Conversion: The Conversion of the Three Thousand
In Acts 2:41, the writer Luke says "They then that received his word were baptized: and there were added unto them in that day about three thousand souls." We want to study how these three thousand were converted. Let me suggest that you take your own Bible and carefully study the entire second chapter of the book of Acts. This entire chapter deals with our subject, and our study from it will of necessity be very superficial as our space is limited.
The Coming of the Holy Spirit
The account begins: "And when the day of Pentecost was now come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven the sound as of the rushing of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them tongues parting asunder, like as of fire; and it sat upon each of them, And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance" (Acts 2:14). This event unquestionably fulfilled Jesus' promise quoted in Acts 1:5: "For John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized in the Holy Spirit." And in Luke 24:49, Jesus said, "And behold, I send forth the promise, of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city, until ye be clothed with power from on high." On Pentecost these promises were fulfilled, as the apostles were baptized with the Holy Spirit.
The Astonishment of the Multitude
The inspired record continues, "Now there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven: And when this sound was heard, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speaking in his own language. And they were all amazed and marveled, saying, Behold, are not all these that speak Galileans? And how hear we, every man in our own language wherein we were born? Parthians, and Medes and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judea and Cappadocia, in Pontus and Asia, in Phrygia and Pamphylia, in Egypt and the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and sojourners from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians, we hear them speaking in our tongues the mighty works of God. And they were all amazed, and were perplexed, saying one to another, What meaneth this? But others mocking said, They are filled with new wine" (Acts 2:5-13). The day of Pentecost was one of the three annual feasts of the Jews. Jews in every part of the world made their journey back to Jerusalem to observe the occasion. As the sound was noised abroad, this multitude from many nations gathered, and to their amazement, they heard this group of uneducated Galileans speaking in their own tongues. They were amazed at the phenomenon. They could not understand how these Galileans could speak in the various tongues represented on the momentous occasion. Finally, some brilliant chap offered a solution to the perplexing events. How were these men speaking in the different languages? They were filled with new wine, or were drunken.
But the apostle Peter stood to reply to the absurd charge. He said, "Ye men of Judea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and give ear unto my words. For these are not drunken, as ye suppose; seeing it is but the third hour of the day" (Acts 2:14, 15). Peter suggested that being Galileans, they would not be drunk so early in the morning, it being bu the third hour of the day, or nine o'clock in the morning. Further, it should be apparent that the men were not speaking in twelve or fifteen different languages which they had never learned because they were drunken, for a drunk man cannot properly speak the tongue he has spoken all his life.
Peter than gave the real explanation of the astonishing events: "But this is that which hath been spoken through the prophet Joel: And it shall be in the last days, saith God, I will pour forth of my Spirit upon all flesh: And your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, And your young men shall see visions, And your old men shall dream dreams: Yea and on my servants and on my handmaidens in those days will I pour forth of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. And I will show wonders in the heaven above, And signs on the earth beneath; Blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke: The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, Before the day of the Lord come, That great and notable day: And it shall be that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved" (Acts 2:16-21).
From this beginning, Peter began to produce the evidences establishing the foundation fact of the gospel of Christ. This fact of all facts is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Peter's first argument in support of the proposition that Jesus is the Son of God with power is taken from the Jew's own knowledge of Jesus. Peter said, "Ye men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God unto you by mighty works and wonders and signs which God did by him in the midst of you, even as ye yourselves know; him, being delivered up by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye by the hand of lawless men did crucify and slay" (Acts 2:22, 23). But Peter declared that even though the Jews killed Christ, God raised Him from the dead. He then cited prophecies concerning Christ's resurrection as his second proof: "For David saith concerning him, I beheld the Lord always before my face; for he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved: Therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; Moreover my flesh also shall dwell in hope: Because thou wilt not leave my soul unto Hades, Neither wilt thou give thy Holy One to see corruption. Thou madest known unto me the ways of life; Thou slialt make me full of gladness with thy counterience" (Acts 2:25-28). This, and one other prophecy, Peter quoted showing it was predicted that even though Jesus was to be crucified, He would be raised. His third and final proof of the resurrection of Christ was the present demonstration of miraculous power in the events transpiring on Pentecost. He said, "'This Jesus did God raise up, whereof we all are witnesses. Being therefore by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He hath poured forth this which ye see and hear" (Acts 2:32, 33).
The Effect of Peter's Sermon
Having presented conclusive evidence that Jesus was God's Son, Peter stated: "Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly, that God hath niade him both Lord, arid Christ," the Son of God. Before this vast assembly of Jews, there remained but One thing for these guilty Jews to do. They could only confess their guilt, and ask what they could do to be forgiven: "Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and the rest of the apostles, Brethren, what shall we do?" (Acts 2:37). Regardless of all the bad things one might say about this group of Jews, they also had some good traits. One apparent good trait was when they were shown to be guilty of the sin of taking the life of Jesus, the divine Son of God, they did not try to defend themselves in their error, but readily confessed it, and promptly asked what they could do to make restitution for their fault.
The problem of converting the world would he greatly reduced if men would recognize that "all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God" (Rorri. 3:23), and would come to the Bible, not seeking to justify what they already believe, but to find the answei to the question, "Men and Brethren, what shall we do?"
The statement that these Jews were pricked in their heart or cut to the heart implied that they believed what Peter had to say, for men are not cut to the heart by that which they do not believe. Hence Peter replied, "Repent, ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38). They were commanded to turn from their sins, and be immersed in the name of Christ for the remission, or forgiveness of their sins, and they would be given the comforting arid helping power of the Holy Spirit throughout their journey of life. But the requirements for salvation had been made plain by Peter. Those who believed, were to repent and be baptized if they were to be saved. This requirement had not been altered in the intervening centures, nor call man today modify it to suit the fancies of men. It can only be obeyed if men and women are to be saved. The Bible says, "They then that received His word were baptized; and there were added unto them in that day about three thousand souls" (Acts 2:41).
This first sermon laid down the principles of conversion for all time. The Jews were saved only after they had believed, repented and had been baptized. Will God accept anyone on less terms? Won't you be saved as these 3,000 were?
Truth Magazine XX: 47, pp. 739-740