Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
July 14, 1955

Man's Responsibility To Save Himself

Thomas Allen Robertson, San Bernardino, California

Not all of the wonderful sermon preached by Peter on the day of Pentecost is recorded. Luke states, "And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation." (Acts 2:40.) The Holy Spirit has preserved for all ages exactly those things that are essential and applicable to every generation. He made the record of the events that took place that day, and He knew what to record and what to omit.

As Peter reached the great climax of his sermon on that day, the central conclusion toward which the whole discourse had been pointed, he declared with emphasis, "Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God had made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified both Lord and Christ." (Acts 2:36.) Had he stopped there, never to add a command, never to tell man what to do to be saved, what gloom would have settled down upon that assemblage! Pentecost would not have seen the addition of more than three thousand precious souls to the church which Christ died to build. But Peter did not stop; he did not leave those people in the hopeless position in which his words had condemned them — murderers and sinners before God. The Holy Spirit moving his tongue, Peter finished the discourse, telling these men what to do, and informing them of their obligation to "save yourselves."

"That same Jesus, whom ye have crucified," were the words that struck conviction and terror to the hearts of the multitude. Realizing for the first time the awful horror of what they had done, pierced with sorrows, they cried out, "What shall we do?" Overwhelmed with grief, understanding at last the awfulness of what they had done, they must have trembled in awe and misery in contemplation of their guilt. Peter's answer to their query comes forth immediately, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost." (Acts 2:38.) No command of the gospel is couched in simpler words. And the people understood it. Those convicted penitent believers were baptized — "Then they that gladly received his word were baptized; and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls." (Acts 2:41.) "And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved." (Verse 47.) Here we have a sample of the Lord's "arithmetic"; He added souls to the company of the saved. He added them by the process of their regeneration. The same thing that saved them made them members of the Lord's church. Those who "should be saved" were the ones whom the Lord added.

Man's Responsibility

With those men on the day of Pentecost (as with men today) the mere telling of God's plan of salvation was not enough. They had to be exhorted to execute their duty, to accept their responsibility. We do not know all that Peter told them, for Luke says he exhorted with "many other words." Having announced God's requirements of them for pardon, the apostle then went on to exhort, to warn, to persuade. How wonderful it would be to know what were those "many other words"! But Luke has not recorded them. The Holy Spirit guided him to write that which was essential for us to know, and omitted the "human interest" narratives that might have satisfied our curiosity.

The "many other words" enforced one command or exhortation which was set forth in a brief simple statement consisting of only two words — an imperative verb and an object — "Save yourselves"! Here was the crucial point of the whole day's events. The final action must come from men; the final responsibility would fall squarely upon the shoulders of each individual present. He had told them how they might save themselves (obedience to the gospel of Christ), and now he continues to exhort and plead with them to do that very thing.

"This Untoward Generation"

"Save yourselves from this untoward generation." The only way to escape the consequences of their sins and the condemnation which was sure to come was by God's way, the "new birth" wherein they were to become "new creatures" in Christ Jesus. Once in Christ, they were separated from the world — the world of the lost. The Jewish generation was lost in ritualism, unbelief, sectism, bigotry, presumption, and hypocrisy, led on by false teachers and doctors who taught "for doctrines the commandments of men." The Gentile world lay in the darkness and despair of heathenism, in sins of immorality and licentiousness too gross to describe. From such a wicked generation the men of Pentecost were exhorted to "save" themselves.

Primarily, they were to save themselves from corrupt religion and false doctrines. Henceforth there could be no union or concord between these penitent believers on the one hand and the corrupt and cynical Sadducees, the self-righteous Pharisees, and the hypocritical scribes and doctors on the other. The Pharisee cult had gone to seed in Jerusalem and in Galilee, also in the chief cities of the Roman provinces. These men of Pentecost were to keep themselves aloof and free from all the blind and prejudiced legalism of this sect.

Peter called that generation an "untoward" or "crooked" generation. So they were. Unbelief had completely taken hold of them. Lost in sin, they were a "generation of vipers," truly "wicked and adulterous." Those who did not accept and heed their responsibility to save themselves, but continued in rebellion and corruptness, were certain to be lost eternally. Many of them had already allowed their hearts to become so hardened that they could not and would not believe. To the unbelieving Jews, Jesus spoke prophetically, "Behold your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord." (Matt. 23:28, 29.)

The "house" is yet desolate. It lies in ruins; not one Jew or one individual this side of Christ has ever been saved except by obedience to the gospel of Christ. The man who fails to recognize his own responsibility to "save himself" will find in the last day that his house is indeed "desolate," and that he faces eternity under the certainty of condemnation. God holds forth every incentive, every inducement to lure man away from sin, and to bring him into obedience to the gospel. Will not you, reading these words right now, "save yourself" from this untoward generation by your obedience to the word of Christ?