Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said to Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brothers…
I. COMPUNCTION. Fear is awakened by every drawing near of God to man. And with fear is closely connected the sense of sin. Stated from the other side, the truth is: behind the power of God lies his holiness, which is as a consuming fire. The deepest seat of fear is not in our physical but in our moral instincts. Thus the fear awakened by the revelation of the All-holy is itself a witness to the fact that conscience is the central unity of our being. Our very self seems threatened when confronted with a Being who judges evil, and is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity.
II. INSTINCTIVE DESIRE FOR ACTION. "What shall we do?" Let us not take the words in the grossest sense of personal fear, and mere desire to escape from some imminent outward danger. Why should we? Brave as lions in the ordinary sense, there are men who cannot endure the face of their God. The Object before which all must quail is the Spirit revealed in the inmost moral convictions. All religion is a striving after inner unity, reconciliation between self and God. And the will is deeply concerned in this. It is a good sign when men ask, amidst the pains of a wounded conscience - What must I do? It implies the feeling of freedom; the fact that they have power and will left.
III. THE WAY OF SALVATION. AS indicated in the words of Peter.
1. A change of mind. Repentance. To see its full meaning we should look to the Greek. It is μετάνοια
: it is a change of thought from the bad to good, the erroneous to the true, or the less true to the more true. Repentance is not mere feeling; it has not the uncertainty of moods and sentiments. It is not a simple change in the weather of the soul. It is a distinct alteration of the focus of the intelligence; it carries with it a movement of the will; in short, it is a revolution in the very ground of the man's being.
2. The expression of the change of mind. By baptism - a pure and simple rite, significant to every eye and imagination of washing, of cleansing, of recovered purity, for intelligence, feeling, and conduct. The acts of the spirit are not complete until they have been clothed in outward form. We hardly know ourselves to be changed, and certainly others cannot know that we are changed, without the language of the act. Sacraments are thus needed both for the believer himself and for the society; they have a subjective and an objective value.
3. The promises of the new life. The man who conics out of paganism or ritualism is baptized into Christ, i.e. into a spiritual religion which offers promises as well as enjoins duties.
(1) Remission of sins. Deliverance in its highest and most absolute form. The deliverance which was Israel's age-long dream passes out of its lower, sensuous, typical form of national freedom and independence into the spiritual form of personal freedom and independence of the (lark necessity, the fate or bondage of sin. It is the discovery that freedom is in this deepest sense a reality which makes Christ's doctrine a great moving force in the world. Men grasp at the shadows of freedom, or the mere skirts of freedom, until this its true shape is revealed.
(2) The gift of the Holy Ghost. Closely connected with the foregoing; for moral power goes hand in hand with moral freedom. Only in freedom from the oppression of sin can the soul become the organ of the Holy Spirit. The wide extent of this promise. To the chosen people - to their posterity, and to an undefined multitude of the heathen whom God shall call unto him. The universality of the gospel blessings here appears in germ, although from the lips of one who afterwards sided with the Judaizers. The progress of Christianity has been marked by the growing appreciation of the part and place of the nations in the kingdom of God.
4. Exhortation. "Be saved from the generation of this crookedness," says the apostle, using an idiom of his native Hebrew. Salvation is ever from a present evil, affecting not only the individual but the society. It is the tyranny of custom which weighs upon all. And all that is said in the New Testament about this "present evil world," and the "course" of this world, refers to some such predominance of immoral habits in the general life of society. As evil, Proteus-like, changes its forms from age to age, so is the hope and message of salvation eternally fresh and new. - J.
Parallel VersesKJV: Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?