The first preaching of the gospel, as defined by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, occurred on the first Jewish Feast of Pentecost, as recorded in the second chapter of Acts.  Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Peter proclaimed Christ, declaring His death and resurrection.  He urged his audience, “Let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God hath made that same Jesus, whom you have crucified, both Lord and Christ” (2:36).  The power-filled message convicted the hearts of a great number of those present, as the writer, Luke, describes their reaction: “They were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?”  (v. 37). 

The church must continue to preach the same gospel (good news), for it is still “the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth….” (Romans 1:16).  Almost 2000 years have passed since this message was first preached, but it has never lost its power to convict our hearts and bring us to the One who, alone, can cleanse our hearts, redirect our lives, and give us an everlasting hope.  The death of Christ, with the shedding of His blood for our sins, and His resurrection make available to us salvation.  If the apostles were alive today, the heart of their message would still be that which they, by the Spirit, offered to lost sinners.

The response given to those who inquired as to what to do, was “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, for the promise is unto you, and unto your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call” (Acts 2:38-39).  The repentance and baptism of 3000 that day (v. 41) was the response of their faith in Christ, accepting Christ as Savior and Lord.  Even as the message of the gospel—Jesus’ death and resurrection—is still “the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth,” so also the faith-response of repentance and baptism remains unchanged.  The apostle Paul would later write of the baptism of believers in Romans 6 as them having been “baptized into Jesus Christ” and “baptized into His death” (v. 3).  He further defined baptism as being “buried with Christ” and raised to “walk in newness of life” (v. 4).   Their having “obeyed from the heart that “form (or pattern) of doctrine which was delivered” them resulted in them being “made free from sin” (vs. 17-18).  The “doctrine” was the gospel of the crucified and risen Christ, and the “form” was their burial and resurrection in baptism. 

Why do some who still preach the same facts of the gospel, unchanged from apostolic days, now seek to make baptism optional, substituting a “sinner’s prayer,” which is not found in Scripture for alien sinners? Who changed it? Not God.  Jesus commissioned the disciples to “preach the gospel”, promising, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved” (Mk. 16:15-16).                           

     Ron Bartanen is a retired preacher who lives in Milton, FL