Most brethren know a few Scriptures merely by reference number: John 3:16; Hebrews 11:1; Psalm 23. Because we learned passages like these from childhood and have heard them quoted in the pulpit so often, we know them simply by a number. Another of these quick reference passages is Acts 2:38.“And Peter said to them, ‘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.’” It is an essential verse to know when speaking to people about obeying the Gospel—especially when so many reject the necessity of baptism for salvation.
Yet if Acts 2:38 is our favored firstborn, the verses following it are our redheaded stepchildren. These less quoted verses describe what disciples do after baptism. “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (2:42). “All who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes…” (2:44-46).
After baptism, these disciples did not simply return to living their busy lives as they were before. They did not “get saved” and then sit on their hands, running out the clock until Jesus came back. They “devoted themselves” to their new identity. They continued to grow, pray, learn, give, fellowship, and worship. Baptism was not the destination, but the on-ramp. This ought to be the pattern for every new wet-haired Christian.
But unfortunately, those who follow the pattern of Acts 2:38 don’t always follow the pattern of the rest of the chapter. Decades after obeying Acts 2:38, we still haven’t gotten around to the devotion of Acts 2:42. Our knowledge and skill in the Bible is about the same. The sins we struggled with as babes in Christ still linger. Churches full of these stunted baptism-receivers are no closer to having elders than they were a decade ago. The Hebrew writer chided such people saying, “For through by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child” (Heb 4:12-13).
I’m not sure when or how we got the idea in our heads that baptism was the end. We should use the language of the New Testament more often—we don’t “get saved;” we become “disciples” (meaning learner/follower). Perhaps we should add some new quick-reference passages to our arsenal (try Acts 2:42-47 or Luke 14:25-33). Just as surely as Acts 2 doesn’t end with baptism, neither does your walk with God.