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…
The moral influence exerted by St. Peter's speech, in the power of the present Spirit, should be noticed. Many of his audience were "pricked in their heart;" that is, were "stung with remorse at the enormity of the wickedness which had been committed in the crucifixion [of Messiah], and at the blindness with which the whole nation had closed their eyes to the teaching of the prophecies which had spoken of the Messiah." They asked, "What shall we do? to escape the penalties which must fall on the nation that has so sinned against light and knowledge; who have had the true Light in their midst, but have comprehended it not, and have crucified the Lord of glory." By unfolding and illustrating the intense feelings with which the Jews anticipated the coming of their Messiah, we may set forth the terrible revulsion of feeling, and the overwhelming shame that smote them, when they were convinced that they had actually crucified their Messiah, offering him thus the greatest insult, and rendering themselves guilty of the gravest crime. St. Peter demands three things - repentance, faith, and confession. The first and last of these are distinctly stated, the second is implied.
I. THE GOSPEL DEMANDS REPENTANCE. This was the requirement of John the Baptist, and of our Lord when he sent forth his apostles on their trial mission. It is the proper and necessary preparation for forgiveness; it is the state of mind and feeling to which alone forgiveness can come, and by which alone it can be appreciated, Here the conviction of the one particular sin of crucifying Messiah becomes a revelation of general sinfulness; and so definite repentance is attended with a humiliation and humility which can be a basis of faith, an openness to receive further truth, and a condition fitted for a gracious forgiveness. Repentance is still the first gospel demand. Possibly modern preaching greatly fails because adequate prominence is not given to it.
II. THE GOSPEL DEMANDS FAITH. Here the special object of the faith should be dwelt on. The repentance of these Jews involved their believing that Jesus of Nazareth was indeed their Messiah. But this was not saving faith. It only crushed and humbled. The faith required is personal trust in the living, exalted Lord Jesus Christ, the present Savior, and actual surrender of heart and life to him. It is belief in his Name as Savior. This distinction should be fully unfolded and illustrated, with earnest pleadings for that faith, or personal trust, which actually links us to the living Savior.
III. THE GOSPEL DEMANDS CONFESSION. This is the real point and meaning of the rite of baptism, which is the public act in which our faith in Christ is declared. If we are sincere in our faith we shall be willing to make it known. If we are earnest in our faith we shall want to make it known. And Christ's kingdom is to be spread by just this confession and acknowledgment of him. Therefore the demand is, "If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved." Show that this duty of "public confession" is sadly neglected in our day, and there is consequently a perilous vagueness, indefiniteness, and indistinctness characteristic of religious life. Press the importance of this duty, in relation both to personal soul-culture and to the duty of witnessing for the Christ in whom we hope. Conclude by showing that the gospel response to those who meet its demands is forgiveness, involving acceptance with God and the privileges of restored sonship; and that this is scaled to us by the gift of the Holy Ghost. - R.T.
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?