Acts 2:37-38 (Misinterpreted Scriptures)


Now when [the Jews present at the Upper Room on the Day of Pentecost] heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Misinterpretation: This is the “flagship” Scripture of the UPC and of all Oneness Pentecostal churches. There are many ways that this Scripture is mistaught by the UPC, but the only error that I will point out here is that many Oneness Pentecostal preachers and saints misquote the Scripture by reciting, “Men and brethren, what shall we do to be saved.”

Facts: The careful reader will notice that the words “to be saved” are not found in Acts 2:37. Peter had already told the believers how to be saved in Acts 2:21, when he quoted the prophet Joel and said, “[W]hosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” By the time Peter concluded his sermon in Acts 2:36, the Jews who were present were “pricked in their heart.” That is when they asked Peter and the “rest of the apostles,” “[W]hat shall we do?”

The reason that this is important is because these men had already believed in Christ. That’s why they were pricked in their heart! They wouldn’t have ever asked the question unless they already believed on Christ! If they didn’t believe then they would have laughed and walked off. However, they did believe, and so they were moved to ask what they needed to do. Peter responded by telling them to be baptized in the Name of Jesus Christ, and that they would receive the Holy Ghost.

The point is that it was not baptism who saved the new believers, it was their belief. (More properly, it was God’s grace working through their belief). Their baptism was a response to their salvation, not the cause of their salvation. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia sums it up well when they write, “Peter’s ‘Repent ye, and be baptized…in the name of Jesus Christ’ (Act_2:38) is meaningless unless faith were exercised in Christ.”1

I will conclude my discussion of Acts 2:37-38 by quoting the story of the jailer’s conversion, found in Acts 16:27-34, which makes the distinction between belief and baptism even more clearer.

Act 16:27-34 KJV
(27) And the keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled.
(28) But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here.
(29) Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas,
(30) And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?
(31) And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.
(32) And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house.
(33) And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway.
(34) And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house.


  1. ISBE, “Justification” []

68 thoughts on “Acts 2:37-38 (Misinterpreted Scriptures)

  1. Bruce Glass

    At Pentecost,Peter quoted Joel 2:28-32 which included “whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered” But in Acts 2:21 the word “saved” is clearly used when Peter quoted it.
    Therefor salvation depends on the act of “calling on the name of Jesus” according to the anointed,Holy Ghost filled Apostle standing unified with no disagreement from the other chosen Apostles.
    So what did they understand this to mean ? Why don’t we ask Luke who wrote Acts?

    He supplied an answer in Acts 22:16 when he wrote ..”arise and be baptized,and wash away thy sins,CALLING ON THE NAME OF THE LORD”
    This timely instruction came three days after Paul discovered who Jesus was.
    Trembling, blinded and astonished,lying on the roadside outside Damascus,Paul had finally BELIEVED and even spoke to Jesus there, but also continued in prayer and fasting for three days..,yet that belief and prayer was NOT ” calling on the name of the Lord.”
    But when the name of Jesus was used in his water baptism Luke clearly confirmed the necessity of its unique power to “wash away your sins”,”through the obedience of faith”Rom.16:26. Faith is belief coupled with obedience.Devils believe but do not obey!

    Satan has tried to forbid this name from being used (Acts 5:22-40) as originally practised ,because he knows better than some religious people that “Neither is there salvation in any other;for there is none other name under heaven,given among men whereby we MUST BE SAVED!” Selah.

    Luke was inspired to record the Apollos details of great significance (Acts 18:24-19:7) in supporting and confirming the accuracy and simplicity of Acts 2:38.
    Here the twelve sincere men were not disciples of John the Baptist who had introduced baptism for the remission of sins before Jesus died on the cross about 25 years earlier,some 600 miles away.
    They were obviously people at Ephesus who had recently heard that eloquent preacher named Apollos who knew only the baptism of John the baptist,until he was enlightened “more perfectly”by Pauls friends Aquila and Priscilla.God led Paul to them and he rebaptised the twelve men in Jesus name and they received the Holy Ghost,speaking in tongues.
    Do pray to God to find out “whether these things be so.”

  2. Joel Bloxham

    Romans 4:22-24 “and therefore it was accounted to him for righteousness. Now it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him, but also to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our lord from the dead.”
    This verse clearly states that the believers of Rome (and all believers after Christs death) and Abraham are saved the same way. Arguments that say Abraham was saved in different way than we are today go out the window in light of this verse and really the entire chapter of Romans 4.
    Salvation is the imputed righteousness of Jesus that is given when one believes.

  3. ljb

    Your misguided interpretions need to be line upon upon line. One Scripture pulled from context can say or mean whatever you want it to mean. Paul, in 1 Cor. 12 was talking about the gifts of the Spirit, after a believer recieves after the Holy Ghost. Not everyone recieves this gift to operate in the body. That’s what he is teaching.
    As far as Matt 28:19 and baptizing the name of the Father and of Son and of the Holy Ghost, if somebody said all that while they were baptizing you in water you’d probably drown. Jesus said in John 5:43, I am come in my Father’s Name, in Luke 1:31 the angel said … shalt call his name Jesus. John 14:26 But the comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my NAME. Acts 4:12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. As far as so call good believing people going to hell Matt 7:22-24 many will confess him but their life styles will deny him. If you are a Bible-believing-Christian you will build your life on the word of God, not on what others have told you. Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life … and no man can come to God but by HIM.

    Love in Jesus Name

    1. Josh (Site Admin) Post author

      lib, I don’t take Scripture out of context. You do. The apostolic church has taken 3 Scriptures saying something (tongues) happened (Acts 2; Acts 8; Acts 19) and distorted that into meaning that something will ALWAYS happen. It’s a logical fallacy.

      Tongues and interpretation is one of several gifts of the Spirit. It makes sense that it would sometimes be present when people are filled with the Spirit. However, it will not always be present, and it is not a “heavenly language” that nobody else understands. It’s simply speaking in another earthly language that you do not know while someone who also does not know the language translates it. That’s why people in Acts 2 were amazed that the apostles were speaking their dialects, when they knew that the apostles did not know those languages. What was said on the Day of Pentecost was not unintelligible; it was perfectly understandable to those who spoke the language.

      Regarding baptism, I’ve dealt with that numerous times on this site. If you think that you need to be baptized with the exact formula that was used in the New Testament then you should be learning Aramaic and Koine Greek. English didn’t exist when the New Testament was written, so nobody was baptized “in the Name of Jesus”. They were baptized in the AUTHORITY of Jesus, though, which is exactly what Trinitarians and Oneness Pentecostals both do.

      In Christ,

  4. james

    I’ve been to both upc and non denominational churches an I see fruit in the upc. When I was attending the non denominational Christian church I saw a quiet an defeated church. The pastor was preaching a good message and everyone was just sitting back with no excitement or passion. I didn’t see any fruit there.I saw a sinner friendly environment with no move of God.

    1. Renee

      You say that baptism was a response to their belief in Jesus but not essential in theirs and our salvation then why did they ask what they must do if believing were enough?????? This isn’t making sense to me! Just as Cornelius asked what he needed to do and that response was to be born again and I am sure you know the rest of the story? Believing is not enough! Baptism and His prcious gift that follows are essential and this is the power that will lift us home in the rapture!

      1. Josh (Site Admin) Post author

        Renee, saying that “believing is not enough” is a very, very dangerous statement to make. I’m not judging you, I made it as well. I was wrong.

        Your statement stands in direct opposition to numerous Scriptures that say the exact opposite. I suggest reading John 3 for a start–not reading it through the lens of apostolic doctrine or preconceived notions, just reading it.

        In Christ,

  5. pastor lonnie johnson

    There cannot be any contradictions in the scripture. The contradictions are in us and our lack of understanding. The scripture plainly declares, one Lord, one faith, one baptism. Therefore, there cannot be two formulas of baptism. We go back into the scriptures, jesus words are in red, Luke 24:47 tells us what Jesus taught. Repentance and remission of sins were to preached in his name. Acts 2:38 came after this statement, and after they received the Holy Ghost. Matthew was present when Matthew 28:19 was recorded, why didn’t he argue or defend this, in the book of Acts? Because it was not a contradiction in Matthew. Johns people were rebaptized because they came into the unity of the faith, and gladly were rebaptized. Jesus is the ONLY saving Name! What other way is there, in word or in deed? One Baptism Formula. By the way this is NOT A UPCI TEACHING. Im not UPCI, it is scripture. If we receive not a love for the truth…. I love you!

    1. Josh (Site Admin) Post author

      Pastor Lonnie,

      Eph. 4:5 (one Lord, one faith, one baptism) is not talking about a “formula” for baptism. That’s not even hinted at in the passage. The passage is talking about the unity of believers. Ironically, interpreting “one baptism” as a formula and then using it as an excuse to disassociate with billions of fellow believers is the exact opposite of what Eph. 4 is about.

      Your other points have been dealt with on the site…many, many times.

      In Christ,

      1. I Am

        I Am (not) a denomination: I gave enough time. I gave enough warning. Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit? Why? You turned from truth to your own dogma.
        ADMIN EDIT: —- body of post removed —-
        Perhaps at the dawn of a new century, and a new millennium, all Christians could use a new Pentecost, where we get past all begging and pleading and know that the blessing is ours to take to the nations.
        No more chances, Josh.


        ADMIN EDIT: So-called I Am, I do not accept the use of fear tactics on this web site. You’re not God, you’re not the great I Am, and you’re a sad, pitiful person if you think that He has given you the right to tell people when they have blasphemed the Holy Spirit. Please take your despicable fear tactics somewhere else. They will not be tolerated on this site.

        In Christ,

      2. Jason

        Josh, I have a question for you about Acts 2:38. You state that Peter wasn’t telling the ppl how to be saved in this verse because they had already believed. You pointed out they they asked what must we do. Not what we must do to be saved. My question to you then would be can we be saved without repenting? Can we be saved without being in dwelt with the Holy Spirit? I see you addressed water baptism only. If they were already saved (sozos) why did he command them to repent and receive the Holy Ghost? They would be miners to repent and they would have already been sealed with the spirit. Please explain. Thank you

        1. Josh (Site Admin) Post author


          Those are great questions. Allow me to briefly answer them:

          * Repentance always accompanies belief. It’s impossible to believe without repenting. How could you come face to face with the God of the universe and not feel the need to fall on your face and repent?

          * The Holy Spirit is given to us at the moment of belief. Paul makes that crystal clear in Eph. 1:13, which says: “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit…”

          There’s no ambiguity. None. You simply cannot twist Eph. 1:13 into meaning that we aren’t actually filled with the Holy Spirit when we believe. That’s ridiculous. On top of that, there is Scripture after Scripture after Scripture that says we are saved by grace through faith. It’s unavoidable.

          So why did Peter phrase his sermon the way that he did? There are several possibilities, but we know that the one thing that is NOT possible is that he was separating the Holy Spirit from belief. That would go against the entirety of the Old Testament. Ultimately we will not know for sure until we get to heaven and ask him, but many theologians suspect that in the earliest days of the church God chose to withhold the gifts of the Spirit until one of the apostles had verified that whatever was going on was in fact of God (cf. Acts 8). There were countless sects, false leaders, and con artists in Palestine who were more than happy to hop on the “Jesus is the Messiah” bandwagon and twist it to enrich themselves. Having apostolic approval helped to solidify Christianity in the early days. You see that change later, when missionaries who were not apostles began to spread throughout the world.

          That’s just one possibility. The important thing to remember–the thing that I cannot stress enough–is that the one thing we know Peter did NOT mean is that the infilling of the Holy Spirit was separate from belief. There are simply too many Scriptures that say the exact opposite.

          In Christ,

  6. steven

    Dear Mr. Christopher Portman and Josh spiers,

    your argument has no base according to the scripture,

    Everybody in the world even a young child can tell you that Faith is the first thing to begin with. me as a young UPC local preacher don’t denied this.

    let me ask you the following :

    do you believe it was essential for Christ to suffer? yes or no? =
    do you believe it was essential for Christ to die ? yes or no? =
    do you believe it was essential for Christ to resurrected? yes or no? =

    am sure you answer yes for all the three question, now how can it not be essential for a person to repent, meaning give up our earthly habits,
    how can it not be essential for a person to be baptize, you like quoting verse from apostle Paul let me tell you it was Paul who said when we are baptize we are United with Christ by being buried with him in to his essential death by baptism.
    how can it not be essential to received the Holy spirit when Christ has been risen from the dead, remember Jesus came to baptize with the Holy Ghost, if you want to argue once again let me tell you it was apostle Paul who when he came to Ephesus found some disciple and HE ASK THEM “HAVE YOU RECIEVE THE HOLY SPIRIT WHEN YOU BELIEVE? and they answer we don’t know, HE BAPTIZE THEM IN JESUS NAME AND HE PRAY FOR THEM THEN THE HOLY SPIRIT CAME ON THEM, they spoke with tongues.

    brother like it or not you will find yourself fighting with God not with UPC.

    thank you. God bless you


      The devil has done a number on you. I guess when we get to heaven we will feast with ole slew foot himself and all the fallen angels because the bible says that the devil believes. You need to pray an let God give you the truth. everything changed when Jesus took that last breath and looked up toward heaven and said it is finished. We are under grace. those men in acts had been saved under john and that’s why they said we don’t know if there is a holy ghost so that why the first thing peter did was ask how were you baptized an commanded them to be rebaptised in the name of Jesus, if it wasn’t important why would they bother?? when that roman guard stuck the sphere in the side of Jesus blood and water came out and if you don’t have the blood an if you don’t have the water you will die in your sins

      1. Josh (Site Admin) Post author


        My article “What Does The Bible Say About Salvation?” has an explanation of biblical belief. The apostolics teach belief as intellectual acknowledgment, but that is not what biblical belief is. Believing in a God–even believing that Jesus was God–does not make you saved. You can read the article I just linked for more details.

        Regarding baptism, I have never said that it was unimportant. Jesus commanded baptism so if a person refuses to do it then I doubt the sincerity of their belief. I don’t believe that baptism is what CAUSES us to be saved, but if a person knows that Christ commanded it and they refuse then I don’t think that they were saved in the first place. (I’m excluding people with valid reasons for not being baptized, such as an illness.) It is totally understandable that a person baptized as a disciple of John would need to be re-baptized. Dunking a person under water doesn’t do anything, it’s the reason they were dunked (or sprinkled) that matters. The men that John met hadn’t been baptized for the right reason, so he re-baptized them.

        In Christ,

  7. steven


    I’ve been reading what you call misquote of Oneness churches about Acts 2:37-38, in my opinion you miss the whole truth by trying to created your own truth, how would you know they have already believe unless they ask the question in verse 37, Peter just tell them WHOSOEVER CALLS ON THE NAME Shall be saved, and they wanted to know how to call on the Name of the Lord.

    there is nothing in this for you to try to seek all possible means only to deny the Acts 2:38 requirement, if its not important therefore Why at first do we have to leave the Catholic church which believe in Jesus also? but are they save by their belief? if yes why other churches believing in the same Lord.

    let me tell you your argument on this have no base at all, possibly you may want to justified your many reason for leaving UPC, ONLY to adopt your new lifestyle following what your heart tells you, but we follow what the scripture declares.

  8. Christopher Portman

    What a wonderful explanation of this often misused passage, one that also happens to be the cornerstone of UPCI doctrine—what I like to call the “John 3:16” of Oneness Pentecostalism.

    You wisely noted that the only way the Jews could have been “pricked in their hearts” upon hearing Peter’s declaration was if they were already believers, if they had already been enlightened to their need of this Messiah he was proclaiming.

    Their inquisitive response to Peter, “what shall we do?” could have never come from an unbelieving heart, as an unbelieving heart is incapable of seeking after God (Romans 3:11).

    That, to me, is the essence, the very heart of understanding the Gospel—realizing that authentic belief is itself a far greater miracle than speaking in tongues could ever be (and tongues is a legitimate and glorious miracle, though deeming them a soteriological necessity is biblically absurd).

    When you realize how hard, how cold, how inescapably dead the human heart is when left to itself, you begin to grasp the vast distance that God’s grace must go in order to save anyone! It becomes so clear that He and He alone is responsible for our salvation and that we simply get to participate. That’s why it’s called “grace.”

    (8) For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, (9) not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
    Ephesians 2:8-9 (ESV)

    In Christ,

    1. sid hoskins

      Yes, The Gift of the Holy Spirit from GOD, the Father and the Son
      John 14:23 Zech. 12:10 Eph. 3:7 Eph. 4:7
      Something to consider that He would pour out the promise from the Father upon
      the Gentiles also.

  9. Phil Ricks

    One major point seems to have been left out of this discussion about salvation. Paul clearly “declares” the Gospel (I Cor. 15:1-4) is the death, burial and resurrection and that Jesus will take “vengeance on them that know not God, and that OBEY NOT THE GOSPEL of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Thes. 1:8). God also forshadows this Gospel of death, burial and resurrection all through the Old Testament. He then clearly requires us to obey this death, burial and resurrection in our own lives by obeying Acts 2:38. If you don’t teach that the Gospel is repentance, water baptism in Jesus name, and receiving the Holy Ghost, you are teaching some OTHER GOSPEL that the apostles did not teach.

    1. Josh (Site Admin) Post author


      The building blocks of your argument are sound. The problem is that they don’t support your conclusion.

      I’ll agree with you that the gospel is the death, burial, and resurrection. I’ll agree with you that we model that process through repentance (death), baptism (burial) and the baptism of the Holy Spirit (resurrection). However, you take it a step too far when you say that baptism in Jesus’ Name is the only valid form of baptism. When you do that you are essentially claiming that obeying an explicit command from Christ is not good enough (cf. Mat. 28:19). The same goes for the apostolic belief that tongues is the evidence of receiving the Holy Spirit. That doctrine directly conflicts with Paul’s statements that not all believers speak in tongues (1 Cor. 12) and that we are filled with the Holy Spirit upon belief (Eph. 1:13).

      So again, the building blocks of your argument are correct but your conclusions are not. When we take a step back from our dogmas and traditions we begin to see how silly it is to tell a person that they were baptized the wrong way because they were baptized like Jesus told them to. We begin to see how convoluted it is to try to explain why all believers speak in tongues when Paul clearly said they don’t. If I may be blunt, apostolic doctrine basically claims that Paul was wrong and Jesus wasn’t clear enough. That’s what it boils down to.

      In Christ,

        1. Adam

          It doesnt say in the NAME of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit, which gramatically would imply a reference to one distinct person, but rather, It says” in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Which when you study greek grammar actually indicates three separate persons. But you’re assuming the method and verbage autibly spoken during the act of baptism is what saves you, when in fact the context of the scripture indicates that its instructing us to baptize with the AUTHORITY of the father and of the son and of the holy spirit. Much like a Representave would act in the name of the king, meaning they acted with the authority of the king. But considering that you’re using the same argument most upc oneness followers use, its probably safe to say your just regurgitating the same dogmatic responses weve all been taught to use. I highly recommend you spend a little more time understanding the context of scripture if you’re going to debate it’s interpretation.

        2. sid hoskins


          Alright, you can keep repeating what JESUS CHRIST said in Mathew 28:19 and the believers will keep doing(obeying) what Peter said in Acts 2:38.
          I know Peter and 10 more apostles heard exactly what was said by
          JESUS CHRIST when He commanded them in Mat. 28:19.
          ‘The hearers are not justified but the believers are justified by doing that
          which they have heard and been commanded to do.’ (paraphrasing for
          rightly dividing the word of truth, by the Spirit of truth.) Not the repeaters.

        3. Layman316


          I realize that this was posted back in 2013, so I’ll make this short.

          Regarding to “the singular name” in Matthew 28:19. Sometimes the obvious is overlooked, perhaps because we read to fast, or we believe what someone else taught us. My suggestion would be slow down and read carefully. I will break the verse down in the order it was delivered.

          Mat 28:19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations,

          1. What are disciples? Are they saved or lost? I say that a disciple is a follower of Christ, therefore, saved.

          “. . baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,”

          2. baptize who? The answer is baptizing the disciples already mentioned in the verse. ..i.e followers of Christ. Therefore, those who were saved, are baptized.

          3. The Hebrew, Greek, and English grammar are perhaps the most important thing to consider when reading and understanding the Bible, or any book for that matter. The meaning of “in the name of” is not referring to the name Jesus. Consider the rules of Greek grammar. Granville Sharp’s Rule #6

          Rule VI.
          “And as the insertion of the copulative kai between nouns of the same case, without articles, (according to the fifth rule,) denotes that the second noun expresses a different person, thing, or quality, from the preceding noun, so, likewise, the same effect attends the copulative when each of the nouns are preceded by articles. . . ”

          In other words, the phrase, “in the name of the Father” according to the Greek rule #6, is one Person, and “and of the Son” is another Person according to the rule, “and of the Holy Spirit” is another Person according to the rule. Without the rules of grammar you can make the Bible (say whatever you want. Your view does not fit the verse.



      1. s

        Hi, how are you Josh? I am not here to argue at alI, because it’s not what God wants. Matthew 28:19 has a word (singular) that is overlooked. In school we all learned singular and plural. The word singular means ONE, and the word plural means MANY. This is not to embarrass anyone it is to help everyone!!! Matthew 28:19 says baptizing them in the NAME (singular) of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. That NAME (singular) is Jesus. It does not say in the names of, but it is easily misread. I had to be rebaptized in JESUS NAME, not the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost these three are ONE. When I pray before I eat or pray at all I say in JESUS NAME. There is scripture that states everything we do to do it in the name of Jesus!

        God bless all,
        I want to make it to heaven.

  10. Peso

    To those of you who argue that John 3:5 means baptism.

    When I first heard this argument I didn’t know how to respond. It was rather convincing. However, this BIG question sent me on a spiritual journey to find the answer. So I did what we all should when faced with spiritual questions, turn to the word. I think John 3:6 clearly points to what water means in this vs. ” For flesh gives birth to flesh, and spirit gives birth to spirit” (may not be exact, typed from memory). Also Jesus is talking to Nicodemus before and He is saying that you must be born again. In a sense there are two births, the water birth (fleshly, physical birth, proven when Nicodemus asks how he can enter his mother’s womb a second time), and a spiritual birth. Clearly water birth is not referring to baptism and the spiritual birth also doesn’t refer to baptism anywhere in that verse. Also, in my own struggles to find the answer to this salvational question, I have found that Romans 3-4 has helped a lot. Paul simply writes that Abraham believed and it was credited to him as righteousness. Paul then explains how this illustrates belief is what is necessary.

    1. Ife

      I have no doubt that Abraham believed, but did Jesus die on the cross yet? Could he have followed Acts 2:38 even if he wanted to?

    2. sid hoskins

      Correct, except please do not discount, I John 5:6 and then I John 5:8.

      And that is in agreement with Romans 6:3-6. JESUS died on the cross and shed his blood there and we agree with Him and receive the sprinkling of his blood with
      believing in and on his name, even, JESUS CHRIST, in obedience to the gospel of
      grace and truth to our death on the cross with him. He did it all and we follow him wheresoever he leads.

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