Through the Bible with Les Feldick
LESSON 2 * PART 4 * BOOK 17
EXPLANATION OF ACTS 2:38
Let’s pick up again in the Book of Acts and for a short review we will start at Chapter 2 verse 36. Remember this is a Jewish feast day that is being celebrated. Jews from the then-known world have come to celebrate the feast of Pentecost. This is one of the seven feasts listed in Leviticus 23. Now it’s on this day of Pentecost that this huge crowd of Jews are out there in the Temple area and Peter, through the power of the Holy Spirit, is addressing this great gathering. And regardless what nations these Jews have come from, they are hearing it in their own language. And this is the miracle of it all. Peter is speaking to Jew only (with an occasional proselyte). There is no Gentile ground here. God doesn’t put Gentiles in this group and neither should we. It’s a Jewish feast day, a Jewish crowd, a Jewish speaker, and a Jewish message. And now verse 36:
“Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly (this is all twelve tribes that are represented here, and God knows who they are), that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.” Peter is accusing these Jews of killing Christ their Messiah. “Now when they heard this they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren what shall we do?” And before we look at Peter’s answer, I want to take you back to Acts Chapter 16.
In Chapter 16, Paul has begun his missionary journey throughout western Turkey. Earlier in this chapter the Holy Spirit directed him over into Greece. One of the first cities he approached there was Philippi. And that is where he met Lydia, who was the first European convert. After the conversion of Lydia, he is arrested and beaten along with Silas, and cast into the lower dungeon of the jail, as in verse 25. The setting is completely different than in Acts 2. This is all Gentile ground, a Gentile prison, a Gentile jailer, This Gentile jailer may have witnessed Paul and Silas preaching, and saw their arrest and beating. Now he was given charge over these two men along with the rest of the prisoners.
“And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God; and the prisoners heard them.”
“And suddenly there was a great earthquake (we still haven’t left the economy of signs and miracles, and wonders. These will pass off the scene in Paul’s ministry at a little later time. But at this time we have a miraculous earthquake with a distinct purpose), so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one’s bands were loosed.”
“And the keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled.” The Roman authority would have killed him if prisoners had escaped.
“But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, `Do thyself no harm: for we are all here.'” Although they could have fled they didn’t, because this is a Sovereign God at work.
“Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas,”
Why did this pagan Gentile jailer pick Paul and Silas out of all his prisoners? Somehow, God let him know that here was the answer to his dilemma. He’s got all these prisoners loose, ready to flee, but they are staying there. God lets that jailer know the answer to his problem, but it’s going to be a lot more than a bunch of prisoners, it’s going to be the man’s own soul.
“And brought them (Paul and Silas) out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” Now look at the comparison.
Peter, preaching in Acts Chapter 2, is dealing with the Covenant Nation of Israel. And they say in verse 37, “What must we do?” But God doesn’t deal with Gentiles on Covenant ground. He deals with us as individuals. Every individual has to ask that same question. “What must I do…?” Let’s compare the answers each were given. In Acts Chapter 2, it is very clear, anyone can understand it. I’m leaving every word the way it’s in your Bible and mine. I’m not changing a thing. Israel says, “What must we do?” Look at Peter’s answer.
“Then Peter said unto them, `Repent, and be baptized (the next two words are crucial) every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost,'”
Everyone of them would have to be converted and accept Christ as their Messiah for God to pick up where He had left off. He would have sent back The King and set up the Kingdom. Peter also tells them this in Acts 3:26. Look at the message. Peter says, “Repent and be baptized.” Who began that message? John the Baptist. John was the herald of The King, and his message was, “Repent and be baptized.” That was for the Nation of Israel. Now compare this with Paul’s answer to the Gentile in Acts Chapter 16. Paul is not talking to the Nation of Israel, he’s talking to a Gentile. And when this Gentile asks what he must do to be saved, what does Paul tell him?
“And they (Paul and Silas) said, `Believe on The Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.'”
Does it say Repent and be baptized? No, and if that was the criteria it would have been in here. That was the Jewish program, and by this time it has fallen through the cracks because Israel is rejecting it again. God has now turned to the Gentiles through the Apostle Paul, without Israel. So the jailer said, “What must I do?” The answer is simple: “Only Believe on The Lord Jesus Christ.” Now when you know the rest of Paul’s message, he only had one Gospel to believe: “That Christ died for your sins, was buried and rose from the dead.”You can find that message in many places in Paul’s letters, for example I Corinthians 15:1-4. Believe the Gospel. And it’s no different for Gentiles today, and the Jew as well. That is the criteria tonight. We have to believe the Gospel and nothing else. You search Paul’s letters from Romans through Hebrews (and Hebrews is more Jewish than the rest and there is a reason for that), and show me one place where Paul teaches repentance and baptism for Salvation. You won’t find it. Paul doesn’t teach it. Paul’s message is a different economy and you can’t mix them. A lot of people try to. Our Lord didn’t mix them and neither should we. The verses in Galatians 2:7-9 exist because they were two different messages. That’s why Peter says Paul’s message of Salvation is hard for him to understand in II Peter 3:15-16. To the Jew it was repent and be baptized. To the Gentile it is believe the Gospel. See how simple that is. Now let’s come back to Acts 2 and make another tremendous comparison. Read verse 38 again:
“Then Peter said unto them, `Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins,…'” The whole Nation of Israel had to repent and be baptized.
Winning the whole world has never been implied with Paul. In Acts 15, when even James had to agree that God is using Paul to go to the Gentiles, what was the expression that James used? Calling out a people for His name. That doesn’t imply 99 or 100%. Christianity has always been just a small percentage. But we should always be ready to share the Gospel that Paul presents to everyone we come in contact with when the opportunity presents itself. I get a kick out of the Gallop polls, the last one I saw was 60% of Americans were professing Christians. That’s a joke because 60% of the Bible belt aren’t Bible believing Christians, let alone other vast areas of our country. But it’s always been that very small percentage, and it hasn’t changed that much. Another comparison here in verse 38:
“…and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost,”
I’ve had questions asked of me about this for many years, and let me ask you a question. What was the prerequisite in this verse for receiving the Holy Spirit? Repentance and baptism. That is the first part of the verse. Look at it again:
“…Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
Is there any mention of the death, burial, and Resurrection? Any mention of the shed blood for atonement? Not a word. But only the name. When you talk about the name of someone, what does that imply? Who he is. If I say the name of one of our Presidents, what do you associate that with? The White House. You speak the name and immediately it’s the position that you’re tied to. So, Peter doesn’t mention death, burial, and Resurrection. But what were they to put their faith in? Who Jesus was. He was The Christ their Messiah, and they had killed Him. But God had raised Him from the dead. They were to repent and be baptized for the remission of sins and then they would receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. In Acts Chapter 10, we have Peter at the house of Cornelius, a Gentile. This is seven years after the Cross. Not a Gentile has been saved. Back in Acts 2, the Jews had to repent and be baptized, then they could receive the Holy Spirit. Now look at what it says here:
“While Peter yet spake (he hadn’t come to the end of his message) these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. “
And we know they all believed. Have they been baptized yet? No, these are Gentiles who haven’t heard anything of the Law. But the moment they believed Peter’s message the Holy Spirit came down, and the amazing thing is God had to prove to Peter and these six other Jews that God was doing something totally new, and that was saving Gentiles! Not on the basis of repentance and baptism, but the moment they heard the word and believed. Peter is still tied to that Jewish economy, so when he sees what is happening he commands these Gentile believers to be baptized after the fact instead of before as we saw in Acts 2:38:
“Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have (past tense) received the Holy Ghost as well as we?”
This isn’t a contradiction, this is not Chapter 10 contradicting Chapter 2, but rather a change of events. Ten is Gentile and Two is still Jew. Acts is a transitional book, so always be aware that what was good for the Jew under that Jewish economy seems like a contradiction, but it’s not, it’s only God changing the program. The moment we believe for our Salvation the Gospel of Grace, that Jesus died for our sins, was buried, and rose from the dead, the Holy Spirit baptizes us and we are saved. Don’t put the message that Peter preached and the message that Paul preached in a blender and mix it all up and expect to understand it. That will give you heartburn, and you will never be able to see what you should clearly believe for your Salvation. But if you will realize that God is changing the program when He goes to the Gentiles, and leave the Scriptures right where they are, I believe the Scriptures will be opened to you. So many people come into my classes and almost immediately have their eyes opened. I don’t do that, the Holy Spirit does that when you search the Scriptures.
When I first started teaching in Oklahoma, I had a class in a home in Stigler. I hadn’t taught for long when a professional man, who has since died, shook his head and said, “Why haven’t we been taught this before?” Later that year he told me, “I feel like I have been cheated all my life, because so much of the Scripture I couldn’t understand, but this teaching just lays it all out so beautifully.” And countless numbers have said the same thing. It is so plain if you will just separate the Jewish program from the Gentile. It’s the same God. God hasn’t changed but His program has. Now we are resting on the finished work of the Cross. Peter hasn’t been told about this yet, Peter is still on Covenant ground. So he is still proclaiming a repentance and baptism, and then the Holy Spirit. Let’s look in Ephesians Chapter 1. Ephesians is one of Paul’s later epistles. You will see things in these prison epistles that he doesn’t even allude to in his earlier writings. Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians are higher ground and deeper water so far as doctrine is concerned. This is where the meat of the Word is.
“That we (believers) should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.” It doesn’t say repented and baptized, but rather first trusted in Christ. “In whom ye also trusted, after (notice the progression) that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation (I Corinthians 15:1-4): in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise. “
Do you see the order? Every child of God has to come from a place of being a sinner, a son of Adam, condemned already. As soon as we realize that we are a sinner, we heard the Gospel and the Holy Spirit opened our understanding and we believed it. The moment we believe the Gospel the Holy Spirit comes in, and becomes God’s brand upon us, He becomes the very power of God within us, and we are not under Law but rather Grace. That doesn’t mean we become lawless. Grace is never license. But we have been given such freedom under Grace. We are now led and guided by the Holy Spirit of God. And that is part and parcel of the whole Salvation experience, and that is what makes true born again believers so different from false professors. A lot of people who are church members have never experienced true Salvation. They can’t tell you what they believe for their Salvation. I always compare them to the Old Testament when Israel came out of Egypt. There was a great group of hangers-on. The mixed multitude. They were the unbelievers who were just hanging on to see what would happen. And a lot of so-called Christians are hanging on to the social environment of the Church, they want to be part of all the good things. They enjoy the music and all of that. But you get them down to the nitty gritty of studying this Book, the nitty gritty of actually living a testimony for Christ, and you can forget it. But God is not looking for that. He is looking for men and women who have experienced a genuine Salvation. They have experienced the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and we don’t need law to tell us what we can and can’t do. We are sealed with the Holy Spirit.
“Which is the earnest (our down payment) of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.” And remember the purchased possession is the whole person: the body, soul, and spirit.