Most of us recognize the age of salvation through Christ began in Acts 2 when Peter presented the resurrected Jesus as Lord and Christ to a Jewish audience in Jerusalem on a Pentecost. In preparation for a statement to be made below, note the background of this occasion. (1) The audience was composed of those devoted to Judaism [the religion]. Many made pilgrimages from provinces throughout the Roman Empire to be in Jerusalem on a special day of Jewish worship [see Deuteronomy 16:16 and Acts 2:8-11] (Pentecost was the first century gathering known in earlier Israelite history as the Feast of Weeks). (2) Most of those who heard Peter's declaration that the crucified Jesus was God's resurrected Christ were quite familiar with Jewish scripture and Jewish prophecy. Thus, using Jewish prophecy [statements from Joel and David] had special significance to the audience. (3) Peter had four primary points. (a) Those who lived in Galilee and Judea saw for themselves Jesus and the deeds of his ministry. (b) Jesus' death was God's intent. God's will and purpose were not denied in Jesus' crucifixion. (c) Jesus' resurrection was predicted as long ago as David's writings. (d) God made the resurrected Jesus both Lord and Christ.
Due to (a) the biblical stress on baptism and (b) past wide-spread human rejection of baptism, congregations of the Church of Christ have a long history of using Acts 2:38 to emphasize the importance of baptism if remission of sins is to occur. Read Acts 2:38 carefully and note the obvious.
Acts 2:38, "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."
Moments before, Peter declared these people encouraged Jesus' crucifixion. Rather than being a troublesome threat to Israel, Jesus was actually God's son fulfilling an ages old promise. Those who accepted Peter's declaration, those who saw Jesus as God's son rather than a troublesome dead teacher, immediately had a major conscience problem. A mistake of that magnitude in past Israelite history provoked God's anger and resulted in death. Regardless of what they then understood about Jesus' identity, they could not undo their mistake. Now that they realized their mistake and accepted Jesus for who he was, was there any hope for them? What could they do?
Please note to those who accepted Peter's information, Peter stressed two [not one!] responsibilities if God's forgiveness was to be received. What two things were necessary if these people received remission of sins? Repentance and baptism. Their behavior must begin to evidence their conviction that Jesus was God's son and was resurrected, and they must be baptized.
Please note the following responses were insufficient. Declaring, "We made a regrettable mistake," was insufficient. Acknowledging, "Jesus was not what we expected or anticipated," was insufficient. Sincerely declaring, "We surely are sorry about that!" was insufficient. If sins were to be removed, repentance must occur. Just as with John's message, if repentance was combined with baptism, the remission of sins occurred. Repentance without baptism would not cleanse them of guilt. Baptism without repentance would not cleanse them of guilt.
If you wish to consider today's relevance of repentance, ask and answer some questions. Why do some baptized people make no effort to change their attitudes, emotions, behavior, or life style? Why do some baptized people study or listen merely to justify continued ungodly attitudes, emotions, and behavior? Why do some baptized people place their confidence in their human acts instead of God's accomplishments in Jesus' death? Why? The foundation of such behaviors begins with this: these baptized people never repented. They were baptized for remission of sins with little or no intent of repenting. They thought the physical act of baptism granted remission of sins even if they had no intention of living penitent lives.
If repentance and baptism occurred, God promised two results: (1) removal of sin and (2) possession of the Holy Spirit. The twofold response of those who believed Peter's declaration about Jesus would result in God's forgiving them of all evil, including encouraging Jesus' death! It also would result in God's presence in their lives [see Acts 5:32].
In Acts 3, the next chapter, Peter preached another sermon to a Jewish audience at the Jerusalem temple. A miracle attracted this Jewish audience. These people listened in the place where God choose to let His name dwell [see Deuteronomy 12:11; 1 Kings 9:3]. They understood they were God's chosen people. Their ancestors received the Law that governed their physical existence and the messages of God's prophets. They came to this place to pray.
Peter spoke to a highly religious audience who came to pray to the living God in a place He confirmed His name dwelled. What was the core of his lesson? What responsibility did he emphasize? What must occur if they were to receive God's gracious spiritual blessings?
Acts 3:19 "Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord;"
Acts 3:26 "For you first, God raised up His Servant and sent Him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways."
Is baptism important? Yes! Is it more important than repentance? No! Can baptism replace repentance? No! Is repentance sufficient of itself? No! Baptism and repentance are equally important. Both need to occur for remission of sins.
Thought and discussion questions:
Link to Teacher's Guide Lesson 6
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