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Acts 2:38 is Not the Preaching of the Cross

By Justin Johnson

“Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, 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 Ghost.” – Acts 2:37-38

If Acts 2:38 is the gospel that saves today, then there is no reason to preach the finished work of the cross for salvation.

After Peter condemned the men of Israel for killing Jesus, who was both Lord and Christ, many in the crowd sought deliverance from their actions. What should they do to save themselves from the wrath of God that would surely come as a result of their rejection of Christ?

Peter’s response did not include trusting the finished work of Christ on the cross. In fact, his response did not include the cross at all!

Repentance and Baptism

Peter did not preach the cross for salvation, but instead called them all to repent and be baptized for the remission of sins.

This was the same message of John the Baptist years earlier before the cross of Christ.

“John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.” – Mark 1:4

John did not baptize in the name of Jesus, but his baptism did help identify Jesus as the Son of God (John 1:31).

There was one difference to the message John preached. This water baptism was to be “in the name of Jesus Christ.”

The Name of Jesus Christ

Jesus and the disciples baptized with John’s baptism of repentance throughout their three year ministry before the cross. Except their message also included the identification of Jesus as the prophesied Christ.

“He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” – John 3:18

To be baptized meant they were receiving repentance and remission of sins in preparation for the kingdom come, but also believing that Jesus was Christ the King whom John said would come.

“And all the people that heard him, and the publicans, justified God, being baptized with the baptism of John.” – Luke 7:29

Naming Jesus of Nazareth as Israel’s Christ was the purpose of the Lord’s ministry to Israel. It was on this issue that Jesus evaluated how his ministry was being received.

“When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?” – Matthew 16:13

All of this was preached before the event of the cross. Moreover, it was preached without the disciples understanding the cross (Matt 16:21-23). The cross was not being preached as the means of salvation unto all. What was preached was the name of Jesus Christ.

The Gift of the Holy Ghost

The new thing in Peter’s message at Pentecost was the presence of the promised Holy Ghost.

Acts 2:38 adds as a consequence of being baptized with John’s baptism, and naming Jesus as the Christ, which was receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost.

The prophets spoke about the Holy Ghost (including John the Baptist – Matt 3:11). Jesus taught that the Holy Ghost would be necessary for Israel to enter their kingdom.

“Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” – John 3:5

The Holy Spirit would provide the necessary power for Israel’s new covenant to be fulfilled (Eze 36:26). As God’s purpose for Israel unfolded Acts 2:38 was right on time, but it did not include the revelation of the mystery or the gospel of the cross.

The Missing Cross

By the time Peter preached Acts 2:38, Christ had died and resurrected, but his message was not offering the cross for salvation.

The cross was the means of condemnation. It was another link in a long chain of Israel killing their prophets, and then being called on to repent.

Time was running out for Israel, but God was still giving opportunity for them to be forgiven per request of the Lord.

“Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” – Luke 23:34

If the preaching of the cross of Christ for salvation is the measure of salvation for today, then Acts 2:38 is not the gospel that saves today.

If Acts 2:38 is the gospel that saves today, then we do not need to understand or preach the finished work of the cross of Christ to save.

God forbid.

“For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” – 1 Corinthians 1:17-18

Peter did not yet know what was later revealed to the apostle Paul about the cross. With a full Bible, we have no excuse today for not reading further than Acts 2:38.

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Published: January 27, 2018
Last Modified: February 1, 2018
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