Bible Verse Explanations and Resources


Acts 2:37

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

Now when they heard this - When they heard this declaration of Peter, and this proof that Jesus was the Messiah. There was no fanaticism in his discourse; it was cool, close, pungent reasoning. He proved to them the truth of what he was saying, and thus prepared the way for this effect.

They were pricked in their heart - The word translated were “pricked,” κατενύγησαν katenugēsanis not used elsewhere in the New Testament. It properly denotes “to pierce or penetrate with a needle, lancet, or sharp instrument”; and then “to pierce with grief, or acute pain of any kind.” It corresponds precisely to our word “compunction.” It implies also the idea of sudden as well as acute grief. In this case it means that they were suddenly and deeply affected with anguish and alarm at what Peter had said. The causes of their grief may have been these:

(1)Their sorrow that the Messiah had been put to death by his own countrymen.

(2)their deep sense of guilt in having done this. There would be mingled here a remembrance of ingratitude, and a consciousness that they had been guilty of murder of the most aggravated and horrid kind, that of having killed their own Messiah.

(3)the fear of his wrath. He was still alive; exalted to be theft Lord; and entrusted with all power. They were afraid of his vengeance; they were conscious that they deserved it; and they supposed that they were exposed to it.

(4)what they had done could not be undone. The guilt remained; they could not wash it out. They had imbrued theft hands in the blood of innocence, and the guilt of that oppressed their souls. This expresses the usual feelings which sinners have when they are convicted of sin.

Men and brethren - This was an expression denoting affectionate earnestness. Just before this they mocked the disciples, and charged them with being filled with new wine, Acts 2:13. They now treated them with respect and confidence. The views which sinners have of Christians and Christian ministers are greatly changed when they are under conviction for sin. Before that they may deride and oppose them; then, they are glad to be taught by the obscurest Christian, and even cling to a minister of the gospel as if he could save them by his own power.

What shall we do? - What shall we do to avoid the wrath of this crucified and exalted Messiah? They were apprehensive of his vengeance, and they wished to know how to avoid it. Never was a more important question asked than this. It is the question which all convicted sinners ask. It implies an apprehension of danger, a sense of guilt, and a readiness to “yield the will” to the claims of God. This was the same question asked by Paul Acts 9:6, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” and by the jailor Acts 16:30 “He … came, trembling, … and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” The state of mind in this case - the case of a convicted sinner - consists in:

(1)A deep sense of the evil of the past life; remembrance of a thousand crimes perhaps before forgotten; a pervading and deepening conviction that the heart, and conversation, and life have been evil, and deserve condemnation.

(2)Apprehension about the justice of God; alarm when the mind looks upward to him, or onward to the day of death and judgment.

(3)an earnest wish, amounting sometimes to agony, to be delivered from this sense of condemnation and this apprehension of the future.

(4)areadiness to sacrifice all to the will of God; to surrender the governing purpose of the mind, and to do what he requires. In this state the soul is prepared to receive the offers of eternal life; and when the sinner comes to this, the offers of mercy meet his case, and he yields himself to the Lord Jesus, and finds peace.

In regard to this discourse of Peter, and this remarkable result, we may observe:

(1) That this is the first discourse which was preached after the ascension of Christ, and is a model which the ministers of religion should imitate.

(2) it is a clear and close argument. There is no ranting, no declamation, nothing but truth presented in a clear and striking manner. It abounds with proof of his main point, and supposes that his hearers were rational beings, and capable of being influenced by truth. Ministers have no right to address people as incapable of reason and thought, nor to imagine, because they are speaking on religious subjects, that therefore they are at liberty to speak nonsense.

(3) though these were eminent sinners, and had added to the crime of murdering the Messiah that of deriding the Holy Spirit and the ministers of the gospel, yet Peter reasoned with them coolly, and endeavored to convince them of their guilt. People should be treated as endowed with reason, and as capable of seeing the force and beauty of the great truths of religion.

(4) the arguments of Peter were adapted to produce this effect on their minds, and to impress them deeply with the sense of their guilt. He proved to them that they had been guilty of putting the Messiah to death; that God had raised him up, and that they were now in the midst of the scenes which established one strong proof of the truth of what he was saying. No class of truths could have been so well adapted to make an impression of their guilt as these.

(5) Conviction for sin is a rational process on a sinner‘s mind. It is the proper state produced by a view of past sins. It is suffering truth to make an appropriate impression; suffering the mind to feel as it ought to feel. The man who is guilty ought to be willing to see and confess it. It is no disgrace to confess an error, or to feel deeply when we know we are guilty. Disgrace consists in a hypocritical desire to conceal crime; in the pride that is unwilling to avow it; in the falsehood which denies it. To feel it and to acknowledge it is the mark of an open and ingenuous mind.

(6) these same truths are adapted still to produce conviction for sin. The sinner‘s treatment of the Messiah should produce grief and alarm. He did not murder him, but he has rejected him; he did not crown him with thorns, but he has despised him; he did not insult him when hanging on the cross, but he has a thousand times insulted him since; he did not pierce his side with the spear, but he has pierced his heart by rejecting him and contemning his mercy. “For these things he should weep.” In the Saviour‘s resurrection he has also a deep interest. He rose as the pledge that we may rise; and when the sinner looks forward, he should remember that he must meet the ascended Son of God. The Saviour reigns; he lives, Lord of all. The sinner‘s deeds now are aimed at his throne, and his heart, and his crown. All his crimes are seen by his sovereign, and it is not safe to mock the Son of God on his throne, or to despise him who will soon come to judgment. When the sinner feels these truths he should tremble and cry out, What shall I do?

(7) we see here how the Spirit operates in producing conviction of sin. It is not in an arbitrary manner; it is in accordance with truth, and by the truth. Nor have we a right to expect that he will convict and convert people except as the truth is presented to their minds. They who desire success in the gospel should present clear, striking, and impressive truth, for such only God is accustomed to bless.

(8) we have in the conduct of Peter and the other apostles a striking instance of the power of the gospel. Just before, Peter, trembling and afraid, had denied his Master with an oath; now, in the presence of the murderers of the Son of God, he boldly charged them with their crime, and dared their fury. Just before, all the disciples forsook the Lord Jesus and fled; now, in the presence of his murderers, they lifted their voice and proclaimed their guilt and danger, even in the city where he had been just arraigned and put to death. What could have produced this change but the power of God? And is there not proof here that a religion which produces such changes came from heaven?

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
From the first delivery of that Divine message, it appeared that there was Divine power going with it; and thousands were brought to the obedience of faith. But neither Peter's words, nor the miracle they witnessed, could have produced such effects, had not the Holy Spirit been given. Sinners, when their eyes are opened, cannot but be pricked to the heart for sin, cannot but feel an inward uneasiness. The apostle exhorted them to repent of their sins, and openly to avow their belief in Jesus as the Messiah, by being baptized in his name. Thus professing their faith in Him, they would receive remission of their sins, and partake of the gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit. To separate from wicked people, is the only way to save ourselves from them. Those who repent of their sins, and give up themselves to Jesus Christ, must prove their sincerity by breaking off from the wicked. We must save ourselves from them; which denotes avoiding them with dread and holy fear. By God's grace three thousand persons accepted the gospel invitation. There can be no doubt that the gift of the Holy Ghost, which they all received, and from which no true believer has ever been shut out, was that Spirit of adoption, that converting, guiding, sanctifying grace, which is bestowed upon all the members of the family of our heavenly Father. Repentance and remission of sins are still preached to the chief of sinners, in the Redeemer's name; still the Holy Spirit seals the blessing on the believer's heart; still the encouraging promises are to us and our children; and still the blessings are offered to all that are afar off.
Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

When they heard this, they were pricked in their heart - This powerful, intelligent, consecutive, and interesting discourse, supported every where by prophecies and corresponding facts, left them without reply and without excuse; and they plainly saw there was no hope for them, but in the mercy of him whom they had rejected and crucified.

What shall we do? - How shall we escape those judgments which we now see hanging over our heads?

Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 4, 40

There are several in the church at ----- whose names I cannot call who have victories to gain over their appetites and passions. Some talk too much; they stand in this position: “Report, ... and we will report it.” Miserable indeed is such a position! If all these gossipers would ever bear in mind that an angel is following them, recording their words, there would be less talking and much more praying. 4T 40.1

There are children of Sabbathkeepers who have been taught from their youth to observe the Sabbath. Some of these are very good children, faithful to duty as far as temporal matters are concerned; but they feel no deep conviction of sin and no need of repentance from sin. Such are in a dangerous condition. They are watching the deportment and efforts of professed Christians. They see some who make high professions, but who are not conscientious Christians, and they compare their own views and actions with these stumbling blocks; and as there are no outbreaking sins in their own lives, they flatter themselves that they are about right. 4T 40.2

To these youth I am authorized to say: Repent ye and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out. There is no time for you to waste. Heaven and immortal life are valuable treasures that cannot be obtained without an effort on your part. No matter how faultless may have been your lives, as sinners you have steps to take. You are required to repent, believe, and be baptized. Christ was wholly righteous; yet He, the Saviour of the world, gave man an example by Himself taking the steps which He requires the sinner to take to become a child of God, and heir of heaven. 4T 40.3

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Ellen G. White
The Great Controversy, 9

For the believers at Ephesus the apostle prayed, “That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him: the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of His calling, and ... what is the exceeding greatness of His power to usward who believe.” Ephesians 1:17-19. The ministry of the divine Spirit in enlightening the understanding and opening to the mind the deep things of God's holy word, was the blessing which Paul thus besought for the Ephesian church. GC ix.1

After the wonderful manifestation of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, Peter exhorted the people to repentance and baptism in the name of Christ, for the remission of their sins; and he said: “Ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” Acts 2:38, 39. GC ix.2

In immediate connection with the scenes of the great day of God, the Lord by the prophet Joel has promised a special manifestation of His Spirit. Joel 2:28. This prophecy received a partial fulfillment in the outpouring of the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost; but it will reach its full accomplishment in the manifestation of divine grace which will attend the closing work of the gospel. GC ix.3

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Ellen G. White
The Acts of the Apostles, 43

Now they heard the disciples declaring that it was the Son of God who had been crucified. Priests and rulers trembled. Conviction and anguish seized the people. “They were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?” Among those who listened to the disciples were devout Jews, who were sincere in their belief. The power that accompanied the words of the speaker convinced them that Jesus was indeed the Messiah. AA 43.1

“Then Peter said unto them, 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. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” AA 43.2

Peter urged home upon the convicted people the fact that they had rejected Christ because they had been deceived by priests and rulers; and that if they continued to look to these men for counsel, and waited for them to acknowledge Christ before they dared to do so, they would never accept Him. These powerful men, though making a profession of godliness, were ambitious for earthly riches and glory. They were not willing to come to Christ to receive light. AA 43.3

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Ellen G. White
The Story of Redemption, 245-6

David testified that the soul of Christ was not to be left in hell (the grave), nor was His flesh to see corruption. Peter shows the fulfillment of this prophecy in Jesus of Nazareth. God had actually raised Him up from the tomb before His body saw corruption. He was now the exalted One in the heaven of heavens. SR 245.1

On that memorable occasion large numbers who had heretofore ridiculed the idea of so unpretending a person as Jesus being the Son of God, became thoroughly convinced of the truth and acknowledged Him as their Saviour. Three thousand souls were added to the church. The apostles spoke by the power of the Holy Ghost; and their words could not be controverted, for they were confirmed by mighty miracles, wrought by them through the outpouring of the Spirit of God. The disciples were themselves astonished at the results of this visitation, and the quick and abundant harvest of souls. All the people were filled with amazement. Those who did not yield their prejudice and bigotry were so overawed that they dared not by voice or violence attempt to stay the mighty work, and, for the time being, their opposition ceased. SR 245.2

The arguments of the apostles alone, although clear and convincing, would not have removed the prejudice of the Jews which had withstood so much evidence. But the Holy Ghost sent those arguments home with divine power to their hearts. They were as sharp arrows of the Almighty, convicting them of their terrible guilt in rejecting and crucifying the Lord of glory. “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? Then Peter said unto them, 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.” SR 245.3

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