3 Imperatives for Christ’s Early Disciples (and for Us)

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What Do We Do?

“Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” (Acts 2:36)

This certainty Peter is calling his listeners to, and calling us to, is not arrogant certainty. He’s calling us to the kind of certainty that leads us to humble trust, the kind of certainty that causes us to reevaluate what we’ve been putting our confidence in up to this point and to recognize that Jesus is worthy of our trust, worthy of our lives. This conclusion or certainty he’s calling his listeners to is, in one sense, a matter of the mind. Peter has made a clear case to be thought through and evaluated, contending that Jesus is the Christ as promised and prophesied in the Old Testament. But Peter is not merely calling for intellectual agreement. He’s calling for a personal response to the truth he has presented. Jesus is Lord. And because of that he should not, indeed he cannot, be resisted or ignored. The reality of the person of Jesus demands a response. And the group in the sound of Peter’s voice wants to know how to respond.



Nancy Guthrie

Saved, by bestselling author Nancy Guthrie, gives individuals and small groups a friendly, theologically reliable, and robust guide to understanding the book of Acts.

Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to
Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37)

“Cut to the heart.” The reality of the identity and lordship of Jesus pierced into the deepest parts of the disciples’ minds, wills, and emotions. They were moved by this reality—so much so that they were willing to do whatever it took to respond rightly to this revelation. Peter was ready with an answer. He told them three things that they needed to do in response to their certainty that God has made Jesus both Lord and Christ:

Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38)

1. Repent and Be Baptized

Repentance has always been and will always be the way into restored fellowship with God. Four more times in the book of Acts, the message of the apostles will be a call to repent. Repentance is turning away from self, away from whatever or whomever we’ve given our allegiance, and toward Christ. So Peter was calling these Jews and proselytes to turn away from righteousness through law-keeping and temple ritual and to turn toward righteousness through faith in Christ, acceptance of his once-for-all sacrifice.

They were to make a public demonstration of their new allegiance to Christ through water baptism. Peter’s instruction to be baptized must have been a bit perplexing, and perhaps a hurdle for some of them. It was a humbling thing for a Jew to say, by submitting to baptism, “Being of Jewish descent simply isn’t enough. I can’t be saved by that. I need Jesus. I want to immerse myself in who he is and what he has done so that I become fully identified with him and with his new people.”

Repentance has always been and will always be the way into restored fellowship with God.

2. Receive Forgiveness and the Gift of the Holy Spirit

This is less about what they needed to do than about what they needed to receive. As they went into the waters of baptism, they could be sure that their sins were being washed away. Forgiven. And they could be sure that the same Holy Spirit who had been poured out on those 120 who had been telling them about Christ in their own language would also be poured out on them. Indeed, the Spirit would continue with them, living in them.

3. Believe That This Salvation Is for You and for Your Children

Peter said, “The promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself” (2:39). He was telling them, and he is telling us: Jesus can change the trajectory of your life and the lives of everyone in your family. So as we consider those we love who have so far refused this repentance and this gift of forgiveness and the Holy Spirit, we pray. We petition the Lord our God to call them to himself. Verse 41 says that “those who received his word” were added to these original 120 believers. So we pray and ask God for Spirit-empowered opportunities for gospel conversation, and then we rely on the Spirit for the courage and clarity we need to articulate the gospel that has been handed down to us by the twelve apostles. We pray and ask God, by his Spirit, to make those who are far off receptive to his word.

Luke records,

So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. (Acts 2:41)

Three thousand people could point to that specific day when they repented, were baptized, and received forgiveness and the gift of the Holy Spirit. That first Pentecost was not only the dividing line of history; it was the dividing line in their lives. There was before and there was after. Their lives were transformed because of the Spirit poured out like rain on Pentecost. They were the firstfruits of a far greater harvest to come.

Nancy Guthrie is the author of Saved: Experiencing the Promise of the Book of Acts.

Nancy Guthrie

Nancy Guthrie teaches the Bible at her home church, Cornerstone Presbyterian Church in Franklin, Tennessee, as well as at conferences around the country and internationally, including her Biblical Theology Workshop for Women. She is the author of numerous books and the host of the Help Me Teach the Bible podcast with the Gospel Coalition. She and her husband founded Respite Retreats for couples who have faced the death of a child, and they are cohosts of the GriefShare video series. 

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