In Acts 2:37 the people interrupt the preacher (Peter) and ask a simple question. Simple yet profound, “Brothers, what shall we do?” Those gathered on that day, after hearing the Apostles speaking in each audience member’s own languages (BTW there were more dialects and languages than there were apostles), and after being reminded of their guilt in killing the Messiah and how God raised Him from the dead, proving this Jesus of Nazareth to be Lord and Christ, the realized their guilt and knew they had to do something.
Peter tells them what to do, “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.” (Acts 2:38).
What were they to do?
REPENT. They were to return to God. They were to make an about face. The Thessalonians provide us an example of what repentance is when they, “turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.” (1Th 1:9). Whatever traditions, doctrines, or motivations led them to be participants in Jesus’ crucifixion, they were to put them away and turn to God.
And BE BAPTIZED. Baptism is a passive participation of the penitent. They were not told, “Repent and baptize yourselves.” Peter told them Repent and BE baptized.” Baptism is not a work we do to earn salvation.
Baptism is something we MUST submit to in order to obey God’s word. Jesus said, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved.” (Mark 16:16). Even in that verse baptism (immersion) is an act of submission.
Baptism is something done to us as we submit to God. Paul describes baptism as a re-enactment of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ – the gospel. “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.” (Romans 6:3-5). (Just for argument sake the physically dead do not bury themselves, so it would make since that does dead to sin have someone bury them.)
In Galatians Paul echoes Jesus’ statement of belief and baptism (cf. Mark 16:16) when Paul says, “But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” (Galatians 3:25-27).
- Baptism is linked to faith.
- Baptism is a re-enactment of the Gospel in the life of the penitent.
- Baptism is a submissive act that we allow done to us.
- Through our death to self and sin, burial in water, and rising out of that watery grave, we are put into Christ.
- Because of our faith, we submit to immersion (baptism) so that we will receive forgiveness of sin, receive the Holy Spirit as a guarantee of our salvation (2 Cor 1:21-22), and are added to His Kingdom the Church (Acts 2:47).
- Baptism is necessary for forgiveness of sin and entrance into the Kingdom.
But baptism is not something YOU do to earn God’s grace, it is something done to you to receive God’s grace when you submit to Him.