Acts 015 – The Beginning of the Church Age (pt. 9)

Acts 015 – The Beginning of the Church Age (pt. 9)
Acts 2:38b • Dr. Andy Woods • March 22, 2023 • Acts


Acts 015

The Beginning of The Church Age (PT. 9)

Acts 2:38B

March 22, 2023

Dr. Andy Woods

L­et’s take our Bibles this evening and open them to the Book of Acts chapter 2 and verse 38. Acts 2:38 can be a powerful verse. There was a guy who, his house was being broken into. And he woke up in the middle of the night and he realized he was being burglarized, so he yelled out Acts 2:38. And the criminals dispersed and later they were apprehended by the police and the fellow was asked to identify the criminals. And so when he talked to them, he said, how come you- how come you ran out of my house when I said Acts 2:38? And they said, Oh, we thought you said you had an axe and two 38’s. So you just never know when God’s word is going to be assistance to you. So Acts chapter 1 we’ve covered. That’s the ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ. It was in Acts 1 that Jesus told His disciples to tarry in Jerusalem until they are clothed with power from on high, speaking of the coming Ministry of the Spirit. And then in Acts 2, they are clothed with power from on high as the Spirit comes upon the Apostles. And it’s very clear that the Spirit has come upon them because these apostles have the ability to speak in languages that they have never learned or studied and yet they’re completely understandable to those that spoke those languages. And very sadly, some people in the crowd attribute the whole thing to drunkenness.

Acts 2:13, it says, “But others were mocking and saying, ‘They are full of sweet wine.'” So it’s at this point that the Apostle Peter stands up and gives a tremendous sermon there in verses 14 through 36 that we’ve studied in depth. And the point of the sermon, really, as he weaves all kinds of Old Testament passages together to build his case, that these languages that are being spoken have nothing to do with drunkenness. It’s the result of the Holy Spirit who has been poured out on the Apostles from the miracle working Jesus, who is now operating at the Father’s right hand. And by the way, how did Jesus get to the Father’s right hand? Well, Peter is pretty aggressive, if you look at verse 23, second part of the verse. “…you-” that’s first century Israel- “nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.” Yet He resurrected and ascended and has entered His high priestly ministry. And that’s where the Spirit came from and that’s where these manifestations called languages have come from. And he gets to his conclusion there in verse 36, and he says the one that you, Israel, rejected is the Lord and Christ. So it’s just a tremendous sermon that he gives there. It’s probably one of the greatest sermons in the Bible. And every great sermon has a great impact. And the chapter sort of concludes with the impact of this sermon.

And it resulted in two things: salvations, verses 37 through 41 and the first church meeting, verses 42 through 47. So we’re going to try to make it through, Lord willing, verse 41 here. As you study the salvations that happened as a result of this sermon, you could break it down into a few sections. The first is conviction, because in verse 37, the crowd listening to Peter’s sermon said, What must we do? It talks there about how they were pierced to the heart and why were they pierced to the heart? They were pierced to the heart because that’s what Jesus said would happen when He departed. A few days earlier, He had spoken to the disciples in the Upper Room who were very, very worried over His announcement of His soon departure. But He said to them, “I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; For if I do not go away, the Helper,” or the Holy Spirit, in other words, “will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin, righteousness and judgment; concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me; and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged.” And we talk through what those specific elements of conviction represent to the heart of the unsaved.

But this is the work of the spirit that He would convict people of their need for a personal relationship with Jesus. And this crowd here that’s listening to Peter speak fell under immediate conviction. And it has to do not so much with Peter’s oratory, although his oratory is very impressive. It has to do with the Spirit taking Peter’s words as Peter is using the word of God to convict people of their need for salvation in Jesus. And when you look at verse 23, second part of the verse, Peter kind of pours on the guilt. He says, by the way, you’re the ones that nailed Him to a cross.  “…you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.” In other words, it’s this nation, the nation of Israel, in the first century, which turned Christ over to the Romans for execution. And so when they hear this, they- and the Spirit is working through Peter’s sermon- their hearts are pierced. They’re torn open which, by the way, is what the word of God does- right? Hebrews 4:12, The Word of God is living and active and sharper than any double-edged sword. Piercing to the point where joints are divided. Soul and spirit is divided. And this is the conviction of the Spirit upon the listeners to Peter’s sermon. And then you go down to verses 38 and 39 and we covered half of verse 38 last time where Peter exhorts them now to repentance and baptism.

So if you look at verse 38, it says, “But Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of the [Lord] Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.'” So he has told them, first of all, to repent. In brackets, if you can see that I’ve got the Greek word. It’s metanoeó, which means change of mind. meta-, change. –noeó, mind. And as we talked about last time, when used in contexts dealing with people coming to Christ, it’s not an antonym for believe, but a synonym. Antonym is a word with an opposite meaning. A synonym is a different word with the same meaning. So believe means trust. And when you trust in Christ for salvation, you automatically repented. Your mind changed because you’re no longer trusting in yourself or your religion for your eternity. You’re trusting in the finished work of Jesus. And then as we covered last time, when he says repent and each of you be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. We tried to make the case that it’s better translated not “for” the forgiveness of your sins, but “because” of the forgiveness of your sins. “Because” for translated from the Greek preposition, eis, there in parentheses can be translated as “because of.”

In other areas of Scripture. For example, in Matthew chapter 12:41, it says, “The men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment and will condemn it because they repented at-” that’s eis in parentheses- “the preaching of Jonah;” In other words, they repented because Jonah preached. They didn’t repent so that Jonah could preach. See that? And unfortunately, a lot of our English translations will translate that “for” there as- or that eis as “for.” But we think it’s better read “because of” and that changes the whole meaning. It’s dealing with people that are getting baptized, not to have their sins forgiven, but they’re getting baptized because their sins have already been forgiven. And if you interpret it a different way, suddenly you’ve got this situation where the Bible is teaching baptismal regeneration. I’ve got to be baptized so I can be saved, as many, many people falsely think. Well, that can’t be because we have the example of the thief on the cross, right? The penitent thief who was never baptized. And upon believing in Jesus, Jesus said to the penitent thief, Today you will be with me in paradise. But make sure you get baptized first. See, it doesn’t say that. Quick, throw water on him before he dies. We got to get this guy baptized so he can be with me today in paradise. So we don’t teach baptism as something that you have to do to go to heaven.

We teach baptism as an outward symbol of an inward reality. You get baptized because your sins are forgiven, because you’ve trusted in Jesus for salvation. So just to kind of communicate this, let’s look at a few scriptures, most of which are in the Book of Acts, clearly teaching that those getting baptized are those that already believe. In other words, if you interpret Acts 2:38 as you have to get baptized so you can get your sins forgiven, for the forgiveness of your sins and not because of the forgiveness of your sins, then you’re interpreting Acts 2:38 in a way that’s inconsistent with every other verse in the Bible dealing with baptism. And that’s one of the reasons how you know you’ve come up with the wrong interpretation to something. If you’re interpreting a verse in a way that contradicts everything else in the Bible, chances are you’re misinterpreting the verse. And so people that want this to say, be baptized for the forgiveness of your sins, not because of the forgiveness of your sins, are getting that interpretation to be in conflict with all the other verses in the Bible, most of which are in the book of Acts that clearly teach believing is first, baptism is second. Believing is first. And if you were to die before you got baptized, you’d still go to heaven. Thief on the cross. But the normal order of things is you believe and then as a step of obedience, not for salvation, but for growth, you get baptized.

So you remember- you might want to follow me around to a few verses- but you might remember Matthew 28:19, the great Commission verse. Jesus says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit.” So what happens first? Making disciples of all nations or baptizing? Well, in this sentence, making disciples of all nations comes first. Baptism comes second. “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit.” In other words, if you haven’t made them a disciple, there’s no point in baptizing them. You might want to slip over to Acts 8:12, which says, “But when they believed Philip preaching the good news about the Kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were [being] baptized, men and women alike.” So if you just look at that, you’ll see that believed- they believed Philip. That’s first in the sentence. Baptism is second. If you go over to, same chapter, Acts 8:34-39. This is the conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch that we’ll be reading about at some point in our study in Acts. It says, “The eunuch answered Philip and said, ‘Please tell me, [of whom] does the prophet of whom does the prophet say this? Of himself or of someone else?’ Then Philip opened his mouth and beginning from this scripture, preached Jesus to him.”

So, in other words, Philip just led the Ethiopian eunuch to Christ through a messianic prophecy called Isaiah 53. “As they went along the road, they came to some water; and the eunuch said, ‘Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?'” And Acts 8:37, “And Philip said, ‘If you believe with all of your heart, you may.’ And he answered and said, ‘I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.'” Acts 8:38, It says, “And he ordered the chariot to stop; and they both went down into the water, Philip as well as the eunuch, and he baptized him. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; and the eunuch no longer saw him, but he went on his way, rejoicing.” So again, there’s an order here, he believes, verse 37. And even earlier because it says, beginning with that passage of scripture, Philip preached to him the good news of Jesus. So he’s clearly a believer. And then the eunuch as they’re traveling along says, Well, look, there’s water. That’s second in the passage. Is there any reason I shouldn’t be baptized? And Philip says, you can be baptized as long as you’re a believer. So again, he believed first. Baptism comes second. You might want to slip over to Acts 10:42-45. This is the conversion of Cornelius and his household.

It says, “And he ordered us to preach to the people, and solemnly to testify that this is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead. Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins. While Peter was still preaching these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon those who were listening to the message.” In other words, Cornelius’s household is saved at that point. “All the circumcised believers who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. For they were hearing them speaking with tongues and exalting God. Then Peter [said], ‘Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?’ And he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to stay on for a few days.” So with the conversion of Cornelius and his household, it’s the exact same pattern. They believe first, baptized second. Notice Acts 16:14-15. This is the conversion of a woman named Lydia in Philippi. It says, “A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul.” So Lydia heard the gospel.

The Lord touched her heart and she received the things of God via the gospel. That’s in verse 14 of Acts 16. “But when she and her household had been baptized,” see how baptism is second? “She urged us, saying, ‘If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house’…And she prevailed upon us.” She responds, verse 14, and then she’s baptized verse 15. I mean, there’s just an obvious order to this as you move through the New Testament, particularly the Book of Acts. Notice Acts 16, same chapter, verses 30 through 34. This is the conversion of the Philippian jailer. Same city. And it says in Acts 16:30, “and after he brought them out, he said, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ They said, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.’ And they spoke the Word of the Lord to him together with all who were in his house. And he took them that very hour of the night and washed their wounds, and immediately he was baptized, he and all his household. And he brought them into his house and set food before them, and rejoiced greatly, having believed in God with his whole house.” So he is told to believe, verse 31 and then later on during the night, verse 34, he’s baptized. So the order is never reversed.

The order is never baptized first, believe second0. The Book of Acts is very clear. Believe first, baptize second. Notice one more here. Acts 18:8. This is Crispus, the leader of the synagogue. It says, Crispus, the leader of the synagogue, believed in the Lord with all of his household, and many of the Corinthians when they heard, were believing and being baptized.” So again, you’ll notice the same order. You have believing earlier in the verse and baptism later on. So we do not think that baptism is necessary to go to heaven. It is necessary, though, to grow as a Christian. But birth and growth are two different things. What is necessary to be saved is to trust in Christ for salvation, to place your confidence in Jesus for salvation. When that happens, your mind changed. You repented, metanoeó. Baptism, therefore- what is it? It’s an outward sign of an inward reality. It’s a step for growth, not a step for birth. If I’m going to take Acts 2:38 and make it sound like people have to be baptized to get their sins forgiven, I’m interpreting Acts 2:38 totally out of harmony with every passage we just went through. I’m interpreting Acts 2:38, totally out of harmony with the testimony of the thief on the cross. I’m interpreting Acts 2:38 totally out of harmony with what Paul says to the Corinthians when he downplays baptism in his own ministry because he had a lot of people that were basically following him because he was a celebrity.

And he says, What are you following me for? I didn’t- I only baptized a few of you. Paul says in [1 Corinthians] 1, beginning in verse 13, “Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” And then Paul says, “I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius.” A very strange statement, if baptism gets you to heaven. If baptism gets you into heaven, why in the world would Paul say, “I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one would say you were baptized in my name.”? In other words, I downplay baptism because I don’t want a personality following of all the people I baptized. Because that’s what the Corinthians were doing. They were kind of dividing up over their favorite teachers. And Paul says you ought to be following Jesus and not a teacher. And by the way, why are you following me for? Most of you, I didn’t baptize. And I thank God I didn’t. Very odd statement to make if baptism gets you to heaven.

He says in First Corinthians 1:16, “Now I did baptize also the household of Stephanas;” and then I love Paul here because he has kind of a senior moment. He says, “beyond that, I don’t know whether I baptized any other.” He couldn’t remember. And you appreciate that as you get older. And then he says in verse 17, “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void.” There’s no possible way for Paul to be talking like this, Downplaying baptism the way he does in his personal ministry if somehow baptism gets you to heaven. So that’s how you know, when you have something going on in Acts 2:38 where you can interpret it different ways. Each of you be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Or you can also render it each of you be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ because of the forgiveness of your sins. We favor the latter interpretation. When it’s ambiguous like this, you pick the interpretation that harmonizes with the rest of the Scripture because God cannot contradict Himself. And so this is a clue on how you deal with problem passages. So back to our passage. It says, “Peter said to them, ‘Repent,'” In other words, change your mind, “and each of you be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ [because] of the forgiveness of your sins;” Now, before leaving verse 38, let me draw something else to your attention. This is controversial as if all these other things are not controversial. It’s all controversial, really.

He says, “Peter said, ‘Repent and each of you be baptized in the name-” Do you see that? “-in the name of [the Lord] Jesus Christ.” There’s a lot of people out there that will say, Well, all you really have to be is sort of a God seeker. You just have to sort of be seeking God to the best of your ability. And if you happen to be living in some part of the world where the name of Jesus is not known, then that’s okay. You’re in. And that’s a doctrine called Inclusivism, where you really don’t have to know the name Jesus Christ to be saved. I do not believe that that doctrine of inclusivism is a correct biblical teaching because of the emphasis that Peter puts here on the name Jesus Christ. You have to believe in the right substitute who died for your sins. Over in Acts 4:12 Peter also says, “there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other- What’s the next word? “-name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” Now “must” and you see in brackets there the word there in Greek “must.” When you track that word, “must,” the Greek word, through Luke and Acts- because remember, Dr. Luke wrote the Gospel of Luke and he wrote the sequel, The Book of Acts. When you trace that word through the Book of Acts, what you’ll see is that word translated “must” means absolutely 100% essential.

Meaning this is not optional. Let me give you a few examples. Over in Luke 4:43. “But He-” that’s Jesus- “said to them, ‘I must-‘” Same Greek word- “preach the Kingdom of God to other cities also, for I was sent for this purpose.'” When He says “I must preach the Kingdom of God to other cities also” He’s saying this is not optional. This is essential. It has to happen this way. Over in Luke 2- excuse me- 24:44. Very end of Luke’s gospel, it says, “Now, He said to them, ‘These are My words, which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms-” the three divisions of Hebrew Bible and there’s our word- “must be fulfilled.” In other words, it’s not optional. It is 100% necessary that I fulfill Hebrew Bible. So when you see that identical word show up in Acts 2 or excuse me, Acts 4:12, “there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven…given among men by which we must be saved.” And you’re sensitive to how Dr. Luke uses the word “must” as 100% essential. What Peter is saying in Acts 4:12 is for a person to be saved they have to know the name Jesus Christ. They have to know exactly who it is they’re trusting in.

Now, why bring this up? Because we’re living in this time period where people are saying, as long as you’re seeking God to the best of your ability, whether you know the name Jesus Christ or not, you know, that’s optional. And I’m here to tell you that that is not what the Bible teaches. So we’re being inundated with Oprah theology- right? Oprah, as she’s- you can watch this on YouTube. She’s interacting with one of her studio audience members who happens to be the best I can tell, a biblical Christian who’s saying, no, you have to be saved through Jesus. She says one of the mistakes that human beings make is believing that there is only one way. I won’t read the whole quote to you. I’ll just read some of the underlying portions. But Oprah says there are “many…many paths to what you-” the Christian in the audience- “call God.” “It doesn’t matter whether she called it ‘God’ along the way or not…There couldn’t possibly be just one way! There couldn’t possibly be only one way with millions of people in the world! And then she goes to the- they always talk about people living in some part of the world, you know, where the name Jesus isn’t known.

She says at the end of this quote, “You lived for the same purpose as Jesus came to the planet to teach us all, but you’re in some part of the remote part of the earth, and you’ve never heard the name Jesus. [Are you telling me that] You cannot go to heaven?” So kind of playing on the sympathy card. Making it sound like, you know, it really doesn’t matter what you believe. You just have to be a god seeker. I mean, maybe you know the name Jesus, maybe you don’t. It doesn’t really matter. All that really matters is sincerity. That’s the doctrine of Inclusivism which is refuted by Acts 4:12 and Acts 2:38, which is why I’m bringing it up. We’re in this passage. Where Peter says there is no other name under heaven by which we must, absolutely essential, in other words, be saved. Here’s a quote from Tony Evans. And I generally like a lot of the things Tony Evans says, but in this particular quote, he went into Inclusivism. It’s a long quote. It was published in one of his books, just the underlying section here. He says, “I call this trans-dispensationalism…by this, I mean, if a person is seriously seeking God and desiring to know Him, and is responding to the truth he knows, if there is no missionary or direct manifestation of God, then God judges that person based on His faith in the light He has received.” And what he is saying in this quote is you don’t have to know the name Jesus to go to heaven. That’s inclusivism. So sometimes it comes at us from the Oprah Winfrey’s of the world, who are basically unsaved new agers.

Other times it comes knocking on your door through people that we listen to regularly on Christian media. Of course, they probably wouldn’t put a statement like this he makes on Christian media. You have to hunt it down in one of his books. But there it is in print. And sometimes it comes to you from some of the greatest evangelists in the world. Like this exchange between Robert Schuller and Billy Graham. And this is not- when I give you these quotes, this is not like hearsay or anything. These are things you can track down on YouTube or in books any time you want to look at them. It’s just a lot of people won’t look at them because they like these personalities and they are aghast that one of these famous Christian personalities could say something that’s so completely wrong, particularly on this topic. So Robert Schuller to Billy Graham says, “Tell me, what is the future of Christianity?” Billy Graham answers and says- and I’m not saying that God hasn’t used Tony Evans. Okay. I’m not saying God hasn’t used Billy Graham. My own mother was saved at a Billy Graham crusade. So I’m not saying that God doesn’t use these people. I’m saying that with each of us, there can be a moment of compromise. In this case, I’m talking about theological compromise.

Because we give here at Sugar Land Bible Church, 20% of our right off the top budget to missionaries. And we want to know what these missionaries believe. And we’re not going to be giving Sugar Land Bible Church money to so-called missionaries who are running around, you know, basically saying that, oh, you know, it really doesn’t matter what you believe, just be sincere. The name of Jesus is optional. Well, if you think that way and we find out about it- and we put our missionaries through a rigorous questionnaire, that has to be reaffirmed, I think every 2 or 3 years. If we find out about it, then we’re going to question the missionary. We don’t have an ekballo cast out concept. We try to give the missionaries the benefit of the doubt, but if they’re not able to explain their position on it or if they’re kind of, you know, being like a politician, double speak. Then we just say we’re sorry. You know, you’re not a good fit with us because we believe that you have to be saved by hearing the name Jesus Christ. If you do not hear the name Jesus Christ, and then whatever you’re doing, you can call it whatever you want. It’s not missionary work because Peter said there is no other name under heaven by which we must be saved. So, Dr. Schuller, who had the Crystal Cathedral in Southern California, which I grew up 15 or 20 minutes from there.

I drove past it constantly on the freeway, the 405 freeway. In fact, there was a time in my life, believe it or not, where I was a courier- if you can imagine that- for a law firm in my life. My wife is laughing at that because I have no sense of direction. How I ended up as a courier is beyond me. But I did listen to a lot of Christian radio during all those times I was lost. Maybe that’s how I learned more about the Bible. I had a lot of free time on my hands to find my way. But I remember, you know, picking up, dropping off the law partner’s Jewish mother. And I remember her saying to me, I was in front driving. She goes, Oh, I see you have a Bible there with you. And I said, Yes, ma’am, I do. She goes, Well, I go to the Crystal Cathedral. And I said, Well, that’s kind of interesting. You know, you being Jewish, how do you fit in at the Crystal Cathedral? And she just went on and on about what a wonderful place it was and how it made her feel and how inspired she was at the end of the services there. And I asked her specifically,  Well, do they mention the name Jesus Christ there? Because I really wanted to know; she was Jewish and unbelieving Jewish person, the best I could tell, attending the Protestant Crystal Cathedral.

And I’ll never forget her words. I said, Do they mention Jesus? And she says, Not per se, is what she told me. Not per se. But then she immediately directed the conversation back to what a place. She kept saying that over and over again. What a place. In other words, it made her feel a particular way. And That Robert Schuller, let me tell you, he knew. He knew how to run that place. He knew how to put on the shows. I mean, you think Tinker Bell on the Tightrope on Main Street is a big deal with the fireworks there at the castle at Disney? I mean, Schuller was doing all kinds of stuff like that, and he was just packing that place out week after week after week. And yet the name of Jesus was not mentioned there except in very generic terms. And why was Schuler doing this? He was doing this because he was a believer in Inclusivism. You don’t have to know the name Jesus. What you have to do is just be a seeker. And very, very sadly, Billy Graham, one of the greatest evangelists numerically in the 20th century, sounds identically like an inclusivist right here in this conversation. So Schuller says, “Tell me, what is the future of Christianity?” Billy Graham’s answer: “Well, Christianity and being a true believer, you know, I think there’s the body of Christ, which comes from all the Christian groups around the world, or outside the Christian groups.”

Oh, so you can have the body of Christ outside of professing Christianity? Continuing with the quote. “I think that everybody that loves Christ or knows Christ,” watch this, These aren’t my words. This is Billy Graham’s words in this interview. “Whether they are conscious of it or not,” See that? “they’re members of the Body of Christ. And I don’t think we’re going to see a great sweeping revival that will turn the whole world to Christ at any time…and that’s what God is doing today. He is calling people out of the world for His name. Whether they come from the Muslim world, or the Buddhist world, or the Christian world, or the non-believing world, they are members of the Body of Christ because they’ve been called by God.” Watch this. “They may not even know the name of Jesus,” It’s Inclusivism. “but they know in their hearts they need something that they don’t have and they turn to the only light that they have, and I think they’re saved.” Are you telling me that the greatest evangelist in the 20th century numerically is telling me that people can be saved in the Muslim tradition without even knowing the name Jesus? That’s what he’s saying here. That’s what Tony Evans is saying. Same kind of thing Oprah Winfrey is saying. See, everybody is your pal when you’re pointing out this problem with Oprah Winfrey.

The Christian world will love you for that. But once you start saying that this demonic teaching has even found its way into evangelical Christianity. And some of our own people lean this way. The Christian world won’t tolerate that because Billy Graham and Tony Evans and all of these people have their own sort of personality followings and people start getting angry at you. But I think you guys know me well enough to know that by this time I don’t really care what people think. I really don’t. I mean, I care to a certain extent, I guess. But you sort of grow in your ministry to the point where you’re more afraid of God than you are people. I mean, I have to give an account to God for what is taught or not taught over this pulpit. The teacher has to give that account. The book of James 3:1 says, Let few of you presume to be teachers knowing that the teacher incurs the stricter judgment. So you kind of reach a point where, yeah, a lot of people will get mad at this. But you know what, Lord? At the end of the day, I’m accountable to You and not a bunch of people that have a wonderful opinion of You or a negative opinion. Because I don’t have to give that account to people. I do have to give it to God. So that’s why I point this out. They may not even know the name Jesus.

Well, how do you, Mr. Graham, correlate that with Acts 4:12? Can you please explain that to me? There is no other name under heaven by which we must be saved. And here Billy Graham says they don’t even have to know the name Jesus. They may not even know the name Jesus, but they know in their hearts they need something that they don’t have and they turn to the only light they have. And I think they’re saved because they’re going to be in heaven with us. You mean Muslims and Buddhists and atheists that know absolutely nothing of the name Jesus are saved? That’s what he’s saying. Now, now, Schuller, when Graham said this on Schuller’s broadcast, could hardly contain his enthusiasm. And in this next line, Schuller said, That is fantastic. Because Shuler is running this whole ministry where people can come and go and feel really good at the end of the service with absolutely no knowledge of Jesus Christ. This is fantastic. In other words, I just got the greatest evangelist in the 20th century to sign on to my program here at the Crystal Cathedral. “This is fantastic. I’m so thrilled to hear you say that. There’s a wideness in God’s mercy.” Dr. Graham: “There is.” So you see the straw man argument. If you don’t believe Inclusivism, you don’t have enough wideness in your mercy. As false doctrine. False teaching. It’s false teaching on the most important issue you can have.

How do you get to heaven? You know, this this excuse that everybody gives. Oh, what about those in some part of the world that don’t know the name Jesus? The Book of Acts answers that. It answers it in Acts 8 and it answers it in Acts 10. If a person is seeking God to the best of their ability based on the light they have, God moves heaven and earth to get the truth to them. This is what happened with the conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch, who was reading Isaiah 53 on his way to Jerusalem but had no idea what it meant. So what does God do? He looks at the guy’s heart and he sends Philip to explain the truth to him. And the Ethiopian eunuch is saved. It happened again in Acts 10, where Cornelius is seeking God to the best of his ability, responding to the light of general revelation and creation. And what did God do? He sends to him Peter, who gives him the specific information necessary for salvation. So I’m not really worried about people in remote parts of the country that have never heard the name Jesus. If they want Jesus and they really do want Him, and only God can measure the heart. God gives them what they need. The problem with humans, though, is we don’t typically respond positively to the light we have. The Book of Romans 1:18-32 talks about how people, when they see creation, they suppress the knowledge of God as evident in creation.

They hold it down. And to such people, God, to be honest with you, doesn’t waste His time with them. Because if they’re going to suppress general revelation, what do you think they’re going to do with Jesus? They’re going to suppress that as well. But if a person is responding to the light that they have and they really are a God seeker, God who desires no man to perish, but all to come to repentance moves heaven and earth to see that they receive the information that they need so as to be saved. So don’t let the Oprah Winfreys of the world pull at your heartstrings and make it sound like there’s a whole bunch of people out there that have never heard the name Jesus, and because of that, they’re on their way to hell. The reason they haven’t heard the name Jesus is because they’re not responding to the light that they do have. And God knows that if He sends them additional light, they will suppress that as well. But to the God seeker like the Ethiopian eunuch and like Cornelius, God who desires no, no one to perish moves heaven and earth so that they could be saved. By the way, if Inclusivism is true, I mean, if this is true- what Billy Graham is saying here- then he’s totally wasted his life as an evangelist.

What a complete waste of time. If people can be saved without a knowledge of Jesus, then why would you go- why would you spend your life going around doing crusades preaching Jesus? It’s a waste of time. So when Inclusivism gets a foothold in Christianity and I’ve given you some of the names of the people I believe that are pushing it into Christianity out the window, I can guarantee it. I can guarantee it. Just like I can guarantee the sun is going to come up tomorrow. I guarantee you this. It will destroy missionary work. Because missionary work is hard. Why go to the trouble of becoming a missionary and going to some part of the world that doesn’t know anything about Jesus? Why go to the trouble of taking this book, which was written in Hebrew and Aramaic and Greek, and translating it word for word into a foreign dialect, which is an exhausting process. Why even do that if people are saved anyway through the light that they have? See that? You allow inclusivism into Christianity and you will destroy the missions movement. So all of that coming from Acts 2:38. “Peter said to them, “Repent and each of you be baptized in the name-” You should if, you’re an underliner or circle-er- is that a word? Circle-er? Not circular. Circle-er. You should underline “the name of the Lord Jesus Christ,” because that’s a big deal. So what happens to these people now? Returning to our passage that have now believed in Jesus Christ? What exactly do they receive? It’s right there at the end of verse 38.

“for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the [gift] Holy Spirit.” What does a person receive the moment they trust in Jesus Christ for personal salvation? Boom, their sins are forgiven. Well, which sins? Past, present or future? Yes. All of the above. Gone. Forgiven. Wiped away. As far as the east is from the west. Psalm 103 says that. As far as the east is from the west so far has the Lord removed our sins from us. Well, how far is the east from the west? You ever thought about that? There’s no East Pole or West Pole. There’s a North Pole. Santa lives there- right? There’s a South Pole, north and south because there’s a North Pole, South pole. They’re not infinitely removed from each other, but east and west, because there’s no East Pole and West Pole are infinitely removed from each other. God takes your sins and infinitely removes them from you and their consequences and looks at you as if you’re just as pure as His Son, Jesus Christ. “…be baptized-” not for the forgiveness of your sins. But because your sins have been forgiven. “and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” That’s called regeneration. The Impartation of Divine Life which happens at the point of faith alone in Christ alone. The word translated, regeneration, is only used twice in the Greek New Testament.

It’s paliggenesia. Two words making up a single word. A compound word. Palin, again. –genesia as in genesis, beginning. It literally means beginning again. You begin again with God, because now the Spirit of God is inside of you and you can relate to God where as formerly, you could not. Which is the whole point of the conversation that Jesus had with Nicodemus in John 3 were He said you cannot see your inner unless you’re born again. And then Jesus chides Nicodemus and says, You’re the leader of Israel and you don’t understand this? This is like basic stuff. You had to be born spiritually to be a Christian. It’s not- I used to think, well, we’ve got the Methodist Christians, Presbyterian Christians, Catholic Christians- supposedly- Baptist Christians. And then, oh yeah, there’s the born again Christians. I used to think being born again was like a denomination or something. But what the Bible says is there was only one kind of Christian- born again. You’re either born again or you’re not. That’s paliggenesia, regeneration. It’s used in Titus chapter 3:5 of the new birth. The book of Titus 3:5 puts it this way. “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration-” paliggenesia– “and renewing by the Holy Spirit.” The only other time that paliggenesia, regeneration, is used, it’s in Matthew 19:28 of the Kingdom.

Once the kingdom comes, Jesus returns, everything starts anew. In Titus 3:5, it’s used of salvation. Once Jesus comes into a person’s heart or life, they begin anew. They become a new creature in Christ Jesus. And that’s what Peter is speaking of here. Romans 8:9 says, “However, you are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.” Did you catch that? “if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.” it doesn’t matter where you go to church. If you haven’t been born again, you’re not a Christian. You have to be born again to enter the Kingdom of God. Being born again is not an option. It’s not a sect within Christendom. It’s not a denomination. It is absolutely 100% necessary and essential for salvation. A little bit personal to me- maybe that’s why I’m talking on and on about it because I spent 16 years of my life as an Episcopalian doing completely the right things within that denomination, right down to Sunday school attendance, right down to being an acolyte in the church, right down to memorizing what they told me to memorize. In fact, do you realize that I had the whole service in the Anglican Church committed to memory?

I knew when to sit. I knew when to stand. I knew when to kneel. I knew when to pull out the kind of the kneeling bench. I knew when to go up and get communion. I knew the creeds. I knew what they were going to say when they were going to say it. When I was supposed to say it because I was reared with that. But I had no knowledge of the new birth. Which is kind of a big thing to miss, don’t you think? I mean, this is like if you miss this, you miss the whole point. And I do recall what the fellow that led me to Christ- I remember him at a Bible study. Spring of 1983. Him showing me the conversation with Jesus and Nicodemus about the new birth. And I remember looking at those verses as he was showing them to me, and I don’t know where my head was at for the prior 16 years, but I had never seen anything like that where it says you have to be born of water in the Spirit to enter. I don’t know if I understood what those verses meant. Water and Spirit. I did know this, though, that whatever it was, I didn’t have it. And so it was through that kind of exchange that the gentleman back in 1983 led me to salvation through an understanding of the new birth.

Being born again. Being born from above. So, when hyper dispensationalists come along and say the personal gospel of salvation is not being preached here, this is the offer of the kingdom again to Israel. I’m sorry. This is not the offer of the kingdom to Israel. This is the offer of personal salvation to the lost sinner. All the elements of a gospel presentation are there. In chapter 2, verse 23, There’s the crucifixion. And in chapter 2, verse 38, there’s the personal result of salvation. You believe your sins are forgiven. The Holy Spirit comes inside of you. You’re born again. Your body is the temple of the Spirit. And as a step of obedience, you want to get baptized as an outward symbol of an inward reality. Baptism is necessary for growth and development as a Christian, but not necessary for personal salvation and justification. So last time we went over the concept of the Kingdom gospel versus the personal gospel. I won’t redo all of that right now. Just to sort of recall that the Kingdom gospel is off the table in Matthew 12. What is being preached here is not the Kingdom gospel. What is being preached here is the personal gospel of salvation.

We made it through half a verse tonight. Praise the Lord. So, Lord willing, if the rapture doesn’t happen first, we’ll pick it up with verse 39 next time.