Yesterday we made some comments on how God convicted the listeners to Peter’s sermon about their sins. Luke informs us that Peter quickly told his convicted hearers what they should do. The way of deliverance involved an inward response and an outward confession. The inward response was repentance and the outward response was baptism.
Conviction of a sin is not the same as repentance for the sin. Sadly, convictions may pass away and not come to penitence. Peter did not take their concern as evidence that they had been converted. There is more to conversion than a dread of divine judgement because of our sins.
Repentance includes a determination to forsake them. True repentance is more than remorse or regret; in the Old Testament both Cain and Esau showed remorse and regret because of the consequences of their actions, but they did not express repentance for their sins. A person may be sorry for the effects of a sin without being sorry for the sin itself; if the effects did not occur, he would want to continue practising the sin.
Yet repentance is also more than resolve, the attempt to live better in the future. It also includes sorrow for the wrong actions, and a sense of shame that we sinned against God. Each of us has an incalculable number of sins of which to repent. While we cannot repent individually of each one, when the Spirit points us to particular sins, we should repent of them with a sense of disgrace.
The outward action that Peter mentions is baptism. It is important to realise that he was not suggesting that the ritual of baptism saves a penitent sinner. Instead he was stressing that a public confession of Jesus must accompany true repentance. At that time, there would not exist a believer who refused to confess Christ. By the confession of Christ is meant a personal commitment to Jesus.
This commitment that was publicly displayed in baptism stated that the person depended on Jesus alone for salvation. The individual was stating to all around that he was relying on Jesus Christ for rescue from God’s wrath against sin. In other words, he had put his trust in Jesus. True faith in Jesus includes dependence on Jesus, but it has other features as well.
In addition to dependence on Jesus, there will be delight in Jesus because he will become very attractive to the sin-burdened soul. The penitent sinner sees great beauty in Jesus and the desire to know him is an important aspect of his faith. Those listening to Peter on the Day of Pentecost had caught a glimpse of the beauty of Jesus and therefore they wanted to know him.
A third feature of true faith in Jesus, in addition to dependence upon him and delight in him, is dedication to him. In his sermon, Peter had stressed the sovereignty of Christ, his position as Lord of all. A penitent sinner is aware of who Jesus is, and comes to him acknowledging his Kingship. Repentance for sin and confession of Christ go together.