Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC) Sermon # 1399
May 26, 2019 Acts 2.14-41
Dr. Ed Pettus
(This is an extended outline, not a verbatim transcript.)
Peter Takes the Lead (Again)
You will notice as we have begun to cruise through the book of Acts that I skipped the first part of chapter two. That’s the Pentecost story so we will come back to it on Pentecost Sunday. But today we are looking at what came after the Spirit descended upon the disciples and here again is Peter taking the lead. Remember last Sunday we looked at Acts 1.15 when Peter stood up to lead the disciples in selecting a replacement for Judas. Here he stands before many more people and he is not surrounded just by fellow believers but those who do not yet believe and some who are accusing the disciples of being drunk on wine. This is not the first time the accusation of drunkenness has been used. Luke 7.33-34, Jesus is called a drunkard. “For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’” Think about the criticism Christians get today, no matter what we do, someone will criticize. There is no pleasing the non-believer who has no life and no possible pleasure or peace outside of Christ. One the one hand we are accused of some kind of phobia when we proclaim the truth or, on the other, we are scoffed at for compromising our beliefs if we were to move to the left. Seems like there used to be a time when people respected that you held to your beliefs even if they did not agree with them.
But this time in Acts 2, Peter is filled with the Spirit, drunk in the Spirit we might say, so that his confidence is even greater and his ability to preach is inspired. Peter sees a fulfillment of prophecy while the crowd sees it as drunkenness. But that’s how the world sees the Church and Christians, as weak people who need a crutch or as gullible people who need something beyond themselves to survive. Our view differs greatly because we see the living Lord, the way of life. We see love and hope and grace and forgiveness. We see God!
The Fulfillment of Scriptures
Peter stands to correct the crowds perspective. He tells them that this event, this day, is a fulfillment of prophecy, not a party spilling out on the streets. What they perceived as drunkenness is really a fulfillment of prophecy. The prophet Joel spoke of this day long ago. I like to think that Peter learned much of these Old Testament teachings from Jesus as we also see in Acts 1 when speaking about Judas, so too I would think that Peter remembers Jesus teaching from Joel 2 and Psalm 16.8-11 and Psalm 110.1. These are the things spoken of by the prophets and the Psalms with regard to Jesus. These are some of the things Jesus may have taught the disciples between Easter and Pentecost. This is what the Old Testament has been pointing the Jews to since Moses.
It also may have been things Jesus taught them earlier, before His death and resurrection. John 14.26 tells us of one of the things that will happen when the Holy Spirit comes upon them, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” I believe that Peter and all the disciples were, from this time on, touched by the Spirit to be able to recall what Jesus had spoken to them, both before and after the resurrection. I believe that is still true today, that the Holy Spirit will teach us and bring to our remembrance everything that we have learned from Jesus and the Scriptures. It is the Holy Spirit who convicts our hearts and assures us that everything we read in the Bible is truth. It is the Spirit who confirms in our hearts and minds that everything we read and witness in Jesus Christ is trustworthy. It is the Spirit who gives us understanding in the things of God and in the assurance of forgiveness through repentance.
In fulfilling the Scriptures, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is revealed. Peter gets right to the heart of the Gospel in two particular sections of his sermon. First is in verses 22-24 that Jesus was known by those who were listening to have done great things, works and wonders and signs. He was delivered up according to God’s purposes and crucified by lawless men, But God raised Him up! Here is the core of the Gospel, cross and resurrection.
After he quotes from the Psalms, he then continues with what those Old Testament texts were pointing to: verses 32-33, 36, God raised Jesus up and everyone with Peter were witnesses. Jesus is now lifted and exalted with God, at the right hand of God. And now, on this Pentecost Day, the Holy Spirit has come to bring the testimony that Jesus who was crucified and raised up is now Lord and Christ, that is Messiah.
Learn the simple message of the Gospel. Jesus died for us and was raised up for us and He now sits enthroned as Lord and Messiah. Peter says a lot of things here that were particularly addressed to a Jewish crowd. I doubt any of us will ever be in a similar situation. But we may talk to affluent people, needy people, desperate people, hungry people, maybe atheists, Muslim, Hindu, we just don’t know who God may bring before us with the opportunity to give witness. Give that witness in our own words with our own stories. We might never say the words cross or resurrection, but we might share that we are blessed in Christ. We might share that Jesus can help someone through a difficulty. We might share a story from our own experience. But we might also be given the words by the power of the Spirit to share cross and resurrection and even more, that while we were still sinners, Jesus gave His life for us sot that we might live today in abundant love and grace and live forever with Christ. Share the gospel and share your life (1 Thess. 2.8) with whoever God brings into your life and when the opportunity presents itself. Pray for the opportunity to share this message in whatever way, through word or deed or presence.
This is what Jesus commanded in Luke and Matthew, to go and make disciples, to go and proclaim repentance and the forgiveness of sin. And this is precisely what Peter and the apostles are beginning to do.
Fulfilling Jesus’ Command
The crowd is quickly convicted of sin. And notice too how Peter ends this sermon. He is not giving three points and a sweet hymn, he slams down the hammer of conviction,
“Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”
Can we begin to imagine what it was like to hear a preacher tell us that we are responsible for the death of Jesus. It is true in the literal sense here in Acts because these were probably many of the same people who cried out “Crucify Him!” when Pilate gave them a choice between Jesus and Barabbas. But it is also true in a theological sense because Jesus came to die in order to save sinners, in order to save us. Jesus died because we are sinners. Jesus died that we might be forgiven. Jesus died for us.
The crowd Peter addressed are said to be cut to the heart. It was a deep cut, a spiritual cut, and a surgical cut administered by the Holy Spirit. Conviction is hard to ignore. It moves us to seek forgiveness and softens us to repentance. They resonate with Peter’s message and they ask Peter what they should do next. How can they respond appropriately to this word? Peter tells them to repent and be baptized...
“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. 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” (Acts 2.37-38).
This is precisely what Jesus commanded in Luke 24.45-47,
45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
I love this connection between the revelation of Luke 24 to the enactment in Acts 2. Jesus died and rose and, as a result, His followers would proclaim repentance and forgiveness.
Peter states in Acts 2.32 that the twelve apostles are all witnesses to Jesus’ death and resurrection. “This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses.” This is why it was so important to replace Judas at the time they did, because the number twelve holds much more significance for the listening Jews and the fact that they were twelve witnesses holds even more credibility. Twelve corresponds to the twelve tribes of Israel and more than two witnesses gives much more authority to the witness given.
Luke, the narrator, says more about the witnessing proclamation in Acts 2.40, “And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, ‘Save yourselves from this crooked generation.’” With many other words Peter bore witness. There was more said here than what is recorded. Peter continued to speak and preach and teach them about Jesus Christ.
“Save yourselves from this crooked generation” is a statement we could use today as well! Perhaps one way of bearing witness today is to take note of all that is crooked and twisted in our world today, in our particular nation, and reveal that with the Gospel message. Paul has a similar thought in Philippians, “14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing, 15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain” (2.14-16).
Sometimes we utilize as old saying in a business or sports team or even in a church, to get back to basics. Bearing witness is a basic element of being church. Bearing witness is what Jesus told the disciples they would do and in Acts we see this is exactly what was done. The entire books of Acts is about bearing witness to Jesus Christ, through word, through teaching, through preaching, through healing, through miracles, through a multitude of means to one end – proclaiming repentance and the forgiveness of sins.
On the day that Peter stood among this crowd on Pentecost Sunday, the story ends with three thousand saved! What a day that must have been. Thousands upon thousands have been saved since then as the church has continued to bear witness. Perhaps the Lord will use our witness to save one more. Perhaps the Lord will use our witness to touch one life and when that person comes to repentance, the angels will once again rejoice.