Baptism for the Remission of Sins

By Connie W. Adams

R.L. Kilpatrick of Huntsville, Alabama edits a magazine called Ensign which he says “Advocates the restoration of spiritual freedom in Christ” and is “further dedicated to the teachings of ‘justification by Faith’ and the imputed righteousness of God as the basis of our relationship to God. Manu- scripts to advance these teachings are welcomed.”

There is no doubt that we are justified by faith (Rom. 5:1). Neither is there any doubt that the sinner is made free from sins. Paul said the Ro- mans had “obeyed from the heart the form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteous- ness” (Rom. 6:17-18). God does not impute sin to one whom he has forgiven. “Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin” (Rom. 4:7-8).

The question arises as to what kind of faith saves. Is it inactive or active? Is it obedient or disobedient? Throughout the Bible saving faith has always been obedient faith. Hebrews 11 clearly shows that to be so. Does God’s grace save conditionally or unconditionally? This has always been the battleground with denominational preachers.

In Ensign the editor has advocated the inherited depravity of man, has argued that it is legalistic to preach that there are conditions upon which God proposes to save the sinner. Now in the March 1999 issue, he has an editorial entitled “Baptism FOR The Remission of Sins” in which he states, “Nowhere in scripture is the sinner commanded to be baptized ‘for the remission of sins.’ It is not a commandment, or an act that can be obeyed by the sinner. He can only submit and God takes care of the rest.” If the sinner “submits” is that not an act? Or do we round them up and drag them kicking and screaming to be baptized? Certainly forgiveness of sins takes place in the mind of God. But whom does he promise to save?

The statement that “Nowhere in scripture is the sinner commanded to be baptized ‘for the remission of sins’” flies in the face of several well- known passages. Let’s start with Acts 2:38. “Then Peter said unto them, Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins . . .” Eis here is variously translated “for” or “unto” in translation after translation. God grants the remission of sins to those who “repent” and are “baptized.” Kilpatrick argues that it does not matter whether or not a sinner understands the purpose of baptism or not. If he does not need to understand that baptism is “for the remission of sins” then does he not need to understand that repentance is also included “for the remission of sins”?

Saul of Tarsus was told to “Arise and be baptized and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). This penitent believer was to be baptized for the same reason as those on Pentecost — to wash away, or receive remission of sins.

In Mark 16:16 Jesus said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be damned.” What “he” shall be saved? Is it not the “he” that believes and is baptized?

In Acts 10:48 Peter “commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord.” There is no difference between baptism “in the name of the Lord” and baptism “for the remission of sins” or baptism to be “saved.”

God’s revelation is addressed to the understanding of man. “Every one that hath heard and learned of the Father cometh unto me” (John 6:44-45). Isaiah said, “he will teach us of his ways and we will walk in his paths” (Isa. 2:2-3). On Pentecost it was not until they “heard these things” that they were pricked in their hearts and cried out to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” They had come to “know assuredly” certain truths. “So then faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17).

If the sinner does not need to know that baptism is “for” the remission of sins, does he need to know that the blood of Christ was shed “for” the remission of sins (Matt. 26:28)? Same word both times. Kilpatrick says that insistence that the sinner must understand the purpose of baptism has come to be a requirement “only in recent times.” The preaching of the inspired men as reported in the New Testament surely pre-dates the “recent times” to which R.L. Kilpatrick refers.