Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Fellowship of the King: Acts 2:42-47

The Fellowship of the King
Acts 2:42-47
Introduction:  Have you ever tried to assemble a jig saw puzzle without having an example of what the final picture should look like?  Some of you are builders. Usually, you would have some kind of design, or plan, for a building before you would construct it.  The elevator required a small addition to our building, which the building and grounds committee planned and discussed, and finally implemented. (My dad liked to build “as needed,” and as our family grew, so did our house. It started as a single story 50 by 20 army barracks, and eventually grew to over 5000 square feet!).   This is the Lord’s church, and He has a plan. As we continue in Fellowship with the King, it should be our desire to submit ourselves to Him as we share in His mission.  As we seek to grow as a church, God has given us a “picture” of the New Testament church in the Book of Acts to guide us.
The Big Idea: A church devoted to God, in Fellowship with the King, is united in faith, and reaches upward in worship and outward in love.
I. They were a Devoted Church, not Lukewarm (42). One of the stern warning against complacency is found in the letter to the church in Laodecia in Revelation 3:13-16, "And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: 'The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God's creation.  15 "'I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot!  16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” Only 60 years or so after the first Christian Pentecost, and they had lost focus, and grown complacent in their faith. As Luke describes the baby church in Acts, they were devoting themselves to the means of grace God had given them. The verbal construction indicates that they were continually devoting themselves to these activities, i.e, their new faith was not a mere add on, it was at the center of their lives and of their church.
            First of all, they were devoted “To the teaching of the Apostles…” i.e., to the authoritative Word of Christ.  Peter later wrote, “Like newborn babes, long for the pure milk of the word, that by it you may grow in respect to salvation” (1 Pet 2:2). That’s the kind of hunger for truth that is pictured here. The apostles were the uniquely chosen spokesmen of Christ. They were His ambassadors called and commissioned to bring His Word to the newborn church.  It is the word that we should long for and the Word that will transform us. Paul said to the Romans, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom 12:2). Paul reminded Timothy, “...from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.  16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,  17 that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:15-17). The Hebrew Scriptures, our Old Testament, was the Word of God written as the church was born. The apostles spoke as the authorized representatives of Jesus, and eventually, as the church began to expand and some of them began to be martyred, they began to write letters to the churches.  This is the point: The God who is, our Creator and Redeemer, has revealed himself in human language. He has given us His Word to reveal truth about His person, and to show us the path to forgiveness, reconciliation, and life.  How many of us, if we got a letter from a loved one, would leave it unopened on our desk?  The letter arrives in the mail, you see the return address, and already we’re thinking of the one who sent it. We open it with a smile, and begin to devour what is written, smiling, remembering, laughing, crying, for a moment we’re back together, enjoying their presence through their words. Do we approach the Bible like that? The early church was continually devoted to the Word.
            They were also devoting themselves to [the] fellowship - The basic meaning of koinonia (fellowship) is “sharing.” We usually interpret that practically as “sharing food,” but it goes far beyond that. They were sharing in each other’s lives, bearing one another’s burdens, encouraging one another’s faith. Those who receive Jesus Christ are “in Christ,” they are joined with Him and with all other believers in a unique way. The old hymn says, “Blessed be the tie that binds, our hearts in Christian love, the fellowship of kindred minds is like to that above.”
       John wrote, “…that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ (1 John 1:3).  Fellowship wasn’t just eating together (though as we’ll see below they certainly did that). It meant sharing in each other’s lives on a daily basis.  The implication is that we watch out for one another, we seek to encourage one another. I just read yesterday a report of a Baptist pastor in Iowa who committed suicide behind the parsonage.  Such desperation yet it seems no one had a clue. No indication that there was anything wrong, he had just been at an elders’ meeting the night before and reportedly everything seemed fine. Obviously, whatever the burden was, he didn’t think he could share it with anyone. What a shame. We all need relationships where we can be transparent, where we can share our burdens, where we know we’ll find love and encouragement. We need to be people that can be trusted, that will receive someone and pray for them and encourage them. For those kinds of relationships to develop we need to spend time with one another.
       The writer to the Hebrews warns us, And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,  25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Heb 10:24-25).
        It’s not by chance that the phrase “…one another…” appears dozens of times in the New Testament. God designed us to be interdependent, we need one another. Here I pulled out just a few references…
Romans 12:10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.”
Romans 12:16 “…Live in harmony with one another…”
Romans 15:5-7   5 May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus,  6 that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  7 Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.
Galatians 6:2   2 Bear one another's burdens, and thus fulfill the law of Christ.
Ephesians 4:2-3  2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Ephesians 4:32  Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
Ephesians 5:21  21submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.
1 Thessalonians 4:18   18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.
1 Peter 4:9   9 Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.     
Do you get the idea? We are designed for community, we need each other. We like to think that we are independent and self-reliant and strong. But the God who made us, the Designer of the Church, made us to be part of the body, to complement one another.  That implies using our gifts for the encouragement and edification of others, and it also implies that we need the gifts of others to encourage and edify us.  The elders really believe that one context that facilitates this kind of mutual encouragement is the small group.  If you have not yet become part of a group you need to consider why not? Too busy?  
            They were also devoting themselves to the breaking of bread: i.e., worship through the ordinances.  Now it is not clear if this phrase “breaking of bread” is referring to sharing in a common meal or to the Lord’s Table. Since communion was probably taken as part of a common meal it could be both.  Remember is says “The breaking of bread…” which seems to refer to something in particular that the readers would recognize. The idea of the Lord’s table, as an ordinance taken together as an act of worship seems to fit well here. Interestingly we saw baptism referred to in Acts 2:38, as the initiation of the life of a disciple. The second ordinance given to the church seems  to be referred to here.  It was not a mere ritual, it was a time to come together, to remember what Christ had accomplished, and to celebrate His grace toward us. “Worship” means to “bow down,” to prostrate oneself in the presence of Deity. And He is present everywhere, He is always with us and in us, but in a special way He is present in the church as we gather together for corporate worship.  Do we come together on the Lord’s Day with an attitude of expectation, with excitement that we are about to meet with the King?
            They were also continually devoting themselves to [the] prayer(s). They were devoted to prayer, and the context seems to imply corporate prayer. They saw value in praying together.  We need times when we come together, not only to pray for needs within the body, but for wisdom and discernment and empowerment in carrying out the mission that has been entrusted to us. Please, don’t misunderstand. Our prayer list is valid and important. But beyond the crises and tribulations of day to day life, we need to pray for power, for the anointing of the Spirit, for boldness to carry out our mission in this, our Jerusalem (see Acts 1:8).  After all, a church devoted to God is united in faith, and reaches upward in worship and outward in love.

II. They were a Reverent church, not casual in their faith (43).
Fear [a sense of awe] came upon every soul…” It may be that this is a general statement that includes at some level both the believers and those outside (in contrast to v.44 when believers are specifically in view). For the believers “awe” would be a better word, describing a reverence, a sense of awe, recognizing the presence and the power of God. For those on the outside, it would have been an unsettled “shock and awe” that the supernatural was breaking into human history. We see the two groups, believers and unbelievers, referred to more explicitly in Acts 5 after the death of Ananias and Saphira:  “And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things.”  There may have been two responses among the unbelievers: one, “wonder” that would attract them to the church, making them curious to learn more, or for others, dread, a troubling feeling that something dreadful was coming. You recall Herod’s response when he heard the report of the Magi coming in Matthew 2, “He was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him…”  (Matt 2:3). Remember that we’ve seen the conviction of the Spirit having such a dual effect, leading some to repentance and faith, and exposing the hardened heart of unbelief in others.
            Acts 2:43 also refers to “…signs and wonders…” The awe and wonder described in the first part of the verse was probably related to the miracles that were being done at the hands of the apostles.  Speaking of his ministry among the Corinthians Paul spoke of the signs of a true apostle:  The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with all perseverance, by signs and wonders and miracles…”  (I Cor 12:12).  The writer to the Hebrews spoke about the unique ministry of the apostles, After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard,  4 God also bearing witness with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will…” (Heb 2:3,4).  Let me take a little excursus here. Does God still do miracles today? Yes, undoubtably!  We’ve prayed for healing and seen God answer. We’ve prayed of impossible situations and seen God intervene. Do we have apostles doing the kinds of miracles they did, (for example healing everyone who came to them) and speaking with the authority of Christ today? Absolutely not. Though some people claim to use the title “apostle” today, they are not apostles in the New Testament sense.
The apostles in the Bible had a unique and foundational ministry in the early Church. We read for example in Ephesians 2:19 – 22,   
19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,  20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone,  21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.  22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. 
Paul describes the church as a building, constructed on the foundation of the apostles and prophets (of course Jesus himself is the ultimate cornerstone!). The foundation is laid once, and the building is constructed over it. The apostles were shaliach, “sent ones,” commissioned by Jesus as His ambassadors.  The miracles showed that God was present and working through these men, and so validated their teaching as having the authority of Christ. We’ll read in Acts 14:3, “So they remained for a long time, speaking boldly for the Lord, who bore witness to the word of his grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands.”  The works God did through them showed they had authority to bring the Word of Christ. The early believers were devoting themselves to the Apostles’ teaching, they were longing for the Word of Christ.  They wanted to hear from God!  A church devoted to God is united in faith, and reaches upward in worship and outward in love.

III. They were a Generous Church, not in love with the world (44,45).  And all who believed were together and had all things in common.  45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.”  The church was radically generous.  I try to stay “uninformed” about how much any one person or family gives, because I don’t want to be influenced into giving preferential treatment to anyone. That is a shame in a way since giving is one barometer of where we are spiritually. The problem is that I can easily become a respecter of persons. What is it that makes it hard for us to be “cheerful givers”?  I think it’s that we fall in love with things, or we desire a certain standard of living or we want to have a sense of security about our future.   It’s easy to fall in love with the world. Remember the question at the funeral of a rich man, “How much did he leave?”  The answer, “All of it!” Life on this planet is short, is that what we want to live for?  The early church had a different perspective.
            First we see radical sharing, the believers were “together” and had “all things in common.”  The attitude was: what is mine, is yours. A couple of things: on the one hand, this was a unique, historical situation. We know that what is being described are the days following Pentecost. I don’t think this advocating “Christian communism” or even communal living. The church had just been born, Jesus had promised His return, and it seems likely that many were hesitant to leave Jerusalem and go home.  God put it on the hearts of his people to provide for one another in a radical way as the church is launched. If everything belongs to God, and we are brothers and sisters, shouldn’t we watch out for one another?
            Is that our attitude? I can say that though I don’t know about individual giving, it is evident that we have “cheerful givers” in our church. You know if you are one of them, and so does God. I’ve seen it in how we respond to needs in the church when they become known to us – meals and giving rides to doctor’s appointments and financial help to those going through difficulty.   I’ve seen it in the projects, costing many tens of thousands of dollars that have been accomplished one after another even since we’ve been here: the new parsonage, the church renovation, a new boiler, the elevator (which is finished, awaiting inspection!). We aren’t a large church by any means yet God has provided through his people.  Where your heart is, your treasure will follow!  A church devoted to God is united in faith, and reaches upward in worship and outward in love.

IV. They were a United Church, not petty or divisive (46-47a). “And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts,  47 praising God and having favor with all the people.”
            They were united in their worship, “…attending the temple together…”, not just once a week, but “day by day.” They sought out opportunities to come together to study, to worship, to pray, and to witness.  And it wasn’t only in the Temple, buy they spent time together in each other’s homes, taking meals together with glad and generous hearts.
            This unity spilled over in their testimony in the community, “having favor with all the people…”  People will take notice when they see a community of faith that reaches outward, motivated by the love of Christ. Jesus said that by our love for one another people will know that we are His disciples (John 13:34,35). A church devoted to God is united in faith, and reaches upward in worship and outward in love.

V. They were a Missionary Church, not stagnant (47b). “…And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” 47a set the stage for this part of the verse. Their testimony of unity shone so brightly people took notice. This is the kind of church God uses. Much as Jesus had said, “By this men will know you are my disciples, if you have love for one another…” But notice that the mission was empowered by God and the results were accomplished by Him.
            “The Lord added to their number daily…” Pentecost was a day of harvest, 3000 came to Jesus in repentance and faith. What a day that was! Remember that Jesus had said that his disciples would do greater works than He had done? Could it be that He had in mind this very thing, the conversion of souls? That after the Comforter was sent to indwell and empower His followers, there would be explosive growth? Now there are a couple of provisos we should take note of. First of all, this was the very beginning a new stage in redemptive history. There was a faithful remnant, prepared by God, ready to receive and respond to the truth. But it wasn’t programs or presentations or argumentation that brought them in, The Lord added to their number, it was a supernatural work of God.
             It was also ongoing, “The Lord added to their number daily” Jesus is building his church in the book of Acts, and He continues to build His church today.  Jump ahead from a moment to Acts 29… There are only 28 chapters!  It ends suddenly, with Paul having been a prisoner for two full years in Rome, “…proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.”  The abrupt end of Acts implies something: we are Acts 29!  The story continues, and by grace we have been included in the cast!
What is God saying to me in this passage? A church in fellowship with the King, is devoted to God and united in faith. It reaches upward in worship and outward in love.

What would God have me to do in response to this passage? Is our church a reflection of the community of faith we see in the book of Acts? We see there a church that recognizes and embraces the empowering presence of God. They came together for worship, aware of His awesome presence.  It was a celebration of his Majesty. They had a vertical awareness of their dependence upon God. They also reached out to one another in love, recognizing that they were designed and created to be part of the family of faith. Likewise, they looked outward to the community, aware of their calling to be His witnesses.  It all starts in our hearts. A heart to seek God, to value Him above everything, to celebrate His amazing grace, and look for every opportunity to give a reason for the hope that is in us. By his grace we are moving in that direction, by His grace, we can excel still more.  AMEN.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

"What shall we do?" Acts 2:37-41

What shall we do?
Acts 2:37-41
Introduction: Have you ever been lost, knew you were lost, and still refused to ask for directions? And if you finally did ask, was it difficult? There was a time in my life when I would prefer to just keep on driving until I saw something that I recognized rather than stop, admit I was lost, and ask someone for directions.  Since I am getting older, I don’t hold that philosophy so tightly, not that I am any wiser, it’s just that I get lost so much now it just won’t work!  Here, Peter has clearly been telling his fellow Jews that they had become so lost, that despite the overwhelming evidence, they had rejected and killed their own Messiah. 
     He has offered hope in this sermon we’ve been looking at in at least three ways: 1) Even though they were guilty of rejecting him, the death of Jesus was, after all, according God’s “predetermined purpose and foreknowledge.” They had done something terrible, but if in the process God’s plan was fulfilled, maybe there was still hope for them.  2) Though Jesus was crucified and buried, He is now alive, having risen the third day, just as the Scriptures predicted. And, 3) Jesus was still working in their midst, since from the Father’s right hand he had poured out the Spirit on His followers. Did that mean there was hope?  
     The miraculous communication of the mighty works of God in the languages of the people present for the feast was a sign that prophecy was being fulfilled and God was at work.  The response to Peter’s very direct message is amazing: the Spirit is descending on the people, opening their understanding, leading to remorse for their sin and a desire to get right with God. We see a powerful work of the Spirit in this scene, in Peter’s preaching and in the response of the people from at least two perspectives: conviction of sin, and empowerment for service.
The Big Idea: The Spirit of God indwells those who trust Jesus, convicting us of sin and empowering us for witness.
I. Our response to God’s Word will expose our heart (v.37). 37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?" 
              What's going on here? When Jesus taught the disciples in the upper room about the coming of the Spirit, the comforter, He said in John 16:7-8, "But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.  8 "And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment…”  Jesus was preparing his disciples for life without his physical presence, but he was present, in the Spirit. It would not be human wisdom or clever argumentation, but the supernatural work of the Spirit that would bring conviction through the Word.
            First of all, what does the word “convict” mean?  We know that we feel an inward sense of guilt, a remorse for our sin, as soon as we make the choice to disobey God. That is surely a part of the process of being “under conviction” as we usually use the word. The word itself, elencho, [ evle,gcw  ] however emphasizes the idea of “expose, bring to light,” the true character of someone. Often it has the idea of exposing guilt in a legal sense, proving someone to be guilty. Let’s look at a few of the passages where the term is used:
Matthew 18:15, "If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.” The idea is exposing the offending brother’s sin, with a view toward their repentance and restoration.
Luke 3:19But Herod the tetrarch, who had been reproved by him for Herodias, his brother's wife, and for all the evil things that Herod had done…” John the Baptist’s preaching “exposed” the sin of Herod. It does not imply that Herod was moved to repentance, merely that his guilt was “revealed.”
John 3:20For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.”
John 8:46Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me?” Jesus is not asking who can make Him sorry for His sins [He didn’t have any!], that’s the point. Rather He is asking “Which of you can show evidence that I have sinned?”
1 Corinthians 14:24-25 But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all,  25 the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you.” This is a case where conviction leads to repentance. Notice the parallel phrases “convicted,” “called into account,” “secrets exposed.”
Ephesians 5:11,13Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them… But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible…”
Revelation 3:19,Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.” “Conviction” is a work of the Spirit in His people also. The word translated here as “reprove” is the same word that Jesus used to speak of the convicting work of the Spirit. Here it is clear that the Lord is talking about His work in His children, convicting and disciplining those whom He has loved, with a view toward their repentance.
It seems to me that as Peter’s audience hears him preaching Christ, many believe He is speaking the truth. For that to happen, the Spirit must be working in them, opening their understanding. And the Spirit convicts their hearts, he exposes their sin, and they are called on to “repent.” We could get bogged down in a theological discussion of the so called ordo salutis, order of salvation, that is, which came first, faith or repentance? At what point are they actually regenerated?  That really isn’t Peter’s point here. He is preaching the Gospel of Christ, and calling on his hearers to come to Jesus, to receive Him as their Messiah and Savior.  He is saying that we are responsible to respond to the message. Clearly the Spirit is working in the hearts of those who are hearing the Word, and they are “pierced to the heart.”
We will also see in Acts examples when the preaching of the Word “convicts” in a negative sense, exposing hardened and unrepentant hearts.
First, in Acts 5, the disciples are brought before the leaders in Jerusalem and threatened for their refusal to stop preaching Jesus. In Acts 5:33 and 7:54 a different word is used to describe this kind of “conviction,” some older translations say they are “cut to the quick…” We read,
The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree.  31 God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.  32 And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him."  33 When they heard this, they were enraged [“cut to the quick”] and wanted to kill them”  (Acts 5:30-33).

Again, after Stephen preaches about the work of God and indicts his countrymen for rejecting Jesus, we read in 7:54, “Now when they heard these things they were enraged [cut to the quick], and they ground their teeth at him.“ We know in this case they worked out their anger by stoning Stephen to death.
       How could these Christ followers speak with such boldness, knowing that their lives were in danger? Here the “conviction” of the Spirit exposes that these hearers do not belong to Jesus, their refusal to repent and believe leaves them without excuse. The Spirit of God indwells those who trust Jesus, convicting us of sin and empowering us for witness.
II. Repentance and Faith bring forgiveness and God’s presence (v.38). And Peter said to them, ‘Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’”
 This is a passage that is sometimes referred to by those who hold to a doctrine called “baptismal regeneration,” and feel that baptism in water is what saves us. That conclusion is based on a superficial reading of the English translation.
First of all, Peter says, “[You guys (plural)] REPENT… [and let each one be baptized].” The word “repent” means to change your mind, but it is used in the sense of a change in heart that leads to a change in your life. Peter had just made it clear that they had rejected their own Messiah.  He could hardly have said that more clearly than he did in v.36, “This Jesus, who you crucified, God has made Him both Lord and Christ…” It is clear that the Spirit has convicted them, their hearts were broken because of their sin, and open to God’s grace. They heard the Gospel preached, and they believed what they heard. What should they do? REPENT!  Change their minds, their thinking, about who Jesus is, instead of rejecting Him, they should receive him and turn to him.
             “You guys Repent!” (Y’all from the south might say it differently!). The grammar here connects “repentance” with “forgiveness” and also with receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit. “For the forgiveness of your [plural] sins…”
N.B. Baptism is the expected response of the individual person who repents and believes. It was a radical step, since it publically identified you as a Christ follower.   It was expected, it was a way to say to the world that I have decided to follow Jesus.  It is not saying that the baptism is what saves you.  “Y’all repent [and let each one who repents be baptized] for the forgiveness of your [y’all’s] sins…” The connection is between repentance and forgiveness. Baptism is the individual response that outwardly demonstrates our faith, “Let each one be baptized.” 
And you [you guys!] will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Repentance, forgiveness, and receiving the “gift of the Spirit” are tightly connected together.  In the context of Acts it is clear that the gift of the Holy Spirit is the Holy Spirit himself. Very God, present and indwelling His people.  This is what changes at Pentecost, the Spirit permanently and personally indwelling the people of God.  Now we are the Temple of God, and the Spirit of God dwells in us! He is the Holy Spirit, purity, perfection, sinlessness… This also explains the conviction we feel when we sin. Remember the vision of Isaiah when He glimpsed the throne room of God: “Woe unto me, I am undone, for I am a man of unclean lips…!”  (Isaiah 6:5). Remember Peter, when he and his co-workers pull in a miraculous catch of fish, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man!” (Luke 5:8). It’s immediate, it’s unquestionable. It calls us to confess and to turn from our sin to God. Our sin is exposed in the light of His holiness, and we are broken before Him.  The Spirit of God indwells those who trust Jesus, convicting us of sin and empowering us for witness.

III. God’s plan is to save a remnant from every nation (39-41).
 Jews and Gentiles alike are included in God’s plan (39).  Incredibly, Peter reveals that God’s plan is transitioning, instead of being centered exclusively on Israel as a separate and chosen nation, it will now encompass all of humanity, or at least a remnant from the nations: “For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself." God does the calling, Salvation is of the Lord. And God is bringing together a people for himself from every race and nation. It began with the Jews: “You and your children…”  But it doesn’t stop there: “And to those who are far off…” That’s us, the gentiles, the remnant from the nations called and chosen by grace. By the way, God isn’t finished with Israel, if you have any doubt about that pick about Romans 9-11. A hardening in part has happened to Israel “until the fullness of the gentiles come in.”  
Here in Acts Peter urges his hearers, “Be saved…” We cannot save ourselves, faith means that we acknowledge our need to trust in Him alone for our salvation.  We can be delivered from “this perverse generation” (40).   “And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, ‘Be saved from this ‘crooked’ generation.’” The word “crooked” is from the Greek word skolias (if you have back problems that might sound familiar!). This present evil age, this world system in rebellion against the rule of God, is rushing on a path toward destruction.
 The results of Peter’s preaching, empowered by the Spirit, demonstrate that Jesus is still building His church: 3,000 were added to their number (41)! So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.”
What is God saying to me in this passage? We see the work of the Spirit in this scene, both in the preaching and in the response of the people: conviction of sin, and empowerment for service.  The Spirit of God indwells those who trust Jesus, convicting us of sin and empowering us for witness.
What would God have me to do in response to this passage? Maybe the only thing worse than being lost and being unwilling to ask for directions, is being lost and not knowing you are lost. Just driving along in blissful ignorance heading toward a dead end. (I’ve been there too but that’s a story for another day!). “There is a way that seems right to a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” That is where you come in.  God has called us to bring the Good News. One theme we have seen in the book of Acts is that we are all called to be witnesses for the Lord. That does not mean that it falls on us to convince people of the truth. The fact is, we can’t.  But as we speak for Him, and give a reason for the hope that is in us, the Spirit of God will pierce the heart of some, and by His kindness lead them to repentance and faith.

     If you think, “I can’t do that!”, that brings us to the second aspect of the Spirit’s work. He empowers us for witness. He enables us to do through him what we could not possibly do on our own. The disciples gather together in Acts 4 following threats from the religious establishment, and pray for boldness to keep speaking the truth. The same Spirit that shook that house, lives in you, and will empower you to be his spokesman. Are you ready? Are you willing?  Think about that. Pray about that. Amen.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Worship our Risen Lord! Acts 2:24-36

Peter’s Sermon Part 2: Worship our Risen Lord!
Acts 2:24-36
Introduction: This week some of us came together to watch live streaming of a debate between Bill Nye the Science Guy, and Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis.  One thing that became clear to me by the time the debate was over, is that it was ultimately not a debate over the question of origins or even if one or the other had a more viable explanation of the evidence of where we come from, but it was a clash of world views. Bill Nye called himself “a reasonable man” several times in the debate, and it seems to me he was saying that “reason” demands that we look at the clues we see in the natural world around us, and explain them without allowing for the supernatural.  In other words, we need to be able to explain how we got here, without reference to God.  The problem with that world view is that we are rejecting, a priori, the possibility that God exists, and that we are part of His creation. That is a real problem! Dutch theologian Herman Bavinck wrote a systematic theology which is called in its English translation Our Reasonable Faith. Our faith is “reasonable,” it is based on history, real space-time events, centered on Jesus, and His death and resurrection.
       The Apostle Paul began Romans, Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God,  2 which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures,  3 concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh  4 and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations…” (Romans 1:1-5).  The subject of Peter’s message in Acts 2 relates the same truth that Jesus Christ is Lord, and his message is “Good News” because Jesus conquered death. That is why we are here today. The resurrection is not just something that we sing about and celebrate once a year at Easter… 
The Big Idea: The fact of the resurrection of Jesus is both the foundation of our hope and the basis of our faith.
Context: The pouring out of the Spirit signaled the fulfillment of prophecy and the dawn of a new age, and as such was an opportunity to preach Jesus Christ as Lord. The works He had done were compelling evidence that His claims were true (v.22). He healed the sick, fed the hungry, gave sight to the blind, and raised the dead. These miracles, wonders, and signs demonstrated who He is. But the evidence did not stop there!
I. Peter explained that the resurrection according to prophecy proved His claims to be true (24-32). After affirming Jesus’ death by the hands of godless men and according to the plan of God, Peter says, God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.
This is a summary statement that will be explained and expounded upon in the following verses. First of all, he states what happened, that is, God raised Him up (v.24). The contrast is stark: You put him to death, but God raised Him up. The sinful action of the people in rejecting Jesus is contrasted with the overwhelming grace demonstrated in the cross and resurrection. The resurrection is the greatest sign, the ultimate proof that Jesus is who He claimed to be. It was not possible for this story to unfold differently. Death “did not have the power to hold Him.” One writer suggested that death could not hold him because of God’s power, plan, and promise. He is God, all powerful, omnipotent, so death could not hold Him. The Scriptures, such as Psalm 16, had prophesied of His victory over death, they revealed beforehand God’s plan which did not allow for death to hold Him. And later we learn, for example from I Corinthians 15, more about God’s promise: Jesus was raised from the dead as the firstfruits of the future resurrection harvest. Because he rose from the grave, we can know that those who are His will rise also. His victory over death is a sure promise of ultimate victory for all who trust in Him. Death could not hold Him! That is good news. When Paul defined the gospel that he preached in the opening verses of I Corinthians 15, one aspect of it was that He “…rose again the third day according to the Scriptures…” (I Corinthians 15:4).
Peter elucidates the truth that God raised Him up in fulfillment of Scripture (v.25-32).
       First of all he expounds on the prophetic necessity of the resurrection (25-31). “For David said concerning Him…” This is one reason that it was impossible for death to hold Him: the Scripture predicted His resurrection. After the disciples confession of faith in Jesus as Messiah we read in Matthew 16:20-21  Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.  21 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised” (see also Luke 9:22; 13:32; 18:33; 24:7,21,46; John 2:19-21). God had a plan. It included the cross, and the substitutionary sacrifice of the Son. But the outcome was never in doubt, it was impossible for death to hold Him. He would be raised again the third day. The resurrection of Jesus as the “first fruits” of the harvest was a certainty. He points to Psalm 16 to illustrate this truth. David couldn’t have only been speaking about himself, he eventually died and was buried! His bones were still in the grave. The tomb of Jesus is empty. 
        The historical reality of the empty tomb (v.32). Peter said, “This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses.” Remember this was only 50 days after the resurrection, only ten days after the ascension of Jesus into heaven. He had appeared to them for a period of forty days by many “infallible proofs.” The emphasis here is on eyewitness testimony to the fact of the resurrection. As we see Acts unfolding we’ll see rising persecution against the church, starting in Jerusalem, continuing to the end of the book where we find Paul in a Roman prison. The disciples are threatened, arrested, beaten, a couple of them are put to death (Stephen in Acts 7, James in Acts 12). But they will not, they cannot, stop preaching the highly offensive message that Jesus was alive, that He had defeated death.
A famous quote, dated 107 A.D., just a few years after the death of the last of the apostles, comes from Ignatius of Antioch. In chains, being carried to Rome for execution he wrote the following:
“If you come across someone that says Jesus Christ never lived, or that He was just an idea or a concept or a myth—shut your ears to him. Jesus Christ was born into a human family, a descendant of David. His mother was Mary. He was persecuted and crucified under Pontius Pilate, a fact testified to us by some who are now in heaven, and some who are alive on earth. How can this be a phantom or an illusion or a myth? These are facts of history!
            It is also a fact that He rose from the dead—or rather that the Father raised Him up. And that is the most important fact of all, because His promise is that the Father will also raise us up if we believe in Him. So if Christ is not alive neither shall we be. There is nothing left for us to hope for if He is just an idea or a fantasy.
            In any case, if He only appeared to rise from the dead—why should I be in chains for this “myth”? Why should I die to support an illusion? I am prepared to die for Him the true and real Son of God, but no one is prepared to die for a shadow.”
Dr. David Seamands, a 20th century missionary and pioneer in the area of Christian counselling, spoke of a Muslim who became a Christian in Africa: “Some of his friends asked him, ‘Why did you become a Christian?’ He answered, ‘Well, It’s like this. Suppose you were going down the road and suddenly the road forked in two directions and you didn’t know which way to go, and there at the fork in the road were two men, one dead and one alive. Which one would you ask for directions?’” The testimony of eyewitnesses confirms that Jesus rose from the dead, exactly as He said He would do. The opponents of Christianity could have immediately undercut the preaching of the early church if they could have simply pointed to the tomb of Jesus and presented his decaying corpse.  They would have done that if they could, but the could not, because the tomb was empty!
             By the way, the resurrection of Jesus is called by Paul “the first fruits” of the future resurrection of believers. Paul discusses this in detail in I Corinthians 15. As surely as Jesus defeated death and rose again, those who are in Christ will be raised as well. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades” (Revelation 1:18). This is the message of Easter. Easter in February! Well, for the believer in Jesus, we should celebrate the truth of the resurrection every day.  This is the reason for our hope. If the Lord tarries, one day sooner or later, we’re all going to die. In that day we’ll lose everything we have on this earth, but we’ll keep everything that matters most because death cannot separate us from the love of Christ. No enemy remains that he has not already conquered.  The fact of the resurrection of Jesus is both the foundation of our hope and the basis of our faith.

II. What was happening before them was evidence of His Exaltation: The pouring out of the Spirit by the exalted Son (33-35). Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, "' The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool…'” (Acts 2:33-35).
            John the Baptist had predicted that one who came after him would baptize in the Holy Spirit and in fire (Lk 3:16).  Jesus told His disciples in the upper room, “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you…” (John 16:7). As we saw in Peter’s citation in this passage, what was happening was a fulfillment of the words of the prophet Joel, evidence that Jesus was exalted to the Father’s right hand, and that He had sent the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, exactly as He had promised to do.
            The language quoted here by Peter is a citation of Psalm 110:1, The LORD says to my Lord: "Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool." The imagery there reflects Psalm 2:6-9, "As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill."  7 I will tell of the decree: The LORD said to me, "You are my Son; today I have begotten you.  8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession.  9 You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel." We see the enthronement of the Son, the Messiah, at the Father’s right hand. We read earlier from Romans, Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God,  2 which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures,  3 concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh  4 and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord,  5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations…” (Romans 1:1-5).  Notice especially verse 4, He “…was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead…” The resurrection vindicated His claim to be Messiah and Son of God.  It didn’t make Him Messiah and Lord. But it revealed the truth and vindicated His claims. The fact of the resurrection of Jesus is both the foundation of our hope and the basis of our faith.
III. He explained why it happened: to lift up the name of Jesus as Messiah and Lord and to call people to faith (36). Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified."
            “Therefore…”  The facts that are established by the evidence: Jesus is the Messiah, He is the Lord. It seems this conclusion reflects back on all that Peter has been affirming: the Miracles, the Resurrection, the Pouring out of Spirit, all of these things come together and present an overwhelming and convincing case: Jesus is the promised one, the Messiah, the Lord God incarnate.  The Scriptures are clear, the Father’s plan was laid out, and Jesus fulfilled those prophecies to the letter. The Messiah had to be raised, Jesus was raised, therefore Jesus is Savior, Messiah, and Lord.
             Implicit invitation: Repent and believe!  The Greek language has a third person imperative form which we see here: “Let all the house of Israel know…”  Since Peter was speaking to the Jewish people present at the feast he could have simply said, “[You guys] Believe in Him!” But he put it in more formal language, “Let all the house of Israel know…”  Then he goes even further with the adverb, seemingly for emphasis he puts it as the very first word in the original, “Let all know… assuredly [or, “for certain].”  Not only knowing the facts, but being assured, certain, convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt.  That is Peter’s point: three strands of evidence leave no doubt, 1) the signs He did, 2) the resurrection according to promise, and 3) the pouring out of the Spirit as He said He would do, three compelling proofs that Jesus is Messiah and Lord.
       The evidence is clear and compelling, and the evidence demands a verdict. Not a verdict with respect to Jesus, because He isn’t on trial. He’s the judge! But rather a verdict with respect to the nation first of all, and all of humanity ultimately: what will you do with Jesus?  Jesus had earlier said “My sheep hear my voice and I know them and they follow me…” (John 10:27). Hearing [with faith] and following, our response to Jesus, reveal something about the hearers. The facts about Jesus have been clearly revealed by the Father. 
·        First of all, He is “Christ” i.e., “Messiah.” The fulfillment of Scripture proves His claims to be true. The promised one, the long awaited deliverer anticipated in the Scriptures had burst onto the stage of human history.
·        He is Messiah and “Lord.” Not just “Boss,” but King Yahweh, Adonai Elohenu, the Great I AM.  One of the striking things we see in the New Testament is that Scriptures that referred to Yahweh in the Hebrew text have routinely been “translated” by the Greek word kurios, “Lord,” in the Septuagint. When the New Testament writers use these verses they have no problem in applying them to Jesus. He is GOD incarnate.
The case has been clearly presented that Jesus is Lord, God incarnate, the Great I AM, worthy of our worship, adoration, and obedience. It means I am not autonomous, He is creator and redeemer. He makes the rules. He deserves our worship, our adoration, our obedience.
What is God saying to me in this passage? The fact of the resurrection of Jesus is both the foundation of our hope and the basis of our faith.
What would God have me to do in response to this passage? If you watched the debate between Ken Ham and Bill Nye you saw an enlightening illustration of how two humans can interpret the same clues we see in the world around us very differently, depending on where they start and the presuppositions they hold. For the believer it is overwhelmingly true that “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows the work of His hand…” (Ps 19). For the unbeliever who rejects God’s revelation, the evidence before them is so clear that they are left without excuse (Rom 2).  The song writer said, “Because He lives, I can face tomorrow, because He lives, all fear is gone.” Can you sing those words as your own? The resurrection leaves no doubt, He is the promised One who was anticipated in the Scriptures, the Messiah. He is also “Lord,” which means he deserves our worship and our obedience. All hail King Jesus, all hail Emmanuel. King of Kings, Lord of Lords.  
Our purpose at Boothbay Baptist Church is to know God and to make Him known. Our vision statement says: We envision a community of Christ followers rooted in the Word, treasuring God as supremely valuable, and proclaiming the riches of His grace to the world. Is that your vision this morning?

Is He what you treasure above all? Are you ready to give a reason for the hope that is in you? Think about that, AMEN.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Debating the Debate

[These comments are in response to last nights debate on the viability of Creationism as an explanation of ultimate origins,  ]
Did Nye Lie? Was Ham a Sham?

This is the 100th post on the “Pastor’s Corner”!  I didn’t plan to write an entry responding to last night’s debate between Ken Ham and Bill Nye, but thought I’d at least try to clarify what seemed to me to be the real issue: the presuppositions that influence our interpretation of the evidence.  Bill Nye seemed to say that only evolutionary scientists are looking objectively at the evidence and really doing “science.”  Creationists are mixing “religion” with impartial science. The truth is, we all have core beliefs that guide our interpretation of what we see in the world around us.  Ken Ham admitted that he is convinced that God exists and that He has revealed himself in the Bible. Bill Nye wasn’t quite as clear in admitting his core beliefs, but I think it came through nonetheless: we must explain the universe without reference to the supernatural, much less to the idea of a “creator.”  Is that really objective science?  The problem is that view makes human reason the final arbiter of truth.  What if creation is true? Would not all truth be God’s truth? If I was a debater, or if I had been able to submit a question, I think it would have been to ask Bill Nye: “If there really is a Creator God, what would it take for you to believe that He exists?” I don’t know for sure, but I think he would reject the question as “religious” and nonsensical and return to his argument based on his view of himself as a “reasonable man.”  The creationist view does offer a reasonable answer to the questions of ultimate origins based on what claims to be the Word of the Creator himself. If that record is true, does it make sense to see what He has said about origins? That sounds reasonable to me. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…”  (Genesis 1:1). What do you think? I would be happy to hear your comments.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

The Day of Pentecost Part 2: A New Age and An Old, Old, Story!

Acts 2:14-24
Introduction: This morning we return to a scene 2,000 years ago, 50 days after the death and resurrection of Jesus. Ten days earlier Jesus had told his disciples to go to Jerusalem and to wait for the Promise of the Father, and then He ascended to Heaven before their very eyes. As they waited, did they recall the words the Master had said to them in the upper room, Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you” (John 16:7)?  Peter’s sermon of the day of Pentecost is occasioned by the miraculous pouring out of the Spirit that was accompanied by the disciples speaking the mighty works of God in the languages of the people who were present at this pilgrim feast in Jerusalem.  As you read Peter’s sermon consider the boldness of preaching this message on the streets of the city where Jesus was arrested, tortured, and killed just seven weeks earlier. What had changed? Even as Peter was explaining what was happening on the day of Pentecost, it was evident that he was filled and empowered by the Holy Spirit.  The resurrection of the Master was a fact that energized him to be sure, but the presence of the indwelling Spirit transformed him from the fearful disciple who three times denied Jesus, to the fearless proclaimer of the Gospel we see here.  Warren Wiersbe said in his commentary of Acts that using that starting point Peter explained 1) What happened, 2) How it happened, and 3) Why it happened.  We’ll use that general outline as we walk through this passage, this morning and again next week. Today as we consider the “what” and the “how” we’ll see that this event was the dawn of a New Age, and that the “how” presents the first Christian sermon, the first public proclamation of the Gospel Story, the old, old story that still changes lives today.
The Big Idea: The Coming of the Spirit bears witness to Jesus as Lord and points us to Him as the only way of salvation.
I. A NEW AGE: Peter Explained what happened, that is, the Spirit had Come—The Fulfillment of Scripture signaled the dawn of the Messianic Age (14-21). 
            I don’t want to lightly skip over the fact that “Peter stood up, with the eleven…” and addressed the crowd. These were the same guys who were scattered when Jesus was arrested, the same Peter who three times denied that he knew Jesus as he was being tried and tortured. They were restored by grace, they were empowered by the truth of the resurrection and endowed by the personal presence of the Spirit to speak the truth boldly.  One of the great struggles that so many people have even after coming to Christ, is recognizing that they are forgiven, that they can let go of the past.  You may feel unworthy, unqualified, or undeserving, but if you are His, if you have believed in Jesus as your Savior and Lord, His Spirit indwells you, and has sealed you and will empower you to be his witness.  Do you deserve it? No, and guess  what, neither do I, and neither does anyone else in this room. That is “grace,” God’s unmerited favor. If you have trusted Christ that means you have been forgiven, it means that Jesus bore the penalty for your sins, it means His righteousness has been reckoned to your account. If you hear a voice whispering “He can’t possibly forgive you, remember what you did?” or, “How can He use you after the way you failed back then?”  Don’t listen. If you know Him He has chosen you, on purpose, for a purpose. Like the song writer said, the Master points to you and says “This one is mine.”  He will use you, you are chosen for His team. 
 Peter stands up and speaks on behalf of the others. No one is drunk here, its only nine in the morning! “This is that…” The way Peter begins is actually significant, it is a phrase that was commonly used in first century Judaism to introduce a Scripture that was being fulfilled in their current experience.  Peter understood that this Pentecost was one more phase in the unfolding of God’s plan, it signaled the dawn of a new age.  The Jews of the first century were anticipating the coming of a messiah. For the most part, that expectation was partial and incomplete. They expected a King like David, an expansive and secure kingdom like Solomon, freedom from foreign oppression and the blessings of the Covenant. They had somehow lost sight of the fact that the Old Testament predicted a rejected and suffering Messiah, One who would bear the sins of many.  Jesus had told the disciples that it was necessary for Him to suffer, but only after the resurrection were their minds opened to understand the Scriptures (see Luke 24:26,27,44).
            Peter introduces a quotation from the Old Testament prophet Joel with the phrase “In the last days…” (2:17). This phrase doesn’t appear in Joel, it is Peter’s interpretation of what Joel was saying. These events described by Joel would usher in “the last days,” the age of the Messiah.  You might think, wait a minute, was Peter confused, that was 2000 years ago, how could that be “the last days”?  The New Testament presents a perspective that some theologians have called “inaugurated eschatology.” The idea is that the pivotal events of the cross, resurrection, ascension, and Pentecost introduced the last days, though the Kingdom is not yet fully realized (we are premillenialists!) it is already present in a preliminary sense. “Already” and “not yet” at the same time. The writer to the Hebrews uses the same phrase to describe the age that began with the coming of Messiah, when he says, “In different times and in different ways God spoke in times past to the fathers through the prophets, but in these last days He has spoken in the Son…” (Hebrews 1:1).  Remember James had warned the rich against greed when he said “…that You have laid up treasure in the last days…” This age, from Pentecost to the Parousia is “the last days” in the New Testament sense.  Peter warned “…knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires.  4 They will say, "Where is the promise of his coming? (2 Peter 3:3,4).  Paul also said in perhaps the very last letter that he wrote,  But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty.  2 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy,  3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good,  4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God…” (2 Timothy 3:1-4). I believe this describes the response of some people to the truth throughout the church age, and anticipates exactly what we are seeing today as the Day draws nearer.
             Importantly, as we look at Acts we see that the coming of the Spirit introduced a day when the offer of salvation was to be extended to “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord…” (v.21).  This anticipates the global reach of the gospel. Peter is speaking to a multitude that is basically Jewish, Jews and converts to Judaism. But “everyone” is inclusive, and anticipates that this message would go out to the whole world, and everyone who calls on His name, that is who believes and comes to God on His terms will be saved, and that would ultimately include a remnant from every race, stock, and nation. This is exactly what Jesus had told the disciples in Acts 1:8, “You will be witness for me in Jerusalem, and all of Judea and Samaria, even to the ends of the earth…”  Notice that Joel’s prophecy also breaks down cultural barriers: young and old, men and women, without class or economic distinctions. God is not a respecter of persons. Jesus is weaving together the beautiful tapestry of His church. The coming of the Spirit bears witness to Jesus as Lord and points us to Him as the only way of salvation.

II. AN OLD STORY: Peter Explained How it happened—Jesus died and rose again (22-24).  Do you recall the words of Paul when, in his letter to the Corinthians, he summarized the Gospel message: For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,  4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures…” (I Cor 15:3,4). The things of first importance are the historical, foundational facts of the Gospel. Here, on the day of Pentecost, Peter points to those same “Gospel facts” and gives some profound theology in the process.
He begins with a one sentence summary of Jesus’ Life and Ministry (22). "Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know…”  Peter addressed the crowd in v.14, and here he does again. He is speaking to his fellow Jews as he speaks about Jesus.
       First of all he states what might seem obvious, that is, that Jesus was “A man…”, that is, a human being. There is no question that Peter is affirming the humanity of Jesus.  There were a lot of heresies that arose in the early church as people struggled to understand the full meaning of the revelation God had given in the Scriptures. One heresy was called “Docetism,” which held that the divine Christ appeared in human form, but did not have a full, human nature. Peter’s statement pre-empts that kind of thinking about Jesus. He was no apparition, He didn’t merely “seem” human, He was “a man.” Someone might think, “Wait a minute, I thought Jesus was the Son of God?” Yes. Fully God, and fully man. Does that mean there were two “Sons,” the divine Christ and the historical Jesus? No. The two natures were perfectly joined in one person. The technical expression theologians use is to call this “the hypostatic union,” the perfect joining of two natures in one person.
         Jesus was a man “…attested to you by God…” The same word is used by Luke in a “legal sense” in Act 25:7, “When he had arrived, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood around him, bringing many and serious charges against him that they could not prove.”  The Jews were making charges against Paul that they could not substantiate, there was no evidence to prove their case.  Jesus’ claim to be the Son of God and Messiah was proven by the works that God did through Him.  He did not call people to blind faith, but rather backed up His words with His works.  Luke uses three parallel and supplementary words to describe different aspects of these works:
*Miracles (dunamis) Acts of power, emphasizing these things couldn’t be done by mere men. These were no parlor tricks, no slight of hand deceptions. They were acts of power that only could be done with the help of God. Nicodemus said as much when he came to Jesus at night, “…no man could do the signs that you are doing except God be with him…” 
*Wonders (teras) Emphasizes the response that Jesus’ works evoked from the people. They were stunned! Remember the reaction of the disciples when Jesus came walking to them on the stormy sea, they were terrified! “Wonders” speaks to the awe people felt as they saw the blind see, the lame walk, demons cast out, and dead raised to life.
*Signs (semeion) speaks to these acts as a revelation of who Jesus, the miracle worker, is. “Sign” was John’s favorite word for the miracles of Jesus [see John 20:20,31].  This pointed to the purpose of the miracles, not merely acts of compassion, but revelation pointing to who Jesus is, Messiah, Lord, Son of God.
       Notice that Peter knows that the people know Jesus did these things: “…just as you yourselves know…” These works were “attesting evidence,” legal proof that left no doubt that Jesus was who He claimed to be. Notice the first part of what Nicodemus, one of the Sanhedrin, said in John 3:2, "Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him..."  The miracles weren’t done in a corner. They were seen by many and could be investigated and should have been compelling evidence to the leaders and the people alike.
 His Death and the Plan of God (23).Peter points to the sovereign purpose of God in the unfolding story of Jesus, but at the same time does not mince words about the responsibility of the Jews in rejecting their own Messiah: “this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men…” Notice these two truths set side by side: God’s sovereign plan, and human responsibility.
         This is a case where a careful look at the grammar can help us avoid misreading what Peter is saying. The dative of means/instrument makes it clear that both the “predetermined council” and “foreknowledge” of God were the means by which Jesus was delivered up. It cannot be merely knowing ahead of time what would happen, but it clearly implies purposeful action on the part of God.  Similar to what Paul says in Romans 8:32, God “…spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all…” The point is that the cross was not a “plan B” it was no accident or re-calculation, it was in the sovereign plan of God from the beginning.
       But that does not mean that the people were not responsible for rejecting Him.  “…you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death…” (Acts 2:23).  Peter is obviously very careful not to confront or offend right? Not!  In case they missed what he was saying, he’ll say it again in v.36, “God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ…”  This is the extent of the sovereignty of God: He is able to over-rule even the greatest possible evil, the rejection and murder of His Son, to accomplish the greatest imaginable good, the salvation of a people for Himself, to the glory of God. Friends, this is not the main point but let me say that the same is true in the lives of His people. Paul said that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love Him, to those who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). Whatever you are going through, as we have been learning in Sunday School, God will use for your good and for His glory.
 Peter does not stop at the cross and the grave, but points to His Resurrection in fulfillment of Scripture (24)  “…God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.” This is a part of the Gospel message we don’t want to leave until next week, in fact it is at the heart of the Good News that the apostles preached: “…Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,  4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures…” (I Cor. 15:3,4).

What is God saying to me in this passage? The Coming of the Spirit bears witness to Jesus as Lord and points us to Him as the only way of salvation.

What would God have me to do in response to this passage? The first and most obvious response to this message is that each of us should be sure of our own salvation. Not because of church membership or attendance, but through trust in Jesus and his finished work. That means admitting that you are a sinner, because all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. It means believing that Jesus is the Son of God, and that He bore your sins in His body on the cross.  It means trusting in Him alone as your hope of salvation, and confessing Him as the savior and Lord of your life. Once we have done that we can recognize the truth: The Spirit of God indwells us! In fact we have all, at the moment of faith, been baptized in the Spirit “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body- Jews or Greeks, slaves or free- and all were made to drink of one Spirit…” (I Corinthians 12:13).  In fact if we don’t have the Spirit we are not His, “…You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him…” (Romans 8:9).  A professor of mine in Bible college used to say the Spirit has given us RIBS… We are re-born, indwelt, baptized, and sealed by the Spirit. And so,
·        We have hope, even in trials: “…and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us…” (Rom 5:5).
·        We have assurance: “…The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God…” (Rom 8:16).
The Spirit guides us into truth and empowers us for service. Because we know He is with us and in us, we have faith and a perspective that can lift us above the circumstances of the moment, because we are not alone, the omnipotent, omniscient Creator of the Universe is with us and in us. So may we pray in concluding with Paul the apostle…
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father,  15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named,  16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being,  17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith- that you, being rooted and grounded in love,  18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth,  19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.  20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,  21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Ephesians 3:14-21).

…and amen!