Acts 2:36-38: “What Shall We Do?”

“‘Let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.’  Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’  And Peter said to them, ‘Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’”

Acts 2:36-38


Recently, I was engaged in a conversation about trivial things with the lady who was cutting my hair.  “What do you think of the weather?”  (I think it’s been hot for September.)  “Do you want the back squared or rounded?”  (Rounded, please.)

After a while, the inevitable question – “What do you do for a living?” – came up, and I answered, “I’m a preacher.”  Quite often when I tell people what I do for a living, the conversation then delves into religious territory, which is absolutely fine with me.  This occasion was no exception.  She immediately began to talk about biblical subjects with me, and it wasn’t long before, while talking about her puzzlement over the Holy Spirit, she said, “I’ve been wondering about that ever since I got saved.”  I asked, “How did you get saved?”  She answered, “Well, I asked Jesus into my heart a few years ago.”

She had previously admitted to me that she didn’t really know her Bible all that well, and so I asked, “How do you know that asking Jesus into your heart is what saved you?”  She told me that others had told her so.  I then asked her, “But have you ever read that in the Bible?”  She admitted that she had not, and was then quite interested when I informed her that the phrase “ask Jesus into your heart” is not found in the New Testament in relation to salvation.

When the very first converts to Christianity asked the apostle Peter, “Brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37) upon hearing of their impending condemnation for their sins, Peter did not say, “Ask Jesus into your heart for the forgiveness of your sins.”  He said, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).

Before ascending into heaven, Jesus commanded his apostles to preach the gospel to everyone (Mark 16:15), but he did not then inform them that “whoever asks me into their heart will be saved, but whoever does not ask me into their heart will be condemned.”  What he actually said was, “He who believes and is baptized shall be saved, but he who does not believe shall be condemned” (Mark 16:16).

When Saul of Tarsus (who would later become the apostle Paul) was blinded by the bright light on the Damascus road, Jesus told him to enter Damascus, where it would be told to him “what you must do” (Acts 9:6).  For the next three days, Saul ate or drank nothing and spent his time in prayer until the Lord sent him the evangelist Ananias (Acts 9:9-11).  Notice that he was praying, so you would think that he would have been asking Jesus into his heart at that time, but the Bible never mentions that.  Later in the book of Acts, Paul is giving his account of his conversion, and mentions what Ananias told him to do in order to “wash away your sins.”  He was never told to “ask Jesus into your heart.”  Instead, Ananias told him, “Now why do you delay?  Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on his name” (Acts 22:16), which is what Saul did (Acts 9:18).

When we are judged by God, it will be God’s Word that judges us (John 12:48; Revelation 20:12).  So if you want to be saved, do what the Bible tells you to do.  Have faith that comes from God’s Word (Romans 10:17).  Repent of your sins and be baptized into Christ (Acts 2:38; Gal. 3:26-27).  Only then will you obtain salvation (Mark 16:16; 1 Peter 3:21).