Is Acts 2:38 that important to Pentecostals?

People talk about Acts 2:38 a lot in Pentecostal circles. The question becomes how important is it really? There are people that discount it all together and those who claim the verse is the gospel itself. Most Pentecostals are somewhere between these two camps. However, the question remains… what do we do with the verse?

Peter 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.

For some, especially the Pentecostals who are come from the “Jesus Only” camp, they hold most of what they believe is the gospel is in this verse: repentance, baptism by water and Baptism in the Spirit. They hold to an “all or nothing” view of baptisms. In the doctrine of the Oneness brethen, you have to be baptized in the Spirit with the initial physcial evidence of praying in tongues to be biblical saved.

Those of us that are Trinitarian Pentecostals, it has a different meeting. We hold that the Baptism of the Spirit with tongues following is for every believer but is not a condition for salvation. The same is true of baptism by immersion. Both are expected by every believer but is not a salvation issue in and of themselves. (Personally, I do not believe you need to pray in tongues to be saved but you may need to pray in tongues to stay saved!)

Understanding repentance

The first part of Acts 2:38 is found in “Repent.” What does it mean to repent of your sins? Let’s be clear on this: repentance is not just being sorry or doing “damage control.” It is much deeper than that. Many people want forgiveness without repentance but forgiveness can not happen until the other party truly repents of the sin.

At the center of this discussion, we have the Greek word, μετανοέω. This means to change one’s mind or purpose. It goes deeper than that and also means to change one’s inner man in relationship with the will of God. Simply put, repentance is changing how you see God, sin and yourself. If anyone these are not present, authentic repentance is not completed.

The gospel is rooted in a call to change your thinking about sin. It is not just an added layer of “fire insurance.” It started with a change is how one thinks about the action in question. The second step is the change in action that flows from the change in thought. You can’t just pretend you are changing by hiding your action. It starting in how we think about the sin and then flows to the other areas of life.

In many cases, the final step of repentance is asking forgiveness. If there is other people that you have wronged in the process of the sin, you need to humble yourself and ask for their forgiveness. While this might not be the cases every time (and sometimes not even possible), it is a critical part of the process of repenting for sin.

What about Baptism by immersion?

Almost every movement, including every Pentecostal group, believes in baptism by immersion just like Jesus had with John the Baptizer. We follow the Lord Jesus in being baptized in water. Most Pentecostal groups believe in an act of obedience after salvation. However, there is some groups such as the United Pentecostal Church International that believe it is part of salvation.

Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. (John 3:5)

The word for baptized in Acts 2:38 is βαπτίζω. It means to submerge or to sink. This means anything besides baptism by full immersion is not the biblical model. There is 20 times the word is used in the Book of Acts and every time it means to be put under the water as a testimony to death to the old man and the coming forth of the new man. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

There these is some debate is if one is saved at conversion or if they are saved when they are baptized “for the forgiveness of their sins.” Many in the “Jesus Only” groups told to this view while more traditional groups such as the Assemblies of God and Church of God (Cleveland) do not agree.

This is the beginning of the disagreement among Pentecostals that really date all the way back to 1916 in St. Louis, Missouri. It was called the “New Issue.” It actually forced the Assemblies of God to lay out doctrine that became known as the Fundamental Truths of the Assemblies of God.