February 13, 2022

THE MODEL RESPONSE

Passage: Acts 2:37-47

37 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?” 38 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. 39 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.” 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.
42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
— Acts 2:37-47, ESV

Every time the gospel of Jesus Christ is preached, every hearer responds.  Some respond with faith, most with unbelief.  Some respond with acceptance, most with arrogance.  Some experience a great change and a new willingness to worship and obey God, most remain unmoved, self-willed, and centered on their own pleasures.

On the day of Pentecost, thousands of Jewish pilgrims heard the good news of the Jewish Messiah from the mouth of the Jewish fisherman turned Christian Apostle, Simon Peter.  God ordained for the gospel to go to the Jews first, and as Acts unfolds the good news will unfold to the Gentiles also.  In this seminal event, approximately three thousand people, a small minority in a vast crowd, responded to the true gospel in the right way.

It is this model response to the model sermon we want to examine.  And as we asked three questions of the model sermon, so three questions will provide pivotal answers to show whether or not you have properly responded to the gospel of Jesus Christ.  I hope your answers are God, amen, and amen.

Who Called You?

When a person hears the gospel, it is generally from another person.  It may be a person or persons who translated and printed a Bible.  It may be a person who preached a gospel sermon or taught a Bible study.  It may be a person close to you, a parent or sibling or friend, who witnessed to you.  But who did you really hear when you heard the gospel?

If all you hear is a person then your response will be based on that person.  If you don’t like them, you will reject the gospel.  If you don’t know them, you may simply ignore the gospel.  If you have some respect for them, you may accept the gospel, but not rightly, if you want to please them, and them alone.  How many professions of faith have proven to be false because they were made to please a person, like a parent or a pastor or a friend, maybe even to just get them off your back, but not to please God.

In the midst of all the chaotic activity on the day of Pentecost, there is a clarion call to be heard.  It is the gospel call.  It is the effectual call.  It is not heard by everyone, but only “everyone whom the Lord our God calls to Himself” (vs. 39; ref. Romans 8:28-30).

While you must hear the gospel through some human agency, the true calling must be divine.  You can only properly respond to the gospel if you are responding to God not man, Jesus not peer pressure, the Holy Spirit not emotional anxiety.  When you respond to mere mortals or mortal religions, you get what mortals and religions can give, acceptance, social activity, even enjoyable rituals.  But when you respond to the awesome, triune, eternal God, you are as they were, “cut to the heart” (vs. 36), and willing to do whatever God tells you to do.

So how do you know it was God you heard, and how do you know you responded properly?  Ask yourself the next question.

Were You Changed?

The “cut to the heart” the right responders experienced is the work of God, though the preaching of Jesus Christ, by the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit.  It is explained by the Old Testament prophet Ezekiel (ref. Ezekiel 11:19, 36:26 ), and the New Testament Apostle Paul (ref. Titus 3:5).  It is a complete change of life embodied by one of the imperative words Peter preached to the new Christians.

Peter preached “repent.”  He did not say believe, for faith is the implicit right response to the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Peter told them about Jesus and promised whoever believed, whoever called upon the name of the Lord, would be saved (ref. John 3:16).  But saved people want to show it, and when they asked Peter what to do to show their faith was real, Peter preached “repent.”

Repentance literally means to change.  It is a change of mind (becoming convinced the gospel is true) that changes the heart (regeneration by the Holy Spirit) that changes the will (with a new willingness to obey, honor, and worship the Lord).  Repentance is the missing ingredient in modern preaching, and the essential component of a right response to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

And, repentance must be in order and complete.  It starts with the mind, which is why gospel presentations and worship services must take the word of God and aim at the intellectual mind, not the emotional heart.  When the mind is changed, when Jesus is no longer irrelevant, nor merely human, nor misunderstood, but Lord and Christ, the changed mind changes the heart.  The emotions may range, but there is always mortification for sin and a magnification of love for Jesus Christ.  This results in the new birth of freedom of the will from bondage to sin and sets one free to pursue the pleasures of God, not man.

This is complete repentance.  This is the proof of faith.  This is the proper response to the gospel.  Still curious as to whether our not your have responded to God and the gospel properly?  Ask yourself the third question.

Are You Committed?

An uncommitted Christian is an oxymoron.  Or, you could just call them plain morons.  Because, he or she is ignorant, deceived, hypocritical, and, worst of all, lost and separated from God.  Yet it is the uncommitted, nominal, so-called backsliders that comprise the largest percentage of professing Christians today.

The uncommitted are the people who responded to the gospel in the wrong way, and they no doubt are helped by a host of half-wit preachers, liberal theologians, moralists, prohibitionists, and unitarians.  They were told to walk an aisle and pray a prayer, or to simply ask Jesus into their hearts, or to check the boxes in the confirmation class, or to just be good, or to not worry because everyone goes to Heaven anyway.  Are any of these things found in Peter’s model sermon and the scriptural model response?

Committed Christians begin with baptism, not to be saved (for no one can be saved by a work, an energetic expulsion of man, a religious ritual), but because they are saved.  Our paedo-baptistic brothers let believing parents take care of this for their yet-to-believe children, and there is some covenantal merit and historical evidence in their favor.  But what is clearly happening in the first church is a credo-baptistic experience, cognitive people professing their saving faith by being baptized according to Peter’s, in truth God’s, commandment.  Baptism is a beautiful picture of the gospel, a promise of new life lived for Christ, and a pledge to join Christ’s church.

Committed Christians, baptized believers, flow from the river of baptism into the ocean of responsible church membership.  Look at the activity engaged in by those who, on the day of Pentecost and the days thereafter, responded to the gospel in the right way.  They gathered in “fellowship,” a sharing of time and place with other Christians.  “They devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching,” which became the New Testament, giving Christians a complete Bible to preach, teach, and study.  They engaged in “the breaking of bread,” the Lord’s Supper or Holy Communion, and offered and received “prayers.”  Sounds like the Lord’s people on the Lord’s Day to me!

Committed Christians, baptized believers, responsible church members (these terms should now be synonymous) love and look out for one another.  In the first church they took extreme measures because of the extreme persecution and hardship they were about to face.  They shared in the unsearchable riches of the word of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ, and they shared their tangible goods and services so that none of their brothers and sisters in Christ would be without food, shelter, and clothing.  They attended worship together as family and spent time together as friends because they loved one another, remembering yet another key commandment of the Lord.

Committed Christians, baptized believers, responsible church members, lovers of God and people, led other people to Christ.  “The Lord added to their number day by day,” for “salvation belongs to the Lord” (ref. Psalm 3:8; Jonah 2:9), but, just like Simon Peter, it is the Lord’s people who share the gospel of the Lord with family, friends, neighbors, even strangers, so that the number of committed Christians, baptized believers, responsible church members, lovers of God and people, will grow.

Committed Christianity is the only right response to the gospel of Jesus Christ.  I know I have said it simply, but how else can one preach in a half-hour or so what God has spoken through the ages concerning His salvation?  I have not left much room for mystery, for God does work His saving grace in mysterious and providential ways that are unique to every child of God.  I have not made room for genuine backsliding, the loss of one’s first love, that can happen for a season in the life of a genuine Christian.  I have not mentioned legalism, the means by which a person can outwardly do all of these things while remaining rotten, prideful, sinful, unregenerate in mind, heart, and will.  But please take this simple sermon and see it is taken from the plain truth of the Scriptures.  Peter preached a model sermon and this is the model response.

May I close with an invitation hymn?  It is not the one by Charlotte Elliot sung at the end of every Billy Graham crusade.  It is not the one by John Newton which should be sung every day.  It is a personal favorite of mine:

I hear a call, now will I answer,
Forsake my all, to serve another,
Though darkness falls, stay a believer,
I hear a call, now will I answer?

— Emmylou Harris

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