What Shall We Do? Acts 2 : Bible Study

Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and the rest of the apostles, Brethren, what shall we do?

And Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins; and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

They then that received his word were baptized: and there were added unto them in that day about three thousand souls.

Acts 2:37‭-‬38‭, ‬41 ASV

They were pricked in their heart … is equivalent to saying that these people then and there believed on the Lord Jesus Christ.

There is no way that they would have followed on to obey the word if they had not believed.

Thus, right here in the gateway of the historical church stands the sure and certain truth that “faith alone” did not save the first Christians; nor can the conclusion be denied that “faith alone” never saved any Christians since then.

The terms of the salvation of those believers in Christ were immediately announced by that apostle to whom Jesus had promised that whatever he bound on earth would be bound in heaven (Matthew 16:13ff). There was no ambiguity in the announcement.

What shall we do …? In the light of Peter’s text, “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:21), the meaning of this question is “What shall we do to be saved?” It has no other possible interpretation.

38. And Peter said unto them, Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins; and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

As long as this verse remains in the sacred New Testament, the terms of admission into Christ’s kingdom shall continue to be understood as faith (those were already believers), repentance and baptism unto the remission of sins.

The cavils and controversies of the post-Reformation period have not altered in the slightest particular what is so evident here.

Space does not permit any exhaustive reply to the denials which are alleged against what Peter declared; indeed, no complete answer is possible, because the cleverness and ingenuity of man have been exhausted in the vain efforts to shout baptism out of this verse as a God-imposed precondition of salvation. We shall note only a few.

We have in this short verse the summary of Christian doctrine as regards man and God.

Repentance and faith on the part of man; forgiveness of sins, or justification, and the gift of the Holy Spirit, or sanctification, on the part of God!

Thus, baptism is left out of the things regarding man’s part in the accomplishment of his salvation; and, while it is true that all of this is “expressed in the sacrament of baptism,” it cannot be denied that such an exegesis denies what is so categorically affirmed here by inspiration, namely, that men and women must repent and be baptized in order to receive the forgiveness of his sins and the gift of the Spirit.

We are glad to note a change among modern commentators toward a more scriptural view of the ordinance of baptism, as evidenced by the following:

The idea of an unbaptized Christian is simply not entertained in the New Testament.

In the early church it was the universal practice of the church that the new convert was baptized immediately.

The rite was first practiced in obedience to a command of the Risen Lord … dates back to the day of Pentecost … was administered “into Christ,” or “in the name of Christ,” signifying that the baptized person passed into his possession.

The mode was immersion, and baptism normally coincided with the reception of the Holy Spirit.

Baptism is the occasion when the Spirit brings to new life him that believes in the Son of Man … We must ungrudgingly recognize that the New Testament does not permit us to divide between the new life of Christ and the new life of the Spirit in baptism.

We should bear steadily in view that the difficulties and the misunderstandings that have surrounded this doctrine, through the change of the context in which the churches have set baptism, DO NOT ARISE IN THE NEW TESTAMENT!

They should not be permitted to affect our interpretation of its evidence.

Glimpses of the truth appearing in such comments are a vast improvement over many of the wild allegations of the nineteenth century; and it is devoutly hoped that men will come to accept what is so patently stated in the text before us, namely, that forgiveness of sins and the gift of God’s Spirit are promised AFTER both repentance and baptism (also after faith), obedience of the believer to BOTH requirements being made an absolute precondition of salvation.

This text is the grave of the Lutheran heresy of justification by “faith only”; and, since many passages of the New Testament have been laid under tribute by holders of that error in their efforts to refute this text, many passages of the New Testament should be studied in connection with this.

For additional scriptures on this subject see: Mark 16:16; John 3:5,8:30, and John 12, Hebrews 1:2,9:14; Romans 3:22,24, and Romans 10:11, and more.

One other common misunderstanding and it concerns this:

Ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit … Here, the gift of the Spirit will be given in or immediately upon baptism, whereas The Samaritans are evangelized by Philip and baptized by him without receiving the Holy Spirit.

This, of course, is viewed as a discrepancy by many; but the problem is resolved in the knowledge that at Pentecost those baptized received the gift ordinary of the Spirit, which is the earnest of our inheritance; whereas, a special dispensation of the Spirit “through the laying on of the apostles’ hands” is indicated in the case of the Samaritans.

It is a mistake to view the gift of the Spirit as promised to all who were baptized on Pentecost as anything other than the gift ordinary.

There is no indication that the apostles laid hands on these new converts that they might receive the Holy Spirit.

There is nothing to lead us to imagine that they received any miraculous gifts of any kind.

There can be no doubt that the gift of the Holy Spirit in view here is that which all without exception received … which is bestowed upon all the members of the family of our heavenly Father.

41. They then that received his word were baptized: and there were added unto them in that day about three thousand souls.

At the giving of the Law, three thousand souls broke the Law and died; on this occasion three thousand souls obeyed the gospel and were saved.

Unto them … is usually written in italics to indicate that the words were supplied by the translators.

From this some have concluded that these, along with the apostles and the one hundred twenty, were “added,” or aggregated to become the first body of Christians.

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