Peter Preaches

Yesterday was Pentecost Sunday and I shared some thoughts on Acts 2 and the coming of the Holy Spirit. You can read that post here or even watch the video version on my Facebook page – Andy Brown on Facebook .

Acts 2 is a fairly lengthy chapter, so I won’t include the entire text in this post. Today I want to focus on Peter’s sermon which he gave to the crowd after they saw the results of the coming of the Holy Spirit. You can find the full text of Peter’s message here – Acts 2:14-41.

The Sermon

Seeing the Apostles so moved by the Holy Spirit, and hearing them speak in all manner of different languages, the crowd accuse them of drunkenness. It would be quite some drink that allowed them all to speak in various languages, but let’s not get distracted!

Peter stands up and begins to speak. It is a powerful word with conviction of the Holy Spirit behind it. What does he say?

Peter points out that what they are seeing is nothing to do with alcohol, especially given the time of the morning, but instead goes straight to the Old Testament Scriptures.

But this is what has been spoken through the prophet Joel:

Acts 2:16 (WEB)

This is interesting to me, as my expectation might have been to use the Hebrew Scriptures to a primarily Jewish audience. We know from the same passage though that there were many different nations and tongues present on the day of Pentecost. In our evangelism, we might choose not to be too Bible-heavy, quoting Scriptures and pointing our biblical texts, thinking those outside of the church may not respond to it. This is a mistake! People are saved by hearing the Word of truth!

having been born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, through the word of God, which lives and remains forever.

1 Peter 1:23 (WEB)

So we see Peter is right to quote the Scripture, and we should too.

Peter shows them that what they are seeing is the fulfilment of prophecies given long ago in the Old Testament. Joel speaks of the “last days” that God would pour out His Spirit freely, and various spiritual gifts would be displayed. What this audience is seeing in the disciples behaviour, is the release of that promise. We will read later that those who came to Christ as a result were also in receipt of the Holy Spirit and too displayed these gifts.

May I also point out that if those were the “last days,” then we, two thousand years later, live in even later days. Christ is coming, sooner or later, He will return. Every one of us must be ready for that hour.

Peter then goes on and sets out the truth of the Gospel of Christ.

Men of Israel, hear these words! Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved by God to you by mighty works and wonders and signs which God did by him among you, even as you yourselves know,

Acts 2:22 (WEB)

He tells them that they know of Jesus, what wonders and miracles He did among them, and yet was delivered up to be crucified. Peter shows them that this was the plan from the beginning, yet those who did this wicked thing were lawless men. He tells them that death was not able to hold Him in the grave, and that He rose to newness of life.

Peter again draws on the Old Testament, and particularly cites Scriptures of King David. He explains to his hearers that David could not have been speaking of himself, because they knew precisely where David’s tomb was in that very day. Peter shows them that David was a prophet, and was pointing to the Christ who would come after him, and that was Jesus.

Let all the house of Israel therefore know certainly that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.

Acts 2:36 (WEB)

The Response

How do they respond to this sermon preached at Pentecost?

Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”

38 Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Acts 2:37-38 (WEB)

Peter’s words are wonderful, but only the conviction of the Holy Spirit can bring about such a response.

They immediately know that what Peter has said is true. They knew of Jesus, and the miracles He worked among them, and yet they knew that He had been executed without cause. What can we do! They cry out in fear, knowing they holdsome part of the guilt.

Peter tells them to repent, to change their ways and their minds and to be baptised in he Name of Christ for the forgiveness of their sins. They must submit to Jesus, giving their lives over to Him and receiving the forgiveness that His death brought about. If they do, then they too will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit just as the disciples have done.

In closing, we read:

With many other words he testified, and exhorted them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation!”

41 Then those who gladly received his word were baptized. There were added that day about three thousand souls.

Acts 2:40-41 (WEB)

With many other words Peter convinced them, and I do wonder what those words might have been. What we do know though is that many turned to Christ that day. Verse 41 says that three thousand were added to their number! Amazing!

And this was just the beginning…

Pentecost Sunday

It was my privilege to share with the church in our village this morning, celebrating Pentecost Sunday. Not all of the church’s members have access to video so I’ve written out a short message which I share below. I will put the video version out on my Facebook page later today. Here is a link to the Facebook page if you are interested in following there – Andy Brown on Facebook .

It is Pentecost Sunday, and the day we remember what is essentially the birth of the church. The word “Pentecost” means “50 days”, and it occurs fifty days after the Jewish Passover. We may associate Pentecost with the church, but if you look at Acts 2:1, you will see that the Apostles met together on Pentecost, and then the Holy Spirit came.

Jesus, prior to His Ascension and after His death and resurrection, had instructed the disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they had been “clothed with power from on high.” (see Luke 24:49). The Ascension, usually celebrated on the sixth Thursday after Easter, reminds us of how Christ ascended into Heaven. For ten days, the disciples have waited for this event, not really knowing what would happen.

The Holy Spirit descends on them with great power. As Jesus ascends into Heaven, He does not leave the disciples to fend for themselves, but sends His Spirit to dwell in and with them. We see this power displayed in an amazing way in Acts 2, with a great rushing wind and tongues of fire. The Apostles then begin to speak out in the languages of the people around them, sharing the Gospel of Jesus with them. This is perhaps a reversal of the events at the Tower of Babel, centuries earlier when God confused the language of mankind and scattered them about the Earth. Now all people are united in hearing the news about Christ and what He has done.

For us, living in the 21st Century, these first Pentecost events may seem like something out of a movie. Very few of us, I imagine, can claim to have seen such works of power. I do not think such miracles are restricted to the Early Church, but such things are not the subject of our message right now.

For today, I want us to focus on the Apostle Peter. As the people see the strange actions of the Apostles, they begin to imagine they might be drunk. Peter leaps to their defence and begins a very eloquent sermon. With authority, he speaks of Old Testament prophecies from Joel and how God would pour out His Spirit. Until that point, the Spirit was reserved for only a select few of the Old Testament believers.

Look at Peter, and listen to his words. How he has changed in such a short time! Less than two months prior to this, he denied that he even knew Christ let alone was one of his closest friends. Now he stands tall and proud, proclaiming the good news about Jesus to a huge crowd. Later in Acts 2 we read that 3,000 people believed in Peter’s words, so the crowd was at least as large as that and of course probably more.

What has driven this change in Peter? What has made him so bold?

I suggest two things. Firstly, no one who encounters the Risen Christ can remain unchanged. Shortly after Jesus’ resurrection, Peter and the others travelled north to Galilee. There he met the Risen Lord by the sea, and told Jesus that he loved Him three times (see John 21). Jesus restores Peter, and although the road ahead would not always be smooth and would in fact lead to martyrdom, Peter knew he had been accepted and forgiven by Jesus.

Secondly, Peter has indeed now been clothed with power. Peter no longer acts alone and impetuously, instead he is guided by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit shapes his words and gives him the confidence to face the crowds and Jewish authorities. Peter does not do it in his own strength, but in the Lord’s.

For us, we can likewise encounter the Risen Christ this Pentecost. We may not see Him with our own eyes, but that makes Him no less real or accessible. In the same way as Peter, we too can draw on the power of the Holy Spirit for our everyday lives. While we may not be called to speak to crowds like Peter was, the Spirit is as equally willing to aid us in raising our children, doing a good job at work or witnessing to those in our community.

If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?”

Luke 11:13 (WEB)

Amen!

Togetherness

Over the last few days we have started to work our way through the book of Acts. You can catch up on any posts you’ve missed by selecting Acts from the categories list on this page.

I want to try and complete chapter 1 today, as tomorrow is Pentecost and it would be great to be able to move on to chapter 2 in time for that…

We pick up at chapter 1 verse 12, but I won’t include the entirety of the text here because it’s rather long. You can read the full section on Bible Gateway here.

In summary, Jesus ascends into heaven and the disciples and a group of others return to the Upper Room where they spend much time praying. Peter talks about what happened to Judas, how it fulfilled Scripture and then they set about finding a replacement for him.

I must confess to often struggling to write or speak about passages like this one. My make up is such that I immediately look for application and lessons, but some passages just are not there for that reason. This one is narrative in nature, just telling us what happened, and contains no direct instruction for us.

The wonder of the Bible is that there is always something of value to find. What you see in these words may be quite different to what I see, and only in sharing together can we learn and grow. So do feel free to comment below (on any of my posts) of things you see in the Scriptures which I do not mention.

The Disciples

When they had come in, they went up into the upper room where they were staying; that is Peter, John, James, Andrew, Philip, Thomas, Bartholomew, Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas the son of James

Acts 1:13 (WEB)

Verse 13 lists the names of the disciples who were gathered. I just want to point out that if you compares the lists of names in the Gospels, sometimes you end up a little confused. Different names appear, and so it can lead us to ask who actually were the Twelve? Just bear in mind that some of them were known by more than one name. The Twelve were consistent throughout, but one Gospel might use a different name to another.

One Accord

All these with one accord continued steadfastly in prayer and supplication, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.

Acts 1:14 (WEB)

Verse 14 tells us that the believers were together with “one accord.” I love this little phrase! The modern day church comprises of all manner of different denominations who believe slightly different things about God and the Bible. Too often we are known by our division, not our “oneness.”

As churches, we are all in the same family of believers. We should not spend our time focusing on our differences of opinion and doctrine, but on what we can agree on. I am not saying we should compromise our beliefs or unite with any group who does not accept Jesus as Lord and Saviour, but let us all show the world how we can be of “one accord.”

I am struck by how often the early church met for prayer. It seems a constant marker in their lives that they did not just pray, but prayed together. It is a great privilege, seldom recognised, that we can join with other believers and pray to our Father in Heaven.

Peter and the Others

In these days, Peter stood up in the middle of the disciples (and the number of names was about one hundred twenty), and said, “Brothers, it was necessary that this Scripture should be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke before by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who was guide to those who took Jesus.

Acts 1:15-16 (WEB)

Verse 15 notes two important things to me. Firstly, Peter is already starting to step into his leadership role. Despite his many failures, he is already beginning to fulfil Jesus’ command by the sea of Galilee to “feed my sheep” (see John 21:17).

I mistakenly imagine this gathering in the Upper Room to be small and intimate. The remaining eleven disciples, holed up and avoiding the authorities, waiting for the promise of the Holy Spirit. This verse challenges my imagination, telling us clearly that there were over a hundred gathered there.

During His ministry, Jesus probably did not move around in a small group with just the disciples in tow. For starters, the women who travelled with Him went largely unmentioned. Jesus had no small following, and the events of the upcoming Pentecost would only multiply this.

Peter sets out how the betrayal of Jesus by Judas was foretold by David, and he shares some the Scriptures concerning this. For me at least, one of the reasons I am fully convinced the Bible is true is because of the Old Testament prophecy. It is undeniable that it was written in advance of the events, and yet clearly tells of what would happen. If so many were fulfilled by the coming of Christ, then we can have complete assurance that He is who He says He is. And we can also be sure that those prophecies which are yet to be fulfilled, certainly will.

Of the men therefore who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 beginning from the baptism of John, to the day that he was received up from us, of these one must become a witness with us of his resurrection.”

Acts 1:21-22 (WEB)

Verses 21 and 22 again challenge us that there were those who were with Christ from the beginning of His ministry, who were not included in the Twelve.

The passage ends with the selection of Matthias to replace Judas. They do not take a vote, nor conduct a series of interviews and selection processes. They cast lots and seek the will of the Father in this matter. The consensus of the group may have made a different choice, for all we know, and only God knows the heart and can make the right choice.

Doing it like this strengthens their togetherness in “one accord.” There is no division, preferring one party over another. In meekness and humility, they submit to God’s will.

Praise be to the God and Father who knows us inside and out, and let us always seek His will in every matter. Amen!

Don’t Just Stand There

Let’s pick up where we left off with the book of Acts:

Therefore when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, are you now restoring the kingdom to Israel?”

7 He said to them, “It isn’t for you to know times or seasons which the Father has set within his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you. You will be witnesses to me in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the earth.”

9 When he had said these things, as they were looking, he was taken up, and a cloud received him out of their sight. 10 While they were looking steadfastly into the sky as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white clothing, 11 who also said, “You men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who was received up from you into the sky, will come back in the same way as you saw him going into the sky.”

Acts 1:6-11 (WEB)

A conversation is recorded between Jesus and the disciples, and we recall that this is happening between the Resurrection and the Ascension. Having seen all that they had seen, the disciples ask a question. Will you now be restoring the Kingdom to Israel?

It is hard for us to imagine what they had been through. They find a Man they believe to be the Christ, see Him perform many miracles, signs and wonders, and they watch as He is arrested and executed. Their hopes and dreams are dashed. Wasn’t He the One who was supposed to restore Israel to the good old days of King David?

jesus has challenged them all throughout, trying to help them understand that He is the Suffering Saviour, not the Warrior King they are expecting. One day He will come riding a warhorse, but not now.

Having seen the resurrection, they now think it is time for Him to rise up and conquer the Romans… it wasn’t the kind of King He was that they got wrong, just the timing right? Their question betrays all of this.

Jesus gives them something of a rebuke. It is not for you to know! Times and seasons are set by the Father, by and through His very own authority. He is in charge, and He calls the shots.

Jesus turns their thinking on its head once more. They are told they will be given power to be witnesses for Christ. yes, in Jerusalem of course, but also Judea, Samaria and the whole world. The mere mention of Samaria might have made them catch their breath, for the Jews and the Samaritans were not friends. Jesus tries to turn their Israel-centric thinking into a more global perspective. The Kingdom Jesus speaks of is not an Israeli one, but a worldwide one.

After Jesus had said these things, He ups and leaves – quite literally! The disciples watch as He ascends into Heaven, leaving them behind. They perhaps felt rather alone, His words ringing in their ears and highlighting that perhaps they had little idea of what was about to happen.

Verse 10 tells us that two men were standing by them, dressed in white clothes. The Greek word here is aner, and it means adult male. Some translate this as angels and many of us assume these are two angels standing there. And of course, it could well be.

The last time we saw Jesus enveloped in a cloud and touching Heaven was on the Mount of Tranfiguration, where there were also two men standing there.

About eight days after these sayings, he took with him Peter, John, and James, and went up onto the mountain to pray. 29 As he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became white and dazzling. 30 Behold, two men were talking with him, who were Moses and Elijah, 31 who appeared in glory, and spoke of his departure,[d] which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.

Luke 9:28-31 (WEB)

The word “men” in verse 30 above is the very same word – aner – as in Acts 1:10. It could be, and I would not make a new doctrine out of it, that these two men of the Transfiguration (Moses and Elijah) are the same two who spoke with the disciples at Jesus’ Ascension. It is just an idea, but interesting nonetheless!

Our passage today started with a question – the disciples asking Jesus about the Kingdom, and it too ends with a question. The two men, whoever they were, asking the disciples why they stood gazing into the sky? Do you not know that Jesus will come back the same way that He went?

The implication is that there is work to be done. Don’t stand around staring at the sky, roll up your sleeves and get on with the work of witnessing. Wait, of course, for the coming of the Spirit, but then let’s get on with the job until He returns.

I pose that same question to you today. Are you standing around, or do you know that Jesus will one day return (and perhaps soon)? We have the Holy Spirit, so let us all get on with the job of telling the entire world about Christ! Amen!

Wait!

Yesterday I began to write about the book of Acts, and you can find that post here if you didn’t get a chance to read it before – The Acts of the Apostles. Today I am continuing with chapter 1 concentrating on verses 4 and 5.

The first book I wrote, Theophilus, concerned all that Jesus began both to do and to teach, 2 until the day in which he was received up, after he had given commandment through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3 To these he also showed himself alive after he suffered, by many proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days, and speaking about God’s Kingdom. 4 Being assembled together with them, he commanded them, “Don’t depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which you heard from me. 5 For John indeed baptized in water, but you will be baptized in the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

Acts 1:1-5 (WEB)

As we discussed yesterday, these words describe the time between Christ’s Resurrection and His Ascension into Heaven. This was a period of approximately forty days in all.

Verse 4 begins “Being assembled together,” and although perhaps contains no great revelation for us, it should remind us that believers are meant to be together. This is but one example of how the Apostles met together, and indeed were almost constantly together in prayer and worship.

For them, this was of course a time of preparation for the launch of the church. They would not have known this necessarily, but dedicating this time to God in prayer was readying their hearts for what would be a difficult but amazing time ahead.

We must not neglect being together either.

And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.

Hebrews 10:25 (NLT)

I have quoted this verse often in recent days, and mentioned it on the blog more than once. It is vital that we – the family of believers – continue to join together. That is especially difficult at this time, as many are still in isolation due to COVID. But I thank God for the technology that allows us to meet virtually if not in person.

The Apostles were together, but they were together with Christ. Note verse 4 which says “Being assembled together with them, he commanded them,” the “he” here is of course Jesus. The Lord was among them and part of their gathering. That’s the way it should be! Church should never become a meeting about God, but a meeting with Him.

Jesus instructs the Apostles to wait. None of us particularly like being told this! Yet Christ always has a good reason for His commands. Some of the Apostles may have been eager to get out there and tell the world about the Risen Lord, desperate to fulfil the Great Commission given them in Matthew 28. Others might have been fearful, afraid of what the Jewish leaders might do to them.

Yet Jesus is clear. Wait.

And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

Luke 24:49 (ESV)

They must wait for the promise of the Father. They must wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus refers to John’s baptism in water, reflecting repentance and a new start. This new baptism would be a baptism of the Holy Spirit Himself. They would be immersed in the Spirit and His power. Eager they may be to go out and tell others about Christ, but such witness would be ineffective without the aid and strength of the Spirit.

I remember, many years ago, asking God to allow me to preach. I was exxcited about the Word of God and wanted to share it, yet I had little opportunity to do so. God told me I was a pencil… which confused me at first! A pencil you may be, I felt Him say, but you must be sharpened before you can be used.

What are you trying to do in your own strength right now? Has God told you to wait? Are you listening, or are you trying to push the door open anyway? Wait until He tells you the time is right, and has equipped you with all that you need to do the task well.

The Acts of the Apostles

This is a brief introduction to the book of the Acts of the Apostles, or just Acts, from the Bible. I am not committing to a series on the book, but we shall see if it ends up becoming one!

Acts opens as follows:

The first book I wrote, Theophilus, concerned all that Jesus began both to do and to teach, 2 until the day in which he was received up, after he had given commandment through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3 To these he also showed himself alive after he suffered, by many proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days, and speaking about God’s Kingdom.

Acts 1:1-3 (WEB)

The author is someone named Luke, and he also wrote the Gospel associated with his name. You can think of the book of Acts as a “part two” of the book of Luke, or if you prefer, a kind of sequel!

While the book of Luke focusses on Jesus’ life and teaching, covering in detail the events of His birth, ministry, death and resurrection – Acts tells the story of the early church. What happened after Jesus left the earth? Acts tells us.

The books of Luke and Acts fit nicely together. I do not know if they were originally written together and intended to be read as a pair, but Luke’s opening words above suggest Acts as a separate work.

When someone wants to read the Bible for the first time, I often think reading Luke then Acts is a good place to start. Together they describe the foundation and formation of the church we are a part of today.

Luke is writing to someone named Theophilus, also mentioned in Luke’s Gospel. He sets out why he wrote the first book, and what it covered. He picks up the narrative after Jesus’ death and resurrection, and begins with the Ascension of Jesus into Heaven and the promise of the Holy Spirit.

I love this phrase at the beginning of the book of Acts – “concerned all that Jesus began both to do and to teach.” His account of Jesus from the Gospel of Luke was just the beginning of what what Jesus did. Note the word “began” in verse one. On the one hand, Jesus had completed His earthly ministry and His work was done – reflected in His words at the cross “It is finished!” And yet, it was also just the beginning. Through His Holy Spirit, He would continue to do and to teach, and build His church.

One of the things I think we can miss sometimes is the frequency of Jesus’ appearances to the Apostles after His death. Verse three above points out that Jesus appeared to them over a period of forty days, showing them “many proofs.” The Gospels give us a number of accounts of the Resurrected Jesus, but clearly cannot describe them all. Jesus appeared many times, and this served to strengthen the faith of those Apostles, many of whom would go on to die for their belief in Christ.

Acts contains many miracles, great sermons and displays of God’s power. It may be known for the miraculous conversion of Paul on the Damascas Road, but also notes the astonishing change in Peter from the one who denied Christ to one who would preach to thousands and suffer arrest and persecution for it.

When we truly encounter Christ, we cannot help but be changed forever.

The opening chapters of Acts is often read and thought about at this time of yar. We celebrated the Ascension of Christ in the week just gone, and this coming weekend recall the events of Pentacost described in Acts chapter 2.

I encourage you to read and study this book over the coming days. There is much we can learn from how the early church conducted itself, and may you be encouraged and uplifted as you read of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit being praised and worshipped throughout the ancient world. May He ever be praised as He was among those few early believers!