In the first part of this series, we took a look at what Jesus Himself had to say about baptism, as well as looking at the classic objection to baptism – “the thief on the cross”. In this part we’ll look at what the apostles DID in response to what Jesus taught.
On the day of Pentecost, 50 days after Jesus’ death and resurrection, Peter and the apostles preached to the gathered celebrants of the festival. They flat out told them “Therefore let all the house of Israel know with certainty that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.” This cut them to the core (they were guilty of killing the very Messiah they’d been looking for for generations!) and they asked “What should we do?” (Acts 2:36-37)
Peter’s answer to that simple question is telling. “Repent and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” In other words, quit shunning God’s way and be immersed FOR THE FORGIVENESS OF YOUR SINS, and you’ll receive God’s Holy Spirit as a gift! But it gets even better!
“For the promise is for you and for your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” With many other words he testified and strongly urged them, saying, “Be saved from this corrupt generation!” (Acts 2:37-39) In Acts 17:30 we see that God is calling all men everywhere to repent! In other words, this promise made on the day of Pentecost in 30 A.D. is a promise that extends around the globe and through time, reaching down to us to this very day.
So the church of Jesus the Christ was established in response to His commission in Matthew 28 and in accordance to His assertion in John 3 that we must be born of the water and the Spirit if we want to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. About 3,000 people heard, believed and obeyed on that day. (Acts 2:41)
So let’s keep following the apostles as history unfolds for our consideration and edification. The first few chapters of Acts relate Jesus’ return to the Father’s right hand, the coming of His Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost and the early growth and struggle of the young church. In chapter 8 of Acts we follow Philip up to Samaria and witness him preaching, performing miracles and baptizing people. Yet it wasn’t until Peter and John went up to Samaria that the Samaritans received God’s Holy Spirit. What’s going on?
Another clue to what’s occurring during these early days of the church is found a couple chapters later in Acts 10. A centurion named Cornelius sends for Peter after an angel commands him to do so. Meanwhile God gives Peter a vision indicating that “what God has purified do not call unclean” and that he is to go with the men that are about to arrive. He goes with them, prevents Cornelius from worshipping him when he arrives, preaches the Gospel message and is astounded when God poured out His Holy Spirit on Cornelius and his family. After all – these were “unclean gentiles!” Peter’s response is important. ““Can anyone withhold water and prevent these people from being baptized, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” (Acts 10: 47). Remember, Peter’s probably still processing the whole “Arise, kill and eat” vision in combination with God’s command to go and enter the house of a gentile. And those with him hadn’t had the vision, but now they witness these “unclean” people receiving a unique gift from God. What’s going on? Let’s step back in recent (to these events) history and take a look at a special commission given by Jesus to Peter.
One of the most misunderstood passages of the Bible is found in Matthew 16. Let’s take a look at verses 15-19 and think about it in the light of events that are in the future (future in regards to Matthew 16, not in our future).
“But you,” he asked them, “who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus responded, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will have been loosed in heaven.”
“You are Peter (petros)” says Jesus. Peter meaning a rock, a stone, something you can lift and carry. “On this rock (petra) I will build my church”. Rock meaning a mass of stone, bedrock, unmovable foundation. The church was not built on Peter, it was built on his assertion – that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. THAT is the foundation of the church.
Now lets consider “the keys of the kingdom of heaven”. It was given to Peter the responsibility to “open the gates of the kingdom of heaven” and we know that “the kingdom of heaven” and “the church” are synonymous. On the day of Pentecost Peter stood “with the 11” and delivered the first Gospel message designed to establish the church on the Solid Rock. He preached repentance and baptism as essential to salvation. This message was preached to the descendants of Abraham by the flesh, with ramifications to all people everywhere. BUT the jewish people were set in their belief that they were the only ones who could be saved, not realizing that the pact with Abraham included blessings to ALL peoples everywhere. (see Galatians and Hebrews which clarify many points on this matter)
So it wasn’t until Peter arrived in Samaria that the Samaritans received God’s Holy Spirit and it wasn’t until he saw the gentiles receive the Spirit that he was firmly convinced that even THEY were allowed to enter the kingdom – being uncircumcised (although this point had to be made over and over later in history).
We see, then, that through the apostles Jesus established His church on the day of Pentecost, 30 A.D.. Later on He confirmed that even those mongrel Samaritans (as seen by the Jews in Jerusalem and elsewhere) and even those “unclean Gentiles” were to form part of His holy people. But the story doesn’t end here…
To be continued…