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THE TRANSITIONAL INTERPRETATION OF ACTS 2: 38

 

“This "transitional interpretation" holds that those who heard Peter's message in Acts 2 and believed it were regenerated at the moment of their faith whether that occurred before or after repentance. However, in order to receive the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit, Peter's audience had to repent and be baptized. This condition is applied in Acts only to Palestinians exposed to the baptizing ministry of John and of Jesus. It is not applicable to Cornelius at all as the case of Cornelius's conversions shows. Cornelius received forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit at the moment of faith, along with regeneration and justification.”    Lanny Thomas Tanton

In my view this is an amazing statement filled with suppositions and misrepresentations. To begin, the Scriptures state that "those who had received the word were baptized; and there were added that day three thousands souls." Nothing is said about regeneration at the moment of faith although I do believe they were regenerated also before the day was over. The Scriptures do tell us that three thousand were added. We might ask, "to what were they added?" Verse 47 of that chapter tells us the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved!   So we can safely conclude that at the end of the day they were saved.  Although we can all agree they were saved by faith, faith is not the emphasis of this passage.  Their salvation was dependent on the emphasized factors, faith and baptism.

Our Lord tells us that for one to be born again (regenerated), he must be born of water and the Spirit. As the promise unfolds we will find that those two elements, water and the Spirit, are brought into proximity at baptism.  When they repented and were baptized the Lord abundantly poured out the Spirit upon them. As they came forth from that experience they were born again. Confirming this, we find this "washing of regeneration" mentioned in Titus 3: 5, 6.  The “washing” and regeneration are closely related.

Lannv seems to be referencing regeneration at the moment of belief, incorrectly in my view, to 1 John 5: 1, which states, "Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God." Closer examination will show that in reality the verse is stating that whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ, is begotten by God. Those that believe are given the right to become children of God by being born of water and the Spirit.

Then Lanny makes the truly amazing statement. "This condition is applied in Acts only to Palestinians exposed to the baptizing ministry of John and of Jesus." In other word only the Palestinians have to repent and be baptized in order to have forgiveness and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  This is truly amazing because the promise is for the Jews and their children, for all who afar off (Gentiles) and for as many as the Lord our God shall call to Himself. This promise is for everyone who repents and is baptized in the name of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins. He assumes then that the conversion of Cornelius was entirely different.  Therefore this promise does not apply to the Gentiles. Amazing and incorrect! He states "Cornelius received the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit at the moment of faith, along with regeneration and justification." This is a conclusion drawn from his agenda and perspective.  Cornelius did receive forgiveness of sins by faith (Acts 10: 43) as did the Jews (Acts 15: 9) but forgiveness was not realized until their faith was motivated to repent and be baptized.  Since God made no distinction between the Jew and the Gentile, we conclude that Cornelius was also forgiven when his faith motivated him to repent and obey.

How were the 3,000 Jews saved at Pentecost in comparison to Cornelius, the Gentile, and his household several years later?

First, I would like to emphasize that in the conversion of Cornelius God was showing the Jewish Christians that the Gentiles were acceptable to Him.  He did that by pouring out the gift of the Holy Spirit upon the Gentiles, as shown by speaking in tongues and exalting God, as Peter was speaking to them.                                                  

Second, God was not establishing an alternate plan of salvation for the Gentiles nor was He establishing the necessity of speaking with tongues, as a sign, at conversion as some suppose..  We will attempt to demonstrate that Jew and Gentile are saved in the same manner.

Conversion of the Jew and Gentile:

God would pour out the Spirit on all mankind in the last days. Joel’s prophecy was quoted by Peter on Pentecost (Acts 2: 17) and shown for the Gentiles in Acts 10: 45.

All who call on the name of the Lord would be saved. (Acts 2; 21)  This is not explained at Pentecost but the conversion of Paul shows us that he called on the name of the Lord as he was baptized, washing away his sin,  (Acts 22: 16) and Peter confirms that baptism, which now saves us, is an appeal to God for a good conscience.  (1 Peter 3: 21)  Both the Jews and the Gentiles were baptized in the name of the Lord.

Heard the word.  The Jews heard the word as spoken by Peter.  (Acts 2: 14- 37, 40)  The Gentiles heard the word.  (Acts 10: 34-44)

Believed the word.  The Jew believed or received the word  (Acts 2: 41) as did the Gentiles.  (Acts 11: 17)

Baptized with the Holy Spirit.  The Jews had been promised the baptism with the Spirit by John the Baptist.  *Matthew 3: 11; Mark 1: 8; Luke 3: 16; John 1; 33)  Jesus pours out the Spirit abundantly, immersing, with the Spirit.  (Titus 3: 5, 6)  The Gentiles were baptized with the Spirit.  Acts 11: 16)  The timing of the gift of the Holy Spirit with its subsequent baptizing is the only substantial difference in the conversion.  Normally the Spirit is poured upon faith and obedience (Acts 5: 32), repentance and baptism as shown by Acts 2: 39.  The timing of the gift of the Spirit is God’s prerogative as He alone knows the heart of the individual.  (Acts  15: 8)

Repentance for the remission of sins.  (Acts 2: 37; 2 Corinthians  7: 10)  Of course they were instructed to repent.  Gentiles also repented leading to eternal life.  (Acts 11: 18.  In fact all men everywhere are commanded to repent.  (Acts 17; 30)

Baptism in water in the name of Jesus. Both Jew and Gentile were baptized in the name of Christ.  The baptism of the Jew was for the remission of sins and we have no reason to suspect otherwise for the Gentiles,  At the time they were both calling on the name of the Lord for a good conscience,  Christ poured out the Spirit upon the Jew, immersing them in both water and the Spirit.  As they came forth from the water and Spirit they were regenerated, born again.  They were children of God.  When the Gentiles were immersed in water, they also were born of the water and the Spirit, regenerated.  The Holy Spirit remained with them to dwell in them.

Observation:  Both the Jews and the Gentiles were saved in the same way.

Some Scriptures for our consideration:

And that repentance for forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning at Jerusalem.  (Luke 24: 47)

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.  (Matthew 28: 19)

I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right, is welcome to Him.  (Acts 10: 34, 35)

If God therefore gave to them the same gift as He gave to us also after believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way.  (Acts 11: 17

And He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith,  Acts 15: 9)

But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are.  (Acts 15: 11)

 

For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit,  (1 Corinthians 12: 13)

 

Remember God appointed some to be apostles, some to be prophets and some to be teachers, but He did not appoint any theologians.  The theologians are responsible for most of the turmoil in the religious world.

 

God Bless.

Arland  Pafford  

 

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Last Update   10/01/12