Guidance For Seeking Sinners

Preachers need to be prepared. The same Spirit of God who filled Peter, the first Day of Pentecost’s main preacher, to preach the word, also filled him to deal with inquirers.

When those under conviction ask “What shall we do?” the preacher should not falter in his response. This is not a time for some off-the-cuff comment, but rather a clear statement of direction outlining the action of the sinner and the confirmation of our triune God.

Let’s make some observations from Acts 2:38-39.  To begin, here’s what the text says:

‘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.”‘

  1. Two clear commands – a) Repent; b) Be baptized. Repentance clearly precedes baptism. The children, included in the later promise, must also repent and be baptized. The individual sinner must turn from sin and openly confess faith in Jesus Christ.

Peter clearly understood repentance. He had been with Jesus since the baptism of John the baptizer. John had preached, “Repent! for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Jesus had preached, “Repent! for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” And Peter himself had been sent out into the villages of Israel with this identical message. But the preacher had not only preached, he had sinned. This is the same Peter who denied his relationship with Jesus and was guided in the process of restoration as Jesus pressed him with the searching question, “Do you love me?” after Christ had risen from the dead.

2. One clear promise “…you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” The same Spirit of God now filling the 120 was available to fill all who would come to Jesus and drink. As I preached on the work of the Spirit of God yesterday, on the Day of Pentecost, I cited the invitation of Jesus in John 7:37-39, made part way through His ministry. “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’ This He (Jesus) spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him would later receive. The Spirit was not yet given, for Jesus was not yet glorified.

Peter is inviting others to experience the supernatural touch of God which he had received. The Holy Spirit is not for a select few (e.g. the false teaching of Jehovah’s Witnesses who believe that only the 144,000 heaven bound have the ‘witness of the Spirit.’ Trust me, I’ve had more than a few conversations about this one with their zealous advocates.)

3. One Triune God actively at work through each Person of the Godhead.

Baptism? That is to be done in the name of Jesus Christ. He is our Saviour, the One who died for our sins according to the Scriptures.

Gift? Notice this is not the ‘gifts’ but the ‘gift’ (singular) of the Spirit of God. He is given to every individual believer in Christ. Read Ephesians 1:13-14 if you need a refresher on what happens at the time of regeneration/conversion to Christ.

Call? Who calls individuals to believe in Jesus Christ. Peter had heard this amazing truth from the lips of Jesus – “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him….” (John 6:44) Now Peter declares the promise of God to give the Holy Spirit to all believers.  He is available to all who respond in any generation to the effectual call of God.

Notice how Peter extends this invitation. He wonderfully weaves together the response of sinners with the gracious receptivity of God. There is no prolonged pleading, just three clear gospel statements summarizing the next steps. Preachers, teachers and other soul-winners would do well to follow this pattern. We all need to offer clear guidance for seeking sinners.