The Expository Files.

Do Not Be Deceived!

Acts 2:38


I recently received a sample/complimentary copy of a new commentary on the New Testament. {Publishers often send a single copy of a commentary series to preachers and others who frequently purchase religious books, in the hope our approval of the sample will lead to the purchase of the whole set.}

This series of commentaries has some redeeming qualities, and some excellent sections on moral and practical topics which could serve as a good resource for
preachers and teachers. But in my initial evaluation of the series, as I checked certain passages, I came to the comments on Acts 2:38.

In the King James it reads ...

"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."

Now when you first read this, before anybody "explains what it really means," it seems so plain. The apostle of Christ, Peter, told these people they had rejected and crucified Jesus of Nazareth, the Savior, the Messiah! Then, he said to those who were convinced of this and convicted, that they needed to do something: REPENT AND BE BAPTIZED. Those who wanted to have their sins forgiven (remitted), needed to express their faith in Christ by repenting and being baptized. And, this makes a lot of sense!

Once you become convinced that you have done something wrong, what is your first reaction or impulse? If you have a good and honest heart, you want to make things right. Perhaps you decide to offer an apology to the offended party; or, you give back what you shouldn't have taken. If you have injured someone you do whatever you can to help in their healing. The good and upright person wants to "make amends," or be reconciled to an offended party.

THAT'S WHAT ACTS 2:38 IS ABOUT! One way to study this verse is: These people who had crucified the Savior are now being given an opportunity to be forgiven (based on the blood of the One they crucified. What mercy!). Not that repenting and being baptized would put everything back the way it was before they killed the Christ, or undo history. Not that their obedience was an equal exchange for murder, by no means! But these murderers were now told they could be forgiven. Their repentance and baptism was their acceptance of that gracious offer of pardon!

There's another way to study the verse in question. Peter preached to convince these people of two basic things, their sin and God's solution in Christ. The presence of sin in their lives was manifested by how they treated the Christ. God's solution to the sin problem is Jesus Christ, who gave His life a ransom for all. On the basis of that, God offers to forgive us. We accept that offer by repenting and being baptized.

Back to this new commentary series. I found it very readable, with excellent material on moral and practical topics, but the comments on Acts 2:38 are puzzling, to say the least!

"The call to be baptized in Jesus' name is also bold. 'Name' means power and authority. Jesus Christ has that authority through His cross and resurrection. As incarnate Christ He said, "Your sins are forgiven." And as exalted, glorified, reigning Lord of all, He has the power to convince the repentant changed mind that it is
accomplished. Through the Holy Spirit He liberates people to both repent and confess their sins. He clears the way for Himself, creating the desire and the response.
Receiving His spirit, we find that being filled is the natural result. He prepares a place for Himself and then moves in. It may seem that the decision to receive the
Holy Spirit is our choice, but behind that choice is His infused desire, making us willing to receive. Looking back we say, "It was all the Lord from the start to finish. He set me free to want what He wanted to give!" {page #72, Acts, MASTERING THE NEW TESTAMENT, by Lloyd J. Ogilvie.}

He starts his comments by telling us that the call to be baptized in Jesus' name is bold. But then he says nothing else about baptism (must not be too bold)! The
rest of what he says sounds very much like you do nothing. You are convinced, liberated to repent and confess, and desire is created within you. He even says that "it may seem" that you have made a decision or choice, but in reality the desire was "infused" making you willing to receive. You are just informed that "it is accomplished."

If this is so, it makes me wonder why Peter told them to do anything. And if this commentator is right, I don't know why I need to know or do anything about repentance and baptism. If it is "all the Lord from the start to finish," am I merely a passive recipient of salvation?

Ladies and gentlemen, as articulate and scriptural and bold as "evangelicals" are on moral issues (like abortion and pre-marital sex), they are still not saying what needs to be said about Acts 2:38 and the commandments of the Lord. There remains the influence of Calvinism, loyalty to denominational creeds, and a sad reluctance to tell people what the apostles said about being saved.

Peter was addressing believers, recently convicted of sin. He told them to REPENT. Change your mind and your life. Turn from sin and do it now. You crucified this Jesus. Now crown Him in your hearts as Lord and Christ. 
"And let each one of you be baptized." As you make this complete and radical change in your attitude and life (repentance), start obeying the Lord by being baptized, in accordance with the command of Jesus Himself (Matt. 28:19; Mrk. 16:16). The Holy Spirit is certainly an active and involved party in this, since the gospel message was delivered by Him (1 Pet. 1:12). But there is no evidence or teaching that the Holy Spirit somehow "infuses" desire into you, and causes you to want something you are not willing to receive; or that the Spirit "prepares a place for Himself" in your heart, "and then moves in" disengaged from your will and initiative. You can have God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit in your life, but only as you let them abide in you (1 Jno. 4:15; Col.1:27; Eph. 5:18).

If you want the remission of sins, read Acts 2:38 again. What do you think you need to do?

"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."

Relevant Questions: Why do so many "evangelicals" deny that this verse teaches the necessity of baptism? Why do some of the prominent evangelists and "crusade" preachers tell people they must believe and repent, but say nothing of baptism; Peter taught both repentance and baptism. The convicted, broken-hearted believer is to repent and be baptized.

 By Warren E. Berkley
From Expository Files 1.1; January, 1994