All of us are bringing our burdens, both spiritual and physical, from this week to our worship services:
- Some of you have faced powerful temptations
- Some of you have faced health issues
- Some of you have faced overwhelmingly busy schedules
But let me encourage you to surrender those burdens to Christ and let him speak to you through his word.
Let Christ captivate your heart and lead you to:
- Pursue the holiness of love and unity in Christ
- Pursue costly evangelism to reach the lost for Christ
The Major Theme of Acts 2
This sermon is all about everything the Holy Spirit began to do and teach in the Church.
Peter’s Pentecost Sermon
The day of Pentecost was a most notable and vital day for the Christian church, and it was also one of the great turning points in the history of the world. Without understanding it, it is quite impossible to have any correct notion as to the character and nature of the Christian church and the Christian message.
We must grasp the vital understanding that what the Holy Spirit began to do and teach through the apostles on the Day of Pentecost must continue in the Church today as we bear witness to the resurrection and Kingdom of Christ.
We must also understand that the world desperately needs this Pentecost Sermon today because the world has lost its way and does not know where it is going. I do not mean that the world needs us to quote Peter’s sermon to it again, but rather, that the world needs the Church to understand the content of Peter’s message and proclaim that message loudly by both our life and our words.
Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost was the first sermon ever preached in the church by the power of the Holy Spirit, and therefore it is of unusual importance.
This sermon is not the result of philosophy, nor is it the result of emotional experience; this sermon was the result of witnessing the resurrected Christ and being filled by the Holy Spirit to proclaim the will of God to lost people on earth!
The Acts of the Apostles uses “speeches” as a literary device to anchor and move its narrative along several different thematic lines.
Altogether there are twenty-four speeches that comprise nearly a third of the text of Acts – about 300 of its approximately 1,000 verses – delivered by various authors; eight coming from Peter, nine from Paul, and seven from various others.
Of the twenty-four, ten can be described as “major” addresses: three “missionary” sermons of Peter (chaps. 2; 3; 10); a trilogy of speeches from Paul in the course of his mission (chaps. 13; 17; 20), three “defense speeches” of Paul (chaps. 22; 24; 26), and Stephen’s address before the Sanhedrin (chap. 7).
Polhill, J. B. (1992). Acts (Vol. 26, pp. 43–44). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
Luke begins this record by reminding us of Christ’s promise to send the Holy Spirit and the divinely ordained apostolic witness of the apostles that Jesus gave as the foundation of his Church.
Ephesians 2:19–20 (CSB) — 19 So then you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with the saints, and members of God’s household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone.
Now Luke illustrates the fulfillment of Christ’s promise and the beginning of the apostolic mission.
To help us understand Acts, we need to pay attention to one of the important literary devices in Greek literature at the time known as “speeches”; this genre was not intended to be a word-for-word record of the original speech, but instead, summarizes the key characteristics of the message and the speaker.
- Genre Feature: Luke’s writing style, vocabulary, and patterns are very clearly seen in these speeches
- Genre Feature: Luke employs key figures of speech from the speaker (i.e. Semiticisms, and Atticisms) to emphasize the speakers’ key points and ideas as they were originally presented.
Peter’s sermon has three major movements:
- 2:14–21: Joel’s prophecy connects the sermon with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit to Christians
- 2:22–36: the heart of Peter’s speech shows that Jesus is the Messiah by using Ps 16:8–11 to prove his resurrection and Ps 110:1 to prove his exaltation and glorification
- 2:37–41: the call to repentance applies Peter’s sermon to the crowd and calls for their response
The events on the Day of Pentecost begin to show the ministry of the Holy Spirit’s in the Church as he is given to all of Christ’s disciples and sends them out into the world as witnesses of Christ.
The Holy Spirit is beginning to teach:
- Sinners to repent in the name of Christ
- The world about the resurrected Christ
- The Church to know the resurrected Christ
- The Church about the kingdom of Heaven
The Holy Spirit is beginning to do:
- Build the living temple of God
- Give life to dead sinners
Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice, and proclaimed to them: “Fellow Jews and all you residents of Jerusalem, let me explain this to you and pay attention to my words. 15 For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it’s only nine in the morning. 16 On the contrary, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:
The expression that Peter “proclaimed to them” draws an intentional parallel between verse 4 and verse 14 that is meant to emphasize that Peter’s speech is inspired by the Holy Spirit:
Acts 2:4 (CSB) — 4 Then they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak (apophthegomai) in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them.
Acts 2:14 (CSB) — 14 Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice, and proclaimed to (apophthegomai) them: “Fellow Jews and all you residents of Jerusalem, let me explain this to you and pay attention to my words.
This device is used throughout the Acts of the Apostles on numerous occasions, including Paul’s testimony before Festus:
Acts 26:25 (CSB) — 25 But Paul replied, “I’m not out of my mind, most excellent Festus. On the contrary, I’m speaking (apophthegomai) words of truth and good judgment.
Peter begins his sermon during the Jewish “hour of prayer” (9 A.M. or the 3rd Hour). In essence, Peter is sarcastically saying “folks don’t get drunk first thing in the morning … that comes later in the day”. That would be especially true of a solemn feast day like Pentecost when the celebrating would only begin in earnest in the evening.
This has nothing to do with their appearance or speech being anything like drunk people, as some preachers suggest when they’re trying to justify certain charismatic expressions of so-called “tongues”.
“Fellow Jews and all you residents of Jerusalem”: remember that Luke summarizes Peter’s sermon using his own style and vocabulary, but employs Peter’s figures of speech when he wants to emphasize a point. This expression is a very common Semitic parallelism that addresses the same group from parallel perspectives.
His point is clear: the Holy Spirit has been poured out in Jerusalem upon the very Jews who crucified Christ!
The Holy Spirit is beginning his mission to deliver the apostolic witness of Christ’s resurrection in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.
“Let me explain this to you and pay attention to my words”: the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, even in small portions, has been completely unknown in Israel from the days of the prophets until John the Baptist. Therefore, Peter wants to make sure the Jews understand what is happening.
Peter turns to God’s promise in Joel’s prophecy to explain the wonderful missionary outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
And it will be in the last days, says God, that I will pour out my Spirit on all people; then your sons and your daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams. 18 I will even pour out my Spirit on my servants in those days, both men and women and they will prophesy.
“All people: sons and daughters; young and old; servants, both men and women”: you may recognize by now that a Hebrew parallelism is being used to illuminate the meaning of God’s promise to pour out the Holy Spirit. “Sons and daughters; young and old; servants, both male and female” all refer to the same group of “all people”.
Joel doesn’t mean that young men will see visions, but old men will get dreams. Instead, he’s saying that all people will receive the blessing of God’s Holy Spirit.
Peter is preaching the fulfillment of a promise that he himself did not fully understand and would struggle to accept all the way until God gives him a vision and sends him to Cornelius; Joel’s prophecy foreshadows the Holy Spirit’s blessing being sent to literally all people irrespective of their nationality, gender, or social status.
This is the foundation for Paul’s doctrine:
Galatians 3:28 (NASB95) — 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
It is significant that the Spirit’s ministry would also include women, and Paul later deals with the Corinthian women who exercised spiritual gifts and how Spirit-filled women should function in the body of Christ.
I will display wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth below: blood and fire and a cloud of smoke. 20 The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the great and glorious day of the Lord comes. 21 Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
“Before the great and glorious day of the Lord comes”: the supernatural phenomena being described in Joel’s prophecy certainly refers to the events that we will see right before the Lord’s second return.
Joel’s prophecy begins with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that was fulfilled on Pentecost and stretches to the return of Christ. It is possible to interpret this to mean that we should expect the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit in the Church until the return of Christ.
Even though I do not agree with this position, it is important to note that Joel’s prophecy does hold the Day of Pentecost together with the return of Christ. My interpretation of this means that the ministry of the Holy Spirit will be with us until the return of Christ, but I do not find any reason to assume that the supernatural gifts will remain based on this text.
“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved”: this may be the most important verse from Joel’s prophecy for Peter’s sermon. This “salvation” is the tip of the spear for Peter’s sermon that he drives deep into the crowd’s heart; Peter is most concerned about salvation, and calls on the crowds to “be saved from this perverse generation” (v. 40).
Thus, Peter proclaims:
- That “these events” are the outpouring of God’s Spirit that fulfills “Joel’s prophecy”
- That these are “the last days” of God’s redemptive mission
- And that the gifts of the Holy Spirit validate these events as God’s handiwork.
“Fellow Israelites, listen to these words: This Jesus of Nazareth was a man attested to you by God with miracles, wonders, and signs that God did among you through him, just as you yourselves know. 23 Though he was delivered up according to God’s determined plan and foreknowledge, you used lawless people to nail him to a cross and kill him. 24 God raised him up, ending the pains of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by death. 25 For David says of him: I saw the Lord ever before me; because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. 26 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices. Moreover, my flesh will rest in hope, 27 because you will not abandon me in Hades or allow your holy one to see decay. 28 You have revealed the paths of life to me; you will fill me with gladness in your presence. 29 “Brothers and sisters, I can confidently speak to you about the patriarch David: He is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Since he was a prophet, he knew that God had sworn an oath to him to seat one of his descendants on his throne. 31 Seeing what was to come, he spoke concerning the resurrection of the Messiah: He was not abandoned in Hades, and his flesh did not experience decay.
“Fellow Israelites”: this signals to us that Peter is transitioning from the exposition of Joel’s sermon to the application of his lesson.
He is now personally addressing the crowds and applying the content so that they’ll understand what this means to them.
There are six themes repeated in Peter’s early sermons (Acts 2–4):
- He preaches the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy
- He preaches the arrival of Christ’s Kingdom
- He preaches the authority of the resurrected Christ
- He preaches the presence of Christ in the Church through the ministry of the Holy Spirit
- He preaches the return of Christ
- He preaches the imperative to repent and receive the anointing of the Holy Spirit in the presence of God’s kingdom.
Remember that Luke’s record of Peter’s sermon is not a word-for-word record, but delivers the spirit and heart of his message. Peter probably expounded on these six points in greater detail.
“You used lawless people to nail him to a cross and kill him”: Peter is not bashful about confronting the guilt of their sins.
Remember, the crowds have been walking around for three days with the knowledge that “something wasn’t right about Jesus’ trial”; their guilt has been simmering in their hearts as they have thought about Jesus’ trial. Now the Holy Spirit moves Peter to pierce their hearts to lead them into repentance.
True conversion happens as the result of personal conviction by the Holy Spirit when people hear the word of Christ, believe the righteousness of God, and are convicted by his judgments about their sins.
Too many modern evangelists are content with simply getting someone to “like Jesus”, but they do not touch the conviction of the Holy Spirit. This produces false converts and leavens the Church with unregenerate members.
“Seeing what was to come, [David] spoke concerning the resurrection of the Messiah”: The early Church was very focused on the resurrection of Christ because this resurrection was seen as the answer to all the promises of God. And the resurrection was the major stumbling block for many of the Jews.
God has raised this Jesus; we are all witnesses of this. 33 Therefore, since he has been exalted to the right hand of God and has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit, he has poured out what you both see and hear. 34 For it was not David who ascended into the heavens, but he himself says: The Lord declared to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand 35 until I make your enemies your footstool.’ 36 “Therefore let all the house of Israel know with certainty that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”
“God has raised this Jesus; we are all witnesses of this”: The proof of Jesus’ resurrection is the eyewitness report of the apostles.
Listen to this point very carefully:
- The eye-witness report of Acts was given to the Church to deliver faith in the resurrection of Christ
- By reading Acts, the Holy Spirit will strengthen your faith so that you can live in the resurrection of Christ
This is what Paul said:
Romans 10:17 (CSB) — 17 So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the message about Christ.
“Know with certainty that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah”: Israel is guilty of not only murdering the prophets – as she has done in the past – but of murdering the very Son of God who was sent as their Savior.
When they heard this, they were pierced to the heart and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles: “Brothers, what should we do?”
Now we see the ministry of the Holy Spirit:
John 16:8 (CSB) — 8 When he comes, he will convict the world about sin, righteousness, and judgment:
You will remember from our preaching in the gospel of Matthew how much the world hated Jesus:
John 3:19–20 (CSB) — 19 This is the judgment: The light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone who does evil hates the light and avoids it, so that his deeds may not be exposed.
Therefore, we must also remember that the world will also hate the Holy Spirit who works through the Church because the world hated Christ! But those who receive Christ will seek him through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is working in people’s heart to give them life through the word of Christ, just as all creation was made through the word of God (Genesis 1:3).
Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” 40 With many other words he testified and strongly urged them, saying, “Be saved from this corrupt generation!”
Peter’s response presents the four necessary elements of our conversion experience: repentance, baptism in the name of Jesus Christ, forgiveness of sins, and receipt of the Spirit.
Ezekiel 18:30–32 (CSB) — 30 “Therefore, house of Israel, I will judge each one of you according to his ways.” This is the declaration of the Lord God. “Repent and turn from all your rebellious acts, so they will not become a sinful stumbling block to you. 31 Throw off all the transgressions you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. Why should you die, house of Israel? 32 For I take no pleasure in anyone’s death.” This is the declaration of the Lord God. “So repent and live!
- The judgment of God precedes the grace of God
- Sin is our stumbling block that leads to our destruction because God is holy
- The essence of repentance is to turn from sin and be renewed in heart and spirit by faith
Many Christians believe they can remove the conviction of repentance from the Christian experience and take the offense out of Christianity, but repentance is one of the necessary experiences of Christian conversion that instills humility and faithfulness in our hearts towards God.
Galatians 3:27 (CSB) — 27 For those of you who were baptized into Christ have been clothed with Christ.
- Baptism is the response of repentance to the gospel of Christ
- This is your witness to the Church in God’s presence that Christ is your King and Savior
- This is your promise to God live your life in Christ
Baptism is the experience wherein God supernaturally clothes the believer in Christ, through no act or merit of their own, and the believer pledges their life to God in good faith; this act of supernaturally clothing the believer in Christ is accomplished by the power of God, not the effort or work of mortals. We come to Christ naked and filthy, and he washes us clean by his blood and clothes us in his righteousness.
Matthew 26:28 (CSB) — 28 For this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.
- Forgiveness of our sin is the mercy of God that he shows to us in the name of Jesus
- Forgiveness of our sin is secured for us by God’s promise in the blood of Jesus
The forgiveness of Christ in the blood of his covenant is the basis upon which we can repent and be baptized in Christ; we must receive the forgiveness of Christ so that we can be reconciled to God and saved from our sins.
Receiving the Holy Spirit
Ephesians 1:13–14 (CSB) — 13 In him you also were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and when you believed. 14 The Holy Spirit is the down payment of our inheritance, until the redemption of the possession, to the praise of his glory.
- The Holy Spirit is our formal adoption by God as his sons and daughters
- The Holy Spirit is the personal presence of Christ in the Church and in our hearts
- The Holy Spirit gives us new life in Christ and cleanses us of our old way of living
- The Holy Spirit empowers the Church to accomplish the mission of Christ on earth
The Holy Spirit is the breath of life in the believer by whom we walk in Christ and live in the power of his resurrection. The mark of Spiritual living is being conformed to the image of Christ by the supernatural working of the Holy Spirit to regenerate and renew!
So those who accepted his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand people were added to them. 42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and signs were being performed through the apostles.
At this point, the four essential elements of our conversion experience are not repeated. Instead, all four elements are represented in the believer’s baptism as a testimony in the Church that they have “repented of their sins”, “been clothed in Christ”, “had their sins washed away”, and “received the Holy Spirit”.
In like manner, the crowd’s response gives us four core elements of the Christian experience: “devotion to apostolic doctrine”, “holy fellowship”, “Communion”, and “prayer”.
2 Timothy 4:2 (CSB) — 2 Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; rebuke, correct, and encourage with great patience and teaching.
- The word of God is his power for salvation
- The word of God gives faith to the lost
- The word of God is the breath of the Holy Spirit
- The word of God is Christ’s authoritative declaration to the Church
1 John 1:7 (CSB) — 7 If we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.
- We support one another as brothers and sisters
- We love one another as brothers and sisters
- We live in holiness with one another as brothers and sisters
- We grow together as one body by the strength each member provides
1 Corinthians 11:26 (CSB) — 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
- We celebrate the death and resurrection of Christ together
- We proclaim the power of the Lord’s death together
- We proclaim the return of our Lord together
1 Timothy 2:1–4 (CSB) — 1 First of all, then, I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, 2 for kings and all those who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. 3 This is good, and it pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
- We bring our needs and joys to our Father together in prayer
- We seek our Father’s help together in prayer
- We enjoy the presence of our Father together in prayer
Now all the believers were together and held all things in common. 45 They sold their possessions and property and distributed the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple, and broke bread from house to house. They ate their food with joyful and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. Every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.
Luke illustrates the community life of the early Church by providing four core elements of Christian life:
- Christian Unity
- Christian Charity
- Christian Fellowship
- Christian Worship
These four elements of Christian life result in the Lord adding more saved souls to their fellowship.
This is what we mean when you hear us say, life begets life.
In order for us to grow as a Church, it is necessary for us to grow together in Christian life. We want to experience the fulness of life, just as Jesus said:
John 10:10 (CSB) — 10 A thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.
Life begins in your conversion to Christ as illustrated above when they repented, were baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, received forgiveness of sins, and received the Spirit. They practiced their new spiritual life in their devotion to apostolic doctrine, in their holy fellowship, in observing communion, and in prayer. And they grew their Christian community by growing together in unity, taking care of one another, living in Christian fellowship, and rejoicing together in Christian worship!