Jesus promised the apostles that the Holy Spirit would "convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment" (John 16:8). If Jesus promised it, that settles it! The Spirit must be convicting and converting people to Christ today; but how does the Spirit do it?
Many would attest that the Holy Spirit worked on their heart in some inexplicable way to convict and convert them. Often a "better felt than told feeling" or some strange experience is cited as evidence of a "Holy Spirit encounter" and proof of salvation. Does the Spirit work on our hearts in mysterious ways to convict and convert us? Is salvation predicated upon a feeling or a bazaar event that occurs in our lives?
Three thousand people were convicted, converted, saved, and added to the church on the first Pentecost after the ascension of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:41,47). How did the Spirit convict and convert them? True, the Holy Spirit "fell" on some that day, but who? (Acts 2:1-4). Surprisingly to some, it was not the 3,000 who were converted but the apostles enabling them to preach the "wonderful works of God" in the languages of their audience (Acts 2:7-11).
We call your attention to five statements that appear in Acts 2 that show the Holy Spirit "fell" on the apostles, and not on the ones who were converted:
1. "And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance" (Acts 2:4). Grammatically, the antecedent to whom "they" refers is Matthias and the eleven (Acts 1:26)- the apostles. The text does not mention the Spirit falling on the multitude who came to hear the apostles speak.
3. When asked, "Whatever could this mean?" Peter stood up with the eleven and spoke (Acts 2:14). Why were Peter and the eleven the only ones to stand and speak? Because the Spirit fell upon only the apostles guiding them in all truth and permitting them to speak in tongues (John 16:13; Acts 2).
4. When "cut to their hearts" by Peter's sermon, the multitude asked Peter and the rest of the apostles what to do (Acts 2:37). Why would the multitude have to ask what to do if the Holy Spirit was acting upon them in some mysterious, direct manner? They asked Peter and the rest of the apostles because the Spirit had fallen upon only the apostles.
5. Only the apostles are mentioned as being empowered to work miracles on this occasion (Acts 2:43). If the Spirit fell on others when it fell upon the apostles, why didn't these others work miracles, too?
If the Holy Spirit fell upon only the apostles on the day of Pentecost, how were the three thousand convicted, converted, and saved? By the WORDS of the apostles! The text says, "Now when they heard this," (Peter's sermon showing Jesus was the Christ, hh) "they were cut to the heart..." (Acts 2:37). Convicted by the Word, they were told what to do- repent and be baptized (Acts 2:38). Those who did so were saved and added to the church (Acts 2:47).
Paul suggested that every person is convicted through the Word. He stated, "whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved" (Romans 10:13). He then added, "How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?" (Romans 10:14). One cannot believe, or be convicted, until he hears the Word! He is not saved until he obeys the gospel (Romans 10:16). "So then, faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God"(Romans 10:17).
How can it be said that one is convicted by the Holy Spirit if he is convicted when he hears the Word? One is convicted, converted, and saved by the Holy Spirit when he hears, believes and obeys the Word, because the Word originally came through the Spirit. Paul said, "Every scripture is inspired of God" (2Timothy 3:16). If the Word is inspired, it was given by the Holy Spirit (1Corinthians 2:9-13; 2Peter 1:21).
We may illustrate this from a sermon by Stephen (Acts 7). Stephen charged that some were guilty of resisting the Holy Spirit; they resisted the Spirit when they resisted the words of the prophets (Acts 7:51-52). Why? Because the prophets spoke by the Spirit (2Peter 1:21).
If one rejects the Spirit when one rejects the words of the Spirit spoken by a prophet (or today, by a preacher), can it not also be said one is convicted, converted and saved by the Spirit when one believes and obeys the words of the Spirit which, today, are recorded in the Bible and spoken by preachers? We are taught: the sword of the Spirit is the Word of God! (Ephesians 6:17).
Today, men are convicted, converted, and saved by the Spirit-- not in some mysterious way by a "better felt than told feeling" or by some inexplicable event, but by the preaching and teaching of the Word. We do not have to trust our salvation to a feeling. We have the assurance of God through His Word when we obey His Word.
Have you been convicted, converted, and saved by the Holy Spirit? You can answer "yes" only if you believe the Bible and have obeyed its commandments.