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The Necessity of Water Baptism for Salvation

An Indepth Look at Acts 2:38

     The apostle Paul wrote, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.  (2 Tim. 2.15).  In an earlier letter he addressed the Ephesians.  “Do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is  (Eph. 5.17).  We have a responsibility to know what the Bible teaches, and to do so by understanding the word of God in the context in which it was written, properly defining words, and dealing with the text without preconceived ideas that may lead to an inaccurate conclusion.  To the prophet Isaiah, God said “Come now, and let us reason together”  (Isa. 1.18).  The apostle Paul often went into the synagogue to reason about the scriptures.  As Paul stood before King Agrippa recounting his own conversion, Festus, the governor of Judea accused Paul of being crazy.  Paul replied, “I am not mad, most noble Festus, but speak the words of truth and reason.  (Acts 26.25).  It is only when we handle the word of God properly and honestly can we come to the correct conclusions as to what the Bible teaches in regard to baptism.

     For the sake of this study, we will consider Acts 2.38 by looking at the verse itself, then placing it into the context.


Acts 2.38:  “Then Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’”


     It is true that if one were to read this verse by itself, he may conclude that Peter is saying that baptism saves.  It is also true that when one puts this verse back into the context of Peter’s sermon, if he is honest about the text will admit that there is no other conclusion except that baptism saves.  But first we will consider the verse itself.



     A.  “Repent and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins”

            1.  What is it that you and I must do?  “Repent and let every one of you be baptized”                   

            2.  What is repentance and baptism for?  “for the remission of sins”

            3.  By whose authority does this command originate?  “in the name of Jesus Christ”

            4.  When the Jews asked, “Men and brethren what shall we do?”   Peter commanded them to change the way they think (repent) and be immersed (baptized) by the authority of Jesus Christ for the purpose of obtaining the remission of sins.

     B.  Action had to be taken in order to receive the remission of sins.  There is no debate about  the role of repentance.  We need to repent in order to receive the remission of sins.  But the command to repent and the command to be baptized is joined by the connecting word “and”.  The result of obtaining the remission of sins is tied grammatically to both repentance and baptism.  If remission of sins is tied to the command to repent then it also must be tied to the command to be baptized.  Peter did not say to repent for the remission of sins, and then be baptized.  He said that both repentance and baptism are required for the remission of sins.  To deny this is to deny simple grammar and to be dishonest with the text.



     A.  The apostles were baptized by the Holy Spirit.  (Acts 2.1-13)

           1.  The disciples were in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost.  (Acts 2.1)

           2.  As they were in Jerusalem they were “filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak  with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance”  (Acts 2.4). 

           3.  Also in Jerusalem there were Jews who had traveled from all over the world to attend  this Jewish feast of Pentecost.  (Acts 2.5).

           4.  When they heard the sound they did not understand what was happening “because everyone heard them speak in his own language”  (Acts 2.7-12).

           5.  Some tried to explain this saying that the apostles must have been drunk.  (Acts 2.13)

     B.  Peter stands up and explains what these Jews were seeing.  (Acts 2.14-21)

           1.  Peter begins by dispelling the notion that these men are drunk.  “For these men are not drunk as you suppose since it is only the third hour of the day”  (Acts 2.14,15).

           2.  He then explains that what they were seeing is exactly what was prophesied by the prophet Joel and then quotes Joel 2.28-32.  (Acts 2.16-21) 

           3.  The last statement that Peter quotes is “And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”  (Acts 2.21; cf. Joel 2.32)

           4.  Peter uses this last statement to launch into his sermon.  It is critical to note that Peter identified how one is to be saved.  One is saved when he calls on the name of the Lord.  But how does one call on the name of the Lord?  He explains later.

     C.  Peter preaches a Christ-centered sermon.  (Acts 2.22-47).  In this sermon he proves Jesus as being Lord by making four points.

           1.  Jesus is Lord and Christ because of His confirmation. 

               a)  Verse 22:  “Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to by God”  The word attested means proved.  Jesus was proved to be who He claimed to be, and it was God who proved it.  How?

               b)  Verse 22:  “Miracles”  (supernatural events), “wonders” (the way people responded to these supernatural events), and “signs”  (the purpose behind these supernatural events)

               c)  And these things were done in their midst.  They saw them with their own eyes.  Jesus is both Lord and Christ, and God proved it. 

          2.  Jesus is Lord and Christ because of His crucifixion.

               a)  Verse 23:  “Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death;” 

               b)  We can go to Isaiah 53 and read how He was wounded for our transgressions.                      

               c)  Jesus is Lord and Christ because He was crucified and put to death just as the Old  Testament Scriptures said would happen.

          3.  Jesus is Lord and Christ because of His resurrection.

               a)  Verse 24:  “whom God raised up…” 

               b)  Verse 25-28:  “For David says concerning Him…”  When God raised up Jesus, He fulfilled the prophecy spoken by David.  (cf. Ps. 16.8-11)

                c)  Verses 29-31:  David wasn’t speaking about himself, but was speaking in reference to Christ.  It was Christ whose soul would not be left in Hades because God would raise Him up.   

                d)  Verse 32:  “This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses.”

          4.  Jesus is both Lord and Christ because of His exaltation.

               a)  Verse 33:  “And being exalted to the right hand of God…”  Jesus is Lord because He is now sitting at the right hand of God.  And being exalted by God, He sent His Holy Spirit and this is what they are seeing and hearing. 

                b)  Verse 34,35:  “For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he says himself: 'The Lord said to my Lord, 'Sit at My right hand…”  Peter again quotes David showing that Christ fulfilled the prophecy.  (cf. Ps. 110.1)

                c)  David wasn’t talking about himself.  David did not ascend to the right hand of God.  This was Jesus.  

          5.  The divinely inspired conclusion:  Verse 36:  “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”

                a)  Peter called their attention to Joel 2.32:  “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”  But what did God do to enable us to call on Him for salvation? 

                b)  He sent His Son and by confirmation, crucifixion, resurrection, and exaltation, God made Jesus both Lord and Christ.    We can call on the name of God to be saved because God sent His Son Jesus and made Him both Lord and Christ offering salvation through Him. 

     D.  The reaction of the Jewish audience to Peter’s sermons.  (Acts 2.37)

           1.  Acts 2.37:  “Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and  the rest of the apostles, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?"              

                a)  Let me remind you that in verse 5, it says, “And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven.”

                b)  There were dwelling in Jerusalem.  This was not their home.  Many had come a great distance to Jerusalem to be a part of this Pentecost feast.  They wanted to come and worship and praise God. 

                c)  These were deeply religious men.  They believed in the God who gave to them the  Law of Moses. 

           2.  They just heard that their God in whom they came to worship and praise had confirmed that Jesus was the Christ, that their God who had raised up Jesus from the dead, and that their God had taken Jesus and sat Him at His right hand. 

           3.  When they heard this there was no way for them to dispute that their God made this Jesus whom they crucified both Lord and Christ.  They had been guilty of putting to death, crucifying the Son of God.  This it sent them into a spiritual crisis.  They were cut to the heart.

           4.  They asked Peter and the rest, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” 

                a)  They had crucified the Son of God.  What were they to do in order to make themselves right in the sight of God?  What did they have to do in order to be saved?  

                b)  Peter already told them that salvation comes by calling on the name of the Lord.  And now he explains how to call on the name of the Lord.

     E.  Peter tells them how to call on the name of the Lord to be saved.  (Acts 2.38)

           1.  You need to call on the name of the Lord to be saved.  (v. 21)

           2.  What do we have to do to call on the name of the Lord and thus be saved having our sins remitted?  (v. 37)

           3.  Verse 38:  “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” 

               a)  Do you want to receive the remission of sins and thus be saved?  You must repent and be baptized.   There is no other conclusion that can be drawn.

               b)  It is true that repentance comes before baptism. But both repentance and baptism comes before one receives the remission of sins.


Conclusion:  From the very beginning, God had a plan to save man from his sin.  That plan was enacted by the coming of Jesus Christ.  Through His life, death, burial, and resurrection, we all have an opportunity to have our sins washed away.  While God offers salvation universally, it is not universally received.  For us to receive the grace of God, there are certain conditions which must be met, and baptism, immersion into water, is one of them.  1 Peter 2.21:  “and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also”

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