And They Continued

Title: And They Continued

Bible Book: Acts 2 : 42

Author: Paul E. Brown

Subject: Steadfastness; Faithfulness; Salvation, True



The day of Pentecost, about which we read in Acts 2, was one of the red letter days in Christian history--a day when God displayed his miraculous power in marvelous ways. Pentecost was a one-time event, just as Calvary was. At the same time, though, there are some things that happened in connection with Pentecost which God clearly does intend for all generations, and we’ll look at some of those this morning. Indeed, there are some lessons for us here that are as powerful as they are timeless.



On that special day Peter proclaimed the gospel to a huge crowd of Jews from many surrounding areas, as well as from right there in Jerusalem. The word “gospel” literally means “good news.” The gospel is the good news that even though we have all sinned and the wages of sin is eternal separation from God, Jesus, the Son of God, died on the cross to take our punishment for us, in order that we might be saved--in other words, that we might be forgiven, have newness of life, and go to heaven instead of hell when we die--that’s what it means to be saved. While Peter did not use the word “gospel” on this particular occasion, the content of his message was clearly the gospel.

But salvation doesn’t just automatically become ours. It becomes ours when we reach out and receive it--and here in Acts 2 we see how to do exactly that.

Many of those to whom Peter preached on the day of Pentecost had been part of the mob that had demanded that Pilate have Jesus crucified. But Peter told them that what they had done was horrendously wicked. He explained that Jesus was the one whom God had promised down through the centuries, the one who would provide salvation to all who would be willing to receive it. Peter declared that the resurrection of Jesus proved that he was who he claimed to be. In Acts 2:36 Peter said, “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.” The word “Christ” means “Messiah”--the anointed one, the promised one.


Verse 37 says, “Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart....” In other words, they were convicted of their sin--and that has to happen before anyone can be saved; there must be genuine, Holy Spirit induced, heart-felt conviction of sin, and a conviction that you need to get right with God.

That verse states further: “...and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?” They were saying, in essence, “We have committed a grievous offense against God; we are undone; what must we do?”


The next verse is one that is often misunderstood. Some people erroneously conclude that it teaches that baptism saves, or helps to save--but that is not the case at all. If this or any verse is to be correctly understood, it must be interpreted in light of its context--not only its immediate context, but also in the context of what the Bible as a whole teaches. And the overwhelming testimony of Scripture is that salvation is strictly a gift of God’s grace. Titus 3:5 says, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us....” In Ephesians 2:8-9 we read: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” To the repentant thief on the cross, who certainly had not been baptized, Jesus said, in Luke 23:43, “Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.”

Let’s focus for a moment on that word “repent.” Sometimes people ask, “Why does this verse, like some others, name repentance as the condition for salvation but without any mention of faith, while some other verses tell us that faith is the condition for salvation and do not mention repentance?” The answer is that, the way the Bible uses those two terms, they are both part of one whole. They are inseparable. They are like two sides of the same coin. The presence of one automatically presupposes the presence of the other. Repentance is turning from sin, but you cannot turn from sin in the Biblical sense without turning to Jesus. Faith is turning to Jesus, but you cannot turn to Jesus in the Biblical sense without turning from sin. So when Peter said, “Repent,” he was saying, in effect, “Turn from your sins and turn to the Christ about whom I’ve just preached!”

What Peter said next was in exact accord with our Lord commanded in the great commission. Jesus said that we are to make disciples, and once that is done--that is, once people have been saved--we are to baptize them. Baptism is an outward symbol of the inner experience of salvation. So, Peter said to this crowd, “Repent--and then take that first step of obedience: be baptized.”

The point at which this verse is so often misunderstood has to do with that little word, “for.” That is a translation of the Greek preposition, eis, which is used hundreds of times in the New Testament in several different ways--one of which is to mean “because of.” We often use the English word “for” in that same way. For example, we might say, “She wept for joy.” We don’t mean that she wept in order to get joy--we mean, she wept because of the joy she had. Or, we might say, “The soldier was given a medal for bravery.” We don’t mean that he was given a medal in order to become brave--we mean that he was given a medal because of his bravery. In like manner, Peter was saying, in essence, “Repent in order to be saved--and then be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ because of the remission of sins which occurred when you repented.”

Then Peter said, “and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” He most likely was saying, “When you repent--to which you will give evidence by being baptized--you will, as a result of that repentance, receive the gift of the Holy Ghost; that is, Jesus, in the person of the Holy Spirit, will come into your heart to dwell forever.” Or, some interpret Peter to mean, “Once you are saved and baptized, you will then be in a position to be filled with the Spirit, who came to indwell you the moment you repented.”

Verses 39-40: “For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation.” He was saying, “Remove yourselves from the unholy, Christ-rejecting crowd of which you have been a part.”



Verse 41 says, “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized....” By being baptized, these who had gladly received the word proclaimed by Peter were acknowledging their sins, and they were professing that they had repented of their sins and had committed themselves in faith to the Son of God.

In Matthew 10:32-33 Jesus said, “Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.” In Romans 10:11 we read: “For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.”


Verse 41 goes on to day, “and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.”

What an astonishing thing! God’s convicting and transforming power was so very present that three thousand people were saved, baptized, and added to the church in that one remarkable day!

That was wonderful--but now then I want to call your attention to something equally wonderful:


verse 42 says, “And they continued steadfastly....”

They didn’t just make a profession of faith, get baptized and join the church, and then go on living like they had before; they continued in this new life. And that’s exactly what must happen with every one of us who has repented of our sins and committed our lives to Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior: we must continue in this new walk with the risen Christ--for therein lies the proof that we have really been born again.

John 8:31-32: “Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If you continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” Jesus was saying that if we continue we are thereby giving clear evidence that we really are his disciples--and as we learn more and more of his truth, we will increasingly be free from the wiles and snares of the devil.

A. The PROMISE of continuance

The fact that every true convert will continue is made clear in God’s Word.

The apostle John spoke of the “many antichrists” of his day. Apparently these were false teachers who, at least at one time, had professed to be Christians and had aligned themselves with the church. But eventually they showed their true colors. The inspired apostle wrote in 1 John 2:19, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.”

Concerning that verse, John MacArthur comments: “The verse also places emphasis on the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. Those genuinely born again endure in faith and fellowship and the truth,” and he cites 1 Corinthians 11:19 and 2 Timothy 2:12.

He goes on to say, “The ultimate test of true Christianity is endurance,” and he refers to Mark 13:13 and Hebrews 3:14. Then he makes this statement: “The departure of people from the truth and the church is their unmasking.”

In John 10:27-28 Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.”

B. The POWER for continuance

Does that mean that because you are saved your continuing will just happen “automatically,” or that it will be easy? No. For a true Christian, continuing is inevitable, but it is not easy. Now that Satan knows he no longer can affect your eternal destiny, he will try to do what to him is the next best thing: he will dog your footsteps and try to get you “off track.” He will tempt you to doubt your salvation, he will try to discourage you and get you to “mess up.” He will sometimes use peer pressure in an effort to bring you down--some folks, because they are living on a low moral level, instead of moving up themselves try to pull others down to their level.

So, as a Christian you have to work at the task of continuing and growing. I’m not referring to working to “stay saved.” Once you are truly converted, you are God’s child forever--that truth is reiterated throughout the Bible. But we do have to work at continuing to live for God and serve him--and his power is available to help us in that endeavor, if only we will call on him.

In Philippians 2:12-13 we read: “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.”

That is not a passage on how to be converted; rather, it is written to people who are already converted, as to how they can make progress in their spiritual growth.

My dad and I used to raise cotton. God would miraculously make that seed sprout, and the young, tender cotton plants would appear--then we would work out that crop. We didn’t work to get cotton plants; we worked to grow those plants that God had already given us. When you work out at the health club, you’re not working to get a body--you’re working to develop the body you already have. So, when you work out your own salvation, you’re not working to get spiritual life--you’re working to develop the spiritual life that you already have by the grace of God.

The passage says that we’re to work at it “with fear and trembling.” That doesn’t mean that we are to cower or to be intimidated. It means that we are to recognize the awesome responsibility that is ours in the matter of spiritual progress. Thus, we are to utilize all the tools God has placed at our disposal for growth.

And all the while that we’re working at the matter of spiritual progress, we must at the same time look to God for the ultimate victory. Paul said that God works in us “both to will and to do.” That is, as we pour our very best into the battle, God strengthens even further our resolve, our will--and then he spiritually energizes us, he empowers us, so that we can overcome temptation, or get back on our feet if we have stumbled.

And we will stumble at times, in this process of learning and developing. So, how do we handle those situations when we say or do what we shouldn’t, or neglect what we should have done? We face up to our sins. If we’ve hurt someone else, we humbly ask their forgiveness. We ask God to forgive us, and we claim 1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Then we get up, dust ourselves off, and “have at it” again, asking God to help us to be more alert and to avoid those pitfalls in the future.

There may be lapses; and at times God may have to lovingly chastise us, but sooner or later, a true soldier of the cross will repent of being “A.W.O.L.” and will get back on the firing line for God.

So, continuing, in spite of bobbles and occasional “mess ups” as you make your way to “higher ground” spiritually, is proof that your profession to have repented and committed your life to Christ in faith was real.

C. The PARTICULARS of continuance

Several particular ways in which these new converts in Acts 2 continued are named here in Acts 2--and these are ways in which God also expects you and me to continue, if we are Christians. These are certainly not all of the factors involved in continuing in the Christian life--but obviously these are “key,” they are basic, because God lists them specifically in his inerrant Word.

1. They continued “in the apostles’ doctrine.” That refers to the inspired teachings of the apostles, delivered orally at first, but then written and preserved in the New Testament.

Jesus said, in Matthew 4:4, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” Paul wrote in Acts 20:32, “And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.”

That’s why we have preaching on Sunday morning and evening; that’s why we have Sunday School and Wednesday night Bible study, so that together we can learn more about God’s expectations of us and his promises to us. Certainly we are to study God’s Word in private, but we also are to come together for corporate study.

2. They continued in “fellowship.” Another evidence of their new life in Christ was their desire to be with the people of God. In Hebrews 10:23-25 we read:

“Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”

John 13:35, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”

Galatians 6:10 speaks of Christians as “the household of faith,” and Ephesians 2:19 uses a similar term, “the household of God,” both verses reminding us that all believers are a spiritual family--and each local congregation is likewise a family of faith.

That means looking out for one another, and forgiving one another when we have been wronged. Here’s what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 12:25-27:

“That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or ne member be honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.”

The song writer summed it all up like this:

Blest be the tie that binds Our hearts in Christian love;

The fellowship of kindred minds Is like to that above.

Before our Father’s throne We pour our ardent pray’rs;

Our fears, our hopes, our aims are one, Our comforts and our cares.

We share our mutual woes, Our mutual burdens bear;

And often for each other flows The sympathizing tear.

A fellow preacher, Tom Lindbergh, told of how elk run in packs, and that the wolves that lurk alongside won’t attack an elk that is a part of the pack. The wolves know that those elk, with their sharp antlers, can be ferocious. But the wolves look for an elk separated from the pack, for they know they can overcome one elk alone--and they usually manage a kill when they find one alone.

In like manner, the new convert who continues in fellowship with other believers is not an easy target for Satan.

3. They continued in “the breaking of bread.” This expression is used in the New Testament to refer both to the Lord’s Supper and to a common meal. It appears from 1 Corinthians 11 that the early disciples observed the Lord’s Supper along with a fellowship meal, somewhat like our fellowship meals today--a time of getting together and not simply enjoying good food, but more importantly enjoying one another’s company and getting to know one another better and strengthening the bonds of friendship. So, the reference here to “the breaking of bread” might refer to such a fellowship meal, or to the Lord’s Supper--or it might refer to both.

4. They continued in “prayers.” The context indicates that they prayed together. Certainly they prayed in private as well, but the reference in this verse obviously is to praying together when they met for worship, and study, and the breaking of bread. We’ve all heard the old saying, “The family that prays together stays together”--and the same can be said of a church family: if they are diligent in prayer, every facet of the church’s life is strengthened. Jim Cymbala, pastor of the Brooklyn Tabernacle, said that if you can beat the devil on Wednesday night, you can beat him the other nights as well!


So there you have it, on the authority of the inspired, inerrant Word of God: real Christians don’t just make a profession of faith, get baptized and join the church, and then drift back into the old lifestyle. Someone has said, “Anyone can write a good first chapter.” Another has said, “The faith that falters before the finish was faulty from the first.” So, be sure that you’ve genuinely repented of your sins and have committed yourself without reservation to the crucified, risen, living, coming again Son of God--and if you are so committed, you, like those believers of whom we read in Acts 2, will continue! The devil will bombard you and do everything he can to throw you off track, but we have this great promise in 1 John 4:4: “...greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.”

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