On the day of Pentecost about which we read in Acts 2:1-41, about 3000 people left Judaism to become followers of Jesus of Nazareth. Every single one of those conversions was special. Since God’s word is a seed (Luke 8:11), and that seed does not change (1 Peter 1:23-25), people who are saved today are converted in the same way that people were converted in the first century.
There are a number of ways that one might approach a study of this memorable chapter, which records events associated with one of the most unique days in human history. For our purposes, we are keeping it simple: (1) before conversion, (2) how they were converted, and (3) after conversion.
Before their conversion – Those who were converted in Jerusalem on Pentecost already believed in God before they obeyed the gospel (2:22-24). They also had the habit of worshipping the one, true God. After all, it was a religious, God-honoring occasion which caused them to assemble that day (2:1,5). They also were believers in the message of the Old Testament (2:16-21,25-28).
Beyond that, they were believers in the coming of the Christ (2:30,31). Those who assembled to hear the apostles’ message were devout (2:5). They were certainly different from the insincere people who drew near to God with their lips while their heart was far from Him (Mark 7:6).
Despite being highly religious and possessing such good traits, they were still lost before they submitted to the apostles’ message (2:36-38,41). Yes, it is possible for sincere, religious people to be lost (Romans 10:1-3). What did these devoted people need to do in order to be in the right relationship with God? They needed to be born again by being born of water and the Spirit (John 3:3,5).
How they were converted – In a nutshell, they heard the gospel, understood it, believed it, and obeyed it. Let us expand on those thoughts.
They heard the word of God from the mouth of the apostle Peter (2:14,22,37). That is how faith is produced – by hearing God’s word (Romans 10:17). The gospel – that is the message which lost people need to hear, and that is what we need to preach! (Mark 16:15,16). How do you and I want to be known in the areas where we live and serve? We want to be known as people of the Book, those who declare, live, and defend the gospel.
In the process of people being converted on the day of Pentecost, they also understood the gospel message. They learned who Jesus was, hearing that God the Father had attested to Him via the Son’s miracles (2:22). From Peter’s message they understood that Jesus died, but was raised from the dead (2:23,24,32). Furthermore, Peter identified Jesus as Lord (2:36), the Christ (2:36), and King sitting on the throne of David (2:29-33).
Those who that day became followers of the Christ learned that they were lost, but also heard the great news that God had a remedy for their sins (2:37,38). What was their response to the gospel? They “gladly received” Peter’s word (2:41). What specifically had the apostle instructed them to do?
That day when those who heard the gospel were cut to the heart, they asked the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (2:37). The answer was, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (2:38). Those who complied with those God-given instructions by repenting and being immersed for the remission of sins were saved.
But what about being saved by praying the sinner’s prayer? Surely that is what happened on Pentecost, right? You will not find such an idea in Acts 2. In fact, you will not find such a teaching in the Bible, period. You see, there is man’s way and there is God’s way. Man’s way says that sinners are saved by praying and confessing their sins. What about God’s way? We already pointed it out. It is the way of learning about and believing in Jesus (2:36), followed by repentance and baptism for the remission of sins (2:38). Some may not like that answer, and it is certainly true that the great majority of denominational groups do not teach such, but God’s answer is still God’s answer! You cannot go wrong when you follow what God says; and, you cannot go right when you follow man-made doctrines.
After their conversion – When those people who possessed a noble and good heart obeyed the gospel that day, they became new people – new creatures in the Christ walking in newness of life (Romans 6:3,4). Their sins were forgiven (2:38), and they were added to the Lord’s church (2:47). And then what? They continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine, in fellowship, in breaking of bread, and in prayers (2:42). They were a part of a new, happy fellowship (2:46) with a life life-long commitment to follow Jesus (Hebrews 3:6,14).
What a fascinating day that was! Thousands were converted. At the same time, by most estimates, hundreds of thousands of Jews were present that day, and the tragic reality is that the great majority did not submit to the gospel and thus remained lost. What about you, my friend?
— Roger D. Campbell