Does Acts 2 negate pre-baptismal teaching on counting the cost?

A good brother made a comment on Facebook about my post, “People who come to Christ must first count the cost,” made a couple of days ago. I’m assuming he read my post and didn’t just react to the title. (Though on FB that can be a big assumption at times.)

He questioned whether Peter preached the sacrifice and commitment of discipleship to the Jews in Acts 2. He also wondered if all this is not more of a gradual aspect of Christian growth. At least, that’s what I understood him to say.

Here’s how I responded, with a few tweaks.

It is a question of growth, yes. The Acts 2 converts continued in the apostles’ doctrine, v 42. In chap. 10, Peter himself learned more about what it meant for the gospel to be offered to those who are far away, v. 39.

At the same time, if the Lord Jesus made the sacrifice of discipleship a basic requirement for following him, and he did, can we assume that that requirement was absent in the sermons in Acts (not just chap. 2)? I think not.

Argument from silence is not a strong one, so saying that Peter didn’t require it in Acts 2 because it’s not mentioned in Luke’s account is a weak approach. The Acts sermons appear to be more summaries of what was said than a stenographer’s record.

Luke registers this, “With many other words he testified and exhorted them saying, ‘Save yourselves from this perverse generation!'” v. 40. So we know there was much more teaching (“many other words”) before their decision. It is likely that Peter explained to some degree what it meant to save themselves from the perverse generation that rejected Christ. If he informed them of the need to do this, which need did not cease at baptism, it is not illogical to think that he also told them how to do it, by giving up every worldly attempt at self-preservation and self-promotion to embrace completely the life in Christ. That he did seems to be indicated by that fact that they devoted themselves to that new life immediately thereafter, v. 42.

The reception of the Holy Spirit, also, mentioned in v. 38, would also seem to imply that something is going to be happening afterwards, that changes of lifestyle are in order.

To dunk somebody without them knowing what the new life entails seems to indicate a failure to nurture the commitment to life in Christ afterwards.

One suspects that this is done much in the church today, perhaps because of too much emphasis on baptism to the detriment of discipleship, and many congregations are spiritually anemic for such lack of teaching. That’s a personal conclusion, of course.

J. Randal Matheny

Be pithy.

8 thoughts on “Does Acts 2 negate pre-baptismal teaching on counting the cost?

  1. Good reply brother, but I would respond with a thought that says I don’t think Acts 2 (even before vs. 42) is very silent on the matter to begin with. I’d say when Acts 2:36 uses the word “Lord” it preaches self-denial without preaching self-denial; along with the other uses of the word “Lord” in chapter 2.

    And that goes without bringing up the topic of Jesus reigning as king upon David’s throne…to which I guess I just did 🙂

    Self-denial is about not being our own boss, and well, if a person doesn’t know how that would relate to the word “Lord” and “counting the cost” in connection with Jesus then 1) they are unaware of the word’s usage (which has happened to me before) and they need to do a little word study or 2) they are being intentionally ignorant to try to prove a point that’s not there.

    I’m not familiar with the Facebook post or the one who made the response at all, so my comment is not aimed at him at all, but when Peter used the words “Lord and Christ” in Acts 2, his listeners would have been very familiar with the concept and what would have followed, and preceded, their choice of being baptized in the name of Jesus.

    Hear me?

    1. Eugene, I read this back when, I think, but for some reasons didn’t reply, and it deserved a hearty amen. Your point going back to Jesus as Lord is spot on.

What do you think?