The Bible says in Acts 2:38: “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.”
Allow me to share with you some commentary on this passage from the Bible Knowledge Commentary by Dr. John F. Walvoord and Dr. Roy B. Zuck:
Peter’s message to the crowd gathered at Pentecost was forthright. First they were to repent. This verb means “change your outlook,” “have a change of heart, or reverse the direction of your life.” This obviously results in a change of conduct, but the emphasis is on the mind or outlook. The Jews had rejected Jesus; now they were to trust in Him. Repentance was repeatedly part of the apostles’ message in Acts.
A problem revolves around the command “be baptized” and its connection with the remainder of the verse. There are several views:
(1) One is that both repentance and baptism result in remission of sins. In this view, baptism is essential for salvation. The problem with this interpretation is that elsewhere in Scripture forgiveness of sins is based on faith alone. Furthermore, Peter, the same speaker, later promised forgiveness of sins on the basis of faith alone.
(2) A second interpretation translates Acts 2:38, “Be baptized… on the basis of the remission of your sins.” The preposition used here may mean “on account of or on the basis of.” It is used in this way in Matthew 3:11; Matthew 12:41; and Mark 1:4. Though it is possible for this construction to mean “on the basis of,” this is not its normal meaning; it usually describes purpose or direction.
(3) A third view takes the clause “and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ” as parenthetical. Several factors support this interpretation: (a) The verb makes a distinction between singular and plural verbs and nouns. The verb “repent” is plural and so is the pronoun “your” in the clause so that your sins may be forgiven. Therefore the verb “repent” must go with the purpose of forgiveness of sins. On the other hand the imperative “be baptized” is singular, setting it off from the rest of the sentence. (b) This concept fits with Peter’s proclamation in Acts 10:43 in which the same expression “sins may be forgiven” occurs. There it is granted on the basis of faith alone. (c) In Luke 24:47 and Acts 5:31 the same writer, Luke, indicates that repentance results in remission of sins.
The gift of the Holy Spirit is God’s promise to those who turn to the Lord, including Jews and their descendants and those who are far off, that is, Gentiles. Acts 2:38-39 put together the human side of salvation (“repent”) and the divine side (“to elect”).
Today’s quote is from John Selden. He said: “I have taken much pains to know everything that is esteemed worth knowing amongst men; but with all my reading, nothing now remains to comfort me at the close of this life but this passage of St. Paul: ‘It is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners.’ To this I cleave, and herein do I find rest.”
Our topic today is titled “Fruitful or Faithless? (Part 2)” from the book, “So Great Salvation: What it Means to Believe in Jesus Christ” by Dr. Charles Ryrie.
WHAT ABOUT DEATHBED CONVERSIONS?
Some may wonder, What about the person who is converted on his deathbed? Will such a person, assuming he or she is truly converted, bear fruit? If the person dies immediately after receiving Christ, how can he bear fruit? There simply is not time.
Are deathbed conversions an exception to the statement that all believers will bear some fruit? Perhaps not. For one thing, when anyone is converted at whatever stage of life, he experiences peace with God, and peace is a fruit of the Spirit. In some cases, that peace may be seen on the countenance of the dying person. But whether seen by others or not, is it not fruit?
For another thing, our Lord said that when someone is converted there is joy in the presence of the angels of God. Would that not be fruit that a converted-on-his-deathbed-and-immediately-dying person bears? Not necessarily fruit to be seen by other people (unless there be some moments just before death when family and friends might see or even hear of the change), but fruit seen and appreciated by angels in heaven. The account of a deathbed conversion may bear fruit in the lives of others soon after the person dies or much later. Reports of this happening at funeral services are not uncommon. So it can truly be said that every believer will bear fruit somewhere (in earth and/or heaven), sometime (regularly and/or irregularly during life), somehow (publicly and/or privately).
Fruit, then, furnishes evidence of saving faith. The evidence may be strong or weak, erratic or regular, visible or not. But a saving, living faith works.