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"Repent and Be Baptized"
Rightly Dividing the Word
“Repent and Be Baptized”
Acts 2:37-42
 
The most fundamental question any faith system can deal with is the question of how a person is saved from their sins.  And it seems there are endless solutions and remedies that are offered to man’s problem. 
 
Biblically, we find that question asked on numerous occasions.  “How can I enter the kingdom? How can I be saved? What do I have to do to inherit eternal life?”
 
And laying aside all the other faiths and isms in the world, Christianity alone offers enough different answers to keep the listening world thoroughly confused, and all fo them will use Scripture to prove their point. 
 
For example, the legalist says you’ve got to keep the law.  Your standing before God is determined by your adherence to His Law. 
 
The moralist says salvation is found in doing good things and hopefully your good will outweigh your bad and God will accept you. 
 
The Jew says you’ve got to be one of God's chosen people. I guess that makes them racists! 
 
The universalist says don't sweat it, we'll all get in in the end.
 
The ritualist says you've got to do the right ritual. Follow the right forms. And the strange part is that they all depend on Scripture to prove their point.
 
The legalist for example may quote from James 2:21, which says, "Was not Abraham our father justified by works." However, he will avoid Romans 3:20 which says "By the works of the law shall no flesh be justified."
 
The moralist comes along and quotes from John 5:29, "They that have done good unto the resurrection of life and they that have done evil unto the resurrection of damnation, therefore it all depends on what you've done good or evil."
 
But He has to avoid Ephesians 2:8-9 which says, "For by grace are you saved through faith that not of yourselves it is a gift of God, not of works lest any man should boast."
 
The racist may quote Romans 11:26 that says, "So all Israel shall be saved." But what does he do with Romans 9:6 which says, "For they are not all Israel who are of Israel.
 
The universalist will select Romans 5:18, "Therefore as by the offense of one," Adam, "judgment came upon all men so by the righteousness of one," Jesus Christ, "the free gift came upon all men." And he will say it's the same all men. Therefore all men will be saved. And he will carefully avoid Matthew 7:13-14 which says, "There is a broad road that leads to destruction and many there be that go in there at."
 
 
And so it is with the ritualist as well, and they will invariably find a verse or two that seems to accommodates his ritual.
 
Now, one of the primary rituals in theology today is baptism. There are some people who believe you're saved by water. Others would say it's a combination of faith plus H2O, but basically it comes down to the same thing.
 
And invariably for proof text, they will find their way to Acts, chapter 2, verse 38, which is in the context of what we're going to study tonight. 
 
Those who believe baptism to be essential for salvation rejoice exceedingly over this verse.  They don’t enjoy so much reading verses like Romans 10:9-10, which says, that "You're saved when you confess with your mouth, the Lord Jesus Christ, and believe in your heart." We find no water in Romans 10:9-10. 

They don’t have much to say about Acts 16:30 and 31 where the Philippian jailer asked Paul what “he must do to be saved.”  Paul answered, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.”   And in that story, the water baptism came later, but it isn’t included in Paul’s statement. 
 
So it's very interesting how we tend to pick up our Bibles, take a few verses out of context, and prove our point of view. And unfortunately, it's being done constantly and consistently. That's why you have to compare the Scripture with the Scripture so that you be sure you're accurate.
 
So that makes this passage very important because it is one that is used by ritualists to defend the doctrine of baptismal regeneration. 
 
They say to be saved you've got to be baptized. Salvation is not simply by faith. It's by faith and baptism in water. Now there's much more to this passage than that, but that alone would be enough for us to study it so we would have an adequate Scriptural answer for that issue. 
 
Now in this passage, we're dealing with the wrap up of Peter's sermon. Let me try to paint the scene for you by way of review. 
 
On the day of Pentecost, beginning at the very first verse of Acts 2, the Spirit of God came. The Spirit of God then baptized all of those disciples gathered there in Jerusalem into the body of Christ.  That was not a water baptism.  It was a Spirit baptism.  He baptized them, He indwelt all of them and then filled them with the Spirit.
 
In the meantime, there was a sound like a mighty rushing wind which had gathered all of these people and there were several hundred thousand, between a half a million and a million would be a conservative estimate, in Jerusalem and these masses of people began to gather at the sound of the hurricane, because there wasn't any wind, just the sound.
 
As they came together to the location, here were all these disciples of Jesus going about speaking the wonderful works of God in the native languages of all these people who had pilgrimaged to Jerusalem for the feast of Pentecost. And they were astounded. So the Spirit of God had done a great job of publicity. He had gotten the crowd there. He had done it by advertising a sound like a wind. And then He did it by a sign, the miracle of speaking the wonderful works of God. And that was only a sign to point to the sermon that was coming. Remember, signs are the center of attention.  They just point you in the right direction.  You don't crawl up on the sign and sa. “I've arrived”. The sign's pointing somewhere else.
 
So the sign of the wonderful works of God, demonstrated by the wind and the voices, was directing their attention to what Peter was going to say, and to this primarily Jewish crowd that has gathered, it is obvious this is the hand and Spirit of God. It must be God, because the other choice is Satan, and it's for sure that Satan wouldn't be proclaiming the wonderful works of God.
 
So as they are witnessing all of this and trying to make sense of it, verse 14 tells us Peter stands up to preach and explain to them what's going on.
 
There are four parts to his message.  He begins with
 
-     The Introduction
 
.  Using this beautiful opportunity that the Holy Spirit has provided, he explains to them that what they are seeing is the beginning of Messianic times in terms of fulfillment. Joel said that in the last days God would pour out the Spirit.  And on that day, that is exactly what they witnessed. 
 
Verse 17 says, "it is the last days." Now we know that eschatological the last days has already lasted 2,000 years. The last days is a Jewish term referring to the time of Messiah. And Messiah came once and everything in between til His second coming still embodies Messianic times.
So he's saying you're seeing the beginning of the end. This is Messianic times. They all knew the meaning of the term the last days. They knew that was a Messianic reference. Their Messiah had arrived. Their Savior had come. Their Redeemer had come. Their deliverer was there. Their anointed king had arrived.
 
And so he says this is Messianic times. Well, if it's Messianic times, there's got to be a Messiah, right?
So he moves immediately into
 
-     The Theme
 
of his sermon in verse 22 which introduces the Messiah as Jesus of Nazareth.
 
Verse 22
 
Now that must have been a startling thing for these Jews to hear because they've just gotten through executing Jesus of Nazareth as a blasphemer. And what a shock it must be to realize that the hope of their hearts for which they had waited all those centuries had been crucified, and that by their own hand.  They had actually killed the one they had been waiting for. And this is what brings conviction to them as Peter preaches.   
 
Now Peter doesn’t just assume they are going to accept his message, so he offers some proof.  First of all, in verse 22, he points to the life of Christ and his miracles and wonders. 
 
In verse 23, he moves to the death of Christ and says the death of Christ was no accident. 
 
Then he points to the resurrection of Christ in verses 24-32 and offers that as proof of Him being Messiah.  In verse 30, he draws attention to David who predicted Messiah would be resurrected, 
 
Then he talks about the ascension in verses 33 to 35. He is the Messiah because He was exalted to the right hand of the Father, and those listening had stood there as eyewitnesses and saw Him lift off the ground.   
 
Then we find his conclusion in verse 36. Listen to it:
 
Verse 36
 
In other words, he has proven Christ to be Messiah. So the introduction explained Pentecost and the theme exalting Jesus.  And in so doing, he lays bare their sin of rejecting Christ and executing their own Messiah and Savior.
 
Then he issues
 
-     His Appeal
 
verse 37
 
It’s now time to close the deal.  Peter doesn’t just present the product and then just walk away. Instead, watch what happens in
 
verse 37
 
Good question!  They are where the Holy Spirit wants to take every man in terms of conviction. They are at a place of desperation.  After all, if you are a Jew and your people have waited and anticipated the coming of a promised Messiah for centuries, and you are the one responsible for killing Him, then you are in a desperate place. 
 
Now notice it says they were “cut to the heart”.  KJV says “pricked” in the heart.  The word that is translated “cut” or “pricked” is used only here in the New Testament and it is a very interesting word.  It means to pierce or to penetrate with a needle or a sharp instrument like a knife. It carries the idea of suddenness. It's like jamming a knife or sword into somebody. It's a very piercing, sudden, stabbing grief.
 
The idea is of them nonchalantly making their way along in the traditions of Judaism, doing what they always did and all of a sudden, wham, through the preaching of Peter, the knife of conviction suddenly and unexpectedly came in on the day of Pentecost and penetrated to the very core of their being.  They were stabbed in the soul. They were just cut to the heart. And grief and conviction came as a result of it. 
 
So what was it that grieved them so heavily?  I think there were several things.
 
Maybe it was the sorrow that the Messiah had been put to death. As I said, they'd been waiting for the Messiah for centuries and finally when the Messiah gets there, they have put Him to death through the hands of the Romans.
 
I think that they were cut to the heart because they had a deep sense of guilt that they themselves had done it. Not only had the eliminated Messiah, but they had eliminated Messiah. It would have been terrible to have lost Messiah had somebody else done it, but they had done it. And so there was a horrible sense of guilt.
 
And then thirdly, Peter had reminded them, and there were multiplied witnesses to prove it, that the Jesus whom they had crucified was now alive. That must have been a little disconcerting, don’t you think? 
 
And Peter had said one day He would make His enemies His footstool.  There was going to be judgment on the enemies of the Messiah. And here they were realizing, not only had they lost their Messiah, and they had done the killing, but how they are on God’s naughty list and He’s alive and moving in judgment. 
 
Fourthly, I think they were grieved to the heart because they couldn't undo what they did. It was done and they were guilty and now find themselves in a seemingly hopeless situation. 
 
Thus, verse 37, “What shall we do?”  That is a tough spot to be in!  They were in a desperate place and had nowhere to go.
 
Well, in reality, that's a great place to find yourself if it will bring you to Jesus.  As long as man thinks he can do it on his own, he can never be saved.  We’ve got to come to the end of ourselves and realize we are hopeless to be saved.
 
Notice how Peter answers their question in
 
verse 38
 
Now let’s look at that segment by segment.  The first thing he says, is
 
1.  Repent
 
What does repent mean? It means to turn around and go the other direction. It is a 180 degree turn that reverses course.  It's absolute opposite.
 
Peter says, “You want to know what to do?  Turn  around and go the other way.”
 
Now that is important to note because repentance is more than fear of the consequences. At this point in their heads, they're thinking in terms of judgment and the wrath of God and killing the Messiah.  But salvation conviction goes deeper than that.  It’s more than just avoiding the consequences.   
 
True repentance not only wants to avoid the consequences, it wants to avoid the sin. Repentance doesn’t mean regret for getting caught; repentance hates the deed because it is sin against a Holy God. 
And the mere fact that it's evil and that God hates it is reason enough to forsake the sin and turn from it. 
 
Now these Jews were afraid of punishment, but they had to be more than that. They had to be willing to turn from sin and come to Christ. So Peter says, “Turn all the way around and embrace Christ.”
 
 
In a moment of change, make a total commitment to Christ.  You see, salvation is not a question of education. Salvation is not a process.  It's an act that happens in a moment based on repentance. 
 
Now it’s hard to do, but try to put yourself in the sandals of these Jews.  They are part of a beautiful and glorious and beloved tradition. They are a community that has a uniqueness like no other community in the world. They are the “special people of God”.  They have a bond of nationality that is glorious and which they exalt.
 
And they, as a people, through their leaders and with their own lips, have determined that Jesus is a blasphemer and worthy of death.  They have stood in the Holy City of God and cried for His crucifixion.  They have cursed themselves and their children by asking to be responsible for the shed blood of Jesus Christ. 
 
Now Peter says to them, “You’ve got to turn around and now say about Jesus He is who He claims to be. Cut the cord from all your past life and all that Judaism is to you and means to you and embrace Him as Your Messiah.”
 
That is quite a change. In regard to Judaism, Peter is saying in an instant in time, “Kiss it all goodbye, turn around, embrace Messiah and be counted as dead by your whole nation and all the people that care about you and love you.” It's a cost that's very high.
 
But that's what repentance is, a total 180 degree turn from everything you knew. Reverse your verdict about Jesus and turn from sin to Him.
 
Then he adds this: 
 
2.  Be Baptized
 
Repent and be baptized.” And boy, do those who love to preach the necessity of water baptism love this verse!  So is that what Peter is saying?  Is he telling them baptism is essential  I would say, “Yes, it is absolutely essential, but not to salvation.” 
 
Let me see if I can explain what is happening here.  When Peter finished preaching this sermon, I'm sure there was a great reaction among the people. They were pierced in their hearts.  They are asking what they should do about what they’ve heard.  They were really rattled.
 
And many of them in their hearts had believed on Messiah and they had accepted the fact that this was true, that Jesus was the Messiah. And I'm sure the temptation would have been to say, “Boy, I'm going to believe this but I'm not sure to open my mouth about it because the cost is too high so I’ll just keep it to myself.”
 
But there is something very insincere about secret discipleship. And Peter isn’t going to tolerate that kind of attitude. He wants those to come to Christ to be obvious about it.  So he places this requirement of baptism on them.   
 
And notice, he makes it very clear that every one of those who repent and to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. He makes that clear because Judaism had all kinds of washings and baptisms. 
 
So he is calling for this very clear and distinct differentiation from Judaism.  Now that meant that their families and all the rest of their world would count them as dead.
The most despicable thing a Jew could do would be come to Jesus Christ who was a blasphemer they had decided, and worthy of execution.
 
But Peter says, “I want you to make a public act of severing your ties with Judaism and receive a new identification with Jesus Christ through baptism int eh name of Jesus. 
 
In one of his commentaries, Charles Ryrie said, “Even today for a Jew, it is not his profession of Christianity nor his attendance at Christian services, nor his acceptance of the New Testament, but today even his submission to water baptism that definitely and finally excludes him from the Jewish community and marks him off as a Christian.”
 
Baptism uniquely says, “I am identifying with Christ and His church.”  It is a public expression of the inward commitment we’ve made to follow Christ.  We baptize in the name of Jesus Christ as a testimony to the world that they have turned from everything else to follow Him.  And that's why Peter insisted on the ordinance.
 
But, even with that understanding, someone could still say, “But it says repent and be baptized.”  SO how do get around the fact that you've got to be baptized to be saved?  It’s very simple.  I look elsewhere in Scripture to see what else is said about what is necessary for salvation.
 
For instance, in Luke 18 we have this man who came to Jesus and in verse 18 we read: 
 
Luke 18:18
Now that's a good question. In fact, that's basically the same question they asked in Acts 2.  Notice how Jesus responded. 
 
verse 22
 
So apparently salvation is an issue of economics. In order to be saved, you hock everything and give your money to the poor, right?  But we know salvation isn't about giving money to the poor.
 
You say, “Well that's what He said.” No, that's not what He said. He said, “Do that and then come and follow Me.” In other words, Jesus said, There's a barrier in your way and you're never going to be able to follow me until you severe your allegiance to money.  So if you want to have eternal life, you’ve got to turn your back on your love for money and make me Lord.”
 
Listen:  it's not until you want Jesus Christ more than you want anything else, no matter what the cost, that the conditions are met for salvation.  As long as God knows there's something in the way, He can point that out.
 
For this young man, it was money.  For the Jews in our text, it was Judaism and the fear of persecution and being kicked out of church and separated from their families. 
 
And Peter addresses that by saying, “I know that's your big problem, so we’ve got to deal with that.” 
And just as the rich young ruler would have to  liquidate his assets and follow Christ, their baptism would be a public acknowledgment that they were naming the name of Christ fully aware of what it was going to cost. No secret disciples.
 
The Word of God does not teach baptismal salvation. It does not teach that you're to be baptized to be saved. It's simply indicated here that they were to be baptized in response to what had happened in their life as a public confession of their new union with Christ. And it was a high price to pay.
 
To use this to teach baptismal salvation doesn't make any sense. Water doesn't save anybody.
 
But somebody says, “But keep reading because it says to repent and be baptized for
 
3.  The Remission of Sins
 
And again, they use this verse to teach that baptism comes before forgiveness. You've got to be baptized in order to be forgiven. But that can’t be true because that contradicts what the Bible says about not being saved by works. 
 
So what does it mean?  The key to understanding the verse comes through study of the “for the remission of sins.”  Most often those who believe we are baptized to accomplish the forgiveness of sins interpret the phrase to mean “in order for remission of sins to take place.”
 
But if you look at other translations and usages of the phrase, it can also mean “because of”, especially when it is used with verbs of change. 
We see it translated in that way in Matthew 12:41 where it says the people repented because of the preaching of Jonah. They repented in response to preaching.
 
And I think in this verse we find a better usage of the phrase in the way so the verse reads, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ because of the forgiveness of sins.”
 
In other words, you repent and because your sins are forgiven, you are then baptized.  SO then, as I said earlier, the baptism becomes the outward, visible symbol of what has already happened on the inside. It is a very logical order.  Preaching brought repentance, repentance brought the remission of sins, and repentance initiated baptism so the repentance could be made visible. 
 
And that’s not the end of the process.  Notice at the end of verse 38 he gets to the good part.
 
4.   The Gift of the Holy Spirit
 
Verse 38c
 
Now that was especially significant for the Jews because that’s what they had been waiting for. Their prophet, Joel, had said in the last days, God would pour out His Spirit. Soo they've been waiting for the appearance of the Messiah because that meant the pouring out of the Spirit and Peter says, “Here's how you can experience the presence of the Spirit.”
 
But it will be the end result of the process of repentance, forgiveness and baptism. 
There is a way to experience the indwelling life of the Spirit, that is by repenting and coming and identifying with Jesus Christ. The cost is high, but that's the demand.
 
And then in verse 39 we get the continuation of the process. 
 
Verse 39
 
So the promise of the Spirit is given as a response to salvation in Christ.  And notice to whom it is given.  First, it is “unto you.”  That's the ones standing ther eon that day listening, and it included is “their children” or their descendants. 
 
Then notice what comes next: “those who are afar off”.  So who are those who are “afar off”?  Well it would be the Gentiles.  So this is a promise, not only for Israel but for Gentiles and not just Gentiles, but for “as many as the Lord our God will call.”
 
In fact, that is a reference back to verse 21 where we read, “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
 
So on the one hand we have the divine side of salvation and on the other the human side of salvation, and in the middle of that we find Peter saying, “The Spirit will be yours, you will experience the fullness of the coming of Messianic days only if you break all the cords of Judaism and turn and identify yourself with Jesus Christ, and you who really mean it will be willing to be publicly baptized that the world might know that you are naming the name of Jesus Christ.”
 
And as a preacher, I love the next verse!
 
verse 40
 
It takes about two and one-half minutes to read the whole sermon as it is recorded in the Bible, but with “many other words he testified and exhorted them”.  In other words, he just went on and on and on.  But it was not useless rhetoric or nonsense.  He is calling them to salvation. 
 
We see the introduction, the theme and the appeal. So what happened?  What were
 
-      The Results
 
Verses 41-42
 
Just a couple of things I want to point out to you from that verse.  First of all, 3,000 seems like a large response.  After all, in modern times, it often takes 3,000 sermons to get one salvation and Peter preached one time and say 3,000 saved. 
 
But if you consider the size of the crowd, 3,000 may have been only a small percentage of those who were listening.  In fact, it might be that just a handful responded. 
 
But I notice also, that those that did respond meant business.  Three thousand responded and were baptized and were added to the church.  And not only that, they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in prayer. 
 
You know what that means? That means those three thousand were for real. The three thousand they got, they kept.
 
As I’ve gotten a little more mature in the ministry over the years I’ve learned to not be so impressed with how many come.  You see, it's not who comes, it's who's there when it's all over. Continuing is the sign of salvation.
 
On this day, the church was born. And before very long, they will have turned their world upside down with the gospel.  The reality on their salvation was seen, not in the baptism but in the way they lived their faith before a lost and dying world. 
 
The process is simple, but profound:  Repent, unashamedly identify with Christ, allow His Spirit to have absolute over your life and action, and live tin the reality of His promise. 
 
Let's pray.
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