Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.”
We have previously considered the great hope in Peter’s response in Ac 2:38 to those who were guilty of the blood of the Son of God. We now turn to the audience that he is addressing. We see clearly in Ac 2:5 that he was speaking to “Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven,” but when Peter declares there is forgiveness of sins, he expands his audience to include in that promise “all who are afar off”. There is little doubt then, in the context of this passage, that by including those “who are afar off”, Peter is extending the gospel message to the Gentiles; however, there is a thought in that description that applies to every member of the human race for we are all born “afar off” from God!
When man sinned against God in the garden of Eden, the consequence of that sin was separation. In Gen 3:24, we read that God “drove out the man”. Leprosy was the literal disease in biblical times that separated men from others, and it was a picture of our spiritual disease of sin which separates us from God. We are like the ten lepers of Lk 17. When Christ entered their village in v. 12, “there met Him ten men who were lepers, who stood afar off.” In their diseased state, they were cast out of society lest they should infect others, and their entire existence was described as one “afar off”! But God is greater than our disease, O sinner! Though disease initially kept them separated from Christ, by the end of His visit, we find a healed leper praising God and giving thanks “at His feet”! (v. 16) Jesus’ healing power brings us near!
Only those that realize their separation are candidates for this cleansing. The Pharisee that entered the temple to pray in Lk 18:10-12 saw himself as being near to God. While he was busy listing his reasons why God was so blessed to be near him (“I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers…”), the tax collector cried out to God “standing afar off”! (v. 13) He had no worthiness of himself to draw near to God, and simply begged, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” His prayer was the only one God heard! Jesus said that this man who stood afar off was brought near to God for he “went down to his house justified”. (v. 14)
Now is the acceptable time for cleansing, sinner. Now there is hope of being brought near to God. Cry out to Him for cleansing while there is still opportunity! In Lk 16:23, we find the rich man suffering in hell while Abraham and Lazarus enjoyed eternal comfort in communion with God in paradise. What was the rich man’s position compared to theirs? “And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.” He was forever “afar off” from the mercy of God!
What were you before God saved you, Christian? You were among those “having no hope and without God in the world.” (Eph 2:12) I’m so thankful that passage doesn’t stop there! “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” (v. 13) Jesus’ blood has brought us near!! If you are yet without that cleansing, embrace this promise that Peter declared on Pentecost, for the promise is to you and “as many as the Lord our God shall call.” (Ac 2:39) And, this promise will never be revoked for those that are in Christ Jesus because “He who promised is faithful”! (Heb 10:23)