The passage can be read here.
We don’t use the word repent much these days. It’s a bit, ‘in your face’. It seems the only people who use it are some Christians and it isn’t generally well received. It’s saying ‘you are wrong and you need to change’, and obviously we don’t like that much. A man said to me recently; ‘when I was a child, churches were all fire and brimstone and telling people they’re going to hell, but you are doing something right here’. His judgement was based, I think, on the full programme that we run and the people who attend. He had never actually been to a service or heard any preaching.
For the crowd at Pentecost, Peter’s preaching had not been full of flattery and nice words. You could hardly call it the Good News, it had been the unremittingly bad news, they were guilty, they had been wrong, Jesus was the Messiah and they had killed him. Now God had raised him from the dead and they were facing God’s judgement. No wonder they were cut to the heart – it was devastating. They were desperate, was there anything they could do? Peter’s answer must have brought huge relief, there was hope in the form of one wonderful word; repent.
Peter’s sermon gave his hearers the information they needed. They like all of us a one point had been going in the wrong direction; they were heading away from God and towards a lost eternity. They needed to respond, to repent and to call on the name of the Lord. Repentance involves a change of direction. To stop going our own way and start to going God’s way. It isn’t being really sorry for the way things are but carrying on as if nothing has happened except for maybe going to church now and again. Neither is it to try and stop our sinful behaviour and turn over a new leaf without giving ourselves over to God.
It’s clear from elsewhere in the New Testament no one ever became a Christian by being baptised. Take the thief on the cross for instance, he obviously put his trust in Christ and was promised eternal life but he was not baptised. The Jews baptised gentile converts to Judaism but Peter called for everyone to be baptised and this was unusual. There is another element to this as he called for them to be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ. Those who did so were publicly identifying themselves with Jesus. Baptism is a step every believer should take, Jesus was baptised after all, but baptism is not essential for salvation. Going all in with Jesus however, is absolutely essential.
There are two great blessings that flow from a life surrendered to Christ. First there is forgiveness. We can find it hard to forgive ourselves but God who is holy and totally separate from sin forgives those who come to him through Christ. Jesus was punished so that we can be forgiven and that isn’t all: It says in Jeremiah 31:34 that God: ‘will remember their sins no more’. The omniscient all-knowing God has, by an act of will, chosen not to remember our sins. The slate is wiped clean; we have been made righteous because of Jesus.
Secondly, there is the gift of the Holy Spirit. The God who formed the stars dwells in me! He is our councilor, our comforter and our advocate. He is always present helping us as we pray and guiding us for our good. The promise still stands it’s to all whom the Lord will call.
The passage concludes with the believers pleading with members of the crowd to respond to Jesus Christ. If you are reading this and you are not a Christian or if you are not sure, I would join with those first believers and I too would plead;
“Repent and be baptised, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul! (It is well with my Soul – Horatio Spafford)