When I think about Acts Chapter 2 I am immediately drawn to verse 38 where Peter responds to the crowd’s question and concludes his first Holy Spirit directed sermon.
38 And 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 ESV
The crowd was cut to their heart by his message, they realized the weight of their sin against their Creator, and they asked Peter what could be done. He responded with two actions that would result in a solution to the problem. Repent and be baptized. Repentance is first and it is a key to the heart being humbled and ready for God to work. Second is Baptism the first act of public obedience to celebrate what has happened in the heart already. Both work together and the model was established by John the Baptist when he was clearing the way for Jesus.
4 John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Mark 1:4 ESV
So what is repentance and how does one get to that state? Repent the word Peter used in the Greek simply means to “change one’s mind”. It is an attitude and a fundamental reversal or 180 degree direction change in what one believes is acceptable or permissible for that individual. Peter is saying repent of your sins. Flee from them, turn from them, renounce them, and confess them before the Creator. The concept of repentance is woven all through the Old Testament and God has always looked for this change of heart in his people.
30 “Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, declares the Lord God. Repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin. 31 Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? Ezekiel 18:30-31 ESV
Paul warns that there are two types of grief in regard to sin. There is the type of grief that the world creates and leads to ruined lives and then there is a grief that comes from God himself and leads to repentance. What the Israelites did not have that Peter and the Apostles gained in Acts chapter 2 is the power of the Holy Spirit creating in God’s children a new heart and a new spirit.
10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. 2 Corinthians 7:10 ESV
Judas after betraying Jesus felt guilty about what he had done. However his grief was not based on godly grief as Paul describes but Judas took his grief in a direction that produced death namely that he committed suicide (Matthew 27:5). The grief that Paul talks about is a gift from God that leads to repentance. The crowd listening to Peter preach was “cut to the heart” (Acts 2:37). The Holy Spirit was working on their hearts and they were ready to repent from their sins. Repentance then is possible because of God’s mercy and grace to us in this present time. Take advantage while you may.
4 Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin? 5 But because you are stubborn and refuse to turn from your sin, you are storing up terrible punishment for yourself. For a day of anger is coming, when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. Romans 2:4-5 NLT
The second part of Peter’s answer to the question “what must we do” is to be baptized. Baptism is a mark of obedience that recognizes in public in the physical what has already occurred in the heart and in the spiritual.
21 Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 1 Peter 3:21 ESV
There are few elements that make up this act of obedience as it recognizes that repentance the old self the unrepentant self is dead going under the water. The new self the saved Holy Spirit directed self has come alive. Just as Jesus told Nicodemus that he must be “born again” (John 3:3) so baptism is symbolic of the new life gained through repentance and salvation through faith in Jesus.
3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. Romans 6:3-5 ESV
What had been done in the past prior to Acts Chapter 2 was all leading up to this moment when the promised Holy Spirit is unleashed creating this church age that we currently live in. This church age is directed by the Holy Spirit, is empowered by the Holy Spirit, and is possible because of the Holy Spirit living in God’s children. Have you repented? Have you been baptized? Now is the time to accept the Holy Spirit from Jesus and be baptized to proclaim what has happened in your heart.
11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. Matthew 3:11 ESV