The In-Between Years - Part 13
Series: The In-Between Years
August 09, 2020
The In-Between Years - Part 13
Since I’ve been gone two Sundays, let’s catch up a bit. We are well into a series called The In-Between Years: A look at the church in the Book of Acts. The “In-Between years” is that time between the first coming of Jesus and the second, a time we are in right now.
Jesus came the first time to deal with sin and death, and he did so by living the life we should have lived, dying the death we should have died, and actually coming back from the dead. Then he ascended back to where he came from. But he’ll come again one day to finish out God’s plan to restore this world back to the way it was in the beginning. To set up his forever kingdom, merging heaven and earth into one once again. That’s the overarching, big picture theme of the whole Bible.
In the meantime, we have the church. Not a building but the people of God, bound together by the new covenant in Christ. The church was left the church to fill the gap not by sitting around but being active in promoting his already but not yet kingdom.
The church’s birth is recorded by Luke in Acts chapter two with the mighty and powerful coming of the Spirit, just as Jesus promised. The church spoke her first word when…
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. Acts 2:14 (ESV)
The church’s first word was Peter’s sermon. That sermon was centered on Jesus.
Peter preached Jesus’ life…
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— Acts 2:22 (ESV)
Peter preached Jesus’ death…
23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. Acts 2:23 (ESV)
Peter preached Jesus’ resurrection.
24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. Acts 2:24 (ESV)
When I first started preaching, I used a yellow legal pad for my notes (had to write slow down over and over). I have refined that somewhat. I now print out my notes very neatly using word processing software, but one thing I have retained is putting the word “Conclusion” in bold letters when wrapping up. You don’t see it, but I do. I’m pretty sure Peter had no notes when he preached this message but he sure had one zinger of a conclusion…
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 2:36 (ESV)
That has to be the most forceful conclusion to any sermon ever preached.
If you remember, Peter’s message wasn’t a homiletical masterpiece by seminary standards, but, as they say, the proof is in the pudding. By the way, that saying is from a very old English proverb that went like this, “The proof of the pudding is in the eating.” In other words, the only way to tell if the pudding is good is to take a bite.
The way to tell if Peter’s message was impactful — to spite it not getting an “A” in homiletics class — is to see what happened. The proof is in the pudding. Today we’ll briefly look at that pudding, at what happened when the Peter preached Jesus.
Let’s read the text first and then we’ll break it down…
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?” 38 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. 39 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.” 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. Acts 2:37–41 (ESV)
Look back at verse 37…
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?” Acts 2:37 (ESV)
The pudding of Peter’s message was pierced hearts. It was so powerful, so convicting it caused them emotional stress. And that led to them asking the question, “What shall we do?”
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen this. It’s paralleled in Luke’s first volume, his gospel, chapter three…
1 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, 2 during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 3 And he went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Luke 3:1–3 (ESV)
This is the beginning of the ministry of John the Baptist. He preached a message of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, but it was a message meant to prepare the way for who was to come.
7 He said therefore to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. 9 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” 10 And the crowds asked him, “What then shall we do?” 11 And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.” 12 Tax collectors also came to be baptized and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” 13 And he said to them, “Collect no more than you are authorized to do.” 14 Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.” 15 As the people were in expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Christ, 16 John answered them all, saying, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” Luke 3:7–16 (ESV)
John preached a preliminary message of repentance and good news that the Messiah was coming and hearts were affected to the point of asking, “What shall we do?” Peter preached the full and complete message of repentance and good news that the Messiah had come and his name was Jesus and hearts were affected the same.
That’s a testimony to the effectiveness of the gospel. Even in its preparatory form it was so powerful it pierced hearts and led folks to ask, “What shall we do?”
Now some might hear this and think, “Having my heart pierced, my emotions impacted, is good and all, but I’m about the thinking side of things. Christianity’s problem is that it wants me to be led by the heart and not the mind. It really is just the drug of the masses meant to ease troubled consciousnesses.”
Hang on. The gospel pierced their hearts but then it went straight to their minds. It made them think. They thought about the fact that Jesus lived, the fact that Jesus died, and the fact that Jesus came back from the dead and so they asked in response, “What do we do about this?” The late, great preacher Martin Lloyd Jones said…
The first thing the Holy Spirit does to people when He comes upon them in this powerful manner is to make them think! How do I find that? Well, the apostle, applying his sermon, said, “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.” And then we read, “Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?” They said that because they had been made to think.
What do we do? That’s the most important question anyone could ask. If that’s true, and I know it is, then the answer to that question is the most important ever…
38 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. 39 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.” Acts 2:38–39 (ESV)
One commentator sees in Peter’s answer the four essentials of the conversion experience, the salvation encounter:
2. Baptism in the name of Jesus
3. Forgiveness of sins
4. Receipt of the Spirit
This is so momentous, I’m going to dedicate one whole message to it next week. But for today let’s look at more pudding in Peter’s message.
40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. Acts 2:40–41 (ESV)
Peter’s message was so powerful and effective, almost instantaneously the church grew from 120 to 3,120. Now that’s some mighty potent pudding right there.
Conclusion: When we think about that, we are led to ask, “How can this be?" It just makes no sense whatsoever. It makes no sense looking at Peter, an uneducated fisherman. It makes no sense looking at the 3,000 people who were saved. Devout Jews, raised up to consider the idea that a man could be God pure blasphemy.
And it certainly makes no sense when you realize this exact same message concerning a risen Christ eventually impacted not just the Jews but the Gentiles, the Greeks, even more so who considered the idea of someone coming back from the dead preposterous, ridiculous. Not because it was impossible but because it was undesirable.
And yet, what happened the day the church was born spread throughout the Empire to the point that 200 or so years later it overcame it!
How can this be? It could not have been because of any inherent skill or ability possessed by Peter or the other 119 disciples. Time Keller says…
“Who knows how eloquent Peter was. He couldn’t have been that eloquent. Why were 3,000 people brought into the kingdom that day? Not because of Peter’s sermon. It was because they were cut to the heart by the Spirit of God.”
There it is again. We should be used to it by now. The only explanation is that it was the work of God, specifically, God’s Spirit. I keep mentioning that because you cannot look at the church in the book of Acts without giving credit to the Spirit who empowered it. That same Spirit empowers the church today.
Let’s close with the words of Lloyd Jones…
Now this is something that we cannot understand. It is something that happens to us, something that takes place in us, and we ourselves are amazed at it. It is not something we do. Let me make this perfectly clear. You cannot “take up” Christianity. You can take up Christian Science; you can take up many cults; you can take up many movements; you can even join a church. But you cannot take up Christianity. By definition Christianity is something that takes you up. It is not primarily something you do, but something that is done to you. You cannot explain it. You cannot dissect it or analyze it. It is the power of the Holy Spirit.
And this incomprehensible work of God is seen in its classic form in this second chapter of Acts. The conversion of those 3,000 people was entirely because of the descent of the Holy Spirit and the power of the Spirit using the words of a frail, ignorant man, driving them into the minds, hearts, and consciences of those listening.
Before we go, I want to point out something about Peter’s first sermon preached the day the church was born. In it he quoted Scripture, particularly the prophet Joel who prophesied that one day…
32 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved… Joel 2:32a (ESV)
Peter quoted him because Joel was talking about what was actually happening that day the church was born. That promise became a reality at Pentecost and it’s still effect today because we are still in the in-between years.
Some of you may wonder why I quote this verse every Sunday. Now you know. Peter made it a part of the first sermon ever preached at the birth of the church; I’m going to keep it going.
The same Spirit who empowered Peter’s quoting of it is the same Spirit who’s piercing hearts today.
If you are asking, ‘What shall I do?” Right now you can call on him.
 Lloyd-Jones, M. (2000). Becoming a Christian. In Authentic Christianity (1st U.S. ed., Vol. 1, p. 51). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
 Polhill, J. B. (1992). Acts (Vol. 26, pp. 116–117). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
 Lloyd-Jones, M. (2000). Becoming a Christian. In Authentic Christianity (1st U.S. ed., Vol. 1, pp. 49–50). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
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