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David's Commentaries

Acts 2:39 ‘For to you is the promise, and to your children.’

This Week’s Focus Passage: Acts 2:39

‘For to you is the promise, and to your children.’      

     How does this statement provide support for the idea, at least in the New Testament economy, of the children of believers being considered thereby to be, ‘covenant children,’ or, ‘children of the covenant?’ Or, how is it related to the argument of the paedo-baptist, that is, that herein is discovered the justification for the practice of baptizing infants? Many among those in paedo-baptist circles have embraced this text in support of infant baptism. But when we read this statement of the apostle, Peter, For to you is the promise, and to your children, does it not stir up the question in the minds of the very readers, ‘What, or which, is the promise to which Peter alludes?’ 

Is it not to be found in the previous words of Peter, after those whose hearts had been pricked when they were told by the apostle that, God had made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom ye crucified. This man that you, albeit in the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, and by the hand of lawless men did crucify and slay, was in fact made by God ‘both Lord and Christ.’ This notice given caused great consternation, to say the least, among the hearers of this, both relevant, and frightening, accusation; charging this people with the crime of Deicide; the murder of God. No wonder, no great surprise, that they would cry out en masse, WHAT SHALL WE DO? Well for many, would it be, if sinners en masse were brought by God the Holy Spirit today, as were these at Pentecost, to recognize their guilt indeed, that the sins of His people were laid on the back of the Lamb of God, slain from the foundation of the world.

The response given to those pleading for an answer to their question; they had not long to wait for that answer. It came spontaneously from the old fisherman’s lips as it did from his heart and his brain, Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins. Is this not reflective of the number of features accompanying the salvation of every sinner saved by the sovereign grace of God Almighty? We take the directive to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, to be a demonstration of the sinner’s awareness; that he, or she, has been made aware, by the application of the word of God to the heart of this sinner, whereby they understand that it is Jesus Christ who has provided for the remission of their sins through His own blood. Baptism is here put for belief; in other words, Peter is calling upon his hearers to Repent ye, and believe the gospel of Jesus Christ.

But what is the ‘promise’ to which the apostle alludes in verse 39, when he has stated that, For to you is the promise, and to your children? Let us consider that enigmatic statement of the truth as it is in Christ. There appear to be only nine usages of the term, or word, ‘promise,’ in the book of Acts, and two of those instances are found in this second chapter; in the preaching of the apostle Peter which is under our present consideration. There are no occasions of the use of the plural, ‘promises.’ However, in the midst of his sermon, Peter boldly told his auditory, in vs.32-33; 

This Jesus did God raise up, whereof we all are witnesses. Being therefore by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he hath poured forth this, which ye see and hear.

Now many, if not most, of the references to God the Holy Spirit, actually speak of Him as a gift. In the very chapter in Acts that we are considering this week, we have an example of this, in verse 38 again, after Peter’s call to repentance, he pronounces, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Actually, ‘Gift of the Holy Spirit,’ is found in only one other place, and that is, in Acts 10:45. It is more than interesting to note that here in Acts 10, there is a particularly similar circumstance, namely, the pouring out of the ‘gift of the Holy Spirit,’ which conspicuously included the gift of tongues as in our passage of chapter two. On each of these occasions, we recognize the unique gift granted to the subjects involved in the outpouring of the Spirit. In the passage in Acts 2:4, we may read of this circumstance as follows:

And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

These ‘other tongues’ are more closely defined in the sixth verse, where it is stated:

And when this sound was heard, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speaking in his own language.

Among those that were exposed to the preaching of Peter in the house of Cornelius, as recorded for us in the tenth chapter of Acts, and verses 44-46, the result was:

While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Spirit fell on all them that heard the word. And they of the circumcision that believed were amazed, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles was poured out the gift of the Holy Spirit. For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God.

These passages each speak of the matter of ‘the gift of the Holy Spirit,’ and it seems that what is being referenced in particular is the ‘gift of tongues.’ Peter began this message by making the point that ‘this is that which hath been spoken through the prophet Joel.’ The prophecy spoken through Joel regarded ‘gifts of the Holy Spirit,’ namely, your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions. Yet, while these things were promised, it does not seem to this writer, that this is the promise referred to by Peter, but rather that, the promise in the heart and mind of the apostle is spoken of at the conclusion of this ‘sermon,’ when he declared the great and wonderful PROMISE, And it shall be, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved. 

    We believe that when Peter issues the words of our focus passage this week, it is unmistakably to be referred to the promise given, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved. Consider the fullness of the statement in its entirety, from our focus verse, vs. 39, through to verse 42:

For to you is the promise, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call unto him. And with many other words he testified, and exhorted them, saying, save yourselves from this crooked generation. They then that received his word were baptized: and there were added unto them in that day about three thousand souls. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and the prayers. 

There are more than a few responses required of those included under that mantra, and to you and your children. Firstly, Peter has stated that it includes “as many as the Lord our God shall call.” These folk must be called. They must hear the call of the Gospel. Those that are to be subjects of baptism [vs. 41] are they that received his word. additionally, we are told that ‘these’ continued in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship. Can we seriously imagine infants ‘hearing the call of the Gospel?’ And can we suppose infants ‘receiving His word’? Do we anticipate infants joining in the fellowship of believers, continuing in the teaching of the doctrines of grace, much less the breaking of bread and praying? Among paedo-baptists there are those, although in a great minority, that hold with paedo-communion, in other words, that baptism should bring the subject to the Lord’s Table. Problems with this are obvious and manifold, yet these folk, at least, recognize some inconsistencies in their practice of paedo-baptism. 

    We surmise from this passage; this preaching of Peter, that the promise spoken of by him, in verse 38, is the promise that concludes both the prophecy of Joel—Joel 2:28—as well as the message of Peter in Acts 2, namely the words found in Joel 2:32 and in Acts 2:21, as Joel 2:32 is repeated by Peter, saying; And it shall be, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved. That is the Glorious Promise, and it extends to all till the end of this world, as many as the Lord our God shall call unto Him.

David Farmer, elder

Fellowship Bible Church 

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