Acts 014 – The Beginning of the Church Age (pt. 8)2:37-38a • Dr. Andy Woods • March 15, 2023 • Acts
The Beginning of The Church Age (PT. 8)
March 15, 2023
Dr. Andy Woods
Let’s take our Bibles, if we could, and open them to the Book of Acts Chapter 2. Acts 2:37. And we have been, as you guys know, doing a verse by verse teaching through the Book of Acts. We have made it through Acts Chapter 1, Where the Lord has ascended back to the Father’s right hand. And before His ascension, He told the disciples to tarry in Jerusalem and wait until they are clothed with power from on high, speaking of the Ministry of the Holy Spirit. And then in Acts chapter 2, the Holy Spirit fell on the twelve. And essentially what’s happening here in Acts 2, as we’ve tried to explain it, is the church age is now beginning. And God inaugurated this new age of time with a supernatural manifestation. The apostles who had received the Holy Spirit were speaking in languages that they had never studied before. And yet they were discernible in those languages. So verses 1 through 4 of Acts 2 you have the coming of the Holy Spirit. Verses 5 through 13, you have the people that were gathered there on the day of Pentecost, hearing the disciples speak in their own languages, even though the disciples had never studied those languages. And so essentially what it was a miracle. And whenever there’s a miracle unbelief arises and tries to explain the miracle away. And so there, in verse 13, some of the crowd assembled on the day of Pentecost attributed it to drunkenness.
Acts 2:13, it says, “They are full of sweet wine.” So Peter stands up. And he addresses the crowd that was assembled there. And he gives one of the most amazing sermons probably in the entire Bible. And you have an introduction to the sermon verse 14. Verses 15 through 35, we’re not going to repeat all of that because it was kind of an in depth study. But Peter refutes the charge of drunkenness. And his basic point is that these men are not drunk that are speaking in these languages, rather this is the result of the Holy Spirit. In fact, this is the result of the Ministry of Jesus, who was a miracle worker during His earthly ministry. He’s now, since Acts 1: the ascension, at the Father’s right hand, and He’s continuing to do miracles. So Peter weaves together amazingly all of these Old Testament passages there in verses 15 through 35 explaining exactly who Jesus is. He uses Joel 2 to argue this is the Ministry of the Holy Spirit. He uses Psalm 16 to explain that Jesus had to rise from the dead. He uses Psalm 110:1 to explain that Jesus is now at the Father’s right hand. And that’s the source of these miracles. And he uses Psalm 132 to explain that Jesus indeed is the Davidic descendant who Israel in the first century crucified, and He’s coming back one day as Davidic king.
And so it’s an astounding sermon that he has given there in verses 15 through 35. I mean, not bad for an someone that’s called later in the book- Acts 4- an ignorant and untaught fisherman. But this is what God can do with a person when they’re yielded to the Spirit’s leading. This is what they’re capable of. And then he gets to the conclusion, verse 36, and he calls Jesus, Lord and Christ. And so what he has done is he has dismantled the argument that these languages are attributable to drunkenness. So you have the coming of the Holy Spirit verses 1ne through 4. The impact of the Holy Spirit, verses 5 through 13. Peter’s sermon, verses 14 through 36, explaining exactly where these manifestations called languages have come from. And then you drop down to verses 37 through 47, which is where we are now in our study, and you see the sermons impact. Every great sermon has a great impact. And boy, does Peter get an impact. You see salvation of 3000 people, verses 37 through 41. And then what do you do with 3000 people that just believed or changed their minds about Jesus? Well, you have church. And verses 42 through 47 is the first church meeting in the church age. So we’re not going to get to verse 42 through 47 tonight. We’re only going to, if we’re fortunate, get through verses 37 through 41.
But this is the result of Peter’s sermon. This is the impact, and it has to do with salvation. So you have conviction of the Holy Spirit, verse 37. Repentance and baptism, verses 38 and 39. Lots of confusion there. So we’re going to take our time in those verses. You have the consequence of repentance, verse 40. And then you have the result, verse 41. It’s a description there of the number of people that are saved at this point. It says about 3000 souls were saved. So let’s start with conviction and notice, if you will, Acts chapter 2 and notice, if you will, verse 37. It says, “Now when they heard this-” Now, what’s the “this?” The “this” is everything Peter just preached in verses 15 through 35. “Now when they heard this-” Now who’s the “they?” The “they” is the people that were out-of-towners, Jews living in the diaspora that had assembled on the day of Pentecost to recognize one of the Jewish feast days. It’s just the Lord had a surprise for them. They thought it was just going to be kind of a regular feast day. They were going to be in town and go back to where they came from. They didn’t know that Peter was going to preach this sermon and it was going to have this kind of dramatic effect.
So verse 37 says, “Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brethren, what shall we do?'” By the way, the reason they’re called brethren there is they’re all fellow Jews. There’s a few proselytes. Acts 2:10 indicates that Gentiles that had converted to Judaism, but other than that, they’re all Jews here, Hebrews, physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. That’s why they’re gathered for this particular Hebrew holiday, the Feast of Pentecost. And so they’re called Brethren because they all have the same common national heritage of being Jews or Hebrews or Israelis. So it says, “Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and to the rest of the apostles, ‘Brethren, what shall we do?'” Now notice the first part of verse 37. “Now, when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart.” Why exactly were they pierced to the heart? Well, it’s something that Jesus said would happen when He was with the disciples in the upper room. And this is prior to the crucifixion, just a few days or a day or so before. They were very, very upset. These apostles- eleven at this point, because Judas had left the room in John 13. They were very upset over the predictions by Jesus that He was going to be leaving whenever He said He was leaving, they hit the panic button because they were all He knew- He was all they knew, I should say, for three years.
I mean, they were His hand-picked disciples. They were with Him to hear all of His teachings. He was their leader. He was their mentor. And now He says, I’m leaving. And so Jesus, in an attempt to comfort them, says this in the upper room. “But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away;” In other words, My leaving is a good thing. “for if I do not go away, the Helper-” now, that would be the Holy Spirit. The Greek there is the paraklētos– the one who comes alongside to assist. “for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. And…when He comes, will convict.” See that word- convict? That means to persuade. That’s why verse 37 of Acts 2 says they were pierced to the heart. This was not Peter’s oratory that was putting them under conviction. The Holy Spirit was using Peter’s oratory to fulfill His ministry of conviction, which is essentially what Jesus predicted would happen in the upper room. “and He-” that’s the Holy Spirit- “when He comes, will convict the world-” That’s everyone- “concerning sin and righteousness and judgment…sin, because they do not believe in Me…righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me; and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has [already] been judged.” So Jesus specifically said, When I leave, the Spirit is going to come and He’s going to convict or persuade people of sin.
Notice it doesn’t say sins. It says sin. He’s going to convince the world of sin. Singular. The Greek noun there is hamartia, sin. What sin? The only sin that could send you to hell- unbelief. Because it’s defined there in verse 9, “because they do not believe in Me.” The Holy Spirit will not believe for you, but He will convict you of your need to believe in Jesus. “and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me.” In other words, if you die without Jesus, you have to stand before the Lord in your own self righteousness. And I can guarantee you folks that that’s a losing proposition. You do not want to face God in your own righteousness. What the Lord offers you is transferred righteousness. Alien righteousness. The righteousness of Jesus transferred to us at the point of faith alone in Christ alone. That’s what the Holy Spirit, as I speak, is convicting the world of. And verse 11, “concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged.” The ruler of this world being Satan. Satan is a defeated foe. And so if you don’t have Jesus Christ, you’re stuck in the world system which is going down. And you’re going to go down with it. So this becomes a very important verse because it tells you what the Holy Spirit is doing in the lives of unsaved people.
Because all of us have unsaved people in our lives- family, friends, work situations. And you have to understand what the Holy Spirit currently is convicting them of. He is not trying to morally reform them. He is not saying, hey, quit using profanity. You know, quit abusing your spouse, you know, stop going out and taking drugs. Stop going out and getting drunk. That’s not what the Holy Spirit is convicting unsaved people of. Now, presumably when the Spirit comes inside of a person through regeneration at the point of faith alone, the Holy Spirit will start to deal with them in those areas. But before they’re saved, the Holy Spirit is convicting them of one sin. It’s right there in the Bible. It’s in your Bible. It’s sin. Singular. The sin of unbelief. And if you die in unbelief, then you have to stand before God in your own righteousness. And how well did that work for Adam and Eve when they tried to clothe themselves? Remember? God said essentially that’s not going to work. I’m going to kill an animal, an innocent scapegoat, and I’m going to use the skins of that animal to clothe you. So you’re either trying to clothe yourself through your own religiosity or good deeds, which will not satisfy a holy God, or you’re going to stand before God in the righteousness that He provides. That’s what the Holy Spirit is convicting people of as I speak- their need for transferred righteousness.
And if they don’t receive this, they’re on the losing team, verse 11, because they’re connected to Satan who’s the ruler of this world, who’s already been defeated. In other words, you’ve hitched your wagon to an automobile that’s going the wrong direction. So these verses become very, very important because they tell you when you’re speaking to the unsaved, exactly what issues to deal with. Lewis Sperry Chafer called this true evangelism, meaning you tailor your evangelistic message to what the Holy Spirit is already doing in the hearts of unsaved people. Jesus says, when I leave, the Holy Spirit will come into the world by way of conviction. You see, the Holy Spirit has ministries in the church. He has ministries in the Believer. And that’s not what we’re dealing with here. We’re talking about what the Holy Spirit does in the world amongst unsaved people. And right now, as I speak, every unsaved person is being convicted of those three things. Sin, the need for transferred righteousness and the fact that if they don’t get saved, they’re on the losing side. So when you talk to the unsaved people, those are the three things to focus on. They’ll want to get you into all these discussions about all kinds of other things. What about dinosaurs? What about the age of the earth? You know, how did Noah get all the animals on the ark, all these kinds of things.
And it’s okay to try to answer those questions the best you can but try to gear the conversation back to these three things. Transferred righteousness versus self righteousness; the fact that they’re on the losing team because Satan is going down and that’s who they’re connected to if they don’t know Jesus; and they’re committing a single sin, and if they die in that state, they will spend eternity separated from God. And that single sin is unbelief. It’s dying, never having trusted in Christ as Savior. So Jesus comforts the disciples by specifically saying that when I leave- and they were very worried about Him leaving- I’m going back to the right hand of the Father. And what’s going to happen is the Holy Spirit is going to start these three ministries. So actually, it’s to your advantage that I’m going away. And this becomes the meaning of John 14:12, which I was going to bring up later. But Jesus in the upper room promised them that they would do greater works than Him. What does that mean- greater works than Jesus? What it means is when you speak, the Holy Spirit is going to be coming alongside your words and empowering them in a way that’s that would only start to happen after the day of Pentecost. This is why Peter has 3000 conversions. The best I can tell, Jesus never had 3000 conversions. There were people that believed in Him, but not like this.
And this has to do with the power of the Spirit and the work of the Spirit. Lewis Sperry Chafer called it true evangelism because you’re tailoring your evangelistic message according to what the Spirit is doing in unsaved people. And this becomes the problem with a lot of modern day evangelistic methods is they use a lot of verbiage that has really nothing to do with the with what the Spirit is already doing in an unsaved person or upon an unsaved person. You know, don’t get into a big discussion about, you know, earrings and tattoos and, gosh, we got to get you to vote for the right candidate, you know, the next election cycle. And all this stuff is just tangential. Focus on what the Spirit of God is already doing, the pressure He’s already putting on an unsaved person: sin, righteousness, and judgment. Sin, because you don’t believe. Focus on that. Righteousness, because if you don’t have Jesus as your savior, you’re going to have to stand before God in your own righteousness. And that’s not going to help you very much because God is holy, you need transferred righteousness. And number three, if you don’t make the right decision, you’re on the losing side and you’re going down. So this is why, when Peter is speaking, the people that are listening to him are literally torn open. Not literally, of course, but figuratively torn open.
This is why the Book of Hebrews 4:12 calls the Scripture living and active, sharper than any double edged sword piercing. Does that sound familiar? Piercing. What does it say here? Hebrews 4:12, “as far as the division of the soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” It’s the Holy Spirit using the Word of God to convict the lost. The Holy Spirit is using Peter’s words to convict the lost that could hear him speak on the day of Pentecost. Because Peter, as we’ve said, has used four Old Testament scriptures. Joel 2, Psalm 16, Psalm 132 and Psalm 110; beautifully put together. And the Holy Spirit is now taking it and convicting people of their need to trust Christ, which is exactly what Jesus said would happen in the upper room. This is the first manifestation of it. Verse 37, “Now, when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and [they] said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brethren, what shall we do?'” So you notice that they’re not saved at this point. They don’t know enough to understand to put their faith in Christ. They’re just convicted of their need to get saved. And so they asked this question, “What should we do?” That’s the power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will cause people to ask this question. Notice that the Holy Spirit doesn’t believe for you, but He’ll sure annoy the daylights out of you.
The same sort of thing is going to happen in Acts 16:30-31 on Paul’s second missionary journey into Philippi. We’re going to read about the Philippian jailer, and it says there in Acts 16:30, “after he brought them out, he said, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?'” And that’s the same kind of question that those assembled on the day of Pentecost that heard Peter preach are asking this. This is the work of the Holy Spirit. So we have the conviction and then we have the call to repentance and baptism. We’ve got to take our time here because there’s lots of misunderstandings. Verse 38, “Peter,” in response to the question, in other words, “said to them, ‘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.'” Peter tells them to repent. Acts 2:38, “Peter said to them, ‘Repent,'” Now, I can’t think of a word that’s more misunderstood in modern day Christianity than this word. In fact, I had a title for a sermon I was going to preach “Repenting of Our Use of Repentance” because people, when they hear the word repentance, what they think it means is penance. In other words, they think when you use the word repentance- because it sounds like the word penance, which is a Roman Catholic doctrine- that they have to do some kind of good work on the front end and then trust Jesus on the back end.
It’s like hearing gospel presentations, you know, clean yourself up and come to Jesus. Well, that’s kind of like taking a bath before you take a shower. And people will say this all the time when they’re preaching the gospel. You’ve got to repent of all your sins which has always bothered me because there are sins I’ve committed that I can’t even remember I committed. Do I got to repent of those? And how long does the repentance need to last? And people have this misunderstanding because when they hear the word repentance, they think it means penance. So they think becoming a Christian is some kind of work or good works, plus faith on the front end, which is a false gospel, right? We’re not saved by our works, but by the works of the law. No flesh will be justified. So if you tell a lost person, man, you better straighten up. You better not smoke and chew and go with girls who do. And then you better trust Jesus. You just preached to them a gospel that’s false. That’s not what the gospel is. In fact, the lost person without the Holy Spirit inside of them has no ability to change their lifestyle. How do you change your lifestyle when you don’t have the power of God in you? You’ve got to get the power of God in you first via the Holy Spirit.
Then the Holy Spirit on the back end, after you’re saved will start to deal with you about changing sinful habits. But changing sinful habits doesn’t get anybody saved. And I’m here to tell you folks, I know this is not popular for me to say this, but I’ll say it anyway. Hell itself tonight as I speak is filled with people that believed or thought that they had to get their act together first before they could get saved. The Bible is crystal clear that we are not saved by our good works. We’re saved as a free gift. And part of the misunderstanding of this is this word repentance, because people think it means penance. Now, this is the Rheims Bible. English translation. This is the Roman Catholic English translation created in 1899. And look what they just threw right into the text. This is their translation of Acts 2:38. “But Peter said to them: Do penance,” And this is what the Roman Catholic English translation does every time it sees the word repentance in a justification context where someone is getting saved. There it is in Second Peter3:9. “[God is] not willing that any should perish, but that all should return to penance.” And that is a total abuse of the Bible. The word penance, the Roman Catholic understanding of it, doesn’t belong here at all. You say, Well, what is the word repentance mean? Repentance- I have the term repent in English.
And then the correct Koine Greek understanding in brackets is metanoeó. And it has a pretty simple meaning. Meta, change, as in metamorphosis or your cancer has metastasized. It deals with a change. Meta, change. It’s a compound word, two words making up a single word meta connected with noeó. The Greek word for mind comes from that, noeó. We get the word notion or idea from that word. Meta, change. Noeó, mind. Repentance literally means to change your mind. It has nothing to do with doing a bunch of good works on the front end. What happens when you hear the gospel is your mind just changed. If you’re getting saved, you’re going from being a Christ rejecting person to being a Christ accepting person. That’s what repentance means as it’s used here. It’s got nothing to do with some kind of good work you have to do first. It’s got nothing to do with take a bath before you take a shower. So Lewis Sperry Chafer puts it this way concerning repentance, “This vital newness of mind is part of believing, after all, and therefore it may be [and is] used as a synonym for believing at times.” He, you’ll notice, quotes many verses where it’s appropriate to understand repentance as a synonym for believing. What is a synonym? Different word, same meaning. Believe means to trust. You place your trust in Jesus and automatically, when you place your trust in Jesus for your salvation, for your eternity, and for the safekeeping of your soul, the moment you placed your trust in Jesus, your mind changed.
The two went together. See that? Because you’re no longer trusting in other things for your salvation, you’re trusting in Jesus. So your mind changed simultaneously with repentance. Or belief. “Repentance,” Chafer says, “nevertheless cannot be added to believing as a condition of salvation, because upwards of 150 passages of Scripture condition salvation upon believing only.” See, when I was 16 years old, I was raised Episcopalian, which is not that far from Roman Catholicism. When I was 16 years old, I heard the gospel for the first time. Before I had heard the gospel and understood it, I was trusting in myself for my salvation. Because the fellow that shared the gospel with me asked me, Why should God let you into heaven? And I gave a sincere answer, but it was a totally wrong answer. I said I was part of the problem. I have lived a good life. I have done my best. I have tried hard. I have very good church attendance. And I did, by the way, because I was an acolyte in the church and they gave me this big silver cross as sort of a reward for that. I have the Ten Commandments memorized. See, the problem I kept saying, I, I, I, I, I, I. I was trusting in myself. So I heard the gospel and I understood that the gospel is free.
I’d never- maybe I had heard it, but it really didn’t compute. And so the moment I heard it, I put my trust away from myself into Jesus. I stopped trusting in my good works and trusted in the good work that Jesus did for me 2000 years ago. See the difference? And as that was happening simultaneously, I repented because my mind just changed. So did I repent or did I believe? The answer would be yes. I did both at the same time. Repentance and believe are two sides of the same- different sides of the same coin. And this is what gets lost when people confuse repentance with penance. They think it’s work plus faith equals salvation. And yet the Bible says- what does he say here, 150 times Faith plus nothing equals salvation. Well, what about the word repentance? The word repentance, the way I’m using it here is a synonym. Different word, same meaning for belief. So when Paul, later on in the Book of Acts on Mars Hill says, “Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is [now] declaring to men that all [people] everywhere should repent.” What is he saying? Is he saying here penance? Is he saying Here, clean yourself up and come to Jesus? What he’s saying is believe, which means trust in Christ. And as you believe and trust in Christ, you’re automatically repenting because you’re no longer trusting in your own self for salvation.
You’re trusting in Jesus. So the two are synonyms. See that? This is really- I know this sounds kind of like I’m splitting hairs, but the truth of the matter is, this is like a big deal because people are running around today all the time saying repent and believe and they never explain what they mean by it. And every time I hear someone say that, I just cringe because I know that your average person out there, when they hears that, thinks the word repentance means penance. Because after all, they do sound alike and they’re understanding the gospel, which is no gospel at all. When Peter says in Second Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish, but for all to come to repentance.” What he is basically saying is I want all people everywhere to believe. Because when they believe their minds will be changed. They’ll be believing and repenting, change of mind all at the same time. So going back here to Acts 2:38. What are these people- these Jews that have been gathered on the day of Pentecost- what are they supposed to change their minds about? Peter said to them, “Repent.” Repent of what? Change your mind. About what? Change your mind about that. That’s what you’ve got to change your mind about.
Because the Jewish leaders, Matthew 12:24, had attributed Christ’s miracles to who? To the devil. They could not explain away the miracle because it had happened. In fact, there’s several of them there leading into Matthew 12. They couldn’t explain them away, so they just said, Well, he did it by Satan’s power, not God’s power. And the moment the nation’s leadership did that is the moment God said, I’m finished with first century Israel. They are not going to receive the kingdom. It’s not that God doesn’t love individual Jews. It’s not that individual Jews can’t get saved. We’re seeing 3000 conversions right here. What He’s saying is, nationally, the nation is moving off into discipline. The kingdom is not going to come through the nation of Israel. And this becomes, Matthew 12:24, the turning point of all of Matthew’s gospel. All of Matthew’s gospel hinges and transitions and switches the moment the religious establishment did this. It says, “But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, ‘This man casts out demons [only] by Beelzebub the ruler of the demons.'” And right then and there, everything just changed. The offer of the kingdom- which was right there on the table for them- they could have had the king and the kingdom is *whoosh* sorry for the sound effects- but taken right off the table. It’s like bill and contract law, right? Offer acceptance, consideration, no defenses. You’ve got a contract. Well, if you have an offer and the acceptance doesn’t come in, then the offer can be withdrawn.
Right? That’s what happened there. Offer, no acceptance because they just attributed the miracles of Jesus to the devil. Offer withdrawn. So Matthew, and you can see the chapter divisions in parentheses, is organized chaotically. In other words, the concepts that show up in Matthew 1 and 2 are repeated in Matthew 28. But through a different lens. So chapters 1 and 2 line up with chapter 28. Chapters 3 and 4 line up with chapters 26 and 27. And you keep moving your way in inward. I know this seems odd to Western thinkers, but this is a common literary pattern in the Old Testament world and in Greco-Roman society. And right in the middle of that chiastic structure is a big deal because that’s the turning point. And the turning point of Matthew’s gospel is the rejection of their king by the religious leaders. And it’s at that point we become aware that the kingdom is not going to come to the Jewish people, even though they had the king in front of them and could have received the offer of the kingdom. And this becomes the whole transition in Christ’s ministry from public to private. The scripture for His public ministry is Matthew 1 through 12. He’s publicly doing miracles for the benefit of the nation. Everything shifts in chapter 12, and so in chapters 13 through 28, he’s no longer publicly ministering to the whole nation. He’s ministering to the disciples who are going to become the remnant for the age of the church.
They’re going to become the foundation stones for the age of the church, which the Lord knows is now on the horizon. So they’re being prepared for their ministry. The focus in the first half of the book is the nation. The focus in the second half of the book of Matthew is the remnant. The miracles that He was doing is proof to the nation that He is the king. Now, all the miracles that He does is to train the remnant. Like he has Peter come out and walk on the water. I walked on the water, now you walk on the water, Peter. How would you like that for an entry level mentoring role? So what I did, you can do. So you know the story. Peter walks on the water and then his eyes get off Jesus. And he looks at the wind and the waves and he begins to sink. So that whole miracle that was happening there is not for the nation’s benefit. It’s for training Peter. And by the way, Jesus did a pretty good job training this guy Peter, because he’s got 3000 conversions with his first sermon. That’s the power of the Spirit of God in a human being. The Kingdom offer is prominent in the first half of the book and then it virtually disappears in the second half of the book because the offer is withdrawn.
The teaching is in open discourse form in the first half of the book. But in the second half of the book He starts teaching in parables. He sure didn’t give the Sermon on the Mount early in the book in Parables. But now he’s talking in parables. Why is he talking in parables? Because the function of a parable is to seal- conceal I should say, and reveal. It’s to hide truth from the masses but reveal it to the remnant that’s searching. That’s why parables are more difficult to interpret. Why is He talking in parables all of a sudden? Because His teaching is for the remnant. It’s not for the nation anymore. So his whole didactical approach shifts right in the middle of the book. In the middle of the book, the first part of the book, the whole function is the coming kingdom. In the second part of the book, the function is the interim program, while the kingdom is not here. And that’s where he reveals Matthew 16:18, the church, which is us. The remnant for the very first time. It’s interesting. You go through Matthew chapters 1 through 12. He doesn’t mention the crucifixion or the resurrection. Aren’t those important doctrines? I think so. He doesn’t even mention them, as far as I can tell in the first 12 chapters. Why is that? Because the whole approach is the kingdom can come.
But once the nation of Israel rejects the offer and it’s very clear that the religious leadership is going to turn Christ over to Rome for crucifixion- which is good for us- right? That’s where God took lemons and turned them into what? Lemonade. And used that betrayal to pay the sin debt of the whole world. But that ministry of His crucifixion, you don’t see that in the first part of the book. It starts showing up, though, in the second part of the book. In fact, when Jesus talks about His crucifixion, Peter doesn’t like it. Because in Matthew 16:21, he started to talk openly about His crucifixion, and Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke him. Remember that, O Lord, this will never happen to you. Why would Peter say something like that? Because he’s still thinking first half of the book. Not understanding that there’s a tidal sea change. Matthew 12:24, leading to the second part of the book. So when Acts 2:38 says, “Peter said to them, ‘Repent,'” change your mind. Change their mind about what? Change their mind about Matthew 12:24. Go from being a Christ rejecting Jew to being a Christ accepting Jew. That’s what he’s saying. The nation can’t be saved, but you can be saved individually. So when you use the word repentance and you tell people to change their mind, what do they change their mind about? They have to change their mind about whatever is holding them back from the free grace of God through faith alone.
For me, when I was 16, it was works righteousness. That’s what I had to change my mind about. For other people, it could be different. You know, maybe it’s you’re dealing with an atheist, someone that doesn’t believe in God at all. Well, you need to change your mind. You need to change your mind, not only in the fact that God exists, but God has come in the person of Jesus who paid the penalty for your sins. So you need to go from being an atheist to being a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. So this crowd here, because it’s Jewish, they had to change their mind about what the Jewish nation had done to Jesus in attributing His miracles to Satan. You have to change your mind about that. But for other people, it’s you change your mind about whatever is holding you back from trusting in Christ for salvation. I mean, you might be dealing with a moralist who thinks they’re a good person anyway and doesn’t need Jesus. Well, brother, sister, you need to change your mind big time. You need to stop looking at yourself as your own savior. And you need to trust in Jesus as your Savior. So you change your mind about whatever is holding you back from the simplicity of faith alone in Christ alone. So as your mind changes, you’re trusting in Jesus simultaneously.
And that’s how repentance and faith are basically different sides of the of the same coin. What else does he say here in Acts 2:38? He says, “But Peter said to them, ‘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.'” Let’s just focus for a minute on this part of the verse. “and each of you be baptized in the name of [the Lord] Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.” What exactly is baptism? Because he’s telling them to get baptized. Baptism is an outward symbol of an inward reality. You need to change your mind about what the nation of Israel just did with Jesus in attributing His miracles to Satan. You need to change your mind about that. And once that is done, in other words, you’re a full-fledged believer. At that point you need to get baptized so that you are publicly identifying with the message of Peter. And the moment you got baptized as a first century Jew, in this context, you were making a public stand that Israel was wrong in their understanding of Jesus. And Peter, who just preached this tremendous sermon, has it right. That’s why your baptism is your confession. The Book of Hebrews 10:23, written to Hebrew Christians, says, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.”
What does it mean- confession? It’s an outward symbol of an inward reality. And I believe confession there, Hebrews 10:30- Hebrews 10:23- excuse me- is baptism. Baptism does not justify a person. A person is justified by faith alone in Christ alone. Then why get baptized? It’s a step of obedience. Because now you’re going public with it, which is essential, not to your justification, but it’s essential to your growth. Now, if a person gets saved and they don’t get baptized right away and they die, do they go to heaven? Yes, they do. I was in that circumstance myself, believe it or not. I was saved when I was 16. I wanted to get baptized and it sort of caused a conflict with my earthly father who pulled out all the family pictures. And showed me when I was baptized as an infant in the Episcopalian Church. So there were all the pictures of them pouring water on me, and I was screaming like there was no tomorrow. And he’s saying, Why would you want to get baptized? Look at the family pictures. Don’t you see you’ve already been baptized? And he felt I was joining sort of a cult. And he said, Well, you need to go talk to the priest first before you do this. And what 16 year old wants to talk to the priest? So I just postponed the whole thing till I moved out. And finally when I moved out a few years later, about age 27, which is a little lag time there.
But I was I was in grad school and stuff, so I was making good use of my time. Don’t think I was a slacker. But when I moved out, I said, well, I’m going to get baptized now. And so I had the guy that led me to Christ baptize me in my apartment jacuzzi- in full immersion, by the way. So, now if I had died before I hit age 27, my soul would have gone right into heaven. And I in my humanity, I postponed the decision. I’m not saying that everything I did there was right. I’m just telling you the way it happened for me. Because I didn’t want to cause all this rift in my family, especially when I was living there. I didn’t feel that God wanted me to do that. Maybe I made the right decision, maybe I didn’t. But that’s just the way it unfolded. And so when I got baptized, that was not necessary for my justification, but it was necessary for my growth. And I can testify to you this much that the moment I got baptized, several ministry opportunities, just like overnight, opened up to me that formerly were closed. And it’s almost as if God was saying, you’ve got to be faithful with something little before I can trust you with something bigger. So I honestly believe that baptism was essential to my development as a Christian, but it had nothing to do with my justification.
So Peter here is calling these people to baptism, which is- now it’s public. It’s a public stand that Israel is wrong in their treatment of Jesus and their interpretation of Jesus. And Peter is right. And that’s why, as you go through the Book of Acts, do you know who’s coming down on the early church? It’s the unbelieving Jewish nation, all the time. The Gentiles are getting saved like crazy, but unbelieving Israel hates the church and persecutes the church. One of its greatest persecutors was a guy named Saul of Tarsus who was holding the coat of the rock throwers as they were as Stephen was being martyred. Why? Why such a hatred for the early Christians by first century Israel? Because everybody understood that when you got baptized, you just made a public stand that Peter is right in his interpretation of Jesus and Israel had it wrong. You were going against your own nation. So this is why Peter says to them, be baptized. And we have a big problem here. Because it says, “Peter said to them, ‘Repent and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins;'” And the way this reads in English, it’s one of the worst English translations that I can think of. It gives you the impression that you have to get baptized in order to get your sins forgiven.
First of all, notice Acts 15:7-8. By the way, Church of Christ- you know Church of Christ folks, right? They say you’ve got to believe and be baptized to get to heaven. This is their favorite verse. This is their go-to verse every time you deal with a Church of Christ person. This is where they’re going to go in in the biblical text because at first reading it looks like it supports their doctrine. We talked in our last study about ultra dispensationalists or hyper dispensationalists who think the church started with Paul and they do not believe that the pure gospel was being preached here. This was just another offer of the kingdom. If you think that way, I would encourage you to listen to our last teaching on this. But this is their favorite verse too. They’re saying the pure gospel cannot be preached in Acts 2:38 because it connects repentance and baptism for salvation. So they don’t think this is the pure gospel of personal salvation. They think this is the offer of the kingdom. And so because of a mishandling of Acts 2:38, the Church of Christ people feel they have support for their doctrine of baptismal regeneration and ultra Dispensationalists think they have support for the idea that this is not the pure gospel or the true gospel. This is another offer of the kingdom. So Acts 2:38 becomes a big deal in that sense.
But when you go to Acts 15:7-8. You start to see some light shed on this. This is the decision that the early church made to let people into the church that are gentiles without submitting to the law. And it says in Acts chapter 15:7-8, “After there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, ‘Brethren, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles would hear the word of the gospel and believe.'” You can’t get any more free grace than that. Salvation with no strings attached whatsoever other than faith alone. That’s what happened to all these Gentiles, Peter says. And then he says in Acts 15:8, “And God, who knows the heart, testified to them giving them the Holy Spirit, just as he also did to us.” See that? These Gentiles are saved by grace alone by faith alone, independent of works. Peter says that’s what happened to us Jews at the beginning. So whatever interpretation you’re going to come up with with Acts 2:38, it’s got to harmonize with what Peter says there in Acts 15:7-8. In other words, if salvation is something that takes place totally by faith alone, totally by grace alone amongst the Gentiles in Acts 15. And Peter in Acts 15 says that that’s how we Jews were saved.
And this is the first mass salvation of Jews in the church age. Then you cannot interpret Acts 2:38 in conflict with Acts 15:7-8. You see that because Scripture has to interpret Scripture. If you come up with an interpretation where two Scriptures contradict each other, you have to rethink your interpretation. You can’t attach works to Acts 2:38 any more than you can do it in Acts 15. And in Acts 15, it’s very clear that there are no works. That’s why I’m bringing up Acts 15:7-8. So with this being said, let me see if I can squeeze this in here. I know we’re getting close to having to wind down. It says, “Peter said to them, ‘Repent and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.'” It makes it look like you’ve got to be baptized to get forgiven, doesn’t it? But notice the English word “for.” That is a translation of the Greek preposition, eis. “Peter said, ‘Repent and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for-” eis in Greek, “the forgiveness of your sins.” Now, it is true that that preposition eis can be translated in many contexts, not “for” but “because of.” So just scratch out “for” in Acts 2:38 and put the word “because of” in there. Does that change the meaning? “Peter said to them, ‘Repent and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ because of-” See that? “-the forgiveness of your sins.”
The way this reads, it makes it look like I got to get baptized to be forgiven. But that’s not really what Peter is saying. He’s not saying you have to get baptized so you can get forgiven. What he’s saying is you need to get baptized because you’ve been forgiven. Because what is baptism? It’s an outward symbol of an inward reality. So you need to publicly reject the message of Israel and align with the message that Peter just preached. So if you’re looking for exegetical proof that eis can mean “because of” I’ll send you to Matthew 12:41 where Jesus says, “The men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment, and will condemn it because they repented at-” there’s eis– “the preaching of Jonah.” Why did the men of Nineveh repent? BECAUSE of the preaching of Jonah. There’s eis. “The men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment, and will condemn it because they repented at-” eis, which can be translated “in the face of” or “because of” the preaching of Jonah. So very clearly eis can mean, not “for,” but “because of.” So when you look at Acts 2:38 and you see that same preposition eis just cross out the word “for” and put “because of.”
And put in parentheses Matthew 12:41. And if you change it from “for” to “because of-” Oh wow- that changes the whole meaning, doesn’t it? These people are getting baptized not to get forgiven. You follow? If they’re getting baptized in order to get forgiven, then that’s a works oriented gospel. They are not getting baptized in order to get forgiven. They are getting baptized because they had been forgiven. It’s lonely up here. Someone give me an Amen or something. And the truth of the matter is, as you go through the Book of Acts, which we’re going to be doing, we are doing, believe it or not, even though we covered half a verse or something tonight, what you’re going to see over and over and over again is people get saved, then they get baptized. There is no example anywhere in the book of Acts of someone getting baptized first and saved second. Not a shred of evidence. And by the way, and I wish I had known this as a 16 year old when I was told to go talk to the priest. There is no example in the book of Acts of any infant being baptized. No evidence anywhere in the Bible. It’s a totally man-made doctrine. In fact, in order to make that doctrine work, you know where you have to go? You’ve got to go into the book of Genesis, which concerns Israel, because Abraham was told to circumcise his household on the eighth day.
And so they reason from that. Well, if circumcision happens as an infant, then baptism is supposed to happen as an infant as well. And so to maintain that belief, you have to abolish the Israel Church distinction totally. In the age of the church, which began in Acts 2, give me one example of any infant being baptized. Give it to me in the Epistles. Give it to me in Revelation 2 and 3. Any scripture binding on the church, just show me one example. And the answer is crickets. Because there are no examples except scriptures ripped out of context concerning circumcision going back to Genesis 17. And give me one example just one of anybody that gets baptized first and saves second. So if I’m coming up with some interpretation of Acts 2:38 that says- as the Church of Christ says and as Hyper dispensationalism unfortunately says- you got to get baptized so your sins are forgiven. You have to interpret that verse independently of what Peter said in Acts 15. By the way, the same speaker is in Acts 2 and Acts 15. You’ve got to get Peter to contradict Peter. And you also have to make that perverted interpretation of that verse contradict every other example in the Book of Acts where salvation comes first and baptism comes second.
And folks, we didn’t even get through all of verse 38.