There are so many places in the Scriptures to go, but I will just start with this one: in Acts 2, Peter addresses the crowd in Jerusalem about the visible work of the Holy Spirit that they see. He tells them all about Jesus Christ, his good works, his death, his resurrection, and his ascension. Then in v36 he tells them “God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” Then v38 says “When they heard this they were cut to the heart” and asked Peter and the Apostles what they should do. Peter does NOT say “bow your head and repeat after me.” He says “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.”
- We could easily say Peter preached the gospel, and if you keep reading, about three thousand got saved that day.
- It seems regeneration happened when they heard and understood who exactly Jesus is (at least here, regeneration seems distinct from indwelling; not separated, but distinct). Would they have been able to explain the dual natures of Christ at that point? Maybe, maybe not. But could we say they knew the real Jesus now? YES!
- There is a great balance of explaining who Jesus is (both Lord and Christ), what he did (signs and wonders, death, resurrection, ascension), and what their specific sin was (killed by the hands of lawless men, you crucified), and the Holy Spirit seems to use all that to “cut them to the heart”.
- What was the moment of conversion? The simplest interpretation would be that when they ask “What shall we do” they are already at that moment converted by the Holy Spirit, born again, regenerated, got a new heart– which immediately leads to repentance and faith, which Peter could call them to and they would respond positively because they are now born again.
- There is no need to delay baptism because there is discernable conversion. These people nailed Jesus to the cross about a month or so before this. Now they are cut to the heart and are willing to be baptized into the name of the one they killed. That is discernable conversion. Look for discernable conversion. Discernable conversion. Once you have that, baptize them!
- Those 3000 souls immediately devoted themselves to the Apostles’ teaching, fellowship, Lord’s new covenant supper, and the prayers. Anyone not willing to devote themselves to that is not discernably converted. Look for the willingness to repent.
I hope that does not overcomplicate or oversimplify things. Do whatever it takes to introduce people to the real Jesus, not just introducing them to the good news about him. These people in Acts 2 are justified by faith in Jesus alone. I am not sure if they could have told you that based on what Peter explained to them, but by trusting in Christ, they do believe that the only way they could get right with God (justification) is if they trust and follow this Lord and Christ (faith in him alone).