Summary: When the crowd asked "what must we do?" Peter told them to repent and be baptized. Does God expect me to get baptized?
OPEN: South East Christian Church in Louisville, KY is a congregation of about 15,000 members. It’s so huge they have a very specialized paid staff. For example, they have a staff member in charge of something they call the “wedding department.” One Sunday, a staff member from that department was privileged to be asked to baptize a new convert. On the Sunday he was to baptize his friend, something must have unsettled him – maybe it was the size of the congregation present, or the pressure of the moment.
Whatever it was, that morning, in front of the entire congregation he took the man’s confession and then declared: “I now pronounce you….” And then stopped as he realized what he’d said. Then he smiled as he continued: “I now pronounce you… baptized!”
APPLY: We know - as Christians - that marriage is important to God. It is a sacred union of two people in the presence of God. But while God doesn’t require you to fall in love and get married - if you intend to live with someone of the opposite sex God says - you had better get married.
That man from the “wedding department” almost confused the vows from a wedding ceremony with the words he normally would have used while baptizing someone. Wedding vows are required of someone who desires to be married. But is baptism required of someone who desires to become a Christian.
In other words: Do you have to be baptized?
I. Well, what did Jesus say?
Jesus commanded His disciples to “… go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19).
What that means is: baptism is not an option for God’s people. It is commanded and expected by Jesus for all who would belong to Him.
In Mark 16:16 Jesus said “He who believes and is baptized shall be saved…”
Baptism was so important that Jesus Himself was baptized by John the Baptist at the beginning of His ministry. John didn’t feel he was qualified to baptize Jesus, but our Lord told John “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness….” (Matthew 3:15).
II. What did Peter say?
Here in Acts 2, Peter preaches the first sermon in the history of the Church. He preaches such a powerful sermon that day that he convinces the crowd of its sinfulness in crucifying Jesus, and the audience interrupts Peter & asks (vs. 37) “What shall we do?”
Peter replies: (vs. 38) “Repent and be baptized, everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
In other words, baptism must be preceded by repentance… and the result of baptism and repentance is forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Later, in I Peter 3:21, the Apostle compared baptism to the waters of Noah’s flood “…and this water (the flood) symbolizes baptism that now saves you also — not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”
According to Peter, baptism is part of the salvation act. It is a “pledge” or “appeal” to God and its power for salvation is based on the resurrection – not in the water.