Note: All Scripture quotations found in this article are from the text of the Authorized King James Version of the Bible.
Acts 2:38 "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."
The above verse is misapplied by many denominations in Christianity that believe that water baptism is essential for salvation, which is called Baptismal Regeneration. Some of the denominations that believe this heresy are the Campbellites, Catholics, Episcopalians, Pentecostals, Presbyterians, Methodists and Lutherans. Not all people from those denominations believe in Baptismal Regeneration, but most of them do. Baptists are one of the few denominations that do not teach this corrupt doctrine. The teaching that one has to be water baptized to receive the Holy Ghost is heresy and leads to Hell because it is not the gospel of the grace of God that teaches that salvation is by faith alone in Jesus Christ. To understand this verse, one must obey what God has said about rightly dividing the word.
2 Timothy 2:15 "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."
In Acts 2:38, Peter, who was a Jew, was addressing Mosaic law observing Jews, not Gentiles. Verse 1 in the chapter shows us that the people there were Jews at a Jewish Feast called Pentecost. Peter was telling the Jews (the nation of Israel) how to save themselves from the generation that killed Jesus Christ according to verse 40 in the same chapter.
Acts 2:40 "And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation."
Acts 2:38 is not the answer to the question, "What must I do to be saved?" That question is asked later on in Acts 16:30 and answered in the next verse, Acts 16:31. The answer says nothing about water baptism, rather faith in Jesus Christ plus nothing.
Acts 16:30 "Sirs, what must I do to be saved? 31 And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved…"
Another thing to realize is that the phrase "for the remission of sins" in Acts 2:38 does not mean "in order to get your sins forgiven" just like "Christ died for our sins" does not mean that Christ died "in order that you might sin." If one is put in prison "for killing," he is not put in prison so he can kill, rather he is put in prison because he killed. "For" in Acts 2:38 does not mean "in order to get," rather it means "because of."
It is important to know that remission does not mean redemption, which is the taken away of sin completely. Remission means forgiveness. From Genesis 4:4 all the way to the crucifixion, God remitted sins by animal sacrifices temporarily, but it was not until the Blood of Jesus Christ that sins could fully be taken away or cleared (Heb. 9:22, 10:4).
Acts is a transitional book and if one is not careful, they will go to Hell believing a passage that was not written to them for doctrine. Outside of Acts 2, no one received the Holy Spirit by being baptized in water. In Acts 8:12-16, the people were baptized, but did not receive the Holy Spirit until the Apostles laid hands on them. But then in Acts 10:43-48 when Peter was preaching to the Gentiles, the people received the Holy Spirit before they were baptized in water.
The student of the word of God should be careful when it comes to doctrine and salvation. One must ask if the passage that is being read is written to him for doctrine. There is no reason to apply Jewish doctrine to Church Age Christians today. Christians are to get their doctrine from the Pauline Epistles that were written by Paul, who was the Apostle to the Gentiles, not Jews (Rom. 11:13). Paul preached our gospel, which is called "the gospel of the grace of God" (Acts 20:24). Paul preached that salvation was by faith alone in Jesus Christ with no works, such as water baptism.
Galatians 3:14 "That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith."
Ephesians 2:8 "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast."
If you have been deceived by the heresy of Baptismal Regeneration then I plead with you today to quit trusting your own works and to put your whole trust in what Jesus did for you on the Cross of Calvary (Rom. 10:9-13).
Romans 5:1 "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:"