36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”
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?”
Besides explicit passages such as John 6:65 that point out to us that our faith is a gift from God, there are also passages in the scriptures that, when we read them, demonstrate to us the amazing and powerful hand of God in the salvation of men. Acts 2:36-37 is one such passage, and it teaches us both about God’s sovereignty and our methods of evangelism.
Peter was speaking to a hostile crowd. These men thought the disciples were drunk for speaking in tongues. Then Peter stands up and lets fly that these men are the people who crucified the messiah. Remember, just a month-and-a-half ago, these folks were yelling out that Jesus ought not to live and that they wanted a murderer to be released into the general public. These folks were able to look at the battered and bloodied Lord Jesus as Pilate brought him before them and demand that he suffer more punishment, even crucifixion.
Yet, when Peter’s accusation of their sin hits their ears, and more importantly their hearts, they are cut to the heart. Instead of rioting or picking up stones to stone Peter (another common thing that this group was known to do), they cry out to him asking the all important question, “What must we do?” They have seen their guilt. They have recognized themselves as helpless to do anything about their guilt. And they turn to the man they thought was drunk just a few minutes ago, and they ask him what they can do to be forgiven by God and to have their souls taken out of the eternal danger that they are presently in.
And so, I argue, this passage shows us God’s sovereign hand at work. Look, without God’s hand working in the dead hearts of these men, they stone Peter, beat others in the crowd, and drag several off to the San Hedrin for judgment. Without God’s Spirit breaking into their hearts and changing their will, convicting them of sin and convincing them of God’s righteousness and judgment, this crowd simply shouts down Peter and may even pick up the chant, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” But God, because of his great love, made these people alive who had formerly been dead spiritually.
I also argue that this passage tells us something about evangelism. Because God is sovereign, we tell the truth when sharing the gospel. Notice that Peter did not tell the crowd how, if they would just believe in Jesus, their marriages would get better, their bank accounts would get fatter, their bodies would get slimmer, their teeth would get whiter, and they would live their best lives now as princes and princesses of the King of kings. No, all Peter did was tell them that they were sinners before a Holy God. He did not even offer them the remedy until they acknowledged that they needed one. We need to learn from this and learn to tell the truth, the whole truth, and not make the gospel into some sort of “try it—you might like it” formula.
Christians, God is sovereign. He is the one who breaks into hearts. Let’s rejoice in this truth and let it give us confidence to present the gospel without frills or gimmicks. Let’s love our God so much that we tell everybody about him. Let’s love our neighbors so much that we tell them all they need Jesus. But let’s not think that we have to convince them. We present the truth of God to the people in the power of the Holy Spirit and we leave the results where they are best left, in the hands of God.