The In-Between Years - Part 12
Series: The In-Between Years
July 19, 2020
The In-Between Years - Part 12
I mentioned a few weeks ago that we are about to have our first grandchild. Did I tell you she and her mom will be living with us? A baby back in our house. It’s been a LONG time.
I always thought newborn babies were helpless, but, after having three of them, I have come to the conclusion that’s just not true. They are anything but helpless. In fact, within 24 hours of coming into this world, they’ve got us getting up and going down when they want us to. They put us on their feeding schedule and diaper changing schedule. How do they achieve this? They order our lives with a simple cry.
Now at some point down the road they’ll advance to uttering their first word. That’s a big milestone. I remember Abbie’s first word was “ball” and Chloe’s was “no” and my little baby Gracie’s was “dada.”
Today, as we continue looking at the birth of the church in the book of Acts, we get to see her utter her first word. Remember the scene, the Holy Spirit came down and the church was born. The disciples spoke in foreign tongues. Jews from all over the civilized world at that time heard these backwoods Galileans proclaiming the mighty works of God in their native language.
12 And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.” Acts 2:12–13 (ESV)
We didn’t talk about that last week because we didn’t have time, but there were two reactions to this Pentecost miracle: amazement and mockery.
When the church was born some people were amazed and led to wonder, “What does this mean?” Others scoffed, saying “They’re just drunk.” NT Wright, has an insightful take on this…
Hardly surprisingly, to some it sounded simply like the slurred and babbling speech of people who have had too much to drink. Again and again in Acts we find opposition, incredulity, scoffing and sneering at what the apostles say and do, at the same time as great success and conviction. And again and again in the work of the church, to this day, there are always plenty who declare that we are wasting our time and talking incomprehensible nonsense. Equally, some Christians have been so concerned to keep up safe appearances and to make sure they are looking like ordinary, normal people that they would never, under any circumstances, have been accused of being drunk, at nine o’clock in the morning or any other time. Part of the challenge of this passage is the question: have our churches today got enough energy, enough spirit-driven new life, to make onlookers pass any comment at all? Has anything happened which might make people think we were drunk? If not, is it because the spirit is simply at work in other ways, or because we have so successfully quenched the spirit that there is actually nothing happening at all?
I think Dr. Wright is saying it’s better to be accused of being a drunk Christian than a dead one!
And now for the church’s first word spoken through a sermon, a sermon preached by good old Peter…
14 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. 15 For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. Acts 2:14–15 (ESV)
Peter wasn’t just bold here, he was sparky. We’re not drunk, it’s not even 9am yet. Nobody gets sauced that early.
Remember many present were devout Jews from every nation. They believed in God. They revered his Word. Peter appeals right at the start from the Scripture, our OT. The prophet Joel had written about the last days, when the Messiah would come and the Spirit of God would be poured out.
16 But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: 17 “ ‘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; 18 even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. 19 And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; 20 the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day. 21 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ Acts 2:16–21 (ESV)
Peter was clearly saying that prophecy was being fulfilled right before their eyes. And then Peter delivers the heart of his message…
22 “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— 23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. 24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. 25
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; 26 therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; my flesh also will dwell in hope. 27 For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption. 28 You have made known to me the paths of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’ 29
“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. 30 Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, 31 he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption.
32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. 33 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. 34 For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, “ ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, 35 until I make your enemies your footstool.” ’ 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.” Acts 2:22–36 (ESV)
It’s hard to believe those powerful words were spoken by the same man who denied Jesus three times with cursing and swearing just a few weeks before. Yet here he is boldly, fearlessly proclaiming Jesus before all the people.
That is so good we need to go back and break down the heart of Peter’s message. I’m using a different translation, BTW. I like doing that.
He preaches about Jesus’ life…
22 Now, listen to what I have to say about Jesus from Nazareth. God proved that he sent Jesus to you by having him work miracles, wonders, and signs. All of you know this. Acts 2:22 (CEV)
Just as the miracle of speaking in tongues was God’s sign this work was his, the miracles and wonders Jesus worked were evidence he was truly God’s Son, God With Us. The only man of whom it can truly be said, he does all things well.
He preaches about Jesus’ death…
23 God had already planned and decided that Jesus would be handed over to you. So you took him and had evil men put him to death on a cross. Acts 2:23 (CEV)
Never, ever think that the death of Christ was an accident God made good. No, it was planned from before the beginning of time. God knew before He ever made man he’d rebel, so before He spoke the first atom into existence, God already had a plan to deliver us from sin and death and evil. He would one day send his one and only Son to live the life we should have lived and die the death we should have died.
And what about this?
“you took him and had evil men put him to death on a cross.”
The NLT says it more forcefully…
“you nailed him to a cross and killed him.”
He’s obviously speaking to the Jews here, but he’s also speaking to all of us this morning. The longer I live, the more I realize how desperately wicked and deceitful my heart is. I know why Jesus had to die. I am responsible for nailing him to that cross. We all, in way, are. But thankfully, there’s more. Peter preaches Jesus’ life and death.
And he also preaches Jesus’ resurrection.
24 But God set him free from death and raised him to life. Death could not hold him in its power. Acts 2:24 (CEV)
Death could not hold Jesus in its power! Jesus said as much before he went to the cross…
17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” John 10:17–18 (ESV)
There are many reasons death could not hold Jesus. CH Spurgeon declared one in a message he preached March 28, 1880. He said…
…the dignity of his person rendered it impossible that he should be held by the cords of death, apart from the consent of his own will; for, though Jesus Christ was truly human,—and let that blessed fact never be forgotten,—yet his humanity was in so close an alliance with the Godhead, that… “Jesus Christ himself” altogether is divine, and is to be worshipped and adored in the completeness of his blessed person; and, therefore, that flesh, which he took upon himself for our sake, was uplifted, exalted, ennobled, by being taken into mysterious unity with his Deity. It could not be that a body, in which dwelt the fulness of the Godhead, could be held by the bonds of death. He who slept in Joseph’s tomb was the Son of God. It was he who is without beginning of days or end of years, he with whom Jehovah took counsel when he laid the foundations of the heavens and built all worlds, for “without him was not anything made that was made.” It was not, therefore, possible that he should be held by the bonds of death. Marvellous condescension, not human weakness, brought him into the sepulchre; it was by his own free will that he was laid in the tomb; and, consequently, he had but to exert his royal prerogative, and he could rise again from the dead whenever he pleased.
When I read that I want to shout. That’s my Jesus! Death can’t defeat our Lord. And because Jesus is victorious over sin and death, so am I, if I’ve come to God through him. Check this out. Paul wrote…
4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. Romans 6:4–6 (ESV)
Peter ends his sermon with the most powerful declaration ever made…
33 Jesus was taken up to sit at the right side of God, and he was given the Holy Spirit, just as the Father had promised. Jesus is also the one who has given the Spirit to us, and that is what you are now seeing and hearing… 36 Everyone in Israel should then know for certain that God has made Jesus both Lord and Christ, even though you put him to death on a cross. Acts 2:33, 36 (CEV)
Conclusion: And there you have it. The baby church’s first words spoken through Peter’s sermon. Let me leave you with three thoughts.
1. Peter’s sermon wasn’t a homiletical masterpiece
In case you didn’t know, homiletics is the art of preaching taught at seminaries. You wouldn’t know it, but I took a homiletics class or two. I’d fail for sure if my messages were graded these days .
Peter probably would as well. He didn’t outline his message with alliterated points. He didn’t tack a poem at the end. He didn’t add a catchy illustration. Yet he preached one of the most powerful messages ever!
The church’s first words wouldn’t have impressed a seminary professor, but without any doubt…
2. Peter’s sermon was preached in power of the Holy Spirit
This is the beginning of the fulfillment of Acts 1:8 where Jesus said…
8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:8 (ESV)
Kenneth Scott Latourette, a Yale professor, said,
“The more one examines the various factors which seem to account for the extraordinary victory of Christianity, the more one is driven to search for a cause underlying them all. It is clear that at the very beginning of Christianity there must have occurred a vast release of energy virtually unequalled in history … Nothing else could explain the surge of the early Christian movement.
What caused this release of energy … lies outside the realm in which modern historians are supposed to move.”
Listen to what he says next. “But before I am a historian, I am human … How can I close my eyes to the obvious explanation that something supernatural happened?”
It doesn’t get any more supernatural than the presence and the power of God’s Spirit, something available to the church today. Wait till you see what happens after Peter’s message!
The church’s first words were not a preaching masterpiece but they were spoken in the power of the Spirit. Most importantly, I want you to know today that…
3. Peter’s sermon had Jesus Christ as its subject, heart, and center
He preached his life, death, and resurrection. He declared him Lord (Yahweh God) and Christ (the promised Messiah, the One who would set all things back to rights).
Abbie’s first word was ball. Chloe’s was no. Gracie’s was dada.
THE FIRST WORD OF BABY CHURCH WAS JESUS.
As we look at the church in the book of Acts we must not miss that.
I can’t wait to share with you what happens next. And I’ll do that after I return from my two week vacation.
This series is titled “The In-Between Years” because we are living in between the time of Jesus’ first coming and his second. As we close I want you to think about how these in between years are a window for all those who call upon the name of the Lord to be saved.
 Wright, T. (2008). Acts for Everyone, Part 1: Chapters 1-12 (pp. 29–30). London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.
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