Acts 2:38-39 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptised, 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. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
This is perhaps the ultimate invitation, which is interesting because it was the first invitation given at the birth of the Church. You can’t really improve on it. It isn’t a call to faith, it’s a call to action. Those to whom it was addressed had already believed enough to be “cut to the heart,” (verse 37) so Peter was telling them what to do about it, and why. He also explicitly extended the invitation to all who would receive it, far more broadly than even he himself realized at the time. It didn’t occur to him that “all who are far off” would include Gentiles! That’s one of the features of prophetic preaching: you say more than you realize, so you need to pay attention to your own sermons! Some people have tried to read into this that baptism is necessary for salvation. That couldn’t be true, because Jesus assured the thief on the cross next to Him that he would be saved, when there was absolutely no opportunity for baptism. What is necessary is action. A concrete confession is called for, and baptism is certainly part of that. I was raised in a church tradition that said that baptism is entirely symbolic, to get away from the idea of “baptismal regeneration,” but my position has certainly changed over the years. I have a book about a 20th Century revival in New Guinea titled, If You Care to Accept It. The author was a pilot for a missionary aviation group, but I don’t remember his name at the moment. He describes numbers of miracles, but one scene sticks in my memory. They had gone to one village to conduct a baptism service for several converts, and the other men in the village confronted them in battle dress, saying they would kill them if they baptized anyone. When they asked why, the men said, “We have seen what happened in the neighboring village. Once those people go into the water they are as dead to us.” In other words, they had seen transformation in people who were baptized, and they were afraid of it. When the team trusted God and went ahead with the baptism, some of those who had threatened them chose to be baptized as well! Baptism without repentance just gets people wet, but when the conditions are met, it is transformative.
My own baptism at age seven was real. I don’t remember the baptism itself very well, but I do remember going to my parents and expressing my commitment and my desire to be baptized. However, my spiritual growth after that was not so good, and when God called me back to myself at age 24, the shock and repentance were so great that I thought I must not have actually been a Christian, and I asked for and received baptism a second time. At this point I don’t think that was necessary, but I know without question that mentoring and guidance are necessary for new Christians of whatever age. We have the baptism of a 65-year-old man scheduled for the 19th. He has come to the conviction that Christ is real by watching his sister-in-law, who struggled with clinical depression but is now a triumphant believer. I have talked with him about repentance, and he acknowledges that he is a sinner in need of salvation. I do need to mentor him, but it is the Holy Spirit who will bring him through to new life in Christ, as a testimony to all who know him, just as his sister-in-law was to him.
Father, thank You for all that You are doing. I pray that this would mark a real turning point in this church, with believers who are fully committed to Jesus as Lord and filled with the Holy Spirit to be and do all that You desire and intend, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!