Some people argue that Acts 2:38
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. (Acts 2:38
The question, "Is baptism necessary for salvation?", is misleading. We believe that baptism is "necessary" for salvation in that baptism is commanded by God, and thus one who refuses baptism demonstrates a lack of true saving faith. A better question to use for framing this debate is, "At what point is a person saved: upon having faith, or upon being baptized?"
The key issue is not these individual passages, but rather, answering the question, "Does the Bible teach that salvation is through faith alone?" If the answer to that question is "Yes," then the question is, "What exactly does it mean to be saved through faith alone?"
The value in debating these individual passages is simply to demonstrate that they do not contradict the doctrine of salvation through faith alone. However, we do not build our theology of salvation upon these individual passages. They are peripheral to the key issue, which is the doctrine of salvation through faith alone.
The key to Acts 2:38
Those who say that baptism is necessary for baptism assert that it means, "in order to get." However, in both the Greek and English language, "for" can mean several things, so there are other interpretations of this passage that do not result in the conclusion that baptism is necessary for salvation. Here are two definitions for the word "for" from Merriam-Webster:
To determine what the word "for" means in Acts 2:38
So, how do we determine what εἰς means in Acts 2:38
In Matthew 12:41
Here, it is clear that people are baptized with water because they repented, not in order to get repentance.
Again, it is clear here that people are being baptized because of Jesus' death, not in order to receive his death, which would not make any sense.
1 Corinthians 10:2
In this passage, it is clear that the Israelites were baptized because Moses was their leader and had led them out of Egypt, not in order to get Moses to be their leader.
The last three passages above are the only other passages, besides Acts 2:38
To summarize, although it is possible that the word "for" in Acts 2:38
There is something else about Acts 2:38
Repent (second person plural) and be baptized (third person singular) every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your (second person plural) sins (Acts 2:38
Notice that "repent" and "the forgiveness of your sins" are in the second person plural, and "be baptized" is in the third person singular. This suggests that "repenting" and "the forgiveness of your sins" are directly connected in this passage, while "be baptized" is an act that is separate from those two things.
In other words, we can paraphrase Acts 2:38
Another problem with the argument that Acts 2:38
For example, if I say, "Eat an apple to be healthy," that does not mean that if a person does not eat an apple he will not be healthy.
Likewise, Acts 2:38
To put this concept in a different way, there is a difference between the fruit of salvation and the cause of salvation. Baptism and good works are the fruit of salvation and are "necessary" in the sense that a person who is truly saved will desire these things. However, the cause of salvation is faith, which means that a person is saved before baptism and obedience to God occur. So, a person who is not yet baptized or has not yet begun obeying God with good works can still be saved.
To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.
Here, Peter tells Cornelius that "everyone who believes" in Jesus "receives forgiveness of sins through his name." He does not mention baptism being required in order to receive forgiveness of sins.
After Peter says this to Cornelius, Acts 10:44
While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word.
Then, after this, the Cornelius and the Gentiles are baptized:
Then Peter declared, "Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?" (Acts 10:46-47
So, the order of events is this:
For all of the reasons above, it is clear that Acts 2:38