A number of years ago, I enjoyed a very pleasant afternoon, walking along the beach at Millport on the island of Great Cumbrae.
Some parts of the beach were quite rocky. I had taken on the responsibility of making sure that my 4 year old nephew didn’t fall and hurt himself on the rocks.
“Make sure Jamie doesn’t fall and hurt himself” – This seemed to be the main thing on my mind.
Jamie had other things on his mind.
As we walked across the rocks, Jamie kept asking questions. It was one question after another. As soon as I had answered one question, Jamie followed it up with his next question.
Why? Why? Why? From early childhood, we ask questions. From early childhood, we are looking for answers.
This morning, we are going to think about a question and an answer.
- The question is our question:
“Brothers, what shall we do?” (v. 37).
- The answer is God’s answer:
“Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the Name of
Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven and you
will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
The question concerns our response to the Gospel – “What shall we do?”
The answer is given to us by God – “This is what you are to do?”
We begin with the question.
Where does this question come from? – It comes from God.
His Word is preached. His Spirit is at work.
Following on from the preaching of God’s Spirit in the power of God’s Spirit, we read this, “When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart” (v. 37). This is where the question comes from. God has put it into our heart. Through His Word and His Spirit, he leads us to ask the question of salvation: “What must I do to be saved?”
The question is our question. The answer must always be God’s answer. We ask the question. We cannot give the answer. In ourselves, there is no answer. We are “far off” (v. 39).
We know about our sin, but we cannot give to ourselves the forgiveness of sin.
We know about the emptiness in our lives, but we cannot fill our own hearts with the presence of the Holy Spirit.
We can only come to God in our sin and our emptiness.
We come in our sin, praying for God’s forgiveness. We come in our emptiness, praying that God will fill us with His Spirit.
When we come in our sin and emptiness, God speaks His answer.
The question is asked, “What are we to do?” God’s answer begins with a call for repentance and baptism – “Repent and be baptized.”
If we were to read no further than the words, “Repent and be baptized”, we would miss a great deal of what God is saying to us here. “Repent and be baptized” is only the beginning of God’s answer. We must go on from there. As we read the remainder of verse 37, we learn that
(1) God’s answer is addressed to every one of us.
(2) God’s answer comes to us in the Name of Jesus Christ.
(3) God’s answer comes to us with the promise of the
forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit.
(1) God’s answer is for every one of us. He doesn’t say to some of us, “You need to repent” and then turn to others, saying, “You won’t need to repent. You’re good enough already.”
To every one of us, God says, “Repent and be baptized”. To every one of us, He says, “Leave your old life behind. Step out into the new life with Jesus Christ as your Saviour and Lord.”
(2) God’s answer comes to us in the Name of Jesus Christ.
“What are we to do?” – Before we think of what we are to do, we must think about what Jesus Christ has done for us. This is the Good News. Jesus Christ has taken our sins upon Himself. He has died for us so that we might be forgiven by Him.
We must never begin with the call for repentance and baptism. We must always begin with Jesus Christ – “the Son of God loved us and gave Himself for us” (Galatians 2:20).
“What are we to do?” – The first thing we must do is this: we must look away from ourselves to Jesus Christ, our Saviour.
When we turn our eyes on Jesus and keep our eyes fixed on Him, we will never think of our repentance and baptism as ‘good works’ we have done, ‘good works’ by which we make ourselves acceptable to God.
The Name of Jesus Christ is the Name of our salvation. It is in Him that we are called to repentance and baptism. It is through the power of Jesus Christ, the risen Lord, that we are able to put the old life behind us and begin the new life of the Spirit.
At the heart of God’s answer to our question, there is “the Name of Jesus Christ.”
In His answer to our question, God speaks to us of repentance and baptism. He speaks of the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit. Above all else, He speaks to us of His Son, our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.
(3) In Jesus Christ, God’s answer comes to us with the promise of the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit.
- Through faith in Christ, we put the old life behind us.
- Our sins are forgiven. We receive the gift of the Holy
- Through faith in Christ, we receive the strength we need to live as men and women who love God.
- Through faith in Christ, we receive the strength we need to maintain our confession of faith – “Jesus Christ is Lord.”
We ask the question, “What are we to do?” God gives the answer – “Repent and be baptized.” We lay our old life before the Lord. We invite Him to come and change us. He comes in forgiving love. He comes in transforming power.
Once we have put our faith in Christ, everything changes.
“If any one is in Christ, he is a new creation.
Old things have passed away.
Everything has become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
“It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me”
There is a change of direction in our life. This change of direction is described for us in verse 42:
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to
the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”
Our priorities change. Life is no longer centred upon ourselves. It is centred upon Christ.
Christ has given us life – abundant life, eternal life. Let us live this life for Him, giving all glory to Him and taking no glory for ourselves.
Let us not speak so much of our repentance and baptism. Such things can never be anything more than our response to His love. Let us learn to look away from these things and rejoice in our Saviour, saying with the Apostle Paul:
“God forbid that I should glory save in the Cross of
our Lord Jesus Christ” (Galatians 6:14).