The Day of Pentecost was a very important day in the history of the world. Not only was it the public announcement on earth of the enthronement of Jesus in heaven, it was a display of gracious power by the exalted Saviour. The people to whom he first sent his Spirit were the ones who had been involved to some extent in his rejection and death a few weeks earlier. To them Jesus drew near in mercy in order to give them spiritual blessings. Yet before they could have these blessings they needed to experience conviction of sin.
Conviction of sin is an essential aspect of the process of salvation. Jesus becomes a Saviour for those who know that they are sinners. Since it is a very important feature of true spiritual experience, we need to understand its nature. So we will give three readings to thinking about it. Today we will note some details of what happened at Pentecost.
First of all, this passage shows that conviction of sin can be very short. There is no evidence that these individuals, prior to this day, had any concern about their involvement in the death of Jesus. It had not crossed their minds that they had been guilty of this awful sin. Yet the period between their conviction of sin and conversion from sin was not a long time, perhaps even of a few minutes.
Second, conviction of sin can be very sore. Peter’s sermon is interrupted by his listeners because they have been deeply affected by what they had heard. The phrase ‘cut to the heart’ is a very graphic word picture of the effects of the gospel by the hand of the Spirit in the hearts of sinners. The gospel is the knife that the Spirit uses to wound the inner life of sinners. What ideas are conveyed by this imagery?
First, there was heartfelt distress. Their response was not merely a recognition that they had done wrong; in addition there was a strong sense of the heinousness of their sins. Peter had not merely addressed their consciences; he had also spoken to their affections. They felt the awfulness of what they had done. They had been guilty of rebellion against God, the one who is the Creator, Provider, and Sovereign, the One who had sent his Son to be the Saviour of sinners. They had been guilty of rejecting the Saviour – he came to his own and his own received him not.
Second, there was longing for deliverance. They realised that they were in great danger. It is not conviction when a person can deduce that a certain action is wrong but not be afraid of the judgement of God on such actions. Conviction by the Spirit also writes on the person’s heart the reality of divine judgement. He is afraid, and he will desire deliverance from the wrath of God intensely.
Third, there was a changed attitude towards the people of God. Previously, the crowd had reacted to the events of Pentecost, of which the disciples were the visible centre, with either curiosity or mockery. Now that they were under conviction of sin, they spoke differently – they addressed the disciples with endearing words, recognising that the followers of Jesus would have some way of helping them.