Saturday, February 19, 2022

2022.02.19 Hopewell @Home ▫ Acts 2:39–41

Read Acts 2:39–41

Questions from the Scripture text: What had the Lord already given them (Acts 2:39a, cf. Joel 2:28, Joel 2:32; Psalm 110:3)? Who else could come into these promises (Acts 2:39b, cf. Joel 2:28, Psalm 110:2, Psalm 110:6)? What did Peter add to this original response (Acts 2:40)? How had some received this word of response (Acts 2:41a)? What happened to them? What was added (verse 41b, cf. Acts 1:15)?

“For the promise” is such a comforting phrase at the beginning of this passage. Jesus had come as Lord and Christ to wash them clean from the guilt of their sin—as He had promised. Jesus had come as Lord and Christ to pour out His Spirt to give them repentance over-against their weakness and wickedness—as He had promised. This salvation of such sinners as they are is something that God had planned all along and promised all along. 

“Salvation is according to God’s plan and promise, and it is therefore by God’s provision and power.” This is what baptism affirms that God is doing. And by making that baptism the visible ordinance by which one is added to the number, the Lord communicates to us that the ordinary place where He makes that provision and exercises that power is in His church.

God had promised to pour out His repentance-giving Spirit. God had promised to save fallen sinners. God had promised to have special regard for the children of those whom He was saving. God had promised that this salvation would go out and gather in a remnant from all the nations. This was “the promise” that Peter had preached from Joel 2. But the little-p promise was just one instance of the big-P Promise that had begun in Genesis 3:15, but was most emphasized in places like the covenant that He established with Abraham and the new age of that covenant that He had promised in Isaiah. God would extend His mighty arm and save!

Baptism is an indication that He has done so in Christ. That Christ’s death has atoned. That Christ has taken His seat on the throne and poured out His Spirit. And that in His church, He is carrying out “The Promise” as His Spirt works repentance and faith. It says “you’re in the church.” This doesn’t mean that “you’re in Christ”; in fact, it only further affirms that what you need most of all is the reality of Christ and His Spirit of which water baptism is a picture. But to those who look to Christ as their water baptisms tell them to have this faith in Christ strengthened and confirmed by their water baptisms. 

When faith sees any believer’s water baptism, and remembers that I too am baptized, it can and should say: “He to Whom I am looking for my salvation has really done in His life that accomplishment of salvation upon which I rest, and is really doing in my life by His Spirit that application of salvation for which I hope. However sinful I am, it is not something for which His death cannot atone, and it is not something which His Spirit cannot overcome.”

So, the passive nature of baptism offered them hope for themselves. Yes, they had crucified Him who is both Lord and Christ. But He declares His Lordship and Christ-hood in the water baptism with which they have been baptized. He gives repentance. He gives forgiveness. Even to such as they are! It is not something that they must do, for it is not something that they at all can do. And so, just like their salvation, their water baptism is something that is done to them not by them. 

But what of their children? Seven short weeks ago, they had cried out, “His blood be on us and on our children” (cf. Matthew 27:25). . . 

The passive nature of baptism offered them hope for their children. 

The little-p promise from Joel had included sons and daughters (cf. Joel 2:28). Yes, there was an expansion promised that would come out of Jerusalem (cf. Joel 2:32), but there was a specific promise touching your sons and your daughters (cf. Joel 2:28). And Christ’s enthronement prophecy in Psalm 110:34–35 especially emphasized not only the willingness with which His people would come but also how like dew at the dawn, He would receive children, first thing in the morning on the day of His power (cf. Psalm 110:3).

The apostle has been preaching texts that teach them that by taking them into His church, where He ordinarily works His salvation, He takes their children into that church, and He offers to them the same salvation through faith. And this has been an essential component of the big-P Promise all along (cf. Genesis 17:7; Isaiah 44:3; Isaiah 59:21). 

One promise, through the ages, still in effect despite the curse they had pronounced. What a relief! For, they could no more give their children repentance and remission than they could give it to themselves. But the One Who does give it, and the One Who is doing so in His church, is taking their children into His church as well. 

Now, parents can use the means of grace—day by day in the home and week by week in the assembly—that Jesus is saving them. Parents call their covenant children to repentance and faith not in fear and anxiety but in confidence and hope. The children needed more than a dad and mom who love Jesus, and lead them in family worship, and give them the discipline and instruction of the Lord, and especially bring them to the public worship for the public administration of the ordinary means of grace. 

Their children needed more than this, infinitely more. They needed the Holy Spirit to give them spiritual life and repentance. And their children’s water-baptisms fueled their hope in this very thing. Would it be in fear that these parents of covenant children followed God’s prescriptions? No. By the mark that the Lord had put upon them, it would be in hope and confidence and joy that He Who had marked them as holy (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:14) would use His means to bring them into a holy standing through justification and holy living through sanctification. Rather than agonizing over a moment of conversion that they might slip a dozen times into doubting, they would be watching for the fruit of a faith that they had every confidence that the Spirit was producing.

So the apostle says, “For the promise is to you and to your children.” Not “to you and your children, if you are faithful enough and they are faithful enough that they come to faith.” But rather “to you and your children, concerning whom you trust that the Holy Spirit will be faithful, so that they believe.”

And the passive nature of baptism offered them hope for the nations. For, the Lord is calling a remnant from all the nations (cf. Joel 2:32) just as He had on this particular day called to Himself a remnant of some three thousand from among the Jews (Acts 2:41). Jerusalem, Zion, was just a starting place. Christ’s kingship would spread to the ends of the earth. This too appeared in Joel 2:28, Joel 2:32), Psalm 110:2, Psalm 110:6), and the recent context in Luke-Acts (Luke 24:47 and Acts 1:8). Again, the little-p promise that the apostle had preached was an instance of a big-p Promise that had always included the nations (cf. Genesis 12:3, Genesis 18:8; and the many pictures of all the nations streaming in or praising the Lord in Psalms, Isaiah, etc.). 

This is a great reason for a church that is biblical and spiritually alive to keep membership rolls. For, these are a celebration of the fulfillment of Christ-promises and Christ-prophecies. Three thousand souls were added to their number that day. And the Lord was in the process of saving them (present participle in the original). Rejoice! And, when just one is added to the number, the Lord Jesus teaches us to rejoice with heaven (cf. Luke 15:6–7, Luke 15:10). Membership rolls and counts didn’t begin by men trying to consolidate control or prompt self-praise. They began as a testimony to the faithfulness, power, and goodness of the Lord Christ—and that’s how they ought to continue.

So, what hope do you have? Are you a believer? Then Christ has done that by His Spirit Whom He gave. Are you a church member child who doesn’t yet believe or don’t know if you do? Then your hope must be that Christ Who has given you the mark of His membership and washing and Spirit will give you the inward, eternal reality of that washing and Spirit. Are you an outsider altogether? Then cry out to God that He would call you to Himself as part of that remnant that He is calling by His Spirit.

Which of these four aspects above do you find most needful of growth/improvement in your life? Who can cause this to happen? What does He use to do so? What is your plan for availing yourself of this as you look to Him grow you?

Sample prayer:  Lord, what a blessed effect You produced in that first great congregation that You began to gather at Pentecost. And we thank You that You grant unto us the same repentance by the same Spirit even today. Forgive us for when we aim at less than a repentant, Spirit-filled life. Grant unto us to work out our own salvation, by Your Spirit’s working in us the desire for such a life and the practice of such a life, for we ask it through Christ, Who is our Life, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP15 “Within Your Tent Who Will Reside?” or TPH416 “Your Hand, O God, Has Guided”

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