“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). God’s message for us in the pages of the Bible has not changed for nearly 2,000 years. It was completed at the end of the first century, A.D., and is the all-sufficient and final will of God for the human race. That is why I can have great confidence in reading about an event that took place on the day the Lord’s church was established.
On the day of Pentecost, approximately 33 A.D., the gospel was preached for the first time by the 12 apostles. On that day 3,000 received the message and were baptized. Through that obedient decision, God added them to the church (Acts 2:38-47). Their decision to become Christians has been a great encouragement to me over the years as both an obedient believer and a preacher of the gospel. We can all learn a lesson or two concerning their immediate decision to put on Christ in baptism.
1. They did not know very much, but they knew enough. Many people delay their obedience to Christ because they are afraid they are not well-studied in the Scriptures. What did these people know? They knew they had killed the Son of God (Acts 2:36). They knew that they were lost and needed to do something about it (Acts 2:37). They knew nothing of the church or of the expectations of Christianity. Peter told them what they needed to do to get right with God and they did it.
2. They had a heart problem that was fixable. While their hard hearts had caused them to reject Christ and His teachings, their hearts were not beyond repair. They heard the message and their hearts were pricked (Acts 2:37). Being “cut to the heart” is a necessary experience. Something has to happen in order for our heart to be affected before Jesus can fit inside. Sometimes my heart has issues. But I know that God is greater than my heart (1 John 3:20). The Great Physician came to operate on hearts. He came to break hearts. He came to heal hearts. He came to live in hearts.
3. Obedience is contagious. I can only imagine what it would have been like to witness 3,000 people repent of their sins and be baptized. This would have taken all day! When others make a decision to commit their lives to the Lord, their decision can encourage others. This is why confessing Christ as Lord is a part of the process (Romans 10:9-10). God wants to be seen in people who are willing to live out His purpose for their lives. Our obedience is powerful and it is meant to be replicated by witnesses.
4. There is no reason to delay becoming a Christian. If 3,000 people could simultaneously submit to the will of God, then nothing should keep any person who has heard the gospel message from doing the same. I know as a preacher that if I present the plan effectively and correctly, one sermon can be enough to change a person’s eternity. An individual should be able to walk into the building where I am preaching and be able–through just one lesson–to become a child of God, even if they have never heard anything about God before. We must remember to preach the plan. After all, tomorrow may be too late.
What a blessing to know that when a person does what 3,000 people did 2,000 years ago they will receive the very same things they received: Remission of sins (Acts 2:38; 22:16); the name of Christ (Christian) – having been clothed with Christ (Galatians 3:27); addition to the church by the Lord (Acts 2:47); an answer of a good conscience before God (1 Peter 3:21); the perpetual cleansing of the blood of Christ upon repentance and prayer (1 John 1:9); joy within and peace of mind and heart (Acts 8:38-39; Philippians 4:6-7); and the hope of eternal salvation according to a faithful life (Mark 16:15-16; Revelation 2:10).
Everything I ever needed to know about God happened almost 2,000 years ago. God has been patient and loving and merciful to me. He waited long enough to let me learn it and live it. What an amazing God we serve!
“Thus says the Lord: ‘Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; Then you will find rest for your souls…’” (Jeremiah 6:16).