James L. Melton (Internet address>http://www. cyberhighway.net/~nfo/melton/church.htm) continues his attack on Acts 2:38 with the following paragraph:
Secondly, please notice that there are NO GENTILES (non Jews, like you and I) in Acts 2:38. Every individual present is a commandment keeping, Sabbath observing, temple worshipping Jew. Being gathered at Jerusalem on Pentecost, a Jewish feast day, these Jews heard Peter's stirring message about Christ, the One they had crucified. They came to realize that they had crucified their Messiah. They had already been told how to be saved in verse twenty-one (which the Church of Christ never mentions), and they were "pricked in their heart" in verse thirty-seven. So they asked, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" Notice they did NOT ask, "What must I do to be saved?" (The answer to THAT question is found in Acts 16:31, not Acts 2:38.) These Jews wanted to know what to do in light of the fact that they had crucified their Messiah. This is a NATIONAL situation concerning Israel, not an individual situation dealing with lost sinners. No one in the chapter asks how to be saved?
First, let us deal with the claim that since, only Jews were present, this was a national situation rather than an individual one. In Mark 16:16 Jesus made the general statement: "He who believes and is baptized shall be saved." He did not say, "He who believes and is baptized shall be saved from his sin of crucifying Me." And how does one explain Peter saying about Cornelius, "Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we?" (Acts 10:47)? And why was the Philippian jailer baptized in the middle of the night (Acts 16:33)?
Perhaps Ephesians 4 should be written to say, "One Lord, one faith, one baptism for the Jews (but Gentiles get a free pass on this one)." The fact is that there is but one gospel for both Jew and Gentile. "For you are all sons of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ" (Gal. 3:26-27). This letter is addressed to the churches of Galatia, a province where Paul preached on his first missionary journey. Both Jews and Gentiles heard the gospel and obeyed it. There is only one plan for both Jew and Gentile; otherwise, how could it be said that the middle wall of partition between them had been abolished (Eph. 2:14-16)?
Acts 2:38 does deal with lost sinners (whether Jew or Gentile) and is consistent with Biblical teaching both before and after it (Mark 16:16; Acts 16:33). If Peter were responding to a NATIONAL sin, why does he tell them to do something which is personal and individual rather than something that would be national and public? Why not tell them to impeach the high priest, write a public apology, or in some way dramatically renounce their sinful deeds? Melton's interpretation falls flat.
Now what about his "exegesis" of Acts 2? Melton claims that the multitude was told what to do to be saved in verse 21, which reads: "And it will come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." This is the last verse of several quoted by the prophet Joel. No one had asked Peter what to do to be saved prior to this verse, nor is he addressing that point. He is explaining how that what they have observed (the apostles speaking in tongues) is the fulfillment of prophecy. Why would he be telling them how to be saved before he convinces them of their sins, before they are cut to the heart, and before they ask how they can remedy the situation?
Churches of Christ do not deny that men must call upon the name of the Lord to be saved, but many of us emphasize the correct way to call upon his name: "And now why are you waiting?" Saul, the persecutor of the church was told. "Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord" (Acts 22:16). We don't have any problem with this passage which explains that we call on the name of the Lord as we are baptized (and He saves us then); does Melton?
Then Melton would have us believe that Peter goes to great lengths to prove that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God Whom they have killed, and that He was raised from the dead, of which they are all witnesses, and that God has made Him both Lord and Christ, by which words they are pricked in their heart (he really ought to try reading verses in their context), yet when they ask what they should do, it has nothing to do with salvation! Who can believe it?!
Of course they wanted to know what to do in light of the fact they had crucified the Messiah, but this was not a NATIONAL inquiry. They had individually sinned and needed individual repentance. Notice what happened after verse 38.
And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, "Be saved from this perverse generation" (Acts 2:39).
"No one in this chapter asks how to be saved," Melton said. It seems pretty obvious that Peter thought that was their question since he exhorted them to be saved.
Furthermore, we read: "Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and the same day about three thousand souls were added to them" (Acts 2:41). Notice the text does not say, "And the nation of Israel atoned for its sins." No, baptism is an individual and personal response to the Truth. Verse 47 says: "the Lord was adding to the church daily those who were being saved." This was a spiritual, personal act, not a national one. Those baptized were SAVED.
*Send comments or questions concerning this article to Gary Summers. Please refer to this article as: "MELTON'S SKEWED VIEW OF SALVATION (PART 3) (12/7/97)."