Five Factors of Acts 2:38

Five Factors of Acts 2:38

In Acts 1:8, Luke reveals a general outline of the book as a whole, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Their witness to the gospel would begin in Jerusalem and make its way to Rome where it would be set to go to the “end of the earth.”

While the book records many conversion accounts, there are certain events recorded with greater detail highlighting the gospel’s progress from Jerusalem to Rome. The first of those detailed accounts is in Acts 2 when the Spirit appeared on the Day of Pentecost and prompted the apostles to preach. Although all the apostles were speaking, Luke focused on Peter’s sermon.

Peter began with a defense of the apostles and the tongue speaking they demonstrated (2:14-15). Then he explained the phenomenon as the outpouring of the Holy Spirit Joel prophesied about (2:16-21). The commotion drew attention to Peter’s sermon about Jesus (2:22-36). During his life, God attested to Jesus’ identity by the miracles worked through him, the death he suffered, and his resurrection (2:22-24). David spoke of the resurrection, and Peter shows he was speaking of one of his descendants, not himself (2:25-32). Now resurrected, Jesus had ascended to God’s right hand and sent the Spirit to his followers as they were witnessing at that moment (2:33-35). Then Peter’s climax comes in v. 36, “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

The impact of Peter’s statement pierced the hearts of many who were present, and they asked what they needed to do to alleviate their guilt (2:37). Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (2:38).

There are five elements of salvation that are important to understand in this verse. First, there is the call to repentance. This is an active decision to change one’s mind about sin and its consequences. The changed mind produces visible fruits (Matt 3:8). Notice, repentance is something those desiring to be saved must do. It is not done for them.

Second, Peter tells them to be baptism (passive). This refers to immersion in water and is often called a. divine passive, because God acts upon the submissive person (Titus 3:5-7).

Third, at the moment of baptism two things take place. One of them is the forgiveness of sins. The peril that faces humanity is sin and its punishment. That’s what those who crucified Jesus dreaded. However, God, and only God, can forgive sins (Mark 2:6-7). By forgiving their sins, God saves them from its consequences.

Fourth, the baptism must be in the name of Jesus Christ. That is, it is commanded, authorized, and empowered by Jesus. There is no other name with salvific power (Acts 4:12).

Finally, Peter promised the “gift of the Holy Spirit.” There is much debate about this gift. Is it a gift from the Spirit like salvation or miraculous powers? Or is it the Spirit as a gift, given to those who obey the gospel? Jesus said we need to be born of both the water and the Spirit (John 3:5). He promised to give the Spirit to believers (John 7:39). Peter repeats that promise here in Acts 2. It appears the gift of the Spirit is the reception of the Spirit himself and sometimes manifesting in miraculous signs. This happens at the moment of baptism.

All five of these elements must be present for salvation to occur. Baptism without the Spirit does not save. Repentance without the forgiveness of sins does not save. Some of these are human responses to the gospel. Others are divine responses to those human responses. All of them combine to save humanity.

-Sam Dilbeck


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