Our first stop on our journey through Acts is the 2nd chapter. Peter, along with the others has obediently waited as Jesus instructed until he was empowered by the Holy Spirit. Everyone present has seen the signs and wonders, heard men speak miraculously in their own languages, and have been told by Peter that this is the promised Holy Spirit as foretold by the prophet Joel. Peter then rises to preach the first gospel message on record after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus. He accuses the hearers of being murderers and gives a powerful witness to the deity of Jesus, that He was the promised Messiah, and of His bodily resurrection. After telling this mainly Jewish audience this Jesus has been made both Lord and Christ, they were “cut to the heart” and cried out “what shall we do?” Peter’s reply is at the heart of the theology of the modern Restoration Movement churches. Acts 2:38 is without question the most often quoted verse in coC class rooms and pulpits.
“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” Then the Bible says in verses 40 and 41 “And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.”
This text raises some questions that I believe have been answered incorrectly. Will you agree with me to see what the Bible says about this important subject? Will you put aside presuppositions and heritage and take God’s word as final authority? If not, you are wasting your time reading further. The Bible is its own best commentary. When we allow it to interpret itself we find the truth. We all agree that “about three thousand” people were saved that day. The questions arise concerning when and how.
- Were they saved when they repented, when they were baptized, or when they “received his word”?
- When did they receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, when they repented, when they were baptized, or when they “received his word”?
I believe these “about 3,000” people were saved by faith in Christ. When they heard Peter’s testimony about Jesus their faith is implied when they asked “What must we do?” How did they “receive his word”? They received it by faith, by believing in and trusting on Christ. Romans 10 is crystal clear on this matter.
“That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” (Romans 10:9-10)
One “believes with the heart” is how one is saved. That is the response Phillip preached to the Ethiopian. When he asked if he could be baptized he was told “If you believe with all your heart, you may”. (Acts 8:37) The Bible continues in Acts 2:44 saying “Now all who believed were together..” The common denominator for Christians is belief, or faith, not baptism. When did these new believers receive the gift of the Holy Spirit? Was it when they were baptized or when they believed? This is really the crux of the matter isn’t it? A whole movement of Christendom stands of falls on this answer. I will not answer the question. Peter is the man who said , “
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”
lets let him answer the question.
In Acts 10 Peter arrives at the house of Cornelius having been sent by the Lord to the Gentiles. Peter boldly preached Christ to them and verses 44-48 we find this chain of events.
“While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God.
Then Peter answered, “Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then they asked him to stay a few days”.
These people received the Holy Spirit before they were baptized. While Peter was still speaking He fell on those who “heard the word”. Then Peter asks an important question. “Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” Just as we have! They had just received the Holy Spirit by hearing and believing the word and Peter says he and the others received the Holy Spirit the exact same way! They did not receive the Holy Spirit when they were baptized but before when they believed. Let’s allow Peter to confirm this once more. When speaking to the counsel at Jerusalem Peter said of the Gentiles
“So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us, and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they.” (Acts 17:8-11)
Peter leaves no doubt; these Gentiles were saved just like he was. There is “no distinction between them and us”. He purified their hearts by faith. He expected to be saved “in the same manner as they”.
Still not convinced? Let’s hear Peter say it once more. In Acts 11:17 Peter defended his message to the Jewish brothers in Judea and when telling them about the Gentiles being saved and receiving the Holy Spirit he said to them,
“If therefore God gave them the same gift as He gave us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God?”(Acts 11:17)
This is the same Peter who is quoted in Acts 2:38 and he says he and the others received the gift of the Holy Spirit “when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ”. I am not teaching a “faith only heresy”, I am teaching the Bible. Peter’s own inspired words stand in stark disagreement with those who have misunderstood the meaning of Acts 2:38. Acts 2:38 says in part
“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”.
If I have a party “for” my wife’s birthday, does the party cause the birth, or the birthday? No, the party celebrates her birthday and confirms that she was born on that day. It is not in any remote way the cause of it.The key word in Acts 2:38 is “Repent”, not “be baptized”. When one hears the message about Christ and changes his mind, turns in his heart toward Christ, he trusts Christ and is saved, and according to Peter, receives the gift of the Holy Spirit.
I am not demeaning baptism. It is a command to be obeyed by a child of God. It does not make one a child of God. Peter could have said “Repent” and do any number of good things and “you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit”. The efficaous act is the obedience of faith, not the obedience of submission to baptism. Should we tell people they will be lost if they do not obey the gospel? Absolutely we should, but first make sure you know what it means. Romans 10 states it plainly enough for anyone to understand. In Romans 10:16a the scriptures say
“But they have not all obeyed the gospel”.
Then, in the last part of the verse we find what it means to obey the gospel;
“For Isaiah says, “LORD, who has believed our report?”
Those who don’t believe the report have not obeyed the gospel. Further, in verse 17 the Bible says
“So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”
The Bible is consistent and clear that to obey the gospel is to believe it. In my next post I will go into more detail about what it means to “Obey the gospel”. I don’t intend to impose my view on anyone. It is my purpose to teach what the Bible clearly says.
Until next time Grace and Peace,
I can’t fully explain this right now, but I do believe your posting this is a direct answer to my prayers.
As always Royce, you have given me some meat to chew on. I will have to digest this a little bit before I comment further.
Interesting and unexpected.
I guess the direct question would be:
Is baptism necessary for salvation (regeneration/forgiveness of sin)?
Thanks for stopping by and for your comment.
Perhaps an even better question would be this one. Is God predesposed to save everyone we baptise? The obvious answer is NO. If the answer is no, and it is, why not?
The answer should be obvious.
Grace and Peace,
Donna, I hope my feeble work will prove to be a blessing to you.
Danny, I look forward to your thoughts on this post. Especially on a subject as important as salvation, I think we all do well to take a close look at what we believe, why we believe it, and to look again to see if scripture supports it. In this regard, there is, after all, only one truth. My purpose is always to discover what God intended for me to know, the truth.
It is easy to use one or two passages of scripture as a springboard, and leap off into misunderstanding and error. We just cannot afford to shop around in the Bible to find what we like or are comfortable with. The matter is far too serious to do that. Each of us must, with God’s help, search for the truth, even when it is uncomfortable and unconventional.
Grace and Peace,
Off topic: I’ve added your blog to the Churches of Christ weblogs page at http://groups.blogdigger.com/groups.jsp?id=1700 . I think this is an appropriate addition. Sorry for the delay. Your new posts should begin appearing on the group page within 24 hours of your next post. Peace.
The more I look at this subject of debate, the more I become aware of its uselessness. It is an argument for Christians with too much time on their hands. It is not for you or I or anyone to decide when and where someone is saved, something we will not know the answer to until the day of judgment. It we must judge the salvation of someone we are instructed in the Bible to look at their “fruits”.
However, if I may, the modern concept of covenant or contract has become diluted now that we can write them to paper. But as we know God has never used paper to make his contracts.
Gen 17:14 Any uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.
In the New Testament we make a new covenant or contract by following the rules we have been given. Pick and choose if you must, but Peter was very clear on the day of Pentecost. By not entering into the contract in the way God through Peter has detailed is not fulfill the contract.
Are you running around my question? Or did you answer it and I missed it? hahaha
I don’t mean to put you on the spot but since you brought up the topic I figured it was a fair question.
You asked, “Is God predesposed to save everyone we baptise?”
As you said the answer is no. Just because someone goes under water doesn’t mean they have put faith in Christ or repented of sin.
As for my question. If it is faith which one must have in Christ for salvation as they repent of sin, are they then fully saved if they were never to be baptized?
I understand and agree that baptism is obedience, so it would be disobedient to not follow in baptism: but we are disobedient every time we do not obey the Word of God by doing wrong or not doing right – which is also after salvation.
So my point is not obedience, but does baptism WITH repentance and faith bring salvation, or is baptism done AFTER salvation?
Dodging your question? Hardly If you will re-read the texts I pointed out in Acts 10 and 11, Peter’s own words by the way, the answer is clear.
Let me be as clear as possible. We are not saved based on anything that we do. We are saved only based upon what Christ has done on our behalf. Recently I identified over 70 passages that make it unmistakable that we are set right with God, declared righteous by Him, saved, when we put our faith in Jesus.
Water baptism has no more salvatory merit than does church attendance, giving to the poor, or any other good thing one can do. Christ set the standard for being baptised. Christ’s baptism obviously had absolutely nothing to do with sin, remission of sin, repentance, or making him righteous. His baptism publically identified him with John the Baptist’s message that the kingdom of God is at hand. Likewise, our believers baptism identifies us with Christ and says to a watching world, as we re-enact the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, that we have chosen the Christ life over the life of the flesh. Water baptism is usually the very first physical act of obedience by a new Christian. It is my view, and the view of most of the early leaders of the Restoration Movement, that God saves by faith and those who have not been taught scriptural baptism are saved just as we are. Every true child of God will want to obey ALL he or she knows God wants of them. When we go into the waters of baptism we, like Christ, are fulfilling righteousness. The difference is that Christ fulfilled ALL righteousness which we can never do. That is why we need Him.
Grace and Peace,
I was first amazed by the topic, because I *assumed* you were Church of Christ. So to see one of the Church of Christ write as you did, I found very interesting.
I have also spoken with others that seem to portray they believe such, but when confronted with the question I posed – “Is baptism necessary for salvation (regeneration/forgiveness of sin)?” – they can’t seem to fully believe what they have said and say, “No.” – they usually return to “Yes.” Which to me would just tear down their whole concept of by faith and not by what we do.
Enjoyed the post! Thanks.
By the way – I agree with you.
I appreciate your visit to my blog. In the most gentle way possible I suggest that you should do some more study before you make such elementry mistatements about salvation. The idea that we can’t know if we are saved or not until the judgment is foolish to anyone who has studied the Bible very much.
Since I have some time to waste as you suggest, please consider the following. Abraham was declared righteous by God long before he was circumcised.(Romans 4) There are many cases in the New Testament where people were saved before they were baptised. I cited Peter’s own words (Acts 10 & 11)which you have evidently decided to ignore.
You will likely find my next post even more upsetting when I show without question what it means to “Obey the Gospel”.
Grace and Peace,
Goodness, there’s no need to be gentle. Let us attack each other ferociously, like warring animals over scraps of meat, with the hope of gaining some semblance of respect for each other; as it is clear that you consider my study to be consisted of elementary misstatements.
Perhaps, I was being unclear. It is not for you to decide whether or not someone is saved, as that choice is left for another higher than either of us.
Allow me to rephrase my previous thoughts. We enter into contract with God through three things: repentance, baptism of water, and receiving the Holy Ghost; all of which require faith.
However, one could easily argue that “faith without works is dead”, but I don’t care for its overuse. I much prefer to present my views using a different covenant often cited as “through faith salvation” which is why I used Gen 17:14.
For you see the covenant between God and Israel was sealed until one was circumcised. However, we have been given the gospel (death, burial, and resurrection), haven’t we. Similarly, we find out how to fulfill the gospel: repentance, baptism, Holy Ghost.
However, you are much more studied than myself, God has used the simple to confound the wise and I speak of elementary foolishness.
My, my, aren’t we testy? My dear friend you are confused about the New Covenent. Christ is the strength of the New Covenent sealed in His blood. If the covenent relationship depended on us we would break it every day over and over.
I find it curious that some folks think God decided that it would be good to make it more difficult to be saved after Jesus work on our behalf than it was before. It just doesn’t add up does it?
One thing is for sure. God loves sinners more than you and I do. And, God wants to save them more than you and I want Him to. Then finally, there will be many, many people in heaven that you and I would have rejected.
I have not yet read the part in the Bible where we enter into a contract with God by repentance, baptism, and receiving the Holy Ghost. That is a new one for me.
If you are saved, you contributed exactly the same thing to your salvation I did to mine, One helpless sinner. Thats it.
Thanks for your comments. I appreciate them even if I must disagree.
Grace and Peace,
I personally think this discussion is often misdirected. The focus on both sides ends up being about at what point are you saved and that focus always ends up being on us and not God. What did you know, think and do.
Not that these actions don’t matter but the Bible in the context of deliverance always begins with what God is doing or has done and asks how we respond to what God has done. My experience has always been backwards, what did you do to get God to do what you wanted.
I also think we are misdirected in our point in time focus on salvation. We seem to focus on us and our ability to figure something out, the more appropriate question is will God keep his word.
Jesus said that whomever will confess Him before men he will confess before God (Matt. 10:32). The idea presented is basically whomever calls themselves a follower of Christ on earth Jesus will tell God they are his follower.
We can talk all we want about what moment one is saved because of what we believe or think but the real question is when did Jesus say he would go to bat for us and will He keep his word.
I also think a lot of the confusion comes because in our point of time obsession we totally miss the fact that those in Jesus time didn’t think that way. A covenant was ratified at several points in Jewish affairs. Our either/or for them was often both. With their baptism one could not be baptized unless they had been declared clean by the priest and yet they still needed to be baptized to enter the camp and be called clean.
We get confused not because this isn’t possible but because we don’t think that way so we tell the Bible it can’t be done.
It is a good post Royce, gutsy for a CoCer.
You insulted me “gently” and underhandedly and insulted my intelligence by thinking I didn’t catch it. I would rather you openly call my beliefs what you will than hide behind faux politeness. I’m not saying this to be mean or “testy”, but I do appreciate honesty and respect when debating and I hope we can come to such respect. That being said…
We quote the New Testament without realizing that the very title of books reiterates what I’m saying. A quick perusal of a dictionary proves my point: http://www.answers.com/topic/testament
The covenant or contract between God and Abraham was a type and shadow of own New Testament made possible by Christ. Just as the Jews had to confirm the contract 8 days after birth so must we fulfill our half of the contract.
Thanks for allowing me to speak my mind and I appreciate your last comment.
Sean, I never meant what I said as an insult, I’m sorry you took it that way.
Lets review. 1. You don’t believe we can know for sure that we are saved. I do. 2. Some people, perhaps you, believe that in being saved, there is God’s part and our part. I don’t.
I can’t possibly know about your salvation but I am as sure of mine as as I am that the Bible is the inspired Words of God.
I think if you will read my post again and see exactly what I said you might see it differently. What I have done is quote scripture, primarily from one Bible character, the Apostle Peter.
Grace and Peace,
This is a great discussion about a major issue of faith. One that I think people really need to get a handle on in order to live lives of assurance and peace with God. I personally came to know the Lord and was discipled throught Baptist churches, and this particular issue was not one that we wrestled with… I say that so you know where I am coming from. The fact that I was saved when I placed total faith in the completed work of Jesus Christ on the cross has never caused me any doubt or question. The first hurdle I had to get over to even receive this marvelous gift of salvation was the fact that there was NOTHING I COULD DO OF MYSELF that would be good enough to be saved, baptism included. Hard pill to swallow, but what freedom when swallowed! I knew that baptism was a subsequent act of obedience, a picture, as it were, of what had happened in my life. Just as a birthday party is simply celebrating a day of birth (good example!)
I have also found that the “point in time” focus that Darin talks about is VERY IMPORTANT. There is a time in a believer’s life when that person moves from unbelief to belief. Being born again is a specific point in time. Just like being born in the natural way – one minute you were unborn, then you were born. There were many months of development, but only one birth.
I have found that people who do not know the specific time their new birth often struggle with questions of if they are indeed truly saved, and may not be saved since salvation (unlike sanctification) is not a process. Unless you know you are born of the King, you cannot be confident of the inheritance that He has for you. These people also struggle with winning victories in their lives because they are not confident in the authority given to them as a child of God.
As far as someone simply calling themselves a follower of Christ and Jesus telling God they are his follower, I think there is more to it than that. Jesus Himself says “Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? And in thy name have cast out devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I NEVER KNEW YOU: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” Matt 7:15-23
This is one of the saddest verses in the Bible to me.
There are many people that I am around that insist on “fruit checking” other people’s salvations and doubting their own… very frustrating for me. There are also people I am around who insist that this beautiful and complete salvation can be lost. I believe the truth of God’s word does not leave us with such questions about His promises.
These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may KNOW that ye have ETERNAL LIFE, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God. -1 John 5:13
It is my prayer that believers everywhere (myself especially included) would seek to know the truth of the Word and to live constantly seeking truth so that we can take that truth to those who are lost. After all, if we didn’t have a job to do, He may have taken us home the moment we believed!