[We are] not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. (Romans 1:16)

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Acts 2:38 - Part of the Sermon or Follow-Up?

by Matthew

This morning, I attended a preaching class run by the pastor of my church. He was talking aobut evangelistic preaching.

During the class, he pointed to Peter's sermon in Acts chapter 2 as a model for evangelsitic preaching. He identified verse 38 as part of the sermon. He saw Peter's call to repent and be baptized as the practical application of the Gospel address in this sermon.

However, is it a natural reading of this text to view verse 38 as a part of Peter's sermon? In this verse he replies to a question that he has just been asked.

It is quite possible that Peter had not finished his sermon in verse 36 and it is even possible that he might have even gone on to say what he says in verse 38. However, there is no indication in the text that Peter had not concluded his sermon in verse 36.

There are two reasons why my pastor views this passage that way. The first is that he is viewing it through the lens of one preparing sermons which, conventionally,have a practical application in their conclusion. Secondly, he views repentance and faith as essentially the same thing.

The Free Grace advocate views the Jewish audience as converted and regenerate in verse 37. They are 'pricked in their' heart. They believe what Peter has told them or else they would not be asking him what to do. Therefore, we must view Peter's reponse in verse 38, not so much as evangelism, but as follow-up or discipleship class.

As for practcal application, Peter already gave them something to do in the sermon. He quoted Joel 'whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.' Do you think the audiece would have asked Peter what to do without doing what he had already implied they should do? I am quite sure those men indeed called on the name of the Lord, either audibly or in their hearts by faith. If so, they were saved men before they heard Peter's answer in verse 38.


  • This perspective harmonizes well with the fact that eternal life is by grace through faith apart from works. Taken any other way this would indicate that baptism is, or at least was, requisite for their salvation. Great post Matthew.

    By Blogger Kc, at Saturday, April 01, 2006 7:02:00 AM  

  • Thanks, Kc.

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at Saturday, April 01, 2006 7:46:00 AM  

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Blogger Bhedr, at Saturday, April 01, 2006 2:06:00 PM  

  • One of the most overlooked wonderful truths here is the fact that God the Father is answering the prayer of God the Son on the cross in massive evangelism.

    "Father Forgive them, they know not what they do."

    Remember the whole issue at stake here is the unbelief of who Christ was when they nailed him to the cross and shouted "His blood be on us and our children."

    Father forgive them..was the cry of Jesus while these very people were doing this and they were shouting..."If you are God..save yourself."

    Now they had changed their minds about *Who He Is*. When faith occurs a change of mind occurs.

    With faith already occuring a change of mind is occuring and Peter is saying in good conscience toward God be Baptised.

    He is describing to them what to do outwardly that which has occurred inwardly.

    The evangelism occurred when they believed the Prayer Jesus prayed on the cross..."Father Forgive them, they know not what they do."

    and now a fire was rapidly spreading as the Father joyfully is answering the request by the power of His Holy Spirit.

    By Blogger Bhedr, at Saturday, April 01, 2006 2:09:00 PM  

  • Great post, Matthew.

    I think you raise a very interesting question. Peter is responding to a question.

    I would say, though, that the verse from Joel is referring to being saved from temporatl judgement, therefore, I see the calling on the name of the Lord as something to the effect of submissively calling for deliverance from God's wrath.

    So I see his answer to the question (what should we do) as being very consistent with the message of his sermon.

    Generally I do think there are a number of legitimate grace interpretations that make sense of this sermon.

    Brian, your interpretation is certainly one of the main interpretations in grace circles.

    Pastor Lutzer agrees that Jesus asking the Father to forgive them was significant. Partly because he had never befroe asked for that in his previous dealings with his enemies.


    By Blogger H K Flynn, at Sunday, April 02, 2006 8:28:00 PM  

  • Matthew,
    Great post! That is something to think about. Sometimes when we read these types of passages, it never occurs to us that there may have been a little time lapse in between verses. I think there definately was a time lapse and Peter wasn't saying, when evangelizing, that the hearers had to be baptized to gain deliverance from eternal destruction of their souls.

    By Blogger Rose~, at Monday, April 03, 2006 6:03:00 AM  

  • I take issue with the view that Peter's sermon in Acts 2 is "evangelistic." The historical context, the basic outline, the contents, the crowd reaction and Peter's application make it clear to me that Peter was warning the crowds to escape the divine wrath about to be poured out upon Israel for crucifying the Messiah.

    Let's first consider the outline of Peter's sermon. It falls into three basic sections with an introduction.

    (INTRO) Crowds marvel @ manifestation of the Holy Spirit
    1. You are seeing what the prophet Joel had prophesied (14-21)
    2. The Holy Spirit whose work you now see was poured out by Jesus after He rose from the dead and sat at the Father's right hand (22-35)
    3. This is evidence that Jesus, whom you crucified, is the Son of God and the Messiah (36)

    Next, consider the crowd's response to Peter's assertion that THEY were guilty of murdering the Messiah (23, 36). They were "cut to the heart" and asked, "what shall we do?" They appear to have concluded that the nation was in grave danger of God's wrath. Peter's application in the oft overlooked fortieth verse reinforces the fact that they were in great danger: "And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, 'Be saved from this perverse generation.'"

    This brings us to the historical context, specifically John the Baptist's preaching prior to Christ's "going public."

    Matthew 3 has a number of very interesting features that inform our understanding of Peter's sermon in Acts 2. To list them without comment please observe:

    - The image of people "going out" of Jerusalem in v. 5
    - Harsh words for Israel's religious leaders v. 7 (the same men who crucified Jesus)
    - John's warning of "the wrath to come" in v. 7
    - The fact that judgment was already at hand in v. 10
    - Those who do not bear fruit of repentance will be destroyed (v. 10,12)
    - Messiah will baptize Israel with fire AND the Holy Spirit

    Taken together these points clearly demonstrate that a fiery baptism and a Holy Spirit baptism were going to fall upon Israel. The fiery baptism would be God's wrath poured upon Israel's capital and its religious leaders. There would also be a Holy Spirit baptism for those who bore "fruits worthy of (proving?) repentance."

    It is also important to note that just as one entered Rabbinic Judaism by baptism, John was here telling people that they fled from or dissociated themselves from Rabbinic Judaism by being baptized. Those who believed John's warning and promise demonstrated their belief, and their forsaking Rabbinism, by being baptized.

    Bringing this back to Peter's sermon in Acts 2, the points remain the same: there would be a baptism of the Holy Spirit (which they had just seen) and there would be a baptism of fire. The way one escaped the fiery judgment that was about to fall upon Israel - God's judgment for crucifying the Messiah - was about to fall. The way one escaped that judgment was by deliberately dissociating from Rabbinism through baptism.

    The fiery judgment that the Baptism and Peter both warned of fell upon Israel in A.D. 70 when the Romans leveled Jerusalem and crucified tens of thosuands of Jews. Ironically, the Christians were spared from this when the persecution that broke out after Stephen's martyrdom (Acts 8) drove the vast majority of them from Jerusalem!

    The point of all this is that Acts 2 is not an evangelistic sermon in the ordinary sense. It was a warning to flee God's wrath. Of course, those who believed Peter's warning and were baptized were added to the church - they were regenerate - but that was almost incidental to the way that Luke has framed this story.

    That's my two cents worth. Sorry for blathering on!

    By Anonymous Bud Brown, at Monday, April 03, 2006 10:37:00 AM  

  • Let us assume that the answer of 'repent and be baptized' was indeed given to believers, as you posit. Are you not forgetting why Peter told them to do such? He said to 'repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins' and what is more, he tells them that in so doing, they will receive the gift of the Spirit.

    So, if we read it as you have posited, that Peter is giving the answer of verse 38 to believers, then we have a group of believers that have not had their sins forgiven, and have not the gift of the Spirit.

    Does that not sit well with anyone else save me? Perhaps it is because I am biased.

    By Blogger nathaniel adam king, at Monday, April 03, 2006 12:29:00 PM  

  • Softyst,

    Remember that the Spirit of God was being given at differant time intervals and God helps us see the work of the Spirit that way. Remember their were believers who had been baptised under John the Baptists ministry that needed to be re-baptised to receive the Holy Spirit. Distinctions had to be made as Apollos humbly had to receive this truth.


    John tells us that if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. He says this to us who are already saved but in need to have our feet washed daily.


    Lutzer is great! Have you been to his church?

    He has been reading a lot of Piper lately, but Piper would consider him to be an Easy Believer. I think Lutzer is very discerning although I don't agree with him on everything. Even though he is a favorite of mine....He is just a guy. In this New Covenant we are told that we need not teachers to tell us to know the Lord. We need his spirit alone. Teachers do help us like training wheels though but we should all double check with one another so that one does not get lifed up as Diotrophese. WE are a body in need of one another and we must grow together in truth with Christ being our Teacher.

    Incidently the Brethren model I think to be best, although I don't like their views on Music. For many. There is none.

    By Blogger Bhedr, at Tuesday, April 04, 2006 6:11:00 AM  

  • Adam I would agree that if the prepostion "for" means "in order to" rather than "in" then this would cause quite a dilemma. The transliterated word eis seems to be used both ways. Crosswalk says this concerning that specific verse:

    "into, unto, to, towards, for, among
    "For" (as used in Acts 2:38 "for the forgiveness...") could have twomeanings. If you saw a poster saying "Jesse James wanted forrobbery", "for" could mean Jesse is wanted so he can commit arobbery, or is wanted because he has committed a robbery. The latersense is the correct one. So too in this passage, the word "for"signifies an action in the past. Otherwise, it would violate theentire tenor of the NT teaching on salvation by grace and not by works."

    By Blogger Kc, at Tuesday, April 04, 2006 9:15:00 AM  

  • Hi Sofyst,

    I would concur with Brian's comments about baptism. This whole subject came up over at Jonathan Moorehead's.

    In Acts 22, Paul even has to be baptized to "wash away" his sins. So IMO Paul's conversion confirms Acts 2:36-38.


    By Blogger H K Flynn, at Tuesday, April 04, 2006 1:11:00 PM  

  • Hi Brian,

    I go to Moody :)

    Which is a blessing, as you can imagine :)

    Our Wednesday nights are a total blessing. He totally doesn't duck the tough questions about the Christian life and the Bible. I love how you say he is such a guy ! LOL... That captures his let's cut the nonsense and talk about this approach...

    So you can tell he's reading Piper :) I like Piper's views on commitment even though he has scary doctrine that really is error.

    I think we're still in the need of teachers part of the New Covenant... I definitely need 'em. But I think Hodges would agree with you that there is a sense in which the miracel of new birth makes it so we don't need teachers to do certain things...

    I'll have to look at his views on that again.

    I also wish Matthew would post on imputation of righteousness compared to his own views...

    I'm not up on that...

    Take care :)


    By Blogger H K Flynn, at Tuesday, April 04, 2006 1:26:00 PM  

  • Thanks for the mini-sermon on Peter's sermon, Bud :)

    By Blogger H K Flynn, at Tuesday, April 04, 2006 1:27:00 PM  

  • Jodie?
    You go to moody?
    I feverishly jealous!

    I am exhausted on the imputation debate. Chad over at The Vossed World has worn me out. I told him it is about like a ping pong match in china and I am an American Trucker! Ha! He is a far superior debator so if any of you dare enter the waters,,,,take care and I pray for you.

    By Blogger Bhedr, at Tuesday, April 04, 2006 7:24:00 PM  

  • Thanks for the support Brian :)

    But I think I'll go over and check out the debate, umm later...
    and just sort of read through it when I get a chance...

    Going to Moody is a blessing because there's lots of people who are taking risks and trusting the Lord, which is motivating and convicting :)

    God bless :)

    By Blogger H K Flynn, at Wednesday, April 05, 2006 2:29:00 PM  

  • Thanks to you all for commenting on my post.

    A line connection problem is keeping me off-line lately. Sorry not to reply to your comments.

    Every Blessing in Christ


    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at Thursday, April 06, 2006 4:43:00 AM  

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