Summary: A study on the New Testament Church.
Believe it or not, in the beginning there was no difference between being saved and being a member of the church. After Peter had finished preaching his sermon of the Day of Pentecost, those listening were convinced that what he had said about Jesus was the truth. So the people were cut to the heart and realized that they needed to do something to get right with God again. However, the question is what could they do, how could they undo all the damage already done? If what Peter said about God making Jesus both Lord and Christ was true, what would happen to them if no attempt to make restitution was made? The cry of the heart was, “Brothers, what must we do? Peter’s answer pulled no punches, it was simple and straight forward, “Repent and be baptized.” Inwardly and outwardly there needed to be visual evidence of one turning back to God. To repent is to be sorry for your participation in rejecting and nailing the promised one of God to the cross. Sorry enough to change your actions toward God and physically dramatize that change through baptism. Only if the united with the one they had rejected could God then forgive them. Having killed the forgiver of sins, they now found themselves without hope. Peter provides them with a message of hope the offers two very incredible promises, the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit. As a result of Peter’s urgency, more than 3,000 were added to their number that day. They were baptized in the name of Jesus, and from that moment on they devoted themselves to the apostle’s teachings and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and prayer. They had been saved. To say that they were saved is not to imply that their eternal destiny was guaranteed. To be saved is to find wholeness and completeness. It is both to be rescued from the eternal consequences of sin and to participate on a daily basis in Christ’s victory over sin and Satan daily. To be saved is to become a member of Christ’s victorious team. Today I want to look at the implications of Peter’s message not only to the church but to each individual.
I. Salvation therefore is not strictly between God and the individual believer.
A. My personal experience with God is bound up with my relationship with others.
1. If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother. (1 John 4:20-21)
2. Each believer on the Day of Pentecost was repenting and being baptized into Christ, thus being added to each other as they were being added to the Lord.
3. The church was being formed.
4. When we examine the accounts of conversion in the book of acts we discover that the terms of salvation and the terms for joining the church were identical.
5. Believers were not saved then at a later opportunity given the chance to join the church.
6. They were saved by Christ, baptized into Christ, united with Christ’s body.
B. Those who believed the Gospel message and acted accordingly were considered members of the church.
1. There are many theological disputes over the elements of conversion but it is obvious from the conversion accounts in the book of Acts assumes that a saving faith in Jesus Christ includes:
a. Belief in Christ as Messiah.
b. Repentance: turning from sin and toward God.
c. Baptism in His name.
2. Also involved are two promises that only God can perform: the forgiveness of sin and the gift of the Holy Spirit.
3. There is no distinction found in the New Testament to being in Christ and being a part of the Church.
II. A close look at the content of Christian faith.
A. The most popular name for Christians in the New Testament is believers.
1. This was not an empty faith; it was a belief in God and His saving work through Jesus Christ.
2. With the proclamation of Jesus as Lord and Messiah, Peter reaches the climax and conclusion of his sermon. The initial "therefore" shows that God’s resurrection and exaltation of Jesus accredits him as mankind’s Lord and Israel’s Messiah. (1 Corinthians 15:1-6)
3. Alexander Campbell defined a Christian this way; “Everyone that believes in his heart that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah, the Son of God; repents of his sins, and obeys Him in all things according to the measure of knowledge of His will.”
4. We live in a society where the view is that everyone needs to believe in something.