People Cut to the Heart Part 5 of 5
by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)
even as many as the Lord our God shall call.
The promise is not made to those who refuse to hear the gospel, nor to those who do not obey it; but it is for those to whom God, in his gracious Providence, shall send it. He alone has the power and right to pardon sinners. The gist of Peter’s statement is that the promise is sufficient, full, and free; that it is adaptable to all, and may be applied to all; that there is no flaw or deficiency in the provisions or promises of it; but that God may offer it to whomsoever he pleases. We see here how generous and complete are God’s offers of mercy. God is not limited in any way by the provisions of his grace; the Gospel is applicable to all mankind. It is also God’s intention to send it to all men; and he has given a solemn command to his church to do it. However, we cannot help being saddened by the fact that the Great Commission given by Jesus Christ to His people has been extended to so small a portion of the human family. If the promise of life is made to all, it is the duty of the church to give the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all mankind. The gospel call guarantees to us the gift of the Holy Spirit upon the same terms on which it was offered to Peter's hearers on the day of Pentecost.
40 And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation.
And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying,
The guidance offered by Peter is followed by this verse which contains a warning for the churches of Galatia. He says, first of all, that there were many other words which he does not mention in this epistle; though his sermon seems quite lengthy he said much more on the Day of Pentecost than he mentions here. This discourse, though one of the longest in the New Testament, is only an outline. It contains, however, the substance of the plan of salvation; and is excellently arranged to obtain its objective. Two words express the essence of this verse:
1. Testify. Bear witness to. He bore witness to the promises of Christianity; to the truths pertaining to the danger facing sinners; and to the truth pertaining to the character of that generation.
2. Exhort. He implored them through arguments and promises to reject their false apostles and return to the Gospel he preached to them at first.
Save yourselves from this untoward generation.
“This generation” is this age or race of men, the Jews living at that time. The danger Paul warns them of does not so much come from them as it does from being with them and participating in their plans, policies, and behavior. They should escape from the influence of their opinions, etc. That generation was completely corrupt and wicked, as evidenced by the following verses:
• “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones God’s messengers! How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me” (Mat. 23.27; NLT).
• “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels” (Mark 8.38; NIV).
“Save yourselves from this untoward generation” is like saying:
• “Be free from them” or “free yourself from them.”
• “Get away from this religion. Turn to Christ.”
• “Separate yourselves from them.”
• “Preserve yourselves from the influence, opinions, and fate of this generation.”
It implies that they were to make a persistent effort to deliver themselves. God deals with men as free agents. He calls upon them to exercise their free will and choose Christ to be saved. Unless men are willing to receive the free gift of salvation by grace, they will never be saved. When they are saved, they will give to God the praise for having motivated them to seek Him, and for the grace by which they are saved.
The unbelieving Jews were an “untoward generation,” which meant, according to Mr. Webster, that as a people they were "Perverse (headstrong), refractory (rebellious), not easily guided or taught." They walked contrary to God and man—“Who both killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out. They are not pleasing to God, but hostile to all men” (1 Th. 2:15; NASB)—devoted to sin and marked for decline and disaster. With this in view, Paul’s message to the Galatian believers is: "Save yourselves from their ruin, do not involve yourselves with them, and you may escape all those things’’ (as the Christians did): "Repent, and be baptized; and then you will not share in their destruction, even though you may have shared in their sin.’’
The only way we can save ourselves from wicked people is to separate ourselves from them; even if, by doing so, we expose ourselves to their rage and hostility. We will realize how important it is for us to separate ourselves from them, if we consider where it is they are headed in such a hurry; we will see it is better to face the trouble that comes from opposing them than to go along with them and place our souls in danger. Those that repent of their sins, and give themselves to Jesus Christ, must demonstrate their sincerity by breaking off all unnecessary contact with wicked people. Depart from me, ye evil doers, is the language of one that determines to keep the commandments of his God—“Away from me, you evildoers, that I may keep the commands of my God! (Ps. 119:115; NIV). We must save ourselves from them, which may entail avoiding them with dread and holy fear; in the same way, we would seek to save ourselves from an enemy that seeks to destroy us, or from a house infected with the plague.
The Jews were persuasive, cunning, and credible; but their religion had become corrupt, and their conduct wicked. The Pharisees had a vast hold on the people. To break away from them one would need to defy their power and doctrines, alienate themselves from their teachers and friends, stand up to the power of those in office, and those who claimed the right to teach and guide the nation. The chief danger of those who were now awakened was from “this generation;” that they would ridicule, or denounce, or persecute them, and induce them to abandon their faith in Christ, and turn back to their sins. And therefore Peter pressed them to immediately break off from them, and give themselves to Christ.
How can they save themselves? Verse 38 has the answer: “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.” This was the object of the “many other words” of Peter’s sermon. They could “save themselves” by complying with the conditions named in verse 38, and accepting Christ as their Savior. It seems as if Peter already foresaw the moral decline and hopeless impenitence of the nation at large, and urged his hearers to quickly secure their own salvation.