The Storyline of the Church


The Storyline of the Church

Acts 2:14-41

The Church – God’s Great Idea 

Introduction

HERE ARE THE TOP 10 THINGS YOU’LL PROBABLY NEVER HEAR IN CHURCH (Keith Davis modified)
10.Hey! It’s MY turn to sit in the front pew!
9. Sign me up for nursery duty for a whole quarter!
8. Preacher, I was so enthralled, I never noticed your sermon went overtime 20 minutes.
7. Personally, I find prayer much more enjoyable than golf.
6. Hey, let’s stand up during the whole service.
5. I volunteer to be the permanent teacher for the senior citizens Sunday School class.
4. I love it when we sing hymns I’ve never heard before!
3. Could you please preach more about money!
2. Pastor, we are sending you to Bible seminar in the Bahamas.
1. Since we’re all here, let’s start the service early.

Yes, the church is a great place! 

You may ask why go to Acts 2 to discover the main message of the church? Simply put, the church was just beginning. So this is a pivotal historical look at what was going on in the church. 

A large crowd gathered as a result of the confusion caused by speaking in tongues. The scene at the outer court of the temple was probably chaotic. Thus all attention turned to Peter as he rose to address the crowd. He had everyone’s attention - that is God had everyone’s attention! In fact, the text says (14) that he spoke out in a loud voice in order to be heard and he “declared” or “uttered”. The scene is reminiscent of a street preacher!

Now remember, only 53 days previously Peter was denying he even knew Jesus! Now he possesses the boldness to declare the truth about Jesus to a crowd of skeptics. The difference? He now has the Holy Spirit! (Acts 1:8, “you shall receive power…”) God transformed a weak kneed sorry excuse of a disciple into a bold spokesman for the gospel. I reckon he can do that with us as well!

The message of the church must always be presented in context 14-21. 

Peter’s introduction: the spectacular coming of the Holy Spirit is merely a partial fulfillment of the Old Testament predictions regarding the events associated with the last days.

He first denies that the disciples were drunk; after all, it is only 9:00 AM. (14-15)

He then explains (16-21) that that which had just occurred is the beginning of what Joel spoke. He quotes from 2:28ff. It is important to note that these events did not all happen at this time (v 19-20). Some will occur at the time of the second coming. However, this coming of the Holy Spirit is the beginning of the last times which will end at the second coming.

Our context will be different. Also, Peter’s sermon was given to a biblically literate and interested audience – not so today.

The message of the church must always focus on Jesus Christ as the exclusive solution to the human dilemma 22-36.

Peter’s argument: Jesus is the promised Messiah. This is the main point which Peter was anxious to unpack. He really didn’t want to be drawn into an extended debate over the meaning of the tongues, or the noise, or the fire, or the prophesy.

So, he got their attention and then implored them to listen carefully as he moved from the Father pouring out the Spirit to a declaration of who Jesus is. He supports his proposition that Jesus is the promised Messiah by citing three matters. These same three things are essential to our message as Christ’s church.

A. The works of Jesus 22. Peter cites Jesus’ spectacular works called “miracles, wonders, signs” as the means (dative of means) of this demonstration. For three years he traveled the area performing amazing feats. Peter frames these works as divine “attestations” or proofs (avpodei,knumi strictly, point out from something). So, miracles are not an end in themselves.

B. The resurrection of Jesus 23-32. This is the real heart of what Peter wanted to say.

  1. The death of Jesus was accomplished by pagan Romans at the instigation of religious Jews in spite of the miraculous works done in their midst. 22b-23. The crowd couldn’t have missed that Peter was referring to them! They actually witnessed Jesus’ miracles. They had conversation with him. They observed his righteous life. Yet they killed him. They were guilty of this horrible crime. Never forget; men are not neutral! “If only they had the facts”, doesn’t help.
  2. Yet the death of Jesus was part of the sovereign plan of God 23. Incredible as it may sound, everyone who took part in the crucifixion was merely fulfilling the predetermined plan of God! That is the import of the phrase “delivered by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God.” God intended that the Messiah suffer! Thus he is called literally, “this handed over one” Yet, they bear the blame as Peter clearly states later (3:15-17) and as they recognize as evidenced by their repentance.
  3. The resurrection of Jesus was predicted by David 24-31. Peter quotes from LXX Psalm 16:8-10. (Have you noticed that Peter continually appeals to scripture rather than logic or reason to prove his argument?) It is clear that the Psalm refers to the Messiah, one of David’s descendants, not to David himself.
  4. The resurrection of Jesus is substantiated by those who were eyewitnesses 32Peter claims that he and the other apostles actually saw Jesus alive after his death.

C. The exaltation of Jesus 33-36. This is the truth that when Jesus ascended, as they had also witnessed, he went to the right hand of the Father. From there he gave the Holy Spirit to his people as everyone had just seen. This is the same Spirit he had access to during his time on earth. Peter again cites a Scripture as support - Psalm 110:1 which must refer to the Messiah, not to David himself.

Have you ever come to grips with the notion that you have access to the same power as did the Lord Himself?

Peter offers a biting and stirring conclusion. He gets right to point by looking directly into the face of his hearers and saying in effect, “You put him to death; God raised him from the dead. You accused him of blasphemy; God exalted him.” This is the import of the phrase, “God has made him both Lord and Christ - this Jesus whom you crucified” (36). He wants them to realize that they are against God, the God whom they purport to worship! God here, you over there! God says that Jesus is not only the promised Messiah but that he is actually God (kurioj). What do you say? Truth claims about Jesus are personal matters! It is between you and God alone.

The message of the church requires action, not mere intellectual assent 37-41 

A. Conviction 37a. The various translations show us that an intense transformation is taking place in the hearts of the people upon hearing Peter’s words - “pierced or pricked or cut to the heart”. It is the word meaning to be pierced through, stabbed. Therefore, it is a sharp pain in the heart. This is the only NT use.

This is genuine “conviction” as opposed to an irritating bother - these persons must respond. They can’t do otherwise: irresistible grace. Illust: One wag has defined conviction as “Conviction, adj: In a state of emotional blackmail, brought about by an evangelist skilled in psychological manipulation.” And “Walking the aisle” as, “v: The act of paying conviction's ransom.” (Proclaim mail list by Rick Vanderwal). 

This account is a vivid demonstration of what the Holy Spirit truly uses. Peter’s address was not a model for communication - there are no stories, just well reasoned use of the Scripture! He did not manipulate the crowd. He just told the simple truth and appealed to his hearers to heed his words. His message was Christ centered. This gospel is powerful. We must unleash it so the Holy Spirit can use it. We learn that the Holy Spirit is pleased to use the simple truth to bring people to the Savior

B. Inquiry 37b. If Jesus is who Peter says he is then they are guilty before God for treating him as they did! So they cry out, “What should we do?” What an opening! All who are genuinely convicted ask this question. Later the Philippian jailer’s questioned Paul and Silas, “”what must I do to be saved?

C. Repentance and belief 38-41. There is hope, even for these who killed Jesus! If they would repent, their sins can be forgiven! Just repent - a complete change of heart. So we read the same thing in 3:19, 8:22, 17:30, 20:21, 26:20). Repentance is the simple call of the gospel. This is too good to be true!

Yes, God can forgive all sorts of hellish people. This means he can save you. He can save the most pagan or worldly person you know. He really can. And he really does! Note that it is an individual matter - “everyone of you.”

Illust: From a writer named Charlie Bing (Grace in Focus (V11, No 4). "Jeffrey Dahmer was convicted of unspeakable acts of perversion and cannibalism that shocked the nation. He was executed in prison, but not before he had professed faith in Jesus Christ as his Savior. Ted Bundy was a notorious serial killer executed for his crimes. But before he died, he also claimed faith and forgiveness in Christ. We may not know in this life if these professions were genuine, but I believe it is more likely that they were. And that bothers me.”

But what of the command to be baptized? Does this mean baptism results in the forgiveness of sins? Clearly not. No such demand is made in the NT as the other passages above indicate. Why is baptism mentioned here? Simply because the NT does not envision an unbaptized Christian.

“Baptism in water continued to be the external sign by which individuals who believed the gospel message, repented of their sins, and acknowledged Jesus as Lord, were publicly incorporated into the Spirit-baptized fellowship of the new people of God.” (Bruce 77)

Furthermore, the Holy Spirit is promised to all who repent! What a deal.

It is also encouraging to learn that this salvation is designed for all generations - even ours (39). It is also sobering to realize that we do not need to be chained to the slavery of the wickedness of our contemporaries. And who would argue that our society is indeed wicked. But we can be delivered from it. Peer pressure need not reign (40). If it does, it is by our choice.

Three thousand were converted (41).

 Conclusion

Josh McDowell shared this actual advertisement for a mega-church:
There is no fire and brimstone here. No Bible-thumping. Just practical, witty messages. Our services have an informal feeling. You won’t hear people threatened with hell or referred to as sinners. The goal is to make them feel welcome. As with all clergymen, our Pastor’s answer is God – but he slips God in at the end, and even then doesn’t get heavy. He never uses the h--- word. Call it Lite Gospel. It has the same salvation as the Old Time Religion, but with a third less guilt.

John MacArthur wrote these insightful words,

In an effort to appeal to people’s interest, the church today emphasizes a great many different programs, methods, and approaches. Not all of these things may be harmful. Some in their proper place may even be helpful. But what has too often been sacrificed in the flurry of activities and programs is the priority of preaching.


© Copyright. Joseph Flatt. 2017. All rights reserved. May be used for educational purposes without written permission but with a citation to this source.