After giving James Strong's definition for the Greek preposition eis, the word translated 'for' in Acts 2:38 (KJV), it says:
"Additional Information. … 'For' (as used in Acts 2:38 'for the forgiveness …') could have two meanings." If you saw a poster saying "Jesse James wanted for robbery," 'for' could mean Jesse is wanted so he can commit a robbery, or is wanted because he has committed a robbery. The later sense is the correct one. So, too in this passage, the word 'for' signifies an action in the past. Otherwise, it would violate the entire tenor of the NT teaching on salvation by grace and not by works.
The above statement reflects three glaring, classic errors. First, there is the classic "comparing apples with oranges." The Greek word eis is what is under consideration, NOT the English word "for." Yes, it may be true that our English word "for" can be used in two senses as per the "Jesse James" illustration, but such is not the case with the Greek word eis. Strong correctly defines the word, "into, unto, to, towards, for, among." If the Greek word eis meant "because of," then why do none of the major translations have "because of the remission of sins" in Acts 2:38? Even the liberal NIV translates it, "for the forgiveness of your sins!"
Second, there is a classic example of "begging the question" (i.e. circular reasoning). After explaining the Jesse James poster, notice the statement in the quote, "The later sense [that eis means 'because of'] is the correct one." What proof did he offer? Even if eis could have the two meanings described (which I deny), what proof did the author give that it means "because of" rather than "for the purpose of?"
Third, there is the classic misunderstanding of the relationship between grace and works.
Note the last sentence in the quote, "Otherwise, it would violate the entire tenor of the NT teaching on salvation by grace and not by works." "Grace" and "works" are not mutually exclusive. The fact that we are "saved by grace" does not rule out the fact that we have a response to make toward God.
Paul says, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast" (Eph 2:8-9). "Grace" is God's part; "faith" is our part. Interestingly, Paul goes on to say that we are God's "WORKmanship, created in Christ."
The works that are excluded are the works of the Law of Moses (Gal 3:10-12), the works of human boasting (Eph 2:9), and the works of human righteousness (Tit 3:5). However, there are works that are included for salvation (Jas 2:14-26; Phil 2:12). In fact, Jesus said that believing in Him is a "work" (Jn 6:28-29)!
The True Meaning Of "For" Is Certain
The irrefutable proof that "for the remission of sins" in Acts 2:38 means "toward," or "for the purpose of," and not "because of," is clearly seen when compared with other expressions which, for all practical purposes, are identical with the expression under consideration in Acts 2:38.
The following verses all use the Greek preposition eis, with the same Greek words translated "for the remission of sins."
Luke and Mark say that John the Baptist preached the baptism of repentance "for the remission of sins" (Lk 3:3; Mk 1:4).
Did John preach because they already had forgiveness of sin? If so, then he was preparing the way for Jesus in vain!
When Jesus instituted the Lord's Supper, He said, "For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins" (Mt 26:28).
Jesus instituted the Lord's Supper on the night He was betrayed (1 Cor 11:23). Did Jesus shed His blood because we already had forgiveness of sins? If so, then Jesus died in vain!
Paul said that God sent Jesus as the "propitiation" (means by which sin is removed) to declare God's righteousness "for the remission of sins" that were committed under the Old Testament (Rom 3:25). Was Jesus the "propitiation" because the people who sinned under the Old Testament already had the forgiveness of sins (cf. Heb 9:15)? If so, Jesus died in vain!
Not even the most biased person would say that "for the remission of sins" in the verses above (Mt 26:28; Mk 1:4; Lk 3:3; Rom 3:25) means "because of." Why then would they think that "for the remission of sins" in Acts 2:38 means "because of?" Could it be that they do not want to accept the plain Biblical meaning of Acts 2:38?
(Reprinted from POWER, February, 2005 issue – B. J. Clarke, Editor.)