1 Timothy 1:16 – Believe unto Eternal Life

By Wayne Jackson

Many denominationalists are strong opponents of the concept that baptism is a divine condition for the remission of past sins. However, the Bible explicitly teaches that immersion is “for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38). The term “for” in this passage is a translation of the Greek word eis, a preposition which means unto, in order to, to obtain (see the Greek lexicons of Thayer, p. 94, and Arndt & Gingrich, p. 228).

In an attempt to thus avoid the emphatic declaration that baptism is essential in order to obtain the remission of past sins, sectarian clergymen resort to the quibble that the word eis can mean “because of.” Supposedly, therefore, one is immersed because his sins have already been forgiven. Baptism, it is alleged, is a mere “outward sign of an inward grace.”

There are two things wrong with this. First, it is not true that eis can mean “because of.” No standard lexicon ever defines it in that fashion, and it is never translated in that way in the New Testament. (See: “A Rose Is a Rose; Or Is It?”)

Second, there is an old axiom – that which proves too much, proves nothing. Let us apply this spurious definition of eis to the 1 Timothy 1:16. In this context Paul affirms that the mercy he received from the Lord serves as an example to all that “should thereafter believe on him [Christ] unto (eis) eternal life.”

Note the language – “believe eis eternal life.” Is the apostle suggesting that one believes on the Lord because he already has eternal life? The very idea is preposterous and not even our denominational friends are generally inclined to so argue.

Underline the words “believe unto eternal life,” and comment: Unto means “in order to obtain.” Compare with Acts 2:38. Also at Acts 2:38 reference this passage.

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About the Author

Wayne Jackson has written for and edited the Christian Courier since its inception in 1965. He has also written several books on a variety of biblical topics including The Bible and Science, Creation, Evolution, and the Age of the Earth, The Bible on Trial, and a number of commentaries. He lives in Stockton, California with his dear wife, and life-long partner, Betty.