Acts 2:38 – A Matter Of Life And Death?

Acts 2:38 – A Matter Of Life And Death?
By: Simeon Young, Sr.

I am not guided by bumper-sticker theology, but a bumper-sticker caught my attention on my way to the office one morning. It said: “Acts 2:38 It’s a matter of life and death.” Is Acts 2:38 as important as that?  Does the bumper-sticker overstate the case? Is it narrow-minded fundamentalism?

I read somewhere that the following are five ways to twist Scripture:”
Make yourself an authority. Say the Bible has secret meanings that only certain people, like yourself, can understand;
(2) Take it out of context. Quote only part of a verse or paragraph, and leave out the rest. By doing this you can usually botch the Bible;
(3) Misquote it. Feel free to change a word or two because listeners will probably never notice;
(4) Be selective. Use the Bible to Sort your point of view and forget those verses that do not say what you really want them to say;
(5) Write additional Scripture. Tell people that God did not say all He wanted to say, so He told you the rest. Be sure it sounds Biblical.”

A denominational radio preacher said that obedience is one of the main subjects of the Bible. Obedience is a matter of eternal life and death, a heaven and hell issue. Furthermore, you can’t practice selective obedience and be saved. Acts 2:38 is not a non-binding suggestion to be brushed aside; it must be obeyed. To disregard it or explain it away in a cavalier manner is to open a pandora’s box of confusing theology.

My Dad tells of a woman who, on being told that Acts 2:38 was in her Bible said, “No, it’s not, I tore it out.” But of course you can’t dispose of Acts 2:38 that handily. You can skip it in your Bible reading. You can rip it out of your Bible. You can argue against it.  You can paraphrase it. You can twist it. You can say it’s not in the original. You can make fun of it. You can say it’s not necessary.  But eventually you must face Acts 2:38! “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God” (11 Timothy 3:16).

A fierce debate rages about the verbal inspiration of the Bible, but what’s the point of making a big deal over the inspiration of the Bible if its commands can be broken on a whim?

Acts 2:38 is a direct answer to a direct question. “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). This question came from people with hungry hearts, not from people wanting to debate the fine nuances of theology; not from people wanting to play mind games. Acts 2:38 was Peter’s response to men and women under conviction.

There is a story of an Arab sheik who had a wedding party for his daughter and invited hundreds of gusts. Each guest was asked to bring a pitcher of wine to pout into the huge wine vat. One guest thought, “With hundreds pouring their wine into the vat, no one will know the difference if I pour in a pitcher of water.” But when the guests started to drink the wine, there was only water because everyone had the same idea. A little watering down here, a little watering down there, and before you know it the Bible is watered down to timid suggestions.

The time has come when millions are refusing sound doctrine. They are turning their itching ears from the truth. If they have their way the gospel will be little more than, Believe after a fashion, and repent in a measure, or you could possibly be damned to some extent (maybe). But like it or not, the Bible is a book of ultimatums. The plan of salvation is not multiple choice. “You must be born again of the water and the Spirit” (John 3:5). Period. This is not just a neat and trendy thing to do if the notion strikes you.

I showed a couple in Houston the truth of water baptism in Jesus’ name and proved that the mode of water baptism was changed by the apostate church. The lawyer husband said, “I see what you are saying, and I believe it, but I will never change. My parents have always been (denomination deleted) and I will always be (denomination deleted).”


When I was in high school, the intellectual guru of the class responded to my insistence that Acts 2:38 is the only way of salvation by saying, “Simeon, both of us are right.” To which I said, “We can’t both be right; one of us is wrong. Either you’re right, and I’m wrong, or I’m right and you re wrong.

For many years a particular denomination has said that Apostolics are narrow-minded, legalistic and judgmental because we believe and preach the Acts 2:38 message. In a strange and ironic twist, that denomination has recently been criticized for being “narrow-minded, legalistic and judgmental” by the media and by liberal religious leaders because they preach a strong John 3:5 message, and that a large percentage of so-called Christians are not really born again, and thus are not saved.

It seems to me that the only way to avoid being called “narrow-minded, legalistic and judgmental” is to be an outright modernist who thinks everybody is going to heaven. But even if 1 believe in heaven somebody will think I’m off my rocker.

Since I’m destined to be called a narrow-minded, religious wacko, I might as well go all the way and stand on the Word. Why take shortcuts and still put up with the name-calling?

Luke wrote about “those things which are most surely believed among us” (Luke 1:1).

I most surely believe Acts 2:38.

The Above Material Was Published In The Indiana Trumpet, December 1995, By Simeon Young, Sr., P. 11. This Material May Be Used For Study And Research Purposes Only.