When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 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.” Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. Acts 2:37-41
What Do We Do with Our Guilt?
In Tokyo, Japan there is a garden. In this garden, people are given a small statuette to dress or decorate in memory of a baby that was either aborted, miscarried or stillborn. There are 20,000 of these statues in the garden.
On the walls of the memorial garden, there are small plaques where the parents can write notes to the child. One of those reads, “You are our baby, I will never forget you. From the bottom of my heart, I ask forgiveness forever and ever.”
When RC Sproul used to debate various atheists and agnostics from around the world, he says of those times that he could spend a great deal of time with a person explaining his position and defending it. Many times those conversations were cordial and a new friend was made. But there was typically a question that ended any pleasant conversations that he had with them. The question he would ask is, “What do you do with your guilt? How do you reconcile it?” He said he never had a single atheist or agnostic who could answer that question.
[box] The men in the passage today are dealing with a sudden rush of guilt–one that they had not had before. They were not real sure how to deal with what they were experiencing. Their guilt and the resolution of it give us some very valuable insight into the nature of salvation. How is a man truly released from his guilt before God? How is a man saved?[/box]
The answer lies in this passage today. Look there again at verse 36:
God Regenerates Hearts
Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” Acts 2:36,37
If you have been with us and following along the last few weeks, you will remember that the persons to whom Peter is speaking are a group of Jews who have gathered. They are in Jerusalem for the celebration of Pentecost which is 50 days after the celebration of Passover. During this 50 day period, Jesus was crucified, buried and risen again. He appeared to over 500 people after he was resurrected. He gave final instructions to the apostles and then he ascended.
A few days after this, 120 of the disciples of Christ were all together in the upper room and received the gift of the Holy Spirit. This was evidenced by a sound like a rushing wind, flames of fire over their heads, and tongues which were understood by a crowd who had gathered to see what was going on. As this crowd gathered, some of them mocked the 120 saying they were drunk. Then Peter stood and began to deliver his first sermon to the crowd. He quotes the prophet Joel saying that what they are seeing is a fulfillment of what was prophesied concerning the coming of the Messiah. He then tells them that Jesus of Nazareth was that Messiah, and they took him and crucified him.
Katanusso- Pierced to the Heart
So now we join Peter as he finishes up with his defense of the gospel message. We see the very first thing that happens is that at least some in the crowd were cut to the heart. Katanusso — to pierce or to stab is the word being used here. They were essentially devastated by this news.
Now I have a question about that. Why were they devastated? What I mean by that is, what changed? Because if you look in the gospel accounts, you will see that most likely some of the very same people in the book of Matthew chapter 27 were the ones who were calling for the release of Barabbas instead of Jesus. They asked that a murderer be released instead of the son of God. Then they cried out for him to be crucified. This is the same group of folks who mocked him while he was dying saying, “Let him save himself if he is the son of God!”
This is the same group of whom Peter says in verse 22 of Acts chapter 2:
“Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know.
So I will ask the question again. What changed? They saw him in life. They heard the claims from his own lips to be the Messiah. They saw him work miracles. I would venture to say that even some of the 500 who saw him alive were there that day with the crowd. All of that happened and prior to this very moment, nothing changed in them.
Then Peter preaches, and it says of them that they were katanusso. They were pierced to the heart. How can a heart that was so hard before be pierced now? How does that make any sense at all? Why is it that some there that day were pierced to the heart while others mocked the situation? Why weren’t all of them pierced to the heart?
There is a passage of scripture in the book of Ezekiel which I believe will help to explain what happened to these men that day. Ezekiel is prophesying to Israel and he says this:
And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. Ezekiel 36:26
Regeneration Precedes Faith
The process that is being described here is the process of regeneration. This is something that is initiated by God himself on behalf of the sinner. It is done prior to any move on the sinner’s part to be reconciled to God. Regeneration precedes faith. Our faith is what we call monergistic rather than synergistic. What this means is that it is a one way street. Monergistic means that it is a move of God alone with nothing added by us. We add nothing to this transaction other than the sin that made it necessary to happen in the first place. The first couple of verses in Ephesians chapter 2 says that prior to Christ, we were dead in our trespasses and sins. Dead people do not have a heart that is katanusso. There is no way to hurt the heart of a dead person.
Romans 3:11-18 says:
“None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one. Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive. The venom of asps is under their lips. Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
That sounds an awful lot like the crowd gathered to see Jesus crucified that day–No fear of God before their eyes. So how do we get from there to ’they were cut to the heart’? The answer in a word is regeneration, and this regeneration precedes faith in Christ.
Want another proof of this? Look at the passage today. When they heard it, they were cut to the heart and said, “Brothers, what must we do?” They hadn’t done anything yet, and still their heart went from a heart of stone, “a murderous heart and feet that are swift to shed blood” changed in an instant to a heart of flesh. They were cut to the heart and said, “What must we do?”
And if GOD does require the sinner dead in sin that he should take the first step, then he requireth just that which renders salvation as impossible under the gospel as ever it was under the law…~ C. H. Spurgeon
And so if a man comes to believe in the claims of Christ, as it is obvious that these men did this morning in the passage, then something has changed, and that something is their heart. We are privileged to be able to witness the account of 3000 souls who were regenerated as they heard the Kerygma — the telling of the gospel message.
A Hard Saying – Only One Way to Heaven
In the book of John chapter 6, there is a lengthy account of Jesus teaching one day. In the course of teaching, he offended some of his audience by his words. He offended some of his so-called disciples. To be specific, he offended them by saying that no one can come to Christ unless it is granted by the Father. After he finishes this teaching time, there are some pretty important things that happen where it regards our understanding of regeneration and what we call the ‘monergistic nature of salvation’.
John chapter 6 says:
When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. John 6:60-66
So there were those following Jesus who stopped following him, because he said that only those that God himself allows to come to him will come.
God Gives ‘Ears to Hear’
Have you known someone in your life that had all of the opportunities imaginable to respond to the gospel message, but they never would? Perhaps you’ve heard of someone who heard it over and over again, and then one day, it was as if they heard it with new ears? These things don’t make much sense to us unless one of two things is true. First we can attempt to explain them away in a more worldly fashion. We can say, “Well that preacher finally got through his thick skull what he was talking about. It is about time!” Or maybe they are saved during a revival service and we say, “Oh that preacher did a better job of explaining those things, so they could finally understand. Finally! They get it. I was wondering when they would get it.”
On the other hand, we can say what scripture says about it.
[box] God finally changed that heart from a heart of stone–a heart that truth just bounced right off of because it was so hard, to a heart of flesh. It was a heart that was essentially not beating at all, because it was inside of a spiritual dead guy. God brought him to spiritual life when he decided, in his providence that it was time for that to happen.[/box]
What we have in this crowd gathered today is not a bunch of guys who decided all at once that Peter knew what he was talking about. What we have is a crowd of people who had their heart changed from a heart of stone to a heart of flesh by almighty God. They were saved the instant that He decided they would be. After regeneration took place and the men cried out for relief from their situation, what does Peter tell them to do?
And Peter said to them, “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. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” Acts 2:38-39
To be continued.
[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]https://koinoniachurch.info/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/Pastor-Dan.jpeg[/author_image] [author_info] Pastor Dan Woody is a founding elder for Koinonia. He has been serving churches as a pastor for the past 13 years. He and his wife Peggy are the parents of two sons, Chris and Jonathan. Pastor Dan is currently studying for his Mdiv with The North American Reformed Seminary. His interests include music, and most outdoor sports like golf, hiking, tennis and fishing. [/author_info] [/author]