Exhorting People To Respond To the Gospel. Acts 2:40
“40) And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation!”” Acts‬ ‭2‬:‭40‬
As Peter closed his message, the text says he “kept on exhorting” or repeatedly urged people, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation!” He was calling them to repentance and faith in Christ. He preached toward a response!
This verse opens the door for a brief discussion about the role of giving an invitation for people to respond to the preaching of the gospel. Unfortunately, there is considerable tension among scholars on this issue.
One side argues that the elect are saved by the sovereignty of God with no human initiative being involved. The other side argues that saving faith is a human response to the conviction and promptings of the Holy Spirit.
I believe strongly in the sovereignty of God, but I also see the Bible consistently calling for a human response. Let me give some biblical examples while consciously keeping this short.
Isaiah 55:6-7 calls for significant human response. It includes “Seek the Lord”, “Call upon Him”, “forsake his way”, and “return to the Lord.” This is one of many Old Testament calls for a human response or action by the prophets. They preached toward a response.
John 1:12 says; “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.” This verse talks about “receive” and “believe.” These are both human responses.
John 3:16 says; “… whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” Again we see a human response to the Divine initiative of God sending His only begotten Son.
Our text for this study in Acts 2:38-40 includes “Repent”, be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ”, and “Be saved from this perverse generation.” Again, we see a human response to the gospel.
Ephesians 1:3-14 talks about the work of all members of the Trinity in our salvation. Verses 1-6 talks about the work of the Father in our salvation. It includes both choosing us and predestining us to adoption as sons. He planned our salvation. Verses 7-12 talks about the work of the Son in our salvation. In grace He redeemed us by dying on the cross for our sins. He preformed everything needed for our salvation. Verses 13-14 talks about the Holy Spirit sealing us. He perfects out salvation. But wait, verse 13 also talks about the human role in salvation. We listen to the gospel of truth and believe. Again there is a human response to the Divine initiative.
Ephesians 2:8 clarifies that salvation is not earned or merited by our good works. It is “by grace through faith.” Again, we see faith being the human response to the Divine initiative of grace. This principle is taught throughout the New Testament.
But what about the concept of giving an invitation or urging people to respond? This is often the point of contention. Let me briefly site numerous “invitations” or “calls for response” in the New Testament. This is by no means a complete list.
Jesus invited the disciples to “Follow Me” and the thirsty to “come unto Me!” (Matthew 4:18-22; 8:22; John 7:37-38)
After his message, Peter kept on exhorting the people to be saved. (Acts 2:40)
Paul “persuaded men” and “begged” people to be reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:11; 20-21) He told the jail keeper to “believe in the Lord Jesus Christ”, along with his whole house. (Acts 16:30-31)
James urged people to both “submit to God”, and “Draw near to God.” (James 4:6-19)
It is not our job to save people. That is the role of the Holy Spirit. But we are called to clearly preach the gospel and urge people to repent and put faith in Christ. Some people object to calling people to repent. But look at the next text.
In Acts 26:19-20, Paul explains his consistent practice of preaching the gospel. Notice, he always called people to repentance and to put faith in Christ. He preached toward a response.
Also, take some time and study Romans 10:1-15. Look at the goal of Paul’s preaching. Again, he preached toward the response of people putting personal faith in Jesus Christ or at least confessing Him as Lord.
When preaching the gospel, I follow the example of Paul. I urge people to respond to Jesus Christ. I have no problem inviting people to repent, believe, or put their faith in Jesus Christ. I encourage them to “receive” Jesus Christ into their life.
I believe it is both negligent and irresponsible to preach the gospel and not urge a response of personal faith in Jesus Christ. Preaching toward a response leaves the results with the Holy Spirit. He will both call those He wants to save and He will save those who are called through the clear preaching of the gospel.
We will not resolve all the mysteries behind this tension, but we can follow the example of Jesus and the early preachers of the gospel. They preached the gospel while urging people to respond.
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global