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Sermons on Important Subjects
By J. M. Pendleton

The Result of Apostolic Preaching on Pentecost.

      Then they that gladly received his word, were baptized; and the same day there were added to them about three thousand souls. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. - Acts ii:41, 42.

      The transactions of but few days have been so full of interest as were those of the day of Pentecost, of which we have an account in this chapter. The Savior, just before his ascension, had commanded the apostles to remain in Jerusalem until they were indued with power from on high. They were obedient and waited for the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The promise of the Lord Jesus was verified. The Spirit was given most copiously - the gift of tongues was conferred - and the apostles spoke in different languages the words of salvation. Peter, naturally forward and ready to speak, rose first, and, in repelling the charge that he and his companions were drunken with new wine, affirmed that the prediction of Joel was then fulfilled. He fearlessly accused his auditors of the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth. He told them, however, it was not possible for death to retain the murdered Messiah a captured prisoner; for God raised him up and exalted him

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to his own right hand. "Therefore," says Peter "let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made that same Jesus whom ye crucified, both Lord and Christ." This discourse made a deep impression. The people were penetrated with a conviction that they were lost and ruined. With trembling anxiety they inquired, "Men and brethren what shall we do." They were awakened sinners; their fears were alarmed; but Peter did not encourage them to take comfort from this fact. He said, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins." To be awakened, alarmed, and to repent, are different things. Conviction of sin is unavailing, unless, resulting in repentance, it leads the sinner to Christ for salvation. But let us notice the points in the text.


      The promise of salvation had been made to them. Some cheerfully embraced it, for the language implies that all did not. Do you not now see the truth of what I have said, that conviction is unavailing unless it results in repentance, and leads the soul to Christ? And it is to be regretted that in most revivals, as in the Pentecostal revival, there are some whose souls are agitated with fear who do not gladly acquiesce in the way of salvation. But the truly penitent sinner feels his ruin - feels that he is lost; that he can not extricate himself from his miseries; that his sins

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are aggravated, inexcusable - repents bitterly of his transgressions, and looks to the gospel for relief. The gospel tells him about Christ, and announces pardoning mercy through the blood of the cross. The humble sinner embraces the message. He gladly receives the Word. O how gladly! Have you seen the drowning man saved in the hour of his extremity by the interposition of a friend? How does he rejoice! With what gratitude does he think of his deliverer! But how much greater is the sinner's joy when rescued from perdition! Have you seen a criminal, condemned to die, pardoned by executive clemency? What gladness! What exultation! But how much more rapturous the exultation of those saved from the curse of the divine law, from the wrath of heaven! With what delight do they think of the way of salvation! With what transport do they contemplate the fact that God can be just and the justifier of him that believes in Jesus! They gladly receive the Word of life. Is it strange that when Samaria believed the gospel, as preached by Philip, "there was great joy in that city." There is that in the gospel which, when cordially believed, is adapted to excite gladness and joy.


      The baptism of believers alone was practiced in those days. Peter had said to the awakened, "Repent." They had repented. They had gladly

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received his word, which certainly implied faith. The next thing was baptism; and baptism, let it not be forgotten, was restricted to those who gladly received the Word. It was their duty to make a public profession of Christianity. Baptism is the believer's first public act. Repentance and faith are private transactions between God and the soul. In these transactions there is a death to sin and a spiritual resurrection to newness of life. As Christ rose from the dead, so those who believe in him rise from death in trespasses and sins to a new existence - a spiritual life. When faith embraces the Savior, the actual remission of sins takes place. It can not occur before - it can not fail to occur then. An unpardoned, a condemned believer is a contradiction in terms. Now the divine arrangement is for the facts, to which I have referred, to be set forth in emblem. Do not forget what the facts are! - namely, the burial and resurrection of Jesus, the believer's death to sin and resurrection to a new life, and the actual remission of sins. How can these things be exhibited in symbol, in figure? I answer, by baptism: and in this ordinance it is done most significantly and impressively. "Buried with him by baptism" - " planted in the likeness of his death," is the language of Paul; while Peter connects baptism with the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. The actual burial and resurrection of the Savior occurred more than eighteen hundred years ago, but he is symbolically buried and
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raised from the grave whenever the ordinance of baptism is administered. We see him buried and raised again in baptism, just as we see him dead in the holy Supper. In the latter ordinance he is symbolically crucified; in the former he is symbolically buried and raised from the dead. Baptism, likewise, emblematically declares the believer's death to sin and resurrection to newness of life. As Christ died for sin, so those who are saved by him die to sin, and become alive to God and holiness. Their spiritual as well as their legal state is changed. They begin to live in a new sphere. Renouncing the world and sin, they are, in the baptismal profession, emblematically separated therefrom. The separation is visible and palpable, even as natural burial is a visible and palpable separation of the dead from the living. There is also in baptism a formal, symbolic remission of sins. The sins which are actually washed away by the blood of Christ when faith confides in that blood, are, in symbol, washed away in the baptismal waters. There are many passages of Scripture which speak of remission of sins in connection with faith in Christ, and there are other passages which refer to remission in connection with baptism. If in the former passages we understand the remission to be real, and in the latter symbolic, all will be plain. Baptism is immersion, and immersion appropriately represents the important facts to which reference has been made. Nothing but immersion can represent them. Buried by immersion, - how
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forcible and beautiful! Buried by sprinkling, or pouring, or moistening, - how impossible and absurd! There is nothing in these acts which bears the remotest resemblance to a burial and resurrection. What unwarrantable liberties men, in the plenitude of their daring presumption, have taken with an ordinance of Christ. In how many places have we, instead of the immersion of the intelligent believer, the moistening of the forehead of the unconscious infant! When will those who have departed from the truth return to it!


      This number renounced Moses and assumed Christ as their leader. They became members of the Jerusalem church. Baptism draws the line of demarkation between the reputed friends and enemies of Christ. The Lord Jesus intended his disciples to be distinct from the world. Hence he said, "my kingdom is not, of this world." It is an awful thing to bring unconverted persons into the church, and it is the natural tendency of what is called infant baptism to unite the church and the world. I know the idea is entertained by Pedobaptists, that the "old Jewish church" and the gospel church are one and the same, under different dispensations. What an absurdity. According to this view the three thousand converts on Pentecost were added to the church though they belonged to it before?

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And more than this: The Savior was crucified by church-members? In these and kindred absurdities Pedobaptists involve themselves in their unavailing efforts to maintain the cause of infant baptism. It is evident from the New Testament, that when Jews became Christians and united with Christian churches, they abjured Judaism, and openly avowed their discipleship to the Messiah. They hearkened to the voice which said from the excellent glory, "This is my beloved Son: hear him." Moses was the lawgiver of the Jewish economy; Christ is the lawgiver of the gospel dispensation.


      The word doctrine literally means teaching, instruction. The apostles taught authoritatively. They were the Savior's ambassadors. They executed his commission. "Go ye, therefore, teach or disciple all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you," etc. The three thousand had been disciples to Christ - they had received baptism as the badge of discipleship - and now they were to be taught by the apostles to observe all the Savior's commands. Acting under the commission of Christ the apostles had no discretionary authority, They were restricted in teaching to what the Redeemer had enjoined. And the three thousand

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converts continued steadfastly in their doctrine, receiving the instruction they communicated, and acting accordingly. Discipleship to Christ is always followed by a willingness and a desire to receive instruction in divine things. Those who come to the Savior are required to learn of him. Never satisfied with their attainments, they are to make richer and more extensive acquisitions in divine knowledge. They are to add to their "faith virtue, and to virtue knowledge," etc. The best method of acquiring knowledge is to continue in the apostles' doctrine. With the Pentecostal converts religion was not a temporary excitement of the passions. It was a deep-seated principle. They waited on the apostles' ministry that they might learn lessons of heavenly wisdom.


      Fellowship means communion, as is manifest from the following passages: "God is faithful by whom ye have been called into the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord. The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? What communion hath light with darkness." In the first of these passages the term translated fellowship is in the last two rendered communion, and it is the same word, which, in the text is translated fellowship. Those who are converted to God are called into the fellowship of his Son. They partake of the benefits of his

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death. Called into the fellowship of Jesus Christ, they have fellowship with one another, as the beloved disciple teaches. With the Pentecostal converts there was something in common. They had the same faith, the same love, the same zeal, the same hope, the same humility, the same joys, the same sorrows, the same glorious prospects. They were of one heart and of one soul. In them the Savior's intercessory prayer was answered, and they were one. They dwelt together in unity. They continued in fellowship. They persevered in maintaining the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. The efficiency and usefulness of a church depends much on this. Sometimes church members act unworthily of their profession - then they are to be arraigned before the church - if they repent they are to be forgiven - if not, they are to be expelled. In either event, fellowship will not be long disturbed. Most churches are remiss in discipline.


      I understand the reference here to be to the Lord's Supper. When Jesus instituted this ordinance he took bread, gave thanks, and broke it. It was very natural, therefore, that the ordinance should be referred to as the breaking of bread. Hence it is said in one place, "when the disciples were come together to break bread." The Holy Supper commemorates the death of Christ. This is its prominent design. It concentrates the attention of the communicant on the atoning

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sufferings of his Lord. It is a remembrance of Jesus in his dying agonies. It follows baptism. No unbaptized person has the shadow of a claim to a place at the Lord's Table. No one in the early centuries of Christianity was so reckless as to assert such a claim. Robert Hall's arguments, to disprove the priority of baptism to communion, is perfect sophistry, decorated, it is true, with all the attractions of a magnificent eloquence, but sophistry still. Baptized believers alone can scripturally approach the Lord's Table.


      Prayer is the citadel of the Christian's strength. He takes hold of God by prayer. In this exercise he effects, if I may so say, an alliance between his own weakness and the divine omnipotence. The power of prayer is wonderful. Some one has said, "It is the only power in the universe of which God is not jealous." The reason is obvious. The power of prayer recognizes the power of God. The throne of grace is the Christian's appropriate place. The people of God are a praying people. Prayerless professors of religion are not Christians. Those who are converted to God evince it as did the members of the Jerusalem church - by continuing in prayers.

      PRACTICAL QUESTION. - Do you, reader, give those evidences of piety furnished by the converts of Pentecost?


[From J. M. Pendleton, Short Sermons on Important Subjects, 1859. This book is from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary Library, Wake Forest, NC via ILL through Boone County Public Library, Burlington, KY.]

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