The Power of Acts 2:38

‘‘Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost’’

I read a very interesting and humorous story of a woman who encountered an intruder when she returned home from an evening church service. She caught the man who was robbing valuables from her house, and she shouted with a loud voice: “Stop! Acts 2:38!” The burglar stopped dead in his tracks. The woman calmly called the police, and explained what happened. As the officer was cuffing the man to take him into custody, he asked the burglar: ‘‘Why did you stand still here? All what the old lady did was just yelling a Bible verse.’’ “A Bible verse?”, asked the burglar. “I thought she said she had an Ax and Two 38s!”

It was in 1913, hundred years ago and just decades after the beginning of the 20th century revival, a Canadian minister called Robert McAlister spoke for the first time about the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Being inspired by the Holy Spirit, he emphasized that the name of Jesus should be used as the proper mode of Baptism. It is known that beginning from the post-apostolic era, throughout the dark Catholic ages and during the reformation, for nearly two thousand years Baptism in Jesus Name was replaced by the Trinitarian mode of Baptism. After such a long period of time, when McAlister declared the words of Peter, the Truth was heard as a big explosion among a large crowd gathered in a place called Arroyo Seco ( which means ‘dry stream’ in Spanish, and is located near Los Angeles). After listening to this message, many people began to study their Bible carefully with regard to the name of Jesus, and the revelation of the fullness of God in Christ Jesus began to overwhelm many ministers from various denominations. These preachers centered their preaching on Acts 2:38, and many were challenged by the power of the truth, and their minds were captured by the incredible facts. Among the ministers who decided to be baptized according to the formula, which was established on the day of Pentecost through the mouth of Peter, were Frank Ewart and Glenn Cook. At the beginning of 1914, since no one was ordained to perform the baptismal service according to the apostolic tradition, Ewart baptized Cook in the name of Jesus Christ and Cook baptized Ewart the same way. The easy message which was once preached at a campground was like little fire which burned a forest; the fire has spread throughout the New World and the rest part of the globe.

One little stone thrown from the hand of the shepherd David was able to kill the giant Goliath as much as a little rod in the hand of Moses was strong enough to divide the waters. How much more the name of Jesus is incredibly powerful to cast out demons, to raise the dead, to give sight to the blind, most of all to remit our sins and to give us a new life. Consider how the simple message of Acts 2:38 came out of the fisherman Peter was efficient enough to turn the life of three thousand souls in one day.  That is why Paul strongly stressed in his letter to the Colossians, ‘‘And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him’’ (Col. 3:17). Some people say, “If we get baptized in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, Jesus is included through ‘the Son’ which is listed in the prescription.” The problem with this argument is simply the title is not a substitution for the Name. The Lord has laid His power and His authority in His name and ‘‘there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved’’ (Acts 4:12). The titles are given neither as a replacement nor as an alternative for the saving Name of Jesus Christ. But they reveal the different modes of God’s manifestations and His roles as the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit as well as His relationship with humanity from creation to redemption. And this is the reason why the titles are not used biblically to cast out demons, to pray with and to heal the sick; these are simply titles. If titles have no power to heal the sick, then it has no authority to remit our sins even when they are applied in baptism.

We often think Acts 2:38 is the most boring message we can ever tell to people, because we have experienced continuous rejection. But we should keep in mind that the message is fresh as in the day of Pentecost, filled with grace and power, to cast down imaginations, and to bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.[1] It is a powerful weapon which we can fire against the thief (the robber, the devil) who comes to steal and kill and destroy. [2] It can’t be compromised, changed or modernized even in the 21st century; not even in 2018 which we have just started. We can use various languages to reach our diversified neighbors who came from various cultural contexts. We can employ modern methods to attract the new generation. But we cannot change the message! Rather, we pray that God would raise people like Peter, Paul, McAlister, Ewart, Haywood, Cook, Teklemariam, Degu, Ayele, Amare, Dawit, etc. All have preached this great message to reach souls in the face of trials and brought light to generations breaking through cultural and ethnic/racial barriers, and crossing geographical borders.

Contributor: Pastor Fitsum Kebede recently moved from London to Los Angeles for his MA study in theology at Claremont School in California. He was formerly an Instructor at the Bible College in Addis Ababa.

Collector: Brother Ahadu Lakew from ACI Greater Los Angeles Area