Chapter 5: What a response!
Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Men and brethren, what shall we do?’
38 Then Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.’ 40 And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, ‘Be saved from this perverse generation.”’
41 Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.
Cut to the heart
The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth,1 now works deeply in Peter’s hearers after his message. ‘Cut to the heart’, they wake up to their guilt before the all-seeing God who is holy and righteous and hates sin. Sensing His coming judgement on their sins and feeling their need of forgiveness, they plead with Peter and the apostles, ‘what shall we do?’ Jesus had promised that the Holy Spirit would work in our lives in this way.2
Cut to the heart—and a plea to the heart
God’s remedy for conscience-stricken sinners is the same today as then. Peter pleads with ‘every one’ of them so that they and their children can know forgiveness of their sins and so ‘receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’. This good news includes ‘all who are afar off’. The Bible says, ‘All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God’,3 Christ ‘died for all’,4 and that God ‘is rich to all who call upon Him’ for ‘whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’5
We too can know God’s forgiveness and receive His ‘gift of the Holy Spirit’. Our sins separate us from God6 and make us far off from Him. But God can bring us ‘near by the blood of Christ’7 which He shed when dying for our sins. Now risen, He is ‘also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them’.8 Peter insists God will call sinners to forgiveness because ‘Christ died for our sins’.9 Is He calling you now?
Peter is very serious. He warns them ‘with many other words’ to be saved. This hostile world hates Christ’s righteous standards, and tries to hinder anyone coming to Jesus or following Him. So Peter’s warning is, ‘be saved from this perverse generation’. He tells them how: ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’. God’s Spirit indwells anyone trusting Christ.
Repent and be baptised
Repentance means three things: First, I admit, with shame, my sin and guilt. I confess I have offended and disobeyed or neglected God, and often have also hurt others. Second, I deliberately turn from all my sins, and ask God to forgive me. Turning from my sins will make me try to make good harm or loss I have inflicted on others, when possible.10 Third, as forgiveness is only ‘in the name of Jesus Christ’, I cast myself on God’s mercy by thanking Jesus for dying on the cross, where he bore my sins. As I welcome Christ into my heart as my Lord, He enters my life by the Holy Spirit to take over. The US President is more than resident at the White House: he is also President. He is the chief. Jesus enters my heart as resident and as President—or as my ‘Chief’. Christ, my Saviour, died and rose again to be my Lord.11 Repentance puts my life under His new management. Starting with my ‘U-turn’ from my sins to Christ, repentance continues daily under His guidance and direction. As I read the Bible and pray to Him I keep in daily touch with my Commander and Friend.
Baptism cannot save you. The repentant criminal dying on the cross next to Jesus12 was never baptised, yet Jesus assured him that he would be in Paradise with Him that same day. He simply had confessed his sins sincerely and prayed to Jesus personally.
The apostle Paul could not even remember whom or when he had baptised!13 He longed to see people saved by Christ.14 He would have baptised everyone possible if baptism was essential to their being saved.
Yet baptism is commanded and important. Everyone in the Bible who trusted in Jesus after His death and resurrection is baptised. Baptism involves immersing a new Christian under water and then lifting that person out of it. It pictures outwardly what has already happened inwardly.15 Being immersed in water demonstrates the sinner’s being engulfed by sin and death. Being raised indicates God’s lifting that repentant sinner to new life in Christ. It also publicly declares to the world that the baptised person now intends to live openly for Christ.16
Soon in Jerusalem these new Christians will be persecuted. Some will be imprisoned, others marginalised, and some killed. Their baptism announces their decision to live a new life which honours Christ,17 whatever the cost.18 Some orthodox Jews even held funeral services for newly converted family members. They regarded them as dead already.
So by demanding baptism Peter tests how real his hearers’ repentance and personal faith in Christ is. He poses certain questions: Will you turn from your sins and give Jesus first place?
Will you live a new life for Him, with His help? Will you die for Him, if necessary? Will you be known as His disciple? Are you saved? Is Christ your Lord?
‘You shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’ is God’s promise made to all sinners who trust in Christ. Jesus enters our hearts through the Holy Spirit.19 We become born-again20 children of God.21 The Bible says that if we have not received His Spirit, we are not His.22 If we have, we begin to change,23 feed spiritually, and grow. As a new-born baby has a new appetite so we now drink in the ‘milk’ of God’s word each day.24 The Holy Spirit desires to fill our lives continually with His presence and godly influence to produce holy and fruitful lives to glorify God.25
The Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit is a Person, not an influence. He is also God, being One of the three Persons in the Trinity. Because He is a Person and God, we grieve him when we sin against Him. We must avoid that.26 He is holy—the Holy Spirit.
He seals us. In fact He is the seal!27 This identifies us as Christ’s and guarantees our salvation. Heaven awaits us! A seal authenticates and identifies a document. After our conversion God puts His loving hand on us as our guide, leader and friend.
We are far from perfect, but we are His! As born-again Christians He has started to change us and will continue to do so until we reach eternity.
Paul told the new Philippian Christians that he was ‘confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ’.28 Their faith in Christ was sealed by His obvious presence in their new lives.
Jesus was their Lord and Saviour and they had received God’s life-changing Holy Spirit. Have you trusted Christ? Do you know the Holy Spirit in your life? If not, will you repent from sin, and trust in Jesus? Three thousand of Peter’s hearers do that now! They believe his message, yield to Christ, and are baptised. Next, we will see what they do together to help each other to go on with their new-found Saviour, and to serve Him in perilous times.
Questions on Chapter 5
What a Response!—Acts 2:37–41
A.What is involved when a sinner who hears the good news of Jesus is ‘cut to the heart’ through conviction of sin? What is God’s part in that? What is the sinner’s part?
Acts 2:37–41, John 16:8–11
B. Discuss the importance of the words ‘every one of you’ and ‘all’ in Acts 2:38–39 and compare that with other similar verses in the Bible.
Romans 3:23, 2 Corinthians 5:14–15, Romans 10:12–13, Joel 2:32
C. Comparing Acts 2:38 with Acts 2:41 how do you see the link between the baptism of these new converts in Jerusalem and their repentance?
Acts 2:38, 2:41, Romans 6:1–14, Galatians 2:20
- In John 14:17, John 15:26 and John 16:13 Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of truth. ↩
- See what Jesus says in John 16:8–11 ↩
- Romans 3:23 ↩
- 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 ↩
- Romans 10:12-13, Joel 2:32 ↩
- Isaiah 59:2 ↩
- Ephesians 2:13 ↩
- Hebrews 7:25 ↩
- 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 ↩
- This will not always be possible, but often is. For example if I have stolen I should restore what I have wrongly gained. ↩
- Romans 14:9 ↩
- Luke 23:39-43 ↩
- 1 Corinthians 1:14-17 ↩
- 1 Corinthians 9:16-23 ↩
- Romans 6:1-4 ↩
- Romans 6:5-10 ↩
- Romans 6:4 ↩
- Galatians 2:20 ↩
- John 1:12, Colossians 2:6 ↩
- See chapter 4 of this book for references to born again ↩
- John 3:3, 7, 1 Peter1:23 ↩
- Romans 8:9 ↩
- 2 Corinthians 5:17, Galatians 6:15 ↩
- 1 Peter 2:2, 2 Peter 3:18 ↩
- Ephesians 5:18 ↩
- Ephesians 4:30 ↩
- 2 Corinthians 1:22, Ephesians 1:13, Ephesians 4:30 ↩
- Philippians 1:6 ↩