I’d like to tell a biblical story of repentance, restoration and of salvation. Our story begins in the book Matthew and continues in th book of Acts.
If we fast forward in Matthew just past the Lord’s Supper, the Garden of Gethsemane and the Sanhedrin Courts, we find Jesus in front of Pilate with a large crowd of Jews who are being led in an uproar by the Chief Priests.
Matthew 27:22-26 Pilate saith unto them, What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ? They all say unto him, Let him be crucified. And the governor said, Why, what evil hath he done? But they cried out the more, saying, Let him be crucified. When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it. Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children. Then released he Barabbas unto them: and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.
Imagine that event where the people had sway over Pilate and even though Pilate could find no wrong in Jesus, the people were convienced that Jesus needed to be crucified. They believed in their hearts so earnestly that Jesus was guilty that they said, “His blood be on us, and on our children.” In its simplicity, the Jews are basically saying that if Jesus is innocent, then not only they, but their children will be guilty in front of God for putting an innocent man to death. Little did they know what would occur a short 50 days later on Pentacost.
We pick this story back up in Acts 2.
Acts 2:22-36 Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it. For David speaketh concerning him, I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved: Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad; moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope: Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou hast made known to me the ways of life; thou shalt make me full of joy with thy countenance. Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day. Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption. This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear. For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, Until I make thy foes thy footstool. Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.
Imagine for a moment what has just taken place. These same men and women who shouted, “Crucify Him” and “His blood be on us, and on our children” are confronted with a truth that is undeniable. From their own mouths they have condemned not only themselves, but their children for murdering Jesus, the Son of God. In desperation they reply, Acts 2:37 Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?
Their hearts were pricked, imagine the depth of the reality which must have come over them as a tsunami overtakes the shores. How do you remove the curse both to yourself and your children? Imagine wrestling with the reality that you were responsible for murdering not only an innocent man, but actually murdering God’s own son, the Messiah. “What shall we do?”
Peter had gone through his own trials as a diciple of Jesus and Peter understood what it was to knowingly deny the Son of God. I imagine the sound of the rooster crowing was fresh in his mind. Jesus did not leave nor forsake Peter even when Peter denied Him three times and I have to believe that Peter understood grace, but not only grace, but God’s grace. And it is from here that Peter replies to the crowds’s plea.
Acts 2:38-39 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.
Imagine their relief. But how can this be so?
Acts 2:41-42 Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.
And with this event, the Church, that is to say “The Body of Christ” is revealed and through each baptism, the visible Church is made known.
Peter was obedient to the Lord and as commissioned, did the will of Jesus for the Apostles were told, Matthew 28:19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
And this is exactly what we see in Acts 2.
Many churches and many doctrines minimize baptism as being a part of salvation today. They center on salvation as a free gift while obsessing over grace to the point where any time anyone asks, “What must we do to be saved” the response is, “Nothing”. You see, baptism is more than some would grant it, and less than others would qualify it. Peter puts it this way,
1 Peter 3:21 The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:
Is it possible Peter saw for himself how the hearts were pricked when the Jews realized they had crucified the Son of God and when he wrote the above words, the event in Acts 2 as well as many other events not recorded where fresh in his mind, and he writes from a place of obedience to the Commands of Jesus to baptize and then teach as he sees the fruits of that command lived out.