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.Acts 2:38(NASB)
Over three years before he stood up on the day of Pentecost and cried out to the men of Israel: "Repent, each one of you and be baptised," Peter had witnessed John the Baptist delivering the same message of repentance to the same lost sheep of the same house of Israel: "Proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins."
For centuries, many prophets had been calling the erring nation of Israel to turn away from their sin, their apostasy, and their rebellion, and to turn back to the God of their fathers. Israel prided themselves on being the only nation to have a God - and rightly so - but they had wandered far from Him and as a nation were being called back to the God of their fathers by His final and greatest Old Testament prophet. Israel was being challenged by John the Baptist to repent of their sin: "For the kingdom of God was near." This was the earthly kingdom that had been promised to Abraham and His seed forever.
And once again, both individually and corporately, the sinful nation of Israel were being challenged by Peter to once again to turn back to the God of Israel. They were to demonstrate an inward repentant heart with an outward demonstration of their inner cleansing, by being washed in the waters of baptism.
Israel believed in the God of their fathers and they believed in the Holy Spirit of God Who moved over the surface of the waters in the beginning. But this time, through the witness of one of Christ's New Testament apostles, Israel was also being called upon to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ Who only fifty days earlier had died on the Cross to pay the full and final price for their sins: "You believe in God," was Christ's earnest plea to his unbelieving disciples, "believe also in ME."
The whole nation of Israel.. as the chosen people of God, were being challenged, You believe in God? then believe also on the Lord Jesus Christ.. and turn from Your sin and be baptised in the waters of baptism, for the forgiveness of sin. It was not the baptismal waters that washed away the sin on these Jews who believed on God.. but the shed blood of Christ on the cross only 50 days earlier - for without His shed blood they would remain in their sins.
Both John and Peter knew that simply believing on the God of their fathers and the Holy Spirit was not enough for the forgiveness of Israel's sins.. once God's full and final sacrifice for sin had been accepted through the blood of their Messiah. The men of Israel were also to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ if their sins were to be forgiven.. and if they were to receive the indwelling Holy Spirit of God, which was the promise of the new and better covenant.
Before the cross.. Gentiles could only come to the Father through the nation of Israel - but following the cross both Jew and Gentile can only come to the Father through the shed blood of God incarnate - the Lord Jesus Christ:- the Messiah of Israel and Saviour of the world..
What a travesty that in certain quarters there is a teaching that insists that the forgiveness of sins can only be attained through the waters of baptism, when the only full and final price for the sin of the world was poured out in blood on Calvary's cross. Let us never forget that we have been bought with an incredible price: the blood of the incarnate Word of God - therefore let us glorify God in our body.
Heavenly Father, what amazing grace You showed to Your people, Israel, in those early days of the Church. You could have cut them off as a nation and yet Your love reaches out to Israel still. And what amazing grace that You have shown to me, that Christ should come to earth and die on the Cross to pay the price for my sins. May my inward heart reflect Your love, and may my outward life be a witness of my grateful praise and everlasting thanksgiving for the grace You have bestowed on me. Thank You, in Jesus' name, AMEN.