Acts 2:14-41

Acts 2:14-41

God Raised Him Up

Sermon Text: Acts 2:14-41
Sermon Theme:  Jesus’ resurrection and the giving of the Holy Spirit tells of God’s redemptive plan for the world.

Sermon Reflections:

Peter’s sermon shows that he was thoroughly recovered from his fall, and thoroughly restored to the Divine favor; for he who had denied Christ, now boldly confessed him. His account of the miraculous pouring forth of the Spirit, was designed to awaken the hearers to embrace the faith of Christ, and to join themselves to his church. It was the fulfilling the Scripture, and the fruit of Christ’s resurrection and ascension, and proof of both. Though Peter was filled with the Holy Ghost, and spoke with tongues as the Spirit gave him utterance, yet he did not think to set aside the Scriptures. Christ’s scholars never learn above their Bible; and the Spirit is given, not to do away the Scriptures, but to enable us to understand, approve, and obey them. Assuredly none will escape the condemnation of the great day, except those who call upon the name of the Lord, in and through his Son Jesus Christ, as the Savior of sinners, and the Judge of all mankind. From this gift of the Holy Ghost, Peter preaches unto them Jesus: and here is the history of Christ. Here is an account of his death and sufferings, which they witnessed but a few weeks before. His death is considered as God’s act; and of wonderful grace and wisdom. Thus Divine justice must be satisfied, God and man brought together again, and Christ himself glorified, according to an eternal counsel, which could not be altered. And as the people’s act; in them it was an act of awful sin and folly. Christ’s resurrection did away the reproach of his death; Peter speaks largely upon this. Christ was God’s Holy One, sanctified and set apart to his service in the work of redemption. His death and sufferings should be, not to him only, but to all his, the entrance to a blessed life for evermore. This event had taken place as foretold, and the apostles were witnesses. Nor did the resurrection rest upon this alone; Christ had poured upon his disciples the miraculous gifts and Divine influences, of which they witnessed the effects. Through the Savior, the ways of life are made known; and we are encouraged to expect God’s presence, and his favor for evermore. All this springs from assured belief that Jesus is the Lord, and the anointed Savior. From the first delivery of that Divine message, it appeared that there was Divine power going with it; and thousands were brought to the obedience of faith. But neither Peter’s words, nor the miracle they witnessed, could have produced such effects, had not the Holy Spirit been given. Sinners, when their eyes are opened, cannot but be pricked to the heart for sin, cannot but feel an inward uneasiness. The apostle exhorted them to repent of their sins, and openly to avow their belief in Jesus as the Messiah, by being baptized in his name. Thus professing their faith in Him, they would receive remission of their sins, and partake of the gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit. To separate from wicked people, is the only way to save ourselves from them. Those who repent of their sins, and give up themselves to Jesus Christ, must prove their sincerity by breaking off from the wicked. We must save ourselves from them; which denotes avoiding them with dread and holy fear. By God’s grace three thousand persons accepted the gospel invitation. There can be no doubt that the gift of the Holy Ghost, which they all received, and from which no true believer has ever been shut out, was that Spirit of adoption, that converting, guiding, sanctifying grace, which is bestowed upon all the members of the family of our heavenly Father. Repentance and remission of sins are still preached to the chief of sinners, in the Redeemer’s name; still the Holy Spirit seals the blessing on the believer’s heart; still the encouraging promises are to us and our children; and still the blessings are offered to all that are afar off.

(From Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary)

  • Are you encouraged by the preaching of the full Word of God you hear every Sunday? Are you encouraging our pastors to preach the full Word of God? Preaching has always remained central to the church’s mission. Jesus instructed His disciples, “As you go, preach” (Matthew 10:7), and at the end said, “Go into all the world and preach” (Mark 16:15). This call to preach is best summed up in the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 1:17-25: For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, that the cross of Christ should not be made void. For the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the cleverness of the clever I will set aside.” Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For indeed Jews ask for signs, and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block, and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
  • Is your faith resting on the wisdom of men or on the power of God? A godly man, gifted by the Spirit to preach the Word, has no equal in the presentation of God’s truth. It is the God-ordained method for evangelism and edification. The weakness of the contemporary church is largely due to the decline in powerful biblical preaching. Paul set the standard in bold relief when he said, “when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. And my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:1-5).
  • What is your understanding of the word “foreknowledge” as used in Scripture? Predetermined is from horizō, from which we get our English word “horizon.” It means “to mark out with a boundary,” or “to determine.” Plan is from boulomai and refers to God’s will, design, or purpose. Taken together they indicate that Jesus Christ was delivered to death because God planned and ordained it (Acts 4:27-28; Acts 13:27-29) from all eternity (2 Timothy 1:9; Revelation 13:8). Foreknowledge translates prognōsis, an important and often misunderstood New Testament word. It means far more than knowing beforehand what will happen. Significantly, the word appears here in the instrumental dative case. That shows that it was the means by which Christ’s deliverance to His enemies took place. Yet, mere knowledge cannot perform such an act. Foreordination can act, however, and that is the New Testament meaning of prognōsis. Proginoskein and prognōsis in the New Testament do not denote simple intellectual foresight or prescience, the mere taking knowledge of something beforehand, but rather a selective knowledge which regards one with favor and makes one an object of love, and thus approaches the idea of foreordination, Acts 2:23; Acts 4:28; Romans 8:29; Romans 11:2; 1 Peter 1:2. These passages simply lose their meaning, if the words be taken in the sense of simply taking knowledge of one in advance, for God foreknows all men in that sense. Even Arminians feel constrained to give the words a more determinative meaning, namely, to foreknow one with absolute assurance in a certain state or condition. This includes the absolute certainty of that future state, and for that very reason comes very close to the idea of predestination. The idea that God saw in advance that Israel would reject and crucify Christ and worked that into His eternal plan is an implicit denial both of His sovereignty and omniscience (cf. L. Berkhof, Systematic Theology).
  • How deep does man’s hatred of Jesus go? Perhaps the clearest statement of this truth comes from our Lord’s words in John 15:24-25: “If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would not have sin; but now they have both seen and hated Me and My Father as well. But they have done this in order that the word may be fulfilled that is written in their Law, ‘They hated Me without a cause.’” The evidence from Jesus’ life and resurrection that He was the Messiah of God was conclusive and undeniable. But because “men loved darkness rather than the light; for their deeds were evil” (John 3:19), they committed the greatest sin that can be committed—they rejected Jesus Christ.
  • Does there arise in your mind paradoxes to the ways and plans of God? Maybe an objection to His plans is: if Jesus was the Messiah, why was He a victim? Why did He not use His power to avoid the cross? Peter’s reply to this unspoken objection is that Jesus was no victim (John 10:17-18; John 19:10-11); rather, He was delivered up by the predetermined plan of God. God used evil men to accomplish His purpose, yet never violated their will or removed their culpability by doing so. Peter thus presents the total sovereignty of God alongside the complete responsibility of man. That apparently paradoxical truth is affirmed throughout Scripture and is illustrated in Luke 22:22. Speaking of His betrayer there, our Lord said, “The Son of Man is going as it has been determined; but woe to that man through whom He is betrayed!” Men are responsible not for God’s plans but for their own sins. The heinous sin of rejecting Jesus Christ was the darkest moment in Israel’s history. Far from casting doubt on His messianic credentials, however, that betrayal was part of God’s eternal plan. Do not let that darkest moment occur in your life by rejecting Jesus as Lord and Savior. For salvation is always being offered despite one’s unbelief and rejection of the Lord Jesus Christ—this is testimony to the continuous magnanimity of God’s grace.
  • Are you at peace with the paradox of God’s sovereignty at work in salvation and man’s responsibility? A biblical view of salvation does not exclude either human responsibility or divine sovereignty, but allows them to remain in tension. We must resist the attempt to harmonize what Scripture does not, be content in the knowledge that there is no ultimate contradiction in God’s mind.
  • Are you getting the full assurance, joy, and peace knowing that Jesus was resurrected and exalted? The resurrection of Jesus Christ was not only the central theme of apostolic preaching but also is without question the climax of redemptive history. It proves beyond a doubt the deity of Jesus Christ and establishes His messianic credentials. It is also the guarantee of our own resurrection (John 14:19; Romans 6:4-5; 1 Corinthians 6:14; 1 Corinthians 15:16-23). The resurrection is the crowning proof that God accepted the sacrifice of Jesus Christ (cf. Romans 4:25). Without it, His death becomes the heroic death of a noble martyr, the pathetic death of a madman, or the execution of a fraud. The greatest proof that Jesus is the Messiah, then, is not His teaching, His miracles, or even His death. It is His resurrection.
  • The most momentous question anyone can ask is the question, “What must I do to be saved?” A wrong answer to that question, no matter how correct a person’s beliefs may be in other areas, is the path to eternal tragedy. The legalist, for example, argues that salvation comes through a works-righteousness system. It is directly contradicted by the apostle Paul’s words in Romans 4:2-3: “For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about; but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? ‘And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness’” (cf. Galatians 3:6-9). And Paul emphatically rejects any idea of salvation through keeping the law in Romans 3:20, “By the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight.” The moralist takes a slightly different tack. He believes that as long as his good deeds outweigh his bad ones in God’s scales he will be all right for eternity. Further, the moralist will carefully avoid any discussion of such passages as Ephesians 2:8-9 (“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast”), Romans 3:12 (“There is none righteous, not even one”), and Romans 3:23 (“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”). Some of Peter’s Jewish listeners would have argued for salvation based on racial heritage. To such people, John the Baptist gave the following warning: “Do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father’; for I say to you, that God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. And the axe is already laid at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire” (Matthew 3:9-10). The truth is that “they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel” (Romans 9:6). The universalist rests his false hopes on a misinterpretation of passages such as Romans 5:18, “So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men.” He ignores our Lord’s solemn warning to “enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide, and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter by it” (Matthew 7:13). The ritualist also appeals to Scripture to validate his notion that salvation comes through observing rituals. Acts 2:38 is often cited in support of the ritualist viewpoint: “Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.” Ritualists ignore the biblical truth that salvation comes not through rituals but through faith in Jesus Christ. They fail to understand that “with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation” (Romans 10:10). Sadly, all of those aberrant views have legions of followers in our day. That shows that any position can be proven from the Bible by misinterpreting or taking passages out of context and failing to compare Scripture with Scripture.
  • As an unbeliever, do you feel the indictment for your sins in the gospel presentation? Have you been cut to the heart and ask, “Brothers, what shall I do?” There are many in our day who argue that repentance has no place in salvation; rather, all a person must do is believe in Christ. Repentance, they say, comes later. The fact is repentance and faith are flip sides of the same coin. You cannot have true saving faith without repentance. People need to be convicted of sin before they will see the need for a savior. No matter how morally upright they may be, all unbelievers are guilty of the vile sins of rebellion against God (cf. Acts 17:30) and rejection of Jesus Christ (John 16:8-9). Genuine conviction is produced by the Spirit of God, in conjunction with the Word of God, which is “living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). Although Peter’s hearers feared God’s judgment, true repentance involves more than fear of consequences. Commentator Albert Barnes notes that “false repentance dreads the consequences of sin; true repentance dreads sin itself” (Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament: Acts-Romans). True repentance hates sin for what it is—an affront to God. Knowing that sin is evil and that God hates it motivates the truly repentant person to forsake it. Genuine repentance thus forsakes sin and turns in total commitment to Jesus Christ as Lord. For coming to Christ is not an easy road—it is a narrow road. Many today would be appalled that Peter made the cost of coming to Christ so high. How could he expect them to turn their backs publicly on their culture? How could he ask them to risk becoming outcasts among their families and society? How could he demand that they accept as Messiah the very One their friends and family have rejected?

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Acts 2:1-13