“Repent and be baptized” (Part 2)

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Have you ever heard the saying, “The devil is in the details”? It means that “it is often the small details of something which make it difficult or challenging. … [It refers] to very small but ultimately important components of a larger task.” (Source: Wise Geek) I think of that saying whenever I read verses such as Acts 2:38. (“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.” ESV) There are those who (mis)quote it whenever they want to prove that faith plus baptism saves. 

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But, if we really needed not only to believe but also to be baptized to get into heaven, how come Peter did not mention it in his later proclamations (such as Acts 3:19)? In fact, in Acts 10, we see that the Gentiles received both forgiveness and the gift of the Holy Spirit even before they were baptized. Peter declared to them, “To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” (v. 43. Emphasis mine.) Then, before the apostle could finish his message, “While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles.” (vv. 44-45. Emphasis mine.) That’s what Acts 2:38 promised to those who would repent! “Then Peter declared, ‘Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?’ And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.” (vv. 45b-48a. Emphasis mine.)

The Apostle Peter preaching to the Gentiles. Image credit

When he explained before the Jerusalem church, Peter said, “‘If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?’ When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, ‘Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.’” (11:17-18. Emphasis mine.) Here we see that baptism does not really save us but it expresses our repentance. It is repentance that leads to life, not baptism.

Brothers and sisters, repent and be baptized.

Read Repent and be baptizedPart 1


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