What does God want us to do?
The answer hasn’t changed
Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.Acts 2:38
What does God want us to do? It is a fundamental question, asked a number of times in the Bible by those who wanted to be right with God. What is the answer?
The book of Acts begins after Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection, and shortly before he departed into heaven. In those final days, Jesus instructed his disciples:
. . . Wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. Acts 1:4-5
Some ten days after his ascension, on the day of Pentecost, this promise of the Father was fulfilled when around 120 disciples of Jesus were filled with the Holy Spirit, speaking in other tongues. This miraculous event eventually gathered a crowd of thousands. Unaware that this was God’s promised outpouring of the Holy Spirit, those who gathered wondered both how and why these people of Israel were speaking in many foreign languages. Peter and the other apostles explained to them that Jesus, who had been raised from the dead, had ascended into heaven, and that
Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear. Acts 2:33
Demonstrating from prophecy and scripture that not only was Jesus the Christ, the Messiah, they had all hoped for, but that his death, resurrection, and ascension had been necessary to obtain the Father’s promise of the Holy Spirit they now saw and heard, he declared,
Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ. Acts 2:36
As a result of the evidence of scripture, and their own eyes and ears, many of them believed in that moment that Jesus was indeed Lord and Christ. And finding themselves on the wrong side of God, they were stirred:
Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Acts 2:37
The people here believed that Jesus was the Christ, the Lord, the Son of God. This is a fundamental recognition. It is also a necessity for salvation. But, alone, it is not enough. These people knew they were in the wrong. They had opposed God. They did not stand with Christ when he died. Now, their understanding had been corrected. They had been shown the truth. And their belief that Jesus was indeed Lord and Christ had brought them to the fundamental question, “What shall we do?”
What was God’s answer to this question?
Have you heard the answer given by Peter and the other apostles? Here it is:
Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.
And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation. Acts 2:38-40
This was the apostles’ answer. It is obviously also God’s answer. Is this the one you were given, or would have given? Is this the one you’ve been looking for?
The cry of the people “What shall we do?” on the day of Pentecost is the fundamental question asked by all those who want to know what they need to do to be right with God. It was what Cornelius wanted to know when he sent for Peter, after the angel had said to him “he shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do” (Acts 10:6), and “shall tell thee words, whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved” (Acts 11:14). It was what Saul, later Paul, wanted to know when the Lord appeared to him on the road to Damascus:
And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do. Acts 9:6
It was what the jailor at Philipi wanted to know when he came trembling before Paul and Silas and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
The answer given to the apostle Paul
Whether or not the answer that was given on the day of Pentecost is the answer you were expecting, or looking for, or would have given, it is certainly the answer of the Bible. When Paul went into the city to find out what he must do, a man named Ananias was sent to pray for him and answer him. His answer shows that Paul, in spite of the vision he saw, was still in the same unsaved state as those who responded on the day of Pentecost:
And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost. Acts 9:17
And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord. Acts 22:16
Three days after Paul came face to face with the knowledge that Jesus, whom he had persecuted, was indeed Lord and Christ, Paul is told how his sins can be washed away. His belief, which likely began three days before, brought him to an understanding and a conviction that Jesus was the Christ, and that he himself was a sinner. Ananias told him what he had to do about it. The answer of repentance, baptism in water in the name of Jesus Christ, calling on the name of the Lord to receive the Holy Spirit is the same answer that was given on the day of Pentecost. And Paul’s newfound belief moved him to accept it. Hence, while his belief saved him, as it did those on the day of Pentecost, it did not save him on its own. His sins were washed away when he acted on his belief, and did what Christ would have him do.
Find out how salvation really works
If you would like to really understand how all of these things, and others – grace, belief, repentance, baptism in water, baptism in the Holy Spirit, speaking in tongues – relate to salvation, the granting of eternal life through Jesus Christ, you will find plenty of information on this site. We ask and challenge you to take some time to explore the understanding and the scriptures presented here. You will find some, and maybe many, of the understandings here different to others you have heard. You may be quite surprised. But we hope you will find that these understandings are based, not on popular, traditional, or emotional religious opinion, but, on what the Bible really says. Because it really doesn’t matter what you or I want to believe – what matters is what God actually said.
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