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Repentance and Baptism

Acts 2:38 (ESV) … “And Peter said to them, “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.”

1. Turn from your sins - In other words, “repent.” The Greek word, metanoesate, means “change your outlook” or “change your mind.” This is not just sorrow or even sorrow for sin but an actual change in the way a person thinks. It is a basic and wholehearted change of mind that results in a change of purpose, direction, and values. “Each of you” reminds the listener (and modern reader) that this message is for all. Everyone needs to make a decision about Christ. His offer is the only effective solution for the sin problem that plagues every descendant of Adam.

2. Turn to God—In addition to turning from sin, people must turn to God. It does no good to turn from sin without turning then to the one who can solve the sin problem.

3. Be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins—Some believe that baptism was already being used for Jewish converts as a sign of their conversion to Judaism. John the Baptist had called for baptism as a sign of repentance and a changed heart—an external, nonverbal expression or celebration of an inward reality. For believers, baptism is visible proof of repentance and commitment to follow Jesus, the Messiah.

Christianity tells people to repent and promises forgiveness. It therefore has nothing to say to people who do not know they have done anything to repent of, and who do not feel that they need any forgiveness. It is after you have realized that there is a real Moral Law, and a Power behind the law, and that you have broken that law and put yourself wrong with that Power—it is after all this, and not a moment sooner, that Christianity begins to talk. When you know you are sick, you will listen to the doctor.

C. S. Lewis

The idea of baptism “for the forgiveness of sins” does not mean that baptism results in forgiveness of sins but rather that forgiveness of sins as a result of accepting Jesus as Savior should result in a baptism - an outward display of an inner conviction. Repentance, not baptism, is what brings forgiveness.

4. Receive the gift of the Holy Spirit—Only through the coming of the Holy Spirit into believers’ hearts can they truly experience forgiveness of sin. The “gift of the Holy Spirit” (not multiple or varied gifts but rather a singular gift) is the Spirit himself. The Holy Spirit is a gift from God. As Jesus had promised, he is the Comforter and the one who guides his people.

No matter how far you have gone on a wrong road, turn back. - Turkish proverb

Peter told those who had responded to his message to repent and be baptized. True followers of Christ recognize the necessity of repentance and the importance of baptism. To repent means literally to “change your mind”—about who God is (he is the Lord and Judge and Savior of all the earth) and about where to find life (not in living selfishly and rebelliously but in humble trust and obedience to God). Practically, it involves changing course. We stop running away from our holy God, and we turn to Christ, depending only on him for forgiveness, mercy, guidance, and purpose. In repentance we recognize that we cannot save ourselves—only God can save us. Baptism is that crucial step of obedience that identifies us with Christ and with the community of believers. It is one of the marks of a true disciple and a strong sign of faith. Have you repented of your sin and trusted in Jesus for salvation? Have you been baptized? [1]

[1] Barton, B. B., & Osborne, G. R. (1999). Acts (pp. 36–37). Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House.

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