Rodney Gehman – October 1, 2023 – Acts 2:14-41
Well, we are now on week 4 of our series going verse by verse, chapter by chapter through the book of Acts. If you’re new to church or new to the Bible, the book of Acts is the story of the very first Church. The goal of taking the time to study Acts here at River City is to understand what is at the core of what the Church really is, how we understand the function of the Word of God in the church, how we understand the function of the Holy Spirit, and so on.
So if you would, please open your Bibles to Acts chapter 2. This chapter has three sections in it.... The first section is verses 1-13, which we covered last week about the Spirit being poured out. 120 Jesus followers are in a room, praying, worshiping, and all of a sudden, there’s the sound of a violent wind, tongues of fire above everyone’s head, and they are all filled with the Holy Spirit. They begin speaking languages they’ve never learned before – it’s all pretty intense!
The last section, verses 42-47, has to do with this new community of believers living in close relationships, sharing things, selling things, praying together, eating together, all the time…We’ll look at that next week.
And then, the middle section which we’re addressing today, is the cliff notes version of the first Christian sermon ever given. I told you on day one that Acts is almost ⅓ messages and speeches and sermons, and here is our first one. This middle section is a gospel presentation. Preaching. Proclaiming. Evangelizing Teaching.
Now, across church traditions and denominations, it’s easy for us to gravitate toward one or the other of those three. Maybe you grew up in a church that was all about part one – all about the Spirit and seeing signs and wonders, speaking in tongues, that sort of thing. Maybe you grew up in a church tradition that was all about preaching and evangelizing. Preach the gospel at all costs. We don’t do prayer walks, we do soul winning. If you had a dollar for everytime someone told you to be “in the word” you’d be rich. And then other church traditions are all about community and love and togetherness and fellowship.
And what I’d like to argue, and I’m sure some of you are already ahead of me on this, is why not all three? Shouldn’t a healthy, well-balanced church have all three? This is what we’re going to see as we carry on through Acts is a church that is encountering Jesus through the Holy Spirit, they are devoted to full-throttle gospel teaching, and they enjoy the fellowship of the others in the church. Rinse and repeat.
I mean I’m just as excited about the prospect of having our own building as you are, but none of those three things requires a building. These are things God is equipping us to be about right now!
So, last week we looked at section 1 of chapter 2, the move of the Holy Spirit, so now let’s look at section 2 – the very first Christian sermon ever given:
 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.
We talked about this part a little bit last week, so I won’t recap everything. I just want to point out who Peter’s message is addressed to: Fellow Jews. These are people who are devout followers of Yahweh. They know his promises about a Messiah. They know the prophecies. They know the Law. They know what they are looking for in a Redeemer. Peter’s first sermon is one where he is trying to convince people who think they are already on the right team that they are not. He’s preaching to the choir, so to speak… but the choir doesn’t realize what they’ve done.
They had heard a sound, came over to investigate, and heard a large group of people all speaking different languages at the same time… most of which they didn’t understand. So they accused them of being drunk in verse 15 – they’re smoking something. Peter says uh, no.
Peter has always been a bold guy, but he is operating with a new authority now. He’s like, Now let me explain what’s happening here, and hey – pay attention to what I’m saying. I love that. He is no longer the same Simon Peter that folded to a slave girl and said he didn’t know Jesus. He is no longer just some Galilean fisherman who trips over his own words. He has seen Jesus for who he is, he is filled with the Holy Spirit, been transformed by grace, and by the end of his preaching, people are moved to respond.
How many of you know the gospel of grace changes you? It transforms you! Peter isn’t bold now because he took some classes on public speaking. He is bold because he has been with Jesus, and Jesus is with him through the Holy Spirit. After 40 days of learning from Jesus, and 10 days of praying constantly with the other disciples, and being filled with the Spirit a minute ago, Peter stands up and begins his first sermon ever by saying:
You are all witnessing a fulfillment of what God promised through the prophet Joel. The beginning of the end is here, and what starts with a great revival, where people of all ages will see visions and dream dreams, also includes judgment. Blood, fire, smoke. The sun (darkness) and moon (blood) are prophetic illustrations used to talk about political upheaval. In other words, in the last days, the big players of the world are going to be in turmoil, and new revolutions are looking to overthrow the old ways of life. The clock is ticking. The only way to escape the coming wrath is to call on the name of the Lord, and seek God’s salvation.
What exactly is this salvation? Here Peter goes again…
 "Fellow Israelites, listen to these words: THIS JESUS OF NAZARETH The one you said was guilty of blasphemy, the one you called to see crucified just 7 weeks ago…
...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.
Peter is putting the responsibility of seeing solely on their shoulders. Word by word, he is erasing any excuses. “Well, we didn’t know.” Oh, yes you did. God proved that Jesus was the Messiah by doing miracles and signs and wonders through him –AMONG YOU, JUST AS YOU YOURSELVES KNOW. You knew enough about Jesus to make a choice about him.
That same thing is true today. Everyone is responsible to see the truth about Jesus. You are. I am. The people here in the city are. We are all responsible to see how God was and is working through Jesus. That’s part of why we need gospel proclamation in our large gatherings, in our community groups, in our friendships! It’s why we should always be doing what Colossians 4:6 calls “seasoning our conversation with salt.” In other words, look for ways in EVERY conversation where you can give someone hope, encouragement, or truth in Jesus.
So Peter says God made it clear to you that Jesus was the Messiah by the signs, wonders, and miracles he performed, which you all know about. You knew enough to believe. Then Peter gets a little more pointed:  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.
Although God planned this since the very beginning, YOU are the ones responsible for killing Jesus. Now, watch these two things at play here, because this is an important teaching we all need to be aware of: The Providence of God, and Human Agency, or Free Will. Christians argue about this stuff all the time, and this verse puts the two together in such a way that should unite us in the truth:
- The Providence of God. Providence is a word that simply means God’s sovereign action. To say God is sovereign means he rules over all things. To speak of God’s providence means he does not passively rule over all things… he acts. He causes. He guides, He directs, in OT language, God stretches out his hand. He permits. He works.
- When it came to the betrayal and death of Jesus, ultimately, it was not Judas or the religious leaders who handed Jesus over to be crucified. It was God’s determined plan and foreknowledge. Nothing was random or by accident…
- It was God’s determined plan and foreknowledge. He orchestrated all of the events that would lead to Jesus being hated, betrayed, and killed. He made certain it happened.
- Human Agency. Even though God determined a long time ago that Jesus had to die, Peter looks right at the crowd and says, YOU DID THIS! YOU KILLED THE SON OF GOD AND YOU USED PAGAN ROMANS TO DO IT. This isn’t even on the Romans or the religious leaders – This is on YOU! Peter says I know God planned this, but YOU are the ones responsible. You have the agency to make real choices, and you are responsible for the choices you make.
So whenever you are tempted to fall into what we call fatalism – the belief that God just does whatever he wants, humans are just pawns in a cosmic game – come back to this verse and look at Peter’s charge: You did this! You are very much held responsible for what you choose to do with your life.
And to those on the other side of the coin, to the person who says everything in life is up to human free will, that God has given us the choice to do whatever we want with our life and he cannot intervene, come back to this verse and see Peter say oh my no. God is much more active in human history and in your life choices than you think, by determining, planning, and foreseeing billions and billions and billions of human thoughts/actions/etcevery second of every day, so that 800 years after he spoke through the prophet Joel, things would happen exactly as he said.
Now, not everyone who was standing there actually had a hand in killing Jesus literally. A few Roman soldiers, and a handful of religious leaders were the ones leading the charge. These people listening to Peter may have been in the crowd that shouted “crucify”. But it really doesn’t matter if they were or they weren’t. In a very real way, even you and I are responsible for the death of Jesus. If we had never sinned, he would not have had to come to earth and die at all. So in that sense, the fact that we have ever sinned at all – even once – makes us guilty of the death of Christ.
But that’s not where the story ends:  God raised him up, ending the pains of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by death.
God reversed the sentence of condemnation that stood against Jesus, and raised him up! That expression “the pains” or “the agony” of death really refers to the bitter pains of childbirth. The pain of labor. The picture here is that in the same way the agony of labor produces a new life, and the agony of the cross gives birth to new life! The birth of a child ends the pains of labor, and the resurrection ended the pains of death for Christ.
And Peter is convinced that the reason God raised Jesus up is because scripture predicted that’s how it would go. It was not possible for Jesus to stay dead because that would make scripture wrong! That would mean God has gone against his own prophecies and that would make him no longer qualified to be God!
And where does Peter get his information, that God predicted to raise Jesus from death? From Psalm 16, where…
 … DAVID SAYS OF HIM: I saw the Lord ever before me; because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.  Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices. Moreover, my flesh will rest in hope,  because you will not abandon me in Hades or allow your holy one to see decay.  You have revealed the paths of life to me; you will fill me with gladness in your presence.
See all throughout the centuries since King David wrote those words – for 1000 years, everyone assumed David was talking about himself. MY heart is glad. MY tongue rejoices. MY flesh will rest in hope, because you will not leave ME in the place of the dead, and you will not allow ME, your faithful servant, to see decay or corruption. Everyone always assumed David was talking about himself.
But Jesus spent 40 days opening these apostles’ minds to the scriptures. He spent 40 days teaching them about passages like these, and now Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit who Jesus said will bring all things to remembrance, remembers Jesus’ words, and filled with courage, he interprets scripture correctly and says… hold up. This can’t be about David…
 "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.
David can’t be talking about himself, because he’s dead! Peter says, I am CONFIDENT David is dead, as are all of you – we could visit his tomb right now! But here’s what’s up –
 Since he was a prophet, he knew that God had sworn an oath to him to seat one of his descendants on his throne.  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.
It was the MESSIAH who was not left in the grave, the MESSIAH whose flesh never decayed in the ground. JESUS is the eternal king that sits on David’s throne, because he was raised to life!  "God has raised this Jesus; we are all witnesses of this.  Therefore,
- since he has been exalted to the right hand of God
- and has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit,
[JESUS HIMSELF] has poured out what you both see and hear.
Peter says, this Jesus is still working! Still speaking, still doing! He’s responsible for pouring out the Spirit on us like you’re seeing here today, and he is doing this from his spot at the right hand of God! He’s doing this from his throne! He’s doing this fully glorified and worshiped with the name that is above every name, and he will keep doing this until…verse 35, all of his enemies are subdued and defeated for all of eternity.
 "Therefore let all the house of Israel know with certainty that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah."
You killed Jesus because you hated everything he stood for. You condemned him to death because he didn’t fit into your program or check all your boxes, but Yahweh himself reversed your decision, raised him to life, and exalted Jesus to the throne. Now, he’s alive again, and he’s the king. And to those who call on his name, he will save and will pour out things like you’re seeing here today. But to those who refuse – the Heavenly Father tells him to sit tight until all of his enemies are crushed under his feet.
On a much smaller scale, this would be like where the kid you bullied at school is now the cop that just pulled you over for speeding. That kid you picked on and beat up and never showed any mercy now stands there with a badge of authority, and you are suddenly at his or her mercy. There is a rightful fear, a rightful dread, knowing that if they decided to take revenge on you for all that you did, they would have every reason to throw the book at you.
That’s where these Israelites are at on an infinitely greater scale. They realized their entire past lives have been a huge mistake! They have been pursuing the Messiah, studying his word, they’ve been looking for specific signs that would mark the coming of the Messiah, they knew the prophecies, they knew the signs, and here, when that very person shows up who checks all of the boxes they killed him! They killed the Son of God, and now, not only was that Son of God raised back to life, he was given the highest throne of them all. And panic sets in.
 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?"
What do we do? How do we not just get obliterated by the wrath of God?!
 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.
The right response to the kid you picked on who is now the cop that pulled you over is to confess your sin, submit to him, and ask for forgiveness and mercy.
That’s what Peter says we must do – change your mind about Jesus; submit yourselves to him; confess your sin of rejecting him, and receive his gift of the Holy Spirit to regenerate you, live in you, and transform you, because God’s promise of the Holy Spirit  … is for you and for your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call."
Now, I don’t picture Peter with his finger pointed, pounding the pulpit, with angry eyebrows and a harsh voice. This is the same Peter who denied Jesus three times because a servant girl questioned him. This is the same Peter who made a well-meaning comment about wanting to protect Jesus from harm, and Jesus called him Satan. This is the same Peter who Jesus called “you of little faith.” Peter isn’t on a pedestal shouting down his nose, Peter understands that he is in the exact same position as everyone on that street. His sin killed Jesus too. Peter understands that Jesus should have left him hung out to dry. Peter should have been abandoned as a worthless disciple who couldn’t answer a simple question, but instead, Jesus moved toward him in grace, according to John 21, and in mercy restored him as an apostle.
Peter knows the truth, and Peter knows grace. To have a true gospel proclamation you have to have both.
Here’s the truth: Our sin killed the Son of God. Our desire to live life on our own terms cost him his life. You will stand before God on your own some day, and your parents, your spouse, your kids won’t be there for you to hide behind. The reality is, you can point at your parents’ sin all day long – they did this, they didn’t do this, I’m the way I am because of them. I deserve better.
You can point at your spouse’s sin all day long – they did this, they didn’t do this, I deserve better. You can point at your children’s sin all day long – they said this, they did this, I deserve better. You can point to your boss’s sin, your employee’s sin, your coach’s sin, your co-worker’s sin, your classmate’s sin, your pastor’s sin and you can say well at least I’m not like that. I know I’m not perfect, but at least I’m not like them. But the truth is, your own sin by itself would have sent you to hell if Jesus hadn’t willingly stepped in to die in your place. You would be one of the enemies that Jesus props his feet up on.
Your sins are the only ones you are responsible for. To repent is to now turn in faith to the very same Son of God that you crucified, and receive the forgiveness that he offers!
Because he continues to call people to himself today – he continues to call sinners to repentance; continues to call the people who are responsible for his death! That’s the grace!
But the message of the gospel is still the same today as it was for Peter. Sin brings judgment and death. You don’t have the luxury of shrugging about your sin. Meh. No! It’ll Kill you! Meh. You don’t have that luxury! Only a resurrected and ascended Jesus brings life, and the only logical way to respond to him is to repent and offer your body as a living sacrifice to him. To turn away from sin and toward Jesus. To put off the actions of the flesh, and put on the actions of the Spirit. That’s still the move today. The gospel isn’t about information, it’s about transformation. That’s the point of verse 40…
 With many other words he testified and strongly urged them, saying, "Be saved from this corrupt generation!"
In Peter’s mind, this is transferring your membership from that old corrupt community, to the one that was being saved (Stott, 80).
 So those who accepted his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand people were added to them.
Remember one of the last things Jesus said to his disciples? You will do the things I have done… In fact, you will do even greater things than I’ve done. Remember that? We said we’d look for those moments as we go through Acts, and I think we’ve found one.
Verse 21 said everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved, and almost immediately after Peter quoted those words, 3000 people call on the name of the Lord, repenting of their sins, and going public with the fact that they have changed their minds about Jesus. 3000 baptisms in a day. Jesus never did anything close to that. Can you imagine that? 3000 baptisms! That’s every single person in Hills, Lone Tree and Riverside. Literally. Not even joking. Baptized and added to the group of 120. That’s every preacher’s dream. Every evangelist’s dream. Every church planter’s dream. Every missionary’s dream.
I’ve been praying all week that God would do that again, that I would get to see it, and if he would see fit to show mercy, that we would get to be a part of it. A great harvest of souls in our lifetime. Lord, would you do it again?
I’m going to give you a chance to get into groups of 3-4 and pray for that, but before we do, I want you to stay at your seat right where you are for a second. But before we ask God for something like this, we have to be honest with ourselves and with God.
- We killed Jesus. Our sins of greed (hoarding our things for ourselves), lust (never having enough), jealousy (discontent with what we have), the sin of pride (making an idol of myself), the sin of laziness, the sin of gossip, sexual sins, the sin of disobeying parents (rebellion), the sin of religion by works was so deadly, so costly, so monumental that only the substitutionary death of the Son of God could atone for it. We couldn’t sacrifice enough bulls or chickens or sheep to make up for it. We couldn’t pay enough money or perform enough rituals or pray enough prayers to take away our own sin, or make us right with God. And so the question I have for you today is, do you see your sin that way or are you still Meh about it? You will never see grace as a free gift if you don’t. If you’ve got sin in your life you know has not been brought to the cross yet, now’s the time. Bring it to the light. Do what Peter said – repent and be baptized!
- We have received grace. Jesus bridged the gap between us and God. He fulfilled the scriptures, he stood in our place, he died, he rose again, and handed us a free gift called justification. A legal term that means it’s just as if I’ve never sinned, and only ever done what is right and good and perfect and true. Praise God for his glorious gift of grace! We are desperately needy – needing the intervention of God, and this is not a bad thing at all!
- Pray for a great harvest. Get into groups for this one.
- Pray for safety for the farmers in the fields.
- Ask the Lord for a harvest of souls – that many would come to faith in Jesus!
- Ask the Lord to, in his mercy, grant us Step 2 in this process of building. That he would open the doors and make a way where there seems to be no way, and that this space could be used for the good of the city.
John R. W. Stott, The Message of Acts: The Spirit, the Church & the World, The Bible Speaks Today (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1994)