Acts 2:38-39 Peter replied, “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. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
This is the climax of a justly famous sermon that produced 3000 converts. I have heard it held up as an exemplar of evangelistic preaching, but we need to understand several things about the context. In the first place, he was talking to people who had gathered in Jerusalem specifically to worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. In other words, they already had both a rock-solid monotheism and a desire to serve their Creator. On top of that, they had a clear understanding of what it is to sin against God. The events of Jesus’ crucifixion were recent enough that everyone was aware of them. What Peter’s sermon did was point out to them that they were complicit in that crucifixion, and they were sharply aware of their guilt and asking for a solution. (verse 37) The only thing surprising about Peter’s response is his including “all who are far off.” He said that under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, because he certainly wasn’t open personally at that point to Gentiles being welcomed into the family of God. It took the dramatic events of Acts 10, quite some time later, for that to break through to him. The point is, this is an example of a human instrument speaking God’s words under circumstances that God orchestrated, producing God’s results. There are certainly times when it is appropriate to quote these words in inviting people into salvation, but doing it on our own without the guidance and anointing of the Spirit certainly isn’t going to produce the results Peter had.
I couldn’t count the number of times I’ve heard people refer to “the 3000 at Pentecost” as an encouragement that revival is going to happen in Japan. The thing is, none of the underlying conditions are met in Japan. I would be as thrilled as anyone at a massive influx of people into the Body of Christ, but the situation here is different from that at Pentecost on almost every point. In the first place, the average Japanese concept of God, even, is dodgy at best. Rather than active faith in anything at all, they have a collection of superstitions. (Sadly, that might be said of many people in supposedly “Christian” nations.) In Japanese, the word for “sin” essentially means “crime,” so most people have no concept of sin against God that would be of no interest to the police. That makes it very difficult to get across the reality that we are individually responsible for Jesus having been nailed to the cross. Japanese have an excellent term for repentance, but no grasp of the reality that they need to repent. This is the reality that I and my parents before me have dealt with. I have to keep reminding myself that “Nothing is impossible with God.” (Luke 1:37) Every spiritual rebirth is a miracle; the circumstances in Japan just make that very clear.
Father, thank You for this reminder. Thank You for all of Your miracles, and especially the lives that are transformed. Thank You for the sense of anticipation You have given us that You are going to do great things in and through this church in this fiscal year. May each one of us make full use of the opportunities You provide to draw people into Your family so that the harvest may be brought in, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!