A Study In Acts: A Convicting Message
The second chapter of Acts can be easily and logically broken into 3 parts. Chances are, your Bible has already done this for you. In the last post we looked at most of the first part, minus the last verse. I intentionally left that verse out because it sets up the miles part of the chapter, which is a powerful message Peter delivers. Verse 13 gives us an idea of what some present when the Apostles spoke in tongues thought of the miraculous display.
But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.”– Acts 2:13
While most were amazed at the miraculous display of power, others were accusing them of being drunk. Their false and inaccurate criticism of what they were witnessing became the best setup for Peter to step forward and preach a powerful message to a crowd in need of truth.
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.– Acts 2:14-15
Peter was quick to address those making accusations. Knowing that their accusation was that they must be drunk, he is quick to point out the absurdity of their claim by noting the time of day. In their time and culture, the new day began at 6 in the morning. The identification of the third hour means it was only 9 in the morning, far too early for anyone to have drank enough wine to become drunk. By squashing this absurd accusation, Peter further emphasizes the magnitude of what the people have witnessed, a miracle of God.
Peter wastes no time now that he has the full attention of the crowd. He moves on from addressing the accusation to preaching a sermon highlighting one primary theme: Jesus is the Messiah. With the beginning of his message, Peter explains what they have witnessed as a fulfillment of the Prophet Joel, something they as devout Jews would have been familiar with.
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.’– Acts 2:16-21
By quoting the Old Testament Prophet, Peter captivated the attention of the crowd. He knew how to reach the people around him, something we should take note of. Just like Jesus ministering to those He came in contact with, Peter understood how to connect with the people in his midst while still communicating truth. With the start of the Prophet’s words, Peter launches into the heart of his message to the crowd.
He continues on making clear to the crowd that Jesus was the One prophecies about so many hundred years before. It was Jesus that David spoke of when he spoke of his Lord in Psalm 110:1. It was this Jesus, the Messiah they had been waiting for, the One that they crucified. Peter connected with the people, and he delivered the truth they needed to hear. But he didn’t just deliver the truth, he called them to act upon it. Check out how he ends his message!
“Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”– Acts 2:36
Peter finished his message to them with a concise review of what he had just preached. This Jesus you condemned and crucified is the One whom you had been waiting for. He is the Lord and Christ of which the Prophets spoke of. He is the Savior of the world. What are you going to do about it?
The crowd erupted with response when Peter finished his message. Luke’s account says “they were cut to the heart” by what Peter had said. The Greek Luke uses for the word “cut” here is κατανύσσομαι (katanyssomai), and it has such a strong literal meaning. What Luke was saying is that the words of Peter struck so hard and deep in their heart’s it was like being pierced or stabbed with a sword. Language and imagery that was vivid and familiar in that day. It paints such a picture of the impact God’s word did and can have on the listener. Being overcome with conviction by Peter’s words, the crowd asked what they should do in response. Peter wasted no time in giving them direction:
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.”And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.”– Acts 2:38-40
Repent and be baptized. Simple, direct. Peter recognized their understanding of his message, the truth about who Jesus was and what He did. And because of that, Peter knew that they had to act on their knowledge. To be baptized is a fairly easy thing to understand for us, but the concept of repenting can be a little more difficult. The Greek μετανοέω (mĕtanŏĕō) carried the idea of changing your mind, to turn in your ways. Peter was instructing the crowd to change their thinking based on the message they had just received. Change your unbelief in who and what Jesus was and did, to belief! Believe He is the Messiah, He is the Christ that was foretold long ago! And in response to this change, be baptized!
Peter follows up this instruction by encouraging them to save themselves from their wicked generation. In other words, repent, be baptized, and don’t fall back into the old sinful habits Jesus has redeemed you from. Change your ways and continually seek after Jesus! Peter did not just give them instructions, he provided them with a promise as well. It was the same promise He and the other Apostles received from Jesus! The gift of the Holy Spirit after they followed the instructions to repent and be baptized.
What a response Peter and the other Apostles see from the crowd! Luke tells us that after Peter’s message and instructions those who heard and accepted it were then baptized and counted as part of the group of believers. Over 3000 new believers and followers of Jesus Christ were counted that day. Not people who recognized Jesus as a great teacher, or prophet, but as their Messiah.
Luke gives us such incredible insight into the very beginnings of the Early Church through the book of Acts. As we continue to dive into this, it’s important to remember how it began. Peter, a man who was often times quick to speak and act, landing himself in tricky situations has now stepped up as Jesus called him too. Giving what you could call the first evangelistic sermon, the hearts of over 3000 people were convicted by the Spirit that day, significantly expanding the Church. Peter shared his testimony with the crowds, testifying to the sovereignty and omnipotence of God through His Son Jesus Christ.
Peter is not the only one with a testimony that can move hearts. You and I have one also. It’s easy to be intimidated and fearful to speak about our experience following Jesus, and I’m sure at some level Peter wrestled with this too. The beautiful thing though, is that he didn’t rely on his own strength to communicate his message, and neither do we. The Holy Spirit in us, as followers of Jesus Christ empowers us. Your story might be the one thing someone in your life needs to hear. You sharing how God has changed your life by following Jesus might be the push someone needs to put their own trust in Him. You and your story might be the catalyst to pierce a heart with conviction, and lead someone to the feet of Jesus.
Are we trusting the Spirit to guide our words? Are we trusting God to give us the courage and strength by His Spirit when we feel afraid or nervous to speak? Just like the Spirit empowered Peter to speak to the crowd in Jerusalem that day, He can do the same for you. Don’t let your fear hold you back from speaking into the life of someone else. Trust that the Spirit in you as a follower of Jesus is the same Spirit that rose Jesus from the dead. Through Him your testimony can be just as powerful!