Reading from Acts 2: 14-41
We hear Michael read this for probably 5 minutes? So it wasn't entirely the whole sermon of Peter. At the end of the passage, Luke records that with many other words he exhorted and he taught them and spoke to them about the gospel. Luke, the writer of this book, is writing down the important parts of the sermon. That's what we are going to look at.
But it was still a long passage, and so I want to break it down a little bit.
The situation is that all of these disciples and the people that followed Jesus (about 120, plus women) were waiting. If you remember last week [sermon not available], Steve was saying how they received the promise from Jesus saying "to wait for the promise of the Father" (Acts 1: 4), instead of going out and evangelising straight away - wait for the power of the Holy Spirit, before you go out. These guys were praying and waiting, and suddenly, at the day of Pentecost, they heard a sound of a rushing wind, this miraculous gift, and this outworking of the Holy Spirit, came upon them. Tongues of fire landed on their heads or rested upon them and began speaking in different languages. These guys come from Galilee (they are all Galileans) - they don't know other languages, and yet the men in Jerusalem, and others that came into the temple, or people who are just passing through - the bible lists out many different languages, as they all heard these disciples saying in their own language, the mighty works of God. This is a miracle! The gifts and the power of the Holy Spirit happening right now.
When someone says "but they are filled with new wine" (Acts 2: 13), Peter then starts his sermon (this is why I love Peter - the practical man that he is). Peter points out that it's only 0900 am (the third hour of the day). Peter says to not put this off or dismiss it, as if these people were just drunk or or that it seems really strange, or has no significance. He begins by speaking to them from the Old Testament, explaining what is happening. What he quotes is from the book of Joel, and you can find it in your bibles in Joel 2: 28-32. It's a passage from the prophet Joel, of what God is going to do in the future. In the last age, God is going to do a miracle, wonderful things, of pouring out His Spirit to all flesh (even male servants and female servants, whoever). God is going to pour out His Spirit on these people, and they will prophesy - old, young, men and women - and that's exactly what we see in here. Peter also quotes two more verses from Joel, and talks about the last days. "the sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day" (Acts 2:20) All of these things will happen before the day of the Lord. In Joel, it talks about the judgement day of God, and that's why it sums up the quotation "And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved" (Acts 2: 21). When Joel talked about that day, Joel was talking about what God would do, so that if people would call on Him, they would be saved through last judgement.
Peter now says "this is what's happening - the Spirit has called out on all flesh, and now they are prophesying by the power of the Spirit". He starts talking and moves immediately to talk about Jesus Christ. The connection is obvious - this Jesus from Nazareth, this man, whom you guys know, God did mighty works, miracles, in your midst through him (the same man you killed), gave all to lawless men, the gentiles, the Romans to be crucified. Some of them in the crowds might be the same people who were crying out "crucify him!". Peter now says that this Man, Jesus Christ, is now raised from the dead, and this proved to everybody that he is the Christ.
Some would say, yes, that's an amazing miracle, but why would that make Jesus the Christ? Peter goes and would quote two more passages from the Old Testament. He says the prophet David spoke of Jesus in the Psalms saying "For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption" (Acts 2:27; Psalm 16:10). Peter, the logical man that he is (and that's why I love him), says that we know that David is buried, we know that he's in the grave right now (Acts 2: 29), so it can't possibly be the prophet, because then he would be lying (Acts 2: 30). Therefore, it can't be interpreted for David, because he is in the grave. But David, being the prophet, spoke about the Christ that is to come. This Jesus of Nazareth was being raised up by God so that his soul didn't see corruption. That his soul was not left abandoned to Hades.
If that wasn't enough, Peter goes further to quote another prophesies of David - "The Lord said to my Lord, "Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool."' (Acts 2: 34-35; Psalm 110:1). David is in the grave now - how will the prophesy be fulfilled by David? It's not. The prophesy is actually fulfilled in Jesus Christ, who is now exalted and is sitting at the right hand of his Father. Peter says because now he is in this place of authority, he can now send out the Holy Spirit, and that's why you are seeing what you are seeing now. You see the flow of Peter's argument: how the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, this amazing power, is proof that Jesus is the Christ.
When the crowd upon hearing this - Peter didn't hold back - Peter points out that the crowd were the ones who killed Jesus, but the crowds know for certain (proven from scripture and all testifying witnesses of the fact the he has risen from the dead), God has made him, without a doubt both Lord and Christ. Imagine you were the crowd. Some of them were there [at the crucifixion], and so they really felt "yes, I was the one who put Jesus on the cross", but a lot of them were just passing through or visiting, they weren't the ones who crucified Jesus - they had nothing to do with it - they may have heard or known about it, so they might have said that " I had nothing to do with it, I wasn't there". Yet Peter said "you crucified the Lord Jesus".
If we think about it, why was Jesus crucified? Because he claims to be the Son of God, the Christ, yet all the people denied it. The pharisees made the crowd think that he was an imposter, blasphemer, they rejected the claim that he was the Son of God. Therefore, the crowd rejected Jesus as the Son of God - what did they think of him? Just a criminal, a blasphemer, they couldn't care less of who Jesus really was. Yet for God, He knew that Jesus was Christ, He made sure that everybody would know that Jesus was the Chosen One, because He raise him from the dead, by the power of His Spirit.
So then these men and women were cut to the heart. They were affected down to the heart. They said "brothers, what shall we do?" (Acts 2: 37). You can sense the desperation, almost the fear, knowing that they have rebelled against God, calling Jesus a blasphemer. Peter says "Repent and be baptised everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38). You might have expected him to say "you sinned, and you know from the Old Testament that God doesn't take that lightly - He is going to visit that iniquity on you, might as well just give up now". Peter doesn't say that, because that's not what the gospel is about - that's not why Jesus came. Peter offers hope. He tells them the gospel. We as West Church want to preach the gospel in Acts.
Today I want to note two main questions and see if we could find the answers from this passage.
Firstly, What is the gospel, according to Peter's first sermon? Secondly, how did he share the gospel to all the people?
The first point I want to make regarding the question 'what is the gospel?', is that the gospel is from God. It's authored by God and it's from God. The gospel message of salvation is not something that's man made up, it's not something that man created to gain power. Very clearly, Peter is saying that the message of the gospel, God did, through Jesus Christ. God did the miracles, God created the gospel. In fact, God authored the gospel. We see in verse 23, he says "this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men." This means that the cross of Jesus was not plan B. God didn't see humanity and saw that they have sinned and rebelled against him, and said "well now I've got to fix this whole mess". God knew what was going to happen, and he had ordained, or planned, for the cross of Jesus Christ from the beginning. Jesus didn't fail in his mission to bring the gospel to the world when he was crucified. The mission of Jesus Christ was to come and die on the cross. He was delivered up according to the definite plan of the foreknowledge of God. God authored everything and therefore, the gospel is from God.
Now Jesus, who was crucified as a criminal, now have been raised up by God. This conclusively says that God made Jesus both Lord and Christ. Not made, as if he wasn't before, but proven, made certain, declared to everybody, by his resurrection that he is both Lord and Christ - there is no question that the gospel comes from God.
We also see from this passage that the gospel is centred on God, because all throughout, it is God that's doing it! It is God that brings the salvation to fruition. Peter parallels the prophesies in verse 21 of Joel to Verse 38. What was prophesied in the Old Testament has now been fulfilled in Jesus Christ on the New Testament. But do you see that it is all dependent on God? I want to make the point that in the Old Testament, God says "Call on my name, and you will be saved" and now Peter says the same thing (because Jesus is God) but being more specific "If you call on, repent and be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ, you will be saved and your sins will be forgiven".
The gospel is entirely centred on Jesus Christ and who he is. If Jesus wasn't the Christ, we would not have salvation. If Jesus had not been raised from the dead, we wouldn't have confidence that God had sent him. We would have no confidence that God gave us forgiveness of sins in him. It is because that God has made him Lord and Christ, that we can trust in him to deliver us from the sins and what we have. It's not about us, but about Jesus.
The third point I want to make is that the gospel is to us. It's centred on Christ, but the gospel, the good news, is to us and for us. all of these crowds were guilty. Whether they are there to crucify him or not, they all have rebelled against God in their heart. Every one of us, everyone in this community, in New Zealand, in the whole world - left to their own, they have rejected God. You ask anybody on the street "what do you think of Jesus Christ?". They may give you an answer, but more times than likely they may not even care of who he is. Yet this is the same Jesus that God has placed His Spirit on, His seal on, and say "here we have, the Lord and Christ", but the humanity responds by saying, "yeah, but I don't really care about Jesus. I couldn't care less about what he says, or what he did". We've all rejected him. To reject the Christ of God, the Chosen One of God - well that's blasphemy, and we are in the same position as the crowd. When the crowd realised this and were cut to the heart (Peter didn't hold back - he told them that they all crucified Jesus), the crowd said "what shall we do?". The amazing message of the gospel, how Peter delivered it is repent and be baptised, for this promise is to you, to your children, and everyone who is far away (Acts 2:38).
This promise of the Holy Spirit, of the reconciliation of God, is given to us freely. This is amazing! God knows that we have rejected him. God has suffered an insult of infinite magnitude, and yet God has give this message to us, freely. Peter didn't put any conditions - he didn't say that we have to clean up our acts in order to receive forgiveness - the gospel offered is not based for any condition beforehand in us, the gospel is meant to be offered to every single human being, without any hurdles, barriers, or conditions. Beware of anybody that may say to clean up your act before you come to God - that's not the gospel. Peter doesn't say that we have to be sorry enough, but to come and receive the name of Jesus Christ and be baptised in his name and you will be forgiven. When Jesus preached, he says "if anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink" (John 7:37). From a little bit thirsty, to very thirsty, Jesus says to come to him and you will be satisfied. There is no condition to the gospel.
The key exhortation comes from Peter, from many other words, he continued to exhort him and to teach them - "save yourselves from this crooked generation". You may think why did Luke include this right at the end? Because the gospel is freely given to us, it requires us to receive the Word and the gospel. It requires us to accept the message. You will note in verse 41, "So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.". Everyone had to accept the message of the gospel; about themselves, about God, about who Jesus Christ really is.
We received the gospel, we know, by faith, by trusting. So why did Peter say repent instead of believe, or trust? When we look at repent, the Roman Catholic translate it as "do penance" and that's not a good translation. This repent is talking about the inward change of a person, when they come to Jesus Christ. They realised that the entire worldview of their life has been wrong or going in the wrong direction. So when they repent, they are changed from the inside, and the sins that they used to love, they love no longer. The God they used to hate, they love more than ever.
And baptism? That's the outward demonstration or outworking of inward repentance. Baptism is the obedience of the commands of Jesus Christ. When I repent inwardly, I want to obey Jesus' commandments. When Peter says repent and be baptised, it is the same as give up your old life and come to Jesus Christ. Don't hold on to your own way, and try to save yourself from death or whatever it may be. Don't try to be righteous before God and try to do good works, but instead, come to Jesus Christ. Be baptised in his name, not your own name, and the promise of the Holy Spirit is yours. The Holy Spirit will continue to be changing you, making you new. This promise is for you, your children and those far away.
The second question I want to answer is how did Peter preached this gospel? Firstly, Peter relied everything he said, on the backbone of scriptures. The reason why he was utterly sure of who Jesus is, is because he knew the Old Testament scriptures. In fact, when he spoke to the devout men and women, he knew that they took the scripture seriously. He knew that they accepted the scripture as a revelation of God. When Peter shares the gospel, he almost relied everything he says on the scriptures. This messiah that was long waited in the Jewish community was proven by Peter that it was Jesus Christ, through reciting the Old Testament scriptures. Why is that? Because Jesus fulfilled what was said in the Old Testament, by God and prophets, and therefore, we can trust him. Peter doesn't want the crowd or us to put our faith in Peter's words alone. He wants the crowd and us to put our trust in the Word of God. It was God who said and did raise Jesus from the dead - Don't trust merely on Peter's words but trust God's saying and doing what He said He would do.
Peter also added his own testimony, he says that we are all witnesses of Jesus' resurrection (Acts 2:32). Peter points out that God did mighty works in your midst, you knew about it. God didn't do this in private, but publicly! When Jesus was raised from the dead, he showed himself from 500 or more people that he was alive. The disciples could also claim that they were eye witnesses to the story. John writes that they were eyewitnesses of Jesus, they lived with him and saw him die, and they ran to him on Sunday morning to the tomb and Jesus wasn't there anymore. The disciples saw Jesus and ate fish with him, after the resurrection. Peter used his testimony to confirm the scriptures. When God raised Jesus from the dead, he did it publicly so that people can testify that they have seen Jesus Christ. Nobody in the crowd can deny the life of Jesus Christ, nobody in the crowd can deny his might works, nobody can deny the fact that he's not in the grave anymore. In fact, nobody can deny that these people were Galileans, were speaking in different languages - that's miraculous! God does not do these things in secret.
So together with the scriptures and the testimony of what God has done, Peter can have absolute certainty that all of us can know for certain that God has made Jesus both Lord and Christ, the saviour of all mankind, so that everyone who repents, and accepts Jesus Christ as Lord and be baptised in His name will receive the forgiveness of their sins against God and will receive the promise of the Holy Spirit. That's the gospel, and that's how Peter shared the gospel.
How might that make a difference in our lives in the 21st Century? We've got to know what the gospel is all about. When we go out to share the gospel, or invite people to church, or invite people to come to Christ, what do we say to them? If we say to them "look, it's because God loves you and God wants you to feel good about yourself"- that's not the gospel. If you say to them "God is going to give you lots of blessings, giving you a good house, a good marriage and a good car (if you just believe in Jesus Christ and tithe to our church)" - That's not the gospel. The gospel of Jesus Christ is that you who have rejected God, now have free salvation, if you come and receive Jesus Christ. That's what the gospel is about - that's what Peter is saying. We can be absolutely sure that Jesus is the Christ so if you accept him, you will have your sins forgiven, despite all your rejection, your sins.
How might we share this to the other people? We have to rely on the Word of God. The scripture is our final authority. The scripture is our confidence. Are you convinced in the power of God and His Word? When you share to other people, do you bring them to the bible? To read the bible together, is the most effective of discipling somebody. To read the bible we can see what God has said, look at the Old Testament that is six, seven, eight hundred years before Christ - even in the garden of Eden! God promised that the offspring of the woman would crush the serpent's head? Fast forward to Jesus to how many hundred years after, who did crush the head of Satan? Who did promise us forgiveness? That's amazing. We read the Word of God and place our confidence in His Word.
We also used our testimony. If you are a Christian, God has done something amazing in your life. He has changed you and remade you. Your sins are being defeated one by one, you are becoming more holy as you trust in Christ. Though sometimes it may not feel like it, God has done, and is currently doing something amazing, supernatural in your heart. Changing you as a sinner, who hate God and love yourself, to a saint who hates sin and loves God. That's an amazing work and we need to testify that - God never does things in secret! When we share the gospel, don't be afraid to give an eye witness testimony of what he has done in your life. Let's not forget how Jesus Christ is not forgotten today. Nobody can deny how influential he is in history. No one can deny the impact that he has made in the human race. You can share to your friends that God has done all of this in history. It wasn't just an abstract thought, but He actually came in history, into this earth. So when you are sharing the gospel, be confident in the Word of God, but also be confident in your own testimony. I think from this passage, Peter's sermon, we can see what the gospel is, and how we are able to preach that to everyone around us. We hope that more and more people would come to know Jesus Christ.
When Steve talked last week about Acts 1, the disciples were scared, now that Jesus ascended to heaven. But Jesus said to wait for the power of the Spirit before they go out and do anything. So they wait, huddled together praying and asking God (there were 120 of them). Suddenly, there's the day of Pentecost comes and the Spirit comes, and basically blows open and suddenly they started doing miraculous things and starts speaking in different tongues. You know what the amazing thing is? In verse 41, 3000 souls were added to the church. By the power of God 120 became 3000. Imagine if they were to go out by themselves on day one, on their own strength, they would have gone nowhere - probably to prison or killed themselves. But doing so in the power of God and waiting for His promise, something miraculous happen. We as believers should be encouraged by that.