In the early days of the Church, on the day of Pentecost, something remarkable happened. The Apostle Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, delivered a powerful sermon that penetrated the hearts of those who heard it. In Acts 2:37-41, Peter emphasizes that the appropriate response to the Gospel is to repent and be baptized. But what is the connection between the two? How does faith factor into our salvation? Is baptism a prerequisite for salvation?
As Peter proclaimed the Gospel, the people were deeply convicted. They realized the gravity of their sins and their need for forgiveness. Their hearts were stirred, and they asked Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). Peter’s answer was clear and direct: “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:38).
Repentance and Baptism
First, we must define repentance and baptism.
The Greek word for “repentance” means “to radically change one’s mind”. That change of mind results in a change of attitude and action from sin toward obedience to God. Repentance is a transformative change of heart and mind accompanied by a sincere turning away from sin and a commitment to live in obedience to God. It involves a deep awareness and acknowledgment of one’s wrongdoing or sinful behavior, leading to genuine remorse and a desire for spiritual transformation. Repentance encompasses a heartfelt confession of sins to God, a genuine sorrow for the harm caused, and a determination to change one’s thoughts, attitudes, and actions. It is not merely feeling sorry or guilty for one’s actions but involves a deliberate decision to turn towards God and pursue a life in alignment with His will.
Baptism is a symbolic act of identification with Jesus Christ, representing a believer’s union with Him in His death, burial, and resurrection. It is an outward expression of an inward transformation and serves as a public declaration of faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior.
Connection Between Repentance and Baptism
- Repentance precedes baptism:
Repentance is the necessary precondition for baptism. Before being baptized, an individual must first repent of their sins, acknowledging their need for forgiveness and salvation. Repentance prepares the heart for baptism and demonstrates a genuine desire to turn away from sin and follow Christ.
- Baptism signifies repentance:
Baptism serves as a visible sign and symbol of the repentance that has taken place in a person’s life. By going through the waters of baptism, believers publicly declare their repentance, their identification with Christ, and their commitment to live a new life in Him. It is a powerful testimony to others and a proclamation of their faith in Jesus.
- Baptism, in order to receive forgiveness, contradicts everything the New Testament teaches about salvation
The New Testament teaches that salvation is received by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. Baptism, while important, does not save us. Baptism serves as a symbol and act of obedience for believers. It symbolizes our identification with Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection; and serves as a public testimony of our faith and commitment to follow Him.
Repentance and Faith
Repentance and faith can be seen as two sides of the same coin. Genuine faith in Christ leads to repentance, and true repentance is accompanied by faith in Christ alone for salvation.
Genuine faith in Christ and repentance go hand in hand and are inseparable. When we truly believe in Christ, we are acknowledging Him as Lord and Savior and submitting our lives to His authority. This involves turning away from sin and turning towards God, which is the essence of repentance. Repentance is not simply feeling sorry for our sins, but a genuine change of heart and mind that leads to a change in behavior.
Faith and repentance are both necessary for salvation because they work together to produce the fruit of genuine conversion. In fact, Scripture teaches that repentance is a necessary response to faith in Christ. Jesus Himself proclaimed, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17). Similarly, the Apostle Paul preached that “repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ” are the necessary components of salvation (Acts 20:21).
When we truly repent, we recognize that our sin has separated us from God and we turn towards Him in faith, believing that Christ alone can save us from the penalty of our sin. This faith is not simply an intellectual assent to certain truths about God, but a deep and personal trust in the person and work of Jesus Christ. It involves placing our full confidence and reliance on Him for salvation and for the ongoing transformation of our lives.
True repentance is accompanied by faith in Christ alone for salvation because repentance involves a recognition of our need for a Savior. We cannot save ourselves through our own efforts or good works; salvation comes only through faith in Christ. As the Apostle Peter proclaimed in Acts 4:12, “there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Our repentance and faith work together to bring us to a saving knowledge of Christ and to produce the fruit of a transformed life.
In summary, genuine faith in Christ leads to repentance and true repentance is accompanied by faith in Christ alone for salvation. These two elements of conversion are inseparable and work together to produce the fruit of true conversion and ongoing transformation in the life of the believer.
The Power Repentance and Faith
The response to Peter’s message was astounding. The hearts of the people were transformed, and they received the gift of salvation. They were added to the early Church, forming a vibrant community of believers. Acts 2:47 tells us that “the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” This illustrates the power of the Gospel to bring about radical life changes and the transformative work of the Holy Spirit.
The power of repentance and faith lies in the transformation the Holy Spirit brings. When we genuinely repent, acknowledging our sins and turning away from them, we experience the freedom and forgiveness that only God can provide. Repentance opens the door for God’s grace to work in our lives, bringing healing, restoration, and a renewed relationship with Him. It is through faith, our unwavering trust in God and His promises, that we receive the gift of salvation. Faith connects us to the redemptive work of Jesus Christ, enabling us to experience His love, mercy, and transformative power. Repentance and faith are not mere intellectual exercises but a heart response that leads to a changed life, a life characterized by love, obedience, and a deepening relationship with God.
Implications for Today
The events described in Acts 2:37-41 hold significant implications for us today. We are reminded of the timeless truths of repentance, faith, and baptism. Just as the early believers responded to the Gospel message with sincerity and obedience, we too are called to examine our hearts, turn away from sin, and place our trust in Jesus Christ for salvation.
This passage challenges us to share the Gospel boldly, trusting in the Holy Spirit’s work in the lives of others. We are encouraged to create an environment where repentance, faith, and baptism are celebrated and nurtured, allowing the transformative power of God’s Word to impact lives.
Peter’s message in Acts 2:37-41 is a powerful reminder that salvation is not something we can earn through our own efforts or good works. It comes only through faith in Jesus Christ and His finished work on the cross. Repentance and baptism are not the means by which we earn salvation, but rather the natural response of a heart that has been transformed by the grace of God. When we place our faith in Christ and turn towards Him in repentance, we receive the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit.