A Checklist of Good Stuff – Acts 2:42-47

What are the things that we are supposed to be doing as followers of Christ – both individually and then corporately together as a church? Books have been written to attempt to answer that question.

There is no single Scripture that gives us the perfect answer. And among topics addressed are usually the fruit of the Spirit, the gifts of the Spirit, the “one another” passages of the New Testament, etc.

But we can find fewer paragraphs that combine so many ingredients as are found right here in our reading today in Acts 2:42-47. In the past when preaching on this passage, I remember entitling it “The Constituent Elements of the Church” … which is maybe a bit hyperbolic, but certainly not by much.

Consider the list:

1.  The Apostles’ Teaching – This must have been pretty amazing to hear. These guys would have been combining the Old Testament Scriptures, their three years of experiences of travelling with Jesus, along with their newly acquired empowerment of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Not bad! We all always need God’s Word and his truth.

2.  Fellowship – There is nothing quite like the camaraderie of relationship with others with whom you have shared an incredible experience. And we have that together even today in regard to our mutual salvation through the work of Christ … along with our common experiences of living together as friends in an oft hostile world.

3.  The Breaking of Bread – This was more than simply sharing meals together, as it would be speaking of the communion element of the church more formally gathered in reflection upon Christ.

4.  Prayer – This is, of course, why we are studying Acts, and once again we note immediately their absolute dependence upon God in prayer. The coming of the Spirit did not change this. It did not move them into any new place of now not needing to be constant in prayer and communication with God.

5.  Signs and Wonders – Though some in evangelical circles would disagree with me at this point and contend for the validity of such in our day, I do not think it is normative (though God can and does do miraculous things on occasion). I believe these were unique to the time before the completion of the Scriptures – which now give us authority validating the message and messenger in a way previously done by signs and wonders (See Hebrews 2:1-4).

6.  Generous Mutual Support of Needs – The application of this Scripture is that we should be quick to support one another in times of need, not that we should live in a communal fashion. We should see that indeed all we have has come from God, along with a concomitant responsibility to use it as a blessing for others.

7.  Togetherness – Another way of speaking of the fellowship of the church, these early believers shared so much more than simply their religious lives. Some of this was necessitated by the unique circumstances of many of them being from beyond Jerusalem, but we should not lose the proper emphasis upon the community experience being enjoyed.

8.  A Visible Public Presence – They did not pull away from the Temple nor from the view of those who had so recently put Christ on a Roman cross! They did not shy away from the perverse surrounding world, but rather engaged it with the truth of the Gospel.

9.  Worship – They were regularly in awe of all that was happening about them and expressed that in their reverent worship from sincere hearts. All of this was very attractive to the world around, not repulsive.

10.  Evangelistic Growth – We see the work of God in that HE is the one adding to their numbers. Yes, I’m sure they were working hard at it; but as always, it is God who gives the increase.

It would be a good exercise for any of us to go down the list and check it twice to see if we are naughty or nice in applying it in our lives – as individuals and as a church family together.

The Fellowship of the Believers – Acts 2:42-47

42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles.44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts,47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

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God’s Straight Plan for a Crooked Generation – Acts 2:14-41

If any of you think my sermons are sometimes very theological and difficult to follow, consider this first sermon of Peter! Of course, if he had homiletics in a modern seminary classroom and was told to keep it simple and work hard on application rather than all that nasty theological detail, it could have been better. I jest, of course!

First, the simple fact that Peter is standing in front of thousands of people in a public place is testimony of a great change of life brought about by the work of the Spirit. Only in this way could a simple fisherman command the attention of multitudes in the very center of the Jewish faith – in Jerusalem, likely in the Temple itself.

Peter first makes it clear that those receiving the indwelling of the Holy Spirit were not drunk – since the first meal of the day in that culture happened at 10:00 in the morning, an hour after these events were occurring … so that suggestion was ludicrous.

What was happening was the fulfillment of the words the prophet Joel had spoken hundreds of years earlier. In the last days (begun on this day and in which we continue to live 2,000 years later) there would be a pouring rain of the Spirit (using an agricultural metaphor) and not simply an occasional shower of the Spirit empowering only certain people in limited instances (as was the pattern in the Old Testament). Now, as the Church is born and this new age of grace abounding is initiated, all who come to God and are united with him are granted the presence of God within them in the form of the Holy Spirit.

Though Peter will twice tell these Jews that they participated in the killing of the Messiah, he also makes it clear that all of this transpired in the deliberate plan and foreknowledge of God. That is so significant to understand. In no way was God surprised or forced into a “Plan B” because the Jews rejected their King and the Kingdom. No, God rather had it all orchestrated so that the salvation of all mankind might be accomplished, leading to the universal proclamation of this saving truth.

David had prophesied this, as Peter again quotes the Old Testament from Psalm 16. There, David – a man with a promise from God that his family would forever reign – speaks in the first person of a protection from death and decay. And Peter says that David could not be talking of himself, because David had died and everyone knew of his tomb. He must be talking prophetically of someone from his family lineage – of Jesus, who was witnessed to have been crucified, risen again, and ascended to heaven.

Upon hearing this, the multitudes in a panic understand that they have missed their Messiah … what are they now to do? And the message is the timeless answer of repentance before God for forgiveness of sins. This message was for them, for their children’s generation, and in fact for ALL people near and far. About 3,000 responded that day!

The timeless nature of the message is seen in the appeal that they should repent and thereby save themselves from their corrupt (literally “crooked”) generation. So, given events in our country in recent days where everything righteous and evil seems upside-down and backwards, do we not live in a crooked time? The remedy is the same – to trust in God’s provision of life through the work of Jesus Christ … and to be his ambassadors to make that message known to a lost and messed-up world.

Peter Addresses the Crowd

14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. 15 These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! 16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:

17 “‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. 18 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.

19 I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. 20 The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. 21 And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’

22 “Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. 23 This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 24 But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.25 David said about him:

“‘I saw the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. 26 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest in hope, 27 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, you will not let your holy one see decay. 28 You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.’

29 “Fellow Israelites, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. 30 But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. 31 Seeing what was to come, he spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that he was not abandoned to the realm of the dead, nor did his body see decay. 32 God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. 33 Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. 34 For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said, “‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand 35 until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”’

36 “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”

37 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”

38 Peter replied, “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. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”

40 With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.

The Day of Pentecost – God’s Creative Marketing Plan (Acts 2)

(Today’s Reading – Acts 2:1-13)

In biblical times, if you were a really good and faithful follower of the Hebrew faith and Scripture (e.g. Deuteronomy 16), there were three pilgrimage festivals where you would make the effort to be in Jerusalem. The city would swell with multitudes of people from around the ancient world.

Jesus Christ was the Passover Lamb – who gave his life at the time of that first great Feast of Unleavened Bread when the city was filled with visitors. You may remember that the Romans hastened the death of the two thieves crucified with Christ because of the Sabbath associated with this event (John 19:31-33).

Pentecost – meaning 50 days later – marked another festival also called “The Feast of Weeks” or “Harvest” or “First-Fruits.”  (The Feast of Tabernacles – several months later – was the third pilgrimage festival.)  Pentecost came at the time of the first-fruits of the wheat harvest. This was a time of gathering to worship God and come before Him in gratitude for his provision.

The Day of Pentecost is the birthday of the institution (or program) of the Church – the bride of Christ. The new coming of the Spirit to indwell the Apostolic company marks the first-fruits of those who will respond to the Gospel message. This is a harvest that would bear fruit all around the world – continuing to our own day. So it is appropriate that the fruit of Christ’s work of salvation would come on Pentecost – as we remember Jesus saying (John 4:35), “I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.” And the Apostle Paul calls Jesus the first-fruits of the resurrection to life: “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.”

The results of the filling of the Spirit are truly dramatic. As on the occasion of the baptism of Jesus, there are sights and sounds that accompany this initiation of these first believers into the universal Church. It occurs apparently at the house where they were staying, though some believe this refers to the Temple; but in any event, it is dramatic and noticed by the crowds of people. The entire issue of speaking in tongues and how that does or does not apply to our age is a long discussion for another time and venue, but it is clear on this occasion that the tongues are known languages recognized by a large variety of people from around the ancient world. The sights and sounds drew attention to the speakers – who in turn were communicating the message of truth that God wanted the world to hear.

It is humorous to note from this passage that a large part of the amazement of the crowds of people is that they were hearing their own languages spoken by uneducated Galileans! Remember how Peter was identified as a Galilean during his denials of Christ, simply by the accent of his speech? Galileans had a sort of “clipped” way of speaking and pronunciation – maybe sort of like the folks you see on the show “Swamp People!” … or similar to a “Cajun” accent. Whatever, they were not known as scholars! And here they are speaking clearly in other languages apparently in a way they could not even accomplish in their own dialect!

God really has a great marketing plan here!  He has this happening on a time when multitudes are in the city, on a symbolism-enriched occasion, accompanied by miraculous sights and sounds, and with a message being communicated by people who could only do it if God were speaking through them.

Even so, there were scoffers. There will always be scoffers! Our role is to plant the seeds of the harvest and watch God give the increase through his Spirit working through us and through our teaching of the Word.

The Holy Spirit Comes at Pentecost – Acts 2:1-13

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tonguesas the Spirit enabled them.

Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” 12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”

13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”