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 Ghost.
Note 2 at Ac 2:38: These Jews were cut to the heart by the sermon that Peter preached, and they called upon Peter and the other apostles to tell them what they had to do to get right with God. Peter then told them to repent and be baptized for the remission of sins. Many battles have been fought among Christians over this verse.
The main point of contention is not repentance. Most will not deny that repentance is a part of receiving salvation (see note 1 at Mt 3:2 and note 3 at Lu 15:18). The real argument is over water baptism. Even more specifically, the argument is, is water baptism a requirement for salvation or just an evidence of it?
Being baptized in water is a command of Jesus and should be obeyed as any other command He gave, but putting our faith in water baptism as a means of salvation is an offense to Christ and what He has done for us. It's saying that Jesus didn't pay it all; there is also a price that we must pay in order to be saved.
Those who preach water baptism as necessary in order to obtain salvation invariably also preach other actions of holiness that we must do to be saved; they have accepted the belief that faith in what Christ has done is not enough. They believe we must do certain things to be saved, and they cite this verse and water baptism as an example. If people believe that, the burden of salvation shifts from Jesus to man.
The answer to this problem is found in this verse in the little word "for." The Greek word that was translated "for" in this verse is "EIS," and it can mean because of, as a result of, and since or can also mean so as to obtain.
As explained in note 9 at Mr 16:16, there are two examples of different groups of people being born again before they were baptized in water; therefore, water baptism cannot be a requirement in order to obtain salvation. So it must be an action that comes because of, as a result of, or since the remission of sins. It is an act of obedience that only a person who is already born again can perform (Ac 8:36-37).
Water baptism is an outward show of an inward change. It has great benefit as an action that resists the devil and as a witness that identifies us as one with Christ, but it cannot save (see note 55 at Mt 7:21 and note 21 at Mt 23:26).
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