“I love it when a plan comes together.”
That phrase by Hannibal, my favorite character on one of the best shows ever, The A Team, is a perfect picture of what was happening in the book of Acts. God’s plan of redemption for His creation was finally coming together and people were being saved.
However, Acts is probably one of the most misunderstood books in modern times because we fail to see what was actually happening. We will read into the text our preconceived ideas and doctrines when in reality, what was happening was pure, unhyphenated Christianity at its basic level. Human beings were obeying the Gospel (cf. 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9) and in doing so were having their sins forgiven.
So many fail to see the entire picture when it comes to those new Christians’ obedience and begin to discredit certain parts of their conversion because it might add a layer of personal action that they are vehemently against, even though it was God’s Will that they do such actions and nowhere in Scripture does the Lord state that our salvation and obedience is separate or without our own actions toward that goal.
So, I want to look at three reasons (and the number is strictly based on what I can see in the text, not my own doing) why those people in Acts were being baptized. Yes, it was “for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38)” but I believe the motivating factors in their obedience is just as important as the end result of salvation from our sins.
There are 13 conversion accounts in Acts. 12 of them will be discussed here because one of them (Acts 18 and the Corinthians) doesn’t actually give a reason for their being baptized. It simply states that they heard the Word and did so. Maybe that’s a 4th category though. Simply hearing the Word and doing what it says because it says to do it is a perfectly justifiable reason for obeying God’s plan!
They Realized Their Guilt
Yes, deep conviction of sins and fear of what might come of them is a viable, and necessary reason for obedience to the Gospel.
They Realized Their Potential
These people were all worshiping in some way, but not The Way. They all had ideas about God but failed to see the whole picture. They all were missing something in their lives!
The Eunuch, when he realized the potential set before him of having salvation from his sins and following the Man about whom he was reading, practically begged to be baptized!
Cornelius was living a faithful life as a Jewish proselyte, yet when he learned the potential of him becoming part of the Body of Christ and being accepted in the family of new Christian believers, wasn’t worried about the racism of those around him.
The Ephesians had grown up around paganism. They had friends, family, businesses and entire lives based upon that false worship. But, when they realized the potential of not following fickle and hateful man-made deities, they jumped at the opportunity because it would fulfill their lives!
All three of these people and groups show us something. If we simply know the Truth but do not see it as an advantage to our earthly life, our obedience is very, very fragile. But, when we see the potential for a better life with Jesus Christ, our faithfulness in this life becomes easier.
They Realized the Power of God
The Samaritans are never specifically said to have been baptized but we know that they were given the wording of Acts 8:6 and how they “heeded the things spoken by Philip”. Since Philip preached Jesus to the Eunuch and he knew about baptism, it is appropriate to believe that Philip preached the same things to the Samaritans and they listened and obeyed what he had spoken to them. But, the important thing is the reasoning given in Acts 8:6. They heeded his teachings BECAUSE they saw the miracles.
Imagine you are sleeping on watch at a prison only to wake up and find all of the doors wide open. Wouldn’t you be terrified? Now imagine someone walks out of the cell and says, “It’s alright. We’re all here. That earthquake was because of God’s power.” Wouldn’t you ask how you can follow Him? That’s exactly what happened with the Philippian Jailor (Acts 8:33). He saw the power of God!
Finally, Lydia. The faithful woman of Philippi who heard the Gospel after Paul arrived because of the Macedonian Call. I’m not 100% sure on this, but I have a strong inclination to believe that Paul told her why he was there and how he came to know it was God’s Will that he get to Philippi. And, upon hearing everything Paul had to say about salvation and the Way, she submitted in obedience.
Seeing the power of God can’t be done in a physical way by witnessing New Testament miracles, but it can be done by learning and understanding the history of His miraculous acts. If not, there would be little reason to believe the Bible today.
I strongly believe that we have to not only DO what these Christians did in order to become Christians, but I believe we need to realize the things they realized as well. Then and only then will we be baptized for the remission of sins and have the faith that they had!