Acts 2:38 is no doubt one of the most popular verses in Acts chapter 2. It is used quite often by those that make water baptism part of the gospel, but it is most often quoted out of context. What about the rest of Peter’s message?
If you think our pattern begins at Pentecost, then why don’t you ever hear Peter’s sermon at Pentecost repeated in its entirety from pulpits today?
Perhaps it is because repeating Peter’s Pentecostal message in its entirety would make us all liars. Preaching Acts 2:14-39 to the church today would feel awkward, out of place, doctrinally incorrect, and, at best, incomplete.
Here are half a dozen lies that would be spoken if you preached Peter’s message to your church.
“ye men of Judaea… ye men of Israel” – Acts 2:14; Acts 2:22
Peter specifically addressed Jews and Israel on the day of Pentecost. This is not merely a problem of a different audience, because Peter deliberately excluded Gentiles knowing the kingdom was promised to Israel (Acts 2:39; Acts 3:25-26).
Furthermore, he had not yet learned the acceptance of Gentiles by God (Acts 11:18), and Peter’s ministry was to Jews only before he was pushed to visit Cornelius (Acts 11:19).
By taking this approach, you would be neglecting to preach the gospel of Christ to all: Jew and Gentile, without difference (Rom 1:16; Gal 3:28).
“this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel” – Acts 2:16
Would you dare say this from a pulpit? Especially after the hullabaloo that has recently passed about the end of the world in September, that is now come and gone, and become the laughingstock of Bible Christianity.
The “this” Peter refers to are the supernatural prophesies uttered by the power of the Spirit in the languages of the world. Is this your ministry? Do you speak in tongues? If you are not, then you are lying that Pentecost is your pattern.
Pentecostals for over a century have claimed passages like this to support their confusing and chaotic utterances, when in actuality the words at Pentecost were all understood, and spoke to “that” which Joel prophesied: the restoration of Israel’s kingdom and language. Joel did not speak about the mystery church of today (Rom 16:25).
So, whether you are part of the tongue talking groups, or not, it would be wrong to repeat “this is that”. Salvation is not being today in Zion and in Jerusalem (Joel 2:32).
“a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs… as ye yourselves also know” – Acts 2:22
No one alive today has seen Jesus live among us. None of us has a genuine memory of Jesus of Nazareth. No one today is witness to a single miracle of Jesus while he was on earth.
All that we know of him we read from inspired scripture. Yet, Peter was using their memory of these miracles to prove who Jesus was. Knowing Jesus and remembering his miracles is a prerequisite for the unbelievers listening to Peter’s message.
“ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain” – Acts 2:23
I did not do this, and neither did you. Everyone that delivered Christ to council, nailed him to the cross, and cheered at his death sentence is now dead.
Peter is blaming that generation with the murder of Jesus, and we do not fit in the audience. The only way we can see our guilt in the death of Christ is according to the mystery when we realize that he purposely died for our sins, and so our sins made his death necessary.
Meanwhile, we are told to glory in the cross (Gal 6:14); whereas every time Peter mentions it in Acts 2, it is a shame to Israel.
Preaching that I crucified Christ with my wicked hands would be a spiritual lie; preaching Christ dying willingly for my sins is the gospel not preached at Pentecost.
“whereof [the resurrection] we all are witnesses” – Acts 2:32
No one has seen Christ resurrected since the days of Paul. Paul declares that last of all he was seen of him (1 Cor 15:8).
We believe the death and resurrection of Christ because of the scripture records, not because of a promise that God has given to appear personally before each person that believes.
“he hath shed forth this which ye now see and hear… ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” – Acts 2:34; Acts 2:38
Peter was offering the same thing that was happening to all the believers at Pentecost to the unbelievers at Pentecost. If you do not have a public testimony of the Spirit’s gifts, and if the Spirit does not empower those you baptize to do what they did at Pentecost, either God is a liar, or you are (Rom 3:4).
Pentecost was a one-time event that fulfilled prophecy toward Israel. The revelation of the mystery of Christ, his church, and the gospel of grace was not yet known.
Stop the Lies
The ministry of Peter and Paul were different.
These statements were not lies when Peter spoke them at Pentecost, but by repeating them today in our churches they become lies. This should be a good indication that the message and ministry of Peter at Pentecost is not our pattern.
The pattern of God’s grace sent to unbelieving Gentiles is found in Paul’s epistles. Paul’s ministry began in the middle of the book of Acts after Israel had rejected the Pentecostal promise of the last days and the earthly kingdom.
Whereas preaching Peter’s message would make me a liar, there is no problem reading what Paul wrote in the book of Romans in my church without a lie. This is what should be done more often.
Stop the lies. Stick with Paul.