Summary: By faith you receive God’s forgiveness and restoration. At that point you are reconciled to Him and become part of His forever family.
CHILDREN OF PROMISE Acts 2:38,39
One of the practices we value as a denomination is infant baptism. The logic behind infant baptism is not that baptism automatically saves our children. Rather, we see it a sign and a symbol of the covenant that God enters into with believers and their children. Under the terms of that covenant, God promises to work grace into the lives of our children as we as parents seek to be faithful in bringing them up in the fear and nurture of the Lord.
One of the verses in scripture that is often used in connection with infant baptism is Acts 2:39: “The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off--for all whom the Lord our God will call,” (NIV).
There are three things I want to point out about this verse:
1) The emphasis is on The Promise: “The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off--for all whom the Lord our God will call,” (Acts 2:39, NIV). That immediately raises the question: What is the promise? Well, in the context of Acts 2, especially taking into consideration the preceding verse, the promise clearly refers to the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit. Peter put it this way, “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, NIV).
The Holy Spirit is the agent of the Godhead who makes real in our lives the gift of salvation that Christ has obtained for us through his death, resurrection and ascension. It is the Holy Spirit who makes us aware of our sin, draws us to Christ, brings us to faith, enables us to yield to the authority of Jesus and transforms our lives from glory to glory so that we learn to become obedient children of God the Father. It is the Holy Spirit who one day will bring about a new creation where everybody will fully worship and serve the living God. Therefore, the gift of the Holy Spirit is really the gift of salvation made real by the presence of the Holy Spirit.
All through scripture, God is coming to his people with a word of promise that he will save his people; he will forgive their sins, release them form Satan’s power, and will restore them to himself. The promise of Acts 2:39 is the promise of God’s Holy Spirit given to God’s people.
Notice that the Holy Spirit is a gift; He is freely given. His presence cannot be earned because you are better, smarter, or have worked harder than other people. He is given as a gift, based on the two prerequisites of repentance and faith. Look again at the previous verse, “Peter replied, “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, NIV). To repent means to make a U-turn away from sin; to be baptized is to be joined with Christ and recognize that he died for us, rose from the dead so that our sins could be forgiven and his grace could be imparted to us. True conversion will always involve repentance and personal faith in the finished work of Christ.
It is very important to understand this point because one of the criticisms that is sometimes raised against the practice of infant baptism is that it gives people a false sense of security. This false security says that my parents presented me for baptism, therefore, my sins are forgiven, and I belong to Christ. The extension of this idea is that it does not matter how I live my life, I belong to God and when I die I will go to heaven.
Let me say categorically that from a biblical point of view that is not what scripture teaches. A true relationship with God will always manifest itself in true repentance and true faith. Look at how John the Baptist speaking to the scribes and the Pharisees says it, “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The axe is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire,” (Matthew 3:8-10, NIV).
The apostle Paul echoes a similar sentiment when he says, “For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children. On the contrary, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” In other words, it is not the natural children who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring,” (Romans 9:6-8, NIV).