After Conviction Comes Repentance and Faith
Upon hearing Peter’s sermon, which purpose was NOT to make people feel better about themselves or help people get along in life or make the gospel “relevant” to itching ears – no, upon hearing Peter’s sermon, we read that the people were “cut to the heart,” which we said just yesterday was the work of the Holy Spirit, for they responded in desperation, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
Hear the Apostle’s answer: “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.” Here in a nutshell is the gospel. Granted, Peter says nothing about believing but we know that is included or why else be baptized in Jesus’ name. So let us begin with Peter’s words. The first word is, “Repent,” the very same word preached by John the Baptist and the Lord Jesus (Matthew 3:2; 4:17). This is a nonnegotiable piece of the gospel that cannot be skipped, and I fear is missing from too much evangelical preaching. It is a turning away from sin and turning towards God in heartfelt trust and devotion (i.e., faith) that understands that Christ died and rose for me. And it is the love of God that demands of us repentance, for God knows that living according to one’s sinful appetites is to live a life of slavery and bitterness. The gospel offers us freedom from the flesh, the world and the devil through faith and repentance. Matthew Henry reminds us that God saves us not in our sins but from them.
And then Peter commands them to be baptized. This too is not an option. Now baptism is not like faith and repentance which are essential to receiving the Holy Spirit and salvation. But it is commanded, and that which is commanded of us, we must do, or be able to explain to our Lord why, as he himself submitted thereto. Baptism is a witness to the church of which we are a part that we are one of them, and a statement to the world that we are followers of Christ, as it displays our Lord’s death, burial, and resurrection. In countries where the faith is persecuted, it is often baptism that puts one in the crosshairs. And it is this repentance from sin, this heartfelt trust in Jesus as Lord and Savior, and this desire and commitment to follow and obey him, of which baptism is only the beginning – and all of which is the fruit of that saving faith – which results in the forgiveness of our sins. The cross and resurrection make it possible; faith and repentance make it actual; and He is the Holy Spirit who is works that conviction, faith, repentance, and holy desire in the heart of the believer.