“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. 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.’” (Acts 2:38-39)
Jesus disciples were meeting in Jerusalem when the Holy Spirit came upon them at Pentecost. They left the house, that had been filled with the sound of rushing wind to speak to the Jews who had come to celebrate the Passover the holy city. “Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven.” ( Acts 2:5) Thousands of people had gathered at the temple and heard the disciples speaking in their own language (vs. 8-10). Peter then preached the first apostolic sermon in history that reviewed the history of and working of the gospel of Jesus Christ as a fulfilment of God’s promise of the Messianic salvation in the Old Testament. Peter, a Galilean fisherman amazed the people, who “were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’” (v. 37)
Our passage for today is Peter’s instruction to the people during the work of the Holy Spirit in Jerusalem at Pentecost. This historic event, resulting in over three thousand conversions was a unique work of God that should give us great pause for reflection (v. 41). However, we should not interpret the people’s response as ordinary doctrine, as if everyone who hears such a sermon will immediately come to faith in Jesus Christ. Acts is a unique historical account, describing the establishment of Christian church. As we seek a balance of correct interpretation and inspiration, we can receive great encouragement from Peter’s proclamation that the gospel is for the people within earshot, for those far away, and for their children.
There are two calls of the gospel. Here in Jerusalem Peter is giving an outward calling through the preaching of the Word, sharing the good news of salvation in Christ. However, there is another, inner call of the gospel, that is referenced by the phrase, “cut to the heart” for those physically present who immediately received faith to believe in Christ through the work of the Holy Spirit in their hearts. When Peter says that this salvation is for the children, the Jewish people would immediately think of themselves and those in their families as the children of Abraham, and therefore the children of God. But Peter and we must remember that there is no possibility of inheriting salvation in Christ or of being born into this faith by physical birth, as those of royalty are born into their status.
Children must receive both the outer proclamation of the gospel of Christ and the inner calling of the Spirit to become the adopted children of God, regardless of age. I came to faith when I was thirty-three years old, having abandoned all religious constructs, including my Jewish heritage, as a means of redemption. The Lord provided the outward calling through radio and TV preaching, especially that of the evangelist of the twenty-first century, Billy Graham. But it was in the middle of a new age seminar (back when that was a separate thing) in the Washington, D.C. Hilton Hotel that God chose to call me by capturing my heart for Jesus Christ. So let me encourage you—God can and does save his grown children who are far off physically and spiritually.
As you pray for your own children, grandchildren and relatives, do you also remember to pray for the youth going off to college, and graduates who no longer have a school community for support, and feel out-of-pocket this fall? In a couple of weeks, kids will start college and high school, and some will be working instead of going to school, for the first time in their lives. Let’s remember to pray for all of our children, to hear the outer and inner call of the gospel.