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To Proclaim Christ

1/28 – What Shall We Do? (Acts 2:37-47)


Introduction — Here Luke details the people’s response to Peter’s sermon. After hearing Peter proclaim Jesus, the people are pierced to the heart. They first ask, “Brothers, what shall we do?” Peter directs them to repent and be baptized. He tells them the promise is for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God shall call to Himself. Peter urges them, “Be saved from this perverse generation!” Then those who received his word are baptized—three thousand souls that day. What do they do next? They keep devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone keeps feeling a sense of awe. All who believe are together. They have all things in common. They sell their property. They share, as anyone has need. Day by day, they continue in one mind. They take meals together. They praise God together. That’s a sampling of their response. That’s what they did next. What do we do next? When we hear the gospel, what is our response? Are we pierced to the core, convicted of our need for Christ? Do we quickly obey? Do we seek to be together? What shall we do?


God moves in mighty ways. We see His work through Christ. We hear His word about Christ. By His Spirit, God’s word awakens us to our need for Him. God’s word brings us to life. God’s word convicts us, piercing us to the core. What’s next? How do we respond?


Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?” (37)


We turn from this world and we turn to Christ.

38 Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.” 40 And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation!”


Comment: Here Luke gives a snapshot of Peter’s sermon. Peter proclaims Jesus. Many of the people saw the work of God through Christ. Now, they hear His word about Christ. The people hear the gospel. And the word of God, by the Spirit of God, awakens the people to their need for God. The word of God brings them to life. The word of God convicts them, piercing them to the core. They cry out, “Brothers, what shall we do?” Peter tells them to repent and to be baptized. Peter calls them to identify fully with Christ. Peter urges them to turn from this corrupt generation and to turn to this incorruptible Jesus.  In clear and certain terms, Peter implores the people to exit their life apart from Christ and to enter their life in Christ. Those who turn from this world and turn to Christ receive (1) forgiveness of sins, and (2) the gift of the Holy Spirit. Question: Would those present heed Peter’s counsel? Would they follow his Spirit-directed instructions? What about us? Do we follow God’s word once we hear God’s word? Do we proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ? Do we call for a response to the gospel? Do we urge people to repent? Do we call people to renounce their life apart from Christ? Do we urge people to embrace their life in Christ? Do we turn from our sin? Do we forsake this corrupt generation? Application: Please turn away now from this corrupt world. Turn to Christ. As you hear the word about Christ, embrace Christ. Follow Him. Identify with Him. Speak about Him. Delight in Him. Enjoy His forgiveness. Marvel at the gift of the Holy Spirit.


We turn to Christ and we turn to His church.

41 So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. 42 They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.


Comment: Here Luke describes the results of Peter’s sermon. Empowered by the Spirit, the people receive the word. They embrace the gospel. They embrace Christ. They turn to Christ. They identify with Christ through baptism. And on that day, the Lord added about three thousand people to the church. Those who believed were together. Luke describes the church as people who went out of their way to be together. As those who turned to Christ, these people now also turn to His church. Luke provides a beautiful summary of their church life. These folks persistently devote themselves to four primary activities. One, they devote to the apostles’ teaching. Two, they devote to fellowship. Three, they devote to the breaking of bread. Four, they devote to prayer. This church seeks godly teaching. This church seeks to serve one another. This church seeks to worship God together. This church seeks to pray together. Question: How about us? Do we keep turning to Christ? Do we keep turning to His church? Do we persist in hearing Bible-rich, Christ-centered, Spirit-empowered, and God-glorifying teaching? Do we devote ourselves to be together each Sunday? Do we devote ourselves to be in Bible study together every week? Do we long to serve one another? Do we go out of our way to share with one another, as anyone might have need? Do we want to worship God together as often as possible? Do we go out of our way to pray together? Do we pray for one another? Do we offer God our fervent, weeping, joyful, and repentant prayers? Do we pray for those who more-than-likely do not know Christ as Savior?

Application: Please turn to Christ. Seek Him above all else. Spend less time with media and more time with the Master. Drop the trinkets and delight in your greatest treasure—Jesus Christ. And as you embrace Christ, please embrace His church. Eagerly embrace the church. Saturate yourself with godly teaching. Track with whoever is preaching here. Get connected with a Bible study group here. Eagerly share with one another here. Plan to worship God every week here; then, worship God together every week here. Pray together here. Pray often. Pray bold, honest prayers. What’s next, Crosspoint? What shall we do?

Word Study for Acts 2:37-47

37 do (poieo—do; make; perform; cause to be; behave toward; assign a task)

38 repent (metanoeo—change one’s mind; change one’s life; change one’s purpose)

38 forgiveness (aphesis—letting go; dismissal; pardon; liberty)

39 promise (epangelia—announcement; agreement; summons; what was promised)

39 call (proskaleo—summon; call to a task; send for)

40 exhorting (parakaleo—invite; comfort; ask for earnestly; call together to; urge; plead)

40 saved (sozo—keep; rescue; heal; get well; restore; ensure salvation)

40 perverse (skolios—crooked; curved; unscrupulous; morally crooked)

41 received (apodechomai—accept; understand; admit; welcome; acknowledge)

42 devoting (proskatereo—persist obstinately in; associate closely; serve personally)

42 teaching (didache—teaching; doctrine; instruction)

42 fellowship (koinonia—communion; share; willing contribution; participation)

43 awe (phobos—fear; reverence; terror; the causing of fear)

46 gladness (agalliasis—exultation; great joy; extreme delight, transcendent gladness)

47 praising (aineo—praise; to glorify)

47 adding (prostithemi—add to; increase; proceed to; give; grant; brought) [1]


Application Acts 2:37-47

Let’s listen carefully when God speaks.

Let’s be quick to obey God.

Let’s obey God.

Let’s heed God’s warnings.

Let’s devote ourselves to sound biblical teaching.

Let’s devote ourselves to being together.

Let’s devote ourselves to prayer.

Let’s be in awe of God.

Let’s praise God.

Let’s marvel at God’s work of salvation among us.


Gospel Connections for Acts 2:37-47

Jesus was crucified for our sins. Jesus was buried. God raised Jesus to life. Jesus is both Lord and Messiah. To proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ is to proclaim our hope in Christ and our need for Christ. What shall we do is the cry of people whom God brings to life by His grace. They hear the gospel. They repent. They receive the gospel. They are baptized. Their obedience to Christ bears witness to their new life in Christ. They are all in for Christ. They are in awe of God. They devote themselves to sound teaching. They want to be with fellow believers in Christ. They share what they have with one another. They praise God.


Thoughts and Quotes for Acts 2:37-47

It would be the greatest tragedy if I didn’t tell you that unless you repent of your sins and receive Christ as your Savior, you are going to be lost. ~ Billy Graham


No one can begin a new life, unless he repent of the old. ~ Augustine


There is no repentance where a man can talk lightly of sin, much less where he can speak tenderly and lovingly of it. ~ Charles H. Spurgeon


To be effective the preacher's message must be alive; it must alarm, arouse, challenge; it must be God's present voice to a particular people. ~ A.W. Tozer


Our greatest fear as individuals & as a church should not be of failure, but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter. ~ Francis Chan, Crazy Love


The church has a very narrow commission. It is not called to be an alternative neighborhood, circle of friends, political action committee, social club, or public service agency; it is called to deliver Christ so clearly and fully that believers are prepared to be salt and light in the worldly stations to which God has called them. Why should a person go through all the trouble of belonging to a church and showing up each Sunday if God is the passive receiver and we are the active giver?  ~ Michael S. Horton, Christless Christianity


Commentary of Acts 2:37-47

2:37–39 Peter’s Jewish crowd got his point. They were guilty of rejecting, even crucifying, the Messiah. Luke said they were “cut to the heart,” an uncommon word Homer used to depict horses stamping the earth with their hooves (v. 37). Peter’s response was almost programmatic in that he presented them with four essentials of the conversion experience (v. 38): repentance, baptism in the name of Jesus Christ, forgiveness of sins, and receipt of the Spirit. These four generally form a single complex throughout Luke-Acts. They are the normative ingredients of conversion. There is no set, mechanistic pattern by which the various components come into play, particularly baptism and the receipt of the Spirit. The connection of the Spirit with baptism is depicted in various sequences through Acts. Here the Spirit seems to be promised immediately following or as a concomitant of baptism, whereas in 10:44–48 the coming of the Spirit seems to have preceded water baptism. The Ethiopian eunuch was baptized, but receipt of the Spirit was not mentioned (8:38), though his resulting joy was a gift of the Spirit. Baptism and the gift of the Spirit are separated by some interval of time for the Samaritans (8:12, 17). The disciples of John at Ephesus were rebaptized and immediately received the Spirit (19:5–6). The Spirit cannot be tied down to a set pattern. Clearly, however, both baptism and receipt of the Spirit are normative to the experience of becoming a Christian believer.

The connection of baptism with the forgiveness of sins in v. 38 has often been a matter of controversy. A literal rendering of the verse runs: “Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for/on the basis of the forgiveness of your sins.” The disputed word is the preposition eis, which could indicate purpose and thus be taken to mean that baptism is the prerequisite for the forgiveness of sins. There is ample evidence in the New Testament, however, that eis can also mean on the ground of, on the basis of, which would indicate the opposite relationship—that the forgiveness of sins is the basis, the grounds for being baptized. Perhaps more significant, however, is that the usual connection of the forgiveness of sins in Luke-Acts is with repentance and not with baptism at all (cf. Luke 24:47; Acts 3:19; 5:31). In fact, in no other passage of Acts is baptism presented as bringing about the forgiveness of sins. If not linked with repentance, forgiveness is connected with faith (cf. 10:43; 13:38f.; 26:18). The dominant idea in 2:38 thus seems to be repentance, with the other elements following. Repentance leads to baptism, the forgiveness of sins, and the gift of the Spirit. The essential response Peter called from the Jewish crowd is the complete turnabout that comprises true repentance, to turn away from their rejection of the Messiah and to call upon his name, receive baptism into his community, and share the gift of the Spirit they had just witnessed so powerfully at work in the Christians at Pentecost. Peter concluded his appeal with a promise, the promise of Joel 2:32 (cf. v. 21): “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” The universal scope of the promise is emphasized. Salvation is not only for the group of Jews present at Pentecost but for future generations (“your children”) as well. It is not only for Jews but for Gentiles, for those “who are far off.”

2:40–41 Luke’s note that Peter warned them “with many other words” was his way of indicating that he had only been able to give a portion of Peter’s sermon. His reference to a “corrupt generation” (skolias, “crooked, perverse”) is Old Testament language for a generation that is stubborn and rebellious and not faithful to God (Ps 78:8; cf. Deut 32:5; Phil 2:15). The Jews at Pentecost were part of such a generation, a generation that witnessed the coming of the Messiah and rejected him. So Peter’s final word was an appeal to “save” themselves from the lot of such a generation. And they were saved; about 3,000 accepted Peter’s invitation that day, were baptized, and were added to the 120.[2]


Unto the remission of your sins (εἰς ἀφεσιν των ἁμαρτιων ὑμων [eis aphesin tōn hamartiōn hūmōn]). This phrase is the subject of endless controversy as men look at it from the standpoint of sacramental or of evangelical theology. In themselves the words can express aim or purpose for that use of εἰς [eis] does exist as in 1 Cor. 2:7 εἰς δοξαν ἡμων [eis doxan hēmōn] (for our glory). But then another usage exists which is just as good Greek as the use of εἰς [eis] for aim or purpose. It is seen in Matt. 10:41 in three examples εἰς ὀνομα προφητου, δικαιου, μαθητου [eis onoma prophētou, dikaiou, mathētou] where it cannot be purpose or aim, but rather the basis or ground, on the basis of the name of prophet, righteous man, disciple, because one is, etc. It is seen again in Matt. 12:41 about the preaching of Jonah (εἰς το κηρυγμα Ἰωνα [eis to kērugma Iōna]). They repented because of (or at) the preaching of Jonah. The illustrations of both usages are numerous in the N. T. and the Koiné generally (Robertson, Grammar, p. 592). One will decide the use here according as he believes that baptism is essential to the remission of sins or not. My view is decidedly against the idea that Peter, Paul, or any one in the New Testament taught baptism as essential to the remission of sins or the means of securing such remission. So I understand Peter to be urging baptism on each of them who had already turned (repented) and for it to be done in the name of Jesus Christ on the basis of the forgiveness of sins which they had already received. The gift of the Holy Ghost (την δωρεαν του ἁγιου πνευματος [tēn dōrean tou hagiou pneumatos]). The gift consists (Acts 8:17) in the Holy Spirit (genitive of identification).[3]

[1] Word studies from various sources on Logos Software, including, but not limited to Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains by James A. Swanson

[2] Polhill, J. B. (1992). Acts (Vol. 26, pp. 116–118). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.


[3] Robertson, A. T. (1933). Word Pictures in the New Testament (Ac 2:38). Nashville, TN: Broadman Press.