Acts 2:38 and Baptismal Regeneration

HomeChristianity and the BibleActs 2:38 and Baptismal Regeneration

One of the hottest topics at GodWords is whether one needs to be baptized to become a Christian. This post is actually a comment…I replied to a commenter, and thought it would be useful to post it here as well.

Acts 2:38 says to be baptized for the remission of sins.

Anonymous GodWords Reader

Nope. Acts 2:38 clearly says to REPENT and be baptized…for the remission of sins. It’s important to read what’s actually there: Peter replied, “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.

There are two ways to read this:

  1. Repent and be baptized (because without both your sins won’t be remitted).
  2. Repent for the remission of sins (and don’t forget to be baptized while you’re at it).

Acts 2:38 can be legitimately read in both ways, linguistically. Theologically, not so much. In light of the rest of Scripture – especially Acts 10 – it’s clear that baptism better fits the #2 reading. Were baptism part of regeneration, Paul would not have said “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel”. He would have said “For Christ sent me to preach and baptize”.

You questioned me on what “for” means. You can see the definition here. It can mean into, unto, to, towards, for, or among. Greek prepositions are notoriously tricky things. There are lots of them, and they’re pretty complex. It’s always a GOOD idea to do what you’ve done, and compare one usage with another. I applaud you. However: in light of the accepted definitions of EIS (“for”), I see no conflict. The only conflict I see is the one where baptism is NOT necessary for salvation in most passages, but is presumed to be necessary in others.

Because I don’t believe that Scripture contradicts itself, I’m forced to rule out your interpretation of Acts 2:38. It’s not a dogmatic position that I prefer…it’s a reasoned position, arrived at in light of the whole of Scripture.

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10 responses to “Acts 2:38 and Baptismal Regeneration”

  1. Lawrence says:

    Baptism of Water is not required! We must be born of water( the word) and accept Jesus as your lord and savior. Then receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, which is the Baptism of Fire. Now you are born again, and ready to go! Grow your faith and reap your rewards!

    • Jerry L Price says:

      You need to read the definition of WATER. And there again who made the water. And how much of our bodies are made up of water.

      • Jerry L Price says:

        Also you are not to add to or take away from God’s Word. So do as He says and repent and be baptized for the remission of your sins. Wasn’t Jesus baptized when he came upon John the Baptist and asked John to baptize Him? Read your Bible folks.

        • Tony says:


          With respect, you seem confused about baptism. First, you say that baptism is for the remission of sins. Then you appear to use Jesus’ baptism as evidence that this is true. Clearly, this cannot be. Jesus never sinned, and had no sins to remit.

          Baptism isn’t a uniquely Christian activity. Jews also baptized, for a variety of reasons. One reason was for ritual purity…something of which Christians have no need. Another was an opportunity for converts to express their desire to join the community of faith. That’s what baptism is for you and me and almost everyone else. Jesus’ baptism also comes from Judaism: they baptized a priest at the beginning of his ministry. Jesus was baptized not for sins, but as a sign that He was beginning His earthly ministry.

          I appreciate your comments, and welcome you to the GodWords community. Please don’t hesitate to share more of your thoughts. Have a great day!

        • lawrence hobson says:

          Jesus aloud himself to be baptized to complete the law. To be baptized by water is a church ritual. The water Jesus spoke of is the word, Jesus is the word, the truth and light!

          • Tony says:


            Where do you read that Jesus was baptized to complete the law?

            Also: you say that Jesus said “water” but meant “word” and you also said that Jesus is the word. Do you mean that Christians are baptized in Jesus? If that’s not what you mean, what DO you mean?

  2. Jerry L Price says:

    Read Matthew chapter 28 verses 16-20 and Mark chapter 1 verses 1-12 and Acts chapter 2 verses 38-41

    • Tony says:


      Thanks again for your comment. I’ve read all of those verses, of course. I’m sure you have as well. The question is not what those verses SAY – they’re in every Bible – but what they MEAN. You apparently think they mean something different than what I think…so, please do me and my readers a favor and explain why those verses should be understood as you understand them.

      Thanks in advance!

  3. lawrence hobson says:

    The water Jesus refer to and the Holy spirit are one and the same. Once you are born again his word will flow out you like running water.

    • Tony says:


      I appreciate your reply. Unfortunately, I can’t yet agree with you. Here’s why:

      When we read Acts 2:38-41 (especially v 38), we see that Peter said this: 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. Note that Peter doesn’t say that the water in which they were to be baptized is the Holy Spirit. Instead, baptism and the gift of the Spirit are two separate things.

      When we read Matthew 28:16-20 (especially v 19), we see that Jesus said this: …go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Note that Jesus doesn’t say that His disciples were to baptized new disciples in the Holy Spirit. Instead, new disciples were baptized in regular old water.

      When we read Mark 1:1-12 (especially v 8), we see that John the Baptist said this: I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit. Note that John didn’t say that the water he baptized people in was the Holy Spirit. Instead, he drew a definite distinction between the water in which he baptized and the Spirit with which Jesus would baptize. This doesn’t support your claim…it directly undermines it.

      With respect, Lawrence…you’re going to have to do better than that if you want people to agree with you. None of the verses you cite support the notion that the water Jesus speaks of in John 3 is the Holy Spirit. It appears that you want them to say this, but they do not. Other verses might be more helpful.

      Let me know what your continuing research turns up, will you? I appreciate your hard work in this regard. Have a great day!

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