Acts 2:37-39 - What Shall We Do?

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After Peter preached on the Day of Pentecost, the people asked "What shall we do?" His sermon called for action. In our text, Acts 2:37-39, Peter deals with the concerns of the crowd. Two points seem to be in focus. On the one hand, they want to know what to do to escape guilt for the crucifixion of Jesus. In addition they want to know what to do to experience the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that was promised by Joel. Several points are important to us.

1. Peter exhorts the crowd to repent. All of us are called upon to repent of our sins.

Peter had confronted the crowd with the fact that they had crucified Christ. They wanted to know what they should do. Without reluctance, Peter openly tells them the answer. They must repent! This repentance involves a "change of mind" and "remorse" for sins. In addition repentance involves faith. When people repent, they turn to God in faith.

Perhaps you are saying, "I know that a lot of people need to repent, but not me!" Well, I will give you the Bible's answer. Paul says that "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23)." Jesus was crucified for the sins of each and every one of us. Therefore, you too should be asking, "What should I do?" The answer is clear, you must repent! You must turn to God in faith!

2. Peter exhorts the crowd to be baptized. All who believe in Christ should be baptized in water.

Peter instructed the crowd, "and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins." We maintain that this means that the people were to be baptized "on the basis of" forgiveness of sins. Baptism is a testimony to what has already occurred through repentance and faith. Through baptism the believer testifies to what God has done.

According to Peter, baptism in water may be a step toward receiving the gift of the Spirit. However, water baptism is not a necessary prerequisite to receiving the Spirit. At the house of Cornelius (Acts 10:44-48), the outpouring of the Spirit upon the Gentiles came before they were baptized. Indeed, Peter regarded the outpouring of the Spirit as evidence that they should be baptized.

We must not be careless about water baptism. It is God's will and design that each of us be baptized in water. Peter is quite specific. He says, "Let each of you be baptized." Through baptism, we publicly testify that Jesus Christ is our Savior. The community around us knows that we have put off the old man and put on the new man.

3. Peter declares that the people will receive the gift of the Spirit. We, too, will receive the gift of the Spirit.

When anyone believes in Christ, that person immediately receives the Holy Spirit. However, believers are eligible still to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit as empowerment for witness and service. Throughout the Book of Acts, the term "gift" of the Spirit is used in the sense of empowerment (Acts 5:32; 8:18; 8:20; 10:45; 11:17 and 15:8).

We need not limit what Peter means by "will receive the gift of the Spirit." However, the context on the Day of Pentecost points especially to the gift of the Spirit in the sense of empowerment. Have you received the Pentecostal gift of the Spirit? If not, all you have to do is come in faith. Believe that God desires for you to receive this gift!

4. Peter declares that the promise is for you! We are eligible to receive God's promise!

The word promise can be used broadly to include all of God's promised blessings, but here promise refers especially to the promised gift of the Spirit. Moreover, Peter refers especially to the gift of the Spirit that empowers us to witness.

The promise is to (Acts 2:39) "as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself." All whom God has called are eligible for this gift. Have you received the empowering gift of the Spirit? Receive the gift of the Holy Spirit! The Spirit will empower you to be a witness. He will enable you to proclaim the gospel. As a result of your witness, many will turn their hearts to God.


When Peter preached, the crowd asked, "Brethren, what shall we do?" Today, you may well be asking, "What shall I do?" The answer is clear. We must repent, be baptized, and receive the gift of the Spirit. This gift has been promised to all who believe. Jesus will pour out the Spirit upon you. This gift will be a major force in your life as you serve the Lord.

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