ANSWER: First of all, everything said in that verse is applicable to the Jews as well as to the Gentiles. It is about the church and not simply for Israel alone. As well, you cannot translate the passage without knowing the Greek language. That is why I have taken more Greek courses than anyone you will ever know. I have almost 60 hours of graduate Greek. This is important to understanding the doctrinal issues in the NT.
If Peter had given that verse in English he would have received a grade of F. You must understand how Greek grammar works.
In the verse you have a mixture of singulars and plurals. We don't mix singulars and plurals in English grammar but it was accepted in Greek. Here's how the verse reads in the grammar of Greek:
- "All of you (plural) repent (Aorist T.) for the forgiveness of (all of your sins, plural) …
- and all of you (plural) shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Then let each one of you (singular)
- be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ."
Repentance brings about forgiveness of sins and the receiving of the Holy Spirit. Then after they have repented and received forgiveness, the individual is to be baptized in water as a sign of their being washed which is a sign of their salvation.
In this, all the plurals are kept together and the singular is kept separate as well.
The Jerusalem congregation is mentioned in Acts 5 and it is called a "church" (v. 11). And it is called again the Jerusalem church in 8:1-3. Some wrongly attempt to say that the church did not begin until chapter 9. When I showed these verses to one who held that false view, he dropped his mistaken idea.
The great scholar Nicoll points out that at that time Baptism was the sign of the admission into the visible church, whether Jew or Gentile.
The great grammarian A.T. Robertson agrees and writes:
"Change of number from plural to singular and of person from second to third. This change marks a break in the thought here that the English translation does not preserve. The first thing to do is make a radical and complete change of heart and life. Then let each one be baptized after this change has taken place, and the act of baptism be performed 'in the name of Jesus Christ.'"
Thanks for asking.
--Dr. Mal Couch (4/12)