Acts (Part 04) - Peter's Pentecostal Preaching

11/03/2010 11:22

The first coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (about 1,978-9 years ago) was no quiet affair. The blast of a hurricane was heard! An already swelled population (visitors celebrating Pentecost swarmed the city) crowded around the house from which they heard the noise. No doubt a servant rushed to the upper room to notify the apostles and others that crowds were at the gate. Though still in the throes of their new experience of God himself as Spirit within them and speaking through them, the followers of Jesus came down and out to address the crowd.


What an outstanding sight these 120 Jews—men and women—must have made exiting the house, all speaking the glories of God in multiple languages. And how perplexed were the Jews gathered from around the known world as they heard the languages of their foreign homes spoken by these unschooled Jews. But many of the crowd, whose homes were there in Jerusalem or in surrounding Judea and Galilee, were put off by what they supposed was a familiar sight—a party gone beyond the decorum of religious sobriety. They must be drunk, they thought. They (also unschooled in languages) heard nothing but gibberish.


Peter stood (probably at some higher point on the steps in front of the house) and somehow secured the attention of the mass of humanity in the streets. “These men are not drunk, as you suppose,” he shouted, pointing out that it was only the third hour of the day (about 9 AM). And then Peter proceeded to let the crowd know exactly what they were seeing and hearing. He did so in a finely structured speech that was nothing short of brilliant in its lacing of Scripture with the current events. It was a sermon clearly molded by the Holy Spirit now within Peter, guiding and empowering him.


Peter began immediately tying the astounding miracle of tongues to its Old Testament prophecy. He quotes a pivotal portion of the book of Joel. It is interesting that this OT book is divided into two parts each explaining God’s judgment and mercy. The first section (chapter 1 and most of the second chapter) is specific to a devastation being experienced by the land in Joel’s day. Locusts had swarmed the land, coming in droves and eating (destroying) all their crops. We read that it is God’s judgment that called this calamity on them. The people are urged repeatedly to return to God, repent, and cry for mercy. Chapter 2 shows mercy as God promises relief. But toward the end of chapter 2, the story changes.


Verse 28 begins with a transition: “And it shall come to pass afterward…” The Hebrew there gives us no clearer idea than that this is simply “afterward”—some later time period. This prophecy (verses 28-32) indicates relationship, judgment, and salvation. Chapter 3 goes on to describe in more detail this future judgment (vss. 1-16) and salvation (vss. 17-18). The chapter (and book) concludes with a summary of judgment and blessing (vss. 19-21).


Peter quotes the transition verses of Joel 2:28-32. He tells us that this “afterward” period spoken of by Joel is the present time (Acts 2:16). The last days that Peter mentions, then, are these days that fall between Christ’s two comings. Peter , therefore, relates the outpouring of God’s Spirit spoken of in Joel to the phenomenon of tongues that the Jerusalem crowd has witnessed. Though the prophecy of Joel speaks of both judgment and mercy, in this first point portion of Peter’s sermon (2:17-23), he mentions only the fault that will lead to judgment: “this Jesus…you crucified and killed” (2:23). Why would this lead to judgment? Peter’s implied answer is that Jesus was sent by God. In 2:22 Peter tells them that Jesus was attested by God with works, wonders, and signs. And Peter’s use of Joel’s prophecy of the day of the Lord (Hebrew Jehovah) is spoken of by Peter in the Greek as kurios, the title he will soon show belongs to Jesus. Thus, the following presents Peter’s discussion points so far:


Introduction: Miraculous sign from God in Last Days

Point 1 (2:15-23): Jesus the Messiah was sent by God


For his second point (found in 2:24-32), Peter employs David’s prophecy in Psalm 16. Like Joel, that Scripture may also be divided into two parts. Part 1 is a call to God for preservation. The second part is therealization of security in God (pursuing God in verse 8; resting in him in verse 9; assuring himself that God will not abandon him in death; and realizing joy and pleasure of life in God in verse 11).  A quick reading through of this Psalm may not at first give any clue as to David’s intent that the psalm is not about himself but about the coming Messiah. But as we read closer (e.g., in verse 8), we find David making seemingly absolute statements regarding trust in God: “I have set the Lord always before me.” Oh, David? Is that really true? You set the Lord before you as you committed adultery with Bathsheba?—or as you sent Uriah to his death?


Although Peter doesn’t mention this contradiction, Peter, in keeping to his point, picks up at this same verse of the psalm and quotes from there to the end. David says in verse 10 that God would not abandon him to Sheol (Hebrew) or Hades (Greek). This is not Hell, as the KJV translates. Sheol was merely the state of death. Thus, David is saying that God would not leave him in the state of death to see corruption. But, argues Peter in verse 29, David DID see corruption of flesh. David is still dead; his tomb is still with them. His body was not resurrected. Then Peter goes on to say that David did know by revelation from God that one of his descendants—the coming Messiah—would sit on the throne. David himself understood that Solomon was not this promised one. David foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ—the Messiah—the Savior. Now Peter relates this to Jesus. Jesus is that Messiah. Jesus was resurrected from the dead, fulfilling this prophecy. Of that, they are witnesses.


So then, Peter’s sermon outline now encompasses the following:


Introduction: Miraculous sign from God in Last Days

Point 1 (2:15-23): Jesus the Messiah was sent by God

Point 2 (2:24-32): Jesus the Messiah was resurrected by God


For Peter’s third and final point (2:33-36), he turns to another of David’s psalms, Psalm 110. Like the other two passages, this psalm is also in two parts. The first part (verses 1-4) speak of the Messiah as Savior. The translation of the psalm is a little difficult to understand because the word Lord is used in translation of two separate Hebrew words—Jehovah and Adonai. The first is meant to indicate our one God (three-in-one) or, as we often do, think of merely the Father (although that often takes us too far into modalism). Adonai, in this psalm, speaks of the Messiah. Therefore, the first verse would read: “Jehovah says to my Messiah: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.” We see here that the Messiah is no mere man but is brought to sit at the right hand of God (an expression meaning to share the throne). But God acts in putting down the enemies as well as sending out the scepter (verse 2). The Messiah rules (verse 2) while enemies are all around. This indicates Christ’s current reign as King of his kingdom while the rebellious yet are all around. Verse 3 tells us that people will come to the Messiah willingly or freely, in other words, by faith. They are holy (dressed in holy garments—indicating Christ’s righteousness). And they are like the dew from the womb of the morning. This is an interesting phrase that pictures the dew being born all around by the morning. Just so are the Messiah’s people born all around to him in relationship. Verse 4 indicates that the Messiah represents these people (acts as priest) to God. Thus, we have a clear description of how Christ acts as savior in our current age.


The second half of the psalm goes farther to indicate that the Messiah is, in fact, God. In verse 5, we see the Messiah again at the right hand of God, this time acting. Consider the picture carefully. The Messiah sits on the throne of God, acting from the throne of God. This picture surely links Messiah to God as God. The Messiah executes judgment (verse 6), which is the duty of God. Verse 7 concludes the psalm a bit cryptically. Drinking the water from the brook, I think, means that the Messiah will not turn away in distraction (as for food and drink), but will rather continue to see his course accomplished, taking drink from the brook on the way.


Peter’s argument through the use of this psalm is that Jesus is God. He mentions in Acts 2:33 that Jesus was exalted to the right hand of God—what the psalm tells us in verses 1 and 5. Peter then says that Jesus pours out the Holy Spirit. This has first reference to Psalm 110 verse 2. Notice the progression of the first 3 verses of the psalm. Jehovah and the Messiah are together on the throne (verse 1); the scepter (Holy Spirit) goes out from the throne (verse 2); and because of it, people come to the Messiah (verse 3). What is important here is that both Psalm 110 and Joel 2:28 show Jehovah God pouring out the Spirit. By concluding that Jesus is God, Peter forces his listeners to see that it is Jesus as God who pours out the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:33b).


Peter quotes only the first verse of Psalm 110. This is the same passage the Jesus used to confound his questioners. Back in Matthew 22 (Tuesday of the Passion Week), first the Herodians, then the Sadducees, then the Pharisees, try to trip Jesus up with questions in order to discredit him before the people. Jesus brilliantly answers them all. However, he then turns the tables and asks them a question. He sets it up in Matthew 22:42 by asking whose son is the Christ—the Messiah. They answer David’s. Then, from a basis in patriarchal society in which the father is always greater than the son, Jesus asks why David (the father) calls his son (the Messiah), “my Lord.” The religious leaders have no answer. They have no answer because they never understood the correct interpretation of Psalm 110--that Jesus is God. Peter answers the question Jesus asked here in Acts 2. It could well be that some in the crowd remembered Jesus asking that question just 55 days earlier. Peter says that David didn’t ascend to heaven, but rather Jesus did. Jesus sat on the throne with God. Jesus pours out the Spirit. Jesus is God! We see that conclusion in Acts 2:36. Peter says, “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”


The sermon is complete. The points made include the following:


Introduction: Miraculous sign from God in Last Days

Point 1 (2:15-23): Jesus the Messiah was sent by God

Point 2 (2:24-32): Jesus the Messiah was resurrected by God

Point 3 (2:33-36): Jesus the Messiah was made Lord by God


By showing how the activity of Jesus fulfilled the prophecy of Scripture the listening Jews were “cut to the heart” (2:37). They understood. The Holy Spirit had opened their minds and revealed Jesus, the Savior God, to them. And their souls cried out Yes!  They ask Peter what to do, and Peter responds actually by telling them what their spirits have already done. Peter says to repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of their sins.


This baptism of repentance for forgiveness of sin should be familiar. Luke has Peter opening this volume 2 (the book of Acts) with a call very similar to what Luke tells us was the call of John the Baptist toward the beginning of volume 1 (the Gospel of Luke). In Luke 3:3 we read: “And [John] went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” The perspective is a bit different, but there are several similarities between Luke 3 and the last part of Acts 2. The message of John was to prepare for the kingdom—that the Lord was coming. Peter announces that the kingdom had arrived—Jesus is Lord. John calls on the people to repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sin (Luke 3:3). Peter does the same (Acts 2:38). The result of John’s work is that people wonder whether he is the Messiah. John quickly corrects that by saying he baptizes with water but the Messiah would baptize with the Holy Spirit (Luke 3:16). And Peter tells the Jews they may receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38).


John also tells his listeners that good deeds are the fruit of repentance. He answers specific questions of what to do from those who have repented and have faith to follow God into the kingdom by telling them to share their possessions and food. This is exactly then what we see by those who have repented and believe in Acts 2—“And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts” (Acts 2:45-46).


We must return to Peter’s answer in Acts 2:38 to understand completely his intent. He tells the people to repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins. This sure sounds as if the rite of water baptism is a requirement for forgiveness. We who do not believe that actually to be the case, point out that in other passages, forgiveness for sins and even the Holy Spirit are given prior to baptism (e.g., Acts 10:44-48). But how are we to understand Acts 2:38?


We have discussed earlier that the term baptize is a transliteration of the Greek. The word means to immerse. When we hear the word baptize, we immediately think of the water rite. However, if we hear the word immerse we may think of water or we may think of something else. I believe that the word can be used in at least three senses.


1st sense: Immerse into…

2nd sense: Immerse like…(analogy to water rite)

3rd sense: Water rite


We can understand these senses as we would for the word “marry.” Working with equipment parts, we may say that we marry one piece to another. That is the first sense—using the word marry as simply a synonym for join. A sailor may say that he is married to the sea. This is the second sense in which joining again is in view, but the joining is made analogous to a person marrying a spouse. And the third sense is in an actual wedding ceremony.


Suppose Peter, therefore, is not intending to simply refer to the water rite (as in the third sense). Suppose he is speaking of baptizing in the second sense—mentioning the significance of the water rite, the immersion into the faith and kingdom, as his instruction. Remember that repentance is turning from something, to something else. But the word emphasizes or focuses on that from which we turn away. Therefore, in Mark 1:15 Jesus says, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” His mention of “repent and believe” is the turning from and turning to in the process. Just so, Peter’s mention of “repent and be baptized” is the turning from sin and disbelief and turning to a life immersed in Christ.


Certainly the early church performed the water rite. We will see that in Acts, and we know it as well from 1 Corinthians 1. And it could very well be that these 3000 saved here in Acts 2 were immediately baptized with water. But just because we see the terms baptize or baptism, we should not necessarily immediately understand them to be the water rite. Doing so may confuse doctrine (as it could in Acts 2:38 as well as Matthew 28:19).


We will discuss baptism a bit more next time.