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Post-Pentecost: The Work of the Holy Spirit

Now when they 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. Acts 2:37-38

What remarkable power and effects are observed with the first sermon on Pentecost! Peter, prior to the powerful demonstration of the convicting work of the Holy Spirit, had laid at the hearts of his hearers the Word of God and the truths contained therein. Peter, filled with boldness, courage and intrepidity of mind, declares to his hearers a solemn and authoritative message of great weight and importance, and being filled with the power of the Spirit, he declares fearlessly the great atrocity committed by his hearers.

His sermon begins with making reference to the accusation which “mockers” had raised against the apostles as if they were intoxicated or unnecessarily excited (Acts 2:13). In order to support his accusation and denounce their mockery, Peter points to the prophecy of Joel (Joel 2:28-32) which predicted an outpouring of the Holy Spirit, in virtue of which many should prophecy before “the great and notable day of the LORD.” This he declares as being fulfilled in the events they now witness.

Peter proceeds in a fearless manner to preach Christ and Him crucified in declaring that Jesus of Nazareth was a man approved of God among them, by miracles, wonders and signs which God revealed before their very eyes. He then pressed upon their consciences their guilt in crucifying and slaying Jesus. He appeals to their own consciences as sufficient to convict them of this atrocious sin (Acts 2:23). Peter next declared Christ’s resurrection from the dead both as predicted by the psalmist (Psa. 16:10) and as testified by the apostles who were witnesses to God’s raising Him up. Next he lays before them Christ’s exaltation to the right hand of God as being the Father’s great reward and approbation for the work His Son had accomplished (Acts 5:31). Thus in the first part of the sermon Peter declares “Jesus is the Christ,” the Messiah whom they had despised, rejected and crucified, but who was also the resurrected Lord and Savior.

With what power this message was accompanied, for the Spirit as convector applied the Word with power, causing deep conviction of their guilt and danger! It was a sermon that became effectual in the day of God’s power for, “Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). What a soul-despairing question!

Dear friends, has this soul-despairing question ever become your question? When God by His Spirit applies Scripture to our hearts, we too see the atrocity of sin- Paul wrote in Romans 7:9, “For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died,” A quickened soul realizes that God is a judge who in no way can clear the guilty. He sets our sins in the light of His countenance, bringing us to confess ourself the chiefest of sinners. Quickened souls are led to believe that their case is hopeless, they helpless and worthless and that having sinned against God and “having crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Cor. 2:8), there remains nothing for them, “but a fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation” (Heb. 10:27). They sorrow after a godly sort, mourn over the missing of God and bewail themselves, causing them to exclaim, “Where is the blood to atone for my sins, where is there a holiness for my unholiness? Is there a righteousness that exceeds the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees?” Such know the language of the publican, “God be merciful to me a sinner” (Luke 18:13). These convicted souls know what it is to confess and forsake sin and yet, though they sin less, they become greater sinners, yes, the chief sinner in their own estimation.

And in all this, did Peter continue declaring to them their sins and miseries? No! for Peter understood the divine commission from his Master, “Preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15).

Friends, mark the freeness of the gospel, for Peter, having preached to them their guilt and misery, having established the fact that Jesus is the Christ of God which thereby awakened them, proceeds at once, without any qualification or reserve, to unfold the glad tidings of a full and free salvation. He excepts none; he excludes none; he exhorts all; he encourages all to come to that “fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness” (Zech. 13: 1). “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” (Acts 2:38).

This is the gospel, the gospel in all its fullness and freeness. Peter proceeded on the supposition of their guilt and misery and addressed them as sinners, but at the same time proclaimed to them the remission of sins through the very blood by which their hands were stained. This, sinner, is the same blood of the Mediator, Jesus Christ, whom we stand in need of to blot out our transgressions. We need that which those on the Day of Pentecost needed and received, “the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel” (Heb. 12:24). Peter charged them with their sins, and as convicted sinners he proclaimed the atoning power of the blood of Jesus to them.

Dear friends, this is the “blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matt. 26:28). Yes, “the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 jn. 1:7). In Him there is a sufficiency, fullness and suitability for the chiefest of sinners.

For the attendees of Peter’s sermon, this was the day of God’s good pleasure, the day in which they came to know themselves as sinners by the convicting work of the Holy Spirit (.Jn. 16:8). They became true weepers, seekers and finders of the only Savior, for, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

And what followed? They gladly received his word, God’s Word. What joy, gladness and praise to the God of all grace (I Pet. 5: 10) welled up in their hearts as is found in Acts 2:46-47! Dear friend, has your name become: chief sinner? One who is poor in spirit? One who mourns because of his misery and missing of God? One who needs to be taught every step of the way? One who hungers and thirsts after righteousness? If so, you will understand the language of Augustus Toplady:

Nothing in my hands I bring,
Simply to Thy cross I cling,
Naked, come to Thee for dress,
Helpless look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me Savior or I die.

Oh friend, “Though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry” (Hab. 2:3). “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I wilt in no wise cast out” (jn. 6:37). “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink” (jn. 7:37).

The sum and substance of the gospel is repentance and remission of sins through the name of Jesus, and the fullness and freeness of it is illustrated in Peter’s first sermon on Pentecost.

May this Pentecost blessing become a reality in our lives, for then not only will we become lost sinners, but also saved sinners by the power and grace of God, who is “able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them” (Heb. 7:25).

Rev. J. Greendyk is pastor of the Heritage Reformed Congregation of Fort Macleod, Alberta, Canada.