Acts 2:36-38 – Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”
Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?”
Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
This is a powerful passage of scripture revealing the ancient practices of the church. Peter preached his first message that day in Jerusalem describing the supernatural sign that was in front of everyone, all those who had been filled with the Spirit began to speak in other tongues. Peter’s message of explanation immediately went to the heart of the gospel, Jesus died for our sin and rose from the dead. All who believe on Him will be saved. Peter also called these new believers to repentance and followed it up with a mass water baptism event. Here is how Chrysostom describes this scene.
“‘What shall we do?’ They did what must be done, but we the opposite. They condemned themselves and despaired of their salvation. This is what made them such as they were. They knew what a gift they had received. But how will you become like them, when you do everything in an opposite spirit? As soon as they heard, they were baptized. They did not speak these cold words that we do now, nor did they contrive delays, even though they heard all the requirements. For they did not hesitate when they were commanded to “save yourselves from this generation” but welcomed it. They showed their welcome through action and proved through deeds what sort of people they were.”
Often times today people put off being baptized until they get their stuff together. The early church was not like this – believing on Christ with repentance was immediately followed by baptism. Water baptism is more than just symbolic, the Lord works through baptism by immersion with an encounter with Him revealing our death to sin and our resurrection to new life in Christ. That day in Jerusalem thousands of people had a very public conversion, Peter sealed the deal with a public baptism. Baptism is a public declaration that you are leaving your old life behind, repenting of your past lifestyle, and following Christ in this brand new life. It is a burial of all you used to be.