The contradiction

How important, biblically, is baptism?

The sermon soared to a climax (yes, some sermons do), and the crowd, which had been transported, along with the speaker, rose similarly to that climax. Suddenly everyone saw the pieces fit together: The puzzle had been completed, the mystery solved.

They had been “cut to the heart” by the message, that is, the message had penetrated the very depths of their being, and they cried out in desperation: “Brothers, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). It was a primal cry, the cry of men who had made the greatest mistake of their lives, even the greatest mistake in history.

The man they had executed as a fraud turned out to be the son of God! The Messiah whom they had longed for, prayed for, sought with all their hearts, they had killed. I wonder if when they cried out “what shall we do” what kind of response they expected?

What if Peter had declared: “Tough luck you turkeys, what do you expect when you execute God’s son?”

Of course, stunningly, that’s not what Peter said. He offered hope, but more than that, forgiveness. At that moment in their lives, they wanted forgiveness more than love or life!

“Repent and be baptized,” Peter’s voice rang out that day, “for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:38).

Note, however, two more words: “Every one of you.” Note also in the following verse: (2:39): “For the promise is for you and for your children, and for all who are far off.” The promise, clearly, was that following repentance and baptism, forgiveness would inevitably follow.

One biblical scholar put it succinctly: “The idea of an unbaptized believer does not seem to be entertained in the New Testament,” (F.F. Bruce, Acts, 70).

Believers, those who respond in faith, emphasize this important rite precisely because that is what the Bible does.

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Stan Mitchell

Stan has preached since 1976, in Zimbabwe, California, Texas and Tennessee. He serves as preacher for the Red Walnut Church of Christ in Bath Springs, TN. He is currently Professor of Bible at Freed-Hardeman University. He is married to the former Marjorie McCarthy, and has one daughter, Tracy Watts. He is the author of four books: The Wise Get Wiser, the Foolish More Foolish: The Book of Proverbs, Give the Winds a Mighty Voice: Our Worship in Song, and Equipping the Saints for Ministry. He has recently published another book, "Will Our Faith Have Children: Developing Leadership in the Church for the Next Generation.

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