It was a hot day. Of course when isn’t it hot in the Holy City? It’s hard to think of Jerusalem without starting to sweat. And it was another scorcher today. And dusty. And dry. And crowded. Especially during the Feast of Weeks. Every time I arrive for a Festival I ask myself why they couldn’t be held in the cooler season. But Yahweh has His reasons for arranging it this way. We often imagine how splendid it would be to find a way to cool the inside of buildings. But until such technology arrives, we sweat it out in our sandals and go about our business. Speaking of business, I need to finish up these errands and get back to check on my grain for the offerings this week.
Suddenly my thoughts were interrupted. Something was going on and it was drawing a pretty big crowd. Curious, I made my way through the people to get closer when I started to hear something. I strained to listen, and see, but, couldn’t quite make out what it was. Apparently others knew what was going on because I overheard someone indignantly say, “…bunch of drunks”. I almost wrote it off as some foolish antics by a debauched group. But something in me made me still want to see. It’s that curiosity – kind of like when you’re riding your camel on the highway and you want to slow down at an accident to get a good look at a cart rolled over.
As I got closer I heard what sounded like …preaching? I was starting to catch what they were saying. And I was blown away. It sounded like not just one, but, a whole bunch of men proclaiming the wonders of Yahweh and praising Him. It was magnificent. I never heard any rabbi in a synagogue preach like this. I stood in awe listening as if I were actually seeing the glory of God for the first time.
But there was more. I speak 3 other languages besides Hebrew and I heard them preaching in all three of these other languages! Other Jews in the crowd from other parts of the world said that these men were speaking in their native languages as well! None of us knew what to think. We were frozen in astonishment. What. Was. Happening?!
I wrestled forward through the crowd until I finally could see them. There they were. Up on some stairs spread out phalanx style facing the crowd. They seemed in that moment like heaven’s light was shining on them. They were dressed normally, but somehow looked so dignified and authoritative. Then a man who seemed to be their leader stood up and the crowd became real quiet. Instead of a foreign language, he began to speak to us in Hebrew. Read Acts 2:14-36
Our scene today comes from Acts 2, the day the Church was born. It is the scene where the Holy Spirit was first sent down from heaven on the day of Pentecost, one week after Jesus returned to heaven. With supernatural events like rushing wind, flames of fire, and speaking in other languages, the Apostles burst forth from their Prayer Room and began to declare the praises of God to the sea of Jews gathered in Jerusalem. What happens as a result of their preaching, Peter’s especially, is the conversion of 3,000 Jews to Jesus Christ. And it is this scene that we turn for the first sermon in our new series titled: Our Stories
Our Stories is a study of people’s conversions. When we say “ours” I’m not referring to our stories here at EFC, but, rather, I am referring to “our” historical brothers and sisters in the early church. Their stories are “our stories” because they are part of our church – the church of everyone around the world since Pentecost who has put their faith in Jesus Christ. EFC today is just one part of that whole Church parade that began on Pentecost and is making its way down through time.
There are 3 things I hope comes out in this series. First, that we relate to these ancient brothers and sisters of ours. Whenever a believer hears how another believer became a believer it is so encouraging. Second, that we examine ourselves to see if we are truly in the faith, or just in church. Are we cultural Christians, or, bona fide converted Christians? And thirdly, I hope that in seeing the stories of these peoples’ conversions it motivates us to become a part of other people’s conversions. I want a renewed energy towards evangelism bursting out of EFC.
Let’s look today at the Pentecost Converts and their story.
Part 1: Their Confusion (1-13)
First we see their Confusion. In verses 1-13 we see the Holy Spirit break onto the scene in a dramatic way. A loud rushing noise fills the room where the 120 disciples were praying. Flames of fire appeared and it says rested on each of them. At that moment, filled with the Holy Spirit, the men came out of the prayer room and began to speak publicly in other languages, declaring the wonders and praises of God.
Now, notice the reactions in the crowd: bewilderment (v6), utterly amazed (v7), perplexed (v12). God was working through these men and people were confused at what they were seeing. Can I pull out an application? Our lives should be strange enough to the world that it gets their attention. Not bizarre, but, different from what they know. Not strange in a kooky way, but, strange in a moral character way – a higher moral character that opens the way for the message. This very same Peter said this very same thing in 1 Peter 4:2-4. Turn there with me to see this….
Of course, that’s not the only reaction. Verse 13 says many were mocking them and accusing them of being drunk. It’s interesting to remember that the Pharisees tried to explain Jesus’ miracles as the work of Satan, and, these Jews in Acts 2, though God-fearing, explained the work of the Holy Spirit as drunkenness.
Here is a Free Application: Don’t listen to man’s explanations of God’s activity.
The point of the miracle, as it was with the miracles of Jesus, was to get attention. It was a powerful way of seizing people’s focus so they would want to know what was going on. The miracle served the same purpose as John the Baptist: to get people ready to hear from God. The miracle informed people the power of God was in front of them so that they would be ready to hear the preaching of God next. Enter Peter and the first sermon in Church history.
Does God always do this? No, this was a very unique time in human history, particularly Jewish history. God was transitioning history out of the age of the Jewish Law and into the age of the Gospel. God was now turning away from His special attention to the Jews and towards all men all over the world. The Law would no longer be the means by which men relate to God, but, now, Jesus Christ would be the means.
In this Gospel age, no special treatment is made of Jews, but, rather all men are equal before the cross and equal in Christ. To demonstrate He is behind this cosmic shift from one age to the next, God worked miracles through Jesus and then the Apostles. Then, after the new Gospel age settled in, the miracle working ceased with the passing of those Apostles who were God’s instruments in ushering it in. Those miracles were done to show God’s power, and mark the transition, not to bring about conversions. Conversions happen because of the next point in the story: The Calling.
Part 2: They’re Called (14-36)
Secondly, after the Jewish crowds are stirred up in confusion by miraculous speaking in other languages, we see that the unbelieving crowds are then Called. Peter stands up before them and addresses the whole crowd to explain what is going on. Let us highlight the 3 salient points of His sermon
First, Peter points out their guilt. Jesus was God’s Son and their Messiah and they killed Him (v23)
Second, Peter points to Jesus’ grave. God raised Him up from the dead (v24-32). If you kill a man who claimed to be God and He came back to life do you reconsider if you might have been wrong about Him? If that ever happens, you need to be afraid. Very afraid. The crowd was afraid.
Third, Peter points to Jesus’ glorification. The One they killed is in heaven at God’s right hand – AND HE is behind the miracles they are all so astonished about (v33-36).
Now this point in my sermon is titled: “They’re Called”. We must understand that we are not calling anyone to Jesus Christ if we are not calling out their sin. The only reason Peter was able to lead anyone to Christ that day is because he first led them to their sin. They must reach conviction before they reach the cross. The woman at the well asked for salvation and Jesus didn’t tell her to believe in Him, instead He points out her sin: she had been married 5 times and was currently co-habitating with her boyfriend. The Savior says the terms of coming to Him are that we first come to terms with our sins.
Have you come to terms with your sin? Have you acknowledged that you are a sinner and that you have sin? If you haven’t, how can you possibly be a Christian?
Part 3: Their Conviction (36-37)
Thirdly, after hearing the call it is followed by their conviction. Notice verses 36-37, “…” The phrase “cut to the heart” means literally to be pricked, like by a needle, or a rose thorn, or if you’re Gerrit VanDeWeg, by a nailgun.
They were pricked in their hearts by a painful sense of guilt. All of the sudden they realized what they had done: they crucified God’s Son. They were criminals of the worst crime! The sense of horror that must have swept over them comes out as they ask the question: “Brothers, what shall we do?” Do you sense the readiness in that question?
That is the right question to ask when you are convicted of your sin. When someone is at this place – this place of helplessness in the face of their own guilt – they are in the perfect place to be saved. No one – no one – can be saved if they don’t realize they are guilty before God and can do nothing to save themselves.
That’s why we are careful and we edit some things in lessons like MSC to be phrased in a way that better communicates the problem of sin and the clarity of how God has saved us. We need to be cautious that the message of “repent of your sins and believe on the name of Jesus” doesn’t get repackaged as “God loves you and wants you to welcome Jesus into your heart”. Can I say that the meat of the Gospel presentation is not “accept Jesus into your heart”? I know what is meant but the unbeliever doesn’t. Think about this for a minute, the Bible says Jesus lives in our hearts when we are saved, just like it says the Holy Spirit lives in us as well. Actually, Jesus is on the throne in heaven and it is because His Spirit, the Holy Spirit, lives in us that we can say He lives in our hearts. But nonetheless, these are results of salvation, not the means of it. To get saved, we don’t ask Jesus to come into our hearts anymore than we ask the Holy Spirit to come live inside us. It happens automatically as a result of when we accept Christ as our Savior who died for our sins.
Application: Have you ever trembled under the realization that God is Holy and He is your Judge? Have you ever felt fear of God in light of your own sin? Has your conscience ever awakened to the seriousness of your crimes against God? Conviction precedes conversion. Second Corinthians 7:10 says, “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation…” Notice the conviction in their story. Is there conviction in your story?
Part 4: Their Conversion (38-41)
Their conviction led to their question, and Peter answers them with the Gospel which leads to their conversion. Read 38-41… Notice it is the preaching of the Gospel that saved them. Romans 10:17, “Faith comes by hearing the message and the message is heard through the word of Christ.”
Notice Peter sticks with what Jesus told Him: Repent and be baptized. Turn from your sins and trust in Jesus – those are one in the same act. Truly trusting in Jesus is itself an act of turning away from your sins. And be baptized. Only a week before Jesus gave Peter and the others the Great Commission – to disciple and baptize. Peter wastes no time and faithfully delivers Jesus’ orders.
The result? These converts receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, their sins are washed away, and then they formed a huge line to get baptized.
I particularly like Peter’s words in verse 40, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation”. What Peter meant was that that generation was evil and corrupt – as all generations are – and those hearers had the chance right then and there to save themselves from being condemned along with that generation. The lifeline has been thrown out to you – grab hold. The light from heaven is shining in front of you – step into it. The message has been proclaimed to you – accept it.
Part 5: Their Commitment (42-47)
Lastly notice their commitment. In verses 42-47 we see that those who were converted were committed to fellowship with each other. Read 42-47…
Right here we have a sketch of the features in Christian fellowship. These are the things Christians need to be committed to and the things that should be priorities for Christian fellowship.
First, they were devoted to the Apostle’s teachings in verse 42. We do that today by studying their writings in the NT
Second, they were committed to each other, as v44 says, “All believers were together…” They were together to celebrate the Lord’s Supper and pray (v42) and to have each other over for dinner (46). Prayer and Potlucks are both Biblical and essential!
Third, they were in awe of God (v43). Never lose your awe of God’s marvelousness. To cultivate your awe of God stay committed to fellowship with believers.
Fourth, they were committed to helping each other (v45). Philippians 2:4 says, “Each of you should not only look to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” We take care of each other.
The story finished, “As I came up out of the water in Peter’s arms I knew I was never going to be the same. I saw thousands of faces watching, smiling, praising God as I stomped out of the water soaking wet. All of us, starting that day, knew that Jesus of Nazareth was our Messiah. What grace! What mercy! All my sins were washed away and somehow my life was brand new. I was so glad the Apostles were committed to teaching all of us. I couldn’t get enough. I tried to remember everything they said – I wish we had things to write on and write with! We made so many new friends and were having each other over for dinner every night. We didn’t know exactly what was going to happen next, but, we knew that Yahweh and Jesus our Messiah were in control.
How does the story end? Well, it hasn’t ended yet. It continued. It continues up to today with each new story. People around the world are still hearing the Gospel and coming to Jesus Christ for their salvation. Their stories are our stories.
What about you? Where are you in the crowd today? Do you have religion but not Jesus? Do you come to church but still have not yet come to the One who can save you? The call is going out to you right now. You must decide, just like everyone in that crowd had the decision to accdept the message or reject it, so you also have the decision. If you want Jesus Christ to wash you clean and forgive you for all your sins, and give you a brand new life with Him, then today is the day. Delay no longer with this decision. To put it off is to make the decision to reject Him today. To not do that. Believe on Him and be saved.