“Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brethren, what shall we do?’ Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.’”
Whenever Christ is proclaimed and the Gospel message disseminated, the Holy Spirit then pierces the mentality of the hearer, the unbeliever; but He does so through the Word of God. In other words, these unbelievers are now under conviction, and they say to Peter and to the rest of the apostles, “What shall we do?” (Hebrews 4:12) Peter answers the question. On this verse, as it stands, many systems of false theology and apostasy have been built. The most obvious one is so-called baptismal regeneration, which teaches that man can actually do something to save himself. Remember that baptism is a work, something that man does. All ritual involves human activity in a meritorious sense; so all ritual involves works. Water baptism is a ritual in which someone is actually doing something. Because some people have taken this ritual and made it a system of salvation they have introduced the principle of salvation by works. (Titus 3:5; Ephesians 2:8,9)
“Peter said unto them, Repent…” The word “repent” is a non-meritorious word in this case. It means to change your mind about Christ. You cannot believe without repenting; you cannot repent without believing. But it must be remembered that “repent” in salvation has nothing whatever to do with sin. You do not repent of sin to be saved; you do not feel sorry for sin to be saved. Repent means a complete change of mental attitude. The word was used in this verse for a very simple reason. These people were Jews. They had come from all over the world. They had been the recipients of the Gospel under supernatural conditions and they were still holding back, even though they were being convicted by the Holy Spirit, and so they say, ‘What must we do?’ And Peter tells them to repent. The reason he says repent is because if they change their minds they will believe because changing the mind about Christ and believing becomes automatic. You cannot repent without believing. There is no difference; they are both saying exactly the same thing. They are two sides of the same coin. It must be emphasized that “repent” has no emotional connotation, and it does not mean to feel sorry for sin. There is no such thing as being saved by feeling sorry for sins; that’s works.
And each of you be baptized means to identify. There are seven different kinds of baptism in the Bible. Water baptism is involved here, and water baptism is a good thing to mention to the Jews because water baptism connotes no more human good. The Jews who were there were pilgrims, they are trying to be saved by good works, and by observing the Passover, the Feast of the First fruits, the Feast of Unleavened bread, and the Day of Pentecost. So obviously they are out of line.
Here’s a little Greek lesson for us to clarify what Peter was saying. “Baptized” is an aorist tense meaning in a point of time; passive voice meaning you receive baptism; and imperative mood meaning it is a command. The Greeks punctuated syntactically. They did not have punctuation marks as we do today. Here, the word “and” between ‘Repent and each of you be baptized’ is what is known in the Greek as a syntactical break. This means that the two things before and after “and” are entirely separate and that one follows the other, but they do not go together. In a syntactical break the second verb is not a part of the requirement but is a command which follows after the first imperative is fulfilled. In other words, you are not to be baptized until after you have been saved. Repent is the salvation verb; baptize is the ritual which indicates that you have been saved.
The whole purpose of water baptism is that when you enter into that ritual you are to understand three things. You need to understand that you are identified with Christ in His death therefore you are dead to human good. No longer do you have to perform human good. You need to understand that you are identified with Christ as He is seated at the right hand of the Father and you can’t lose your salvation. You need to understand that you are now in a position to perform divine good.
For the promise is for you means this was the promise of salvation through Jesus Christ—the fact that sins are forgiven, the fact that Jesus Christ has paid in full; the work of salvation was accomplished on the Cross and nothing can be added to it. Jesus said, “It is finished.” Therefore, because salvation is completed we can have eternal life. The promise is “for you” – unbelievers; “and your children” – this is the same as Acts 2:31. This means when they believe in Christ they, too, shall be saved. Children have to believe in Christ for themselves. Once they pass the age of accountability children are responsible for making their own decision; “and for all who are afar off” refers to the Gentiles; “even as many as the Lord our God shall call” – here is one of those interesting phrases whereby people get confused about the false version of the doctrine of predestination. Predestination simply means to share the destiny of Christ; election means exactly the same thing.
When a person believes in the Lord Jesus Christ he enters into union with Christ. Christ has a destiny. Christ is elected from all eternity past and we simply share His destiny and we share His election. Only in this sense are we predestined, only in this sense are we elected. The Greek says here, “who the Lord God shall call (invite).” This refers to the point of time when anyone is exposed to the Gospel or to the time when anyone reaches God-consciousness, and at that point of time the invitation to know God is open. The Lord Himself actually invites every member of the human race to receive Christ as Savior due to the fact that when Christ died on the Cross He died for every member of the human race.
The potential for salvation is based upon the fact that at the point of God-consciousness some people become negative toward God, and when they do, then God does not have any further responsibility- though he often gives them the Gospel anyway. God can only invite. It depends on your volition expressed in a non-meritorious manner which is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. God invites all members of the human race, “and whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
“And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, ‘Be saved from this perverse generation!’ So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls.”
The word “testified” indicates, along with the words “other words,” that there are numerous ways of presenting the Gospel, and probably no two people will respond to the same approach to it. But the content remains the same. Peter was declaring the Gospel in different words and different approaches. Then the word “exhorting” is a change which means he kept on exhorting. Not only did he present the Gospel but he told them what to do with the gospel, which is what the word “exhorting” means. First of all you have the content of the Gospel itself and the word “exhorting” tells them what to do—believe in Christ.
Be saved from this perverse generation means to deliver. This generation was perverse in that they were religious. He was addressing himself to religious people, the most difficult of all to reach for the Lord Jesus Christ. But it was their responsibility to deliver themselves by believing in Christ. And the result was that 3000 people did exactly that.
“They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.”
We have the formation of the first local church in these verses. They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching was the first secret to their power, which was doctrine. The secret to power always begins with Bible doctrine circulating in the stream of consciousness of the soul. The Greek for continually devoting indicates the principle of stability and continuity. They started this; they made it their lifetime pattern; they stayed with it. They continued to persist in adherence to the principle of building their lives on doctrine. It is called the apostles’ doctrine because it has to do with new doctrine not found in the Old Testament—the doctrine of the mystery, the doctrine of the Church—and since the New Testament is not completed it is called the apostle’s doctrine. There is a second factor involved in power, it has to do with fellowship: “and fellowship” – fellowship with the Lord, the filling of the Spirit. It doesn’t mean they were patting each other on the back in a mutual admiration society. Fellowship with the Lord is the thing that counts; fellowship with people is very definitely secondary. If you have your fellowship with the Lord, and if you are oriented to doctrine, then you will have fellowship with people on a realistic and wonderful basis. Otherwise you’ll get your eyes on people and will be miserable. The third factor was the breaking of bread which had to do with Communion. The purpose of Communion is occupation with Christ, who and what Christ is and how He did what He did. The fourth factor was prayer. Prayer is communication with God and therefore the basis of great power when done properly.
The word “awe” is used for the concept of respect for authority, respect for the authority of the apostles, and the reason is given in that first word, “doctrine,” in the previous verse. As a result, signs and wonders were done by the apostles. They exercised their spiritual gifts.
And all those who believed were together and had all things in common does not teach communism. People have used this verse and said that Christianity advocates communism. Nothing could be further from the truth. Everything in Christianity, all Bible doctrine, is one hundred per cent in opposition to communism. The Word of God is the chief source of opposition to communism now and forever, and there is a vast gulf between communism and Bible Christianity.
The principle of believers helping believers in time of emergency or catastrophe is the subject of this verse. We have an emergency situation. Believers, because of their faith in Christ, were ostracized. The Jews were very strong in ostracism. As a result many believers found themselves in dire straits—without food, shelter, or help of any kind. This passage indicates how the early church met a catastrophe: believers helped each other. Having all things in common simply means that they provided charity.
Almost immediately persecution began with believers losing property, possessions, and even their lives. The concept here is the Roman system called the “ten percenters.” If a Roman could prove that a person was a Christian he could report them to the procurator who would then take them to the Praetorian where they would be tried. If they were found guilty, the Romans would confiscate all of their bank account, all of their business, and ten percent of it would go to the informer. So there were many in Jerusalem making ten percent as informers on those who had found Christ.
There was no more the concept of communism in what the believers did than there is in any system of charity. Charity is a bona fide operation, so long as it involves your free will. When you are coerced it then becomes an infringement of freedom. Christianity and communism are not only mutually exclusive, but antagonistic.
Christianity emphasizes the Godhead and relationship with God, whereas communism denies God and glorifies man. Christianity recognizes the freedoms and the rights of individuals, including the right of private property, the right to private ownership of business, and so on. In other words, all principles connected with nationalism. Communism rejects all of these things.
This passage does not teach or advocate communism or socialism. We do not have socialism in this verse, we have believers helping each other in time of catastrophe—believers producing divine good. Socialism at its best can only produce human good. Under the persecution background of this passage believers were helped by those who still had materialistic things of this life—food, shelter, clothing. When the situation in Jerusalem became critical so that all of the believers were dispossessed, then it was the apostle Paul who went through northern and southern Greece and took up an offering for the relief of the poor saints in Jerusalem.
They sold their possessions and put the proceeds into a common fund which was then distributed: “as anyone might have need.” The purpose of these funds was to help the needy. Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple and breaking bread from house to house was unity among believers. They achieved unity by means of doctrine. They continued in two places - they went to the temple to witness; they went to homes in order to have church services—daily. They had the respect of unbelievers because of their testimony. The result was the addition of believers into the Royal Family of God.