I was born into a church-going, faith-talking Christian family. I was raised by a churchful of parents and siblings. I have no idea what it is like not to know Jesus.
Peter had the privilege of knowing Jesus personally. After Jesus’ ascension, they were charged with the task of introducing people all over the land to the risen Jesus through stories and actions. When people finally understood and believed, they often wondered what they must do next. Peter’s response was simple, but not necessarily easy. “Repent, and be baptized…” Repenting included a turning away from sin and toward a life in Christ. Being baptized meant dying to sin and being reborn to new life. Repent and be baptized. Turn and live.
We live in a world today where many people do not know Christ. Those of us who have had the privilege of knowing Christ for a long time would do well to remember that being introduced to Christ, being asked to understand and believe, and then being asked to repent and be baptized are all very new and very scary propositions. Instead of beating people over the head with what they must do, perhaps we could focus instead on what God does. Repent means to turn toward God. God’s role is to be fully present, fully available, fully ready to stand face to face with those who dare to turn. Being baptized means dying to sin – more importantly, baptism is a promise made by God. God’s role is to have defeated death and sin, to claim the baptized as God’s own, to bestow the gift of the Holy Spirit, and to welcome followers into God’s house. Truly, there is more for God to do than for us. New believers might be comforted to know it.
Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?” Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.” And he testified with many other arguments and exhorted them, saying, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added.
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.