Cause and Effect – Acts 2:37-40

The title to tonight’s message is: “Cause and Effect.” The effect, as we see here, was that many people were pricked in their hearts at the preaching of Peter. You might think that the cause was Peter’s preaching. Many egotistical pastors think that Christianity is all about their preaching. They think that if the Lord’s church grows under their ministry, then they should be praised. They think that if souls are saved, it’s because of their study, skill, eloquence and persuasiveness. While it’s true that churches can flourish through the oratory and elocution of the preacher, it might not really be a church of the Lord Jesus Christ. Many organizations and things have prospered through dynamic preaching. Communism flourished under some eloquent speakers, but it was obviously not of God.

There are thousands of civic organization that flourish, but they are not churches of God. Human Eloquence and persuasiveness are not the cause of God’s blessings.

Thus far we have looked at the background behind this sermon – the miracle of glossolalia, or “tongues.” We also had a message on the theology of sermons in general. And then this morning we look at the general theme of this particular sermon. I’m not saying that this sermon wasn’t important, or that it wasn’t a great message, but the message was not the source of the pricked hearts of those Jews.

Let’s think about THAT CAUSE.

Of course, without the sermon this would have been like any other Pentecost in the history of Israel. Because of some things that I said a couple of weeks ago, I hope that no one thinks that I’m belittling the message that was preached that day. It was a very good sermon, and I wish that we had it in a little more detail. As I have said, I think that it contained all the necessary elements to be a great message. First, as we have seen, Peter explained the circumstances. Peter met his audience where they were. “Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, & hearken to my words: For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day. But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel.” Then he went on to expound, not only Joel, but also Psalm 16. The scriptures were at the core of his sermon. Peter wasn’t preaching new philosophy or personal opinions. “Preach the word, Peter, instant in season and out of season.” Explaining and expounding, expounding and explaining, that is what Biblical preaching is all about – at least as far as the human side is concerned.

But the effect which was accomplished in the hearts of those Jews was not due to either of those two things. And it didn’t come as a result of Peter’s eloquence. As we said a couple of weeks ago, Peter may have, in fact, not been a very eloquent man at all. He had a Galilean brogue, and he didn’t display much of an education. He and the rest of the disciples were accused of being ignorant and uneducated men. The great results of the sermon were not the result of mass hysteria of some sort. There is something about large crowds that attract large crowds. The church with a thousand in attendance has a far easier time attracting and keeping 100 more new people than a church with only 25. And then when those 1100 people start singing, clapping their hands, and waving their arms… When the preacher hears a hundred “amens” and the air conditioner is turned off… When the sweat begins to pour down his face, boy, does the preaching get really good. Oh?

There are preachers who carry a bit of fame with them when they come to preach. If we put an add in the newspaper stating that C.H. Spurgeon or George Whitefield was to preach here tonight, not only would we get a much larger crowd, but we’d get a more enthusiastic crowd right from the git-go. The preaching would be better whether the preaching was better or not. These men might generate a more positive response to this message than I will, simply because they bring with them some automatic aura of excitement.

But it wasn’t eloquence, hysteria, fame or excitement that produced the great results on Pentecost. Neither was the crowd prepared in some special or secular way. There wasn’t a rock band driving them into a frenzy prior to the sermon. There weren’t gifts of food or other rewards. I am told that at rock concerts there are smaller, unknown bands that play for a while, getting the audience all worked up before the headline group appears. This Pentecostal audience wasn’t pre-prepared before Peter got to the pulpit.

The cause behind it all was the work of the Holy Spirit. I can’t say for sure, but I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that never in the history of the church had any message from any of the Apostles ever been as soundly blessed by God as was that sermon. Perhaps even when the Lord Jesus preached there wasn’t quite the same response as this.

Certainly we don’t directly read of it anywhere in the Gospels. Earlier, when the Saviour was telling the church about the soon-coming of the Holy Spirit, He said: “But ye shall receive power before you become my witnesses.” It was the power of the Holy Spirit that made Pentecost – Pentecost. Early that morning, when the Spirit filled the house and then filled the members of the church, those people were delightfully blessed. But the purpose was not primarily to make the disciples and church members feel good. The purpose was to empower their witness before the lost.

Do you want to make Calvary Independent Baptist Church great? Then earnestly beseech God for the power of the Spirit before each and every church service. All the preparation which I might do, is next to pointless, unless the Lord empowers those words. All the arguments in the world, Biblical or otherwise, will never soften the human heart.

That is the work of God Himself. No man come to Christ except the Holy Spirit draw him. The natural man, not only doesn’t receive, but he has no interest in the things of God. Prior to the preaching, there must be the spiritual preparation of the listeners’ hearts.

The source of that great day was the power of the Holy Spirit. And I believe that the Spirit is still in the empowering business today. Does He want to empower us and our church? Then pray!.

THE EFFECT produced by the Spirit was that the hearts of THE PEOPLE WERE PRICKED.

Many of those residents and visitors in Jerusalem were stabbed by the Spirit of the Lord. They were not simply awed by the miraculous. They were not merely made excited by the preaching. They were not teased, gratified, pushed or thrilled.

They were pricked in their hearts. The Greek word is used only once in the Bible – “katanusso” (kat-an-oos’-so).

It means that their hearts were pierced or stabbed. The Holy Spirit took His own personal sword and plunged into those people’s hearts as He sovereignly and omnipotently choose. “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: But all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.” The Word of God is “the Sword of the Lord,” And as Peter raised it up over his head and brought it down towards those people, God’s Spirit took it and drove it home.

Those people were pierced and moved. They were convicted of their sin; convicted of their treason against the Messiah. They were, in fact, TERRIFIED. That’s what prompted them to cry out, “Men and brethren, what shall we do? Many of them may have been thinking “What must we do to be saved?”

We notice that when the Holy Spirit is at work, using the right kind of sermon, preached in the right kind of way, the effect is that hearers recognize their need for a spiritual change. What shall we do? It wasn’t enough for them to be convicted about their sin, although that is a very important thing. It wasn’t enough that they finally learn the truth about these doctrines. The Holy Spirit taught them, convicted them and drove them to action. I fear that many of us, especially our children have been exposed to the truth so often that they can’t help but learn it. But many of them have never been moved to cry out, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” Oh, how we need to pray for our children and for the piercing of the Spirit.

The cause was the Spirit and the effect was conviction and fear.

Now think about the reply.

“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.” Peter’s sermon climaxed with the words: “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.” When the people upon whom the Spirit was working heard those words, their hearts melted: “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” When the full weight of their sins fell upon them, they were crushed. And what should be the human response to sin? REPENTANCE. Of course there have been many sermons preached in this church on the subject of repentance. I believe that it is one of the most important, and at the same time one of the most neglected of Bible subjects in modern churches. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ” gets a lot of press, but “repent” is very often ignored. There is a whole lot of religion today, practiced in the name of Christ, without this first principle. But the Bible demands “repentance toward God and faith toward the Lord Jesus Christ.” By simple definition repentance is simply a change of mind. But Biblically it is a change of mind, about sin, toward God. It is an agreement with the Lord about the sinfulness of our personal sin and judgment that it deserves. Repentance involves a change, not just an admission of guilt. As we said about Judas from Acts 1, he had a recognition and remorse about his sin, but without repentance. One of the failures of Alcoholics Anonymous and most of the various twelve step programs, is that there is no genuine repentance. Sinners don’t need AA as much as they need “SA – l v a t i o n.

But what about this statement “Repent, AND BE BAPTIZED for the remission of sin”? Doesn’t that teach that baptism is necessary for salvation? This is probably the most common “proof text” of the water baptism salvations.

Many people who read this verse assume that both “repent” and “be baptized” are equal. But there are multitudes of other scriptures, speaking on the same subject which make it abundantly clear that this is not true. Whereas “repentance is unto life” (Acts 11:18) never do we read that “baptism is unto life.” In fact Romans 6:4 says that baptism is unto death. The pattern of the word of God is that before baptism must come the fruits of repentance; And the fruit of repentance is just another way to talk of the new life in Christ Jesus.

I have in my study a study by L.S. Ballard of the Greek language behind Acts 2:38. Brother Ballard quotes a dozen different Greek experts to prove several things about this verse. One point is that “repent” is second person plural and that “be baptized” is third person singular. What that means is that these are two different, and not directly linked, exhortations. “Repent” is a universal command to all men everywhere (Acts 17:30), but, “be baptized” is a specific command to a much smaller group. When we compare scripture to scripture we see that only those who prove themselves to be repentant are then commanded to be baptized. You might say that “repent” is the PRIMARY action and “be baptised” is a SECONDARY action.

But what about that word “for”? “Repent and be baptized FOR the remission of sins.” As B.H. Carroll puts it, “Words in all languages may have, and do have: The common, ordinary meaning; A frequent meaning, but different from the ordinary; And a rare meaning, different from both the others”. And that is just the case with the little Greek preposition, “eis.” According to Strong’s Concordance, “eis” is translated: “Into” – 573 times, “To” – 281 times, “Unto” – 207 times, “For” – 140 times, “In” – 138 times, “On” – 58 times, “Toward” – 29 times, “Against” – 26 times, and a variety of other ways 322 times. And even though the word is used over 1,700 times it never means “in order to obtain.” This verse doesn’t say “, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ in order to obtain the remission of sins.”

Turn to Matthew 3:7-12: These verses are about the ministry of John the Baptist. “But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire:

Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” Notice once again that before John was willing to baptize people he demanded proof of repentance. Now notice verse 11 again, “I indeed baptize you with water unto (eis) repentance.” Obviously, John’s baptism wasn’t for the purpose of obtaining repentance, because he demanded repentance prior to baptism.

John’s baptism was “in regard to repentance,” or “because of repentance.” That is the same way that the little word “eis” is used in Acts 2:38. “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ in regard to, or because of the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”

Look at Matthew 12:41: “The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here.” The word “at” – “at the preaching of Jonas” is the same little word “eis.” But did the Ninevites repent in order to obtain the preaching of Jonas, or was it because of his preaching? We could look at a great many verses which use the word “eis” in the same sort of way. What Peter was telling those people under conviction for their sin, was that they needed to repent.

They also needed to be baptized, but that baptism was to be a testimony of their salvation, not in order to obtain salvation.

So on that great Day of Pentecost about 1,970 yeas ago, Peter was lead of the Holy Spirit to preach. His introduction was from the Book of Joel, but his text was from Psalm 16. And he preached the Lord Jesus. Then the Holy Spirit took those scriptures and drove them into the hearts of thousands of those people. They were pricked, or pierced, and crushed with conviction, crying out, “Men and brethren what shall we do?” To their cry Peter exhorted them to repent of their sins and to recognize that God hath made Jesus of Nazareth both Lord and Christ. And then he exhorted them to be baptized as a testimony of their new relationship to Christ Jesus.

And again, that is essentially the same as our ministry is today.