What Shall We Do?

Shortly after Jesus had ascended back into heaven, the disciples were gathered in Jerusalem. Being the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1), a Jewish feast day, there were many Jews from different regions who had come to Jerusalem (Acts 2:5, 9-11). It is at this time that Peter delivered what we often refer to as the first gospel sermon. In a sense, the gospel had been preached before. It was preached in promise to Abraham (Galatians 3:8). When Jesus began His public teaching, He taught the “gospel of God” (Mark 1:15). But this was the first time the gospel was preached in its fullness. The gospel was the good news of salvation from God made available by Jesus’ death on the cross and His resurrection from the dead which gave us hope of eternal life. Before, this was said to be coming. By the day of Pentecost in Acts 2, it was a reality. This was the first time the gospel was preached since all these things were fulfilled.

In this sermon, Peter made the case for who Jesus is. He introduced the lesson by explaining how the events they were witnessing that day (Acts 2:1-13) were a fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy (Acts 2:16-21; Joel 2:28-32). Having established the fact that God was behind these events, he began making his case. He explained to them how God Himself was a witness to who Jesus was. Jesus was “attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst” (Acts 2:22). Jesus was also raised from the dead following His crucifixion (Acts 2:24). Following His resurrection, He ascended into heaven and took His place at the “right hand of God” (Acts 2:33).

From the beginning of this sermon, Peter not only showed the Lordship of Jesus, but the guilt of those in his audience. He told them, “This Man…you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death” (Acts 2:23). After explaining about the death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ, he boldly said: “Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified” (Acts 2:36).

Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart” (Acts 2:37). They understood and were convinced of what Peter was telling them. These were Jews. They knew the Old Testament prophecies that pointed to a Messiah that would save their people. They were now convinced that Jesus was this Messiah. However, they had their Messiah – the one who was going to bring salvation – put to death. Was salvation possible at this point? Was there anything that could fix what they had done? They asked Peter and the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37).

These Jews were interested in salvation. Despite being guilty of murdering the Savior, they wanted to be saved. At this point, they now believed in Jesus as being the Savior. Faith was produced through hearing Peter’s sermon (cf. Romans 10:17). So they asked what they needed to do. Today, different religious groups will tell people different things as to what they need to do to be saved. Some say you need to invite Jesus into your heart. Some tell you to pray the “sinner’s prayer.” Some will say you need to do nothing because faith alone will save you. But these Jews assumed they needed to do something. So they asked, “What shall we do?

If these people were wrong in their assumption that some action or work was required of them for salvation, Peter needed to correct their misunderstanding. They had faith. If faith alone would save them, Peter should have told them so. But he did not. If they simply needed to invite Jesus into their heart and receive Him as their personal Savior, he should have told them that. But he did not. If they were required to pray the “sinner’s prayer” and ask God to save them, Peter needed to tell them to do that. But he did not.

What did Peter tell them to do then? “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). If they wanted forgiveness of sins, they needed to repent and be baptized. This was necessary for salvation. Despite the fact that they delivered Jesus over to be crucified, they could be forgiven and be reconciled to God if they obeyed these simple instructions given by Peter.

Is it any different for us today? The words Peter spoke on that day were the words given to Him by the Lord (John 14:26; 15:26-27; Acts 2:4). The message of the gospel has not changed. Paul said, “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed” (Galatians 1:8-9). We cannot preach anything but what was preached in the New Testament. The gospel message, including God’s conditions of salvation, that Peter preached on the day of Pentecost was preached throughout the first century by faithful men and is the same message we need to preach today.

The gospel has not changed. Therefore we must preach the same message that was preached in Acts 2. Upon believing in Christ, one must repent of his sins and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins. Doing this will result in one having his sins being washed away (Acts 22:16), being clothed with Christ (Galatians 3:27), and being saved (1 Peter 3:21). Then, having been added to the Lord’s number, the church (Acts 2:47), he begins his life in service to Him. Since gospel has not changed, this is the message we must continue to preach.

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