“John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.” (Mark 1:4)
“And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; for this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” (Matthew 26:27-28)
With only a cursory glance at these verses, you might think there is a contradiction in scripture. One verse seems teaches that remission of sins comes through baptism, the other says it comes through the blood of Jesus Christ. So, which is it?
The Bible clearly teaches that the remission of sins comes through the offering of blood to God.
“And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.” (Hebrews 9:22)
So what does it mean “baptism for the remission of sins?”
One of the most popular opinions is that baptism is what makes remission particular to each believer. In reference to the personal experience of feeling forgiven, I might agree but this position has many dangers. First of all, what about all the old testament saints who were never baptized? In the new testament, what about the thief on the cross who went to paradise with Jesus? Or for that matter, why was Jesus baptized? He did not need to be forgiven!
May I offer another explanation?
The key to understanding this Scripture is the word “for.” Jesus’ blood was shed for the remission of sins. This means that His death caused the sins of God’s people to be forgiven.
But the word “for” can have another meaning!
I am in my late forties and, as most men my age, my hair is thinning. Each day I use a shampoo designed to help men my age. Right on the bottle it says, “For Thinning Hair.”
Now let me ask you a question, “Am I using this shampoo in order to get thinning hair or because I already have thinning hair?” Regretfully, I must admit to the latter. I use the shampoo because I already have thinning hair.
Baptism is exactly the same. We are to be baptized because we already have remission of sins in Jesus Christ. Our baptism is an outward symbol that expresses what God has already done by His grace on the inside.
We seek to be baptized because we want to be publicly identified with the One who died for our sins and was raised for our justification!