The Spirit and Acts 2:38
At the age of 13 I had sins which needed forgiving and I was aware. I was sitting at a downtown drug store counter eating a flat enchilada and drinking a coke – the cost was 50 cents. There was a man two stools away who had had the same lunch but had finished and left his 50 cent piece on the counter under his empty plate. That 50cent piece meant I could have a free lunch. I reached over, stole the coin, slipped it under the edge of my plate, got up and left the store with my 50 cent piece still in my pocket a free lunch but no free conscience. I was tormented all the way back to school…that 50 cent piece was burning a hole in my pocket but not because I wanted to spend it.
There were other sins of course but when I was baptized I knew this one for sure was “remitted.” I knew it because of Acts 2:38. I had heard it almost every Sunday every time I went to church (and Grove family went to church every Sunday and Wednesday). If there was a hanging at church, Ray Grove, wife and kids were present.
I was baptized in June 1963 at the Lubbock Christian College student lectureship by a student named Bruce Simmer. I remember that evening like it was yesterday. It was the day my sins were forgiven. I knew that God had promised me the “remission of sins.” This promise was stated in Acts 2:38 and was T H E passage about baptism in the little church in which I grew up in Northern New Mexico. If someone wanted me to talk to them about baptism I would begin at Acts 2:38. Of course I was aware of other passages but 2:38 was where I would begin and end.
So baptism was based on Acts2:38 and in my mind, at 13, was about walking away from sins. I was glad to do it and glad God had promised it could be done. I also knew that since my sins were forgiven God expected me to try not to commit them anymore. I had learned from passages like Romans 6 that baptism was a burial to an old life and a resurrection to a new one. I knew that if I were to live faithfully there could not be anymore stolen lunches, stealing cigarettes from the laundry lady next door, cussing up a storm with my friends , telling lies, looking at dirty magazines etc. I knew as a Christian, God expected more of me than that and believe me the preachers and bible class teachers at the Raton Church of Christ had made that abundantly clear. Sinning was not allowed in Northern New Mexico and living for God meant you did your best not to sin and especially after you were baptized. How unappreciative would it be to receive the remission of sins and then just start sinning all over again?
As I would learn later there is more to Acts 2:38 than the remission of sins. That is only one of the promises God makes in that verse. The other one is “…and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Now the preachers and teachers in Raton did not spend a lot of time on that part of the verse. They may have read the verse and even quoted it at baptisms but in the services I attended and the classes I received there was not much commentary on the subject of the Holy Spirit. Maybe I missed it, ignored it or just was not able to understand it. But I do not think so. For probably explainable reasons the church in which I grew up just did not spend much time talking about the Spirit. The only time we mentioned “IT” was to talk about the “holy rollers” on First Avenue trying to perform miracles or speak in tongues. Outside of that “IT” was never mentioned.
So, why would I want to study the Holy Spirit? Because of Acts 2:38. And now as I have learned, God has given me the Spirit to help keep me from stealing lunch. There is power from HIM that reminds me, leads me, instructs me and convicts me. He is God’s instrument to put good things like love, joy, peace, goodness, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control into my heart (Galatians 5). He is the reason believers can disagree and still have unity. He took Jesus’ place on earth after Jesus left. He is the functionary of the New Covenant. Not only are these good reasons to study about “HIM” they are the reasons I want to study about him. All of that and because of Acts2:38