Then Peter said unto them - Peter had been the chief speaker, though others had also addressed them. He now, in the name of all, directed the multitude what to do.
Repent - See the notes on Matthew 3:2. Repentance implies sorrow for sin as committed against God, along with a purpose to forsake it. It is not merely a fear of the consequences of sin or of the wrath of God in hell. It is such a view of sin, as evil in itself, as to lead the mind to hate it and forsake it. Laying aside all view of the punishment of sin, the true penitent hates it. Even if sin were the means of procuring him happiness; if it would promote his gratification and be unattended with any future punishment, he would hate it and turn from it. The mere fact that it is evil, and that God hates it, is a sufficient reason why those who are truly penitent hate it and forsake it. False repentance dreads the consequences of sin; true repentance dreads sin itself. These persons whom Peter addressed had been merely alarmed; they were afraid of wrath, and especially of the wrath of the Messiah. They had no true sense of sin as an evil, but were simply afraid of punishment. This alarm Peter did not regard as by any means genuine repentance. Such conviction for sin would soon wear off, unless their repentance became thorough and complete. Hence, he told them to repent, to turn from sin, to exercise sorrow for it as an evil and bitter thing, and to express their sorrow in the proper manner. We may learn here:
(1) That there is no safety in mere conviction for sin: it may soon pass off, and leave the soul as thoughtless as before.
(2) There is no goodness or holiness in mere alarm or conviction. The devils ...tremble. A man may fear who yet has a firm purpose to do evil, if he can do it with impunity.
(3) Many are greatly troubled and alarmed who never repent. There is no situation where souls are so easily deceived as here. Alarm is taken for repentance; trembling for godly sorrow; and the fear of wrath is taken to be the true fear of God.
(4) True repentance is the only thing in such a state of mind that can give any relief. An ingenuous confession of sin, a solemn purpose to forsake it, and a true hatred of it, is the only thing that can give the mind composure. Such is the constitution of the mind that nothing else will furnish relief. But the moment we are willing to make an open confession of guilt, the mind is delivered of its burden, and the convicted soul finds peace. Until this is done, and the hold on sin is broken, there can be no peace.
(5) We see here what direction is to be given to a convicted sinner. We are not to direct him to wait; nor to lead him to suppose that he is in a good way; nor to tell him to continue to seek; nor to call him a mourner; nor to take sides with him, as if God were wrong and harsh; nor to advise him to read, and search, and postpone the subject to a future time. We are to direct him to repent; to mourn over his sins, and to forsake them. Religion demands that he should at once surrender himself to God by genuine repentance; by confession that God is right and that he is wrong; and by a firm purpose to live a life of holiness.
Be baptized - See the notes on Matthew 3:6, Matthew 3:16. The direction which Christ gave to his apostles was that they should baptize all who believed, Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:16. The Jews had not been baptized; and a baptism now would be a profession of the religion of Christ, or a declaration made before the world that they embraced Jesus as their Messiah. It was equivalent to saying that they should publicly and professedly embrace Jesus Christ as their Saviour. The gospel requires such a profession, and no one is at liberty to withhold it. A similar declaration is to be made to all who are inquiring the way to life. They are to exercise repentance; and then, without any unnecessary delay, to evince it by partaking of the ordinances of the gospel. If people are unwilling to profess religion, they have none. If they will not, in the proper way, show that they are truly attached to Christ, it is proof that they have no such attachment. Baptism is the application of water, as expressive of the need of purification, and as emblematic of the influences from God that can alone cleanse the soul. It is also a form of dedication to the service of God.
In the name of Jesus Christ - Not ̓ eis , into, but ̓́ epi , upon. The usual form of baptism is into the name of the Father, etc. - ̓ eis . Here it does not mean to be baptized by the authority of Jesus Christ, but it means to be baptized for him and his service; to be consecrated in this way, and by this public profession, to him and to his cause. The expression is literally upon the name of Jesus Christ: that is, as the foundation of the baptism, or as that on which its propriety rested or was based. In other words, it is with an acknowledgment of him in that act as being what his name imports the Sinner' s only Hope, his Redeemer, Lord, Justifier, King (Prof. Hackett, in loco). The name of Jesus Christ means the same as Jesus Christ himself. To be baptized to his name is to be devoted to him. The word "name" is often thus used. The profession which they were to make amounted to this: a confession of sins; a hearty purpose to turn from them; a reception of Jesus as the Messiah and as a Saviour; and a determination to become his followers and to be devoted to his service. Thus, I Corinthians 10:2, to be baptized unto Moses means to take him as a leader and guide. It does not follow that, in administering the ordinance of baptism, they used only the name of Jesus Christ. It is much more probable that they used the form prescribed by the Saviour himself Matthew 28:19; though, as the special mark of a Christian is that he receives and honors Jesus Christ, this name is used here as implying the whole. The same thing occurs in Acts 19:5.
For the remission of sins - Not merely the sin of crucifying the Messiah, but of all sins. There is nothing in baptism itself that can wash away sin. That can be done only by the pardoning mercy of God through the atonement of Christ. But baptism is expressive of a willingness to be pardoned in that way, and is a solemn declaration of our conviction that there is no other way of remission. He who comes to be baptized, comes with a professed conviction that he is a sinner; that there is no other way of mercy but in the gospel, and with a professed willingness to comply with the terms of salvation, and to receive it as it is offered through Jesus Christ.
And ye shall receive ... - The gift of the Holy Spirit here does not mean his extraordinary gifts, or the power of working miracles, but it simply means, you shall partake of the influences of the Holy Spirit "as far as they may be adapted to your case" - as far as may be needful for your comfort, peace, and sanctification. There is no evidence that they were all endowed with the power of working miracles, nor does the connection of the passage require us thus to understand it. Nor does it mean that they had not been awakened "by his influences." All true conviction is from him, John 16:8-10. But it is also the office of the Spirit to comfort, to enlighten, to give peace, and thus to give evidence that the soul is born again. To this, probably, Peter refers; and this all who are born again and profess faith in Christ possess. There is peace, calmness, joy; there is evidence of piety, and that evidence is the product of the influences of the Spirit. "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace," etc., Galatians 5:22, Galatians 5:24.
Other Barnes' Notes entries containing Acts 2:38:
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