Acts of the Apostles
Whenever I think of the first part of the Acts of the Apostles I am reminded of the 1970s contemporary Christian music group I discovered in college, The Second Chapter of Acts (siblings Annie Herring, Matthew Ward and Nelly Greisen). Their Easter Song made it into a lot of hymn books.
A lot happens in the first few chapters of Acts, the Ascension, the choice of Judas’s successor, Pentecost, two of Peter’s speeches, thousands of conversions, the start of the community of believers, healing of the crippled beggar, and the appearance before the Sanhedrin.
There are a few verses in this section many of us memorized as we were leaning to share our faith, particularly Acts 1:8 (which we memorized in conjunction with Matthew 28:18-20 – the Great Commission) and Acts 4:12 (Jesus is the only way).
Jesus appeared “by many proofs” to his disciples for forty days. Pentecost was a Jewish celebration fifty days after Passover, so between the Ascension and Pentecost was about 10 days. Sometime during this roughly 10 day stretch the Apostles cast lots to choose Matthias over Joseph, also called Barsabbas, or Justus. Because Joseph was also called Barsabbas makes it easy to confuse him with the Joseph at the end of chapter 4 and beyond (with Paul) who is also called Barnabas (Barnabas, Barsabbas) This seems to happen almost frequently in the New Testament, where people have several first names. Another example is Nathaniel who is also known as Bartholomew, although there is some disagreement about whether these two are actually the same person. I haven’t researched but sometime I would like to know where this practice comes from. Maybe it has something to do with so many languages spoken regularly in the area, Greek, Latin, Hebrew, and Aramaic.
I noticed some interesting things about a standout verse, 2:38, where Peter answered a question someone, speaking for the group, asked “What are we to do, my brothers?” In 2:38 Peter addressed the answer to the group “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.” First, I noticed Peter said “be baptized…in the name of Jesus Christ…” He didn’t say “be baptized…in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.” Maybe he didn’t want to try to explain the Trinity to the crowd at that time.
Second, I spent over half my life so far as a non-Catholic Christian. I have heard many disagreements about infant baptism and the significance of baptism. This short verse supports the Catholic view of both. Peter said, “Be baptized, EVERY ONE OF YOU…” He didn’t say put any restrictions on the age, and we might assume there were children in the crowd. I also recognize Peter said “Be baptized…for the forgiveness of your sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” I do not see any support in this verse for the view I held until I became Catholic; that baptism is only an outward sign of an inward conversion. Peter seems to indicate it is so much more. Not only are sins forgiven but a person will also receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Call now and we’ll double your order, just pay separate shipping.) It is just a pity so many Christians get baptized and then do not give the Holy Spirit control over their lives. The power they may have had is squandered until such time they come to their senses and allow the Holy Spirit to take control through a continuous conversion toward God the rest of their lives.