Pierced to the Heart: Acts 2:37
“Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?”” Acts‬ ‭2‬:‭37‬
Ok, it’s time for a serious conversation. This verse exposes some serious problems with the modern gospel. Pour a cup of coffee, sit down and open your heart, mind and spirit. Don’t feel rushed. This is important. Ask the Holy Spirit to speak to you!
In this verse we see a ministry of the Holy Spirit that is tragically minimized in today’s approach to evangelism. When Peter finished his message; “they were pierced to the heart!” Another rendering could be “smitten in their conscience.” Something very deep was happening in these people. This wasn’t shallow.
According to John 16:7-11, the Holy Spirit was going to “convict the world concerning sin, and righteousness, and judgement.” Apart from the deep conviction ministry of the Holy Spirit related to personal sin, it is doubtful that true conversion takes place.
People cannot be talked into becoming a Christian. Salvation is far more than merely making a “decision” to trust in Jesus. The Holy Spirit does a deep work of conviction and conversion in the heart of those being truly born again. He stops people, gets their full attention and wrestles with them about their sinful and lost condition.
Listen to these words Paul wrote to the Christians in the city of Thessalonica; “5) for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.” (1 Thessalonians 1:5) This does not sound like Paul was talking them into “making a decision for Christ”; rather the Holy Spirit was wrestling inside of them with deep conviction. He was bring them to the repentance that leads to true conversion.
I have heard numbers as high as 85% of those who make “decisions for Christ” at modern evangelism endeavors do not go on to live a Christian life. In fact, nothing changes. They continue as lord of their own lives and Jesus merely becomes a good luck charm they can make an a wish upon when they get in trouble. We talk about “reaching the unchurched.” The Bible talks about “converting the lost.”
The New Testament was filled with people who were religious but lost. The role of the Holy Spirit in the book of Acts was to deeply convict and thoroughly convert people. It was powerful and it was life transforming. People turned from sin and to God on His terms. They were thoroughly converted by the Holy Spirit.
Not only is our modern gospel watered down, but we don’t allow people to weep, grieve or mourn over personal sin and lostness. Contrition is no longer in our vocabulary. We seldom hear preaching about sin, nor do we hear calls to repentance. Modern evangelism appeals to either human emotions or intellect rather than the human conscience.
What happened on the day of Pentecost stands in stark contrast the way we count decisions for Christ today. I have no question that the Holy Spirit is converting people today, but we spend a lot of time and effort trying to give assurance of salvation to lost people. They jumped through our “decision for Christ hoop” or “my church background hoop”; but they were never truly converted by the Holy Spirit.
When someone comes to me and says; “I have doubts about my salvation, what should I do?” My response is usually something like; “Let’s review the Gospel and make sure you’ve been born-again by the Spirit of God!” More often than not… their doubts were real. If the Holy Spirit is “piercing their heart” about their true lost condition, I’m not going to hinder the process.
Over the years, I have seen numerous pastors, elders and even seminary professors finally yield to the Holy Spirit in true conversion. There is nothing unusual in the Bible about people being religious but lost. In fact, that was the condition of most people both among the Jews and also among the Gentiles in Bible times. The same is true in our modern world.
However, I am equally ready to discern if the accuser of the brethren is working people over with condemnation and shame. One of Satan’s schemes is to torment genuine believers. The recourse for both groups of people is to point them to Jesus Christ and the inner work of the Holy Spirit.
If the Holy Spirit is wrestling with you through this verse, cry out to Jesus. If you are living in sin, do as Peter said and “repent.” The more you rationalize, excuse and justify your sin, the further you are running from God. Put your faith in Jesus Christ and trust Him alone to save you! Salvation is on His terms and not yours.
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global