PENTECOST, PETER, AND PAUL

Wayne S. Walker

     Question: “When Peter told the Jews on Pentecost to repent and be
baptized, doesn’t this apply only to the people who put Jesus on the
cross and have nothing to do with our being saved, and why do people use
this when the dispensation that we’re in now isn’t under Peter’s
preaching but Paul’s preaching?”

     The passage in question is Acts 2.38 where we read, “Then Peter said
to them, ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of
Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of
the Holy Spirit.”  Certainly, there is no doubt that Peter was speaking
to Jews on this occasion.  However, the real question is, do Peter’s
words apply only to those people, or is he revealing a general truth by
the power of the Holy Spirit which had been given to him and the other
apostles for all mankind?

     As a result of Peter’s preaching Christ, a large number in that
audience came to believe that Jesus is Lord.  At this point they cried
out, asking what to do.  They were not just saying, “Oh my, what are we
going to do about this mess?”  The text says that they were cut to the
heart, meaning that having killed the very Christ on whom they now
believed as Savior, they knew that they were lost in sin and were asking
what to do to be saved from their sin.  And when Peter told them to
repent and be baptized, he was telling them what God required of them to
do for remission of sins.  In Acts 10.34-35 this same inspired apostle
later said to Gentiles, “I perceive that God shows no partiality.  But in
every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by
Him.”

     God is no respector of persons, so it is only reasonable to conclude
that what He required of Jews to do for salvation, He requires of all
others too–to show that we fear God by repenting of sin and then to work
His righteousness by obeying His will in baptism.  Furthermore, Peter
himself told us to whom his words applied.  In Acts 2.39 he went on to
say, “For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who afar
off, even as many as the Lord our God will call.”  Peter may not have
understood all the implications of this statement himself, but it is
clear that what he said to the Jews on that occasion is equally
applicable to all others as well.  So, no, this did not apply only to the
Jews on Pentecost who put Jesus on the cross, but it is part of God’s
plan for the salvation of all mankind, including our salvation too.

     Nor does the Bible make a distinction between the “dispensation” of
Peter’s preaching and Paul’s preaching.  In what dispensation was Peter
preaching?  In Acts 2.16-17 he quoted the prophet Joel, “And it shall
come to pass in the last days, says God, that I will pour out of My
Spirit on all flesh….”  Joel prophesied of the “last days” or gospel
age of the Messiah when the Spirit would be poured out and salvation
offered to all who call on the name of the Lord (note Acts 2.21).  Peter
said that Pentecost was the fulfilment of that!  Wee are still in that
same dispensation when whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be
saved (Romans 10.13-17).  Therefore, what Peter said applies to us just
as much as it did then.

     The question implies that we are under Paul’s preaching, not
Peter’s.  However, Paul preached the same thing as Peter.  In Romans 6.4
he wrote, “Therefore, we were buried with Him through baptism into death,
that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father,
even so we also should walk in newness of life.”  When do we have newness
of life?  It is when we are saved from our sins.  And Paul says that this
newness of life comes after we have been buried with Christ in baptism
(see also Galatians 3.26-27 and Colossians 2.11-13).  In fact, Peter
claimed that he and Paul taught the same thing!  He said in 2 Peter 3.14,
“And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation–as also our
beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written
to you.”  So both Peter and Paul were doing exactly what Christ told them
to do–preach the same gospel to the whole world, telling people that
thos who believe and are baptized will be saved (Mark 16.16).

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