Baptism’s Role in Repentance and Forgiveness

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Baptism’s Role in Repentance and Forgiveness

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“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 . . .’” (Acts 2:38, English Standard Version).

Peter said that baptism is an essential part of forgiveness. But where does baptism fit in with the grace of God and Jesus? Through faith in Christ’s sacrifice, we have all of our sins and the guilt we harbor entirely removed. We are then completely clean in God’s sight (Acts 22:16).

It is comforting to know that God not only forgives our sins, but totally dissociates them from us: “For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more” (Hebrews 8:12).

David was awed by God’s complete mercy and forgiveness. He wrote, “For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us” (Psalms 103:11-12).

Through the prophet Isaiah, God tells us of the forgiveness that follows when we repent and turn to Him: “Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes. Cease to do evil, learn to do good . . . Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow” (Isaiah 1:16-18).

This is where baptism comes in. Paul explained how we are cleansed and made right with God: “But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11). Jesus Christ cleanses the Church “with the washing of water by the word” (Ephesians 5:26).

This washing away of the accumulated filth of our sins is part of what is symbolized by baptism. Before Paul was baptized, Ananias said: “Why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). By plunging our entire body under water, we are symbolically cleansed throughout.

Of course, the water is only a symbol. In reality, the cleansing of sin and reconciliation to God are by the shed blood of Jesus Christ, our Savior (Romans 5:8-10; Acts 20:28). Without His sacrifice, our sins cannot be washed away. But when we submit to God and are baptized as He wants us to be, we’re demonstrating our faith that our sins can and will be cleansed by Jesus’ sacrifice.

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