Z. P. asks this important question:
Bob, you said in regard to Acts 2:37-38, that when the Jewish hearers of Peter’s sermon were “cut to the heart,” that is the time they believed that Jesus is the Christ. I’m struggling to see assurance as the essence of saving faith in this passage. Are you saying that the moment they were cut to the heart is the moment they knew for sure that they had everlasting life? Are you able to share any thoughts on this?
We have suggested elsewhere (see Lanny Thomas Tanton’s article here) that Acts 2:38 is not an evangelistic invitation by Peter, but instead it is an invitation for new believers to come into fellowship with God.
We have written elsewhere (see here for a list of multiple articles) that assurance is of the essence of saving faith. That is, at the moment one believes in Jesus for everlasting life, he knows that he has everlasting life that can never be lost.
What is assurance? That is at the heart of this question.
To be assured of something is to be convinced it is true. In other words, assurance is another word for faith. I believe that Canada is north of the U.S. I’m assured that is true.
So, the question is whether Peter’s Jewish hearers that day believed that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah (cf. John 11:27; 20:31; 1 John 5:1). They clearly did. Peter was persuading the crowd that Jesus of Nazareth was not a false Messiah, but indeed was the long-promised Messiah. After citing Ps 110:1, a Messianic verse in a Messianic Psalm, Peter said, “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:37). Notice the words know assuredly.
They did come to know assuredly. That is evident when Luke says, “they were cut to the heart” and then reports them asking, “What shall we do?” They were convinced that Jesus is the Messiah.
And what did Peter mean when He said that Jesus whom they crucified is both Lord and Christ. In light of John 11:27; 20:31; and 1 John 5:1, he meant that the Messiah guarantees everlasting life to all who believe in Him. They believed in Him and so they were assured that they had everlasting life that cannot be lost.
If they were not yet born again, then Peter would not have invited them to be baptized. Peter and the apostles only baptized born-again people.
If they were not yet born again, Peter would have spoken further of the need to believe that Jesus is the Christ who guarantees the eternal destiny of all who believe in Him for it.
Notice that in verse 41 Luke says, “Then those who gladly received his word were baptized.” He also says, “that day about three thousand souls were added to them [i.e., became part of the Body of Christ].” To gladly receive the preached word is to believe it. Only believers are added to the Body of Christ.