“Baptism of Repentance — What is It?”

By Larry Ray Hafley

Under the above caption, Bedford Andrews wrote in the Missionary Baptist Searchlight of February 10, 1975. He discussed the baptism of John in general and the reference in Mark 1:4 in particular. “John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.” Mr. Andrews correctly and scripturally concluded that in Mark 1:4 John “baptized in water all who repented and came for water baptism. That is all there is to it.” If that had been “all there is to it,” we would not be writing these lines, but Mr. Andrews could not resist making a few comments on Mark 1:4. “Notice,” said he, “in Mark 1:4 it says, `. . . baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.’ The word `for” as used here many times means “because of” instead of the other way it may be used. For example see verse 44 of the same chapter. Here the leper-already cleansed, mind you–is told to offer `for” thy cleansing. Now, did he offer to get to be clean, or because he was already clean? Well, Jesus had already cleansed him of leprosy and after cleansing told him to offer `for” it. How do we know this is the proper use of the word `for” in the term `. . . baptized for the remission of sins,’ Mark 1:4? Because those who repent of sin have everlasting life, are saved, born again, sons of God, in the family of God, etc. Acts 11:18; Gal. 3:26, and other Scriptures. Mind you, baptism is for the remission of sins, but the ones repenting, and only those, were baptized by John the Baptist; therefore, we must conclude `for” as used here to mean “because of” and not in order to obtain remission.”

Does This “For” Mean “Because of?”

Mr. Andrews tortured both his grammar and his doctrine. His argument on Mark 1:4 is based on the meaning of `for” in verse 44. Unfortunately, the Greek word “for” in verse 44 is peri,,,while in verse 4 it is eis. “For (pert) thy cleansing” appears in Mark 1:44 as quoted by Andrews, but it is “for (eis) the remission of sins” in verse 4.

After being healed of his leprosy, Jesus said, “See thou say nothing to any man: but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer for thy cleansing those things which Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them” (Mk. 1:44). The last expression of ‘for” is the Greek preposition, eis. It is “for (eis) a testimony unto them,” while the first phrase is “for (pert) thy cleansing.” To say the least, Mr. Andrews was careless. To say the worst, he was deceitful. Surely, he was simply unaware of his error.

But the leprous man was not formally cleansed. True, he was “cleansed” in that his “leprosy departed from him” (Mk. 1 1:42), but according to Leviticus 14:2-9, he was ceremonially unclean. The leprosy was healed (Cf. Mk. 1:42; Lev. 14:2). But he was “to be cleansed” after going through the prescribed ritual (Lev. 14:7, 8). Only on the seventh day was he declared “clean.” So, Mr. Andrews argument fails and falls whether or not the term “for” is the same or not

The leprous man was to offer “those things which Moses commanded for a testimony” (Mk. 1:44). The last ‘for” is the same word as appears in Mk. 1:4, “for the remission of sins.” Was the leper to offer “because of” a testimony, or “in order to” declare unto them? Certainly, he was to make the offerings, not because a testimony had been rendered, but in order to effect testimony unto them. So, the argument on “for” backfires. John baptized those penitent ones “for the remission of sins.” Compare Matthew 26:28 and Acts 2:38.

Repentance, Salvation, and Acts 11:18

Mr. Andrews says “those who repent of sin have everlasting life, are saved, born again, sons of God, in the family of God, etc. Acts 11:18; Gal. 3:26.” His statement is true only if he uses the term repentance as it is used in Acts 11:18. In this text, the Jews rejoiced that God had granted the Gentiles “repentance unto life.” This includes their believing in Christ and their obedience to the command to be baptized (Acts 10:34, 35, 43, 48). After their belief and baptism, it is said that God had “granted repentance unto life” unto the Gentiles. After, “mind you,” and not before.

However, if Mr. Andrews means that one has “everlasting life” and is saved the very moment he repents, he has himself in conflict with his doctrine. Missionary Baptist doctrine says repentance precedes, comes before, faith. Thus, if one is “born again” the moment he repents, he is “saved” and has “everlasting life” before he believes. Hence, Mr. Andrews would make faith unessential to salvation or at least subsequent to it.

And that is the way Andrews was using the term. He is considering repentance prior to baptism in Mark 1:4. At the point of repentance, one is “saved” and “born again,” he says. Thus, according to Andrews, one repents, is saved, and then is baptized “because of” the remission of sins. And since faith follows repentance in the Baptist Scheme, he has one not only “saved” before baptism but also before faith.

Mr. Andrew’s Predicament

Let us try that last paragraph on Mark 1:15. The Lord said, “Repent ye, and believe the gospel.” According to Andrew’s usage of Mark 1:4, one is “saved” and has “everlasting life” after he repents, but before he is baptized. Will he deny this logic on this passage? Let him attempt it. Compare Mark 1:4 and 1:15. On Mark 1:4, Andrews says, “Repent (be ‘saved, born again’) and then be baptized ‘because of the remission of sins.” That is the gist of his argument. Parallel-wise, let him explain the statement eleven verses later: “Repent ye (have ‘everlasting life, are saved, born again’) and believe the gospel.”

Mk. 1:4-(1) Repent (2) Salvation (3) Baptism

Mk. 1:15-(1) Repent (2) Salvation (3) Believe


In his haste to explain away any connection between baptism and the remission of sins, Mr. Andrews ‘has crossed himself and Baptist doctrine. Will he tell us why salvation comes before baptism in Mark 1:4 but why it does not come before faith in Mark 1:15? With his reasoning, one may use Acts 11:18 in considering Mark 1:15 as readily as he uses it in Mark 1:4. So, Andrews has salvation appearing before both belief and baptism.

Today, “repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his (Jesus’) name among all nations” in this manner: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mk. 16:16). “For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Rom. 10;10). “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:38).

Truth Magazine XIX: 30, pp. 475-476
June 5, 1975