Three Thousand Souls

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The Lord’s church was established on the day of Pentecost following the death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ (Acts 2). The Scriptures indicate that three thousand individuals responded to the preaching of the apostles on that day by obeying the gospel (Acts 2:41). As a result, God added them to the church (Acts 2:47).

There were many others in Jerusalem on this day than just the three thousand who obeyed the gospel – including many who would have heard but did not respond to the preaching done by Peter and the other apostles. What can we know about these “three thousand souls” (Acts 2:41) that contributed to their reception of the gospel? Let us consider six things we know about these individuals from the text:

  1. They believed in God – The crowd that was gathered in Jerusalem was made up of “devout men from every nation” (Acts 2:5). The word devout is used to refer to one who reveres God. They were here for the feast prescribed by God – the Feast of Weeks (Deuteronomy 16:9-10, 16) because they were believers in God.
  2. They listened rather than jumping to conclusions – Some, when they heard the apostles speaking in languages they did not understand, jumped to the conclusion that the apostles were drunk (Acts 2:13). However, many simply wondered what this meant (Acts 2:12). When Peter called for them to listen (Acts 2:14, 22), they did.
  3. They considered the Scriptures – When Peter called for them to listen, he explained to them some of the Old Testament prophecies that referred to Jesus and the events of that day (Acts 2:16-21, 25-28, 34-35).
  4. They recognized their sin – As Peter concluded his remarks in which he demonstrated from the Scriptures and the apostles’ testimony that Jesus was “both Lord and Christ” and that the people were guilty of calling for His death (Acts 2:36), many of them understood that Peter spoke the truth and that they were guilty of sin. We know this because “they were pierced to the heart” (Acts 2:37).
  5. They were not content in their sin and wanted to correct it – With the understanding that they were in sin, they wanted to know how to remedy that condition. So they asked, “Brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). They did not want to remain in their sinful condition; they wanted to be right with God.
  6. They were willing to do whatever the Lord required of them – When Peter responded to their question about what they needed to do with the answer, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:38), they did not argue with the apostle or ask if they could do something else instead. They simply “received the word” given to them by the Lord’s apostle and “were baptized” (Acts 2:41).

If anyone is to be converted today, they must have these same characteristics.

  1. They must believe in God – If they do not believe in God, there is no reason for them to pay attention to what the Bible says or be concerned in any way about their sin. This is why Paul, when he preached in Athens, began by telling them of the “unknown God” (Acts 17:23). They did not yet know or believe in God. The Jews on Pentecost did, so Peter did not have to establish this fact from the start. If people do not believe in God, they must be taught this first; they will not respond to the gospel otherwise.
  2. They must listen rather than jumping to conclusions – Many people today will read a few sentences in an article or hear a few words spoken by someone and assume they know everything else that was to be said, often becoming offended at what they assumed the writer/speaker was going to say. James said we must be “quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God” (James 1:19-20). This willingness to listen is essential if one is to “receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:21). If people will not listen, they will not respond to the gospel.
  3. They must consider the Scriptures – The gospel is “the power of God for salvation” (Romans 1:16). Paul told the brethren in Corinth, “God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe” (1 Corinthians 1:21). If people are to be saved, they must be like the Bereans who were “examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things [that Paul taught] were so” (Acts 17:11). The word of God produces faith (Romans 10:17) and this is what happened with the Bereans – “many of them believed” (Acts 17:12). If people do not consider the Scriptures, they cannot respond to the gospel.
  4. They must recognize their sin – The gospel is a message of “forgiveness of sins” through Christ (Acts 13:38). Paul wrote, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). But John said, “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). Those who do not recognize their sin will see no need for the gospel. Why seek for a remedy when you think you do not have a disease? If people do not recognize their sin, they will not respond to the gospel.
  5. They must not be content in their sin and must want to correct it – Unfortunately, many today recognize that they are in sin, but are not concerned about their state at all. They are content in their sin and have no desire to change anything. Those in this condition must be taught to appreciate the horrible nature of sin. Sin separates us from God (Isaiah 59:2) and leads to spiritual death (Romans 6:23). The end result, if one does not repent, is to “pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power” (2 Thessalonians 1:9). Jesus described the place where the lost will go as a place of “outer darkness” and a “furnace of fire” where there will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 8:12; 13:42). The only way that people can be content in their sin is that they do not appreciate the severity of the punishment that awaits those who die in their sins. If they do not want to correct their sin, they will not respond to the gospel.
  6. They must be willing to do whatever the Lord requires of them – Jesus is “to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation” (Hebrews 5:9). Unfortunately, Jesus said there are many who call Him, “Lord, Lord,” but do not do what He has said (Luke 6:46). Many people get to this point in their response to the gospel and then turn away. Rather than doing what Peter told the crowd on the day of Pentecost – “Repent and be baptized” (Acts 2:38) – they want to do/believe/say whatever they think is right, whatever their parents did, or whatever their denominational preacher taught them. Jesus said we must believe, repent, and be baptized in order to be saved (John 8:24; Luke 13:3, 5; Mark 16:16). This is what the apostles taught after the church was established – belief, repentance, and baptism (Acts 2:37-38). This is what we must do today – believe (Hebrews 11:6; Romans 10:9-10), repent (Acts 17:30; Romans 6:6), and be baptized (Romans 6:3-4; Galatians 3:27; 1 Peter 3:21). However, if people are not willing to do whatever the Lord requires of them, they will not respond to the gospel.

On the day of Pentecost, “three thousand souls” heard the gospel preached, “received [the] word [and] were baptized” (Acts 2:41). They displayed the characteristics that were necessary to make them receptive to the gospel. If people are to be converted today, they must have these same characteristics. None of them are optional. If people do not have these characteristics, we must work to develop them in those that we teach if we hope to convert them.


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