First Sermon

On Pentecost, the Spirit of God descended on the disciples accompanied by audible and visual manifestations. As they were “filled with the Spirit,” they all began “speaking in other tongues.” This caused confusion and questions among the Jewish pilgrims who witnessed the epochal event.

The second chapter of Acts stresses the theme of fulfillment, beginning with the opening clause – “and when the Day of Pentecost had FULLY COME.” The outpouring of the Spirit that day was in fulfillment of what the original feast day foreshadowed.

The visible and audible phenomena that accompanied the Spirit confounded many of the men in the crowd of Jewish pilgrims that gathered near the Temple. It was to them that Peter addressed his first sermon.

THE SERMON


Peter’s sermon is bracketed at its start and finish by two questions. First, “What does this mean?” Second, “What shall we do?” The first question sets the stage for the sermon. The second provides the opening for his summons to all men to repent and receive the Spirit - (Acts 2:12, 2:37).

The Apostle begins by citing Joel - “These men are not drunk, but this is that spoken by the prophet Joel.” The emphatic pronoun or “THIS” means that what the crowd just witnessed is in fulfillment of the promise. “In the last days,” God will pour out His Spirit on His people.

In the Hebrew Bible, the prophets promised that Yahweh would fill His sons and daughters with His Spirit, a promise linked to the “last days” and the New Covenant. In Acts chapter 2, that promise is fulfilled in Jerusalem - (Joel 2:28-32, Jeremiah 3:31-34, Ezekiel 11:19-21, 36:25-27).

Peter deviates from the original Hebrew text of Joel at several points. First, he changes “afterward” to “the last days,” and to “they shall prophesy” he adds, “servants and handmaidens.” He inserts the term “signs” and pairs it with “wonders” (“I will show wonders in the heaven above, And signs on the earth beneath”). And the “great and terrible day of Yahweh” becomes “the great and manifest day of the Lord.”

Next, Peter focuses on what God did through Jesus, and Joel’s. prophecy about “wonders and signs” is applied to His Son:

  • You men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man pointed out of God to you by mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know - (Acts 2:22-24).

SIGNS AND WONDERS


Thus, the predicted “signs and wonders” of the “last days” began in the ministry of the Messiah and in the church. This term is a key theme in Acts as the church takes the gospel from Jerusalem to the “uttermost parts of the earth” – (Acts 2:43, 4:30, 5:12, 6:8, 8:6-13, 14:3, 15:12).

Peter reminds his audience of Jesus “whom you slew.” The priestly leaders of the Temple conspired to put him to death and accused him of sedition to the Roman governor.

However, though he was executed by the Romans, Peter places the primary responsibility for his death on these Jewish leaders, describing them as “lawless men.”

The counsel and foreknowledge of God…suspending.” His crucifixion was in accord with the redemptive plan of God. He was the one truly righteous man; therefore, God raised him from the dead, having “loosed the pangs of death.”

  • (Acts 2:25-28) – “For David says concerning him: I beheld the Lord always before my face; for he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved: Therefore, my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; moreover, my flesh also shall dwell in hope: Because you will not leave my soul in Hades, neither will you give your Holy One to see corruption. You made known to me the ways of life; you will make me full of gladness with thy countenance.”

Peter then quotes a Psalm of David validating his claim that God raised Jesus from the dead. His resurrection fulfills prophecy. The application of the Psalm assumes the Messiah is the one speaking through his illustrious ancestor with “your holy one” taken as a reference to Jesus – (Psalm 16:8-11, Acts 13:36).

  • (Acts 2:29-32) – “Brethren! It is allowable to say with freedom of speech concerning the patriarch David, that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is among us until this day. Being, then, a prophet, and knowing that with an oath God had sworn to him of the fruit of his loins to seat on his throne, with foresight spoke he concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that neither was he abandoned to hades nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus did God raise up, whereof we all are witnesses.”

Peter explains how the Psalm applies to Jesus and his resurrection, and not to David. The latter remains dead and buried. However, God promised that the “fruit of his loins” would sit on his throne forever; therefore, David must be speaking prophetically of the Messiah.

CONFIRMED BY RESURRECTION


Peter’s proposition is confirmed by the resurrection of Jesus, an event for which the apostles are “witnesses.” The introduction of the messianic “throne” prepares the audience for the sermon’s next point.

  • (Acts 2:33-36) – “Being, therefore, exalted to the right hand of God, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured forth this, which you see and hear. For David ascended not into the heavens: but he said himself: The Lord said to my Lord: Sit on my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool. Let all the house of Israel, therefore, know assuredly, that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

Unlike David, Jesus was raised from the dead and exalted to the right hand of God. It follows that he now reigns, and he received the promise of the “promise of the Holy Spirit.” To reinforce this claim, Peter also cites another Psalm: “Yahweh said to my Lord: Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool.” -(Psalm 110:1).

And this very same Jesus “God made both Lord and Christ.” The Greek term rendered “made” or poieĊ is the common verb for “make, do, perform, accomplish.”  Following his resurrection, God acted to make Jesus “Lord and Christ.”

The presence and activity of God’s Spirit is demonstrated by “signs and wonders,” incontrovertible proof that the final phase of history is now underway. The “last days” referred to by Joel have commenced.

The manifestations of the Spirit play an important part in the story. But in Peter’s sermon, the stress falls on the exaltation and present reign of Jesus, and his receipt of the “promise of the Spirit.” All this is in fulfillment of Scripture. And if the “last days” have begun, then the Messiah now reigns from David’s throne, and from it he dispenses the gift of the Spirit, the “promise of the Father,” to his covenant community.


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