Author: Ron Graham
Grace and Pentecost
—What did the unsaved fail to do?
By the end of the day of Pentecost, about 3000 souls had been saved in response to the preaching of Peter and the other apostles. But not everyone in Jerusalem responded so well to the preaching on that day. Some therefore remained unsaved.
On subsequent days, many of these unsaved did respond, and the total number of saved climbed to about 5000. Yet there were still those who remained unsaved. In particular, the religious officials of the temple actively opposed the apostles and jailed them (Acts 4:1-4).
What necessary things did these unsaved fail to do on the day of Pentecost causing them not to be saved that day? First we will read what happened after Peter preached. Then we will answer the question.
After Peter’s Sermon
¶ “Now when they heard Peter’s words, they were cut to the heart, and asked Peter and the other apostles, 'Brothers, what shall we do?' ” (Acts 2:37).
¶ “Peter answered them, 'Repent and be immersed every one of you. Do this in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. This promise is made to you, to your children, and to all who are far away; yes, as many as the Lord our God will call.' With many other words he testified, and exhorted them, and said, 'Save yourselves from this twisted generation!' ” (Acts 2:38-40).
¶ “Then those who were pleased to welcome Peter’s message were immersed. There were added that day about three thousand souls.” (Acts 2:41).
¶ “They made a strong continuing commitment to the apostles’ teaching; and to fellowship; and to the breaking of bread; and to prayer.” (Acts 2:42).
¶ “And on every soul there came fear; and through the apostles many wonders and signs occurred.” (Acts 2:43).
¶ “All who believed kept company in all-inclusive fellowship. They sold things that they owned, and shared the proceeds out to everyone who was needy. Day by day they continued to be strongly united. They worshiped in the temple. In their homes they enjoyed breaking bread, sharing their meals with happy and simple hearts” (Acts 2:44-46).
¶ “They were praising God, and had approval in their whole community. The Lord kept adding to the church every day those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:47).
That passage beautifully describes the reponse to God by those whom God saved. Conversely, this response was lacking in those who were not saved. We will now look at what was lacking. As we do so, we will have in mind two important questions...
- Those who did God’s will to obtain salvation —were they adding something of their own to God’s grace and the price of their salvation?
- Were the unsaved to blame because they failed to respond when God gave the an opportunity to do so? Or was God to blame?
1 To Heed the Word and Know the Truth.
As Peter started to preach, he exhorted the multitude, “Let this be known to you and heed my words” (Acts 2:14). During the sermon he repeated, “hear these words... let me speak freely to you... know assuredly...” (Acts 2:22,29,36).
Clearly God wished the people to heed his word so they would know the truth. God was extending his grace to the whole multitude, giving each one an opportunity to listen and learn his will. Peter’s gospel was from the Holy Spirit and was “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16).
But the right response was lacking in many. They were not hearing and heeding such as to learn the truth. Therefore they failed to receive the power for salvation. God’s grace didn't fail. The gospel was given them by grace full and sufficient, but they did not heed the word. They did not “receive a love of the truth so as to be saved” (2Thessalonians 2:10).
Some perhaps just hesitated, and next time they heard the gospel they responded. Others perhaps were distracted on the day, and next time the gospel was preached they paid attention. But some would be bad cases, “darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart” (Ephesians 4:18).
A failure to heed the word and know the truth is the reason why many are unsaved.
2 To believe in Christ and Receive the Word.
The 3000 saved on the day of Pentecost are described as “those who gladly received his word” and “all who believed” (Acts 2:41,44). It follows that those who were unsaved that day failed to believe and receive the word preached to them.
Without argument, the ability and opportunity to believe and receive God’s word was God’s gift. Who could have boasted about their believing? They did only what God made possible and what they ought to have done. On the other hand, who could have blamed God for the others’ unbelief? They failed to do what God made possible and wished them to do.
Incidentally, some say that nothing we do is necessary to salvation. Some people did not believe on the day of Pentecost whilst others did believe. And that's what separated the unsaved from the saved. Believing and receiving was something people did as necessary to be saved.
A failure to believe in Christ and receive his word is the reason why many are unsaved.
3 To Obey and Continue
Those who were “cut to the heart”, had heeded the word and learned the truth, believed the word and received it as truth. Then they realised their need to be obedient to the word and do something. So they asked the apostles, “What shall we do?” (Acts 2:37).
Peter told them to “repent and be baptized every one of you... then those who gladly received his word were baptized...” Peter did not resile from answering. He told them what it was necessary for them to do. He knew they would not be saved till they did it, because he urged, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation” (Acts 2:38-41).
When they obeyed, they were counted among the number of the saved. Furthermore, to remain among that number, they “continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine...” (Acts 2:42).
A failure to obey Christ and continue in his word is the reason why many are unsaved.
Summarising the Response
- People had to heed the word so as to know the truth. This was necessary for their salvation, but more was necessary.
- They had also to believe and receive that truth. To do this was necessary for their salvation, but still more was necessary.
- They had to obey the truth they believed, and continue steadfastly in it. This too was necessary for them to be among the number of the saved.
- In doing these things, nobody added anything of their own to God’s grace and the price of their salvation.
- If anyone failed to do these things in response to God, they were unsaved. This failure was their fault. There was no lack in the grace of God.