Christ died for us/Acts 2:37-38
In these verses we see the reaction of the Jewish crowd to Peter’s sermon and Peter’s response to their terror-filled question: “Brothers, what shall we do?” The reason for the question is that they were “cut to the heart,” by Peter’s sermon. They looked to Peter and the apostles for counsel because it was clear they were God’s messengers.
The conviction the crowd had was from the Holy Spirit. Before he died, Jesus spoke of the work the Holy Spirit would do, including; “He will testify of me,” and “He will convict the world over sin, righteousness and judgment.” The Lord was revealing to these people their rebellion and guilt in putting to death Jesus, who, Peter tells them, God has made both Lord and Christ.
Peter’s responds to them with instructions and promises. The instructions are repent and be baptized in the name of Christ; the promises are forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit. Repentance in essence is admitting you are on a way that leads to death (deservedly); then turning from sin unto God. It is repentance unto life because it is going from the domain of darkness to light.
Jesus speaks of the poor in spirit inheriting the kingdom of heaven. This describes a repentant soul, who has called upon God to be merciful to him. If we humble ourselves before God, his anger turns away for he delights in mercy. Repentance is the antonym of pride, and pride goes before destruction. Repentance, therefore, is a gracious thing to be embraced. It is life to the soul.
The instruction to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ means to put your faith in Christ. The Jewish people understood that baptism was an act of purification. Peter connecting it to forgiveness of sins meant that they must embrace Christ to be forgiven their sins. This would mean renouncing Judaism and righteousness in that system; while replacing it with the Lord Jesus.
Baptism is a sign pointing to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, cleansing of sin by the Lord Jesus, being united to his death and resurrection, pledging him by faith as our Lord and Savior. It is a seal of the righteousness we have by faith in Christ. When Martin Luther was anxious about something, he would remind himself, “I have been baptized.” It is good to remember and celebrate your baptism.
The promise of “forgiveness of sins,” is an extraordinary declaration in light of putting the Son of God to death. There were those in the crowd who had spat at Jesus, mocked him on the cross, clamored for a criminal to be released so as the sinless Jesus would be crucified. They all had despised him. We would not have been different. There are none righteous. But God’s grace is greater than our sin. They were all offered forgiveness of sins. So are you and I.
We love Christ all the more when we contemplate his sacrifice in light of our sins. The Passover was eaten with bitter herbs to remind of the bitter suffering of bondage. We likewise relish the Lord more by the consideration of our sin in the light of the cross, and his suffering for us.
Peter also promises the gift of the Holy Spirit. Paul tells us the Holy Spirit is the “guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it (Ephesians 1:14)”, so this is an indescribable gift. But in order to have the gift we must respond to the gospel by believing in Christ.
It would have been difficult for Jewish people to leave their friends and families for Christ. They were willing because of conviction wrought in them. But it was also from the reasonableness of Peter’s sermon. They saw the necessity and the goodness of coming to Christ.
There are the greatest reasons in the world to be a Christian and leave the state of your sinful nature. When our understanding is enlightened to see the of sin, the angry face of God with it, and then to have our eyes opened at the same time to see the glorious and gracious face of God in Jesus Christ, it is the greatest wisdom in the world to come out of that cursed state into a better one.
If you are baptized and belong to Christ, there is reason here to honor and glorify him with your life. If Christ gave himself for me, shall I not give myself to Christ? Paul has this heavenly logic, “Christ died for us, that we might live for him (Romans 6:10).”
Chris Shelton is the minister at the First Presbyterian Church of Union.