Then Peter said unto them, 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 Spirit. Acts 2:38
You may not have realized it before, but every human being has a criminal record — a past that needs — to be forgiven and forgotten. Everyone must face his record before God and the sure penalty for your crimes — sins — is capital punishment — DEATH; the sure forgiveness, eternal life!
IT'S NOT easy to live with a criminal record. Many a criminal after he has been released from jail has met frustration after frustration as he tries to become accepted again in society. Often the ex-convict is just on the verge of landing a job when his would-be employer comes across his criminal record and then "coincidentally" decides it best not to hire him. The ex-convict who wants to change is one man who yearns that society would forget and forgive what he has done. Here's an individual who would do just about anything to have his record cleared. The ex-convict may have broken some civil law of the land for which he was imprisoned and for which he has been cut off from society, but every human being on this earth has broken another law — and in doing so has cut himself off from his Creator. And if every human being is involved, you must be included! But what is it you've done that God needs to forgive and forget? In what way have you cut yourself off from your God? Can you think of anything? Anything worthy of eternal death? God dogmatically states in Romans 3:23 that "all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." And Romans 6:23 just as dogmatically states that "the wages of sin is death." So God is categorically asserting that everybody is worthy of death. Plain and simple. And everybody includes you. But God does not leave us "hanging." He has designed a system in which all our sins can be so blotted out that it will be as though they never existed. This is called, in the King James translation, "the remission of sins." How can you receive this remission? It's incredibly easy. And it's not "religious" in the traditional sense of the word. First of all, let's understand what is meant by the theological — sounding term "remission." This term is translated from the original Greek word (∙ἂΦεσιϛ∙) aphesis which means release, pardon, cancellation and forgiveness. In fact, this same word is translated as "forgiveness" several times in the New Testament. So remission simply means forgiveness. In fact, this original Greek word is derived from another Greek word (∙άΦίήμι∙) aphiemi which literally means to "send forth, send away, or let go." So in this sense "remission of sins" can be pictured as a sending away of the sin from the sinner. In fact, David says in Psalm 103:12: "As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us...." That's a total sending away or separation! Now, let's go one step further. We've seen that remission of sin means "forgiveness of sin" or "sending away of sin" from the sinner. We've also seen that all have sinned. But what is sin? Exactly! That's a very fundamental question that has received much debate. So it will probably come somewhat as a shock to learn that God's Word answers the question very succinctly and directly. "For sin is the transgression of the law" (I John 3:4). It's very plain and simple. God has given a law which is embodied in ten commandments — as spiritually magnified by Jesus Christ. Any transgression or breaking of this spiritual law constitutes sin. (For a full explanation of this spiritual law write for our booklet The Ten Commandments) So the "remission of sins" is the act of God forgiving us for the (numerous) times we have broken His law. And, as we have said, we have all sinned and therefore we all need this forgiveness. We all have a criminal record, spiritually speaking, that we need to get rid of. And until we do rid ourselves of this record, we're cut off from direct contact with God. "Behold, the Lord's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: but your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear" (Isa. 59:1-2). But how do we clear our record with God? Here's where baptism comes in. As explained in a previous article, baptism symbolically pictures your willingness for your old self to die. As you're baptized or buried that old self figuratively dies and that old criminal record dies in the process. By this unique occurrence in your life you become clean and pure before your Creator. All previous sin is forgiven and remitted. This is why Peter commanded: "Repent, and be baptized... for the remission of sins...." You might well ask: "How can being submerged in a pool of water clean up my total spiritual criminal record?" The answer is that it doesn't, per se. What actually makes remission of sins possible at the time of baptism is that the blood of Jesus Christ is applied to you personally (Rom. 5:9). Your sins are transferred to the body of Jesus and Christ dies in your place. (Don't let this world's sickly sentimental usage of the phrase "the blood of Jesus Christ" turn you off. What I'm talking about here is the real thing, divorced from any improper sentimentality) Here's how it works. You have broken God's Law and therefore have brought the death penalty upon yourself (Rom. 6:23). You realize that you need to be figuratively buried in baptism to symbolize your acknowledgement of the necessity of putting to death your old self. God then does His part: He actually applies the death of Jesus Christ to you so that the death penalty for your breaking of God's Law is literally paid in full. Hence you don't have to literally die yourself — and you emerge from a few seconds under the waters of baptism completely justified and righteous in God's sight. This is what Paul meant by "Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death..." (Rom. 6:3-4). So three events — your baptism, the application of Jesus Christ's blood for you, and the remission of your sins all focus in at one point in time. There's one additional point that might need clarification: The question of why Jesus Christ's death can be applied to pay the death penalty for so many billions of individuals. The answer is elementary: Jesus Christ is the God and Creator of mankind (John 1:1-3) thus, His life (and therefore His death) is worth more than all the rest of mankind put together. God is eager for You to gain contact with Him. He fervently wants You to have Your sins remitted. He wants you to clean up your record and to have a clear conscience before Him. And so, unlike the ex-convict who sometimes has to live with his record even after he has been released from prison, once you've been squared away with God by the remission of sins, your old spiritual record is totally forgotten. It won't hold you back in any way. And that's a fabulous feeling! King David of Israel put it this way in Psalm 32:1: "Blessed," he says, "is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered." You can take advantage of that blessing!