Series: “The Gift of the Holy Spirit # 19

THE MYSTERY OF ACTS 3:19, 20 (2)

(2)  Steps Into Salvation     rev. 2/16/2016

Two subsequent audiences in Jerusalem (Acts 2:6ff and 3:11ff) are similarly accused as murdering the Christ. They have the blood of the Son of God on their hands.i Peter gives one reason for obeying the Spirit that's directing his first sermon in Acts 2:38, but he gives three reasons for obeying Jesus in Acts 3:19. However, in the second sermon there is no mention of either being baptized or receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit.

The first audience in Acts 2:37 admitted guilt by pleading, “What shall we do?” He answers them, “Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” We would expect Peter to be consistent and give the same commands to the second group. However, his commands appear to be different in Acts 3:19 where Peter demands repentance but says nothing about any baptism. This difference has led some to ignore Acts 2:38 altogether and argue that baptism is unnecessary for salvation. This is their conclusion in spite of the fact that Acts 2:38 says it is.

But at the same time, Peter also says nothing about the second group taking hold of “the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Therefore, by the same token, could one not argue that the Holy Spirit is not necessary since any reference to the Spirit is also absent? Surely such a position would be obvious as ludicrous.


acts 2:38 diagram

1. First command is common to both sermons (Acts 2:38; 3:19). “Repent” is the same requirement and same word in both accounts: aorist imperative active: means “to change one’s mind” (Thayer's Greek Definitions).

2. Second command, respectively, is “Be baptized” (only in Acts 2:38) and “Be converted” (only in Acts 3:19).

Peter asserts that #1 and #2 actions are required for the removal of sins.

How to get from point A to point B?

acts 2:38 steps
                              A=murderers. B= believers.

From Bloody Hands to Holy Hands (1 Timothy 2:8). “Even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by (en) the word (rhema),ii That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish(Ephesians 5:25-27).

Three actions in 2:38

The Servantiii of God (“Son” KJV) is murdered for the believers (cf., believers called “church” in Acts 5:11). By His death, Jesus sanctifies (“makes holy”- Strong's) and cleanses with washing (“total bath,” fig., baptism- Strong's) “in the saying” (Young's Literal Translation). “In the saying”: the Saying of God authorizes baptism (in the Word, KJV). There's no reason to dismissing baptism even if Peter didn't specifically use the command “be baptized” before he and John were interrupted and taken away by the authorities.

During the first sermon, the apostles were not interrupted in Acts 2. “And with many other words did he (Peter) testify and exhort” (Acts 2:40). However, Peter and John are interrupted by the officials of the Sadducees in Acts 3 and are taken away because they preached the resurrection. Since the sermon had just begun, the audience never had a chance to be convicted and admit guilt. This may explain why Peter seemingly uses the more general but inclusive command, “Be converted” in Acts 3:19.

acts 3:19 diagram

3. What About Be Converted”? Comparing the command to Acts 2:38 suggests that being converted is equivalent to being baptized. However, the two are not correlated either by definition or grammatically.

Definition. “Converted” is not the same thing as belief. E.g., A great number believed and turned (converted) unto the Lord” (Acts 11:21). It, like “repent”, means to “turn”, but more properly, “to return to a path from which one has gone astray.” The commentator Barnes says that its use is a general sense of denoting “the whole turning to God.”iv Repent is to turn away from sins. To convert is to make a complete turn around. Along with “repent”, being converted will “wipe away your sins.”

Grammatically. This verb “be converted” is an active verb.v It is something to do and not be done to. In contrast, “be baptized” in Acts 2:38 is a passive verb. “Being baptized” is having someone immerse you. At any rate, would the audience have understood that they were to be baptized simply from this word? I think not.

They would have been familiar with the word from their Greek Bible (OT) (Psalm 19:7; 51:13). They would determine that their lives would have to be completely “turned aroundtoward God.

Psalm  19:7

“The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul” (Psalm 19:7a). The instructed among the audience would have known this psalm and would have known that the Law of the Lord that converts the soul was God's Word (Isaiah 8:20). His Law included His testimony and His commandments. They would know that Peter meant to give heed to his authenticated (by the miracle) instructions.

The audience would know that the Law and the Word are synonymous.    “To the law and to the testimony! if they speak not according to this word (rhemaG4487, LXX), surely it is because there is no light in them” (Isaiah 8:20).

Understanding that “getting the gift of the Holy Spirit” in Acts 2:38 was getting or receiving the Word of God, we can readily understand that the “be baptized and seize the gift of the Holy Spiri” would have been included in this broad and inclusive command “be converted.” Therefore, there is no contradiction between the two sermons. One is explanatory of the other. After all, the Acts 2 sermon was not interrupted like the Acts 3 sermon.

SUGGESTION ON Of course, the design of NT baptism initiates a renewal of purpose in one's life just as “be converted” indicates. “Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4).   Peter's use of the special wording, “wipe away sins”, suggests a complete washing.vii   Hence, baptism would not be a contradiction and would have been reasonably understood if pointed out to them.

So where would they learn specifically that repentance was to be followed by having themselves baptized?   Needless to say, this audience was not on an isolated island. There would have been the other available apostles (besides Peter and John) and the current believers in Jerusalem ready to “expound unto [them] the way of God more perfectly (Acts 18:26) so that they could be added to their community. “And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved(Acts 2:47).

- Gaylon West


Other articles in this series, The Gift of the Holy Spirit: >

i It is true that these persons may have been in Jerusalem at the Passover when Jesus was killed, but it is also true that all have sinned (Romans 3:23) and are guilty of Jesus having to die because we sin (Hebrews 6:6; James 2:10).

ii Rhema is interchangeable with logos in certain cases. “He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words (rhema), hath one that judgeth him: the word (logos) that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day” (John 12:48).

iii “Servant” pais, not huios (son); this word is the LXX term for the Messianic child or servant in Isaiah 42:1; 52:13. Used also for David (Luke 1:69; Acts 4:25).

iv ἐπιστρέψατε epistrepsate does not denote passivity may be clearly seen by referring to the following places where the same form of the word is used: Matthew 24:18; Mark 13:16; Luke 17:31; 1Thessalonians 1:9. -Barnes.

v “A false idea is given in the Common Version by making it passive.”- PNT,

vi The Ethiopic version adds, "and be baptized"; see Gill's commentary on Acts 2:38.

vii exaleiphōG1813. Thayer Definition: 1) to anoint or wash in every part.