Three outstanding facts stand out regarding Peter’s bold preaching on Pentecost morning. The first: Peter was absolutely convinced Jesus was raised from the dead; it was a “fact” to him (Acts 2:32 NIV). The second: Peter knew Jesus had forgiven Him for his denials and reinstated him as an apostle (John 21:15-19). The third was that Peter, along with the others in the Upper Room, had been filled with the Holy Spirit.
Jesus had taught them the Holy Spirit would convict people of their sins; the time had now arrived for them to see it in action (John 16:8). The Spirit woos, draws and even courts, with the goal to bring people to the cross of Jesus, but never compels. When people see with the eyes of their hearts the gory death of Jesus in their place, they will feel conviction for their sins. In addition, they discover the cross of Jesus as the divine mirror that shows God’s great love.
Apostolic preaching, therefore, becomes partnering with the Holy Spirit, having the goal to inspire people to want a new heart in a new birth (John 3:3-7; 2 Corinthians 5:17; 1 Peter 1:23). For this to happen assumes willingness to confront sin in Jesus’ name, and follow up with the solution – repentance that results in the rich grace of God in forgiveness.
Repentance is best defined as people willingly making the decision to turn their lives around with the help of the Holy Spirit. In true repentance they successfully get on the right road – the gospel road – that yields peace with God and the blessed hope of eternal life with God in heaven.
Oh! that the pulpits of the land that miss this cornerstone principle of the ministry of the Holy Spirit will discover it anew; and those who know it will rediscover its power to redeem lives.
Because the Holy Spirit is God, He knows what to do, when to do it, and how to get it done, and the Spirit can tell Jesus’ followers what to say, when to say it, and how to say it to get it done. This means the Holy Spirit is boldness personified as He confronts and convicts of sin. Because Peter was full of the Spirit, he showed the same boldness, and was willing to confront wickedness of the worst kind that memorable Pentecost morning.
We should not be surprised that boldness is a characteristic of the Holy Spirit. Jesus told His disciples, “the gospel must first be preached to all nations.” So, wherever you go in your preaching, when “you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say [be bold enough to say] whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit” (Mark 13:10-11).
People continue to be filled with the Holy Spirit in the 21st century, and a new boldness always follows the infilling.
Peter sealed his indictment saying, “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” The statement shows both the indictment and hope, because Jesus is now “Lord and Christ.”
To see clearly the convicting work of the Holy Spirit that produces Spirit-anointed preaching, one needs only compare the reception Peter received on the Day of Pentecost with the reception Jesus received in His hometown synagogue. When Jesus declared in Nazareth, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me…” his hometown folk tried to throw Him over a cliff. At least twice in His ministry the Jews picked up rocks to stone Him (John 8:59; 10:31). And at the end of His ministry, after Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, Caiaphas the High Priest put out an all-points bulletin for His arrest.
At Pentecost Peter indicted the crowd for murder and accused them of the heinous crime of killing their own Messiah. But this time, no rocks went flying; instead, the crowd was “cut to the heart.” They started asking, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
The difference has to be the convicting power of the Holy Spirit that convinced them of their grievous sin.
Oh! for the pulpits of the land to be so full of the Holy Spirit that God’s heavy hand of conviction for sin burns in peoples’ hearts (Psalm 32:4). For some pulpits, the very idea of Holy Spirit conviction needs to be discovered.
Peter replied, “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. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off — for all whom the Lord our God will call.” With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation” (Acts 2:38-40).
How does a person repent for murdering His Messiah? It certainly will not be flippant and casual. Instead, an individual would surely be filled with Godly sorrow for such a grievous crime (2 Corinthians 7:10-11).
The doctrine of repentance can easily become trite and commonplace, as if to casually say, Jesus, please forgive me for my sins that are very minor.
“With many other words [Peter] warned them and pleaded with them, ‘Save yourselves from this corrupt generation’” (Acts 2:40-41). Three words stand out here – warned, pleaded and corrupt. The word translated warned carries the idea of giving earnest testimony and witness about the danger ahead. The word translated pleaded communicates to beseech or to intreat, even to pray. Corrupt indicates warped, perverse, crooked, and bullheaded.
“With many other words [Peter] warned them [earnestly witnessed to them and gave testimony, beseeching and intreating the people in the crowd] saying, “Save yourselves from this corrupt [warped, crooked, stubborn, obstinate, and bullheaded] generation.
Peter’s earnest warning was merited, and for two outstanding reasons. Peter knew the corruption was there; his boldness to say it came from the Holy Spirit. The Jewish religious leadership, in cooperation with Rome, had just a few weeks earlier done the unbelievable and crucified their own Messiah. The spiritual tragedy of the decision to kill Jesus meant the majority of the Jewish people had rejected their Savior too, and had done it in the most callous way possible. They would lose their souls if they did not repent; Jesus had made that clear. Again, repentance means a complete change of heart; turning around in a total new beginning. “I am the way the truth and the life,” the Lord said. “No one comes to the Father except by me” (John 14:6).
Abraham, Moses or David would have been horrified and shamed beyond belief for their descendants to do so wicked a deed as to crucify their Messiah. Surely, these great leaders would have thought, what in the world has our nation come to; have they gone crazy?
Messiah’s miracles and signs were there as well as the prophecies. Jerusalem’s religious leaders were a classic definition of corrupt, warped thinking; and Jesus’ death was the result.
A colossal national tragedy was also eerily near. Peter surely remembered Jesus’ prophesy that one stone would not be left on another when the “den of thieves” temple would be torn down (Luke 19:46; 21:6). Peter knew the what, but he did not know the when, the timeline.
As for the nation, and especially Jerusalem, their hatred for Rome would move them closer and closer over the next forty years to rebellion. That decision would cost them the demolition of their beautiful, but corrupt temple, as well as the ruin of the whole city. Tens of thousands of men, women and children would die, including babies and toddlers, and about 100,000 Jews would be force marched to Rome and made slaves.
“Those who accepted [Peter’s] message,” however, “were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day” (Acts 2:37-41 NIV).
We are left with a very honest question: who among us needs another infilling of the Holy Spirit? And, whose ministry now in the doldrums would come alive with new convicting power, and even apostolic results, if that infilling were to happen?