Summary: Peter told the crowd at Pentecost: "Save Yourself from this crooked generation." But there's a few problems with that statement. Do you know what those problems are, and what the Bible says about those objections?
OPEN: In a third-grade class, the teacher asked Johnnie, “Is the world round?” “No, ma’am,” was the reply. “It isn’t?” exclaimed the teacher. “Then I suppose it’s flat?” “No, ma’am.” “Well, honey, if the world isn’t round and it’s not flat… then what is it?” Johnnie smiled and replied: “My dad says it’s crooked.”
There’s one phrase in Peter’s sermon on Pentecost that stuck out to me: “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” Acts 2:40 It was a declaration that no one in that crowd was going to get to heaven if they didn’t respond to God’s offer of forgiveness. Peter said - SAVE YOURSELVES!
Now, there’s a few problems with that statement by Peter. The first problem is that the phrase “Save Yourselves” - in the Greek - is in (what’s called) the passive voice. Greek verbs have 3 “voices”… two of which were “Passive” and “Active.” When the Greeks used the “Active” voice, they were describing something “I” am doing. For example - “I hit the ball,” or “I plowed the garden.” But when they used the “Passive” voice they were describing an action that is done TO me, or FOR me. For example, “Someone hit me,” or “someone plowed my garden.”
Now, when we read “Save yourselves” here in Acts 2:40, we might think that salvation is something we can do for ourselves – an active voice which implies that I can save myself. But it’s not an active voice. It’s passive. Salvation is something that is done FOR me or TO me. Peter isn't saying that I can “Save myself.” He's saying that someone else had to do that for me. But who could possibly save me? That's right - Jesus. We can only be saved by the blood of Jesus.
A better translation of this verse would be “BE SAVED from this crooked generation.” (as with the HCSB and NKJV versions). This verse literally meant that Jesus would save them… but they had to accept His offer. In this verse Peter was declaring: only God can save you. You can’t buy your way into heaven. You can’t earn your salvation. You can’t be good enough to be good enough to bribe God and get thru heaven’s gates. God has to save you… you can’t do it by yourself!
This concept shows up a lot in the Bible: Ephesians 2:8-9 says “by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is NOT your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
And we read the same thing in Titus 3:5 “(God) saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit”
You can’t save yourself!!! This is a Bible truth!!!! And yet - in spite of that truth - there’s a lot of people who believe they can PAY their way into heaven. In fact, it’s kind of engrained into our consciousness. We have these little sayings in our culture that declare – whatever you get you have to pay for.
If you would - complete these sayings for me: “There is no such thing as a free... (lunch).” “No pain, no... (gain).” “God helps those who... (help themselves).”
It’s just part of how we think - you get what you pay for. And so, people try to approach God and offer to pay to get into heaven. By their good deeds and self-righteousness, they hope to compensate God for His kindness. The problem is, when they get to heaven they’ll be in for a rude surprise. God DOESN’T WANT what they have to offer.
Martin Luther once noted: “Christ never died for our good works. They were not worth dying for. But he gave himself for our sins, according to the Scriptures.”
ILLUS: I read the true story of a man who took his 2 young girls out on a “date.” He told assured them he would pay for their fruit drinks, but the girls still brought the contents of piggy banks = 80 cents. As they were walking up to the counter, one of them said, “I want to pay for mine.” He assured her, “Daddy’s gonna get it.” Nonetheless, she insisted, “I’m paying for mine.” As the clerk rang it up, he said, “That’ll be $2.06,” and she put her change on the counter. “Um, that’s not enough,” the clerk responded. About that moment the father felt a little tug at his sweater from his other daughter. He said he looked down, and she said, “I think I’d like to use YOUR money.”
That’s the only way we’re getting into heaven. We’ll only get in if we allow Jesus to pay for us.