thought process you are doomed. You may even sin and not realize it then you would still be lost. You see we are all flawed and that is why Jesus died for us. Regardless of how one gets saved it is always by the Holy Spirit that it happens not by man. Evangelicals do not believe exactly the way you described them and if I may suggest it is not becoming for you to have such an attitude towards other believers.

  4. steve finnell says

    Why do men fictionalize Scriptures rather than reading them and believing them? I will let you reach your own conclusion as to the answer. What is is purpose of water baptism according to Acts 2:38?

    1. Acts 2:38 Peter said to them, “Repent and each of you bebaptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (New American Standard Bible)

    2. Acts 2:38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, everyone of you, in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (The Thompson Chain-Reference Bible New International Version 1983)

    3. Acts 2:38 The Peter said unto them,Let each of of you repent and be immersed, in the name of Jesus Christ, in order to the remission of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. ) The Better Version of the New Testament by Chester Estes)

    4. Acts 2:38 Peter told them, “You must repent and every one of you must be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ, so that you may have your sins forgiven and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (The New Testament in Modern English by J.B. Phillips)


    1. Acts 2:38 Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized because your sins have already been forgiven. (Fictional Account)

    2. Acts 2:38 Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized as a testimony of your faith. (Invented Version)

    3. Acts 2:38 Peter said to them, Repent and be baptized as an act of obedience. (Fantasy Translation)

    4. Acts 2:38 Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized because you were forgiven the minute you believed. (The Version of Unfounded Truth)

    5. Acts 2:38 Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized with Holy Spirit baptism; because water baptism is not a New Covenant requirement. (The Version of Spurious and Erroneous Quotes)

    6. Acts 2:38 Peter said to them, “Repent, for the forgiveness of sins; but water baptism is optional, because the thief on the cross was not baptized in water. (The Counterfeit Version of Truth)

    7. Acts 2:38 Peter said to them, “Rent and be baptized in order to join denomination of your choice. (The Creed Bible By Men)

    8. Acts 2:38 Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized as a symbolic jester, pointing to the fact that your sins were forgiven when you said “The Sinner’s Prayer.” ( The Book of Stuff Men made-up)

    9. Acts 2:38 Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized to indicate the outward sign of the forgiveness you received the very minute you believed. ( The Fabricated Book of Fantasy Verses)

    10. Acts 2:38 Peter said to them, “Repent and have your committed sins forgiven by faith only. And then be baptized to be forgiven of the sin Adam committed. (The Denominational Revision of Fictional Truth)



    YOU ARE INVITED TO FOLLOW MY CHRISTIAN BLOG. Google search>>>>steve finnell a christian view

  5. Gary says

    “Eis”: Why has EVERY Bible translator gotten this little Greek word wrong?

    One of the principle reasons that Baptists and evangelicals refuse to believe that Baptism is God’s act of saving sinners and forgiving sins is based on the translation in the Bible of one, little, Greek word: “eis”

    Baptists and evangelicals believe that this Greek word has two principle English translations, and that the context of the Bible passage determines which meaning should be translated into English as the true Word of God. Here are these two English translation options:

    1. for, unto
    2. because of

    Now, as we will see shortly, these two English translations can give the translated sentence in question a completely different meaning…depending on which translation you choose.

    Let’s look at Acts 2:38 translating “eis” using each English option:

    Repent and be baptized…for the forgiveness of sins.
    Repent and be baptized…because of the forgiveness of sins.

    HUGE difference in meaning, isn’t there?

    So how many English translations of the Holy Bible translate Acts 2:38 using “because of”?

    Answer: not a single one!

    Find out why not: http://www.lutherwasnotbornagain.com/2013/12/eis-why-has-every-bible-translator.html

  6. Stephen Sponsler says

    Isn’t it written that when The Lord will Baptize with water symbolic of The HOLY SPIRIT) and with Fire? John Batpized with water for the remission of sins….but that was not for Forgiveness of Sins. WHen we recieve the Batism of Christ’s (Himself) is when we have received the new life of a forgibven past through a repentant heart and not something done in the head. The fire is another issue that I had a ‘discussion’ with back and forth but do not go there with a Pentecostal or you’ll be playing with fire As the sins are forgiven they passed into The Fire of God’s Wrath but we are protected, where they are ‘tossed into the fire and burned’…FORGOTTEN. The actual act of going into the water is a n outward representation of an inward reality. First clean the inside of the cup. We do not get ‘clean’ by walking in the water and then being forgiven. How does that change the inward man? God needs to know through our Free will exchange in Communion with Him..it’s not you do this and I’ll do that..or I';ll do that if you do this..or I’ll do this and then you do that..It’s is simultaneous. We are in danger if we read the events into Acts as a chronological process that works literally. IT’s not like that, that’s why there is emphasis on the work of God is Already Complete yet though He is still working in this world to fulfill what has already been done int eh Spiritual Reality. Another way to sum it up and see (as always for ourselves if this is not true for only The LORD is Truth)..that the old Testament UP through the books of acts was all of an outward manifestation that would become an inward reality. After the day of Pentecost that was the end of the outward manifestations other than the rest of Acts mainly…now we are experiencing an inward Manifestation (Christ is The Manifestation) working toward the Outward Reality..the New Heaven and New Earth..so just as things were on earth with Christ in the flesh..such are thing now with Christ who is in each person. The Law is written on our’ hearts’ in our New Being..understood through having The Mind of Christ…throwing scripture out and even giving ones’ interpretation is meaningless if the interpretation is not Understood in the proper framework of the contextual time place and situation. no matter how exquisite the verbiage is or efficient one’s argument is.

    That is God Timeless and Efficient back up plan to find those out fro themselves as it will be to reveal them at the time of Revealing, who have not died to themselves in their Love for God through the Power of Christ. P.S. I wa searching on The Power of Christ in the Baptism of Repentance , when I found this link. That term just came to my mind and found this link.

  7. Stephen says

    So do you ignore this scripture?

    Romans 10:9-10
    9 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. 11 As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” 12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

  8. Stephen says

    Sorry Jeremy, I should’ve directed my comment. I was addressing Gary. He seems to be set on the idea that baptism=salvation. Romans 10:9-10 actually backs up what you were saying about spirit baptism.

    We actually ARE required to do something for salvation. We have to ACCEPT that gift of grace through our faith in Jesus. You have the free choice to decline that gift. Accepting God’s grace is not a work, though. It is acknowledging our need of Jesus’ sacrifice in order to have a relationship with Him. Baptism is an outward display of our death to ourselves and the new life He has given us.

  9. steve says

    Yes, Jesus paid the entire debt for me and the whole world on calvary. The blood of Jesus pays the debt (nothing i could do to pay the debt) and when I believe on him I shall be saved, then I must act on my belief and line up to the Word of God, which tells me to be baptized (not a work but an act of obedience) Mark 16:16 says He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved he that believeth not shall be damned. he that does not believe the gospel of Jesus will not line up to the word of God and they sure wont be baptized. Samuel said obedience is better than sacrifice so just obey the word, Remember James said faith without works is dead being alone, so act on faith and obey Jesus the name of the Word of God. God is Great

  10. Larry davis says

    Thanks for this insight.
    I always interpreted baptism as immersion in the Name of Jesus Christ, and water baptism as a holy ordinance that is a representation of this, but no one I’ve mentioned this to agrees. Nice to see this point of view in print

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