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Repent and be Baptized for Forgiveness of Sin

Peter had just preached an incredible sermon. The guy who had been unwilling to admit to knowing Christ a few weeks earlier was now standing in front of a group of people telling them they crucified Jesus (Acts 2:23). He showed them how both David and Joel pointed toward the coming of Jesus and the pouring out of the Holy Spirit. These Jewish people were cut to the heart. They knew they needed to do something. “What should we do?” they asked.

Peter’s answer was simple: “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.”

We live in a strange time. Our good desire to teach salvation by grace alone, apart from works combined with our naturalistic aversion to miracles (or anything we don’t understand) leads us to try to strip water baptism of its significance. Many times, instruction about baptism focuses more on what it doesn’t accomplish rather that what it does accomplish.

I have met many people who would use the term Christian to describe themselves even though they have never submitted to Christian baptism. This short directive from Peter teaches us a better way to think about Christian baptism and what it accomplishes in our lives.

1) Repentance and Baptism is the way to obtain forgiveness of sin.

Peter tells people to do two things: Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus. He then tells them why they would do that. He tells them to repent and be baptized ‘for the forgiveness of your sins.’

It’s important not to get weird. Peter didn’t ask people to start parsing the exact moment God forgave their sins. Following his Lord’s command, that he would make disciples and baptize them, he saw repentance and baptism as completely united. When the people repented and were baptized, they were forgiven of their sins.

2) At Baptism, we receive the Holy Spirit

Peter said that after people are baptized they will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Where would he get such an idea? Peter reflected back on Jesus’ baptism, where the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus like a dove.

Jesus is the prototype for our lives. He shows us what our life is to be. Just as He received the Holy Spirit at His baptism, His followers receive the Spirit at theirs.

This is not a magic trick. The book of Acts makes that abundantly clear. Sometimes the evidence of the Spirit’s filling comes before their water baptism. Sometimes it is a while after.

The one thing that never, ever happens is the Holy Spirit falling without baptism. Although it isn’t a formula or a magic trick, water baptism always accompanied and was closely linked with the coming of the Holy Spirit. There are no scriptural examples of people in the age of the Church receiving the Holy Spirit without ever submitting to water baptism.

3) At Baptism, we join the Church

Right after the sermon, 3,000 people received the word and were baptized. It is no accident that right after this mass baptism, Luke goes on to describe the life of the Church. The baptism initiated these people into the life of the Church. After they were baptized, they joined the people devoted to the apostles teaching, the Communion meal, and the prayers. There is no incorporation into to the Body and Bride of Christ until baptism.

Water baptism is the beginning of the life of a Christian. It is our entrance into redeemed life, into the life of the Holy Spirit, and into the life of the Church. If you desire to be a part of the community of Christ, “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.”

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