Baptism for the Remission of Sins


H. A. Ironside

Baptism for the Remission of Sins.

If the reader will turn to the book of Acts, chapter 2, it will be observed that the main points of Peter's address on the day of Pentecost are these: God had promised to raise up one of the seed of David to sit on his throne (verse 30), but ere He was manifested in His glory He was to pass through death, and in resurrection Jehovah would give Him a place as Man on His throne, there to sit until His enemies were made a footstool for His feet (verses 25-34).

The greater part of this had been already fulfilled. All should be. Jesus of Nazareth (verses 22-24) had been slain by the Jews, but God, in resurrection, had made Him Lord and Christ (verse 36).

Consider for a moment the result of such a message if really believed. Messiah was promised. He came. By wicked hands He had been crucified and slain. Jehovah had accepted Him. His foes (they were numbered among them) were to be made His footstool. What of Israel's hopes now? What should they do to escape the threatened judgment! All this and more would be involved in the anxious question, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" (v.37).

Notice, it is not the query of the Philippian jailor: "What must I do to be saved?" (Acts 16:30). The thought of personal salvation is perhaps included in it, but it is rather what shall we do to escape the impending fate of His foes, as part of the nation that had rejected Him? In accordance with Psalm 2, Messiah had been set at nought by the rulers and the people; yet God's decree would stand. How, then, could they "Kiss the Son" and avert His wrath.

The nation as such had forfeited the favor of God, and with it the outpouring of the Spirit promised through Joel (verses 17-21). What should they do to obtain it again?

The answer is simple. Let those who confess the guilt of themselves and their nation, be baptized in the name of the rejected and Crucified One. This would be manifestly snapping the link that bound them to the apostate people. They would then be out of the sphere on which governmental wrath must fall. Administratively their sins would be remitted. They would not share in the judgment so soon to come upon Messiah-rejecting Judah (Luke 21:16-24).

Governmental or administrative forgiveness refers to earth, not to heaven. We speak of God's dealing in chastisement with people here as His governmental ways. Such dealing would be averted by baptism, which was in itself the confession of sincere repentance. It was remission of this nature to which the Lord referred when He said, " Whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained" (John 20:23). This power Peter was exercising when he offered remission of sins to all who submitted, upon repentance, to baptism. Quite in keeping with this it will be found that Gentiles are never told to be baptized for the remission of their sins. To Paul, a Jew, Ananias conveyed a similar message (Acts 22:16). The erstwhile "persecutor of the way" (v.4) must be baptized, calling upon the name of Jesus, and his sins would be forgiven him. As part of the nation he must share its fate. As baptized out of it and unto Christian ground, his sins would be governmentally washed away. This, of course, does not touch the question of how he was eternally saved. His' own message to others is this: "Be it known unto you, men and brethren, that through this Man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins, and by Him all that believe are justified from all things" (Acts 13:38,39).

To Cornelius, Peter carried a like message, assuring him that, "To Him give all the prophets witness, that through His name whosoever believeth in Him shall receive remission of sins." This is eternal forgiveness before God, and upon receiving it by faith, Cornelius and his company were subsequently baptized (Acts 10:43-48).

I should not judge that one could preach baptism for the remission of sins, save in a much more general sense, after the dispersion of the nation and the demolition of the temple (Matt.24:2). It is never mentioned in any of the epistles. It was God's message for the time, which soon passed away, leaving the mass of the people of Israel hardened and impenitent. A word which, I believe, bears upon this is found in Gal.2:7, where Paul says, "The gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me as the gospel of circumcision was unto Peter." See also verses 8 and 9. Of course, as above intimated, in a general sense, even among Gentiles and throughout the dispensation one's sins could be said to be remitted by baptism-- not before God, but before the Church (John 20:22,23). That is, the past sins are no longer held against the baptized person by the public body of believers. This cannot, however, be pressed too far.

Let us now inquire as to what God has said concerning the