I just got through speaking with a baptist preacher at my door. He is trying to tell me Acts 2:38 is a different dispensation and that I need to go with Acts 15:11. Can you help me out? I would contact a local preacher, however, I currently don’t have one. You have helped my husband and myself before, so I came inside to my bible and preacher Norm:)
I’m not sure what his point is exactly, but it probably has to do with the false idea that there was one system for Jewish converts and another system for Gentile converts. This is not true and is a very weak attempt to get around the clear teaching of Scripture.
The best way to address false doctrine is to make the false teacher stay in the context of the passage they are trying to abuse. In this case Acts 2:38 and 15:11. If he is trying to say that the baptism there was the baptism that John and Jesus were preaching before the church was established (cf. Jn 4:1-2), then ask him to explain why it says Jesus added these people to the church (Acts 2:41, 47). It says in verse 41 that those who were baptized were added to them. Then in verse 47 it says the Lord added them to the church. So, how could it be a different dispensation when they were being added to the church? It is the church age. Jesus said the disciples would see the kingdom of God come with power (Mark 9:1). He told them to tarry in Jerusalem until they were endured with power from on high (Luke 24:49). Right before he ascended, he told them they would receive power with the Holy Spirit came (Acts 1:8). So we can identify the beginning of the church age, the “last days” (Joel 2:28-32; Acts 2:17), when we see the power from on high with the coming of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-4).
Now, Acts 15:11. Again, the best way to expose the false teaching is to keep them in the context of the passage they are abusing. He is most likely referring to grace here in an attempt to teach “grace only through faith only salvation.” Well, first of all, that’s too many only‘s. If something is only then that’s it, nothing else. So it would have to be either “grace only” or “faith only,” not both. If it is both then it is salvation by faith and grace, which is correct. Salvation is not by anything only.
An examination of the text requires that we answer some question:
1) Who is speaking?
The speaker is the apostle Peter (Acts 15:7).
2) What is he speaking about?
There was a contention among the Jews about the gospel being preached to the Gentiles. There were some Jews who believed that the Gentiles had to keep the Law of Moses in order to be saved, specifically circumcision (Acts 15:1). Paul and Barnabas, who had been doing mission work among the Gentiles, disputed this binding of the Law of Moses on the Gentiles (Acts 15:2). The church at Antioch (Acts 14:26-15:1) decided that they would send Paul and Barnabas, among other brethren, to discuss this issue with the apostles and elders there (Acts 15:2-3). When they got there they were received by the faithful brethren and apposed by the false teachers (Acts 15:4-5). The apostles and elders assembled for a meeting to discuss this divisive issue among the brethren (Acts 15:6). In that meeting, Peter reminds them of what happened at the household of Cornelius (Acts 15:7-11; cf. 10:34-48). He remind the brethren how God had acknowledged his will for the gospel to be preached to the Gentiles by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (Acts 15:8). Notice here that Peter doesn’t say they were saved by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit but that they were acknowledged. The Jews need miraculous evidence that the gospel was to go to the Gentiles because without such confirmation they would not have gone preaching to the Gentiles. The Jews hated the Gentiles so badly that the mere mention of the word Gentile could send them into a riotous rage (cf. Acts 22:21-22). So, Cornelius and his household were not saved by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. They were acknowledged by it, so that Peter could say, “can any forbid water, that these should not be baptized?” (Acts 10:47-48). Even after such a clear message from God that the gospel was to go to the Gentiles, there were Jews who still did not want to accept them unless they came under the Law of Moses. Even Peter and Barnabas, who stood up for the Gentiles here, had trouble overcoming the past prejudices (Gal. 2:11-13). After Peter gave his testimony on the matter from his experience with Cornelius’ conversion, Paul and Barnabas bare witness to their work among the Gentiles according to the will of God (Acts 15:12). Then James states the conclusion to all the evidence presented, the Gentiles are to be accepted into the fellowship of God with no regard to the Old Law of Moses (Acts 14:13-21). So the disciples, as James suggested, sent out a letter to the Gentiles to counter the false teaching of the Judaizers (Acts 15:22-29). That is the context of the verse this false teacher is trying to use for his “grace only through faith only” heresy.
Peter even says, “we believe…we shall be saved in the same manner as they.” So there is absolutely no difference in the requirements for salvation between what Peter preached in Acts 2:38 and Acts 10:47-48 and Acts 15:11 and 1 Peter 3:21. It is the same gospel for everyone!
If this Baptist preacher is saying that Acts 15:11 means that you are saved by grace only then ask him these questions:
1) Do I have to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ in order to be saved? (John 8:24; 6:28-29). If he says yes then that means it is not by grace only. It is by God’s grace and my faith.
2) If I do have to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ in order to be saved, what is the source of that faith? Do I have to hear the Word of God in order to believe? (Rom. 10:17). If he says yes then that mean I must hear the word of God and believe what it teaches about Christ and his kingdom (Acts 8:12) before I can be the beneficiary of God’s grace.
3) If I do hear the word of God and believe what it teaches, then do I have to repent of my sins? (Acts 17:30-31). If the answer is yes then it is not by grace only. It a combination of my hearing the word of God and believing it so that it moves me to repentance so that I can receive the grace of God.
4) If I hear the word of God and believe it so that I am moved to repent of my sins, do I then have to confess my faith in Christ? (Rom. 10:9-10; Acts 8:36-37). If the answer is yes then it isn’t by grace only. It is the combination of my hearing the word of God and believing it so that I am moved to repentance and the confession of my faith in Christ.
5) If I hear the word of God and believe what it teaches so that I am moved to repentance and the confession of my faith in Christ, must I then be baptized for the remission of my sins? (Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3, 4; Gal. 3:26, 27; Col. 2:12; 1 Pet. 3:21). Now a Baptist will say no at this point. So I would ask what the difference is between the first four points, that I have to do to receive the grace of God, and this point that he will call “works salvation.” How is being baptized in obedience to the commandments of God any different from the other acts of faithful obedience?
Lastly, please feel free to refer him to this post and invite him to take part in the discussion here. He will likely be very willing to discuss it with you but not be willing to engage in a discussion here where all can see his abuse of Scripture.
Thank you for your desire and willingness to stand up for the truth of God’s word!