************ Sermon on Acts 2:37-38 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on July 15, 2018
"The Holy Spirit Comes on Pentecost (3)"
Profession & Baptism
Do you remember why the Pentecost day crowd came together? The people heard a sound like the blowing of a violent wind, but there was no wind. When they were together, they heard the disciples declaring the wonderful works of God in their own native tongues.
The Spirit was in charge of publicity that day and made sure the God-fearing Jews staying in Jerusalem took note. All of this was the Spirit's introduction to Peter's sermon. The Spirit made sure Peter had everyone's attention from the get-go.
Peter has three points to his sermon. Point 1: Peter explains Pentecost as the fulfilment of the last days, the Messianic days.
Point 2: If the Messianic days are here, then the Messiah is also here. So Peter introduces Jesus to the crowd as the Messiah. As evidence, he first points to Christ's life and ministry -- the miracles, wonders, and signs. Then, second, he points to Christ's death. Jesus' death was no accident. Jesus was no victim. Rather, He died according to God's plan. Third, he points to Christ's resurrection. Fourth, he points to the ascension. The conclusion: Jesus is the promised Messiah.
Point 3: Peter appeals to his audience. He exhorts them. This is the point we will be looking at today as we celebrate baptisms and professions of faith.
I Cut to the Heart
A Peter told the crowd they crucified Jesus the Lord, Jesus the Christ (Acts 2:36). He says this because a few days earlier they were part of the crowd that had Jesus executed as a blasphemer. These were God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. Jews who observed the Sabbath and the feast days. Jews who were looking and waiting and praying and working for the coming of the Messiah. "You have killed your Messiah, your Savior!" That's what Peter said to the crowd.
Notice their response: "they were cut to the heart" (Acts 2:37). The Greek word that is used here is used no other place in the New Testament. It means to pierce, to penetrate, with a needle or a knife. It is like stabbing someone with a dagger.
What Peter says is shocking to them. Why? Because the Messiah has been put to death. Because they are the ones who put the Messiah to death. Because Jesus is alive and they fear His wrath, His vengeance, when He makes His enemies His footstool. Because they did a great sin, the greatest sin, the sin in which every sinner lives -- the sin of rejecting Jesus the Christ.
B So how do they react? Before we look at the reaction of the Pentecost day crowd, let's look at other possible reactions.
One possible reaction is what we see on the part of the Sanhedrin. Peter and the other apostles accused the Sanhedrin of killing the Messiah -- the same charge they leveled against the Pentecost day crowd. "When [the Sanhedrin] heard this, they were furious and wanted to put them to death" (Acts 5:33).
Or, look at what happened when Stephen dared to proclaim Christ. "When [the Sanhedrin] heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him" (Acts 7:54). They covered their ears, yelled at the top of their voices, dragged Stephen out of the city, and began to stone him.
So, what is the reaction of the Pentecost day crowd? They cried out. They cried out, "Brothers, what shall we do?" Don't read too much into the word "brothers" -- it simply refers to their common Jewish ancestry. "Brothers, what shall we do?" That's their reaction. It is a cry for help. They are in a tight spot. They are desperate. They don't know where to go or what to do. Their situation seems hopeless to them. Their conscience is stung by their sin and guilt.
"Brothers, what shall we do?" Jesus wants every sinner to come to this point. Jesus wants every sinner to feel lost and hopeless. Because your soul is prepared to receive the Savior only when you are at this point.
"Brothers, what shall we do?" This should be the question of each of you this morning who professed faith in Jesus as Savior and Lord.
"Brothers, what shall we do?" If conversion is to be genuine, it needs to arise from a sense of hopelessness. We -- and our children -- need to be convicted of sin. We all need to realize we are sinners. We all need to realize we are in rebellion against God. We all need to realize our natural, sinful condition is to commit the same sin as the Pentecost day crowd -- that is, reject Jesus the Christ. We all need to feel guilt and shame and fear.
II The Gospel Response
A "Brothers, what shall we do?" Peter gives the Gospel's answer to this question. But he could have given some other answers too. Let me list some of them:
-Legalism which says keep the Law
-Moralism which says make sure you lead a good life in which the good outweighs the bad
-Ritualism which says you have to do the right ritual or ceremony -- like baptism, for instance
-Universalism which says don't worry because everyone is saved and there is no hell and no judgment
B "Brothers, what shall we do?" So what is the Gospel response to this question? What are we to do when we know our sin, our hopelessness, our helplessness, our guilt, our shame? Listen to what Scripture says:
(Acts 2:38) 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.Let's break this down.
"Repent." What does Peter mean by repent? It means a U-turn, a 180 degree turn in direction.
We talked about repentance in pastor's class. I always mention the latest public figure who got caught doing something wrong. I ask if they show true repentance. Everyone agrees their repentance has more to do with the consequences of getting caught than anything else. But repentance, true repentance, is more than fear of the consequences.
The Pentecost Sunday crowd is thinking about consequences. They are thinking of the retribution and justice of Jesus the Christ; they are thinking of being stepped on by the Messiah. But this is not the repentance the Holy Spirit wants.
True repentance hates sin itself. True repentance recognizes sin for what it is: an insult to God, an affront to God, an offense to God. True repentance hates what God hates and loves what God loves. And therefore forsakes sin.
"Repent." Turn from sin. Especially turn from the sin of rejecting Jesus the Christ. Turn from the sin of rejecting Messiah Jesus.
"Repent." Turn from sin. And turn to what? Turn to Jesus. Turn to Jesus as Lord and Christ. True repentance always turns from sin and to Jesus. True repentance forsakes sin and comes in total commitment to Jesus.
"Repent." Ethan, Mario, Caesar, Richard the elders allow you to join the church because they believe you have turned from sin and to Jesus. Caesar (and Michelle), the elders allow you to have your children baptized because they believe you have turned from sin and to Jesus.
"Repent." Congregation. "Repent." Turn from sin, especially the sin of not believing in Jesus. Turn from sin and turn to Jesus. Accept Him as Savior and Lord.
C "Brothers, what shall we do?" Let's look at the next word. "Be baptized." Baptized. "See," say those who believe in ritual and ceremony. "See, we need to undergo ritualistic baptism in order to be saved." Wow, is there ever a lot of misunderstanding and ignorance here. That's what happens when you take a word by itself and not in context. Peter says, "Be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ."
There were all kinds of washings or baptisms in Judaism. You washed before you went to the Temple. You washed if you had any kind of disease. You washed if you gave birth. You washed if you came in contact with a dead body. Like I said, all sorts of washings. Now, you could undergo one of these washings or baptisms and no one would connect that to Jesus. Consider all the Jews, for instance, who flocked to the River Jordan to be baptized by John. They were washed, they were baptized, but there was no connection to Jesus.
"Be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ." Peter doesn't want baptism; he wants baptism in the name of Jesus. What does baptism in the name of Jesus show? What does this baptism force believers in Jesus to do? It forces them to come out of the closet. You can't be a secret disciple of Jesus. You can't hide in your prayer closet and pray in secret and worship in secret and confess Christ in secret. You come out of the closet and get baptized in the name of Jesus. Baptism in the name of Jesus is a statement that you -- and your children -- are connected to Jesus, that Jesus has claimed you and called you and considers you His own.
"Be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ." How do you think their Jewish friends and family will react? They will cut them off. They will count them as dead. Because they are identifying with a blasphemer.
"Be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ." Peter is telling them to sever their ties with Judaism and to identify with Christ. They must want Jesus more than anything else. More than family. More than friends. More than rituals. More than their old religion. Baptism in the name of Jesus is a statement that you are willing to pay the price of being His disciple.
D What about the rest of the sentence? Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ "for the forgiveness of your sins."
"For the forgiveness of sins" is best understood as "because of the forgiveness of sins." "Be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ because of the forgiveness of your sins." You have been forgiven. God, in Christ, has made you right with Him. Now, as a sign, as a symbol, of being made right with God, be baptized.
E Then you will notice at the end of verse 38: "And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." Isn't this what the Jews have been waiting for? Isn't this one of the signs of the Messiah's coming? They've been waiting. And Peter says the time of waiting is over. Because everyone who turns to Jesus in repentance has the Spirit. Because everyone who identifies with Jesus has the Spirit.
Now, I hope you realize the coming of the Spirit is not conditional upon your repentance. Peter is not laying out a chronological order: one, you repent; two, you are baptized; three, you get the Spirit. Peter is saying what happens when God makes your right with Him. Or, to put it another way, the Spirit is not given because you are baptized. You don't earn the Spirit.
F Note that children and Gentiles are also included in the command. Who is to be baptized? "Every one of you." Jew, Gentile, children, men, women. "Every one of you."
And who receives the promise -- the promise of forgiveness and the Spirit?
(Acts 2:39) The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off--for all whom the Lord our God will call.Who is the "all"? Jews and their children. Gentiles -- they are they ones who are far off. Who is the "all"? Peter says it is everyone called by the Lord -- that is, chosen by the Lord, elect by the Lord, to be one of His disciples.
If you were to read Peter's sermon out loud and time its length, it would take about two and a half minutes. Do you want to believe that Peter talked 3000 souls into conversion in the space of two and a half minutes? What am I saying? Am I saying my sermons are twenty minutes too long? I am saying we have only part of Peter's sermon. Based upon the ending of our Bible reading, we have to believe Peter preached for a couple of hours. "With many other words he warned them ..."
What was Peter saying? Our pew Bibles have a poor translation. A better translation: "Be saved from this corrupt generation." It is a passive imperative, what we know as a divine passive, pointing to something God does and not something you do. You can't save yourself. You can never save yourself. Instead, "Be saved from this corrupt generation."
And how do you know if you are saved? Simple: those who belong to Jesus repent -- they turn from sin and turn to Jesus; they are baptized in the name of Jesus; and, they have the Spirit.
When Peter finished preaching, some 3000 accepted his message. One sermon, 3000 converts; today, it often takes 3000 sermons for one convert. But when you think about it, 3000 is not that many. The Jewish historian Josephus informs us there could have been between five hundred thousand to one million Jews in Jerusalem for the Passover. Do the math: 3000 out of 500,000 is not very many. But then consider this: the 3000 were baptized, they stood up for Christ, they left the Jewish faith and Jewish friends and Jewish family, they said they belonged to Jesus as Savior and Lord.
Are you one of these? Have you repented? Have you turned from sin and to Jesus? Have you been baptized as a member of Christ? Have you received the Spirit?
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