Series: Being The Church - Part Four
Pastor Stephen Muncherian
June 26, 2016
We are in Acts 2 - starting at verse 14. What does it mean for us to be the church? To Love God, Love Others, Serve the Church, Serve the World? We’re moving on in our study of the first two chapters of Acts. Picking up our study at Pentecost and what took place then.
7 weeks had gone by since Jesus’ resurrection. The Feast of Pentecost had arrived - the great Jewish pilgrim harvest festival. Jerusalem is packed with Jews from all over wherever there’s anywhere to be from.
As the followers of Jesus met that day suddenly there was a sound like a mighty rushing wind that filled the place where they were. And it got loud. Loud enough to attract people from all over Jerusalem. Something like fire appeared and distributed itself on each person - like individual tongues of fire.
Then these people from all over heard these people with the fire talk about God’s mighty works - talking in their own dialects. The Holy Spirit had come to proclaim the working of God in their native tongues through those who followed Christ.
These representatives of the world were amazed and perplexed. Meaning they had brain freeze and a lot of questions - trying to process what they’re experiencing.
They asked: “What does this mean?” Some mocked - made a joke - “They’re drunk.” Which is often how we might respond to what’s outside our comfort zone. The question remains: “What does this mean?” “What does this mean for me?”
What we’re looking at this morning is Peter’s answer to that question. Specifically - “how” Peter answers that question. Most of us could come pretty close with the “what” of Peter’s answer. “How” - though - is also way crucial for where we live our lives being the church and for those around us today who are asking the same question today.
Let’s jump into the text - read it together - make observations - and get to what difference all this makes in our lives.
To help get through all these verses we’re going to divide into two groups. Group one is going to read what Peter said - what is in gold letters. Group two is going to read what Peter quotes from the Old Testament - what is in white letters. As we’re reading be thinking about “how” Peter answers the “what” question.
But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel:
‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on My male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out My Spirit and they shall prophesy. And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day. And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’
“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves know—this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised Him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for Him to be held by it. For David says concerning Him,
‘I saw the Lord always before me, for He is at my right hand that I may not be shaken; therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; my flesh also will dwell in hope. For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let Your Holy One see corruption. You have made known to me the paths of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’
“Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Being therefore a prophet and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on this throne, he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that He was not abandoned to Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption. This Jesus God raised up, and of that we are all witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says,
‘The Lord said to my Lord, sit at My right hand, until I make Your enemies your footstool.’
“Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus Whom you crucified.”
Let’s look at “how” Peter answers the question of “what.”
Notice first that Peter begins where the people are at.
Peter begins: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem.” Some translations interpret this as “fellow Jews.” It’s a form of common address that immediately draws them all together with Peter - even those who’ve come from all over - pilgrims who are currently dwelling in Jerusalem.
Peter tells what could have been a joke - certainly a common sense reality that all of them would have known: “It’s only 9:00 a.m. They haven’t had time to get drunk.” Hah. Hah. I understand where you’re coming from. But let me tell you what we all really are experiencing.
Then Peter quotes the prophet Joel. Why Joel? Joel because the Jews present at Pentecost would have known that Joel prophesied the coming day of the Lord. Some of what Joel predicted was what those in Jerusalem were experiencing. Or enough of it what seemed like it was happening that they were asking, “Does what this means mean that this is it?”
Which we do today. Right? Are the events happening today the events just preceding the return of Jesus? What do these events mean? Britain left the EU. Is Jesus coming back this week?
God revealing Himself through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit - believers without distinction of gender, age, and social status all receive revelation and wisdom and ability to know God so that each one is able to prophesy and declare the works of God - that’s last days Joel’s prophecy happening in real time.
The spectacle of Jesus’ crucifixion was public. 3 hours before Jesus dies the sky goes dark. When He dies there’s a rock splitting earthquake. Tombs are opened and dead saints come out alive. The Temple curtain is torn top down.
7 weeks later there’s this mighty rushing wind sound and tongues like fire and peoples speaking in different dialects. Demonstrations of the outpouring of the Spirit.
Wonders and signs above and below. It’s hard to miss all that. That’s the kinda of stuff that gets posted and passed around.
All that is current events that brought these people here and has them asking questions. Which is where Peter begins as he begins with Joel. What we all fellow Jews are experiencing.
But, let’s be clear - not all of what Joel had predicted had taken place or has taken place - even today.
Which is the second “how” observation we need to make: Peter begins where people are at and then points them to God.
On the day of Pentecost there were no wonders in the heavens and signs on the earth. Not in the full sense of the way Joel describes it. No blood - no fire - no vapors. The sun wasn’t darkened. The moon didn’t turn to blood. None of that. Which means - as Scripture often does with prophecy - we’re given a glimpse of what’s coming - a present day fulfillment that points to a future fulfillment - the coming future Day of the Lord.
Notice this - Peter does not say - as it says so many times in the New Testament - Peter does not say, “This is the fulfillment of what was spoken of by the Prophet Joel.” The reason is because Pentecost was only the beginning not the end.
The “last days” - verse 17 - is a phrase the Bible uses to describe the whole season of time between the first coming of Jesus and His second coming. For just about 2,000 years we’ve been living in the last days. These are the days when God is using the church to carry the Gospel to all mankind. 100 years from now - if Jesus hasn’t come back and any of us are still here - we’ll look back and remember that these days were the good old last days.
The “Day of the Lord” - verse 20 - is a phrase used in the Bible to describe a series of future climatic events that take place over a period of time - that take place at the end of the last days - as God is bringing history to a close.
The prophet Joel - in his prophecy - in 3 chapters - lays heavy emphasis on the Day of the Lord. He describes it as a time of destruction, famine, darkness, mourning, war, and judgment. The great final judgment when men will enter into eternal life with God or eternal death and damnation.
Therefore - coming to verse 21 - on that day - it shall be that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
Point being: The only salvation when judgment comes - salvation on the Day of the Lord is through Jesus Christ. Those who call on His name - who have trusted in what He has done on the cross and through His resurrection. Trusting in Jesus as their Savior, only those people will be saved from eternal judgment.
Peter is taking people from where they’re at - context of life - pointing them at God and what God is doing - then third “how” observation: Peter encourages them to respond to God. How will you personally respond to what God is doing?
Notice the pattern repeats in verse 22 - Peter again beginning where the people are at. “Men of Israel” - again a phrase of common address. This time - in the way that Peter uses the phrase - it’s aimed at their religious identity and their national identity. How Peter uses the phrase is a reminder of the God who has called out Israel from the people’s of the world - made them to be a people and covenanted with them - made promises to them - through the patriarchs. We are the people of God. Men of Israel.
Jesus of Nazareth identifies which Jesus we’re talking about. Jesus being a common name. Tying Jesus in with a familiar location in the north of Israel. Up by the Sea of Galilee. The town of Nazareth there Jesus grew up. Worked with His father as a carpenter. Jesus of Nazareth was known to the crowd. The ministry of Jesus was known - especially the mighty works and wonders and signs.
Peter declares these all were acts of the Covenant God of Israel through Jesus. The sick are healed. The lame walk. The blind see. Thousands are fed from almost nothing. Storms are calmed. The dead are raised. Including Lazarus who was probably there with the disciples. At the death of Jesus tombs were opened and dead believers came out of the graves. Many would have been there listening to Peter.
Peter quotes King David. The quote is from Psalm 16 was familiar to the people. It was a familiar passage used in the synagogues of the day.
Current events. Common experience. Where people are at.
In Psalm 16 David writes of his own relationship with God. The Lord is before him. Literally in the Hebrew this is about David’s choice to keep the Lord before him. To put his trust in the Lord. God at his right hand is about the nearness of God.
David unshakable by circumstances - the gladness of heart - the rejoicing - the hope David experiences is all because of his relationship with God. Why? Because God will not abandon my soul to Hades - or Sheol. What is the destination of the wicked.
Your Holy One - or in Hebrew “Holy One” is the word for someone who is righteous before God or blessed of God - Your Holy One will not see corruption - decay - decomposition.
God - the covenant God - God has promised - made this known to David. Even in death - end point of the path of life - what is a common experience for us all - there is gladness in the presence of God. Hope that God will bring to life to the righteous.
Peter applies the psalm to Jesus. Point people to God.
Jesus’ arrest and trial and death are all according to the plan and foreknowledge of God. Jesus’ resurrection is according to the plan of and foreknowledge of God.
Jesus is alive because the God of the Covenant did not abandon His Righteous One to Hades but resurrected Him. Jesus couldn’t be held by death because God is at work here fulfilling His covenant promises. God raised Him.
Peter taking people from where they’re at and pointing them at God. Next “how” step is? Encourage them to respond to God..
That Jesus claimed to be the Messiah was a claim they all had heard. That God had attested to the truth of that claim was a reality that they all had seen. That God had raised Jesus from the dead was fact that they all had witnessed.
Jesus - the Holy One - that God raised up - Peter says - you all had Him crucified by the hands of lawless men. Lawless meaning that the Romans - Gentiles - were not tied to the God of the covenant like the Jews were. Law meaning that the law of the time wouldn’t allow the Jews to put anyone to death. Which meant they had to get the lawless Gentile Romans to do it. Which is what that back-and-forth trial with Pontius Pilate was about.
The Gentiles crucified Jesus. But you all brought Him to trial. You have responsibility for crucifying the Holy One - Jesus - that God attested to as the Messiah. The Holy One that God raised from the dead. God’s plan and purpose.
Knowing that. How are you going to respond to God?
Let’s go on to verse 29. Back to “how” step number one - begin where the people are at. Peter addresses them as “brothers” - which is Peter identifying himself with his listeners. Same blood. Same nation. Same issues. Same experiences. There’s affinity here.
Peter identifies David as the “patriarch” - which is a reminder of Israel’s golden era. David the great king. Respected. Revered. Currently dead.
Who’s buried in David’s tomb? David. His tomb was known - just outside Jerusalem to the south. Some have even speculated that an early gathering point of the church was at the tomb of David.
Peter identifies David as a prophet. Meaning that David - even though speaking of himself - David is speaking prophetically of someone else - Jesus - God’s Holy One - the Messiah.
Verse 30 - Peter says that God had sworn an oath to David. Psalm 132 - as an example of a number of Old Testament Scriptures - known to Peter’s listeners - Psalm 132 declares that the Covenant God of Israel would place a descendant of David on the David’s throne forever. A huge common hope of Israel - looking for the fulfillment of that promise. (Psalm 132:11,12; Matthew 5:17; Luke 1:32,33; John 18:36; Romans 10:4)
Where people are at. Next? Point them towards God.
The Messiah was to fulfill that role of forever King - which Jesus did.
David’s tomb is occupied. Jesus’ tomb is empty. He’s alive because the God of the Covenant did not abandon the Righteous One to Hades but resurrected Him. Jesus couldn’t be held by death because God is at work here fulfilling His covenant promises. God raised Him up.
Peter says we’re all witnesses of that. You all are seeing and hearing the Spirit poured out. Joel’s last days are here.
David hasn’t ascended to heaven. But - verse 34 - Peter quoting David - Psalm 110 - David’s Lord - Jesus resurrected - has ascended to heaven. Jesus sits on the right hand of God - meaning Jesus has the power and authority of God. He - Jesus - is that forever King - the King of kings and Lord of lords - the forever potentate not only of Israel but of all His creation.
Which is what Jesus told His disciples. “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me.” (Matthew 28:18)
Authority. Position. Power. We are witnesses.
Next “how”? Response to God.
Verse 36: “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus Whom you crucified.”
Lord meaning God Himself - Lord of all creation. Deuteronomy 6:4: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” There is only one Lord of lords. God. Jesus.
Christ meaning Messiah. A title that Jesus was reluctant to claim for Himself. In Jewish thought no one had the right to the title Messiah until they had accomplished the work of the Messiah.
Here, Peter declares that Jesus is worthy of that title. Jesus has accomplished His messianic mission in life and death and been raised by God and exalted at His right hand.
“God has made Him…” does not mean that God created Jesus or that Jesus earned the position but that the purposes of God have been accomplished - fulfilled - in Jesus. God has made Jesus of Nazareth to be both Lord and Christ. And you crucified Him.
You may have forced the Romans to do it. But, you crucified Him. You saw God at work. God fulfilling His promises. God attesting to Jesus as Lord and Christ. And you crucified God in the flesh - your Lord and Christ.
Lest anyone of us fall into some kind of spiritual arrogance let’s remember so did we. Jesus went to the cross and was resurrected for all our individual sins. That is a between the eyeballs reality that demands a response.
Let’s read together at verse 37: 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?” And Peter said to them, “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. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to Himself.”
“What does this mean?” to “What shall we do?”
Answer: Repent: Welcome by faith what God has done for you in Jesus and turn your life over to Him. Be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ –which is about physically publicly identifying ourselves with what God has already done in us spiritually. Receive the Holy Spirit - which is what God gifts to all those who are His - the Holy Spirit entering in and regenerating and empowering and guiding us. That promise is for you and all those people you all are going back to. Which is about witnessing.
But the place to start is that you need to choose to turn towards God - repent - welcome by faith His forgiveness of your sins.
Processing all that... Notice four things.
First: The “what” is constant.
Not too many months ago I was in Disneyland and I had the opportunity to just sit for a couple of hours and people watch. One thing I noticed about the happiest place on earth is that most people don’t seem to be happy. They have these serious looks on their faces and they’re constantly trying to get someplace - seemingly in search of something that will make them happy. Along the way they spend tons of money on stuff that in the not too distant future will be pretty worthless - temporary happiness.
We could go on with the parallels. Maybe some day we will. But it is amazing how a place of fantasy so mirrors reality.
“What does this mean?” is like asking, “Is there any answer here for me?”
Man’s philosophy - our wisdom - our greatest ideals - all of man's religions do not have an adequate answer to four essential questions. Answers that God has given us in Jesus Christ.
Is there any meaning to life? Any purpose to my existence? Or are we all just occupying space and recycling oxygen until we die?
Is there a basis for how to live life? Any morality - a right and a wrong? A good or a bad? Or is morality relative - whatever seems to work is okay. No rules. No guidelines. May the odds be ever in your favor.
Is there a God who can be known? Or is god some kind of spiritual force? Is the universe an impersonal reality? Is spirituality some kind of man inspired attempt to deal with the unknown - the intangibles of life? And if there is a God what does that mean? Is it possible to be right with God?
What about my mortality? Does anything come next? If so, what comes next? Is there any way to know for certain? Is there any hope?
Man’s answers to these questions always come up lacking - empty of certainty. So people are intensely rushing from experience to experience desperately seeking something that will have lasting purposeful meaning for their lives.
One of my deep desires is that others would know the reality of what God has lovingly and graciously and mercifully blessed me with - a personal forgiven and forever relationship with Him because of Jesus Christ.
Peter says that God is at work fulfilling His promises to you. We’ve been seeing that what Jesus said and we've been witnessing that in what God has been doing - especially in these days. The good news is that God loves you.
The bad news is that we’ve crucified our Messiah - our Savior. Which proves what God says about us. We’re sinners who have separated ourselves from God and we’re perishing - facing forever apart from God.
The good news is that Jesus is our Messiah. God has made Him to be both Lord and Christ. Whatever needed to be done between God and us, Jesus did. Purposefully. According to the plan of God. He came. Died. And has been raised.
Point being: You need to choose how you respond to what God has done.
The “what” never changes because our need for God - for Jesus - never changes.
Second. Notice that the “how” never changes because always our role as witnesses never changes. We’re here to point people at God and invite them to respond to Him - to choose to trust Him.
That’s what we’re doing when we’re doing survey. Find out where people are at - asking questions. Not hard. Find out what the “what” is so we can help with the “how” - minister accordingly. Help people to move closer to God. To respond to Him.
That’s Peter. Help people to move from where they are to move towards God and to respond to Him. “What shall we do?” meaning “How do I respond to that?”
The answer is always found in God and what He’s done for us in Jesus. Always.
Third - notice that while the “what” and “how” never change - the “where” does.
Where each of us lives our lives is different. Merced is just a tad different than a gathering place near the Temple in Jerusalem about 1980 years ago.
My grandmother used to talk about how they had horses and buggies in downtown San Francisco. Friday I was in Mountain View and the car next to me was driving itself.
For some people here, computers - the tech we have today - pretty much all that has always existed. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
The point is that the context of life - the “where” changes. Each of us lives in a different context based on age and background and the places we do life. And each of us uniquely gets - understands the “where” because that’s where we do life.
There “where” changes but the issues of life - the “what” and the message - the “how” - are constant.
Then fourth notice that verse 14 begins: “But Peter, standing with the eleven…”
When Peter stood to respond to the “what” with the “how” in the “where” of where people were at he stood with the “who”? The eleven. Meaning he didn’t stand alone. And neither do we.
Last week VBS was amazing. A 3 day long God story. Astounding to watch God at work through a team He put together. Registering and gaming and teaching and playing and singing and AV’ing and feeding and crafting and decorating and welcoming and cleaning and setting up and tearing down and administrating and accounting and praying and encouraging and supporting and on and on.
Different teams of people with different gifts and abilities unified and empowered by the working of the Holy Spirit with one purpose - help children - and their parents - to move closer to God - to what it means to know and live life because of Jesus. To supply the “how” to the “what” in the “where” of where these children and their families do life.
Which is who we are as a local body of followers of Jesus identifying ourselves as Creekside “being the church” together as witnesses of Jesus. To accomplish together what God has not called us to accomplish alone. Everyone of us who calls Creekside home has a crucial - essential - interdependent role here in the ministry of this congregation.
"Love Others" and "Serve the Church" is about how we use what God has individually gifted us with to provide what’s needed - physically - relationally - whatever. We need each other - our commitment to each other - to be here and serve here and work here - in order for us to be the church - to witness of Jesus. That’s “who” we are.
"Serve the World" is about taking His message into the contexts of where we do life. Contexts that you all individually know way better than anyone else here. Places you can go and witness and touch the lives of where people are at in ways that God has uniquely raised you up to go there. Imagine 60 to 70 witnesses every week turned loose on the greater Merced metroplex supported and supplied by those who stand with them.
Bottom line: You are the witness that God has called to share the “what” in the unique where of where you do life. How you do that is about encouraging others towards God. And this… You do not do that alone. We all stand together with you - being the church together - so that others may know the answer to what they are searching for - Jesus.
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.