Invitation into Community: Baptism

Filled with the Spirit, Peter, on the day of Pentecost, proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of God.

Jesus was a prophet attested by God through many signs, but the ruling powers crucified him. Though humanity killed Jesus through the hands of the unjust, God raised Jesus from the dead. Peter himself, along with others, testified to the reality of this resurrection. Raised, Jesus was exalted to the right hand of God as Lord and Messiah, and it was from this exalted position that Jesus poured out the Spirit upon these witnesses. The good news is that the Messiah reigns!

But this was disturbing news to some who were convicted of their participation in the rejection of God’s anointed. What were they to do? How might they find forgiveness and become participants in the reign of the Messiah?

The brief answer, according to Acts 2, is something like this:  trust in Jesus, repent of your sins, pass through the waters with Jesus, and share in the communal journey through the wilderness into the new heaven and new earth. In this way, God forgives sins and gifts the people with the Spirit. On the day of Pentecost, three thousand people were added to the community of the one hundred and twenty through baptism, and that community devoted themselves to life together, including listening to the apostle’s teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayer.

Faced with the horror that they had killed the Messiah and recognizing the fulfillment of Joel 2, some were “cut to the heart” and wanted to know what to do. Peter’s response in Acts 2:38-39 sounded familiar but new: “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off.”

Peter’s invitation reminds us of the baptism of John, which was a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. But Peter’s invitation also promises what belonged to the baptism of Jesus himself. When Jesus shared the waters of baptism with Israel, he was immersed in solidarity with his people. Coming up out of the water, however, he was anointed with the Holy Spirit, and this is what Peter promises Israel. Just as the Messiah joined Israel in the water, so now when Israel is baptized in the name of Jesus, they, too, will be anointed with the Holy Spirit. Moreover, whoever is baptized in the name of Jesus is included in the promise, which is for them, their children, and to those who are far off. This is the Abrahamic promise that envisions the inclusion of the Gentiles through the blessing of the nations.

Trust in Jesus, repentance of sin, and baptism into Jesus the Messiah ushers all, Jew and Gentile, into the kingdom of God. We are baptized into the community of the Messiah, the body of  Christ. And, as a people who belong to the Messiah, we are also heirs of the promise made to Abraham. We are heirs of the new heaven and new earth.

Baptism, by which we enter into the community of Jesus, is a means of forgiveness, a marker of inclusion, and a sign of the future. And, it is also a commitment to the mission of God as a disciple of Jesus. We are now members of a Jesus community, committed to both the ethics of Jesus and to the mission of Jesus.

One Response to “Invitation into Community: Baptism”

  1.   Charlie M Says:

    And some (most?) of them had just then come up out of the mikvahs surrounding the temple. Peter was asking them to go back and do something more than ritual.

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