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Is water baptism for remission of sins?

Submitted: 8/24/2007
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Question: If water baptism is for the remission of sins, then how can God fill someone who has yet to have their sins remitted as in Act 10? Thank you.

Answer: Acts 2:38 states explicitly that water baptism in the name of Jesus Christ is for the remssion of sins. The word 'remission' means forgiveness, removal, dismissal, etc. This means that we must be baptized in a biblical manner to have our sins taken away by the blood of Jesus. Some say that this verse means that we are baptized because our sins have been remitted. But the original language does not support this view. The Greek word 'for' is eis, which means 'into' and always refers to forward movement. In other words, Acts 2:38 tells us that we are baptized 'into the remission of sins,' which means that remission is the result of baptism and cannot precede it. Through water baptism we move toward and into a spiritual condition of forgiveness.

Following the remission of sins we are promised the gift of the Holy Spirit, suggesting that receiving the Spirit must follow water baptism. But Acts 10:44-48 tells the story of a man named Cornelius who was filled with the Spirit before he was baptized. He was then commanded by Peter, the one who had preached Acts 2:38, to immediately be baptized in water. Jesus said in John 3:5 that to be born again a person must be born of both water and the Spirit. The normal order seems to be water baptism followed by the gift of the Spirit. But obviously this is not the only way it can happen. In my own experience, I was filled with the Spirit and then imediately baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. The important thing is that a person be born of both water and the Spirit, but the order can be the Spirit and then water.

You asked how God can do this. Our answer is, God can do whatever He wants, as we see in the case of Cornelius.