posted on Nov, 23 2018 @ 05:02 PM
“Repent and be baptised every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy
Spirit” (Acts ch2 v38).
The message of the New Testament centres upon what God achieved in Christ, through his death on the Cross and his Resurrection..
All this was happening “on account of our sins”, for the sake of doing something about them.
And the promised result is the forgiveness of sin.
Our contribution to the outcome is our faith; that is, our willingness to rest, in trust, upon what Christ has done.
This faith needs to be expressed in repentance
The Old Testament word for “repenting” means a change of direction- “Return unto me, you backward children!”
The New Testament word is literally a “change of mind”- METANOIA.
The two metaphors are both showing us that repentance means adopting a new form of life.
The New Testament opens with an appeal from John the Baptist;
“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew ch3 v3).
After John was arrested, Jesus began to preach in exactly the same words (ch4 v17).
So that is the primary message of his gospel. God is coming, and you need to prepare yourselves to meet him. You prepare yourselves by means of
repentance, turning back to God.
Those who leave themselves unprepared will suffer accordingly;
“Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke ch13 v5).
That is why Jesus was so frustrated by the stubborn resistance of some of the cities;
“Woe to you , Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long
ago in sackcloth and ashes” (Matthew ch11 v-21).
On the other hand, “there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance”
(Luke ch15 v7).
Therefore the same message was inherited by the church, to be proclaimed on his behalf; “… that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be
preached in his name to all nations” (Luke ch24 v47).
In obedience to that command, the call to repentance becomes the starting-point of the gospel message in Acts;
“Repent, therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out” (ch3 v19).
The blotting out of sins, which puts them in a right relationship with God, means that repentance will be “unto life” (ch11 v18).
Hebrews refers to this call as the “foundation” of Christian teaching; “repentance from dead works and faith toward God” (Hebrews ch6 v4).
Those hearing the call are reminded how patiently God has been trying to get them to that point;
“Do you not know that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” (Romans ch2 v4)
And again, “The Lord is forbearing towards you, not wishing that anyone should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter ch3 v9).
But that patience must run out in the end. Revelation mourns the stubborn resistance of some portions of mankind (ch9 vv20-21).
John’s call to repentance was accompanied by the act of baptism, symbolising the start of a new life.
By allowing themselves to be baptised, his followers were making a public declaration that they had repented.
Peter’s words quoted at the beginning make it clear that the Christian community will be using baptism in the same way.
There is a difference, in that repentance-and-baptism are now associated with Christ, and therefore with forgiveness of sins.
The connection between baptism and the promised Holy Spirit is that baptism is the public declaration that a new life has begun, while the Holy Spirit
is the spiritual reality of the same new life.
In the language of the Anglican catechism, the act of baptism is the “outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace”.
We see the sequence in the story of Cornelius (Acts ch10). Cornelius and his friends, hearing and believing what Peter is telling them, experience the
obvious manifestations of receiving the Holy Spirit.
Peter then commands them to be baptised as an acknowledgement of what has taken place.
In the same way, Paul was filled with the Holy Spirit and then baptised (Acts ch9 vv17-18).
As for the eunuch who asked to be baptised in the previous chapter, he must at least have been touched by the Spirit, or he could not have believed at
all (“No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit” – 1 Corinthians ch12 v3).
When Paul and his friends reached Ephesus, they found “disciples” who were followers of John the Baptist (Acts ch19). These people knew the
“baptism of repentance” which John had instituted, but they did not know the gospel of Jesus as it was being taught by the apostles.
Once Paul had taught them to believe in Jesus, they accepted Christian baptism and received the Holy Spirit.
Apollos had been a disciple of this kind. He “spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus”, but when Priscilla and Aquila got hold of
him they expounded the way of God more accurately. As a result, it seems, his later teaching was presenting Jesus as “the Christ”.
He must have known Jesus, previously, only as a teacher of repentance in the style of John.
The difference between the two baptisms is that John’s baptism was for people aspiring to forgiveness, whereas Christian baptism is about
forgiveness achieved in Christ.
Baptism is an appropriate ceremony to accompany repentance and new life, because it is a symbolic representation of death and resurrection.
The believer enacts his death by going down into the water, and he enacts his resurrection and newness of life by coming out again.
As Paul declares; “Do you not know that all of us who were baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into his death?” (Romans ch6 v3).
This was confirmed by anticipation by Jesus himself, when he referred to his own forthcoming death as his “baptism”-
“Are you able to be baptised with the baptism with which I am baptised?” (Mark ch10 v38).
“I have a baptism to be baptised with, and how I am straitened until it is accomplished” (Luke ch12 v50).
Thus the intended meaning of baptism is that the old life has come to an end.
So man comes to God in a faith which depends upon God’s faithfulness, and this involves a change from the past.
This change is what is meant by repentance, the inauguration of what amounts to a new life.
The Holy Spirit is the reality, and the act of baptism is the symbol, of entering a new relationship with God in which we have received the
forgiveness of sin.