4. The Call to Repentance (2:37-40)

37When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, 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. 39The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” 40With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.”

The reaction of the crowd was swift and obvious. They were “cut to the heart.” The rare term katanuvssomai (katanyssomai) describes a piercing, or a stinging pain. Peter’s charge that his audience bore responsibility for the crucifixion of Christ hit them hard. Their question sought relief from the painful jolt of recognizing how wrong they had been about Jesus. Naturally, they wondered what they could do to rectify this wrong and remove their guilt.

Peter’s response presents the very core of the Gospel—the kernel of the Good News. Something can be done about sin and guilt, even guilt as serious as the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Two imperatives are given, “repent and be baptized.” The Greek term for repentance (metanoevw, metanoe¯o) carries the idea of turning from sin to God. Repentance incorporates a change of heart about unrighteousness and a desire to be reoriented toward the will of God.

The second imperative is baptism. Peter’s response makes both of these actions equally necessary. He said “repent and be baptized” — not “repent or be baptized.” During the ministry of John the Baptist, believers participated in “a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3). Now Peter instructed his audience to follow a similar course, except this baptism would be “in the name of Jesus Christ.” They would be baptized now as a response of allegiance to the risen Lord. This repentance and baptism would also bring forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit.

A number of commentators seek to diminish the force of the phrase “for the forgiveness of sins” at this point, apparently seeking to safeguard the doctrine of salvation by grace. They take the preposition “for” (eij", eis) to mean “because of” rather than “in order to.” Peter, they say, meant be baptized because of the forgiveness of sins, implying that such forgiveness had already been granted by the time baptism was administered.

This position disregards the very common use of eis in the New Testament to mean “for the purpose of, in order to.” In Matthew 26:28 where this exact phrase appears, Jesus says his blood is poured out” for (eis) the forgiveness of sins. It would be absurd to argue that the phrase means “because of” and that Jesus’ blood was poured out because sins had already been forgiven. Beyond this, the command to be baptized is only one of the imperatives Peter gave. “Be baptized” is joined to “repent” with “and.” Whatever Peter says about the forgiveness of sins follows from both imperatives. Just as repentance is needed “for the purpose of” the forgiveness of sins, so is baptism. This position need not rob the plan of salvation of its basis in the grace of God. Both imperatives expect action to be taken on the part of the sinner. Yet Peter considered neither to be a work which merits salvation, but merely the response of faith dictated by the prophecy he had already cited—“everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (2:21).

One more distinction which separated this baptism from that of John was the gift of the Holy Spirit. He did not promise “the gifts of the Spirit” to everyone (see 1 Cor 12:1), but “the gift of the Spirit”—that is, the Holy Spirit himself. He also repeated the universal availability of this gift for “you and your children and for all who are far off.” The last phrase even embodies Gentiles.

5. The First Christian Church (2:41-47)

41Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. 42They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. 44All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. 46Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

Beginning with 3000 conversions, the apostles founded a permanent fellowship of believers in Jerusalem. The language of these verses emphasizes the continuing nature of this fellowship. “They devoted themselves to” all of the defining elements of Christian living. They “continued to meet together” daily, even enjoying their meals at home in a spirit of oneness.

“The apostles’ teaching” provided the foundation of their faith. As is evident in the New Testament documents, this teaching was always Christ-centered, yet relevant to life. “The fellowship” (koinwniva, koinōnia) should be connected with the following activities which describe believers in their life together. It probably includes the idea of sharing one’s resources with others. These believers felt a closeness which extended even to their personal possessions. Many of them sold property so that they had money to share with needy believers.

Included in their oneness were the spiritual activities of the Lord’s Supper and prayer. “Breaking of bread” in v. 42 probably refers to the observance of communion in congregational worship. This conclusion seems likely because of its association with the other elements mentioned. The last element is given in its plural form in the Greek text. They devoted themselves to “the prayers.” Since the believers continued to make the temple central to their gatherings, it is not surprising that they continued to recognize the times for prayer.

—College Press New Testament Commentary: with the NIV