Acts 2:37-3:10

Acts 2:37-3:10 What Shall We Do?

“Brothers what shall we do?”   Having been cut to the heart, deeply convicted, made aware of their condition- the people want  to know what can they do. This is what happens when the Spirit of God is at work.  You can hear the despair in their voices as they realized who the Lord Jesus is and what they had done.  Let us look carefully at what Peter tells them in answer  to their plea.

“ Repent and be baptized every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness (remission) of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off- for all whom the Lord Our God will call.” Today, 2000 years later the answer to the question of the convicted sinner what shall we do- is still the same. Let us look carefully at these instructions given on that day.

Repent is the first action. Repent is a word that means-‘to change one’s mind; to change your thinking.’ When one changes his/her mind about something it will result in a change in their behavior. (When people describe repentance as ‘turning from your sin’ what they are really describing is the effect of repentance [ a change in your thinking] which results in a change in your direction.) In this case- this is the change of mind of unbelievers. Peter was calling for these people to repent, that is ‘change their minds’ about  rejecting  Jesus Christ. Peter is calling for them to change their minds and recognize that this Jesus , whom they crucified is Lord and Christ. These people on that day changed their mind about what they believed about Jesus of Nazareth. They moved from unbelief to belief  that Jesus was the Christ, the Messiah, Lord and Savior and He had paid the penalty for their sins.

Repentance is not regret only- being sorry for what you have done. Regret only is usually a symptom of self pity, which I believe is what Judas experienced. Regret over past actions that have caused conviction in the present is what this crowd was experiencing and they wanted to know what they could do. Repent- means a change in your thinking, a change of heart which when combined with godly sorrow results in faith by which we receive grace resulting in salvation for by grace are you saved through faith.

Repentance and faith are inseparable.  Repentance focuses on changing one’s mind about God and Christ; while faith in Christ focuses on receiving Him as Savior. “ To those who receive Him, to those who believed  IN HIS NAME, He gave the right to become children of God-children born not of natural descent  nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” ( John 1:12,13) It is impossible to place your faith in Jesus Christ as Savior without first changing your mind about Who He is and what He has done.  Either one has rejected Him willfully- seeing the light but preferring darkness.  Or rejected Him through ignorance or indifference, not caring for their sins the Savior died. But Biblical repentance in relation to salvation is changing your mind from rejection of Christ to faith in Christ.

No one can repent and come to God unless God draws them to Himself. (John 6:44). And God is patient not willing that any should perish, but all would come to repentance.(2Peter 3:9) God, furthermore, has revealed Himself through creation and through one’s conscience.  So that all are without excuse(Romans 1 &2)  Jesus died not only for our sins- but for the sins of the whole world.(I John 2).(John 3:16)  So everything that needs to be done has been done.

Repentance for a believer who has committed sin(s) is necessary not to maintain salvation- but fellowship. Genuine repentance involves- confession. Agreement with God that we have sinned.

Genuine repentance recognizes sin is against God.

Genuine repentance includes taking full responsibility for one’s sin.  True repentance hates the sin and it hates it most because one discovers how it makes God feel(it grieves Him) and in doing so and looking at the cross we discover how much God loves us.

( Just a note to believers:  The longer you put off repentance- the greater God’s discipline. Be wise and repent immediately upon conviction. )

So the first instruction is to REPENT. For the unbeliever and believer it means we are putting the Lord Jesus the Son of God where He belongs in our life-on the throne of our hearts. For the unbeliever- He was not even in our lives; and for the believer who sins- we had dethroned Him putting flesh/self on the throne.

Now since this passage deals with the repentance of the unbeliever what is the next instruction Peter gives- Be Baptized  every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.  Baptism has become a controversial subject  due  to denominational differences and our religious heritage- what denomination we grew up in.   Jesus’ instruction referred to as the Great Commission in Matthew 28 state: “ All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, BAPTIZING  them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

The word- baptism, is not a denominational word it comes from Greek word- baptizo. Baptizo in the Greek language means to ‘plunge, submerge or immerse.’ Thus the word described an action, such as a piece of cloth dipped ( baptized) into dye.  The word was first used in the context of religion in the Jewish culture. The word ‘baptize’ was used with ritual washings. It was also used when a Gentile became Jewish in faith, they went through a number of rituals and ceremonies including circumcision, a covenant meal, and a ritual bath. The bath was an outward sign or symbol of dying to the old Gentile life and starting a new life as a Jew.

Next came John the Baptist, so named because he baptized and preached repentance of sins. And the water baptism he  performed was a symbol of the washing away of one’s sins. So before the day of Pentecost, baptisms of these nature were common. John the Baptists told the crowds, ‘I baptize with water, but there is coming after me, one whose sandals I am not worthy to latch who will baptize you with the Holy Spirit. Most people did not understand Who the Holy Spirit was .

So let us not confuse this with the baptism of the Holy Spirit which occurs at salvation, when the Holy Spirit comes to indwell the believer seal them once and for all. This baptism is an act of  spiritual immersion that has occurred- so that I am in Him and He is in me. ( Just like the white cloth dipped (baptized) in the red dye producing  something new that did not exist before.)

Here is the question before us- does Acts 2:38 teach that water baptism is necessary for salvation? NO. The Bible is clear: “ For by grace are you saved by faith and that not of yourselves, it is a gift of God and not of works lest any man should  boast.” (Ephesians 2:8&9)  No works included for salvation- this includes water baptism. Water baptism adds nothing to your repentance- your change of mind. Those who believe in what is called ‘baptismal  regeneration’ believe water baptism is necessary for salvation.

As a Christian and a Baptist, I believe water baptism is an important step of obedience but reject it is necessary for salvation.  I based this on the above scriptures from Ephesians 2 and many other verses tell us salvation is received by faith alone. We are justified by faith and it was these and many other verses that led Luther to proclaim that by faith in the finished work of Jesus we are saved and not by any works that man can do or add to the finished work of Christ.

Here is what I conclude from the study of these verses:

*Baptism from the very beginning represented identification and allegiance. It was outward symbol of an inward decision.

*It is a picture of cleansing from sin and an old way of life.

*It is a picture of death, burial and resurrection.

*It is a public confession and identification of your life with Christ.

Were baptism necessary for salvation – the thief on the cross would have missed out. It is however, clear the thief did not miss out for he was assured by the Lord Jesus – he would be with Him that day in Paradise. He was saved the moment he believed. If baptism was necessary for salvation, I cannot imagine the Apostle Paul writing this statement: “ For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the Gospel.”( ICor. 1:17)

In addition if we look ahead to Acts 10 and the account of Cornelius and his friends and relatives. Verse 43 as Peter is preaching he states: “ all the prophets testify about Him(Jesus) that everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name.” The following verses tells us to the surprise of those with Peter  the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. Peter then says ‘can anyone keep us from baptizing these with water for they have received the Holy Spirit just as we have. They were baptized after they were saved- after they received the Spirit.

So on the Day of Pentecost we see conviction that led to conversion. Conversion leads to confession followed by commitment . Commitment  which results  in corporate worship that includes genuine care for each other. Then the Lord having  begun a good work will complete as we see the church continuing steadfastly in the apostle’s doctrine, and fellowship and in breaking bread and in prayers.

Here we see in its infancy the way church is supposed to function as the ‘body’ of Christ. This is truly a Purpose Driven Church. Let us observe the traits of a Purpose Driven Church:

  1. Growing church that added daily to their numbers.
  2. Super natural church where members were filled with awe and many wonders and signs were performed by the apostles.
  3. A unified church. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Fellowship was sweet and rich and real
  4. A sharing church. The first original ‘Cold Water Fund’ where each gave a portion to help those in need.
  5. Worshiping church praising God.
  6. A praying church. Devoted to prayer.

If these are the measures of how the church, the Body of Christ is to operate- how are we doing in comparison? If they are not there – I believe the Spirit of God is grieved.  There was obviously a work going on there in the early church that was something more than human power at work. Yet in Revelation, we see the Lord standing  OUTSIDE  the door of the church knocking for entrance.


In chapter 3, Dr. Luke tells of a healing incident. There is a man crippled from birth who was put every day at the temple gate called Beautiful to beg alms. On this particular day as Peter and John are about to enter- he asked them for money.  Peter looked straight at him and said: ‘Look at us.’

I believe the next verse is important. Verse 5 tells us –“ so the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.” Don’t you see this crippled beggar was expecting to get something? Don’t you imagine he was hopeful, expectant and that his faith had been quickened by Peter’s words? Let me ask you this- are you expecting anything from God?  Do you greet each day with a sense of expectancy based on quickened faith? Do you come to church with a sense that God will do something wonderful that day? Could it be possible nothing is happening- because we do not expect it to happen?  Jesus asked the two blind men (Matthew 9) ‘ do you believe I am able to do this? Yes they replied. According to your faith it will be done.  Yet in His hometown of Nazareth we are told in Matthew 13- ‘He did not many miracles there because of the lack of faith.’

Peter then tells the man- silver and gold I do not have- but what I do have I give to you . In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth walk. And taking his hand Peter helped him up and instantly the man’s feet and ankles were strengthened and he began to walk and jump and praise the Lord.  And the crowd saw this and were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened.

If Peter and John had been wealthy- they could have given this man money and not only would  he have not walked- no one would be filled with wonder and awe at the power of God. Thank God, Peter and John were not wealthy in the things of this world for if they had been- they would have relied on their wealth to do something in their own strength. But remember- the Lord’s power is made perfect  in weakness.

There is a spiritual picture here for us, which why I believe the Holy Spirit had Dr. Luke record this event. The lame man is a picture of the world around us lying at the door of God, asking for help. All around us is a sick, lame , crippled society unable to live as God intended for man to live.  They look to the church, the door  of God for help. They do not know what to ask for- so usually they look for their physical, material needs to be met, just as this lame man did. He needed stuff- he needed food and clothing and he could not work. And there is nothing wrong with the church and believers  helping those in need by supplying those needs. But the  Red Cross can do that and does it well, as do many other secular, man-made organizations. If we only do that we are no better than they are. What God wants us to give to a spiritually dead and sick society is a new life- not just silver and gold. A new life in the power of the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.  It is not a question of the physical life- although physical needs should be met. It is a matter of the spiritual life. The healing hand of Jesus extended by us His Body to help a man, or woman or child rise up from their condition and be made whole.

The name of Jesus has not lost its power to transform lives. It can certainly do it physically, but more important it can do it spiritually.

It is interesting as I look back to that day, that Friday, September 16, 1977, when I got saved.

Sin sick, spiritually dead, a desperate alcoholic  -unable to rise above my circumstances .Do you know where God sent me that morning?  I was sent to a church that morning for my first AA meeting. And there was one man at that church that morning that after  the  meeting came to me and in words and deeds said- Look at me. I gave him my attention. I did not know what to expect- but somehow I expected something. My hope and  faith had been quickened that morning.   In effect  this man said – What I have I will give you in the name of Jesus.  He extended his hand and his time to me- a crippled beggar that God had laid at that church door that fateful day.

A miracle of healing was taking place. Only in looking back can I see how  much a miracle  it was. For when God made the world – He simply spoke it into being- but when He made me whole, when He saved my soul- it took a miracle of His love and grace.

You see the Lord told the disciples and us to be His witnesses. If you look at the stories of people who were healed by the Lord or the apostles they began to tell other people what the Lord had done. That is what witnessing is.  True witnessing always follows this pattern.

First God works – He does something only God can do.

God changes a life. The person who is changed tells others what God did. We tell our story- the way it was- what happened and the way we are now.

Then people hear the story- our testimony. Which is what a witness does- they testify. “ I was blind and now I see.” The lame man began to walk and jump and praise the Lord. I was a drunk and now I am sober! And some people who hear the story will have God work in their life- as a result of hearing how God worked in your life. That is how AA works- it is based on people sharing their testimony and extending a hand to help others.

Witnessing is not talking about your church. (although there is a proper time for this) Witnessing is not giving an explanation about salvation and how it works as in the Four Spiritual Laws. ( I am not saying the Four Spiritual Laws does not have a place in the process.) But witnessing is telling your story. And we have the Greatest Story to ever tell. And you do not have to be a theologian- you only have to tell your story.

Look around and if you will look at others and the world through the eyes of faith- you will see that God is still working miracles. And you can be used just as the apostles were used. Just tell your story. You do have a story, don’t you? In His Name –you can be set free and then tell others your story- go tell it on a mountain!

Copyright © 2010 Linda Benthal
Last modified: 08/12/14