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A Study in "For"

Updated: Nov 14, 2022


“For” is a small but powerful preposition. It even caused a Baptist preacher to change the way he preached about salvation.[1] In English, it can mean “because (of)”, “toward”, or “to obtain”. The first definition is commonly used in Acts 2:38 – “Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for (because of) the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Does “for” mean “because of” in Acts 2:38? Or does it mean something else?

A Greek Definition

In the Greek language, there are several words which are translated into English as “for”. Most of these words are defined as “because of” or “on account of”. However, there is one word that never means what the others mean – this word is εἰς (eis), which is used in Acts 2:38. According to Strong’s Dictionary, it is as follows:

a primary preposition; to or into (indicating the point reached or entered), of place, time, or (figuratively) purpose (result, etc.); also in adverbial phrases.: - [abundant-] ly, against, among, as, at, [back-] ward, before, by, concerning, + continual, + far more exceeding, for [intent, purpose], fore, + forth, in (among, at unto, -so much that, -to), to the intent that, + of one mind, + never, of, (up-) on, + perish, + set at one again, (so) that, therefore (-unto), throughout, till, to (be, the end, -ward), (here-) until (-to), . . . ward, [where-] fore, with. Often used in composition with the same general import, but only with verbs (etc.) expressing motion (literally or figuratively).”

In other words, εἰς is a directional word. Whatever goal is stated after εἰς, the only way to reach that goal is to do whatever comes before εἰς.

Examples can be found in the following passages:

Matthew 2:1“Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem…” What was required for them to be in Jerusalem? They had to arrive.
Mark 6:36 “Send them away so that they may go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” What was required for them to be in the surrounding countryside and villages to buy food? They had to go.
Luke 17:24 “For just like the lightning, when it flashes out of one part of the sky, shines to the other part of the sky, so will the Son of Man be in His day.” What was required for the lighting to be at the other part of the sky? It had to shine.
John 19:9“And he entered into the Praetorium again and *said to Jesus, “Where are You from?” But Jesus gave him no answer.” What was required of Pilate to be in the Praetorium? He had to enter.

A multitude of other passages can be shown to prove the case, but the point is clear. The word, “εἰς”, is always used in prospect of something instead of retrospect.

Therefore, read Acts 2:38 again; “Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” What was required for them to have forgiveness of sins? They had to repent and be baptized. Water baptism is necessary for salvation. It is how one’s sins are washed away by the blood of Christ.[2]

[1] [2] Acts 22:16

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