Lesson 6: What Shall We Do to be Saved?/ Peter's Answer
The book of Acts can be a thrilling study if you get the lesson. As I have said before, it's one of the most informative parts of the Bible for you and for me. It answers that question, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" God is no respecter of persons as we shall learn later in this book. I do not mean to say that one part of the Bible is more important than any other part. Every book, every chapter, has its place. It's all part of one glorious picture. It's the instruction manual that the Creator provided with his creature, mankind. You've heard it said that when everything else fails, then we read the instructions. I hope you won't wait that long, of course, but the statement does point out the need for us to get the right answers. If you have a copy of the Bible in your hand, you have God's instruction for us. If you don't have a copy in your hand, please get one. Let's examine Peter's answer to the question in verse 37 of Acts, chapter 2.
Old Testament scriptures were being fulfilled; Old Testament prophecies that tell of a Messiah, that tell of a kingdom, that tell of a new law, that tell of a new covenant. More than 200 years after Isaiah prophesied about this event, Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, also prophesied. Please take just a moment to listen to Jeremiah. This is Jeremiah 31:31-34:
31 Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will
make a new covenant with the house of Israel
and with the house of Judah:
32 Not according to the covenant that I made with
their fathers in the day that I took them by the
hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt;
which my covenant they brake, although I was
an husband unto them, saith the Lord:
33 But this shall be the covenant that I will make
with the house of Israel: After those days, saith
the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts
and write it in their hearts; and will be their God,
and they shall be my people.
34 And they shall teach no more every man his
neighbour, and every man his brother, saying,
Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from
the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith
the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I
will remember their sin no more.
One of the greatest moments in history arrived in the middle of that Sunday morning on Pentecost. Jesus had died to make it possible. Remember again the conversation of Jesus as he counseled with the 11 alone, while Judas had gone to make the deal to betray Jesus. Jesus said to the 11:
7 I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I
go away; for if I go not away, the Comforter will
not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send
him unto you.
8 And when he is come, he will reprove the world
of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:
9 Of sin, because they believe not on me;
10 Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and
ye see me no more;
Do you see how God's plan is unfolding like a great drama? The 12 apostles were filled with that Comforter, filled with the Spirit. They were to reprove the world of sin. Verse 37 in our text reveals that the multitude "were pricked in their hearts", that is, they were convinced in their mind. You see, they had not believed in Jesus before, but now they believed that Jesus of Nazareth was and is the Christ. Now the Holy Spirit knew how to get the message to the Jews. The drama had climaxed. They wanted to know "what shall we do?" Now what causes a person to reach a serious vein and seek to obey God? You know, it's easy to overlook the words in verse 37 "now when they heard this". You see, "faith cometh by hearing". Romans 10:17. Want to strengthen your faith? Read the Bible. It's just that simple. I trust that you understand that believing and having faith are the same thing. You see, the Jews on Pentecost finally got it all together. They believed that Jesus was the Christ. Their faith was not some magic inoculation. It was a conviction, a convincing that Jesus was and is the son of God. That's all Bible faith is. If these Jews had been accused a week earlier of killing Jesus, they would have reacted quite differently. They probably would have said "Sure we did, so what?" It's clear they never really understood before that Jesus was the Christ, the son of the living God. Thus, they did not have faith before. Now may I ask you a personal question? Do you really believe that Jesus Christ is God's son? If you do, you have faith. Bible faith. If you don't, I'll tell you how you can get it. Read the Bible. Faith cometh by hearing, hearing by the word of God. Occasionally, I hear a denominational preacher on the radio say something like this, "Boy, when the faith hits you," you know. They imply that it's something like a stroke of lightning striking a flashbulb factory. They imply that you're supposed to shout and dance and scream, you know, and all that. Can you really visualize the people that asked the question in verse 37 "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" Can you imagine anyone more serious, more humble? They didn't shout and scream, but they believed -I mean really believed that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ and they were acting accordingly.
Now let's read verses 38-39 - Peter's answer to their question. Are you ready?
3 8 Then Peter said to 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.
39 For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.
Now if those Jews understood Peter, there must have been a big sigh of relief go across that crowd. You see, they had just plead guilty to murder, and that not to some man, but the son of God! The law they knew was an eye-for-an-eye and a tooth-for-a-tooth, you know, and death by stoning. What kind of answer to you think they were expecting? I would imagine some of those jousters who had yelled out that the apostles were full of new wine had done some sobering up themselves in the last few minutes. When Peter gave the verdict, they must have said mentally, at least, "You mean that's all?" You see, the sentence is not commensurate with the crime. Did you notice in verse 39 who this applied to? It applied to that multitude yes, but it applied to their children - all that are afar off. That includes you and me. God is no respecter of persons. Remember Peter had the keys of the kingdom - all of the apostles did. Notice first Peter gave definite requirements. There were to do something. Now, that rules out doing nothing. These verses are really not very difficult to understand and I'd like to pass over them quickly, but the meaning here is obscure, not by the language used here, but by preconceived ideas, the creeds and the periods of men, the dogmas of councils, the confusions of interpretation and the Lord knows what else. Don't look at this passage through colored glasses. Do me a favor. Forget all that you have ever learned or been told about these verses. Take a fresh look. Assume it's absolutely new to you. Keep in mind a few basic rules and interpretations. Who said this? Peter. Who did he say it to? Devout men from every nation under heaven according to verse 5. When did Peter say this? On Pentecost, the birthday of the church, 50 days after Jesus arose from the dead, about A.D. 30 or 33. What were the circumstances under which Peter said this? He said it to believers, that is, they were convinced that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah. They recognized their guilt and accepted responsibility for his death on the cross. They recognized their sinful condition. They understood that they had broken the law of God. They were desirous of the information and the means to absolve their sin, that is, to be set free or released from the guilt or the blame of their sins. Notice the words "every one of you" in verse 38. There were no exceptions. Verse 39 implies that the same rules apply to all that "the Lord our God shall call". Thus, we must conclude that this answer applied and will apply to all believers, not unbelievers, of course. Obviously, unbelievers must become believers before these rules apply. Peter's answer included first that they must repent. What does that mean? How would they obey that? As simple as it might be, this statement means a lot of different things to a lot of different people today. It shouldn't, but it does. So, we want to know, what did Peter mean? This word "repent" or some form of that word appears over 100 times in the King James version. Surely, we can determine the meaning from some context. It is used first just before the flood in Genesis 6:6. That verse says:
And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.
Now you tell me, what does the word "repent" mean in that verse? Assume it's the first time you ever heard the word. What's the answer? Jesus used the word like this in a parable, Matt. 21:28-29. He said:
28 A certain man had two sons; and he came to the
first, and said, Son, go work today in my
29 He answered and said, I will not; but afterward
he repented, and went.
What did this boy do? He repented. What did he do? Obviously, the word simply means "to change your mind". Can you imagine how stunned these Jews in front of the apostles must have been when Peter gave the requirements -I'm paraphrasing now - simply change your mind and be baptized. Get it clear in your mind. Don't let somebody befuddle you the next time they use that word "repent". As I said before, the word is commonly misused. Some define the word as sorrow for sin. Don't misunderstand me, there is certainly nothing wrong with being sorry for sin. We need more of that kind of sorrow, but repentance is not sorrow for sin. The sorrow precedes repentance. You see, it helps to bring it about. Listen to II Cor. 7:9-10. The Apostle Paul said to those brethren:
9 Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but
that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made
sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive
damage by us in nothing.
10 For godly sorrow worketh repentance to
Did you get it? Godly sorrow worketh repentance. Being sorry we sinned causes us to change our mind. It is the motivator. It is not the change in mind. It is evident on the day of Pentecost by their question, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" and by the statement "they were pricked in their heart" that they were sorry that they'd had a hand in crucifying Jesus. Notice now, it is after this that Peter tells them to repent. Thus, repentance follows the sorrow. Repentance is not sorrow for sin. On the other hand, some define "repent" by swinging the pendulum too far in the other direction, I suppose trying to avoid the mistake that we have just discussed. They think repentance is doing good works, that is, reforming their life, and again good works are to be commended, but good works are not repentance. Listen to John the Baptist this time, Matt. 3:8:
Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance:
That is, worthy of repentance. The Living Bible, a paraphrase, says it like this: "Prove that you have turned from sin by doing worthy deeds." You see, turning from sin, doing worthy deeds is a result of repentance, that is, the fruit of repentance as John the Baptist put it. So, learn to avoid the extremes. When you repent, you make a simple, sincere decision to turn from sin and then you act accordingly. That's repentance. Naturally, you'll live a different and a better life after you repent. That's the result of repentance, you see.
Now Peter said "repent and be baptized." Thus, these two duties are equally emphasized by a coordinating conjunction "and" meaning repent plus be baptized. Ok. How is one baptized? What did Peter mean? Again, this word or some form of this word occurs just about 100 times in the King James version. The word "baptize" comes from the Greek. Thus, the word does not occur in the Old Testament, of course. The Greek word is "baptise" and is a derivation of the word "bapto" which Strong says means "cover wholly with a fluid". This is the basic root definition. Why, why, do we find so much confusion surrounding this word in religious circles today? I wish I knew. Peter said "be baptized". That is, be totally covered with a fluid. The fluid they used was water. How can they be misunderstood? Now if that disagrees with some preconceived idea that you happen to have, I'm sorry. Look up the definition yourself. It doesn't take a theologian to find it. I'm reminded of a story that an old preacher told me once. He's dead now, but he said he once made friends with a Greek boy, an immigrant, whose native language was Greek. The boy worked in a restaurant washing dishes and this preacher said he asked the boy, "What does baptiso mean in Greek? The boy had an old tumbler drinking glass in his hand and he plunged that thing under the dishwater and said "baptiso". Now, it's just that simple! That's what the word means. It's true the word is sometimes used figuratively -just like many other words are used figuratively. In some places in the New Testament, the word "baptized" is used figuratively, but when a word is used figuratively, its root meaning is still implied in it. Jesus used the word figuratively in Acts 1:5 when he told the apostles, "Ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence." Jesus basically meant you're going to be totally covered with the Holy Ghost, that is, you will be submersed in it. Do you see that the root meaning is still there? Paul used the word figuratively. II. Cor. 10:1-2. He said that the children of Israel were "all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea". Again, the root meaning is there. Did you notice when the word is used figuratively, the fluid or the agent or the substance is usually supplied in the sentence? The apostles were baptized with the Holy Ghost. The children of Israel were baptized in the cloud and in the sea. In Acts 2:38, Peter just said "be baptized". He did not supply buttermilk, a cloud, or anything else. Thus, it just plain means to be baptized, that is, totally covered with a fluid. Now observe closely. Even those people who try to change baptism into sprinkling and pouring and infusion and all that, they use water. So, there is no problem with what to use. Where they have the difficulty is how to apply it and, you know, that is the simplest part of the definition. Cover totally.
Incidently, what if there were some infants or babies present there on Pentecost? Think about it a minute. Were the infants asking Peter "What must we do?" Obviously not. They were incapable, so Peter's statement did not apply to them, but just to make a point, assume that someone argues that Peter's statement did apply to infants. Can infants repent? Again, they are incapable of that kind of mind-changing activity. Can you see how absurd that baptizing infants is? It's a useless, misleading, unscriptural activity. Baptism always follows repentance in every scripture. Repent and be baptized. Faith always precedes repentance, that is, being convinced that God sent Jesus, his son, to be our savior. Again, infants are incapable of hearing and being convinced of that fact.
Ok, focus both eyeballs on verse 38 just a minute. Peter said "repent and be baptized". Who, Peter? "Everyone of you." How, Peter? "In the name of Jesus Christ." That is, by his authority or in other words, because Jesus requires it. What for, Peter? "For the remission of sins." What does "remission" mean? Look it up in your own dictionary. It means to cancel a debt or to pardon or to forgive. So, Peter has answered their question, "What shall we do?" The answer is "repent and be baptized". Now they must do it in the right manner, in the name of Jesus Christ. They must do it for the remission of their sins. Then Peter said they would receive something: "and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost." By that, he means the indwelling of the Spirit, that personality Jesus sent to the apostles, the Comforter. Now we are not baptized with the Holy Ghost as the apostles were. They were overwhelmed with it. They could speak foreign languages which they had not learned. They could remember miraculously. They could do other miraculous acts as the Spirit directed. They were baptized with the Spirit. We are baptized with water and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. Look at it close. You better believe there's a difference. We'll get back to that difference in Lesson 7.